Up and Down the Yorkshire Dales

The countryside has zero pretensions. None of the glitz, glamour, competitiveness or fatuous claims that is part of our daily lives are to be found in the country – unless you are a recluse who is pretty much done with the frivolities of life, and have therefore retired in the bosom of the country, where your life is about communion with nature. Nature is insidious, isn’t she? She will make her way into your heart with sheer smoothness. Each country escape is a reinforcement of that thought.

We met an old couple at a tearoom in the village of Muker after the long walk to Crackpot Hall. The man was the spitting image of Ian McKellen (remember him? ‘Magneto’, ‘Gandalf the Grey’…). When he turned around, I almost said out loud, “Gandalf!” I did not however do that. It is not alright to unleash your wonkiness on poor, unsuspecting people who have just met you.

Nattering away is the best thing you can do during tea time. So there we were finding out nuggets about each other – stranger couples exchanging life stories. It turned out that Gandalf and his wife were hardcore Londoners. Forty years ago, they moved to the Yorkshire Dales. His grudge was against Americans (come on, don’t get grumpy all over me, I am just the purveyor of conversations) invading the city. “The day the Americans came in and they stopped doing beer for lunch, I knew it was time for us to leave London,” he said.

The British have their priorities in place. You cannot fault them on that.

Lengthy conversations with locals apart, we drove around the Yorkshire Dales. Now the dales are about pure tradition. It starts from the way the farmers tend to their land, roaming around the country lanes with collies perched upon the back of their quad bikes, as they send gruff smiles your way. Dry stone walls patch work lush rolling slopes and meadows while limestone barns pop up all over the latticed landscape.

Then you see cottages carved out of local stones, ruined remnants of 18th-19th century lead mines, small waterfalls, bales of hay stacked up by the meadows, ancient woodlands, small stone bridges and gurgling brooks flowing through the valleys. At the end of the noon, droopy as a dog, you step into an old, traditional pub with stone-flagged floors and large fireplace, plonking yourself at a table in the garden. The drill goes thus: Chug on pints of local ale accompanied by no-nonsense pub food. Gastro pubs look the other way. Your neighbours will be cyclists, motorcyclists, many sizes and shapes of dogs along with their owners, and oodles of walkers. As the honey-golden sunshine of the noon softly touches upon the face, you smile away the sunburn you have acquired during your rambles and you know this that the dales have got you good.

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An expansive stretch of village green, a local postwoman making her daily rounds in the village, a coffeeshop with tantalising cakes, a tiny convenience shop, three village pubs (who said that they did not want you to be spoilt for choice in Reeth), two churches and a smattering of stone houses. You have entered Reeth. A village in upper Swaledale that lies on the B6270 road. There are plenty of walks to do around it. Just head to its information centre. The old lady at the till will take her time in helping you out with suggestions.

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A historic coaching inn, The Buck, traces its way back in time to the 1700s. 
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After a long time spent inside the longest surviving inn in Reeth (it dates back to the 1600s), things might look a bit different. Wait, are you seeing things upside down?
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Postwoman of Reeth.
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The chocolate biscuit cake stole the show. Laden with chewy oats, nuts, lots of butter, chocolate and raisin, it was all mine. Adi turned up his nose at it. Men are odd.


This was our starting point for the walk to Crackpot Hall.nMuker Beck runs through the tiny village where a handful of houses stand next to the river and a ribbon of a road runs past them. You can see the church peeking out from above the stone cottage with the creepers. In the old days you might have been witness to all significant occasions in the life of the poor folk taking place in this church made of wattle and daub and heather thatch. They walked miles and miles to get here for weddings and burials. This single church in Muker is historical – it is one of a handful that came up during the reign of Elizabeth I in the 1600s.

The dales believe in minimalism. A village shop and tearoom come together as a package, a pub stands next door and then you have a boutique selling Swaledale woollens, which displays a placard informing you all-importantly, it was graced by the presence of the Prince of Wales. After such a clear sign, if you want to buy anything (at extortionate prices), let it be upon your head.

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Muker Beck runs through the town which was an important post for the lead mining industry in the old days.
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St. Mary’s looms up above the cottages of Muker.
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Blue doors
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And red doors. It is easy to fall for Muker.
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The only pub in Muker is this.
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The all-in-one tearoom and village store
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Goodies guaranteed to make the drool flow fast just like a mastiff.
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A Welsh rarebit with tomato relish and salad on the side.
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Butter Tubs, a pale golden, dry bitter ale. Delicious after a hot walk.


