Showing posts with label ultimate blog challenge. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ultimate blog challenge. Show all posts

Apr 10, 2014

Reviews A to Z -Isle of Man – Ellan Vannin

Here we are! Yet another Thursday with a travel tale and do you know what's special? Well! I can't wait to happily announce that this travel review (a merger between A to Z and travel tales) is a guest post by none other than Sid Balachandran. He writes at  I write Those, I took those and Foodness me. I first got to know him through his on-going project Project 365 and have been really inspired by his writing. A few weeks ago, while planning for the A to Z challenge, I requested him to write a guest post and he agreed to write a post for "I". Here he has written a wonderful review cum travelogue of Isle of Man for my little blog. So without wasting much of your time with my blabber, I pass on to Sid's words. 

Before we go ahead, I’d like to do a group activity. So stretch your right hand out. And now your left hand. Now, rotate your hands so that your palms face each other. Now spread them apart a bit more. A little bit more. Aww….here’s a hug back for you. Welcome to my first ever travel post. And I’m pleased to have the lovely Sugandha host it on her gorgeous blog.

Travelling is something that is very dear to me. Probably as much as both writing and photography are. So, when Sugandha told me that she’d like me to do a travel post for her, on a place starting with the letter “I” (so it blended in with her A-to-Z challenge), I pondered over it for a few minutes. My mind had gone blank. And then I looked up, and glanced at my laptop’s wallpaper. There it was, literally screaming “Me, me… about me!”. I smiled, and typed a “yes” to Sugandha and connected my hard drive up to get the photos that I required. It was time to let the world know about one of the lesser known places in Europe - the beautiful and dynamic, Isle of Man. 

Now, unless you follow car racing, it is quite unlikely that you’d know about this nature-lover’s delight, nestled secretly between the islands of Great Britain and Ireland, right in the middle of gorgeous blue-green Irish Sea. My wife, Janaki and I have always ended up on offbeat and adventurous holidays. It wasn’t always by choice. Sometimes, it was just bound by monetary and time constraints. And the IOM was one such amazing discovery. 

Geographically, the island is tiny. At 33 miles in length and 13 miles in width, I personally am surprised that it is such a hub of bustling activity all through the year. Now, if you’ve ever been to Britain, you’ll know that everything revolves around the unpredictable nature of weather. But IOM is slightly different. Since it’s in a very central position right between the British Isles and the Irish Sea, it has reasonably temperate climate, making it a perfect all year round destination. And here’s the most amazing fact - though it’s so small, it has a coastline that stretches for about 100 miles and even a mountain. Wonders of nature eh?

Culturally, the IOM is extremely diverse. It has not just Irish and English influences, but also Viking, Celtic and of course their very own Manx culture too. And it is this cultural variety that sets the IOM apart from some of the other isles and islands around the coast of Britain. It’s a place where people can still wow you with tales of sea-monsters, giants, fierce battles, brownies and even fairies. Why, it’s even got a “Fairy Bridge”, where there is still this whimsically cute belief of wishing the fairies a “Good Morning” or even a “Good Day”. So much so, that a lot of racers who take part in the IOM TT and annual Manx Grand Prix, often visit the Fairy bridge before setting up for the practices for the races. Though we personally hoped we’d be able to see a fairy or two, we had to make do with a few amazing statuettes that an old Manx mason had created, thousands of years ago.

Politically, the island is a self-governing British Crown dependency. Which means though they’re not legally part of the UK, the British government is responsible for its external and defence affairs. The IOM has the oldest continuous parliament in the world, Tynwald, which dates back over 1000 years. Even today, you can tour the Tynwald building and visit Tynwald hill, where the parliament meets in open air, once a year.

