I had learned as a manner of law statement that “you attract, what you strongly desire for”.
Travel to the countries of Europe was always a childhood dream I carried.
Nowadays, to travel to any parts of the world is not something which is a big task or very difficult or not possible. Every now and then, people do take such international holiday breaks and the frequency of such vacationing has increased in last a few years.
When you move away from your country & step into some place, on some soil, which has a complete different history, a different story to tell; which is entirely different from what we have always known about of it, heard & perceived about it, then we somehow feel the different kind of connection. Although it may be your first time to travel through these places, but there is an instant chemistry which weave us into the history of their times.
I always wanted to roam around & visit Europe, not as a tourist, but as an intrinsic part as their own natural habitat. Having heard & read so many things about this continent over the last couple of decades that the urge in me to travel through the heart of these countries was immense.
And as mentioned above, the strong urge in me could attract the time, grab the moment, which placed this opportunity in front of me.
And finally a trip of 18 days was planned, along with all my cousins, making it a group of 21, to begin the journey, which today remains and have been permanently stored as one of the most exciting experiences amongst my various travels so far.
The idea to take this vacation was born somewhere around December last (2015), over a coffee with all the cousins. And it being Rishil’s (my son’s) 10th boards final year, planning of an overseas vacation was always the agenda on my mind.
Getting all on board was never going to be easy and honestly we didn’t even seriously considered that the plan with all on board will materialize. After a couple of such meetings in February’2016, it was decided to at least book flight tickets so that it forges the initiation of idea into first level execution.
Tickets were bought. To start with just 12 of us. Mumbai-Paris-Rome-Mumbai.
WOW! The first hard copy of my dream was in my hands.
After the tickets were issued, at least it was clear that plan is on. And the next 90 days were going to be all possible sort of planning, which included deciding on various destinations to be covered, accommodation, food, type of clothing to suit weather at different destinations, mode of internal travel, different activities, etc.
Parag, my cousin, was not available for this trip. And so we were waiting for other cousins, Utkarsh’s and Priyesh’s family to join the bandwagon as they continued to be in dilemma whether to join or not and eventually to everybody’s excitement they became the part of the trip soon.
12 became 20 now.
Zeenal, my daughter, was supposed to have her B.A. 2nd year exams and also was going through few job interviews which took a bit long time for her to decide and join us on board. So, now it was 21. 🙂
So it was time now to locate an experienced travel coordinator who would guide us about how we should be optimally utilizing our time & money, so that we could cover what necessarily needs to be covered to result into an ever lasting impact of wonderful experiences to our hearts content.
Came across as suggestion from Amit, Mr Samir Savani of “Savani Travel Hub” at VileParle (E).
Meeting with him was almost an instant click as he seemed totally different compare to that of standard experiences what every other reputed tour and travel operator offers.
A different approach to holidaying which takes into account every minute aspect of our individual interest considering various age categories in our group and also value for money approach on every aspect of the trip planning.
And after at least 5 to 6 meetings with Samir, we zeroed in on the destinations as Paris (France), Black Forest (Germany), and Barcelona (Spain) to Venice, Florence, Tuscany, Vatican & Rome in Italy.
Looked so good on paper. Sounded so sweet in the ears. Happy times ahead.
And soon we were on with our money invested in booking of the apartments, flight tickets, cars, coaches and various group activities and sightseeing.
We took our own sweet time to decide on what to see and visit at each of the places, which historic places and monuments to cover & what needed to be prebooked to have an advantage for advance group booking.
A couple of lovely concepts which were instilled in our minds by Samir of Savani Travel Hub, that, when you visit any city in Europe, try and roam around as such, that you become a local part of that city for those few days. Which implied, travel with minimum baggage, to have as many possible guided walking tours, to move around in self driven cars, use maps and GPS, to try and use maximum modes of local transport available, either buses or trains or metros. Also to try and hunt for food that suits your requirements.
All this were aimed to allow us to come in constant communication with the local residents eventually helping us to make entire experience full of adventure and excitement.
We of course readily accepted & incorporated the new ideas and concept this holiday was being shaped up with, and tried our best to accommodate our interests in line with it.
But as being Gujarati Jains, we all know and quite well understand that to reduce on the baggage part and carrying requisite raw materials for home cooked food was never going to be compromised with.
And finally we landed up travelling with heavy loads, which covered up for our lost days in the Gym back home. (lolz)
2 families (Utkarsh’s & Priyesh’s) left on 15th May’2016 to visit Switzerland, later to join us on 19th at Paris.
We 4 families (Mine, Rina di’s, Amit’s & Nilesh’s) left on 19th May, early morning, to fly from Mumbai to Paris via Abu Dhabi.
Moving little back to the planning stage, I decided 19th May to land in Paris, as its being my wife Rupa’s birthday and I wanted it to be something special, a moment to be remembered and cherished for life.
And spending a couple of hours on 19th midnight, below Eiffel tower on the banks of Seine River, was something which actually happened and now is a sweet memory permanently imprinted in our hearts.
3 nights in Paris was a lovely experience to start the trip.
