Thursday, May 10, 2018

Barcelona again and Sitges, 2018

Let me start with two lines on gratitude. Not everyone gets to travel. Not everyone gets to visit beautiful cities and definitely not everyone gets to repeatedly go to their favourite cities across the world. My travelogues are not written with the intention of romanticising travel and giving cliche, pinterest-quote-worthy-but-absolutely-stupid-in-real-life advices about dropping everything you're doing and taking expensive holidays around the world. I do, however encourage investing in experiences sometimes (whenever you can), and that could of course mean prioritising travel. When I first visited Barcelona back in 2015, I wrote a blog post here (albeit slightly over simplified) about things to do in Barcelona but even then I knew it wasn't all inclusive.
It was just the whole bunch of things we managed to cram in 4-5 days. You can read about my experience and travelogue from Barcelona here.
This time around I went to Barcelona with my husband and since we were staying with our friends who live there, we managed to live quite a non-touristy 4 days. We went to a local tapas bar (which was just as good as any other highly rated one from the internet) one night and the general quality of food in Spain just blows my mind. So instead of getting into point by point analysis because I know that tends be a little too much for everybody, I'm going to do the highlights of what I saw, wore, ate, witnessed and things you could do too.

  • I got a lot of questions on instagram about great places to stay at in Barcelona. That got me thinking that I actually did not cover that part at all in my first post. The first time around we stayed at a nice boutique hotel near Plaça de CatalunyaAs a few of you would know, that is a landmark around the city of Barcelona (also a must see) but also more importantly right in the city centre. So that is definitely a good choice for a place to stay. Having said that, this time around we were at our friends' close to the Muntaner metro station and while that is not the centre, it was such a great place to live surrounded by really interesting boutiques, a local market (or mercat as they say) and great tapas bars of course. It helps that the city is pretty well connected via the underground and even the buses.

  • great place for shopping that I also should have spoken about in my first post would have to be Passeig de GràciaThere's a long stretch of more than 100 great shops that extends over  Gràcia and has pretty much any label you can imagine (and more) housed in the most beautiful buildings with the most fairtytale-esque facades. Even a basic Adidas shop in Barcelona looks like a castle!

  • The Gothic Quarter. This was again a touristy miss for me the first time around but since I had seen more of the city than the boy, we decided to walk around and just admire the architecture in the centre of the old city. The buildings and structures in the Gothic Quarter are something else. There is the city square, a chapel and many others. The best decision that we made, however, was to go with a suggestion to grab lunch at a tiny open air tapas place (mostly the case in Europe in good weather) which was *wait-for-it* right outside a beautiful cathedral! The food didn't blow my mind but the view and the good wine more than made up for it! This was outside Santa Maria del Mar.

  • If you can rent a car (with a proper driving license/valid permit) or if you're staying with friends who own one, a drive out and about Barcelona into Cataloniya would definitely not be something you regret. One such absolutely beautiful coastal town is that of Sitges which is known for it's cute quaint alleys with seriously Mediterranean architecture and feels and a great open sea facing boulevard of cafes, boutiques and houses. Also obviously a popular port since we saw the ships dock too. The drive up hill is just as beautiful as the town itself. We got ourselves some paella, some churros and walked around unendingly. Also popular for some water sports, if that is the kind of thing you're into. Strangely enough it has beautiful weather all year round but we managed to go on the one day it rained. Sigh. Still worth it, to be honest.

  • The last bit of awesomeness we managed to pack into our trip was the carnival in Barcelona at Plaça de la Vila de Gràcia.  Again, if the cultural madness and the flea markets, the music acts, the markets turning into tapas shops for the whole night is the kind of thing that interests you, then look up the carnival calendars and book your tickets accordingly. The highlight of it all was dancing amidst the 'gigantes y cabizudos' or as we say, the giant bobble heads. The characters are all obviously of famous kings and queens and characters pertinent to the Spanish history and it's a sight to behold. There is also a far extending flea market that sells everything from jewellery, trinkets, yummy fresh empanadas, local desserts, local brews et al. When that started to shut down, we followed crowds into Mercado de la Abaceria Central (one of those beautiful markets selling all kinds of groceries housed in old beautiful building called Mercats in Spanish). To our surprise it was Tapas night in the Mercat and all the vendors were selling just the yummiest and the most diverse sort of Tapas in there. To top it off, there was a live music act making its way through the market! Again, I think it all ties into the carnival celebration so we just happened to be there at the right time thankfully. (This happened to be the 5th of May)

Have more questions? Don't forget to leave your comments.
Also, for more than just my words and photos, find my doing a whole bunch of video content on my YouTube channel. Don't forget to subscribe!


Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Staycation with Svelte Suites

Picture this: You are checking into a hotel (which is either of the two scenarios; work or leisure) and you are actually treated like 'not-just-every-other-guest' and actually made to feel valued as a customer. Not too many times you can say that, right? And before you fire up the accusations, 'but you're a blogger', your visits are paid and valued because you cover the property, let me also clarify that I saw every guest checking in receive a warm welcome like they really mattered. Now that I have set the premise for my #Sveltecation at the Svelte Suites in Saket, Delhi, let me tell you all about how it went. 
In the middle of some fabulous welcome drinks and a huge beautiful bouquet of roses to welcome me, I noticed that the entire staff even the security guards all made that effort to smile and appeared genuinely happy to see their guests. That to me is the promise of a property that keeps its employees and its guests happy alike. We checked in, ordered some lunch because we were lazy and decided to just chill in our suite. Interesting fact: Svelte actually just has suites. No normal rooms. Cause honestly, why regular room it when you can SUITE it?! 
As if the magnificent views from our suite weren't enough, we were greeted with a bottle of the Chef's finest red and some beautiful artisanal chocolates (which I barely waited to polish off). After a hearty meal with some ginormous portions (sorry, I am always impressed with hearty portions) of some Thai curries and spaghetti (squeezed in a nap somewhere there too on the ultra cushy beds), we decided to hit the rooftop pool. For me, it's always the little things and the tiny gestures which a hotel executes that make for a fabulous stay. Piña coladas by the pool? Hell yes, that definitely makes the cut. 

