Sunday, 9 February 2020

Switzerland


Last year, I had an opportunity to visit the beautiful Switzerland with my friends. I was there just for a weekend but I think it was a great little trip. We flew to Basel airport. One thing to remember about Basel is that it can be very confusing- there is a Swiss part and a French part. Though both parts have a common airport, they have distinct train stations, right next to each other. It is kind of complicated to explain, so I highly recommend that you read up a bit about it if planning to visit. We visited during late September. The weather was quite pleasant during this time and we could make do with light to no woollens if we wore thermal wear, except for Engelberg and Mt. Titlis where is was freezing cold.

Some quick tips:
1. We stayed at a place called St. Louis in France which is really close to Basel and then went to Lucerne each day, which is about an hour from Basel by train. Lucerne is one of the largest central train stations in Switzerland which is very well connected with other touristic parts of the country. I would recommend that you find a hotel close to the Lucerne station.
2. We also purchased a Swiss Pass online which you can buy even before you reach the country. It is a cost effective way to travel in the country with a lot of inclusions- do check it out and see if it makes sense for your travel.
3. The Swiss pass is applicable only on public transport in Switzerland and cannot be used to travel from St. Louis to Basel- you will have to buy separate tickets from St. Louis station if you want to travel to Basel.
4. Also, please remember that the train timings and frequency applicable in Swiss part of Basel station is not applicable to the French part.
5. Another tip- the trains almost dry up at around 7:30-8:00pm on Sundays in the French part of Basel, so if you plan to stay in St. Louis- you would have to return quite early to the French Basel station to get your train back to St. Louis, on weekends.
6. Switzerland does not accept Euros and France does not accept Swiss Francs. So, please ensure you carry the correct foreign exchange. It is so easy to confuse the two because you can really walk from French to the Swiss part in Basel. It is sometimes hard to say which part you are in.

On Day 1, we went to Stanserhorn from Lucerne. We got off at the Stans station and walked to the Cabrio ride, which took us up a mountain called Stanserhorn. We first had a furniculaire ride and then a ride on an open cable car ride up to Stanserhorn. The open cable car ride was one the best rides I have taken. There are times it gets a little scary, especially if you look up during the ascent as the mountain can be very steep and vertical. A few of our fellow visitors were from Switzerland and showed us during the ascent, the birthplace of Switzerland. Upon reaching the top of Stanserhorn, the views were breathtaking! The pictures below do not really do justice to the beauty we experienced. This was the mountain where Heidi's grandpa's cottage was supposed to be and they also had a model cottage of her grandpa.  We planned on spending an hour here but we were so mesmerised in the beauty of the place that we ended up staying here for several hours.


Both the above pictures are that of Funiculaire

View during the Furniculaire ride

Open air cable car

During one of the steep ascents


From here, we can see the birthplace of Switzerland but hard for me to point out to the exact spot


All of the above are views from Stanserhorn
Heidi's Cottage
The station to take the rides from


As we decided to stay for a few additional hours in Stanserhorn, we made a few changes to our plans. We went to Lucerne lake for a nice evening of boating and shopping before heading back to our hotel in St. Louis.







Sights and scenes during the boating in Lucerne Lake

The busy Lucerne station- Lucerne in French and Luzern in German

Day 2: We had to visit  Mt. Titlis and take a train ride on the Golden Panaromic route. We travelled to Engelberg from Lucerne. From Engelberg, we need to take a cable car ride followed by a rotair ride to reach the top of Mt. Titlis. From Engelberg onwards, all the way to Mt. Titlis, is a popular tourist destination for Indian tourists. So, do not be surprised if you find some instructions etc, written in Hindi.  Actually, on top of Mt. Titlis, they had a cut out of Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol  from the movie Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, a big part of which was shot in Switzerland. Unfortunately, my friends and I are posing before this cut out, so cannot put up the picture. We partly did a cliff walk over very very slippery snow/ice. Following this, we did a tour of Glacier Cave. There are a few other rides covered in our package but due to rain and general bad weather on the day, they were cancelled. It was a fun trip to Mt. Titlis nonetheless. Just FYI- If you are into cheeses, Switzerland is home to many varieties. Engelberg cheese is a popular Swiss cheese to carry home. However, just consult a local person- some can be really stinky.