The IOM has 9 major towns and villages, all of them unique in their own right. Douglas, the island's capital, is a vibrant and busy town, and a shopper's delight. Amazing restaurants (particularly Indian...yep, we are everywhere), comfortable hotels and B&Bs and almost every popular UK retail outlet, make this the best town to stay in, if you want to be closer to all the action. Ramsey, the island's second largest town boasts of a working harbor and open expanses of sand and shingle beach throughout. But the true hero of Ramsey is the 40 acre Mooragh park, a truly have-it- all leisure facility with tennis courts, bowling greens, beautifully manicured gardens, a large boating lake and children's activity center. With quaint, narrow streets and a magnificent harbor lined with rows after rows of fishing boats, Peel reminds you of a unique setting that you would often read about in those English classics.  Peel also boasts of the ruins of the magnificent castle, which dates back to the 11th century. If I had to describe Port Erin in one phrase, it would be "imposing and majestic". Located within a beautiful bay with a soft, golden sandy beach, the northern most point is dominated by the towering Bradda Head. The Bradda Head boasts of being the location of the winning prize for the Kodak World photography contest in 2005. The only way to get to Bradda head is via a nature trail, which truth be told, has spectacular and at times, mind numbing views.  If you are an avid bibliophile like me, be sure you pack a book or two, as nothing can give you more pleasure than lying down on the spectacular hill side and enjoying a good book while the sea side breeze gently caresses your hair (or your head, for the follically challenged).

Onchan, though one of the smaller villages on the IOM, has a number of unique attractions of its own, ranging from the Onchan Leisure Park and Stadium offering a number of activities from Stock car Racing to bowling. It is a delightful old-style village, where you could relax idly over some amazing food. Port St. Mary is a picturesque coastal village, where you can often find plenty of yachts and is one of the starting points of the excellent organized coastal walks available. If you find Douglas a tad bit too crowded and touristy for your liking, Port St. Mary serves as an excellent alternate accommodation location. Now, Douglas wasn’t always the island’s capital. It used to be another castle-dominated town called, no surprise here, Castletown. Castle Rushen, though no longer functioning as one, is still magnificently preserved and open to visitors. Definitely worth a visit, and if you aren’t claustrophobic, do try climbing up the steep and narrow winding staircase to the top. St. Johns, thought not a town per se, is said to be a village that comes alive during the Manx national day on July 5th, and is said to be a sight to behold. Sadly, we had visited a few days prior to the national day, and hence didn’t get a chance to view this glorious spectacle. Probably the most spectacular town of the lot is Laxey, which is set in a beautiful, deep valley which boasts of magnificence Dhoons (picturesque valleys) and the famous Laxey wheel and the mines.

What I loved the most about the IOM is that there are a host of activities that we can indulge in. For the adventure seekers, there are activities such as stock car racing, angling, flying, mountain biking, kayaking, horse riding and yachting, just to name of a few. Being an island, it’s no surprise that IOM boasts of some of the best beaches that I’ve ever seen. Miles after miles, of pristine, golden sandy beaches, inviting you to lie down and bask in the magical warmth of the sun. And for nature lovers like me, you have those long nature trails, some of them through amazing deep valleys (known as Glens). If you like a bit of adventure with your nature trail, make sure you check out the DHOON Glen, which is the deepest glen on the island, and the path is paved with steep inclines, and wooden steps which are often found to be missing, and if present, they are very slippery and difficult to navigate. There is a sign in Manx, displayed above the hidden entrance, which translates to “ Welcome to the Dhoon Glen. She will make you work hard to see her beauty. “ And it’s true. Because it’s a 198 steps back to the top, if you can find the steps that is. At the bottom of the glen, you get to behold the main waterfall, known as the "Inneen Vooar" or "Big Girl”. We'd read an interesting story that said that name of the waterfall was because a young girl had drowned in the pool below the waterfall and it is said that her ghost haunts the glen to this day. And for that reason, it wasn’t recommended that anyone stay back past sunset. Though, the scientific side of me argued out the reason for the curfew was that there were no lights to guide you back, just hearing the wind whistle through the trees and the sound of the waterfall kind of spooked us out. Needless to say, we literally ran back up the 198 steps. 

