Monday, February 20, 2017

2017 Reading List

To increase my appetite for reading and stay motivated to read more, I am thinking of maintaining a log of the books I read this year - This is my own book club for books/journals/articles... actually any kind of interesting reading material I come across this year. Here is what I have so far, and hopefully this list will be constantly updated throughout the year (and hence the reverse numbering).

3) Kane & Able - My first Jeffrey Archer book was 'The Prodigal Daughter' which I probably read in high school and he has since been one of my favorite authors. After that first book, I think I read all his books back to back except Kane and Able (and now I also need to catch up with his books from the latest Clifton Series). Since we have been locked up in the house this weekend due to rains, this was the perfect pick. Its been a while since I read his books, and 200 pages into this book, I am reminded of why he is my favorite story-teller.

2) Urban Jungle - This book had been on my wish list ever since I first heard about it back in mid-2016. Social media/ Instagram advertising totally caught my attention and I added it to my Xmas wish list. The book was so hard to find in the local bookstores, and had to be ordered online and the shipment kept delaying. Finally Mrs. Santa (mom) gave it to me in January and I have been so glued to each page in the book - admiring the pictures and soaking in a bits of information on styling and caring for plants. Its one of my favourite coffee table books and the only coffee table book that I have read end to end!

1) Arranged Marriage - I first came across Chitra Divakaruni's books when I was browsing in the local Library and her book 'One Amazing Thing' was on the reading list. I loved that book and her writing style - it was just simple story telling and it was so refreshing to me. I also read 'Oleander Girl' and loved that story too. I think her stories all revolve around a strong female character born in India and facing the challenges and adventures of assimilating in the US culture and maintaining the balance of both cultures. Now I want to read all her books, and this is the 3rd pick from the author. It's a collection of short stories and I was a little disappointed in the way stories unfolded - each one had a sad ending or something that depicted that marriages arent perfect and there are too many untold imperfections, and the stories were heavy to read. It is true that marriages aren't perfect, but I like to read for relaxation and not to burden myself with the problems of the characters in the story to think about in my free time!! But, I still think it was a good read, and I am looking forward to reading other books from the author.

Thursday, February 16, 2017


Looking back at the trip we did in May and to continue the Europe travelogue... here is the next part (better late than never!). So we took a train ride from Prague to Vienna and now I know why Vienna is listed as one of the best cities in the world. We only spent a day and half in Vienna, but we made sure to make the most of it!

Day 1 (Actually 0.5): We reached Vienna late in the evening and checked into a cute little airbnb apartment in the heart of the city, right next to the Opera house. The apartment was part of an old building from the 1800s and it had that old charm - A magnificent entry door, really tall ceilings in the hallway leading up the apartments, the tiniest and the slowest elevator that took five minutes to go upto the third floor... all the experiences that remind you that you are in a really ancient building! But the building was very well maintained, it was clean and it looked royal. The small apartment was extremly chic, and it was a perfect for our stay! 
As soon as we checked into the apartment and finished our 'Wow' screams at getting so lucky finding this place, we stepped out and enjoyed Vienese style coffee and pastries by a street-side cafe - This was my favourite memory of the trip!

Vienna is a busy city. People are fashionably dressed and the city has a very busy hustle to it. So different from Prague. 

To add to all the excitement, Megs joined us at Vienna.  After years of planning a visit to Megs in Europe, so glad that we could finally make it happen. And happiness = Old friends + new places!!

In the evening we walked past the Operah House, the old town center, and visited St. Stephens church just before they closed. Since we had so much to catch-up, T found a perfect place for dinner - Figlmüller. The food, the wine pairing, ambiance, service, the company... everything made the dinner an unforgettable experience!

Day 2: The Big Bus tour is the best way to visit a city when you are short on time. The tour also included a 3 hour walking tour around the Oprah house and Old town square and we caught some interesting stories from the tour guide. We covered a lot on the bus and toured the city via the big bus audio recording.

A photo tip - To get the best pics, we always went a little early to the bus and sat in the front bench of the double-decker bus. The glass in front shielded the hair from flying in all the directions and we got the best pics from a height.

The only place we got off the bus was to visit was the Schoenbrunn Palace and I think that was a wise pick considering that we were so short on time. The imperial summer palace built and remodeled in 1750s was a wedding gift to empress Maria Theresa. The palace has  over 1400 rooms, I cannot imagine how the queen decorated them - and here I have 4 rooms to decorate in my new place and after a year in the place, I am still not done! The grand tour allows visitors to see 40 rooms in about an hour's time along with a very well controlled audio tour. The palace exterior was very unimpressive, but the interiors were rich. Each and every room was so grand and majestic - the tapestries, the chandeliers, the paintings, the ballrooms, the gardens - everything was suited to the lavish lifestyles of the kings and empresses! 

After the palace visit and missing the last tour bus, the famished us took an uber to a close-by shopping district (Mariahilfer Straße) to have some beer, wine and sacher torte. T also boasted of his language skills to the uber driver and spoke in random Sanskrit and French to impress him! 

After strolling around the city some more, we had a nice hot thai dinner at 'Bangkok' restaurant and the tired feet called it a day. And we had an early morning train to catch to Budapest...coming up in the next travel blog post.

Goodbye, beautiful city!