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Volcano Village Lodge – A slice of paradise on the Big Island, Hawaii

Serene-Tranquility-Volcano-Village-LodgeA picture of zen

This serene scene greets you when you enter the tranquil setting of Volcano Village Lodge, in the heart of Big Island’s lush rainforest. Far away from the hustle and bustle of Big Island’s Kona side, the town of Volcano near Hilo on the East side of the island is the perfect place to get into a zen mood and begin your adventures. Located just 2 miles from the entrance to Hawaii’s Volcanoes National Park, Volcano Village Lodge is a true slice of paradise, especially for those looking for an authentic and memorable experience on the island.

Volcano-Village-Lodge-Big-Island-HawaiiOur room Hale Manaluna overlooking the lush rainforest grounds at Volcano Village Lodge

As the name proclaims, the Big Island is really big. Most visitors get to see just a part of the island, often with hectic schedules and days filled with activities and sightseeing. Volcano Village Lodge is the perfect retreat to really unwind and spend time connecting with the island. Situated in a tranquil town designated as a World Heritage Site, Volcano Village Lodge welcomes guests from around the world to experience the beauty of the Hawaiian rainforest and admire the lush green, beauty-drenched eastern part of the island.

Volcano-Village-Lodge-Big-IslandFive magnificent rooms to choose from! 

With five rooms, each more exquisite than the other, Volcano Village lodge offers a jaw-dropping variety of luxury amenities along with many thoughtful touches that make you feel completely at home. The rooms have magical names like Kilauea, Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea, referring to the famous volcanoes on the Big Island. The room we stayed in was named Hale Manaluna that translates to house of the moonlight spirits.

Pitcher-Plants-Volcano-Village-LodgePitcher plants for real!

As soon as we arrived at Volcano Village Lodge, we were struck by how tranquil and beautiful the grounds were. What immediately caught our attention were these enchanting pitcher plants! Having previously read about these carnivorous plants only in botany books, we were awed to see them for real and completely mesmerized by their beauty. It’s no surprise that these pitcher plants thrive in Hawaii’s tropical rainforests and are a welcome addition to any garden.

Friendly-Cat-Volcano-Village-LodgeGino welcomes us at the reception

We got a very warm reception from Gino the resident cat and from the lovely lodge manager, Kelsea. Kelsea made us feel immediately at home with her friendly smile and warm vibe. After being checked in, we were stunned at how luxurious our room was! Each of the rooms at Volcano Village Lodge have private entrances and their own covered lanai (patio) in the rainforest. Furnished with amenities like refrigerator, microwave, coffee maker and TV, the rooms also boast luxury features like a fireplace, in-room dining, jacuzzi bath, organic cotton linens, even robes and slippers!

Spacious-Bedroom-Hale-ManalunaHale Manaluna room

Ceiling-high glass windows let in natural light as tall Ohi’a trees with bright red lehua blossoms and Hapu’u tree ferns sway outside the glass windows and doors. Even with ceiling-to-floor windows, there is a complete sense of privacy and tranquility. Our Hale Manaluna room came with a generous sized Queen bed, complete with its own heating system operable on each side of the bed, to stay cozy at night!

Attached-Library-Hale-ManalunaDoor from Hale Manaluna opens directly to a private library

What blew us away was that our room Hale Manaluna had a private entrance to the library at Volcano Village Lodge! The library is available to all guests during office hours, but in the evening after 6PM, the main office adjacent to the library is locked and a door from our room opens into our very own private library to browse and enjoy! Stocked with dozens of books, DVDs and CDs, along with comfortable sofas, chairs and lounges, the library is the perfect place to unwind after a long day.  We really enjoyed sitting here in the evenings, reading our books while listening to the gentle hum of the rainforest outside.

Lovely-Bathroom-Volcano-Village-LodgeBathroom inside Hale Manaluna room

The rooms at Volcano Village Lodge are decorated richly and beautifully. Organic wood in warm tones of chocolate and cream are a treat to all the senses. With thoughtful touches like a serene Buddha hanging on the wall, quotes from the Dalai Lama, as well as organic eco-friendly products and luxury robes and slippers, one starts to feel a deep sense of zen and relaxation.