One of the smallest and evocatively tranquil villages in the Upper Swaledale. It just has the Keld Lodge and one Butt House B&B. No shops. Yessir, you gotta get your supplies elsewhere because you shall get none in Keld. The original name of the village was Appletre Kelde (‘the spring near the apple tree’), derived from the Viking word Kelda (‘a spring’). Keld lies at the crosspoint of two challenging hiking routes in the country – the 267-mile long Pennine Way which spans the length of the Peak District to the Scottish border, and the Coast-to-Coast Way that runs from St. Bees in Cumbria to Robin Hood’s Bay in Yorkshire. And get this: During the height of the lead mining industry, Keld had about 6000 inhabitants. Today it has less than a 100 villagers. There’s a reason to fall in love with the villages in the dales.

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Gunnerside country is curiously flat and the farmers here stick to the traditional methods of farming. A methodist chapel, a smithy, a pub, a primary school and a post office are all you shall spot within this small settlement that gets it name from the Nordic word Gunnar’s Saetr, meaning the ‘Viking king’s summer pasture’. Somehow it is difficult to imagine the Vikings on this flat, serene landscape, but if history says so, who am I to bicker. When we made a stop by the beck in Gunnerside, a man hiking through, his shirt open till his waist, stopped for a brief hello. One of his lines got stuck in my mind. “They say this is the Yorkshire Riviera. Today, you can’t doubt it.”

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Gunnerside Flats
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A Harley trio in Gunnerside
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The 19th-century New Bridge
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Gunnerside Beck
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Boys out spring camping
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“I chatter over stony ways, /In little sharps and trebles,/ I bubble into eddying bays,/ I babble on the pebbles.” Tennyson to add to the beauty of it all.


I have got a surprise for ya. The Scandinavians were in Thwaite. Well, you would say duh by now. Which means you are reading this, plus you would be right too. Naturally Thwaite gets its name from the Old Scandinavian word thveit which means ‘meadow or paddock’. I just remember the barking of dogs in the distance in Thwaite and a farmer passing by in his tractor loaded with a bale or two of hay. There was not another soul to be seen in the village and these are scenes from an early evening.

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That is all. With massive motifs of sunflowers, sheep, dry stone walls and limestone barns popping out of the landscape, we drove into the sunset.



This is a post about a kebab-loving labrador. Because today is his birthday and he is in doggie heaven having a kebab party.

Tuktuk came into my life along with my husband when we met in a bar in Delhi in 2009 and he started wooing me. I met Adi in the bar, not Tuktuk who did not even have to try to woo me. Photographs of the dog with the Tigger-like face popped up in my facebook messages in the summer of 2009. Then I met the handsome boy in person only to realise that I had found my second soulmate.

Tuktuk was a big, sinewy labrador. If you were wary of dogs, you would think twice about patting him. During our days of dating, a party was thrown at Adi’s for his friends. We were chatting in the living room when who should patter in quite curious at being left out of all this natter? Now one of the gang was a girl who was petrified of dogs. She leapt up on the couch and started shrieking. Imagine Tuktuk’s confusion, if you will. If he could have voiced the confusion that showed upon his face at that moment, it would have been something along the lines of ‘I just want a pat and some food from your plate, lady, so why must you shriek so!’ So he inched closer to the couch and to her. She would have none of him, and he would but meet her, thank you. Opposing wills were at work here.

Tuktuk was soon taken away to the other room. I took him some food to comfort his wounded ego. Who would know the solace you can find in food better than me – we shared the common passion of devouring anything put in front of us, Tuktuk and I.

Adi maintains that Tuktuk was a vegetarian. That is before I walked into his life. I saw anything but the non-vegetarian in him. He would demolish the kebabs I handed him – with alacrity. Adi also insists that Tuktuk thought of me as a giant walking, talking kebab.

When Adi travelled for work, and I would visit my future in-laws often, Tuktuk inevitably slept in my room. Every morning, quite so early, I would wake up to see him eyeing me rather solemnly. He was a grand old man in those moments. Huffing and puffing because he needed to go for his morning wee.

Later when we were married and I lived for about 6 months at my in-laws’ place, a single woof outside the door used to be our signal. ‘Let me in you bozos. I want some of that air conditioning too. I mean have you seen my bloody thick coat?’ Tuktuk waited outside our door thus, waiting to be let in on hot summer nights. And how we teased him. Our boy did not like being ignored, so we would be all cuddly and pretend to ignore him. Naturally he would nudge each of us repeatedly. Then he would go and sit with his bum facing us. Any attempt at cajoling would be met by the sight of the bum.

