The 15:24 to Fort Williams pulls out, leaving three of us behind on the platform at Corrour. I follow the couple who’ve alighted, across the tracks to the station house, which also serves as cafe, bar, restaurant, and reception. Inside, there’s a working fireplace, plenty of literature, a cozy couch, an enticing handwritten menu with the promise of sumptuous meals and tasty beverages, and for added comfort, three adorable canines. Its too late for lunch and much too early for dinner, so I make do with a cortado and a whiskey fruit loaf.
The Caledonian, Scotland’s Ambassador on Rails
Of all the glorious railway termini London boasts off, Euston might be the only outlier. And while my original plan – in the pre-pandemic era – would have involved Brunel’s magnificent Paddington Station as a point of departure, I’m going to have to make do with this incredibly dreary 60s remake of what was almost certainly a more impressive Victorian affair back in the day.
Thankfully, my time in Euston’s concourse is short-lived, and after a quick bite at Nando’s outside, I make my way to Platform 1. Barring Saturdays, The Caledonian’s “Highland” service departs Euston nightly at 9:15 pm, but unlike every other train listed on the departure board, there is no rush to board. This being an overnight train, things are a lot more civilized and sleeper class passengers can board upto 45-minutes prior to departure, giving one ample time to drop off one’s belongings, and then – as should be the case on any respectable journey – make one’s way towards the Lounge Car.
2021: The travel year that almost took off
0525 am, an unearthly hour by any standard. Even more so if its a flight one has to catch. And that’s precisely how it went down for me on my first flight in 17-months. A journey that lasted less than an hour, from Burlington, Vermont to JFK. Fleeting as it was, being cocooned with a bunch of strangers – in varying states of mask compliance – within the cramped environs of a regional jet, felt entirely unnatural. Some six flights and a half year later, it still does.Continue reading “2021: The travel year that almost took off”
Temples, Tuk Tuks and Longtails, in the time of Covid-19
Its surreal, almost irreverent, to be writing about travel at this time. And hard to believe that I was on the road only about a month ago. When I flew out at the end of February, there were no travel restrictions in place, and not a single confirmed case in all of NYC. When I returned on the 10th of March – to absolutely zero checks at JFK – confirmed cases in the area were in the double digits. From the 13th, we began working from home, in what was then only deemed a precautionary measure. The words lockdown and social-distancing had yet to make inroads in our collective lexicon.
For the few of us who made this trip – despite being warned by friends and family – it was a calculated risk all along, or so we thought. Not in our wildest imagination did we consider a scenario as dire as the one we’re all living through today. We were all incredibly lucky, in hindsight, to go through with our itinerary as planned, and return to our respective cities unscathed.
This is, no doubt, my last post for a while, but I eagerly look forward to the day when the world goes back to being the open and welcoming place its meant to be, and we can all make travel plans with confidence once again. Till then, I remain immensely grateful for the privilege accorded to me last month, and to be able to share those memories with all of you today.
Continue reading “Temples, Tuk Tuks and Longtails, in the time of Covid-19”
2019, and looking ahead
2019 was an exceptionally good travel year for me. I visited a handful of new destinations. Revisited old haunts. Spent several precious hours, and many a memorable night, riding the rails. Ate some amazing food. Met some incredible individuals. Checked off a few more boxes on my bucket list. And through it all, had a good deal of retrospection too. All told, I circumnavigated the globe almost thrice last year. And that didn’t come cheap. Not to my wallet, by any means, and not to our planet either. So I’ve decided to start the New Year by being a little more responsible. Responsible towards my travels – everything this past year, and anything going forth. Its a drop in the ocean, I’m aware, but a drop nevertheless. Continue reading “2019, and looking ahead”
Giving Thanks, in the Spanish Virgin Islands
One year on, quite a bit has changed in Vieques. Cellular service is a shade better. Electric supply is a lot less erratic. Street lights, where they exist, are now in working order. The Malecón has been patched up. Credit card acceptance has gone up considerably. Who would’ve thought, but ferry tickets can now be booked online. And the most prominent group visiting the island these days are young Chinese couples. Other than that, Vieques remains as laid back as ever. El Blok feels like a second home; Mojitos flowing at its ground floor bar, and sunset from its rooftop as remarkable as I can recall. Continue reading “Giving Thanks, in the Spanish Virgin Islands”
From Sea to Sky, on the Andean Central Railroad
To most visitors, Casa de la Literatura Peruana is nothing more than an architectural landmark, sandwiched between the Government Palace and a baroque monastery, in Lima’s historic quarter. The more discerning know of it as a library, famed for its exquisite stained glass skylight. But very few are actually aware that this was, in fact, Lima’s main train station. While regular passenger service ceased decades ago, the Ferrocarril Central Andino or Andean Central Railroad still runs a monthly service from here, to the Andean city of Huancayo. And on this characteristically foggy October morning, I’m here to board one of their last departures for the 2019 season. Continue reading “From Sea to Sky, on the Andean Central Railroad”
The Denali Star through Alaska
The snowcapped Chugach Mountains recede, as does any semblance of a clear sky, the dipping sun eventually blocked out by cloud cover thats getting progressively thick. Down below on the Kenai Peninsula, what I took to be low clouds, are in fact wildfires, still burning. The air quality index marks Anchorage as “Very Unhealthy”, and that unmistakably putrid odor is everywhere. The gloominess hardly helps. We haven’t had rain since June, the Uber driver informs me, and the smoke’s been billowing over from the peninsula for days on end. Continue reading “The Denali Star through Alaska”
Basking in Barbados
Barbados, much like Argentina, was not a destination I chose. And although I was there for a very short amount of time, it’s a country I grew to like very quickly. So much so that I wish I could’ve stayed longer. And while eight days might seem too long for an island nation less than two hundred square miles in size, it is, in fact, barely sufficient to do it any justice. Barbados, as it turned out, had a lot more to offer than its renowned coastline, and these are some of my most memorable experiences on the island.
Café at the Garrison
My Airbnb was located just off Carlisle Bay, in the Bayville section of Barbados, a stone’s throw away from the historic Garrison area. A World Heritage Site today, The Garrison, as the name would suggest, was home to British troops for much of their occupation of Barbados. Surrounded by barracks and officers quarters, a lush parade ground known as the Garrison Savanah formed the centerpiece of the area, as it does to this day. The military parades are long gone, of course, suitably replaced by horse-racing, and fittingly, it was on this very patch of green that the Barbadian flag was raised for the first time in 1966.
Continue reading “Basking in Barbados”
Despatches from the Silk Road :: The Great Tibetan High
The traditional ceremonial scarf in Tibetan Buddhism, the khata symbolizes purity, and as a part of our welcome into Tibet, each of us is draped in one. Feeling like true VIPs, we file into a van and make our way from “New Lhasa”, where the station is located, to the old city. We’re booked to stay at the Gang-Gyan Hotel, a property owned by the family of the Panchen Lama, apparently. One look at it though, and the ownership credentials hardly matter, for this is a Tibetan-run establishment through and through.
Continue reading “Despatches from the Silk Road :: The Great Tibetan High”