Getting around the IOM is delightfully easy. Buses are frequent and you always have the option of horse driven trams, an age-old electric railway and of course, the steam railway which dates back to 1874. And if you’re there, you need to definitely check out the Snaefell mountain railway (refer back to my earlier point about the “only mountain” on the island). Since I cannot do enough justice in words, I’ll let a couple of photographs do the talking :)


Don't let the fact that IOM is in the middle of a sea deter you from travelling to this gem of a place. It is well connected both by air and sea, from most major British and Irish cities. We took the ferry from Liverpool, and it was a delightful four-hour ride, and we managed to spot a couple of basking sharks (They are huge!) and some bottle nosed dolphins.

As far my research stated, when we visited, which was in 2011, if you had a UK Visa, you could travel to the Isle of Man. So the next time you’re in the UK, make sure you reserve 3-4 days to explore this beautiful island and enjoy the hospitality that it has to offer. And believe me, when it’s time to go back, you will do so only with a very heavy, yet joyous heart, filled with lovely memories, a waistline that is bound to have increased a few inches and a camera loaded with stunning photos. But it’s not just its extensive coastline, stunning landscapes, unspoilt beaches and deep valleys that made the isle so special to us. It’s also because, that’s where we discovered that we “two” were about to become “three” :)

 And before I wrap this post up, I’d like to leave you with panoramic photographs of two gorgeous Isle of Man towns. Take a peek, and let me know if you think it’s worth visiting or not J

Apr 9, 2014

Reviews A to Z – Buy them a gift from Happily Unmarried

When I have to buy a gift for a brother, buddy, a colleague, a batchmate I often think of in terms of buying something for their house (read wives or moms). However, there is a whole bunch of world out there which does not live in a house that can accommodate anything delicate (read they are bachelors/live alone)

Now – birthday parties, farewell gift, secret santa, house warming (which is most often, since they are usually thrown out after every 11 months), etc. although there aren’t many occasions, but gifting options for single men are scarce. I guess by now I can relate to all you girls and boys who ever went out shopping.

I have roamed around malls, aimlessly looking at wallets (not right choice), bags (too expensive), perfume (too personal), clothes (imperfect size) for hours whenever I have had to buy a gift for this special category of people. Until recently when I found this store named Happily Unmarried.

Happily unmarried is a funky store which makes pretty much everything that a single guy can need (you can include some of girl’s necessities too). Apparel, bar accessories, stationary, home stuff, etc. are designed out of either waste or to look like waste, perfect to go with a house which is more than half waste.

For example – for my sister’s boyfriend I bought a set of four coffee mugs with some funny prints. For my brother, I bought a welcome mat. For another friend I bought an ashtray. So yes I am pretty much a regular shopper there.

An ashtray
Coffee mugs

Well! My experience with this store has been quite good. Even though I have not used anything from them, a little of merchandising background in me can vouch for good quality.

They have a few stores around Delhi and have tied up with several stores across India. Also, they have their own webstore. You can check it out at - 

A big thumbs up for the store.

Linking it to UBC and A to Z challenge.

Have you found Shades of Life on Facebook yet? Please check it out here

Please take out time to read more about the featured blogger for the month of April here.

Guests are always welcomed at Shades of Life. Drop me a line at and I would love to share your thoughts here.

Are you a member of a library? How is your experience?

Apr 8, 2014

Reviews A to Z – Five reasons for Goodreads

Yesterday I shared about a library that helped me read when I didn’t have enough money to regularly buy books. There is another website which now helps me plan my reading list. It is Goodreads.

My reasons to like it are pretty simple.

1. Challenge – I absolutely love Goodreads reading challenge. It gives me the push that I need.

2. Reviews – Most book reviews at Goodreads is genuine and not paid. I have come across several negative reviews for certain bestsellers. It helps me form an opinion of my own.