But then Tuktuk always gave in. And when he did, he would come bounding over with his tail wagging nineteen-to-the-dozen, tongue hanging out.

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Our natty boy
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Let’s box
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A bit askew because this is on our walls and I just could not find the photo for the life of me.

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His birthdays were occasion for celebration, sometimes him turning into a pirate in the bargain. I am sure he would think then, ‘Oh god these silly humans. Do I have to indulge them to get the goodies?’ He lived 13 years in a very loving home, my in-laws were his indulgent grandparents because Tuktuk was Adi’s baby. He was. He is.

We miss him.

We got the news one early morning, when we were in the Belgian town of Mechelen. That he had quietly passed away in his sleep. It was unreal. The thing about such news is that it takes some time to sink in, and when it does, it leaves its mark. This poem gave us some comfort at the time:

Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I did not die.

Happy birthday Tuktuk.

Spicy Egg Bath for Your French Toast

Savoury French Toast with chillies and onion is one of the best snack-y dishes you will have in life. Because who can say no to fried bread with some spices thrown in. If you can resist the temptation, let me know. Not that I would hang you upside down or force-feed you, okay? So do not run away, my pretty.

The idea of this post was suggested by Dolly. She wrote a post on French Toast (that rhymed and I declare myself a poet) which brings together the Romans and this fried bread dish. Being the inveterate opinion giver that I am, I had to put in my two bits on her post, to which Dolly responded with an invitation to do a guest post for her. So here I am with two slices of French Toast in my tummy, feeling like a veritable Roman gourmand and typing away whatever comes into my French toasted mind. Now Dolly does not just put recipes – she gives you a backdrop to it which tickles the imagination. When I learnt that the French Toast, which we have corrupted in India with our typical obsession with spices and heat, was actually the product of a 1st-century Roman fellow called Apicius, I was chuffed. Who would have thunk, right?

Below is how you go about making it for yourself. Since I made it for just myself this morning (I foresee the husband protesting and pouting at being left out), it is enough for one.


Eggs, 2

Bread, 2 slices

Half of a small red onion, chopped fine

A chilli, chopped into thin discs

A handful of coriander, chopped fine

Milk (optional), about 1/4 cup

Cumin powder, 1/4 tsp

Garam masala, 1/4 tsp (recipe for homemade garam masala is to be found at the end of the post)

Red chilli powder (a pinch or two)



Wholegrain spelt & malted barley seeded bread slices with ancient and sprouted grains. I found this bread the other day on the aisles and it is delicious. Nutty and with a slightly chewy texture to it.
Spices. From left to right: Garam masala, red chilli powder and cumin powder. These are just roughly put into the bowls so please do not sprinkle such generous helpings of these.
Bread into the egg bath …
…and into the pan.
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Sauces to dip the bread into

Heat a skillet well and drizzle it with the oil of your choice. I am democratic, yes. I used mustard oil because it adds a wonderful flavour to Indian dishes. I did not go crazy with the oil – just enough to drizzle both sides of the slices. You can always opt for a bed of oil because they do crisp quickly with more oil. As a result of the less quantity of oil, I had to leave the slices to toast for a fairly long time.

While the skillet is heating, whisk the egg with above chopped ingredients and spices. Dunk the bread slices in them and coat both sides of each slice well with the mixture. The chopped veggies do not always stay put (perverse things), so you will have to spoon them onto the bread while frying. Now ease the slices into the skillet and toast both sides till they are crisp.

When they are ready to be ravished, just add some ketchup or Tomato Hot & Sweet sauce, because really, this sauce is a beauty. If you like it hotter, go for a sauce like a Bhut Jolokia hot sauce and let steam vent from your ears.

How to make fresh garam masala

2 tbsp coriander seeds

1tbsp cumin seeds

1 tbsp cardamom seeds

1 tbsp whole black peppercorns

1 tsp fennel seeds

1 tsp mustard seeds

1/2 tsp whole cloves

2 dried red chillies

2 tbsp ground turmeric

Toast the whole spices (except turmeric powder) on a skillet till they are fragrant (roughly for 2 mins) and grind the spices in a coffee grinder.Add the turmeric powder to the mixture and you have your garam masala which will stay well for up to a month in a mason jar.

