travel


Where to travel on long weekends of 2017 2   Recently updated !

There are 14 long weekends in 2017, so it’s more than one long weekend every month! Even though one long weekend is already gone , there are still many others in 2017 to plan your travel for.

1. Republic Day – 26 jan weekend

Even though this long weekend has already gone, one can still visit relevant destinations that are enjoyable this time of the year. For eg. Dubai. Shop to your heart’s delight, try the grub, admire the man made islands, take a desert safari or just check out the souks.

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2. Mahashivratri : Fri, 24 Feb

MahaShivratri is a holiday in most of India. Add to it the weekend of Sat, 25 Feb and Sun, 26 Feb and you have a long weekend. One can visit Agra (Taj Mahotsav) , Andaman Islands, Goa (Goa carnival) , Landsowne , Ooty. Wildlife sanctuaries in Rajasthan – check out  Jodhpur or Udaipur or Jaisalmer or Pushkar or Alwar for the lovely weather.

Udaipur : By: ivosandoval/flickr.com used under Creative Commons License BY-SA

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3. Holi weekend: 11-13 Mar

11th and 12th are the weekend and Monday, 13th March is Holi. Celebrate Holi in Mathura, Visit Coorg to catch the white coffee flowers in bloom or again cities in Rajasthan (Jaipur , Jodhpur, Udaipur, Jaisalmer, Pushkar, Alwar) before summer kicks in.

Jaisalmer : By: zedzap/flickr.com used under Creative Commons License BY-SA

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4. Gudi Padwa : 28th Mar

25th, 26th is the weekend, Take leave on Monday, 27 March and add Gudi Padwa holiday on 28th – you get 4 days! You can visit Rishikesh for white water rafting or Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Bangkok.

Bangkok : By: stuckincustoms/flickr.com used under Creative Commons License BY-SA

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5. Ram Navami : 4th Apr

The weekend is on 1st and 2nd April. Take leave on Monday, 3 Apr. Ram Navami is on 4th April. With 4 days, you can visit Cappadocia, Turkey for hot-air ballooning, Tokyo for cherry blossoms, Srinagar for tulips, or Hong Kong for family fun time in Disneyland.

Hongkong : By: sprengben/flickr.com used under Creative Commons License BY-SA

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6. Baisakhi/Good Friday/Easter weekend

Thu, 13 Apr: Baisakhi
Fri, 14 Apr: Dr Ambedkar Jayanti, Good Friday
Sat, 15 Apr : weekend
Sun, 16 Apr: Easter weekend

IF you can take leave on Mon, Tues, Wed (10,11,12 apr) then it becomes a REALLY long weekend for international travel.
You can visit Amritsar for Baisakhi, for the food, Wagah border change of guard ceremony ; Phuket for the Phuket Bike Week (11–16 Apr) and Bangkok for Songkran Festival (13–17 Apr)

Bangkok : By: michaelsarver/flickr.com used under Creative Commons License BY-SA

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7. Labour day : 1 May

29 Apr & 30 Apr is the weekend. Monday, 1 May is May Day or Labour day. Travel to the north east to get relief from the heat. You can visit Shillong, Mashobra or Landour to beat the heat; Tadoba or Ranthambore to spot wildlife; or take a quick break Colombo in Sri Lanka.

Colombo : By: nazly/flickr.com used under Creative Commons License BY-SA

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8. Eid Weekend : 26 Jun

24th and 25th June is the weekend and Eid is on 26th Jun

Travel to Hyderabad/Lucknow/Delhi for Ramzan Eid; Munnar for the monsoon; Dharamshala for camping/trekking. Try a different kind of Goa in monsoon. It is very cheap and also very lovely. Or Visit Srinagar for the cool climate.

Srinagar : By: gulfu/flickr.com used under Creative Commons License BY-SA

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9. Janmashtami/Independence Day weekend : 14 Aug/15 Aug

12 Aug, 13 Aug are the weekend, 14 Aug is Janmashtami, 15 Aug is Independence day, Take leave on 16 Aug & 18 Aug, 17 Aug is Parsi New year, and 19, 20 Aug is again the weekend. Now this is the LONGEST weekend ever for travel!