Thoughtful-Touches-VVLodgeOrganic eco-friendly products

Everything that one may need during their stay has been procured and made available at Volcano Village Lodge. It truly feels like a home away from home. If it were possible to stay in Hale Manaluna forever, I just might!

Cozy-Room-Hale-ManalunaHale Manaluna room at Volcano Village Lodge

The bed and dining table overlook huge picture windows through which gentle light streams through, as trees and ferns in all shades of green peep in through the windows.

Breakfast-Feast-Volcano-Village-LodgeBreakfast on day one of our stay

Guests at Volcano Village Lodge come to spend time admist nature, in contemplation and serenity. In keeping with this desire, Volcano Village Lodge has hit upon a brilliant way to serve hot breakfast, that is both home-cooked and delicious. A hot dish like quiche, sausages or french toast is prepared by Kelsea the lodge manager the previous evening. These dishes are wrapped up neatly and kept in the refrigerator in each room. The next morning, all that we have to do, is heat up breakfast in the toaster oven / microwave and voila! A delicious hot breakfast is ready to be enjoyed in the privacy of our room.

Breakfast-Quiche-Volcano-Village-LodgeBreakfast on day two of our stay

We were blown away by how comprehensive the breakfast was! Kelsea thought of everything. The first day we had delicious french toast and superb pineapple-sausages, along with a fresh fruit plate consisting of papaya, lychees and pineapple, fresh fruit juice and coffee/tea. The second day we were treated to an outstanding egg quiche, served with fresh papayas and cantaloupe, orange juice and coffee/tea.

Snacks-Fruits-VVLodge-HawaiiA basket full of goodies!

In addition to all this, in our room there was an adorable basket filled with goodies that we might need throughout the day. This included cereal for breakfast, fresh bananas and oranges, macademia nuts, energy bars, hot chocolate for the night, and even packets of popcorn if the mood for munchies got hold of us! They even had freshly ground coffee powder and a variety of tea sachets in the room to choose from. How remarkably thoughtful! We were delighted that guests are so well cared for at Volcano Village Lodge!

Lovely-Bedroom-Rainforest-SettingHale Manaluna room at Volcano Village Lodge

The cozy dining table in the room is equipped with a full dinner set complete with cutlery, plates, coffee mugs and everything needed to setup a delicious breakfast spread. We thoroughly enjoyed our breakfast overlooking the tropical rainforest garden, while listening to the waking calls of birds and the soothing drizzle that accompanied dawn before the sun came out shining in all its glory.

Beautiful-FlowersBright pink anthuriums on the grounds at Volcano Village Lodge 

Volcano Village Lodge is the perfect place to make your base during your visit to Big Island, especially if you are planning on visiting the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Located just 2 miles away (a 5 min drive) to the entrance of the park, staying at Volcano Village Lodge ensures you will have plenty of time to head into the park early in the day and explore the many magnificent sights that the park offers. Staying late in the evening at Jaggar Museum inside the park to view the surreal glowing lava lake inside the volcano crater is a must-do! We were thrilled that we could stay as late as 10pm inside the park to see the star-studded night sky and did not have to face a 2 hour drive across the island just to get to a cozy bed.

Click here to read my top 5 things to do on the Big Island, 3 of which are on the Volcano / Hilo side!

There aren’t too many lodging options in Volcano, so the rooms at Volcano Village Lodge are usually booked months in advance. Click here to go to the reservations page and check availability. We absolutely loved our experience staying at Hale Manaluna in Volcano Village Lodge and can’t wait to be back!

Happy Trails,

~ Trupti

Disclosure: Volcano Village Lodge provided for my stay in exchange for writing about my experience. Regardless, everything I have said in this post reflects my honest observations and opinions.

Packing list for Island Vacations

Sunset_HawaiiSunset in Kauai, Hawaii

Whether you’re headed to Hawaii, the Bahamas, Cancun or the Greek Islands, what is one thing they all have in common? Your packing list! When strolling on the pristine beaches or sipping on a cool mojito or watching a spectacular sunset, the last thing you want to do is fret about whether you forgot to pack something essential. To make it easy for you, here’s a list put together specifically for Island Vacations. Whether you’re going for a few days or a week, this compilation is sure to help! Click here for a handy printable PDF version.