Crackpot Hall on the Dales

It got me with its name. How can you possibly ignore a ‘Crackpot Hall’ when it looms up on the map, right? In the Yorkshire Dales, last weekend, we walked 6 miles from the village of Muker to get to it. Even if it be just an abandoned farmhouse, more than half of its roof having given way to the elements, the ruins added drama, perched above the deep winding valleys of Swaledale.

The word ‘hall’ is a misnomer in Crackpot’s case. It necessarily conjures up visions of grandeur, mansions, opulence, right? Only this was an isolated building. Some of its small and dark rooms were still intact under the portion of roof that remained. A big fireplace recreated suggestions of considerable warmth on cold, windy days. Rusted pots and pans were still to be seen stashed away inside the alcove next to the fireplace. And then a rusted metal bath stood on the side of the room. Bracken and weed grew inside.

Walking through the derelict bits of it, I could imagine the shepherds and farmers who lived in it – their constant struggle to eke out a living from a land that was not kind to them. In the early-1900s a pair of women authored a book titled Swaledale.

They wrote: “Once as we sat gazing at the distant view of Keld (the settlement nearby), there was a sudden rush from behind. Our caps and sticks were snatched away and hurled over the wall and a tiny figure clambered over them with a mocking, chuckling laugh. That was Alice with the madness of the moors about her and all their wariness. ‘Ah you are plaguing me,’ she said.”

That bit was reconstructed into a tale of haunting. Poor Alice. She actually lives near Carlisle, is in her 80s, and laughs a lot. I heard a podcast featuring her on BBC in which she reminisced about her years in Crackpot Hall. It made me smile to hear her recollection of her early years atop the hill. She was born in Crackpot Hall with her brothers and sisters and her father was a farmer. He kept cows, sheep, goats and farmed everything possible. She also mentioned the coffee her mum made and brought to the hay fields as being exceptionally flavourful – that you could relish that coffee even if it went cold. This was some time in the 1930s. The children had the freedom of playing in caves and abandoned lead mines and Alice’s favourite companion was her dog Moss. ‘Moss the dog,” she said, “would only work for my daddy.” They eventually moved to a farm near Hawes because it promised better land and earnings for her father. A shepherd did live in Crackpot Hall for some time after they left it. The building was abandoned in the 1950s.

The name Crackpot is considered to be Viking because of the presence of other Old Norse names in the area such as Keld (it means ‘spring’). Crack translated into ‘a crow’ and pot was a ‘crevice/crag’ in Old Norse. It could be thus deciphered as “a deep hole or chasm that is a haunt of crows”. It is said that there was a building there since the 16th century that served as a hunting lodge for a nobleman and baron who was a follower of Henry VIII. Thomas Wharton went to the dales frequently on red deer hunting expeditions.

It was a perfect day of sunshine and blue skies when we set on the walk, which turned out to be an average to easy one, with bits of steep portions thrown into the jumble. We walked past working farm sheds, met curious, frolicking lambs, flocks of poker-faced Swaledale sheep and a handful of other walkers. We did sit down once in a while to stare at the River Swale gushing by the meadows which we were treading. I have to remark upon the narrowness of the stiles and bridges during the walk. I promise you that a person with considerable girth would get wedged between those dry stone walls that ran through the meadows.

My dear husband felt extremely hot after a while and started taking off his hiking shoes and revealed hairy legs as he hiked up the cuffs of his jeans, moaning out, “Why did I not wear shorts? This is your fault”. With that blame on my head, I trudged ahead. My own shoes were not unlike clodhoppers. But once we were skipping down steep descents and hopping across the stones and boulders on the river, I wanted to give them a hug.

Along the walls of working sheds.
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Duh. I challenge you to keep in double file.

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River Swale

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Just as we saw this banner…
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…lo and behold, out popped a pheasant with an iridiscent coat upon him.

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Crossing the deliciously cold water of the River Swale.
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Adding the appropriate amount of crow to the backdrop in my all-black ensemble.
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That, my friends, is Crackpot Hall.

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Look at the view that the families who stayed at Crackpot Hall had.
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The kitchen with its fireplace, pots and pans.


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The valleys of Swaledale, with River Swale winding through it, lie behind me. You can also spot fresh patches of snow on the hills in the backdrop. It had snowed four days ago in the north.
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A snap of Alice with her parents and Moss the Dog. Courtesy: BBC
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Alice and Moss the dog. Courtesy: BBC
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Alice’s mother, the star coffeemaker, with their flock of Swaledale sheep and possibly her husband in the backdrop. Courtesy: BBC

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How to Get There: Start the walk from the village of Muker or from Keld. The walk from Muker is longer than the route from Keld. But Muker has a tearoom and better eating options, so we had to listen to the call of the gut.