Cable car ride from Engelberg to Mt. Titlis

View en route Mt. Titlis

From Mt. Titlis

Engelberg

Cliff Walk at Mt. Titlis



We then took a Golden Panaromic ride to Interlaken. The ride had scenery of indescribable beauty. We also saw several Swiss cows grazing which was somewhat reminded me of the animated telivesed version of Heidi. Unfortunately, we reached Interlaken at around 5pm. The only main tourist attraction is boating on the two lakes which closes at 5pm and we narrowly missed it. However, we toured the city on foot and did a bit of shopping before we head back to our hotel in St. Louis.





Pictures taken on the move during the Golden Panaromic train ride

Interlaken station


Day 3: We were to return after our weekend trip to Switzerland on this day. We had some time at hand before we could board our flight. We did a bit of shopping of chocolates and cosmetics. We still had some extra time, so we went to see one of local tourist attractions in Basel- the Munsterplatz and visited the Basel Minster cathedral. The cathedral was an alluring structure. We then took a tram to and bus to the Basel Airport.

Basel Minster- Munsterplatz

With this ended this leg of the Swiss trip. This trip focussed on some of the off-beat places. I hope to return some day to other attractions like Geneva, Zurich etc.


Sunday, 26 January 2020

2020 Planner



In my previous blogpost, I had mentioned that this particular post would be about my 2020 planner. As you already know I am a big fan of stationery. I did look around for some planners online and also at the stores but could not find one which fit my requirement or my budget. So, I decided to print one for myself. One might think, I had a lot of special needs but when I share my planner with you, you will realise that mine is very basic. Many planners had things like Books to read, TV shows to watch, Movies to watch, mood tracker, inspirational quotes etc. I really did not want to track these at all and wanted the planner to be simple enough for me to use it everyday. I also did not want to carry around a lot of pages around with when I know already, that I would not use them immediately. Usually, I use a one day a page dated diaries but this year, I thought of trying something different.

When looking for free printables, I found this site (click here). I just fell in love with their printables. They have them in 2 sizes A4 and A5 and in so many varieties that you would definitely find the one you love. Also, I got to mix and match from a variety of options from what they had to offer. While this was the website where I found most of my material, I also printed out a few from other websites. I will also leave a link to them in case you are interested. Now, moving on to the planner I created for myself:

Front and Back Cover:
I like florals so I chose these and printed them out on 300 gsm watercolour paper. For front cover, I chose the multi floral and for the back, I chose fall flower. Both were from the amazing website linked above.




The next thing I did was choose separators, which I selected again from this site. I chose the sea creature swirl. These were also printed on 300 gsm watercolour paper.



I then printed out the Birthdays and Anniversaries sheet, again from the same website. I chose the blank one. I printed these on Paperone 100gsm regular paper.



I then printed out my monthly spread from the same website using a random different theme every month. I am not posting pictures of those here. Again, these were printed on 100 gsm regular paper.

The next thing I printed out was the year at a glance from this website (click here). Printed on 100 gsm regular paper.



This was followed by the printable goals planner/worksheet. I printed this out from this website (click here). Printed on 100 gsm regular paper.



The next thing I printed out was a habit tracker from this website (click here). Printed on 100 gsm regular paper.


As mentioned previously, I did not want to use one day a page for planning my work. I decided to use a weekly spread again from the initial website (click here). Printed on 100 gsm regular paper. So, far, this has lasted me the whole month. I noticed that I was not really using up the entire column, so I divided it into several parts horizontally and add a new date each time and write my to-do for the day. Has been working well so far.