I am going to admit, I was very tempted to utilise the extremely well equipped gym at Svelte(mostly to do a pretentious photoshoot) but I steered clear of anything that could break me into a sweat and stuck to being a vegetable that posed for beautiful photos. It worked out alright, don't you think?
The only cardio I indulged in, at my extremely luxurious Staycation was my little trip to the mall which has an exclusive direct entrance to, from the Svelte suites. Imagine a secret passageway that leads you straight inside, to the heart of Select City Walk. I can tell you, that is what my dreams are made of.

The chef curated a special menu from scratch for us that included an Asian spread that we really couldn't get enough of. I tried everything and we attempted to do justice to some brilliant preparations. P.S: How good was the fish in lemon butter sauce!
Always taking a moment to mention the other little details of a very seamless experience. Not only were my clothes set out, all ironed for me before my shoot that was to take place at Svelte, the hotel also very kindly kept my entire team fed and watered for the entire duration of the shoot (because honestly, what else is the key to minds that create interesting content). 
To a flawless stay and an even better experience, all complete with the perfect photographs for me to take back as memories and a box of their best artisanal chocolates (all because I wrote an instagram post on how much I LOVED the chocolates). If that isn't attention to detail, then I don't know what is.

Select photographs by: Mohit Khetrapal
All details on Svelte, Delhi right here.


Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Fashion tales from the beyond

This is not a tale of supernatural anything, except maybe my magical fashion prowess. Could unexpected layering and playing with textures really be a super power? Because this time, at Humayun's Tomb in the freezing Delhi winter with the entire team struggling to resist one shiver at a time, we might have made magic with the natural light and man made structures. Ironic, if I think of it that a tomb could provide an inspiration so real, so as to give birth to an absolutely spanking new piece of work. I tried this time around, as I do many a times, to step out of my comfort zone and recreate my personal style with a whole bunch of colours that the colour wheel would usually not suggest putting together. But like a cheesy fashion mom, I would tell you that fashion rules are meant to be broken. My kids are so not letting me dress them.
Maternal instincts aside, I worked with layers, colours and a lot of textures of clothing alongside textures occurring most naturally in nature to create what might be described as fashion's call from the beyond. Props to the spectacular team for making my vision come to light.

Photos by Devansh Jhaveri
Assisted by Shreela Singh


Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Jaipur 2017 with FTLOFAOT

What started off as an assignment to head to Jaipur for the Jaipur Jewellery Design Festival (an offshoot of the Jaipur Jewellery Show) turned into a trip that was as much about stunning jewellery as it was about digging into our heritage via Jaipur. I cannot remember a time when I wasn't obsessed with Rajasthan. While amongst the first few things to strike me was the most genuine hospitality of the people, it was followed suit by the structures and monuments of the state. The magical sand dunes of Rajasthan carry with them the heritage and a legion of traditions. Also unmatched is the richness and the sheer wholesomeness of their food and never have I made a trip to Rajasthan where I did not overeat at almost every meal (honest to God the only time it's not a bad thing to overeat).
I spent a large part of time in Jaipur this time in the old city where I went to the Anokhi block printing museum, the step wells right next to it and just soaked in the vast repository of art and skills Jaipur has to offer. I went into time and tapped into the history of block printing as it stands in Jaipur and worked with the artisans at the museum to learn the procedure of making a block and then printing with the same. Sure made me realise that 2018 sure has to be the year of picking up more skills, honing my creative bent of mind to learn different forms of art, maybe even pick a few hobbies. Not saying I've painted a self portrait a la Van Gogh yet but I've been venturing into the kitchen and whipping up a few things I have fancied and longed to learn. 
And of course, needless to say the Jaipur Jewellery Design Festival did not disappoint. Having always looked at jewellery from a consumer's perspective, it was the most novel experience to understand it from a design perspective. I also had the honour of speaking at a very inspiring panel in Jaipur about my life as a successful blogger, the impact of social media on everything, including fashion and jewellery. 
And if you thought museum hopping and bling appreciating is all I did this trip, then think again because I also got transported into a Wes Anderson-eque set (somewhere between The Darjeeling Limited and the Grand Budapest Hotel) on entering the Sujan Rajmahal Palace, on this particular trip. It was truly a delight for all my senses and I almost feel glad that we couldn't shoot there since it gives me a bigger incentive to go back and stay at this uber luxurious property (all forming a part of my big, idealistic and slightly cliche plan of 'let us travel the world' with the boy).
Carrying forward from my Jaipur trip, 2018 should hopefully be a year of more travel for me. More experiences, lesser regrets. Saying No to what disturbs my peace of mind and yes to whatever enriches my soul and just largely, broadens my horizons and challenges my perspectives in life. More meeting new people, giving everyone a chance and a lot more time with the friends and family who have always been around. I'd raise a self mulled glass of wine to that. You would know what I mean if you follow me on instagram.

All photos by Nupur Agarwal Photography



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