Eating and Drinking My Way Through Mumbai

I am now onto the India leg of my journey, with the first stop being in Mumbai.  I arrived on Saturday, the 16th, and my good friend Pratiti was ready and waiting to show me the sights.

We found ourselves at the latest and greatest bar concept, The Bar Stock Exchange.  Upon Googling this outlet, it appears to have popped up in cities around the globe.  The concept is an interesting one, so it’s no surprise if it is taking the world by storm.  The prices of the alcohol changes depending on the supply and demand.  There are screens everywhere, a stock exchange ticker behind the bar, and even an app to keep you updated on the prices of drinks.  This was coupled with delicious Indian food and made for a really lively, local and fun experience my first night here.
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Indian Pizza

Indian Pizza

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We spent a few hours here, as it took about that long to get a table for dinner.  We then made our way to an all natural ice cream parlor to end the night on a sweet note.  It was called Natural Ice Cream of Juhu Scheme, opened since 1984.  Ice creams were made directly out of fruit (I had coconut) and some of their flavors varied depending on the seasonality of the fruits in the region.  There was a line out the door upon approaching, and it really was the perfect ending to a lively Saturday.

Naturals Ice Cream

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Sunday found us traveling through South Mumbai, across the gorgeous sea link bridge.  We wandered through Colaba Causeway shopping, and then stopped for a beer at the Leopold Cafe.  I had only seen it from a distance up until this point, but being inside was a bit surreal.  I was still able to clearly see some of the bullet holes left from the 2008 terrorist attack.

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Bullet hole can be seen in the yellow paper underneath the “Above Leopold Cafe” sign

It was such a delicious and fun visit, even though it was only for a few days.

Next stop, Pune!

Interlaken: A Day Trip

One of the best things about Switzerland is their train system.  It’s almost always on time, runs smoothly, and can take you all around the country.  One thing we didn’t do much of last year was visit within the Swiss boarders, and we are making an attempt to do more of that in 2014.

Yesterday we visited Interlaken with some of our American friends, starting the day off early with Starbucks.  The ride down is about 2 hours with a connection in Bern.  The weekend was sunny and amazing, the first signs of spring, so it was the perfect time to go.  The entire trip we were engulfed by beautiful hills, mountains, and lakes on either side.  We probably would’ve been just as satisfied riding the train there and back without actually getting off because the scenery was so beautiful.

When we disembarked, however, we instantly found ourselves slightly confused.  We saw the mountains but couldn’t figure out how to get there.  Our first attempt at a funicular (trolly car up the mountain) was a bust, and in our attempt to find a second, we ended up in what looked like an alien-probing laboratory parking lot.

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We also passed a llama farm – llamas?? In Interlaken?

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Well, when in doubt, stop and eat.  We wandered back into the cute center of town and plopped down at an outdoor Irish pub for some food.  Being outside in the sun was such a treat in and of itself that I could’ve stayed there all day.

The other plus side of eating at an Irish pub?  There is most often at least one actual Irish person, aka someone who speaks English.  They were kind enough to help us better understand just how to get up those gorgeous mountains to enjoy the rest of our time in Interlaken.

First we jumped on a very crowded bus that was packed with the elderly and their walking sticks.  Side note – if you want to live forever and remain active, move to Switzerland.  The elderly are faster than me walking up a steep incline and that image is always great at shaming me into exercise.

One of the bus stops was along a lake with a stunning mountain view, so we took a pause in our ride up and sat along the lake.  My one friend and I stretched out along this wide stone ledge and fell asleep.  I felt like I was in Heaven – magnificent mountain views by a crystal clear lake, a slight breeze in my hair, the sun on my cheeks, sleep.  I wondered as I drifted off what I had done to deserve such wonderful experiences in my life.

IMG_4132Then I was jarred awake because the bus was back and we had to continue our journey.  We rode up and up and up until we got to another funicular to take us even further into the sky.  When we reached the top, all we could do was stare and say dumb things like “wow, look at how beautiful it is”.  Those words don’t even do it justice!  These mountains right in front of your face are works of art, crafted by our Creator himself, there for our enjoyment and viewing pleasure.  These rolling mountain peaks topped with snow looked fake, and I felt myself jump a little every time I turned my head to catch a peek of the peak – haha, I made a pun.