Travel to Ladakh for picturesque views, Uttarakhand for Valley of Flowers; Salzurg, Austria for the Salzburg Festival (21 Jul–30 Aug); Tanzania for the great migration.

Salzburg : By: beuel_sued/flickr.com used under Creative Commons License BY-SA

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10. Ganesh Chaturthi : 25 Aug

Take the Ganesh Chaturthi holiday on a friday and add the weekend to it. Visit Pune or Bombay for Ganesh Chaturthi or Bali for a beach break or Cherrapunji to watch water falls!

Guwahati : By: rao_anirudh/flickr.com used under Creative Commons License BY-SA

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11. Gandhi Jayanti : 2 OCt

Weekend + Gandhi Jayanti . One can have a quick visit to Munich for Oktoberfest (16 Sep–3 Oct); Bhutan for the Thimphu Tshechu festival (30 Sep–2 Oct); Bandhavgarh for wildlife season; Ziro, Arunachal Pradesh for the pleasant weather, Gangtok for clear views of the Kanchenjunga

Bhutan : By: jmhullot/flickr.com used under Creative Commons License BY-SA

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12. Diwali holidays

14, 15 Oct are the weekend. 16 Oct is Dhanteras, 17 and 18 Oct are Chhoti and Badee Diwali, Take leave on 19 Oct, 20 Oct is Bhaiduj and 21, 22 Oct is again the weekend! 9 days are long enough to visit exotic locations far away!

Visit Sydney/Melbourne for summer on the beach; Vancouver/New York for fall, Bhutan for the perfect season.

Sydney : By: pedrosz/flickr.com used under Creative Commons License BY-SA

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13. Eid Weekend  : 1 Dec

Along with Eid-e-Milad, you get the weekend of 2/3 Dec. Travel to Nagaland for Hornbill Festival or Bharatpur for spotting migratory birds.

Dimapur : By: abrinsky/flickr.com used under Creative Commons License BY-SA

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14. Christmas Weekend : 25 Dec

This is the Holiday season! 23, 24 Dec are the weekend and 25 Dec is Xmas. If you can use all your remaining leaves of the year then you get Holidays till 1st Jan! One can travel to Maldives/Australia/Singapore/Goa for New year festivities or  Manali for the snow or Pondicherry for a winter break.

Sydney : By: clintsharp/flickr.com used under Creative Commons License BY-SA

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So what are you waiting for? Get out your travel boots on and travel away!


 


 

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A drive till neemrana 1

The first 4.5 months of this year went in coping with the kneecap dislocation and the subsequent MPFL reconstruction surgery I had to get done to fix the ligament that got ruptured. This included intensive physiotherapy for 2 months and even though I am not 100% ok yet, I am at least “kaam chalau” ok. Good enough to go out and be social again. I’ll write more about the MPFL reconstruction journey later. For now I shall talk about another journey – one from Gurgaon to Neemrana, while driving myself (yes, a big deal after surgery) and that too in a brand new car – the new Tata bolt! I got invited by Blogadda to join in on this drive that was happening on 10th May. Even though I was a bit apprehensive about my driving a long distance after surgery as well as climbing stairs – after talking to Harish from Blogadda, I was assured that there were many other drivers and it wasn’t mandatory to drive. It was as per comfort level. In fact there was a participant who didn’t know how to drive, but I digress :).  As for the stairs, well some were to be climbed to get to our destination for the day, but I could skip anything else that seemed physically taxing for my knee for now. So off I set on Sunday morning, reached Galaxy hotel at the pre-decided time and was assigned to team no 1.  We were to drive the petrol version (revotron) of the car first, followed by an exchange with the diesel version at a pit stop.

