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travelogue

THE SPIRIT OF THE CANYON

THE SPIRIT OF THE CANYON

The majestic red mountains. I had just summited them. I did not tame them, nay, I had simply monkeyed up and perched on top.

I had neither conquered nor had been conquered. 

As I sat atop the ‘dune’ in bliss, from the physical effort of getting there, I felt the breeze caressing my face, my mind emptying and a strange stirring within, the beginning of a release. I cycled back downhill. Wings took shape. Where once they had been tied down by circumstances, they hesitantly spread out and I learnt to fly, once again.

The mountains speak to you, you’ll see, they said. The desert is a fountain of life, they said. Take a trip alone, they said. You will find yourself and come back with new understanding, they said.
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Tel Aviv, Israel - The 'NOW' City

Tel Aviv, Israel - The 'NOW' City

The pulse buzzes. The adrenalin rushes. Beauty abounds. The senses are in superlative. It is sexy. It is stylish. It is downright fascinating.

As my first exposure to Israel, Tel Aviv set the pace and tone for the time spent in the country. After spending a week in different parts of the country, I can easily say this is one place that beckons me back with the promise of more. Ostensibly, I was there to sample the cuisine and the food. But, what is food without culture and people?! Set against the interesting collage that makes the culture of Israel, food in Tel Aviv stands as an extroversion of its outlook and history.

It is without any hesitation an invigorating and entirely intriguing city. Not only does it offer the best landscape to study the congruence of diverse ethnicities, it does so with a remarkably calm composure. Given the geo-dynamics of the region, calm is hardly an adjective you would expect to connect with this experience. Yet, on the surface of this city, in the faces and lives of the people who live here, you only see a sheen of unruffled normalcy.

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A New Look And a Throwback to Australia!

A New Look And a Throwback to Australia!

Welcome to the new look of FSK!!

I am super thrilled to give this beloved space a face lift after ~6.5 years of loyal existence on Blogger. I redesigned this site from scratch and am now hosted on Squarespace, the same platform I use for Photography and FOODLY sites. I think this is a cleaner, more functional, fluid and less cluttered flow. What do you think?

As I was cleaning up the back end and removing unneeded stuff, I reacquainted myself with some of my old work, those I did not do justice to back then. I don't know why. I suspect my aesthetic was not sufficiently developed. Plus, I was not too confident of my work or site design. Anyway, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to repost a travelogue of a vacation in Australia! 

I travelled to Australia in 2010. It was a interesting trip in many ways. In hindsight, there was much self-discovery (it took a few more years to discover it but the journey began) and enlightenment. My first (and, as of today, only) girls trip and one that I decided to join literally a couple of weeks before due to fly out. At that stage of my life, I was not known for being spontaneous, often chided as resorting to "pal [...]

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{walk} New York : Lower East Side in the Day

{walk} New York : Lower East Side in the Day

Not so long ago, a grungy, dirty, needle and drug infested hell hole, this part of Manhattan has over the last decade metamorphosed into the it 'hood. It happens to be my favorite part of the city to hang out in, not just for the variety of ethnic and neuvo but ever vibrant food and drink scene but also because this section is steeped in New York history. Nestled between, rather I must say amongst as the boundaries are never clear, China town, Little Italy and random poshness of Gramercy, this section can vary from being fishy and dirty to wafting with warm welcoming flavors.

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I in Ireland

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Dance there upon the shore;

What need have you to care

For wind or water's roar?

And tumble out your hair

That the salt drops have wet;

Being young you have not known

The fool's triumph, nor yet

Love lost as soon as won,

Nor the best labourer dead

And all the sheaves to bind.

What need have you to dread

The monstrous crying of wind?

-- W. B. Yeats, 1916.

One of the greatest poets whose literature we read as kids. And, we were always led to believe he was English, meaning British. But, he really is Irish. Born in Dublin.

I am not really a poetic soul, even though I may be moved to a semblance of it sometimes. But, I do appreciate playing with words and being able to capture the transitional into a more concrete art form like literature, music, humor. And, according to IDA Ireland's latest commercial, the land possesses all that; the gab, the glint and the wit. So, I decided to check it out for myself. I was also inspired by some Irish food bloggers on Instagram and those I met at FBC 2013. The idea of living off the farm is just honestly becoming ever more appealing. I am not growing old, just wise. Dare you say otherwise! Besides, I was very curious about this phenomenon of Dublin.

I started in Dublin and spent a total of 5 days in the land of spuds with a couple of days of retreat in Cork county where I got a good healthy dose of the rugged Irish landscape and blessed self-sustained country living including eating off the land and noshing on honest tomatoes!