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By the time we headed down I was beyond happy and ready for bed.  What a joyous, fun filled day on top of some of the most beautiful mountains I had ever seen.  And yet I have a feeling Switzerland still has even more to offer me.

 How to Visit Interlaken:  Looking to make a trip of your own?  From Zurich, head to the main train station (Haupbahnhof) and book your tickets at the office.  You will most likely connect via Bern.  The train will drop you off at either Interlaken West or Ost (East) – either is fine.  I recommend heading to the tourist office to get as much information as possible.  Sadly we were in that weird time between winter and spring so some of the funiculars were closed.  We ended up on a bus to Beatenburg from the Interlaken West station.  Leaves approximately every 1/2 hour and if you don’t have the 1/2 tax card is 8.00 CHF one way.  Took us all the way up to the most beautiful views.

Milan, Italy

Our good friends had shared they were heading to Milan, and given how close and easy it was to get there from Zurich, they invited us along. The very next day my other friend and I bought our train tickets. She had an SBB train account, I had a Swiss credit card, we’d figure out the money later.

We met at a restaurant located in a really cool part of town that had a fun, funky vibe.  They made their own pasta, which meant it was delicious, and we felt like true Europeans, sitting and talking and drinking wine for two and a half hours.  The tiramisu was to die for, and Tony commented on what snobs we were, reserving our favorite tiramisu for Italy and our favorite creme brulee for France.

As the night progressed, we couldn’t help but notice that the patrons got younger and better looking.  I knew Italians were good looking people overall but holy moly.  Of all the traveling I’ve done, I’ve never seen a collective group of amazingly good looking people in one place.  It was like a model bomb had exploded, and yes, I stole that line from Sex and the City.

 

 

We decided to check out the nightlife a bit further.  We had already finished dinner at 11pm like good little Italians, and now it was time to continue the evening.  We stumbled across what was literally the old entrance to a kingdom and found hundreds and hundreds of young Gucci models lounging amongst the ruins, solo cups of beer in hand.  It was unlike anything I’d ever seen.  Except maybe in a Vogue magazine, of course, but how fun.  To be partying amongst the stones and mortar of ancestors past.

 

 

 

We didn’t stay out too much longer given that (a) we were overdressed and (b) we were over 30, so we headed back to get a fresh start on the next day.  On Sunday, after a shower, we were off.  We wanted to try and see Da Vinci’s Last Supper painting, look at a castle and visit the Duomo before getting on the train home.

 

Upon arrival to the church where the Last Supper was held, we came to learn that we needed to reserve our tickets way in advance.  I was stunned that one could not buy tickets that day, and realized that all sorts of tourists had conveniently purchased them through the end of the year.  Good thing Milan is only 3.5 hours away, we would have to try again.  We did, however, get to see some of Da Vinci’s original drawings as a consolation prize.

 

 

From there we headed to an old castle that was very wonderfully preserved.  Tony explained that back in olden Italy, there were a variety of patron families that ruled the local cities.  These families would fight against each other for power and land and therefore each had castles with walls, moats, etc. to protect themselves.

 

 

We finally made it to the Duomo and I cannot even begin to justify how magnificent this place was.  Let’s just say it took 500 years to build – if that doesn’t give you a clue about it’s specialness, well then you just need to figure out a way to hang out for another 400 years.  I mean America isn’t even 300 years old if that gives you a better understanding.  It is the 3rd largest church in all of Christendom and even had preserved Cardinals and a crypt inside.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We finished off with some yummy Italian coffee treats, and headed back to the seventh layer of hell, I mean, Milano Central, to go back to Zurich.  The train ride was uneventful and we had no issues what-so-over.

 

I only look innocent

 

It was nice to be in the land of my people.  I never felt more proud to be Italian to be honest and I feel so fortunate that I live so nearby – it just means I can explore my heritage that much more closely.  It also cracks me up how much the stereotypes are true – Italians are loud, we talk with our hands, love food, border on inappropriate, and cannot control our temper – but hey, isn’t that why we are so loved??