3. To-read shelf – It reminds me of a website I earlier used. Shelfari. This helps me remember my books to buy when I log in to flipkart or walk in to the book store.

4. Recommendation – GoodReads recommends a wide spectrum of books based on read or wish list. It’s software detects the genre and recommends similar books. A good thing is that if I rate a book below three, it doesn’t include it in recommendation list.

5. App – Lastly I love the mobile app by Goodreads. It is light and quick. It is like my own list of books with me at all points.

My experience with Goodreads is thumbs up :)

Linking it to UBC and A to Z challenge.

Have you found Shades of Life on Facebook yet? Please check it out here

Please take out time to read more about the featured blogger for the month of April here.

Guests are always welcomed at Shades of Life. Drop me a line at and I would love to share your thoughts here.

Apr 7, 2014

Reviews A to Z - Friends of Books

Those were the just out of college days when pocket was empty for a bigger half of the month. Buying a book was a luxury that I could not afford on regular basis.  Also, buying books wasn’t this easy also. The Flipkarts’ and Amazons’ of this world weren’t present. Libraries weren’t an easy option too. They were either too far, or too expensive (a library had an annual membership fee of Rs.3000, I never had that much money to spare at one go).

In one of those days I discovered an online library called Friends of Books. It sounded pretty interesting. I made an account and selected ten books that I wanted to read. I selected my package, which was about Rs. 750 for six months and asked them to deliver the book. In next five days, I had two books out of my selection at my place. I read them at leisure and once I was done, went back to the website and asked for next books. The courier guy came with next set of two books and collected the ones I had read already.

The system was smooth and without glitch. The book collection is average with almost all popular bestsellers available. Book delivery took not more than seven days and payment was in cash to the courier guy. The company later changed the terms, and I could pay my subscription online.

Very soon, they came up with a bookstore for used books. Even today it is one of my favorite spots for buying used books. One, the books they sell or lend comes in good condition. There are no torn pages, rarely dog eared, not marked or underlined, many time plastic covered, yellowed pages yes, but many hard bounds too. After all, if you get a good hard bound, who minds yellowing of pages?

For me Friends of Books is a wonderful library that delivers. I’d rate their service a 4 out of 5.

Linking it to UBC and A to Z challenge.

Have you found Shades of Life on Facebook yet? Please check it out here

Please take out time to read more about the featured blogger for the month of April here.

Guests are always welcomed at Shades of Life. Drop me a line at and I would love to share your thoughts here.

Are you a member of a library? How is your experience?

Apr 5, 2014

Reviews A to Z - Dine out at Ego-obsession

Recently I had a sister’s night out at Ego Obsession in New Friends Colony market in Delhi. It is a well-known place among dilliwallas. It is quite old and it is famous for its own kind of Italian.

It wasn’t the first time I went there and hopefully not last. I sort of like that place. The ambience is warm and cozy. One can easily get comfortable in dim lights and classics English songs. It reminds me of diners that they showed in old Italian movies.

Their menu is a wide one. It is one of the few places in Delhi which serves Rosti – something I absolutely love.  Before I proceed I would like to clarify that Yes, Rosti is not Italian, but I am not saying this place is authentic Italian. I am not an expert to comment on tastes of authentic Italian, but to me, whatever they serve is excellent.
This isn't a plate of my Rosti, but I found this similar looking pic on Wikipedia.

On our last visit, we ordered a Cannelloni, Pizza and Rosti.

The service time is good, especially when the place is not over crowded.   If you happen to visit often, you will realize that there are many others like you. The place has a fan following of its own.

It is indeed a good option to dine out in Delhi.

P.S. Zomato rates it 3.8. Therefore, if you believe in this website, I know you will look out for a chance to try it.


Linking it to UBC and A to Z challenge.

Have you found Shades of Life on Facebook yet? Please check it out here

Please take out time to read more about the featured blogger for the month of April here.

