Wanderlust – My trip to Italy

Jewels of Italy

Traveling to a new destination can be extremely overwhelming given that there is soo much to do in such little time! Vacations often fly by, they most definitely need to be longer (2 whole months atleast).  There really isn’t enough time to soak it all in and they often feel like a dream once you come back home. However, the special memories we bring back, shared with our loved ones are like precious jewels we can cherish for a long time, and often reminisce when drinking a hot cup of tea on a rainy day. Growing up living in 6 countries and having the opportunity to travel to over 16 in my lifetime, I can truly say the more you travel, the more you realize the less you know.

To be honest, I would be doing an injustice if I didn’t write a whole book on my experience travelling to Italy; but for now, a short blog will have to do. I hope to enlighten you with my journey, and convince you to visit Italy for your next vacation; you wont regret it!  I hope to inspire you to walk in the footsteps as I did, of history’s most influential people (Julius Caesar, Da Vinci, Michaelango)  in one of one of the most beautiful countries in the world. I will try my best to summarize my favorite experiences from my trip (which is extremely hard for me because I enjoyed everything about Italy).

On any normal weekend, waking up at 6AM at would seem like a violation of my human rights. But not on this crisp Saturday Morning in May. The excitement was building as it was the start to an amazing week ahead (Woohooo). I was feeling wide awake, fresh and ready to go.

When in Rome – Trevi Fountain

As my tour guide Dina mentioned, you have to discover historical Rome by foot to truly appreciate its magnificence. The adrenaline and slight blush you get from exploring small cafes in dimly lit cobblestone alleys has its own medieval allure.  I felt like a little girl again exploring a fairytale world in awe as I looked into small antique window shops, stopping once in a while to admire souvenirs displayed on the streets. As I strolled down the path, the smell of freshly baked bread and cappuccino was lingering in my nose long enough for me to be tempted to try a local delicacy. As I gazed up at the small apartments in the streets, I noticed colourful petunias hanging from the balconies of beautifully garnishing the caramel hued historical buildings. As Dina guided us past the crowded streets, the alley started to narrow and I was a bit apprehensive taking a step forward because I really didn’t know what to expect as walked into the Piazza di Trevi.

At first, when I set my gaze upon the Fontana Di Trevi, it was somewhat of a surreal experience. The sheer beauty of expertly carved marble and the contrast of the Tiffany blue water stopped me short in my steps. The fountain is inspired by baroque architecture and stands 86 feet high, and towers over you like a movie set. The piazza (open square) was quite crowded and I had to squeeze my way through to get to the front. With a slight grin on my face, I tossed 2 nickels (CDN $) over my left shoulder into the fountain as I made my wish. I sat beside the fountain and glided my finger over the cold water. I imagined the piazza would have been just as busy hundreds of years ago as the Romans would gather together to socialize and collect fresh water for their homes. Today, the fountain is surrounded by small souvenir shops and cafes where I bought local pasta to take back with me. 

Rome has some of the most famous fountains in the world. The Trevi Fountain being one of Rome’s Historical landmarks, was commissioned by the pope to be constructed to provide a fresh source of water from aqueducts for the ancient Romans. Even today, fresh water is supplied to the fountain and will continue to do so for many years to come. Trevi Fountain is truly a magnicifent work of art.

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Gondola Ride – Venice

Aahhh Venezia. Truly, this is an experience which left me speechless. Enjoying  a Gondola ride in Venice is definitely a once in a lifetime experience you must share with your loved ones. Swaying down the Grand Canal will give you an amazing view of the facade of Venetian architecture that dates back 1500 years. As your gondola drifts through the canal you will pass over the historical Rialto bridge with it’s tiny windows which are actually small shops. The Republic of Venice has forbidden anyone from changing the design of the buildings to preserve the authenticity of the city. Thus, the Venice you see today is exactly how it used to look like hundreds of years ago!

