Masquerade Carnival of Venice – Italy

Venice, a city that everybody dreams of visiting! Venice – A City of water, A City of Bridges and A City of Lights…..I think that is what I would call it!! A city which flows with the rhythm of the tide that changes every 6 hours. Since I lived in France, I’d intended to visit Venice at least once and first time I vacationed here was in the winters of February 2002, as a student with a real low budget!

The Gondolas

The Gondolas

Before starting from Grenoble, we’d heard stories about the Venetian carnival that was going to happen around the time we would be in Venice. None of us had an idea about the magnitude and extravagance of this carnival. When we arrived in Venice early morning, the atmosphere was celebratory and saw a lot of preparation going on at the Piazza San Marco. The subject seemed to be on everybody’s lips.

The jam-packed Piazza San Marco

The jam-packed Piazza San Marco

The carnival began at 4pm on February 02, 2002. The tradition of the carnival began by masked artists who, with drums and torches, ignited the Carnival in the city. It was still day light when it all started and we couldn’t wait till it got a bit darker to see the flooding lights in the Piazza San Marco. It was very chilly but the hustle-bustle in the city didn’t make us realize the piercing wind. After the masquerade parade which traditionally opened the Carnival, a first toast was made to the reborn Carnival in the hall of the elegant Caffé Quadri. This apparently is the first meeting-point for everybody in costume. That’s when someone told us that the carnival dates back to 1162 AD to celebrate its victory though the celebration gradually grew and 1268 AD which dates the first document mentioning the use of masks. I was quite amazed with its aged history.

Daniel, Estela & myself, strolling through the streets & alleys

Daniel, Estela & myself, strolling through the streets & alleys

The drapes, costumes and masks looked classy and baffling at the same time almost scary, with the empty eyes, as if the people are mere ghosts. There were people dressed in icy 18th century noblewomen or boogeyman masks and long capes, etc. Inspired by all the costumes, we decided to by ourselves some cheap masks made of papier-mâché and some hats. Since the ones made by artists were way beyond our budget, we decided to buy ones that were sold by some street vendors and try to be a part of the affair. After actually wearing it, we realized how difficult it was to keep it on for so long.

Mask display

Mask display

As we moved through the crowd observing and enjoying the ambience and of the carnival, entertainment filled every square, road and alley and there are numerous masked parties and balls. We saw a lot of street plays, some acrobats done very elegantly by the locals with their fancy attire. The one thing I saw for the very first time in my life was an opera in a small opera house. Though I didn’t understand much of the technicalities, I quite enjoyed its intense dramatisation and denotation. At the centre of the piazza we also saw the masquerade ball. It was so unbelievable; it felt like being in the 18th century and actually witnessing the olden times. The couples just swayed so easy with their heavy costumes, some with and without masks. The whole setting was just so full of life and vigour, something I can never forget in my life.
All this made the time fly so fast.

Some of us again!

Some of us again!

It was almost midnight before we realised how late it was and how much time we’d actually spent walking around the place. The life in the city, at that point seemed unending and didn’t look as though the night was going to conclude the celebrations. In fact the deeper we got into the night, the more boisterous, animated and lively it got. I loved being a part of it, I realised how lucky I was to witness it all!

The Petite Luxembourg

View of Luxembourg

View of Luxembourg

Back in 2002, I visited this small country of Grand Duchy of Luxembourg with a few of my friends. This was the first time I ever visited such a dainty little country in my life. The world’s only constitutional monarchy neighbouring Belgium, France, and Germany. Reshma, Priya, Prakash and I just decided to explore this little country at the spur of the moment. On arrival, we were shocked to know that it has the highest income per capital of any country in the world.

View of Luxembourg

View of Luxembourg

It took us a few hours from Strasbourg to get to the Luxembourg city. I do not recollect what we did through the day but I wanted to write about the marvel I witnessed which was so splendid and enchanting that only pictures of the place might do a little justice to it. We saw a very very tall bridge passing through the centre of the city overlooking a very deep valley. I was a bit curious and stunned to see such a huge gorge-like valley. We all hurried towards the bridge to see how it felt to be so high up. As expected, the bridge is 153 metres tall with huge arches supporting a four lane road which connects the the two sides of the Luxembourg City. This bridge, called the Adolphe Bridge has become an unofficial national symbol of sorts, representing Luxembourg’s independence, and has become one of Luxembourg City’s main tourist attractions.

Reshma & Me on the Bridge Adolphe overlooking the  Pétrusse valley

Reshma & I on the Bridge Adolphe overlooking the Pétrusse valley

On reaching this bridge, we caught such a breathtaking view of the valley of Pétrusse beneath us. The Pétrusse is created by the confluence of the Cessange and the Merl rivulets had no embankments until 1933. Beside its riverbed, one can still see vestiges of the former Bourbon sluice, which was set up in 1728 to flood the upper Pétrusse valley in case of attack by the enemy. We stood there for a while, just trying to take in the beauty of this city.

Valley of Petrusse

Valley of Petrusse

We couldn’t get enough of the gratifying of view of the city and also wanted to go down to the valley. We decided to take a local tour through the valley as well walk up some distance in order to just be and feel the beauty of this place. In this little write-up of Luxembourg, I am going to write less and put up more pictures. Hope the pictures do small justice to the charm of this petite country to Luxembourg.