Guests are always welcomed at Shades of Life. Drop me a line at and I would love to share your thoughts here.

Apr 4, 2014

Reviews A to Z – The Devil wears Prada

I am not a big fan of movie adaptions of a famous book. One of the few movies that I like even after having read the book is Devil wears Prada.

Maybe it has to do with my love for Meryl Streep or it has to do with a wonderful acting of Anne Hathaway. But to me Devil wears Prada as a movie is a better version of the book.

The Devil wears Prada is a story of a naive young woman comes to New York and scores a job as the assistant to one of the city's biggest magazine editors, the ruthless and cynical Miranda Priestly.

Of course you can’t see the pencil skirts and high heels of the movie in the book, neither can you shabby hairstyle and out of shape bag of Andy. However, the movie depicts exactly what your mind forms when you read of the ramp, the lunch and the meetings.

I especially love the scene where she goes shopping selecting clothes from samples that came from best designers. The fashion student in me goes OOOH over the labels and designers.

To spill out a secret, I saw this movie twice and took a note of brand names that were dropped in during the movie. It was one of my first to hear of Alexander McQueen.  

It is one of it kinds in the category of Comedy and Drama.

It is a good 3.5/5 for me.


Linking it to UBC and A to Z challenge.

Have you found Shades of Life on Facebook yet? Please check it out here

Please take out time to read more about the featured blogger for the month of April here.

Guests are always welcomed at Shades of Life. Drop me a line at and I would love to share your thoughts here.

Apr 3, 2014

Reviews A to Z – Funky India from Chumbak

From my early travels I had a love for collecting souvenirs. I travelled within the country, collecting things that were cheaper versions of local handicraft, which sat on the showcase before I got bored of them. When I began travelling outside our country, I saw wonderful branded souvenirs that came as t-shirts, fridge magnet, pen stands, wallets, bags, etc. I mean we all have seen union jack on t-shirts and bags and have seen enough I love NY sweatshirts.

For a long time I kept thinking of lack of such cool products which needn’t necessarily be hand crafted but showed versatility and colorfulness of our nation.

It was sometime two years ago, I first stumbled upon Chumbak. Its funky, cool, vibrant and wide product range immediately had my attention. It cannot be explicitly called a brand that depicts India, but I feel it shows the spirit of the county with its hip designs.

I recently bought a mobile cover and I was quite impressed with the variety of prints they offer. Second thing which is impressive about them is the right marketing that they are doing with pop up stores and tie ups. They are present at all major airports and have some of their collections displayed at most souvenirs stores.

It might be an early comment but so far, little products that I have used are good quality too. Indeed it is value for money.

Chumbak is also available online at


Linking it to UBC and A to Z challenge.

Have you found Shades of Life on Facebook yet? Please check it out here

Please take out time to read more about the featured blogger for the month of April here.

Also, check out the post by a non-blogger who penned down her feeling.

Guests are always welcomed at Shades of Life. Drop me a line at and I would love to share your thoughts here.

Apr 2, 2014

Reviews A to Z - My experience with blogger

This April, I celebrate one year of my blogging. Also this May, my blog will complete seven years of existence in Blogosphere. In these seven years my blog has died and reborn thrice. At first it was called “scribbles”, which had info from college and other places, then it became “thoughts that matter not” and you know what it contained. Now the biggest and current avatar is called shades of life.

What is to be noted is my love for the blogger. I know that there are many who find other portals better but as the oldest blogging platform, blogger has its own advantages.

1. Constant updates and troubleshoots – in my seven years, I have seen this portal becoming more user friendly if anything else. The google team is constantly updating the system.

2. Easy manage – For a brief time, I tried to export my blog to another portal. Maybe my ignorance, but I found blogger easiest.

3. Wide range of tutorial – When I actively began blogging, for a phase I felt I was on my way to becoming techie. Blogger being one of the oldest platforms, there is a wide database of tutorial available.