Essentials

  1. Travel documents (passports, drivers license etc)
  2. Printouts of bookings, reservations
  3. Destination guidebooks
  4. Cellphones + chargers
  5. Cash (Local currency and USD)
  6. ATM card
  7. Credit card
  8. Prescription medicines and OTC like Tylenol, Tums, Bandaids
  9. Dramamine (seasickness prevention)
  10. Call the banks and notify them about upcoming trip
  11. Call phone company to check about international coverage and roaming charges

Clothing

  1. Tshirts
  2. Shorts
  3. Nice shirt for resort dining
  4. Maxi dresses

Beach gear

  1. Swimsuits (pack a minimum of two sets)
  2. Flipflops / beach sandals
  3. Sunglasses
  4. Sunhat
  5. Sunscreen
  6. Sarong / cover-ups
  7. Ziplock bags for wet clothes/tshirts
  8. Tshirt to wear when snorkeling (to prevent sunburn)
  9. Aloe burn ointment

Miscellaneous

  1. Toiletries
  2. Walking/Hiking shoes + hiking socks
  3. Headlamp/flash light
  4. Nalgene waterbottles – Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!
  5. Camera DSLR / Batteries / SD Cards – To capture all the stunning scenery around you.
  6. Camera point & shoot + underwater waterproof bag (for snorkeling)
  7. Insect repellent – Never know when those bugs and critters will want a bite out of you.
  8. Hand sanitizer – A good idea to always keep this handy.
  9. Travel Toilet Paper – Optional.
  10. Accessories (Jewelry etc) – You gotta look great on the island!
  11. Sturdy watch – Optional, since you will be on island time. Who cares what the exact time is, right? Jokes apart, if you have tours and activities booked, make sure to wear a reliable watch.
  12. Books for the flight or the beach – Just pack a kindle if you like traveling light.
  13. Beach bag – To toss in everything you need for a day at the beach.
  14. Binoculars – Optional. Not required unless you’re likely to hike or drive to vantage points and wish you had binoculars.

Never pack to max capacity. Make sure to leave space in your carry-on for small souvenirs. And if you forget anything, don’t fret. In today’s globalized economy, chances are you will be able to buy what you need right at your destination. And always remember, keep calm and carry on! Pun intended.

Eleuthera_BahamasPink sands beach in Eleuthera, Bahamas

Click here for a handy printable PDF version.

Happy packing!

~ Trupti

Writing with all your senses

I attended TBEX Cancun this year and had the wonderful opportunity to participate in a writing workshop with legendary travel writer Don George. Over the course of two incredible days, we learnt as much as we could from Don, absorbing his every word, imbibing his personal experiences on storytelling, as he generously shared his wisdom and insights on how one can better the art of travel writing.

One of the first exercises Don made us work on was to try and write with all our senses. Human beings are very visual. All too often, we tend to describe what we are seeing since descriptive visual narrations come easily. But in order to transport the reader to the place being described, it is important to harness the potential of all the 5 different senses, including hearing, smell, taste, touch as well as sight. So it is important to close your eyes as you prepare to write and observe how all your senses are reacting to a place. The key questions to ask are – what do you hear, what do you feel, what do you taste and what do you smell? When you close your eyes, a whole new set of words and creative descriptions becomes accessible. Phrases and words which you wouldn’t have thought to use earlier now flow naturally as you attempt to capture and describe each new sensation.

Here is my attempt at this exercise. Do not scroll down to see the visual cue yet! A fun thing to do as a reader is to read this paragraph and try imagining the place I’m describing with all your five senses.

Exercise #1 – Write a paragraph (150-200) words describing a place using all senses.

A light breeze caresses tall coconut trees as I sit here on the outdoor patio. The sun is scorching hot at midday, yet twittering birds fly about with abandon. A veil of tropical heat and humidity hangs over me as I squint my eyes to peek at the shimmering ocean in the distance. The calm sea is striped with shades of sea green and turquoise blue. An airplane thunders high through cotton candy clouds floating above. For a moment I daydream about flying through the skies myself. I close my eyes and take a deep breath expecting to smell the ocean but grassy odors from the well manicured lawn fill my nostrils. I can taste the salty sea on my lips until I realize it’s my own perspiration. Although I can’t hear the roar of the ocean, I attempt to sense it in the distance. But the strain of faraway music wakes me from my reverie and my rumbling stomach brings me back to the reality of being hungry. The doorbell rings and voila, lunch is here.