Where to Stay:

At Keld Lodge (www.keldlodge.com), a former shooting lodge, double en-suite rooms are available for £100 a night and breakfast is included within the price.

A double en-suite room on bed & breakfast basis at Bridge House (www.bridgehousemuker.co.uk) is pegged at £90 per night.

Next up, more on the stunningly green Yorkshire dales and the barren isolation of the moors.

Sheep-y Sundays

Albert Einstein was not off the mark when he said that in order to be an immaculate member of a flock of sheep one must above all be a sheep oneself. I had a sheep-like personality in the growing years of my life – till I reached Delhi and the city decided to do me a favour and rip it off. Naturally you would forgive me for thinking that I stood a chance of bonding with those precious bundles of wool.

Now, I have tried to be friends with all shapes and sizes of them. I have talked to them, I have cajoled them to come closer and then I have chased them to be friends with me. In all my time of roving the English countryside, I have to admit sheepishly that I have been an utter failure. Here are some close encounters with the Swaledale sheep that roam around the northern dales of the Yorkshire with their curved horns, healthy frames (they are not fat, they will let you in baa notes) and black faces. I deemed them the J J Ramsbottoms, just because they looked like J J Ramsbottoms.

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This is also peak lambing time in the Blighty. Everywhere you look there are tiny lambs in duos and trios, innocence and curiosity in their eyes, and a skip in their steps. A lamb gambolling around green pastures in the wake of a busy ewe (why with chomping on grass which they do even through snow) is one of those sights in life that is bound to put a smile on your face and a spring in your step. But before that you gotta contend with the mother looking around the corner, watching out for her wee ones.

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And now I shall sign off my sheep-laden weekend with bitter ales brewed in the Yorkshire dales that we have brought home with us. We never leave bottles of beauty behind. Hic hic.

Church with the Witch’s Hat

It is a gloriously nippy day because we have driven up north to Yorkshire for the weekend. A walk in the green, green dales can only do us good, right? We drove last night for about four hours and passed through Derbyshire. Descending the hilly roads in the county, a crooked spire much like the twisty hat of a witch loomed up ahead. For me, the market town of Chesterfield has become synonymous with its crooked spire.

One Samuel Bromley even wrote a few lines for it in the mid-19th century.

“Its ponderous steeple, pillared in the sky,

    Rises with twist in pyramidal form,

    And threatens danger to the timid eye

    That climbs in wonder.”

I don’t know about ‘danger to the timid eye’ but it certainly challenges the mind to come up with stories or go with legends that come with it. St Mary and All Saints is a late-13th century parish church upon the spire of which Satan is supposed to have landed while flying from Nottingham to Sheffield. He must have been a great sneezer that Satan – because the entire burden of the twisting of the spire is laid upon one sneeze.

There is another story that goes with the church – a stunning bride with great virtue entered the church and inspired the spire to bow. It froze in that posture clearly.

The power of satan or the power of great beauty? Well, the more non-ludicrous and staid reason is probably that the spire built straight could not bear the weight of 32 tonnes of lead tiles placed atop it. The herringbone pattern of the spire cements the twisted look.

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As we left the lights of these towns behind and made our way through the dark country, we took a few minutes to get off on the grassy knolls, shiver and throw our heads back to stare at an upturned, inky bowl shimmering with stars.

None of the magic of it could but compare with the lardy and wrinkled nude back of an old woman in a hotel room. After midnight, we reached the hotel bleary-eyed, collected the room card, crawled to the room and inserted the card. Adi opened the door and to my astonishment I heard voices issuing out of the room. The telly is on it seems, I thought, and before I could get any further with commenting on the oddness of it, Adi looked scarred and a disgruntled man appeared at the door simultaneously. “But there seems to be a mistake, this is supposed to be our room too,” he said. Since they were comfortably settled in – the lady of the room had even decided to discard this modern inconvenience of clothes – it was only fair that we rushed back to the reception where the gentle, bald man was startled enough that he did not know how to react. It also meant that at that moment when Adi looked appropriately grave and annoyed (the best way to get extra hotel points for occasions when the hotel goofs up), I was shaking and vibrating. You know how it happens when you try and repress peals of laughter. The large desktop computer on the till in front of me was my refuge or so I thought. Adi assured me it was not.

We did get another room (thunk god) whereupon we threw ourselves upon the bed, laughed till our stomachs ached and then just passed out.