We covered 2 guided walking tours, Latin tours, Left bank and right bank, Eiffel tower, Seine river cruise, Arc d Triumph, A Garden & the Art Museum.
As it’s said, and now could witness, that every building, every place in Europe is a golden part of strong history and have an immense heritage value.
We passed by the roads, the streets, the shops, the road side food & drink joints, admiringly looking at the people either on their way to work, or just lost deeply into their world of art either through painting or singing or dancing or playing music.
One just can’t afford to ignore the world at play, all around us.
Away from home country & far from all those day to day stressful living hours, race against time, full of deadlines, targets and commitments, actually helped to activate happy hormones in our minds which made everything around us, to look and feel more beautiful than what it must be in real.
The sheer display of freedom of heart and mind, to do what you really want to do, to showcase what you know as best, was something which surely teaches a lesson or two to anybody.
Can’t stop comparing how’s and why’s of living in our country vis-à-vis what was seen and being experienced here.
A true and harsh reality is that, we are losing our “precious time” in this world with every ticking of the moment. And even though, we blindly keep spending whole of our time, money, energy; in fact an entire lifetime, in the pursuit to keep gathering, keep expanding more of our material reach for better times of tomorrows.
Alas!. These tomorrows are never guaranteed.
The ever healthy state of the body and the mind is not guaranteed.
In the hopes to improve our living of tomorrow, we waste our entire Yesterdays and todays, only to regret later about what rightly needed to be done.
The soul within, is never searched. Never ever an effort is being put to introspect what the child (innocent desire) in us wants or always wanted.
And today, away from home, when I see people in action, full of smiles and showcasing their artistic talents to the mass, may it be for the purpose to earn their living too, touched me deeply.
A sense of guilt, of sheer disappointment & pity, surfaced for my own self, forcing me to introspect, where am I heading toward?
To achieve what?
Walking tours, through the heart of the city gave us the chance to get to know so much deeply about everything.
The passion with which the stories were relayed to us, the energy with which we all kept being drawn and stepped up with the guide, the innumerable questions which kept springing in our minds; were replied to and the urge fulfilled in such a straight forward and beautiful manner that it came as a strong realization, that aren’t we, since long, missing this energy and urge to be inquisitive, curious, efforts to seek answers, to raise valid questions, so as to satisfy our appetite to know more, which is important and right.
Here nothing seemed silly. You ask anything what comes to your mind, how a child asks his/her first questions and in return you are constantly being satisfied and you land up feeling more learned, more updated, more worthy.
History and architecture always fascinated me.
I can keep looking at any piece of art how much ever mysterious, attractive, clumsy, weird or interesting it may seem to be.
Any such piece of art takes me deep into the mind of its creator.
His times, His circumstances, His thought process.
The problems & resistances faced in his times. The emotions which surfaced with every new idea & on its execution & then the final Eureka moments.
Somehow it always pulled me towards the creation.
So every sight for me came as a blessing. Thanks to the recent high-tech world that allowed me to keep capturing every moment by freezing into mobile camera shutters.
There was nothing which I would have liked to miss capturing, but then how much practical is it to gather all ?
So realiszed, that few things better be forged as a permanent imprint within the heart and the mind rather than making it a part of my phone GB.
And that prompted me to pause, stop and breathe in everything I could put my hands on.
The trip followed with a wonderful stay at Black Forest (Germany) for 6 days, then Barcelona (Spain) for 3 days and final 5 days in Italy covering Venice, Leaning tower of Pisa at Florence, Tuscany, Vatican City and ended up at Rome.
Black Forest stay gave our trip a complete new dimension of exploring Germany.
Somewhere in between Frankfurt and Munich, we stayed in Black Forest at a country side village, Dobel.
What a stay it was, just WOW!
These 6 days were planned to experience different kind of activities such as Zip line, Rope ways, Europa Park, Baden Baden, Mercedes Factory, Mercure mountain top, Mercedes museum, Metzingen, big brand shopping outlets.
And interesting part of these 6 days was, that we travelled in self driven SUVs, covering an average of 200kms a day, an experience which would be the most pleasant part of the trip.
Staying at a country side apartment was a huge plus as we didn’t have to run to catch trains and metros to keep up with the crowd and pace of the city life.
We stayed & enjoyed every hour as we wanted to.
As more of the activities were being planned in these 6 days involving a good amount of travelling, we had decided on, to call for a cook from Belgium, who served us hot Indian food, all the 3 meals for these 6 days.
This turned out to be a very wise decision as after each day’s travel one need not had to be worried about hunting for food., especially with small kids by our side. We were welcomed with delicious Indian meals daily, which kept the energy levels high to meet the activities agenda for the next day.
Did some daring Zipline, hiking and trekking through the forest and the hills, and got immersed in scenic natural beauty all around for entire stay here.
Flew to Barcelona from Munich on 28th Morning, for extremely satisfying next 3 days, which made us all fall in love with the city.
Landing at Barcelona came with a happy news of Rishil securing 91.2% in his boards exams. Congratulations! wishes! celebrations!
This went on for a while and re-infused more positive energy.