Can you guess where I am as I write this?

Does this piece transport you as a reader to the place I’m describing?

Do you approach your writing the same way?

 

Here’s the visual cue –

Cancun_Resort_TBEXMoon Palace resort in Cancun, Mexico

The next time you are writing, it could be about anything – a place, an experience, a food, an activity, a destination – try making a conscious effort to engage all your senses as you capture the essence of where you are and see what a difference it makes! Thank you Don George for this invaluable lesson.

Happy Writing,

~ Trupti

CasaSandra: A boutique hotel on Isla Holbox

DSC_0370A warm welcome at CasaSandra, Isla Holbox

CasaSandra is a lovely beachfront boutique hotel on Isla Holbox, created by Cuban owner Sandra Pérez, an artist herself. If you have read my previous story on the stunning street art on Isla Holbox, you will know that the island is a welcoming haven of inspiration and creativity for artists worldwide.

DSC_0377Caribbean sunset

CasaSandra overlooks Isla Holbox’s beautiful beaches that stretch endlessly towards the horizon. We caught sight of a warm mellow sunset as we arrived at the restaurant for dinner on our last evening on the island.

DSC_0376Inviting palapas on the beach

If not for the mosquitoes (they come out in swarms at dusk and mostly right after summer), I can imagine relaxing on the luxurious beds under these rustic thatched palapas, admiring the sunset with a margarita in hand. But we headed straight inside the welcoming restaurant, into air-conditioned comfort to indulge in a gourmet dinner.

DSC_0387CasaSandra restaurant interiors

There are a plethora of dining options on Isla Holbox from streetside tacos prepared by grandmothers in flowered aprons to elegant multi-course dinners served by uniformed chefs. CasaSandra belongs to the latter category and is a great place to celebrate something special. Even if you just want to celebrate being on Isla Holbox, that is reason enough to dine at CasaSandra!

DSC_0383Lovely boutique hotel on Isla Holbox

CasaSandra’s restaurant is the perfect place to indulge in a 3-course dinner while enjoying unique aesthetic sensibilities of the surroundings, all influenced by Cuban and Mexican art. Rather than being sprawling and huge, the restaurant offers intimate candlelit seating at cozy tables in air-conditioned comfort.

DSC_0394Shades of blue!

While waiting to be seated, we took a stroll outdoors and caught sight of a lovely swimming pool, a hot tub and other luxurious amenities which make CasaSandra feel like paradise on earth.

DSC_0404Seafood soup

Dinner was soon served. Starting with potent margaritas to celebrate Mexico’s Independence Day, we also had a seafood soup for starters – a sumptuous dish created with fish and shrimp in a delicious broth, topped with crunchy tortilla strips.

DSC_0409Grilled fish entree

For the main course we indulged in hearty grilled fish that came prettily plated over mashed yam and grilled vegetables, all sprinkled generously with olive oil.

DSC_0415Sweet dessert

Dessert was two scoops of refreshingly chilled sorbet ice cream topped with sweet fruit syrup.

DSC_0389Warm island vibes

CasaSandra is an amazing place to have a romantic date night dinner or get together with family and friends in a warm and intimate setting. It is no wonder that CasaSandra has been consistently rated as one of the best restaurants on the island, as well as having the best seafood offerings and the best beachfront restaurant and hotel along Mexico’s Caribbean coast.

DSC_0407When in Mexico, always get the margaritas!

I can’t wait to be back to stay longer at CasaSandra and explore more of Isla Holbox. Have you been to Holbox or CasaSandra? Let us know about your experience in the comments!

Feliz Viaje!

~ Trupti

Disclosure: My visit to Isla Holbox and CasaSandra was possible thanks to Cancun CVB and TBEX. Regardless, everything I have said in this post reflects my honest observations and opinions.

Stunning Street Art on Isla Holbox

Fishing-Street-Art-Murals-HolboxLe Super Demon mural painting on the streets of Isla Holbox, Mexico

Isla Holbox (pronounced Holbo-sh where the X makes a “sh” sound) is an island off of the Caribbean coast of Mexico, home to a quaint seaside fishing town. Most of the buildings on the island are painted with bright Caribbean colors and the streets exude an artsy vibe.

Rabbit-Fishing-Mural-HolboxA rabbit who likes to fish!

