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The Hill Palace, ChottaNikkara Temple and Tripunithura Temple… the Princess Diaries continued!

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And then it was off to the Glorious Hill Palace- a place where both my fathers parents (both of them were cousins) had been born and raised and where the Maharaja had lived from 1914- 1932. My grandfather who unfortunately I never met was born 1921 and my grandmother who died at a very young age (and who also I never met ūüė¶ ) was born in 1926 at the Hill Palace and my Father is lucky to have photographs of them playing together and growing up together in this beautiful, beautiful palace!

I had been really waiting to see the Hill Palace and I was right. It is indeed one of the most magnificent palaces I have ever seen! With layers of Gardens and fountains in front, the Palace , at one time must have stood out as a glorious white swan amidst a lake of green ! With a deer park (huge) which still have beautiful deer and with several building nestled among the lush greenery- the Hill Palace is easily one of India’s most glorious and most underrated palaces. After visiting it, I hope to write to the ministry and I will try and restore my family’s old home to part of it’s former glory. It seems only fitting. It seems only fair.

The Palace is looked after well, considering their obviously limited finances. The Government employees are proud of the Palace and the wood seems to be polished regularly and care has been taken to preserve all the incredible paintings, jewelry and artifacts. But with an entrance fee of Rs. 20, it is difficult to even keep a Palace of this size clean- so restoring it to it’s former glory is impossible. Sponsorships and Funding must come in and we should try and preserve this proud testament to India’s glory days.

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The gardens are now but shadows of what they would have looked like. Where the would have been 50 trees, there is now one aged weed and where there would have been brightly coloured flowers there is one token bush. The fountains are dry and chipped…. A new coat of paint and landscaping would easily restore the gardens to their lush beauty.

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I entered and immediately i saw my Family Crest carved beautifully in wood. The Family Crest is everywhere – on the top of the Hill Palace,in different rooms, etched in glass everywhere! Immediately we were click happy and I asked to get some photographs taken.

DSC04416In most parts of the Hill Palace, photographs are not allowed especially in the Crown room and where the Jewellery is stored- but because we were family- a wonderful government historian proudly took us around to rooms that hadn’t even been opened to the Public yet; showing us artifacts they were restoring and rooms that would soon be open to Public.

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Another interesting thing to note…is like the Taj Mahal in Agra, you must walk thru this Palace barefoot. The Palace is kept clean and the tiles are original and is wonderful to walk on the cool flooring and marvel at the care and attention that had been taken when this palace was built. It was also so far sighted of those that constructed the palace to choose the right materials for the Palace. Even in the humidity and heat of a Kerala afternoon the floors were cold and the windows kept a steady stream of air passing through. With out air conditioning , we were still able to walk a few hours without even breaking a sweat!

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And so it was off to the Crown room! And we saw the crown and the throne and the room where the Maharaja would conduct his daily business!The Palace in itself has several buildings with the traditional centre courtyard. The women, families and children would live and play in the other buildings. I’m assuming a simple game of hide and seek could run a couple of days with the amount of space this exquisite Palace has! ūüôā Unfortunately those building have yet to be restored and sadly some of the of them are being used as administrative offices and the rest of them just left vacant.

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Achan (Dad in Malayalam) and I posed in front of his great grand father picture (The Maharaja of Cochin) and  I know I was dreaming of being a Princess and roaming this beautiful Palace as my home.

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I was snapped out of day dreaming with the stunning light emanating from the rubies and emeralds and the room where all the jewellery and armor is stored. And then we wandered off to see the carriages … beautifully kept and a wonderful memory of a simpler, grander time!

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After a quick stop at the Deer park , I sadly said farewell to a new Palace I had just seen but which seemed so familiar to me….! I will come back. I must restore it.

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And then it was off to the famous temple ChottaNikkara. Legend has it that my great, great grandmother Parukutty Nethyar Amma ,got married very young. Like all young girls, she wanted many things. Her husband, said to her that if she wants so much, then she should perhaps ask the Devi and so she did. She prayed for fame, fortune and prayed with all her heart. When the Raja abdicated , she was at the temple when the Priest asked her whether she had moved to her new house- the Palace. She went home, to find that her husband had just been named the first Maharaja on Cochin State. The temple is beautiful. With great amount of faith, I went and prayed. I was so proud to just be able to walk the space my great great grandmother had and be able to share some of the faith she had!

No photographs are allowed in the temple.