I printed my entire planner of A4 sheet, even though I prefer A5 size. I started by looking for soft binders to keep my planner pages in but could not find any. However, A4 sized soft binders were easily available. So, decided to print my planner in A4 size paper. I did not want to punch the beautiful pages, so I chose a transparent slide grip binder. The printing work and the binder put together must have cost about Rs.100 (USD 1.40). My planner looks like this now (sorry for the poor quality picture- It looks much more vibrant and colourful than on the picture).



In the binder, I have placed a year at a glance page, birthdays and anniversaries, goals pages, habit tracker, a monthly spread for the first quarter and the weekly spread for 4 weeks alone. Actually, each weekly spread is lasting me for a month, so I assume I have enough for 4 months :). All the extras for the coming quarters and weeks is placed in this folder and I pick out the papers from this as and when I need.


The website I have been mentioning  has a lot of other ideas that you could include in your planner as well as different binding ideas. Do spend sometime is visiting it- it is a fantastic website.

I have just mentioned added snapshots to show you what I exactly used. Since it is a free download at all these websites, request you to not print anything from here (they would anyway not comply to any size), and visit the websites mentioned in the links and download/print from these websites. All of them have put in a lot of hard work for our sake and giving these wonderful tools to us for free- I appreciate their efforts and I am really grateful to them.

Saturday, 18 January 2020

2020 Goals


In my previous post, I had mentioned that I had worked on defining my goals for this year. I started thinking about them in Dec,2019. This year, I also put a system around it so that I am more focussed on it. Some of my goals are currently high level without much details. This is because, I have decided that not everything needs to begin on Jan 1st. If Jan 1st had life, it would have crumbled by now under the weight of expectations and the number of things people would dumped on it. Anyway, I would be working on some of my other goals, adding more specific details and information as the year progresses. Some of my goals have a strict deadline as well, so I need to get them out of my way by those dates, so that I can work on other goals. This year, I have split my goals into 3 categories:

1. Related to Habit- This is about forming new habits and maintaining existing habits. I will be measuring these but in terms of how compliant I have been.
2. Time-bound Goals- These are goals with a strict deadline for me to achieve them.
3. Self-improvement- While the above 2 categories of goals are also for self-improvement/personal development, this particular category of goals is focussing on development of soft-skills. There is no way to know if I have achieved them but I need to make a conscious effort every day to follow some tips. I doubt that such a goal can come with a deadline, so I have not set any. To me these are for life but I am going to make a conscious effort this year.

With this introduction, I present my 2020 Goals before you. I am going to be as brief as possible with minimal to no explanation, so that this post does not end up being too long. I am not mentioning here which goals begin when and end when as I am working on getting some of the timing right myself and trying out different permutations and combinations to find the best schedule to work on them:

Habit Goals:

1. Write 1 line in my journal everyday: In the past years, I did not have much success with writing everyday. After extensive research, I think this one is easier to keep. Even if I have nothing to write on a given day, I can still say- Nothing interesting worth writing happened today. Just a routine day. :)

2. Read for 5 mins everyday 

3.  No Instagram, Youtube and Pinterest beyond 7pm everyday: This is one of the ways by which I will make some time to work on my goals or just relax.

4. Organize and Clean twice a week: I was doing this once a week, I think, the amount of pressure on that 1 day when I need to work on them could be reduced.

5. Spend 5-10 mins time learning something new or listen, read the news everyday

6. Connect more deeply with my family on a daily basis: I do not want to share the specifics further but there is a list of habits in place.

7. Take a meaningful photograph once a week
8. Eat healthy, sleep well and exercise daily

Time-bound goals:

1. Complete the certification that I was working last year.
2. Write 50 blog posts this year
3. Finish reading my current book and additionally read 1 autobiography/biography, 1 self-help book and 1 fiction book by an Indian author

Self-improvement goals:

1. Be much more proactive
2. Develop a sense of urgency
3. Be a good listener and be polite when I reply to people
4. Build self-discipline and work on my procrastination issues

Other than this, I have prepared a list of things to do this year.
- Look for ideas for a side-hustle
- Be well groomed and well dressed always
- Get back to cooking and baking as I had taken a break in 2019
- Declutter my books
- Plan my finances better
- Plan a vacation/staycation
- Work on a creative project

This is it for my goals this year. In my next blog, I would write about how I have set up my planner for the year. It is very simplistic and so far, has been working for me.