What makes Isla Holbox a special place for artists and creative folks are the supremely imaginative larger than life murals painted all around town.

Street-Art-HolboxStunning art work in the center of town at the public square

Earlier this year in February, Isla Holbox participated in Mexico’s first Festival Internacional de Arte Publico (FIAP) and invited artists worldwide to come experience this seaside fishing town and create inspired street art for everybody to see.

Family-Street-Art-HolboxA brilliant rendition of a family and what looks like a snake slithering out of a black hole – definitely thinking outside the box!

With just a few days to sample the variety of activities on Isla Holbox and a week to paint, the artists who participated in the festival have created some really stunning artwork for visitors to enjoy.

Isla-Holbox-Street-ArtMurals that make you stop and wonder what the artist had in mind as they painted this

We caught sight of some of these breathtaking murals as we drove into town on a golf cart. My curiosity was piqued and I wanted to learn more about these paintings. We spoke to the lady at the front desk of the hotel we were staying at and she gave us a hand drawn map which highlighted a few landmarks and the spots to find the most popular street art murals.

Street-Art-Hand-HolboxIt’s tough enough painting on a flat surface, imagine painting this superb work on a curved sphere

Isla Holbox is a great place to explore on foot. Armed with map and camera in hand, I headed out to discover more street art. Some murals were easily visible just a few blocks from the center of town. Walking around the streets of Holbox, each corner and turn was soon filled with the heady anticipation of discovering a new mural. 

Woman-Face-Street-Art-HolboxOmen – Street Art Murals on Isla Holbox

Holbox’s street art is of very high quality and painted with boundless imagination. This enormous face with its half-closed eyes draws in the viewer with its bold colors and mysterious mood. Looking at it makes me wonder if it’s a mask or a face painting. 

Child-Face-Street-Art-HolboxA human face captured in exquisite detail

Among my favorites was this stunning painting of a child, so lifelike I could see her blink as her eyes looked out, filled with curiosity. For those who prefer exploring the island by golf cart, it’s the perfect way to go all around the island and see all 30 murals rendered by artists showcasing what Holbox meant to each of them.

Flock-of-Birds-HolboxFlock of birds reminiscent of the pink flamingoes and pelicans that call Isla Holbox their home

Another favorite was this flock of orange, yellow and red birds set against a brilliant blue background, reminiscent of Holbox’s birds, especially the pink flamingoes. This particular mural gives “bird watching” a whole new perspective with these enormous birds looking out intensely towards the skies.

Fishing-Hook-Street-Art-HolboxA fishing hook that’s come to life

Isla Holbox’s fishing legacy was evident in several of the street art paintings of scenes depicting everyday activities. Some showcased the blue ocean, colorful fishes and pelicans while some focused on the fisherman’s tools of trade, including an enormous fish hook that appeared to be fearfully contemplating its own sharp hook. 

Stunning-Details-Street-Art-HolboxLook closely and the details of each element of the mural have been painstakingly created

All elements and intricate details of the murals have been painted with stunning accuracy and great skill. If you want to see the actual painting process in action, watch the embedded video at the end of this article!

Fishes-Swimming-Holbox-Street-ArtRainbow fish

A school of colorful fish come to life in this mural that captures them swimming in realistic detail with their swishing tails and fins.

Sirena-Mermaid-Holbox-Mural

Another street art mural which was both imaginative and beautiful was that of Sirena – the Mermaid. A pretty girl with a fish tail for legs swims in the ocean, as flamingoes fly above. The women sitting at the table next to the painting provide perspective on how large this mural actually is.

Girl-Face-Mural-HolboxMy favorite mural of them all. Come visit Isla Holbox to see for yourself!

Coming back to my favorite street art mural of all, this little girl’s expression leaves me wondering what she was thinking as she looked at the artist. What did the artist see that compelled him/her to capture her expression in all its intensity? Perhaps she represents the curiosity and innocence of childhood. What do you see?

If you want to view the actual street art painting process in action on Isla Holbox and get more context on the artists and the festival, check out this great video –

Are there any places / cities you enjoy exploring mainly for the street art? Let us know in the comments!

Happy Travels,

– Trupti

Disclosure: My visit to Isla Holbox was made possible by Cancun CVB and TBEX. Regardless, everything I have said in this post reflects my honest observations and opinions.