After an intro round and some appetisers, Mr Sethi  from Tata Motors shared some of the features of the Tata bolt. They also announced a contest – the best picture of the day would win flipkart vouchers. After lunch, we got ready to leave. All the cars had an ice box that was filled with cold water, juices, lassi, lemonade and some assorted snacks. Much needed on the hot searing sunny day that was the 10th of May! They were also equipped with Samsung tabs using the “connectnext” technology, through which we were constantly in touch with “Captain Bolt” – for all practical purposes a mysterious voice that kept tabs on us, our whereabouts and our requirements 🙂 .. In reality a person of the Tata Bolt team who wasn’t a part of the cavalcade & also provided us some media to play during our long drive. All cars were RED in colour except the pilot car. Boy I love that colour! My team mates were Prasad – an angel investor amongst other things and Alok – An SEO specialist. Alok didn’t know how to drive … and then there were two :). Accompanying us was Anuja from the blogadda team. Since we were team no 1, we were the first ones to be flagged off. I decided to drive first for as long as I could drive and then hand over the car to Prasad. We first went to leisure valley grounds, where a track had been set up to test the suspension of the car. Once we were through that, we set out for Neemrana Fort Palace. The “Revotron” version has 3 modes of driving in the city – Sport (power), Eco (Mileage), City (Mix of both). We mostly drove in the city mode. Even on the highway on sports mode, the difference could not be discerned because of constant traffic jams. It felt great going for a long drive after a gap of more than 4 months. I didn’t feel the level of discomfort I had expected due to my knee and drove till the pit stop. Once there, we exchanged our car for the Diesel version and Prasad got behind the wheel. The hi-tech music system and the voice of Captain bolt kept us entertained throughout the drive. Soon we reached Neemrana. The heat was unbearable and I slowly troddled up to Jalgiri Mahal which overlooked the superlicious swimming pool! We had some refreshments and then it was time for a tour. The group went ahead while I decided to skip this part. However, I did venture out on my own and caught a glimpse of the Hawa mahal.

The place was seeped in history, and sounds of birdcalls & their echoes. Parrots and peacocks roamed around unafraid of human contact. It was strange seeing huge trees growing over by the stairs and what not. Small little peepholes in the parapets of the fort had been converted to toilets with a view! Bougainvillea creepers adorned the palace and in some parts they covered whole walls like ivy. There were tiny little manmade ponds all over the property at various heights. And a swimming pool of course. Wonder what it would have been like in ancient times.

The inviting pool on a sweltering day!

The superlicious inviting pool in the sweltering heat! #neemrana #boltdrives @tatabolt @blogadda #cinemagram

A video posted by Twilight Fairy (@twilightfairy) on

 

Soon the tour ended and the entire gang came back. We all had high tea and watched a folk performance. I was still uploading my instagram images from the day and making Cinemagraphs (Animated GIFs made with short video clips) when the prizes were announced. I shouldn’t have worried cos the only image I had managed to upload by then, won me the best image of the day award! 🙂 The prize was flipkart vouchers worth 4K. But the bigger surprise of the day was yet to come when Tata Motors announced the results of a blogging contest that had already happened a month or so back. And one of the bloggers  – Ragini – won a brand new Tata Bolt! I am sure everyone wanted to be in her place at that moment :).

My winning image!

 

  Eye of the tiger! @tatabolt @blogadda #boltdrives   A photo posted by Twilight Fairy (@twilightfairy) on

Cinemagraph of the folk performance

Soon it was time to leave and although this was a touch and go trip, it was still worthwhile. I clicked some more images of the fort palace that were appreciated by Neemrana properties as well.

Twilight at the Neemrana fort, clicked by twilight at the Neemrana fort 😉

 

The magnificent sun set as viewed from #neemrana fort. #boltdrives @tatabolt @blogadda #ipadography #panorama

 

A photo posted by Twilight Fairy (@twilightfairy) on

On the way back we had the diesel car with us throughout and since I had not driven that variant I decided to drive for as long as was comfortable. The journey back was again full of laughter, jokes, friendly jibes and of course Captain bolt’s announcements. He also conducted a quiz about the features of the car and we all won Bookmyshow vouchers. If only, we had won cars instead ;). Around halfway, I again did an exchange with Prasad and sat in the backseat. The car is comfortable and has enough leg room. We reached Galaxy hotels at 9:30 pm and after the entire gang bade farewell (which almost drowned the sound of a shaadi band) we all headed home with new experiences and friends. It was a Sunday well spent at #Boltdrives with BOLT from Tata Motors and Blogadda especially since there were prizes involved 🙂



Making merry 1

Ever since I arrived in London on 2nd June, we got busy with the tour around various departments at Kingston university campus. But it wasn’t just all work and no play. In fact right on the day we reached, after freshening up, we went to see the Graduate fashion week at Central London. On this particular day, the show was put up by the students of the Fashion department at Kingston university.