And then finally we ended up in the Tripunithura Temple where the kings came after their coronation. Interestingly ,in Gurvayoor the Krishna idol is standing, in Tripunithura – he is sitting and when you go to Trivandrum, he is lying down!The temple has a massive courtyard where the elephants were brought and made to stand! We were overjoyed to see one hungry, very naughty elephant troubling his Mahout as the evening set on this PERFECT DAY!

From Hill Palace, both these temples are very close by and MUST SEES!

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Athena with love!

From the lazy,warmth of Santorini we were off to the beauty of Athens! At Athens, my husband had picked the fabulous hotel Grand Bretagne  knowing my love for Classic Luxury and the hotel was all that and more!

The lobby which it’s rich reds and golds reminded me of a palatial entrance and the quiet, discreet care they took with us during check-in was wonderful. If you stayed in the hotel you were not just treated as a VIP- you were VIP! There are very few hotels that have that level of sophistication though I have almost always¬†faced in the older, grand hotels as compared to the newer chains! It’s nice being treated special even if you are just another guest on the roster and I loved that!

The rooms we had booked were Higher category rooms and were comfortable , spacious and had incredible views! Ours overlooked the busy Constitution Square and almost immediately- I was ready to start exploring. Afew hours of walking later- I was ready to take on the Acropolis! Aditya insisted however that we first take in an early night and leave the exploring to the following day, so we headed up to the GB Roof Garden to eat!

The name GB Roof Garden does not do the restaurant justice. With an outside and inside dining option, this restaurant is no cafe or roof garden- it is a fabulous restaurant with great food and directly overlooks the Acropolis. We dined outside obviously enjoying the slight nip in the air and loving the beautifully lit Acropolis in the distance! The food varied from Sushi to Greek food, to pastas and mains! I ate a fabulous fish dish and went to bed excited about what the new day would bring!

The hotel suggested we do a private tour of the sights of Athens. This was very wise. this gave us a taste of history and yet we were not¬†forced to do at the pace dictated by tour operators! We could see what we wanted to see, do what we wanted to do and most importantly stay and take photographs at all the places we wanted to stop at! The morning started at the Acropolis and though the climb seems¬†intimidating, it is actually done quite easily. It is entering the area where the Parthenon , (a temple dedicated to the Goddess Athena) stands that’s hard! The crowds there jostle for space to take that one , perfect photograph and the guards try and keep people movingand there are almost no places at all where you can stop, take a breath and just marvel at¬†these incredible structures! We were lucky we had come on a day where cruise ships had not docked and therefore though there were thousands of tourists, I am told that this wasn’t even half of what they usually go through on a daily basis! What I loved were the Greek dogs perched proudly on the steps guarding the entrance to the Parthenon almost like spirits of Greek warriors doing a great¬†duty!

The ruins I loved the best were that of the Amphitheatre- the Theatre of Herod Atticus. This space is still used for Greek theatre and was getting ready for a huge musical performance that night!

The ruins are kept with great amount of care and the locals talk about Greece’s past with so much deference and respect; you almost wish you could get transported into a time of great pomp and splendor, of wealth and beauty, of valor and tradition!

After this it was off to the old Olympic stadium and a couple of laps on the Olympic track! Needless to stay we were star runners ;)!

Then it was off to the Agora or the market place and to the Plaka which are lined with quaint cafes and lovely shops which sell fun tourist memorabilia!

It was there we let go of our guid so we could have a leisurely lunch! The Temple of Zeus and Hadrian’s Arch which was the entrance to the city were explored by us at our own pace! The museum was another treasure we discovered ourself. watching historians uncover the past hidden below the present structures of the city was truly fascinating. The fact that an entire city had been built over another city was unbelievable and the glass walkway to the museum was atop one of the recently excavated sites and had historians working on it while we explored treasure of a lost past!

Athens also has great shopping! From the latest gadgets and brands to incredible small local designer boutiques, Athens is a shoppers paradise! I bought an entire wardrobe here and would have gladly stayed on, given half a choice!

The people are warm and friendly and I remember wandering the Plaka in the middle of the evening searching for a restaurant we’d heard so much about and other smaller restaurant owners coming outside just to help us and point the way! Our taxi driver too was mortified he hadn’t taken us to the right address and refused to charge a fare on the entire journey saying that we were guests and he had inconvenienced us!

Athens is a city of culture and passion, a city of ruins and romance, of great beauty and of incredible stories! I heard a few and made of a few stories of my own here and I’d love to go back because Athens is like a great novel…every time you read it, the more you learn!

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