Recipe: Bangalore Iyengar Bakery Palya Bun aka Stuffed Potato Bun

Fresh-out-of-the-oven-palya-bunPalya buns aka Potato buns

It has been ages since I sank my teeth into one of these spicy potato stuffed buns that we get back in my hometown of Bangalore. Ubiquitous at every Iyengar Bakery, these soft buns are filled with spicy potato filling and are very addictive. If you have them once, you will never be able to forget the taste, that’s how good they are! In the Bay Area, we get every type of baked and fried Indian goodies, like vegetable puffs, samosas etc but palya bun (aka potato bun) has never made it onto any bakery’s menu. Trust me, I’ve looked everywhere. The closest I’ve come to replicating the mouth-watering taste of palya bun is with Russian piroshky. There’s also the Mediterranean gozleme which is actually more like aloo-paratha rather than a potato bun. One might say Spanish empanadas come close, but the puff pastry dough does not do the same justice as white bread does to palya bun. And none of these versions are as spicy as the ones we get back in Bangalore. So, in my quest to replicate the one-and-only palya bun of Bangalore’s Iyengar Bakery fame, I turned to the internet. After scouring a handful of recipes, here’s what I came up with –

1. The dough

Pizza-Dough-Whole-FoodsReady-made pizza dough

Making the dough from scratch is a great idea. I just wasn’t sure that’s for me. For my first attempt at making palya buns, I went with ready-made pizza dough. You can get this in the frozen pizza section of any grocery store like Safeway or Whole Foods. I wasn’t sure how using pizza dough would impact the authenticity of the potato buns, but the end product was amazingly soft and crispy at the same time. It was so quick and easy to use the ready-made pizza dough instead of making my own from scratch. Definitely saved a lot of time and effort!

2. The palya

Spicy-Potato-Palya-MixSpicy potato palya

The palya is straightforward to make. You can use your own recipe or tweak my version.

a) Peel the skin off of 4 large potatoes. Boil them on stovetop, in the microwave or in the pressure cooker until they are soft. Use a fork and mash them gently.

b) Heat some oil in a pan. Add cumin seeds, chopped green chillies, curry leaves (optional) and saute for a bit.

c) Add ginger garlic paste, garam masala (optional), finely chopped onion and continue sauteing until the onions turn translucent.

d) When the onions are fried and translucent, add the mashed potatoes, turmeric, red chilli powder (spice as per taste), salt and mix thoroughly.

e) Garnish with finely chopped cilantro and keep aside to cool.

3. The process

a) Preheat oven to 375 degrees

b) While waiting for the palya to cool down, get the dough prepped. With the ready-made pizza dough, I found it easy to break apart the dough into 6 balls of equal size. Note that the pizza dough is stretchy, but you should be able to stretch the dough a bit to make a flat surface onto which you can put the potato stuffing.

Balls-of-Dough

c) When the potato mixture has cooled down a bit, take the dough in one hand. Stretch it out until it covers the palm of your hand. Spoon some potato mixture onto the dough. Pull the edges of the dough towards the center over the potato mixture, ensuring that the dough completely engulfs the potato palya. This is similar to making aloo-paratha where you stuff the potato mixture inside the chapati (wheat flour) dough.

Brushed-With-Olive-Oil

d) When you have sealed the bun completely (pinching the dough works), keep it seal-down on a greased baking tray, lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Similarly prepare the other buns and keep them on the baking tray.

e) Brush the tops of the buns with olive oil, milk or egg white. This is to give it a golden brown sheen during baking. I used milk which was handy.

f) Sprinkle some sesame seeds on top of the buns and pop them into the oven and bake for 20-30 mins until golden brown. Oven times vary, so keep checking to make sure they don’t burn.

g) When they are golden brown and you can smell the aroma of freshly baked bread and potatoes, your palya buns are ready!

h) Wait till they cool down a bit before you bite into one.

4. The end product

Bangalore-Iyengar-Bakery-Style-Potato-BunPalya bun, cut open to cool down

I wasn’t sure what to expect, given that I was using pizza dough and this was my first attempt at making these. But they turned out to be amazing! The pizza dough was soft and chewy on top, and crispy on the bottom of the bun. The potato palya was deliciously spicy. One bite and I was transported to our neighborhood Iyengar bakery, which we have frequented throughout our childhood and still make a beeline for whenever in India.