4. Response time – Blogger gained my ultimate appreciation when I sent feedback once about my problem. My blog had become unlisted and it was sorted within hours.

Although there are few limitations with blogger, my overall experience with blogger is thumbs up.


Linking it to UBC and A to Z challenge.

Have you found Shades of Life on Facebook yet? Please check it out here

Please take out time to read more about the featured blogger for the month of March "Aditi Kaushiva" here.

Also, check out the post by a non-blogger who penned down her feeling.

Guests are always welcomed at Shades of Life. Drop me a line at and I would love to share your thoughts here.

Nov 2, 2013

Ultimate Blog Challenge - October - Time to conclude :)

Phew! I am tired. I have managed to complete October UBC with 49 posts. It was a task. I know there are a few people who can generate two to three posts a day, day after day for months and still not feel tired. Hats off to them. Also, there are few who manage to really go precise and perfect in each their post. I envy your ability to be creative, attentive and wonderful each day.

These thirty one days have been difficult. Especially because of my thirty part story that I managed to complete just in time. I have dreamt of this story every single night (there were also plenty nightmares). I’ll be uploading the entire story soon.

October has been a fun month too. I have had too much fun playing “Where is the A” with all of you.

Last day of October came with a surprise. I got Liebster Award from Nikhil and Poonam. My answers to their question are due. I’ll do that in my next post.

Also, I guess I have been most active on facebook in this month. Thanks to constant chat between the members of write tribe, I have felt alive on my social media profile for the first time.

Well, it has come to an end. And no matter how tempted I feel to participate in NaNoWrMo I can’t think of it. November is a month full of activities and travel and my dear blog is going to get some breathing space.

However, there are still going to be a bit more of rant, 55 fictions, 100 words, nonets, haiku and WOW posts.

See you :)

Happy Diwali.

Oct 31, 2013

UBC Day 31 - Clarity - 30

It was two a.m. but Priya could still not sleep. She sat there, looking at her daughter and hoped that her next step was going to be right one.

She sat there, browsing on her laptop, idling, as thoughts reeled in her mind. She opened her diary and read the notes from last few months.

In an attempt to empty some space in her head, she scribbled in her diary. She wrote about all that she had just been through, about the confusion and confession of her true feelings.

At the end of it, she had resolved. She opened a new email and created a draft.

Dear Nitin,

It is no secret that I love you. I have loved you ever since I have known you and I still do. It is true that you were my first love and I might never be able to love anyone as much as I love you.

It is right that you can make a wonderful father. Seeing you with Navya warms my heart. I have wanted it for long, and now that it can happen it gives me a pleasure to think of her secured future.

Like I have told you, I have forgiven you. And I say this, with all my heart. Yes it was bad of you to have left me and go, but like you said life has taught you a lesson. I agree that you have changed. I can see it in your eyes.

It is also right that I have dreamt about our marriage for more than three years now. And today, when you proposed, I can see that my dreams can eventually come true.

But there is one thing you made me realize today. I am over you. I didn’t realize it when, but now if I think of all the above, I have lost the appetite. I no longer crave to be there with you, marry you, or love you.

And Yes, I love Sushant. Maybe not as much as I loved you, but I do. And what is more important is he loves me. Yes I might not get the world I dreamt of, but I will be happy. I am taking a leap of faith and I hope everything will be alright.

Regarding Navya, she will remain your daughter. When you picked her in your arms, I could see that you really love her, and I won’t try to stop her from meeting you. You are welcome to meet her if you want.

I will be moving now. I wish you good luck and don’t worry, you will do well.


She sent the mail without proofing, ensuring that she did so before her heart changed.

And then, she checked her messages, searched for Sushant’s flight details, booked herself on the same flight and forwarded the confirmation to Sushant.

She leaned to kiss her daughter before going to bed when her phone beeped. The message read, 
“Will you marry me?

Love, Sushant :)”