Sunday, 12 January 2020

Happy 2020




Hi Everyone,

Wish you a very Happy 2020. It is already 12 days. I wonder until what time it is okay to greet people a Happy New Year after the new year has begun. As always a new year brings us all hope and excitement. We feel we can start our living our ideal lives, not repeat the mistakes of the previous year, making new changes and hope that it is our best year yet. I am also one of these hopeful people.

While I look forward to this year, I am also thankful for 2019. I am thankful for all that I could achieve, all the people that I met, all the travelling that I did, all the new things that I learnt and every experience that I had. I am also thankful for some revelations that I had about myself, the people around me and the world in general. There were some amazing things that happened in my country and some disappointments too but despite everything, I am hopeful that things will happen for the better this year.

I somehow feel better prepared to face 2020 than I did any of the previous years. It could be due to the fact that I had already started thinking of my goals and what I wanted to achieve in 2020, toward the end of 2019 itself and started planning around them upfront and finalized all that I wanted to do with a proper plan in place within the first week of Jan,2020 itself. This year, I have put in place a planner that I feel will help me achieve my goals. My next blog would be about my goals for 2020, which I hope to publish next week.

I hope this would be a fantastic year for my friends and family.

Wishing everyone a 2020 filled with lots of successes with everything good that you may want to do, a year full of good health and lots of happiness.

-S


Sunday, 29 December 2019

2019 Year End Goals Update




2019 is on the verge of conclusion and this is the right time to reflect on the year that was. I know I have some unmet goals. I had a lot of unexpected travel this year, so some of my goals did take a back seat. In December, my brother came down to visit me, so I traded the time I had set aside for working on goals for some family time. After doing a bit of reading, some of my goals seem to have been set incorrectly. I hope I can learn from my mistakes and make amends next year.

Health:
  • I am going to continue exercising at least 5 times a week. 
  • Additionally, I am eating sugar on specific days of the year and paying close attention to what I am putting into my body and will continue with this effort.
  • Getting adequate sleep
  • If possible, participate in a team sport but this is not a priority.

I would say I have met this goal about 90% mainly because I still need to work on getting adequate sleep. I put in place some plans which looked grand on paper but hard to implement. It is something I will continue to work on next year as well.

Personal Development:
  • Read/Listen/Follow to news every day
  • Take up 2 certifications/courses- one which will help me in my professional career and the other which may or may not help me professionally but it is something to help me further with a hobby or help me develop a new skill.

I am proud to say that I have followed the news very closely and also read up some historic information to understand the news discussions better. 
I have worked towards one of the 2 certifications I had planned. Due to my travel and some other family commitments, I could not really appear for my exams but I have already paid for the last step I needed to take before I appeared for my exams which is most definitely happening next year. The preparations are quite a bit for this exam.


Hobbies:

These are so important to me and help me stay sane in this mad mad world. I cannot imagine not working on one of the below.
  • Reading: This year I would like to read just 1 book by the end of the year. With work and studying that I will be doing this year and with the other goals, I do not think I will be able to read more.
I did complete reading 2 books that I started reading before setting my goals and started on my book of the year. It is kind of an enormous book equivalent to about 5 books so I will continue reading it into the next year.

  • Writing: Last year I started out writing every day and then ran out of content to write everyday. This year, however, I will be writing weekly. It can be about anything but should definitely include 1 thing I did proactively, 1 thing that demonstrates synergy and 1 thing with a win-win attitude, and the progress made with other goals.
I must admit, I have been a little erratic with this goal. One of the methods I will adopt the 2 min rule next year and hope I can do a better job at this as well.