Hope you try out this recipe and enjoy this version of Bangalore Iyengar Bakery’s famous palya (potato) buns. Happy eating!

~ Trupti

10 movies that inspire wanderlust

A movie has the power to transport, transform and transcend. As a frequent traveler and movie buff, I love discovering new destinations via movies. Especially those that take me to far away places, where I can feel the essence of the place alongside the main characters. Movies that inspire intense wanderlust are far and few, the really good ones make you want to grab your backpack and head out of the door even before the closing credits start rolling. Everybody has their own list of favorite “inspired me to travel” movies, here’s my list! Even if we have some in common, I’d love to know about your favorite wanderlust-inspiring movies in the comments. In no particular order, here goes –

The-Motorcycle-Diaries

1. The Motorcycle Diaries

Wanderlust inspiration: South America

Following two dashing young men – Ernesto Guevara and Alberto Granado on a road-trip along the coast of South America, from across the Andes mountains, along Chile’s coast, towards Peru and the Amazon is the stuff of wanderlust dreams. What brings a great measure of seriousness to this road-trip is that it is based on the true story of how Ernesto Guevara found his life’s calling on this road-trip which eventually led him to become the famous revolutionary Che Guevara. Travelers travel to learn more about the world and to learn more about themselves. This movie captures that idealism excellently and allows us to travel with Ernesto on his life-changing road-trip to see what he saw, feel what he felt and witness his transformation.

The-Beach

2. The Beach

Wanderlust inspiration: Thailand

As if a delightfully young and handsome Leonardo DiCaprio wasn’t reason enough to watch this movie, how about adding a secret island destination, unbelievably beautiful virgin sand beaches, surrounded by turquoise seas? Throw in an intriguing plot and a thought-provoking premise of an alternative lifestyle and you have a true travel-thriller. No doubt this movie has inspired many young twenty-somethings to head out on a backpacking trip through Thailand and Southeast Asia in search of their own secret island. Intense performances and unexpected situations add drama to what starts off as an idyllic vacation for Leo’s character in Thailand. The gorgeous beach where many parts of the movie was shot – Koh Phi Phi – has since become a popular spot to visit by throngs of tourists. But for anybody who has seen the movie, Koh Phi Phi will always be the quintessential paradise showcased in The Beach.

Out-Of-Africa

3. Out of Africa

Wanderlust inspiration: Africa

A movie about doomed romance and complicated relationships, Out of Africa is based on a true story. With stunning cinematography, the movie provides unforgettable scenes of Africa, both rural life on the coffee farm owned by main character Karen Blixen (played flawlessly by Meryl Streep) and showcasing aspects of living in the wildlife-studded African savannah. The scene where Meryl Streep and Robert Redford fly over the green hills of Africa, maneuvering a biplane and flying low over scattering herds of wildlife & pink flamingoes is a powerful scene that transports the viewer to the heart of this wonderful country.

The-Way

4. The Way

Wanderlust inspiration: Spain (Hiking in the Pyrenees along the Camino de Santiago)

This film has a very special place in my heart. It was released soon after we had hiked the 4-day Inca trail to Machu Picchu. Watching this movie about walking the Camino de Santiago brought back a lot of fond memories from our own hike on the Inca trail. We started with strangers who soon became close friends and part of cherished memories over the course of just 4 days. Walking the Camino de Santiago is a great pilgrimage undertaken by a lot of people, both from around the world and locals in Spain. This walk leads from the scenic foothills of the Pyrenees in France to Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, covering a staggering distance of 490 miles. The movie focuses on highlighting the ups and downs that every person faces in their lives. A father’s grief leads him to walk the Camino de Santiago in memory of his son and along the way he meets fellow travelers who are walking the trail fighting their own demons. The Way is as much a movie about celebrating life as it is about travel being a way to connect with oneself spiritually.

Midnight-In-Paris

5. Midnight in Paris

Wanderlust inspiration: Paris

Woody Allen does it again! Complex, memorable characters, an unpredictable yet charming storyline, set in a city that has inspired great artists and writers from Picasso to Hemingway. Paris is on top of most people’s destination bucket lists and this movie transports viewers back to the 1920’s – a creatively rich and vibrant era in Paris. Not all but definitely some will identify with the main character’s yearning for a time and place from the past, where people he idolizes were at their artistic zenith. The movie also showcases the Golden Age of Paris in the 1890’s – the Belle Epoque, yearned by all those living in the 1920’s. Midnight in Paris is an ode to the city of light and the city of romance. After watching the movie, what stays with the viewer is the main character’s epiphany that no matter when and where you are, it is part of the human condition to always yearn for something better from the past.