How is your weekend going? If you have any nude, old ladies and crooked spires featuring in them, we might be in the same part of town.

Sandwiching Two Awards with Love and Nutella

Jen, a Canadian blogger who lives in Japan and is kicking her way towards a double black belt, thought of me when she was nominated for One Lovely Blog Award . She likes to whizz up dinosaur avatars of herself and tempts you to do the same. So, I shall get on with the job. But before I start waffling, I have got to thank Lori, a blogger multi-tasking in the creative arts – playing the piano, writing, indulging in photography, sewing and spreading her talent through coaching. She thought of me for the Versatile Blogger Award. It runs along the same lines as One Lovely Blog Award, so I thought, why not put them together? One can take only that much of narcissism in a day, plus 7 different facts about myself twice over might bring out more skeletons out of the closet than I can let go at one point of time. Once again, thank you, Jen and Lori.

The rules for this award are as follows

  1. Thank the person who nominated you and provide a link.
  2. Post about the award
  3. Write 7 facts about yourself
  4. Nominate bloggers and notify them

Seven Facts about Myself

 1. Eternal goof. Just the other Saturday we were on the way to Ludlow, a vibrant market town in Shropshire when we made our quintessential stop. Services. Adi waited in the car and I sashayed off. In a few minutes, I came out strutting with the wind in my hair and feeling quite very happy as you always do after a services break. Erm, why on earth was the door locked? I grappled with it and bent to peer through the window, righteous indignation writ large on my face. Only the face inside was not my husband’s. Mortified I turned around and tottered off towards the other black car a little ahead – this time I peered and saw the husband’s teeth on full display.

During such momentous (and frequent) occasions, individuals like me should have a motto. Never leave witnesses. I had one shaven headed witness. Laughing at me as he sat outside the services with a cup of coffee. The world is big. I am a wuss. And I hope never to lay eyes on him again.

2. Devilish blackmailer. During my growing up years my father set off a trend of bringing me cheese puffs and cream rolls – during exams – because why, a child need nourishment. Much to the annoyance of my mother who looked down upon such unhealthy, fatty indulgences. On days when he would fall short of delivering on the goodies, I would lay my hand on his heart, and say solemnly, “Baba, I shall die unless you bring me a pack of Lays and a cream roll.” Never underestimate the manipulative power that a child possesses.

My brother refused to fall for the same line. His standard retort was,”Please go ahead and die.” Ruthless fellow.

3. Detective; Star Baker; Ballet Dancer; Black Belt Ninja. I am none of those but they are my alter-egos. What are yours?

4.Goggle-eyed witness to life. There are many strange things in life that you experience, right? The most vivid one in my life took place when I was in journalism school in Delhi. We were taken on a field trip to Tihar Jail (the largest complex of prisons in South Asia which was once notorious as home to serial killers but has been developed since into a correctional institution). As the warden showed a group of us around, along with him for a fairly long time was a fellow in spotless white clothes with shaven head and glasses. I assumed he was one of the officers till I overheard the warden say that he was a prisoner. I scampered up to him and asked him what exactly was it that he was serving time for. “Murder,” he said. “I stabbed a friend more than a dozen times in a fit of rage.” To say that I was gobsmacked is understating it. But he had this air of sincerity about him, so I wonder what happened to him. He was supposed to have gone to the States in a year or so, after I met him, to live with his sister and complete his studies.

5. Sous chef to my husband. He cooks on weekends. By the end of the afternoon, I flop down and make him promise not to cook for at least the next couple of weeks. But he makes good on what he puts on the plate.

6. Fitness fanatic

7. If I was a dinosaur, my names would range from Brachiobasu, Allobasusaurus, Diplodobasucus to Styrabasucosaurus, Troobasudon and Gallimibasumus.


If you like these awards and want to reply to those questions, feel free to tag yourself.

Peace out.

Burford & Bourton in the Wolds

If you are in Bibury, you have to find your way to the delightful duo of Burford and Bourton-on-the-Water. I had written a post already on the town and village respectively but here’s a quick one on the knowhow of these two. The shots are of Burford from a year ago when I sported a short hairdo and went through life-without-long-mane-shedding-all-over-the-place moments. At one point, we dreamt of old age in Burford, of a future when we could buy a little cottage and go for long walks in the country followed by coffee and pottering around in the antique stores. It was actually quite wonderful to visualise it in our mind’s eye as my husband and I sat down at The Cotswolds Arms pub in Burford for lunch on a glorious and sunny summer’s day.

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You have to climb to the top of the hill in Burford and look down upon the row of limestone houses that descend in a straggly row.