We reached the venue in Central London and the place was swarming with fashionistas of all shapes, sizes and genders. For me the latest fashions were already there to observe in the crowd itself. Once inside, I requested the people in charge to let me stand in the media box meant for photographers and clicked a few shots from there. The designs were quite interesting and some were extremely innovative and actually wearable. The fashion show was so professional in every way possible that I thought I had landed in a clip from FTv.

It didn’t look like some graduate students were behind this. And going by the kind of front row audience, it clearly meant serious business. Gap, Abercrombie & Fitch, Banana Republic etc attend GFW, and the KU fashion grads are considered pretty employable by them. In fact this time,  the GFW was featured in times the next day!

We really enjoyed it and headed back to our hotel. On the way we got a tiny glimpse of Central London as well – The London eye, The shard and The Gherkin. During the Kingston tour days we always had lunch & dinner with Indian faculty or Indian students or Indian alumni. It was interesting to see their insights into the process & it was good to see them doing well for themselves.

On the third day of our visit we were taken for a ride (no pun intended) on a ferry along Thames. We got in at the pier right outside Kingston University’s international office and went up till Hampton court palace & back. We were the only occupants of the ferry so it was more like a private tour! It was very scenic and peaceful. The houses along the banks looked extremely lovely in the glowing sun. The Hampton court palace glistened beautifully as well. It was a nice break in between academic discussions.

On all the nights, we ate out at various interesting places, including (but not limited to) Jamie Oliver’s Kingston’s branch.

Got a chance to visit THE Jamie oliver’s restaurant .. The food was great – the service left much to be desired! Sadly didn’t bump into Jamie Oliver or Nigella Lawson or Heston Blumenthal on the streets of London :).
The ultimate culinary treat was given to us by Kingston university on the last day of our visit. On this day, we were introduced to a proper English afternoon tea experience at the over-300-year-old Fortnum and Mason! After reading about tea and scones throughout my Enid blyton-ised childhood I finally had the experience  and at a very posh place at that!

We had finger sandwiches, lots of different kinds of cakes, scones (both sweet and savoury) with clotted cream, lemon curd and jam & of course tea. There was a plethora of variety in the tea and I chose a flavour called “the wedding celebration” , marking the wedding of prince William and Kate. After this we checked out some other variety of cake that was kept for patrons .. Even though we were all really full, we took a slice of exquisite looking cake topped with raspberries on the top and sponge fingers on the side. It looked like a piece of art! All this while there was a pianist playing some lovely music. I requested him to play “Skyfall” and he complied happily. It was transcendental.
The day ended on an exciting note, with us hopping onto a hop on-hop off bus and taking in the sights of the city. The weather was thankfully playing a good sport and it was lovely to be outside! Overall, the trip was a great combination of enriching academia & interesting outings. I am thankful to KU for providing me this opportunity.
Though the Harry Belafonte “Kingston town” song is about Jamaica, some of the words hold true even in this case. “But I’m sad to say,
I’m on my way, won’t be back for many a day” .. Hope to visit another day!

(this is the 3rd post in a 3 part series. Click here for the 1st part & here for the 2nd part)



Education expedition 1

I arrived in London on the 2nd June. We were quickly whisked away to Antoinette Hotel right next to Kingston University. Kingston is a quaint little place with cosy little houses. Lots of roses growing in everyone’s yard. The weather was perfect unlike the many predictions of rains. In fact it seems we got along a little sunshine here because it was after quite a gap that the rains had stopped. After freshening up, we went to see the Graduate fashion week at Central london. On this particular day, the show was put up by the students of the Fashion department at Kingston university. (More on that in the next post).

Nelson Mandela Said “Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world”. How true are those words!

Right from day one, My colleague (a journalist) & I were taken to various departments at Kingston university, to get a taste of what all courses they have to offer. I must say that each and every department is highly specialised in its field with the latest machines, facilities & techniques to impart knowledge. We also saw the outcome of such knowledge at various places, especially the arts & design show put up by various sub departments of the art & design faculty. It was really interesting to say the least.