They say the lagoon used to be a light mint color but now it has become a darker shade of green, due to pollution, but to my surprise the water didn’t have a ‘fishy’ smell. Gondolas are the symbol of Venice and our gondolier (Gondola driver) was extremely charming as he helped my family and I onto the boat. Fortunately for us, we were lucky enough to have a singer, Diego on our Gondola.  As our Gondolier expertly rowed us through the small canals, locals peered out their windows to wave at us and hear Diego as he beautifully sang ‘Ciao Venezia’.  

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As you step off your Gondola and walk into St. Mark’s square, it might look a bit familiar because a few of Hollywood movies have been filmed there like La Dolce Vita and not to mention a few of Bollywood songs. As you gaze around the shops and turn your back to the square, you will see the grand St. Marks Basilica inspired by Byzantine architecture with the famous sculpture of the four bronze horses which were  looted from Constantinople (Current day Istanbul) in 1204.

After having dinner that night back in our hotel inland, we decided it would be an injustice not to see Venice in its entire romantic allure all lit up at night. So we hopped on the vaporetto #1 (Water taxi), which runs through the Grand Canal (main waterway in Venice) and within 40 minutes we reached St Mark’s Island. I overhead locals chatting about the high tides that night. I didn’t know how that would affect us, but I soon found out. As we got off the taxi, the islands were flooded. I mean, I don’t think anyone can ever imagines that Venice can get flooded because it is so well preserved. I kid you not, there was water till our knees and we had to walk across wooden planks over large puddles. But hey, it was an experience to explore Venice during the day and night, over water and under!

As I sat on the steps of the Piazza, facing the square soaking in the moment, everything seemed so magical and at peace. St. Marks glistened in the moonlight with Bach playing in the background from a party happening at a nearby hotel. This moment was perfection. I was couldn’t help but smile to myself, it was overwhelming because I had imagined myself visiting Venice for many years, and finally here I was.

The floating city has magnetism, it draws you in, almost sharing its secrets but not quite, leaving you overwhelmed and a bit prepelled because the short time you get to spend there will not be enough to truly appreciate Venice in all its glory.

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Medival Town of San Gimignano

Have you ever wondered where movies such as Lord of the Rings gain medieval architectural inspiration from? Well I am positive that they took a tour of the medieval town San Giminyano. As you step through the grand gates of the town, you will be rewinded back in time 800 years ago. The buildings of the town are perfectly preserved stone buildings.The high altitude of the town has the most beautiful view of the famous Tuscan Hills, boasting miles of vineyards decorating the landscape.  The town is a closely gated community which is a very clever defence mechanism. Hundreds of years ago, the people would fear getting invaded by nearby towns and countries and thus they were able to close the town gates quickly to avoid getting ambushed.

The small houses have been converted to souvenir shops and ice cream parlours. Just the perfect thing because I was craving for something sweet and tangy and I found the right treat to fulfill my sweet tooth.  I found the perfect flavour of Gelato (Italian IceCream) at one of the most famous gelato parlours in the world located in San Gimignano! I tried a very unusual combination of Strawberry and Rosemary, something really untraditional for me, but I was in a daring mood.

San Gimignano has gothic and romanesque inspired architecture with small Churches and bell towers that would give the inhabitants a view of the surrounding land for miles. It is a cozy little town and I can imagine in the 14th century, the people of the town lived in a close knit community. It was such a treat to visit San Gimignano, it is truly one of Italy’s many hidden treasures that you must experience when visiting the country.

 

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View of the Tuscan Hills

View of the Tuscan Hills

I have highlighted only a few of my favourite places in Italy. As my trip was coming to an end, I knew the goodbyes would be the hardest. Gazing above the clouds outside my airplane window feeling completely at loss, I felt thankful none the less for all the great friends I made, and timeless memories I will carry back with me. As I look back today, my trip to Italy was more than a vacation, it was a live history class, it was an enriching journey of adventure and self-discovery. Until next time.

Arrive Derci Italia.

As a famous explorer once said, ‘Traveling- It will leave you speechless, and then turn you into a story teller’.