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How to Get There: 

If you are not driving in the Cotswolds, wise up. Hired the car already? Then what are we waiting for. Burford is 20 miles west of Oxford and it sits on the crossroads of the A40 and A361. From London, it takes you about 1.5 hours to get to Burford. Parking is free in Burford, both in the riverside car park (OX18 4SE) and on the streets (though this kinda parking comes with time limitations). For coach and stagecoach services browse www.swanbrook.co.uk and www.stagecoachbus.com/oxfordshire/ for the timetables. Trains (www.nationalrail.co.ukwill bring you only till Oxford or Charlbury from where you have to figure out a coach or a cab to get to Burford. 

Where to Stay:

Traditional coaching inns pair well with the atmosphere of old English towns such as Burford. In the heart of town is Bull at Burford (www.bullatburford.co.uk), a coaching inn and brasserie where a small double room on bed & breakfast basis starts at £79.

If your pockets allow it, you can opt for a boutique country inn experience at The Lamb Inn (book through www.cotswold-inns-hotels.co.uk). A ‘Good Double Room’ ranges between £150-£210. If you book early you can catch a ‘Very Good Double Room’ too for roughly £150. You are also paying here for the experience of staying within the walls of a 15th-century, former weaver’s cottage.

Where to Eat:

The Cotswolds Arms (www.cotswoldarms.co.uk) is one of our comfort lunch spots in Burford. It is a traditional 18th century pub with a good selection of ales and food – they even offer gluten free dining – and rates that will not rip your heart off.

Bull at Burford, the coaching inn from above, does some mean dishes. The rates are a bit more pricey than The Cotswolds Arms, but that said, they won’t leave you gasping either.

Mrs Bumbles (www.mrsbumbles.co.uk) deli for wonderful full-fat ice creams, cheese, chutneys and local Cacklebean eggs.

What to Do:

  • In Burford, look out for a Tudor building held up on stone pillars town’s museum. Medieval wool merchants used to meet up for trade at this spot called The Tolsey. Today it serves as the town museum.
  • The 15th century Parish Church of St John the Baptist is one of the churches built using money from the wool trade. I found a cute anecdote associated with its renovation when William Morris criticised the process and had the vicar responding with the words, “The church Sir is mine, and if I choose to I shall stand on my head in it‘.

  • You are within a half-hour driving distance of charming little villages and towns in the Cotswolds such as Bibury, Bourton-on-the-WaterUpper and Lower Slaughter, Stow-on-the-WoldOxford, Cheltenham and Broadway.


If you are staying at Burford and driving down to Bourton-on-the-Water, I would suggest pottering around the shops and the river Windrush. When you are done with that do not bother with the tourist to-do such as the perfumery or the museums, just head out for walks.

Where to Eat:

The Croft (www.chesterhousehotel.comis a restaurant with a view of the Windrush. You can have a spot of lunch here or just sit back for a relaxing tea-and-cake kinda evening.

Kingsbridge Pub (www.kingsbridgepub.co.uk) on the village green is a reasonable watering hole in the village where you do get a nice range of beers and ales. We always love a seat in its beautiful beer garden with a view of children and dogs splashing about in the shallow beds of the Windrush.

What to do:

  • Walk for 1.5  miles from Bourton-on-the-Water to Lower Slaughter (takes about 40 min). You can walk further up to Upper Slaughter through Lower Slaughter.
  • There’s a 3.5-mile circular walk from Bourton-on-the-Water that takes you through a landscape dotted with river and lakes for roughly 2 hours.

For how to go about them, take a quick peek into www.escapetothecotswolds.org.uk/userfiles/file/walks/jubilee/bourton-on-the-water-and-wyck-rissington.pdf.


Higgledy-Piggledy Bibury

From the pages of Victorian England came the declaration that Bibury is the most beautiful village in England. It was the observation of artist and craftsman William Morris who lived in a manor nearby and loved his saunters through the village. Walk into Bibury and you know why.

Most probably you will be walking along the River Coln with hordes of Asian tourists, especially the Japanese, because they have tenuous links with Bibury. Some say that a Japanese artist was inspired by the village during the ’70s and others maintain that Emperor Hirohito, the leader of their country during WWII who had led them into the Sino-Japanese War, had fallen in love with the idyllic environs of Bibury. Maybe he had, because in the year 1921 as crown prince he had left Japan in a battleship for Britain on a state visit (thus also creating ripples as the first person from the imperial family  to step off Japanese soil). I can well imagine that a man who had as turbulent a life as he had – dealing with military coups and trying not to get assassinated require significant work and then getting around charges of being tried as a war criminal even more so – would have looked upon this time of travel through Britain surreal. His legacy is strong. There is such a steady influx of Japanese tourists that the village store owners have picked up tidbits of the language. It certainly makes you smile. The power of travel, eh?