Another view of Valley of Pétrusse

Another view of Valley of Pétrusse

6 Tips To Get Your Home Dressed Up To Impress Your Guests

Get your house dressed up and ready to impress. Have you got some friends who love to visit on a Saturday night? Somehow the house is always welcoming, the living space looks lovely and the dinner table is inviting.

Part of getting it right is in the planning. Allow yourself to prepare the food, tidy the house and get yourself ready. Your cooking might not be perfect but its the ambience that you create when you ask people around to dinner. Here are some ideas for you –

Table Styles

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Have your table set to the theme of the dishes prepared for dinner. For example, if you have traditional Indian food, have some flower petal decoration around the plates or if you have a drinks and cocktails, then arrange a nice bottle of wine with a few wine glasses on your dinning table. Or float a single flower head in a bowl at the centre of the table.

Switch Moods

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You can change your seating areas to bring about some change. If it a casual dinner, go for a low seating instead of your dinning table. Bring in floor cushions and use them around your coffee table instead of dinning chairs.

Candle or Tea lights, is that essential?

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Well yes, it creates intimacy that overhead lights can’t match. Did you know if you stored your candles in in the fridge for a while before lighting them, they will burn longer? If you happen to have diffused low lighting in your home, put them on because that will support the intimate ambiance.

Flower Arrangements don’t have to be “perfect

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Have small flower arrangements in your home. May be you can put them on your coffee table or at the wash basin or bathrooms where guests will certainly visit. Smaller arrangements can have just as much, if not more, appeal, charm, and beauty. As long as you like the arrangement, and as long as it makes you happy, it is indeed a “perfect” arrangement. To have your flowers last longer, add a little bit of salt and sugar or maybe a tablet of disprin to the water to make it last for a few days.

Scent has a powerful effect

When your guests walk into a room and there is a wonderful scent, it immediately says “welcome”. Sometimes Indian food tends to have a strong aroma and if you want your home and linens to smell more inviting, then spray a fragrant room freshner, light some scented candles or simply arrange naturally perfumed flowers.

Your Entrance, Porche and Hallway should not be ignored!

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Always remember not to neglect your entrance, porches and hallways. Your guest will pass through these areas leaving the first impression of your place. If you decorate your interiors fantastically and overlook whats on the outside, it will throw a jumbled impression on your guest. A simple tip would be potting a plant at your door step or making a rangoli and placing a small diya at the entrance or simply placing some pebbles or cactus which makes the entrance look warm and welcoming.

Entertaining at home should be relaxing for your guests and pleasing to both of you. The best way to do this is to plan the occasion to avoid stress and mess.

 

 

Can Diwali be Economical & Eco-friendly?

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Above photo is taken by Tanmay

Diwali, or the festival of lights is a beautiful mélange of pooja ceremonies, lamps or diyas, floral decorations, fireworks, etc. but also a reason to clean and decorate your home and to break the monotony of our mundane lives. The festival is such a beautiful blend of all the above elements. While we walk through the few days of it, we cannot forget and avoid the environmental and health hazards it causes, but in our small ways, we can definitely celebrate this auspicious festival keeping in mind to help and save our environment.

Cleaning & disposing……is it a waste of time?

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Don’t even think of cleaning and decorating your home in one day! Assign your work to all your family members. Most of all, try to reduce clutter from your home by removing all the unwanted things like glass and plastic bottles, newspaper, old clothes, shoes, etc. Make a list of things you need to dispose and and give them away. Start by giving the used glass bottles/ newpapers to the recycle vendors, make a neat heap of your clothes and shoes and donate them to orphanages or needy people. Start your Diwali by helping, organising and disposing unwanted stuff by not just throwing it in the trash but by making sure it its re-used and recycled.

Splurge on embellishements from home!

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Just because it is Diwali, it does not mean buy, buy and buy a lot of unnecessary things. Lets talk more about splurging on things that you have at home. Decorating the house can include making a beautiful rangoli with flowers. Now-a-days we find non-toxic rangoli which mixed with soil does not contaminate it, or drapping old sarees as curtains instead of plastic streamers, or using floor rugs. You can also use old scraves or duppattas as table runners or table cloth. Filling up old bronze and brass pots or urns with flowers and displaying them at the corner of your living space also makes it look ethnic and festive.

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Above photo is taken by Tanmay

Welcome Nature this Diwali

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Bring in some indoor plants and pots. Make the house look cosy. If you already have plants, re-arrange your furniture and plants to make it look different.

Diwali is about lights…

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Yes, I totally agree with it but how can we bring radiance in our home while still help our surounding? Use paper lanterns with CFL bulbs instead of the traditional yellow bulbs which are less energy efficient. Light earthen lanterns or diyas instead of lights in the house. Though earthen lamps need oil the quantity is less and will make your home sparkle and save energy bills.

How can we forget Diwali Feasts???

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Impress your guest with being traditional. Use banana leaves to serve sweets and meals. In place of glass or plastic glasses, use those made out of mud. This will not only give your party that uber-ethnic edge, but it will also keep it natural.

Fire-crackers….is it a must?

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The photos above and below are taken by a budding artist Tanmay

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Being Diwali, its hard to not indulge in firecrackers. They cause serious hazards not only to the environment but they also affect animals. Instead of buying traditional chemical cracker, go for eco-friendly crackers. Eco-friendly crackers are made up of recycled paper and the sound produced by these crackers is under the decibel limit defined by the Pollution Board. These crackers produce paper fluffers and different color lights instead of sound on bursting.