Author Archives: Simi K. Rao

Plaza de Espana- Seville, Spain.

Site of the 1929 Ibero-American Expo, this grand 50,000 sq meters plaza is a must see for all who visit Seville. It was designed by Seville architect Anibal Gonzalez as the site for the 1929 Ibero-American expo and has a unique palace-plaza structure with four bridges and two towers. It also has a moat like canal surrounding the perimeter that can be traversed by boat. We visited the plaza in the morning briefly and then returned in the evening for a lazy stroll and were wowed as it was lit up and the fountains played. The 49 Spanish provinces are represented by beautiful tiles. Again, we admired the blend of Renaissance and Moorish architecture and walked through the gardens nearby. It was an unforgettable experience. And for those interested in pop culture you can spot the plaza in movies like Lawrence of Arabia, Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, and The Dictator. Loved it!

Take a Trip to Montserrat Spain

During our visit to Barcelona, we took the optional trip to Montserrat (meaning serrated)- a multipeak mountain range that is the site of a Benedictine Abbey, Santa Maria de Montserrat, which houses the Virgin of Montserrat. The mountain is located approximately 50 km northwest of Barcelona. We took the tour bus, though it can also be reached via cable or the Montserrat Rack Railway.

A functioning monastery with over 70 monks in residence, it was founded in the 11th century and rebuilt between the 19th and 20th centuries.

We were in absolute awe of the magnificent church facade, the dome, the sculptures, and beautiful biblical scenes. It is the home of one of the oldest boy choirs in Europe (from perhaps the 14th century) consisting of thirty boys who live in the monastery.

Btw, the gelato (tiramisu flavor in particular) is fabulous. It was a short visit, wish I could have stayed longer.

Casa de Pilatos- A Seville Gem

If you are in Spain don’t miss visiting Seville, the capital of Andalusia, a city with many charms. The highlight of this city is a walking tour of the Jewish quarter, a lovely labyrinth of narrow streets bordered by beautifully upkept houses, and charming shops that one can spend hours exploring. A highlight of this tour is a visit to the Casa de Pilatos that is a stunning blend of Mudejar (moorish) and Renaissance architecture unique to Spain. Get transported to another era as you walk through the grounds, beautiful courtyards and gardens. You will never want to leave.

Podcast: Keepsakes for Old Age. Listen Now!

Novel Times Book Club #1 Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens Novel Times with Simi K. Rao

Authors Flo Parfitt, Katharine M. Nohr, Jenny Delos Santos and Simi K. Rao discuss 'Where the Crawdads Sing' a novel by Delia Owens. 
  1. Novel Times Book Club #1 Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
  2. Interview with author Flo Parfitt
  3. Keepsakes for Old Age
  4. Inconvenient Relations- a novel by Simi K. Rao, Chap 1 and 2
  5. The Witching Hour- A Spooky Short Story

Traveling Isn’t Just About Seeing Places…

It’s about nurturing memories. 

I love every aspect of the process. The idea, the planning, the anticipation, the getting there, the realization you are there. The sound of unfamiliar tongues, the excitement, the anxious confusion–Where to go, What to do? The myriad choices and lack of time. Always the lack of time. The flavor of the food, the hubbub on the streets, so on and so forth.

But what I like the best are the wistful recollections once I get back.

Were you surprised by the crowds on the Paris streets? 

Yes! And that they smoked. All of them!

And they were all so smartly dressed. Just like we’d heard and read. 

And remember the guy with the mustache while we were waiting in line to get into Notre Dame?

It felt surreal like I was watching a movie or something.  He was a handsome dude. I couldn’t stop staring. He must’ve felt embarrassed. 

Doubt it. It looked like he was enjoying the attention.

And Notre Dame– what an awe inspiring experience! Climbing the spiral staircase was a test of stamina, both mental and physical. 

Rodin was something else though. That guy is… ahem! 

I lost count on how many Caprese sandwiches we ate in Italy. So many I almost got sick. But the cappuccino and gelato! Couldn’t get enough. But then we had to buy the water! Can you believe it?

Yeah, but then we got to climb the tower in Pisa. 

I was trying to keep a straight face while looking at David and the other sculptures at the Uffizi. 

The Belgian waffles tasted so good. Because it wasn’t a DIY

Do you remember the seagull scavenging for ice cream?

And the not so scenic drive to Palomar but the Hale Telescope was awesome!

Time Just Moves

Arches National Park- photo by Simi K.Rao

I feel most at peace when I am among the trees and shrubs or even the desert, and rocks. Sometimes, vastness is overwhelming but I don’t feel judged. I can just be me. I don’t have to pretend or feel stressed. I can relax. I don’t sense the passage of time, be it minutes or hours. Time just moves.

Destination Moab: Canyonlands National Park

Dead Horse Point State Park

Getting There

We chose to take a guided tour to Canyonlands National Park- a sunset tour, promising the best views. Let me state at the offset that even though most places can be seen on your own, I personally prefer guided tours because I feel you can get the most in the least amount of time plus you are saved all the legwork. 

We had to drive to the pick up point at the junction of HWY 128 and US 191 about 14 miles from the lodge. The scenic route is through a canyon along the Colorado and well worth the extra drive. 

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Destination Moab: A Travel Diary #1: Getting There

Where to: Moab, Utah- Gateway to Arches and Canyonlands National Park

Travelling from: Denver, Colorado.

Tip: Avoid summer months.

It is a long road trip, one of the longest I have taken- over 6 hours, more with stops. It is the only way given the lack of accessible airports. Fortunately, the drive promised to be worthwhile and scenic- through various landscapes, initially through the Rockies then desert . It started to rain when we started in the morning. The forecast promised it’d be light followed by clear skies later in the day. Rain turned to sleet as we wound through the mountains on 1 70. It was nerve wracking and fun at the same time as the drivers wouldn’t slow down hitting 80 mph, and higher on the steep grades and sharp bends surrounded by snow capped peaks passing through the Eisenhower tunnel- the longest at 1.7m and highest point in the interstate system.

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Delhi Diaries: Qutub Minar Night Tourism

Bringing to you another gem of Delhi— Qutub Minar

Qutub Minar is a UNESCO world heritage site which holds the title of being the tallest brick minaret in the world standing tall at 72.5 meters. It is known for its history, glory, architecture, verses from the holy Quran inscribed on the walls. But what is little known about it, is it’s splendour at night. I have been wanting to visit this iconic monument ever since the Archaeological Survey of India decided to promote night tourism here.  It was for the love of this travel series, that I and my friend Madhu Lilothia decided to visit Qutub Minar on a full moon night to capture its beauty (in our camera) for our readers.
A visit to this iconic monument on a moonlit night will leave you spellbound. 
I suggest you reach the Qutub before sundown since a few areas are  restricted during the night tourism. And once the sun sets and the monument is illuminated, soak yourself in the romance that will fill the entire place.  The lights will lend a romantic vibe to the opulence of this architectural heritage . It is a photographer’s delight. Just walk around and drown yourself in the magnificence of this place.

How to reach: Qutub Minar is part of the Mehrauli Architectural Park in South Delhi. It is on the yellow line of the Delhi metro from where you can take an auto. Uber and Ola cabs will drop you directly at the monument. There is ample parking if you decide to go by your own vehicle.

Ticket: Rs 40 for Indians and Rs 600 for foreign nationals. It is open on all days from 7 am till 10 pm.

Deepika Pawar is a native of New Delhi, India. She is a Counsellor and Family Therapist in private practice. She is ‘a gypsy at heart’, a wanderer and travel enthusiast, who loves to explore new places.