  • Blogging: I would like to write 1 blog post per week from now on. I know it was my goal last year as well and I did not completely meet it. As I said, I have thought long and hard and now have a very good idea of how I can achieve it this year. 
I have not met this goal 2 years in a row. My learning from last year did not help. I guess I have to come up with a new strategy.
  • Art: I would create 1 art work per month. I am happy to inform that I am already underway.
I am happy I have managed this. I have a bit of work left, but mostly done.
  • Cooking/Baking: I love cooking and baking. This year, I am going to try making at least 5 healthy gourmet recipes. In addition, if time permits, I will like to successfully bake 2 types of bread (inspired by Jenna Fischer's Instagram!!).
I really did not think in the beginning of the year that my travel to Italy will present me with this opportunity to try making some gourmet food (for India, not really for Italy) working with local ingredients and spices. I also tried baking one type of bread.

Overall, I think it was an average year when I think about the goals I set out for the year. However, I considering the unexpected things I did year, I think it was not a bad year. Also, I had mentioned initially that I will talk about a social cause, I decided against it as it is mainly charity and I really do not think I am comfortable at this point to discuss it. I will have a challenging 2020 and I am currently thinking of goals to achieve for 2020.

Saturday, 28 December 2019

Favourite Pictures of 2019

We are just 3 days away from 2020 and at this point, I thought of sharing my favourite pictures for this year. It was quite difficult for me to select a few. These may be a part of my Instagram posts etc, and may not be the best ones I shot. They are just my favourite. Also, these are in no particular order.

1. Kodial Teru: Or the Mangalore Car Festival. Earlier this year, I went to my home town to attend the week of the annual Managalore Car Festival, also known as Ratha Saptami. The atmosphere was colourful, vibrant and high on energy. For a person, who is not particularly fond of crowds, I just loved the whole atmosphere.



2. Sundays at Cubbon Park: For a big part of the first half of this year, it was a ritual to visit Cubbon Park on Sundays, to be one with nature and acclimatise our lungs to some fresh air, the below picture was taken on one such occasion.


3. Trevi Fountain: I would be blogging about this soon. I had an opportunity this year this to visit Rome and there were some mind blowing places there, one of which was the Trevi Fountain- the bright white marble fountain.



4.  The Colosseum of Rome: It was a privilege to visit one of the 7 wonders of the World- the Colosseum of Rome. It was supposed to be a quarry and before that an amphitheater to view gladiatorial fights and races.


5. The Spiral Stairs at the Vatican Museum: This is not an attraction in the Vatican, I just loved the view.


6. Pieces of Moon: It is a dream to be on the moon but I do not know if it would be ever realized in this lifetime. I consider myself fortunate to have seen some small pieces of it at the Vatican museum- gifted by Richard Nixon to the People of Vatican City. 



7.  View from Stanserhorn: I also had the opportunity to visit Switzerland this year- coming soon on my blog and this majestic view below is said to be that of the birthplace of Switzerland by one of the fellow visitors of the place. This picture was taken atop Stanserhorn.


8. Belur: In my last blog, I have written already how I was blown away by Belur. The below picture taken close to sunset is one of my favourites. 



9. Book House: Sometimes visits to a book shop brings me a lot of calm, the smell of old books and new and the touch of paper have an indescribable satisfaction. It is sometimes my Happy Place. Just being amidst piles of books brought a smile to my face.



10. The Most Extraordinary Autorickshaw: Given the traffic in Bangalore city, it is hard to imagine that anyone driving can be passionate about their job. This summer, I happened to take a ride on the most extraordinary auto. It had a mobile charging station, drinking water, a fan, make-up mirror, positive quotes, calendar, clock etc. Each of those were my favourites. I am just posting one of them. When I reflect on it at the end of the year, I realised what an effort the autodriver/owner had made to provide some amount of service to the passengers and how in turn it made him satisfied with his really tough and stressful job of navigating through the traffic all through the day, which in turn motivated him. If someone doing such a job can manage a smile and show care for his passengers, I think we in our comfortable offices have really got no reason to complain.