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              ~View of the French Alps from Northern Italy~

(Note: All photography is my own)

The beauty of Ramadan & Islam – Clarifications & Misconceptions

In the name of Allah (G0d), the most Gracious and the most Merciful.

As the blessed month of Ramadan comes to an end, I have a few thoughts I wanted to share.

This is the month in which the Quaran was sent down to Prophet Mohammad (Peace be Upon Him) as a guidance for mankind. In the Holy Book, God teaches mankind how to live his life with righteous principals. In the month of Ramadan, Muslims give up eating between sunrise to sunset, in order to practice patience, self-control and ultimately be thankful for the unlimited blessings that are bestowed upon us.

Living in the west, I often hear about debates between Muslims/non-Mulsims regarding Islam and its religious teachings. Often, discussions and issues brought up are misunderstandings about the religion & misinterpretations about the context of certain values/Quaranic Verses or Hadith (teachings of the Prophet). Non-Muslism are sometimes misguided about Islam, the month of Ramadan and our religious practices.

As a muslim living in the west, balancing eastern and western cultures, I am always striving towards debugging religious stereotypes. I am not a scholar of Islam, just an ordinary citizen of the global community working towards making a positive impact.

For all the Non-Mulisms reading this blog, please don’t judge Islam by the image represented by Western media. Islam is often polarized for political and economic agendas. As a Muslim, I would request and appreciate others to learn Islam and the teachings in the Authentic form taught by Scholars. Only then can one truly understand the beauty of the Religion- which is not hindered or skewed by those people with hidden agendas. The religion is based around values of Peace, Love, Human Rights and Justice. Peace is such a fundamental principal of Islam, to the extent that the basic greeting in Islam is As-Salamu Alaykum, which translates to Peace be Upon You. I am proud to be a Muslim, and the more I study my religion, the more I appreciate the blessings that come from the teachings of Islam. My opinions are not biased based on external sources in the media that exploit the religion for political and economic motives. Rather, my opinions are based on my own judgment- through studying Islam from legitimate sources.

I hope to have enlightened you about Islam from a genuine point of view.

As conscious and intelligent citizens, we must appreciate the limited time we have on this Earth and spread as much positivity as we can. The only righteous and self-fulfilling way to leave a mark is to love one another despite our differences. Verily, the guidance of Prophets and the Quaran is sent down upon mankind to guide Muslims, because indeed we would be lead astray without the guidance of the divine.

Stay blessed. Have Faith. Spread the Love.

*Inspirational quotes* 
 
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How Travel Can Change You

Every now and then I like to read articles posted on Facebook by friends and acquaintances. But not all resonate as well as this article did. Some are gossip columns about celebrities, motivational quotes or the latest sports victory.
However, this article stood out to me. I can relate. Maybe because travelling has been part of my lifestyle for so long… growing up moving houses, cities, countries and continents as a whole, you do appreciate the little things and that hot cup of tea in the mountains on a foggy chilly morning.

http://www.scoopwhoop.com/inothernews/travel-changes-you/

Enjoy,
A

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Empowerment through Education.

“The lives of millions of women can be changed, if we think differently. If men and women in tribal and patriarchal societies can break even a few norms, if they can abolish the discriminatory laws of the systems in their states, which go against the basic human rights of Women” – Ziauddin Yousafzai

An awe-inspiring talk from the Father of Malala Yousafzai, about the liberation of women through a very powerful medium – Education. 

 

Summer Photography – Flowers

  It is summer time!

I am often baffled by the beauty hidden in nature. Here are close up shots of flowers I took. Flowers which otherwise would seem very ordinary, but when viewed with a closeup lens, are nothing short of extraordinary. 

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Snow White

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Cherry on Top

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Gum Drops

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Be who YOU are.

Be who you are

In the midst of all the chaos, the ever changing universe… it has become quite difficult not to loose your authenticity. Think of yourself as an elastic band… and think of social media pulling you in one direction, the government in another, cultural expectations and your career in another. You are basically being maxxxxxed out every day. So ofcourse its going to be tough to stay true to who you are and more importantly who you want to become.