Barcelona, also had 2 walking tours which covered beautiful churches, Montjuic fountain and extra ordinary architecture, the Gaudi experience.
What a city! You see people passionate about everything they do, whether they play or see Football, or they cycle their way through roads, or they do acrobatics on the streets.
We of course lost track of our days and dates, but every day here seemed like a weekend in celebration.
How lovely it would be, if we do not have those “Monday blues” and can celebrate and welcome it in similar fashion as how Fridays and Saturdays bring smiles on our lips &light up our faces.
“Las Ramblas”, a promenade, a street, in Barcelona; to spend hours and hours.
If you like to just sit around there on road side benches and chairs or get up and enter into some big brand shopping or just savour different flavours of ice creams or just stand by and get yourself clicked with live human statues in disguise or just spend few moments with an artist, the painter who is passionately on his job, creating a piece of exclusive art every few minutes.
What you see around is just happy and happier faces, as if telling us that everything here is gonna stay like this forever and ever.
No worries can be seen on any faces, may it about their todays or their tomorrows. Just focussed in their “NOW”.
May be what marks them different is their “attitude” towards everything in life.
Visit to the Barcelona Football stadium made me realized how important it’s considered to have an excellence in this sport.
The Players of yesteryears and current times are prayed as Gods.
They bring name, fame and pride to the country on their every outings.
They put in blood and sweat on what they are best at and equally supported by their people and the government to maintain the position at the top.
Every 90 minutes of encounter is a festival and every win is a celebration.
I don’t mean say that we don’t have similar passion about sports in our country.
But what sometimes seem to be missing is the constant evolution of not only the players involved but also an overall strong change of perception about the game, the sport and the spirit. (#ingeneral).
Barcelona followed with entry into Venice.
A land of hundred plus islands. Life within and around water.
Words may fall short to relay my experience of those few hours.
The Venice outing in combination with Murano Glass factory was a wonderful experience.
Again a case of extra ordinary talent at display, of making glass decorative pieces in minutes without the help of any high-tech machines or and scientific measuring instruments.
Pure imagination and extreme artistic talent at work.
Gone are the days where such talents were showcased, were put into limelight and were given their share of awards and appreciation.
The technology has overpowered real natural instincts within each of us.
But we all know, there is nothing more powerful than what can be created and cultivated in the mind, which itself is a source of creation of such high technology world around us.
And if the power of the mind is tapped to its full or optimal potential, the light from it would be extremely strong.
One hour at the glass factory, made me think about what I myself possess as my inherent intrinsic strength which is not being nurtured and nourished in right proportions.
And I decide & promise myself, to start watering the ignored plant, once I am back on my soil.
In the following days we covered Vatican City, Leaning tower of Pisa, and Cinque terra.
Cinque terra, a model town; one of the five such village towns, which is immensely popular for its location, hiking, blue sea on one side and the rocky mountains touching the shore.
A few hours in Cinque terra gave us much needed breather with the scenic beauty all around.
Again a spot where we captured ourselves in multiple frames, not to miss any rising waves and wonderful landscapes.
Coming to Rome, the final destination, just for one day, as the flight to return was from Rome.
I remember we had just 24 hours in Rome, including night stay.
I was so very impressed by this city, that I instantly wanted to extend my stay for a couple of days more here.
The Trevi Fountain, Colosseum, Vatican city..
I could feel that for me these 24 hours are too less to get fully soaked up in its history.
Every piece of history, thousands of years old, was preserved meticulously.
We can see parallel modern town also being created in line and around such preserved monuments and buildings.
Yes, ROME was not build in a day.
And When in ROME, do what ROMANS do.
One can’t escape the sheer charm of being here.
You can’t remain aloof and can no longer be a separate identity.
One doesn’t have any choice but to get merged in its beautiful way of life.
ROME remains in my list of second visit and of course would love to do justice to Spain as a country touching Barcelona once again, if the destiny permits.
Thus came an end to one of the most wonderful and exciting 18 days of my life.
One such similar trip of great experience was Switzerland in 2009, which had completely changed my perspective about holidaying. And I’m glad that the second such realisation and experience came through these European expedition.
Back to Mumbai on 5th June’2016; Sunday and today it’s almost closing 30 days and taste still remains.
Thanks to all my cousins for making it a wonderful outing which shall remain a sweet memory for all of us and thanks to Samir and his Team for guiding us towards a complete new experience and constantly keeping in touch, everyday, so that we do not miss out on any thing.
Major takeway from this trip-
Have learnt to accept & celebrate life and it’s every gifted moments, as it comes.
Every moment, is a celebration of life as long as we have family & friends who are with you on your every rise and every fall.
Since having back from the trip, celebrated dad’s surprise birthday bash on 11th June, coinciding with celebration of Zeenal’s first day at first job of her life (6th June), and Rishil’s academic achievement of 10th boards.
Followed it with one more celebration for Rishil securing admission in first merit list in the first college of his choice, HR.
So as many moments we are ready to celebrate, life has a reason to keep offering more.
If you are ready to smile, life will give enough and more and more reasons to smile.
So, Keep smiling and keep spreading happiness! Cheers! Happy Living!