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Reliving my Royal History in Kerala

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My trip to Kochi was special for so many reasons! As you know my Father’s Great Grandfather was the first Maharaja of Cochin State and though Kingdoms and royalty cease to exist in India any more; many of the places in and around Kochi bear a great amount of historical significance for my family and a great amount of nostalgia for my Father. We visited palaces and homes where his parents were born, prayed at the same temples where coronations took place and walked the same ground my ancestors walked years ago. This was a very special trip.

It was also special because it was the first trip where my parents were traveling with Aditya and I. We all travel so much but with Cookie (my pet cocker spaniel and the love of our lives) at home ; my parents always baby sit her while we travel- hence though my sis has traveled with them lots– us…never! But now that Niks, my sister has a puppy of her own, I finally gave up my parental rights for 5 days and decided to take the leap and travel with my parents and husband to Kerala.

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Now these posts on Kerala are going to be several and documented! The trip was amazing and the things to see are too many to fit in to a single post.

Our trip started in Kochi at the Taj Malabar. A quick check in and lunch later , we were off on our first adventure.Our first trip was to St. Francis church,originally built in 1503, is the oldest European church in India. Vasco da Gama, died in Kochi in 1524 and his body was originally buried in this church. It is only much later that his remains were moved to Lisbon.

Kochi has many churches and each one more beautiful than the next. But when you walk in to St. Francis church you feel an overwhelming sense of calm. Tour operators are quietly talking about the history, pockets of people are praying and there is a warm goodness in this Church which made it so very personal and special!

And then it was off to Mattancherry Palace. Mattancherry Palace also known as the Dutch Palace. Created in typical Kerala style architecture with a courtyard in the middle, this palace has portraits of the Rajas and Maharjas , palanquins, stamps and other restored artifacts.

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Because of Achan’s (Father, in Malayalam) family name and our history ,we were allowed photographs in a place which usually doesn’t allow any photography at all. With an entrance tarrif of barely Rs. 5 per person, the palace is still spotlessly clean, being restored beautifully and was an absolute treat. Seeing paintings of my Great- great grand father and Stamp paper with his picture on them was wonderful. I have copies at home which are framed, but the fact that they were up there , for the world to see made me proud to be a Palat ( even more proud than I usually am!)

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And then it was a 5 minute walk to Jew town. The roads are peppered with shops which sell incredible lamps, diyas, basins and even life size idols of our Gods and our 5 minute walk almost took an hour as we stopped and marveled at some of the most gloriously restored antique pieces!

A spot of shopping later and a warm cappuccino at Jew Town and we called it an afternoon and headed back to the hotel!

Best Times To Travel-: Winter- November to February….! Beautiful weather

What you’ll love most-: How simple life is, how uncomplicated the people are and how beautiful unspoiled nature can be.

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Leaning on the Tower of Pisa!

The Leaning tower of Pisa is something I had always wanted to see and when you’re in Florence , Pisa is a measly 45 minutes by train and we knew we just HAD TO , HAD TO go!

If you want to climb the Tower, which is what we wanted to do, it’s better to book online so you don’t have to wait in cues or worse still miss the opportunity completely because the slots are totally full.

So up we were on a gloriously rainy, romantic Florence morning and after a hearty breakfast we took a 5 minute cab drive to the station. Now most of the trains in Italy are pretty wonderful, but the ones that take you to places very close by , like Pisa are just okay. We headed aboard and before we knew it we were in Pisa.

All the websites we had read said that you can see the Tower of Pisa from the station and it was really easy to get there once you arrived.

THIS IS WRONG!

You CAN’T see the Tower from the station. It is NOT  a five minute walk a way from it! It is NOT easy to find!

Pisa is a lovely little university town with cobbled lanes and quaint houses. The Tower is quite a walk a way (it took us over 30 minutes) especially if you have no idea how to get there! What is infinitely better is to take one of the many busses which head straight from the station to the Tower and which leave at regular intervals. These are local buses which make a few stops but get you to the Tower or back to the station in approximately 10 minutes. Take these buses! It’s a much less frustrating walk , especially if you had a booking time confirmed to walk up the Tower and we were so afraid we’d miss it!

The Tower is white, perfect, beautiful and very, very tilted!The Piazza del Duomo in Pisa,is also known as the Piazza del Miracoli or the Field of Miracles is where you will find the Leaning Tower of Pisa. It is dominated by four great religious edifices: the Duomo (cathedral), the Campanile (the cathedral’s free standing bell tower/ The Leaning Tower ), the Baptistry and the Camposanto.

We just made it in time to rush into the end of the line and be ushered in.

The narrow winding staircases broken with the occasional small landing where you could see the glorious University town below made for beautiful photographs and though the climb was steep, the steps uneven and the corridors occasionally a little confined because of the number of people going up- the climb to the top was well worth it! The gorgeous clouds almost touched us as we reached the top and you could see why Gabriele d’Annunzio described the adjoining building and the Tower as being part of the Field of Miracles- the beauty was astounding!

The trip to the top was an experience and the view spectacular. It is a definite MUST DO!

In the Piazza below you will see tons of tourist shops with funny t-shirts and lots of small knick-knacks to commemorate your visit to Pisa. You can also stop and have a cappuccino or food at the many cafes in the Piazza.

Once our climb was completed we took a while to explore the beautiful college town and then took a BUS back to the station and was back to Florence in 45 minutes!

The afternoon was beautiful back at Florence and we explored the narrow cobbled roads and the quaint , family-owned cafes and I shopped! The shopping was wonderful, the people were friendly and the city was a from a time lost that I would have loved to be a part of!

It must be said again the Firenze or Florence was my favourite Italian city and when you do go there go climb the Leaning Tower of Pisa!

Price Factor-: 17 Euros per person! Well worth it!

What to Wear-: A jacket as the weather is a tad confusing- rainy one moment, bright sunshine the next! Wear comfortable shoes as it’s quite a climb !

Best times to travel-: May- October

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