On day one, we met Fiona Curran, Senior Lecturer, School of Performance & Screen, to talk about the Performance, Screen & Film Making courses. Accompanying her were two Indian students as well. Both of them were quite confident about their prospects after the course completion. We were told  by them that making a movie without a sponsor is no mean feat, not to forget the difficulties faced as a female film maker, but they had ample help from the film making student community itself. It is a perfectly balanced ecosystem where everyone helps each other promptly knowing that one day they would be asking for help as well.

This was followed by a meeting with Shabana Ansari, an Indian student doing MA in creative writing. She told us that all courses are paired with another course which is more vocational in nature and can help students get a job till the time their primary occupation doesn’t get them started on a regular income. That is a very good strategy especially as far as the “subjective” skills like writing, film making, design etc go. Shabana has just come out with a book published by her as part of her curriculum and the pride was evident on her face.

After lunch, we went to a different campus of Kingston university (various departments are housed in the vicinity and some are a little distance away as well). This particular department was dedicated to Art & Design courses & facilities. We met Jake Abrams, Principal Lecturer in Illustration & Animation, who gave us a tour of the Art and Design studios and workshop facilities. The entire building was one large beehive of creativity. Various courses like Photography, Fashion, Architecture, Fine art, Graphic design, Illustration & Animation, Interior design, Product and furniture design, etc are offered here. Unlike the other campus, this whole department looked like one giant art installation. There was a show called the “moving image” going on, where all the departments had put up the creme de la creme works of each department. It was really amazing. It is not only interesting to see a new person’s perspective on something old, it is interesting to note the difference that new culture brings on Art. One example of an art installation is

It reminds me of childhood!

And a glimpse of the photography exhibition.

The next day, we met Professor Julius Weinberg, Vice Chancellor, Kingston University – who is ALSO doing an undergraduate course at Kingston university himself! Due to this fact, he knows the ins and outs of all situations faced by students. He told us quite a few interesting achievements of Students from KU. For eg. Kingston produces the most graduate startup companies in UK. Facebook – yes THE facebook invited product & furniture design students of KU to furnish their conference space with prototypes & they liked the pieces so much that they made them permanent. The illustration & animation students have received worldwide acclaim by being featured in the “creative review”. Photography grad student’s work was acquired by Tate gallery. There are so many accolades & achievements that they can’t be listed here. But one thing is apparent for sure. The students get a global platform to stand out on and they made full use of it.  He was also interviewed by my journalist colleague. The interview can be read here.

This was followed by a showcase of MBA, business courses and tour of Business School. Again this was a separate campus and a very green one at that. We met Kent Springdal – Senior Lecturer, Department of Strategy, Marketing & Innovation and more Indian students again. They were all very confident and had already started working on their startups. Most had prior work experience as well. Needless to say, this department seemed to provide them the perfect skills that all entrepreneurs need. They are all guided by dedicated mentors who are with them throughout the process. It’s a very good way of landing a job before the student visa expires!

We also met Dwain Reid – Entrepreneurship Project Officer whose main job is to assist budding entrepreneurs of KU. There are courses like the Enterprise programme that help students learn right from the basics of how to register as self employed to the toughies like Intellectual property protection, applying for funding, cashflow, PR, social media etc. The course can be attended by students of sister universities of KU as well. All in all it’s a very good bootcamp for all those who dream big.

On the final day we visited the Science, Engineering & Computing department & met Dr. Steve Barton who showed us around the campus. Needless to say, the faculty was very well equipped with all kinds of machines & devices – be it bio-medical or chemical. It was freaky seeing very large electromagnets and huge tanks full of liquid nitrogen for cryogenics etc! We also visited various labs & saw the students working on preciser than precise machinery to ascertain things that are eventually life altering. A very popular picture from the science department is this picture of lockers depicting the periodic table!