It started with a surprise. Let me explain. You see, the typical weather is supposed to be cool when you are comfortable with a wrap on and make it a wet proof one, as it is likely to sprinkle a bit at some point in the day. For the days I was there, it was all barmy and clear skies. Not a spot of rain. Brilliant weather indeed for a roll around the city and country. My visit coincided with the only heat wave they have had in 20 years! I came back to a cooler NYC with a deep tan and believe you me, I didn't need any more brown in me.

Now, if you were any history buff, you would have immediately caught on that I visited two rivaling counties! Dublin and Cork have had a long standing rift on who the real heir to Ireland is. Thing is, as they tend to do in this land of ballads, they start nationalistic or countyistic, drink a lot of Guinness (Dublin) or Murphys (Cork) and then forget the whole point of the conflict and go about storytelling, singing and dancing. And, so, the question hangs, until the next football (Gaelic) clash. A good-natured lot these and who can deny them a bit of discord.. not like they are feeding the IRA, right? Right!

So, anyway, I landed in Dublin, armed with a list of places to eat and foods to taste. The black pudding was up there! Then there was lamb, fish, cheese and oh yes, the potatoes :). Staying at a hostel that was centrally located was convenient. Nearly, everything is in walking distance. So, it was only a matter of a couple of days and I was done walking High street several times, through Trinity College, into the fancy barrister ridden parts of the city, cut through the parks and settled for a glass of local wine accompanied by some spectacular local food cooked with passion for the dish and the land.

During my stay, I have to say, I encountered a lot of passion. The Irish are well very proud of their Irish and Catholic heritage. Rome may find them too North to bother with, these days, but they love the pope. No, not the German one. He was a bit unconventional and difficult to understand! (well, he was German after all) The others, especially the ones from 100 or so years ago. I reckon the Brazilian isn't making much inroads in their hearts either.

There is an interesting culinary movement going on in Dublin. The trend of local is catching on and quite a few places are making their name on that tag line. Fortunately, they are able to deliver very well on that promise. Unfortunately, it comes at a very steep price. I found it very curious that the average meal there cost more than a equivalent one in Manhattan (a far more expensive city on the living index scale) even discounting the currency effect. Now, that leads me to muse upon the fiscal state of the country but this is not place for it. Suffice it to say, you had better go with your pockets full.

After a couple of days of city beat, I was yearning for the country side and some natural beauty. Three hours South it was thus to Cork, a county that benefits from the proximity to the sea and held to the country by rugged hills. It's a stunning part of the country with the warmth of the sea currents lending to a milder weather throughout the year. As you sit by the water, surrounded by ancient forest and unmoving hills, it is very easy to feel at peace and one with the world. It is a feeling that one feels when in any largely untouched piece of nature and after the urban chaos that is every day, such a break is not just rejuvenating but also invigorating.

The land is storied by spirits and ancient myths and it is hard to not catch a whiff of that heady wind and drift away into a land of dreams and castles. I caught myself several times day dreaming of running through the land, free spirited and laughing with the glint of soft setting sun reflecting in my hair and creating a halo of warmth and good cheer. I want that! Ok, I then woke up and realised it was a dream but I was still amidst some splendid beauty. Thank God for that! I still remember that dream... vividly :)

So that was the fabled land. It was interesting, inviting and entertaining! Also, if you are in Cork, don't miss the Middleton Whisky tour. Ironically, Jameson, a Dublin born Irish whisky maker moved their distilling operations to Cork several years ago and the Jameson Distillery in Dublin, now is just a tourist shell! :)

Footnote: I like Murphys better than Guinness. No offense to anyone... :)

Restaurant list at end of post.

DUBLIN

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CORK

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Dublin Restaurants:

L Mulligan Grocer

- Gastro Pub. Good food and draft beers at London prices

Seven Social

- Cute little Irish focused joint. Well executed and tasty menu with ample sized portions. Lovely wines and a knowledgeable owner who is also the friendly sommelier. Pricey but given the portions you can share more and eat well. Closed on Sunday.

Wuff

- Loved this place. Great for brunch. Younger crowd. Simple but thoughtful dishes and great coffee and baked goods.

The Brazen Head

- The oldest pub in Ireland. It is a quaint food with really good Irish food (read: black pudding) at great prices.

The only place I missed while in Dublin was dining at

The Winding Stair

! Marked for next time.

Dublin Hostel -

Generator Hostel

Cork stay - Ireland Farm Stays

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Share your creations tagging @ashafsk on Instagram and hashtag #MadeFromFSK