The-Painted-Veil

6. The Painted Veil

Wanderlust inspiration: China

This movie is as much about wanderlust as it is about people caught in the human emotions of a complex relationship, made more challenging by the cholera epidemic they find themselves in. Shot on location in rural China, in a village called Huang Yao, this is one of the few movies I’ve seen that shows off China’s natural beauty and rural landscapes. Gorgeous scenes shot in Shanghai are set in the 1920’s and are a treat to the viewer. The Painted Veil is regarded as being in the same genre as Out of Africa and The English Patient. Similar to these movies, The Painted Veil digs deep into raw human emotion with the help of multi-faceted characters in exotic landscapes. If it wasn’t already, China will be on top of your must-visit list after you’ve watched this movie!

Eat-Pray-Love

7. Eat Pray Love

Wanderlust inspiration: Italy, India, Indonesia

Following the popularity of the book, a movie in the works was a no-brainer. Julia Roberts turns in an excellent performance and the movie does full justice to the book. Shot in Italy, India and Indonesia, this movie is a real visual treat and will inspire you to daydream of far-flung destinations for your own versions of Eat, Pray and Love. If I were to travel around the world like Elizabeth Gilbert, I think I’d go with my version of Eat (Japan), Hike (Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania) and Relax (Tahiti, French Polynesia). What about you?

Titanic

8. Titanic

Wanderlust inspiration: Time travel back to 1900’s and sail on a cruise ship

Titanic is a movie of the fate of the world’s largest ship (at the time), brought to life by James Cameron’s ambitious desire to make the characters in the movie stand out more than the well-known fate of the unsinkable Titanic. Worthy of every award bestowed on this film, this is a movie for the ages, that can be seen umpteen number of times. Every viewing peels back yet another layer and gets us closer to the characters, including the main one – Titanic, the most luxurious ship in the world. Every traveler, deep in their heart, desires to be as free as Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio) is portrayed in the movie. Rose (Kate Winslet) gives a stellar performance as a young girl caught between her dreams of travel and adventure versus reality. Together, they make a compelling pair of doomed lovebirds. For both, their encounter on the Titanic changes the very course of their lives. Similar to meeting fellow travelers on our own journey, some of whom have the power to change the course of our lives.

Vicky-Cristina-Barcelona

9. Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Wanderlust inspiration: Barcelona, Spain

Much like Anton Gaudi’s multi-colored mosaic art which adorns famous sights like Park Guell in Barcelona, the characters in this movie are like mosaic artworks come-to-life. All of the main characters are unsure of love and life, unsure of each other, but sure that what they have is not good enough. And so they must continue to seek. Their willingness to explore and step into uncharted territory with complex relationships endears them to the viewer. The movie highlights a gorgeous summer in Spain, focusing mainly on Barcelona, showcasing familiar landmarks like Sagrada Familia, Park Guell, Casa Mila and Oviedo. With plenty of soulful Spanish guitar music and flamboyant flamenco to light up the passion, the Catalan city provides the perfect backdrop for the intense affection that unfolds as the characters get to know each other better.

Walter-Mitty

10. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Wanderlust inspiration: Iceland, Greenland, the Himalayas

Having been released in 2013, this movie is a relatively new addition to this list. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is surprisingly refreshing and solid proof that Ben Stiller is both an amazing actor and director. Irrespective of whether the movie did well at the Box Office or not, this is a must-watch for anybody who loves daydreaming about traveling the world. Beautifully shot in magnificent Greenland and Iceland, the cinematography is guaranteed to take your breath away. An intriguing storyline and a complex plot with superb acting by Ben Stiller, Sean Penn and Kirsten Wiig make this movie a “wanderlust worthy winner”. Keep your backpack packed and ready before you start watching this movie. It is very likely that midway through, you’ll find yourself running out the door, heading to the nearest airport for a flight to Iceland! After all, Carpe Diem is this movie’s motto.

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