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We reached this picture-perfect village in the Cotswolds one summer with my husband’s sister and her kids. It was out of the books. Stone bridges and ivy-slathered country manor inns gave way to a sedate scene of drowsy willow trees by the banks of the Coln. The lush meadows along the tributary of the Thames were dotted with Holstein cows who looked suspiciously like they had been airdropped to charm the traveller with their black and white patched indolence while right opposite stood a straggle of limestone cottages trussed up in a row. The picturesque Arlington Row houses date back to the mid-1300s when they served as a monastic wool store but in the 17th century were converted to house weavers.

There is a tale of a Grey Lady too. Nothing like a bit of ’em wandering ladies to spice up your English travels. She, it is said, was a young girl who had married a miller older to her and then unfortunately fallen in love with his son. On a horridly cold night, the miller left his wife outside to die. Which she did and now is said to wander the paths around the river. If you see her, you know what to do. Take her home with you?

How to Get There:

Bibury is a stone’s throw away from Cirencester. The best way to get there is by car. If you are driving, take the B4425. Buses start from Market Place in Cirencester for Bibury. By train, you will be working a fair bit by reaching Kemble, the same station for Cirencester, and then taking a cab worth 20-25 odd quid for Bibury because Kemble is about 14 miles away from it. Drive drive baby…but arrive at off-peak hours because parking can be a bit of a bummer. The easiest parking spot is on the river bridge barring which there is extra parking along the river on the B4425.

Where to Stay: 

Bibury is a convenient day trip from Cirencester. But if you want to stay in the village, there are options such as The Catherine Wheel (www.catherinewheel-bibury.co.uk), a 15th-century stone building. Standard double rooms are priced at roughly £90 per night.

Bed & breakfast double rooms at Cotteswold House (www.cotteswoldhouse.org.uk) are pegged at £90 per night.

Where to Eat:

Make Bibury your clotted-cream-and-jam-with-scone stop because it is an English holiday after all and also because the village has some twee tea rooms –William Morris Tea Room (www.thewilliammorris.com) and Catherine Wheel (www.catherinewheel-bibury.co.uk) – that will not leave your eyes bulging with the bill.

What to do:

After you have seen the Arlington Mill, the Bibury Trout Farm, Arlington Row, you can opt for an 18-mile Bibury-Aldsworth-Bibury fairly easy walking trail. The views during the walk are of the wolds, the lower Coln and the Leach valley.

Or, you can go on a shorter 4-mile circular walking route that lasts about two hours. It takes you past the row of cottages and the church into the Bibury Court Estate and onwards ho into pastures where the sheep roam and wait for a little natter with you.



Blogger Recognition Award

I was nominated by Marlena, a multi-tasking blogger, who likes to write posts from the life of an interracial family and talk about ‘the fusion of cultures, races, religions and everything that comes along with it’ in her words.

Sorry Marlena, got a bit delayed in putting this up, but well here we go.

My Blogging Journey

I had an anonymous blog once which became pretty non-anon in the course of a few weeks and months. I still go back to it and read it once in a while and smile because I was silly and such a crabby old thing. The silly bit remains a part of me as it will till the day I pop it, I believe, but the crabby facet has been sorted out for the most part. I blogged every day then, and now that I have started a travel blog I like to be regular about picking your brain on what you think too along with liberally scattering my comments in the blogosphere. I would not have it any other way. Don’t know about you though.

Advice to New Bloggers

  • Keep writing as much as you can. It brings regular readers back to your blog and creates the connect between readers and you.
  • Follow other bloggers and mostly you shall get the courtesy in return, unless your blog does not connect with the person you choose to follow at all. There are no fixed rules about following or being followed.
  • Do guest posts for popular blogs. They will grab eyeballs and possibly bring new readers in.
  • Leave out the millions of exclamations, pretty please? Makes me think your eyebrows are stuck up on the forehead in a stance of perpetual surprise.

That is all, really. Now, I am supposed to be nominating blogs for the award. But I am very aware (lesson learned after my first go at it) that it is not for everyone. Thank you, Marlena, I do not know how much my two-bit helps any new blogger, but the hope remains. Cheers.