As part of the final touch, we did one of the most interesting things ever. We did a Tour of Forensics House including a crime scene! Well, the crime scene had been “fixed” for us, as is done for students of the forensics department. But it was really exciting as expected. Accompanying us was Tracy Davies, Senior Technician, Faculty of Science, Engineering & Computing. The forensics department at KU has a forensics house where they use animal entrails, real (animal) blood and a lot of other stuff to depict a crime scene. The students have to be “on job” complete in the required suits, collecting evidence etc. The crime scene set up for us wasn’t as gory thankfully. It had a toppled chair, a knife strewn about, strands of hair, half filled beer glasses and a tiny blood spatter to show trickle from weapon or trickle from finger. Here’s an example

 We guessed a couple of things based on the clues and felt really suave as if we were starring in CSI. However, those who do this in real life have a huge responsibility on their shoulders! Not to forget seeing so much graphic detail in the job, must be tough mentally as well. Sadly, We missed out on the lie detector test that had been planned for us earlier.

We also had interaction with the teams that prepare the students to get placements as well as the ones that help the students with their visa paper work right from pre-arrival days, till the final placement days. The work permit after graduation is THE number one issue all Non-EU students face. But the good news is that it’s not all that difficult if the job application process is done systematically in advance. Typically students have 3 months after graduation (down from 2 years limit earlier) but many land jobs before that.  Many students end up in unskilled jobs (eg. as waiters) just to support maintenance costs & the grad degree clearly doesn’t add anything in these cases. Understandably it can get difficult with a new culture, geography, environment etc as add on factors, but this sort of a thing is frowned upon and students are encouraged to plan their job applications in advance. All the student entrepreneurs, who don’t land jobs, also have an opportunity to get a Tier 1 entrepreneur visa given by KU to 15 deserving students each year. KU has the International student advisory centre set up specifically for helping out in these immigration and work permit issues.

Overall, the little slice of life that we saw at Kingston university was very enriching. I am sure the students here get world class education and seeing the track record of the univ, their students also get placed rather well. As someone said, Education’s purpose is to replace an empty mind with an open one. Even for us, non-students, it was a very enlightening experience.

Up next – the fun stuff at KU!

(this is the 2nd post in a 3 part series. Click here for the first part)



London Thumakda

A few months back I was contacted by Kingston university. They wanted to invite me to take a tour of their campus, check out the various courses offered and see what life is like out there. Now, I don’t have any direct connection to universities or the profession of teaching (except for being the daughter of one), but I have been contemplating since quite a few years about doing a course on photography (the art, not the technique) from London or Paris. That would give me a global perspective, get me exposure to many more luminaries in the field as well as allow me to globe-trot more often. On hearing the details of what all Kingston University has to offer to their students, I must say, it took me no time in saying yes to their generous offer!

As some of you on twitter might have guessed by my tweets, I have already reached London and Well, now is the time to strike off London from my bucket list! London and New york are two cities I have always been in love with, without having visiting them!

The plan at Kingston university is quite exciting. I’ll be interacting with faculty, students and departments indulging in Creative writing, Illustration & Animation, Art and Design, MBA, Strategy, Marketing & Innovation, Marketing Communications & Advertising etc. – basically quite a few areas of my interest. I’ll also be interacting with Faculty staff connected with India & some Kingston University Alums from India to hear about their experiences and see the kind of support they get in their respective endeavours. I am however, most excited about yet another interaction, which is a Tour of Forensics House on the campus, including a crime scene. Female Sherlock Holmes, anyone?

The KU interaction is not just all work and no play. There will be a boat ride on the river Thames as well as a fashion show put up by the graduate students.

The planned duration of the official trip is from 2nd June – 5th June. I am also planning to explore London on my own, in the patches of free time I get. I wish I was here longer, because knowing a city needs some living in it. I am also extending my trip beyond the touring of Kingston university and plan to visit places in/around London as well as Scotland, Ireland till 13th June. Those nearby, give a shoutout!

In the meanwhile, KU is planning some overseas interaction for the benefit of prospective students. The list of events in India is here.

The purpose of this post is (like previous similar activities) not just to talk about the university I am visiting, but also to present my perspective of a prospective student, hopeful of learning more about the Art scene in Europe. Needless to say there will be lots of intertwined bits to do with experiencing a new city, a new country, a new culture – one that I am particularly excited about because of our “common” heritage. The hashtag for the event is #KUexperience but I am NOT planning to use it for every single tweet I write while in London. For the record, this is NOT a contest or a paid event. Here’s hoping for clear skies, pristine locales & interesting experiences. I hope you would enjoy “virtual traveling” with me as much as I would on ground. And hopefully, this should get me back on the blogging track as well!