I am not stating that you cannot reinvent yourself by all the various factors of life that are pulling you in different directions. What I mean is, are you inventing yourself in the best possible version of yourself? Yes we are all going to have different senarios in our life that might influence our authenticity and challenge our vision of ourself.

But the goal is to remain true to yourself, do things you love even if you are judged on them ( and most judgment comes from people closest to you) . Challenge cultural boundaries if they are counterintuitive. But most importantly find your ‘happy place’ which is not really a place, but rather a balancing act. It is in act where you live your life in a way where you allocate time for what is important, and take out time once (or twice) a week to indulge in a hobby which you have never tried before. Your authenticity should be a constant in your life so don’t compromise on it by things that are ever changing like those forces that pull the elastic band.

Be you. Whoever that may be.

-A

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Love vs Consumerism…. Do we have it all wrong?

I watched this video on Ted Talks and it blew me away. How do we perceive love? Do we have it all wrong? How has loved changed from our parents generation to ours?

With consumerism taking over our conscious mind, technology/clothes/cosmetics…. will we be able to maintain an authentic relationship with our friends and family in the generations to come since we are becoming more and more consumed by temporary facets of this life?

Share your views in the comments.

Photography through my eyes

A random collection of my photography.

Architecture, animals, nature, art.

 

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(Angels above)

 

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(The beginning of beauty)

 

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(Blind ambition)

 

Lost but found

(Lost but found)

 

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(Drip drops)

 

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(Red marks the spot)

 

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IMG_1186(Beauty Queen)

 

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(Mirror Mirror… )

 

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(Pinocchio in Verona)

 

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(Slightly off?)

 

IMG_2942(Perspective)

 

IMG_2955(Locked Love)

 

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Visiting Vancouver- Part 3

Whistler 

When visiting Vancouver City it is an absolute must that you must also visits Whistler! Just a two hour drive outside of the city lies this cute village that is absolutely charming, romantic and has a European ambience. You may recognize Whistler as the host of the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic games.

The scenic drive to Whistler on the Sea to Sky Highway was nothing short of gazing into a dream world. The road borders the outskirts of mountain ranges on one side, and on the other side is a spectacular water view of the Horseshoe Bay. You definitely get the best of both worlds taking this highway!

Whistler is a small village mostly consisting of souvenir shops, cafes, and restaurants. It is a retreat with amazing view of the mountain ranges and daring ski slopes. The village attracts thousands of tourists each year especially in the winter. There is so much beauty year round to enjoy and explore in Whistler; fresh air, forests, mountains and lakes!

 

View from Sea to Sky Highway 

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Autumn in the mountains ❤

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Lost Lake- Whistler 

 

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Whistler Village from my hotel room

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Goodbye to an awesome trip to Vancouver.
If you wish to travel within Canada,  you should definitely visits Vancouver and Whistler. Natural beauty at its best.

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(All photography is my own)

 

Visiting Vancouver – Part 2

Stanley Park

Walking in Stanley Park is like strolling through a Jane Austen novel on a foggy afternoon. It is Canada’s very own Central Park. With romantic walkways, organic ponds, tall lamp posts… it is nothing short of a scene out of your dreams. I had read about the park in books and articles, but never knew it was this magnificent with such vintage charm.

After a fun filled day of exploring Vancouver and eating supper, I decided to take a stroll in the park which was located close to my hotel near the harbour. During the day it was raining, but by the time I visited the park, the rain had stopped and the fog had settled in. I don’t think I would have had such as splendid experience exploring the Park as I did if the weather was not as misty.

The best way to sum up my experience would be: mysterious, meditative and mindful.The park will make you feel grounded, remove your worries, and give you a deeper sense of appreciation for nature.

I hope to have captured precious glimpses of the park through my photography.

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Eternally blissful sense of peace. 
 

(Note: all photography is my own)