Globe Trotting and New Beginnings

Archive for September 2009

We had the opportunity to ride part of the historic Chemins de Fer de Provence train line which runs from Nice to Digne-les-Bains. This is the oldest train company in France (its been around since the 1890s) and its service has survived world wars, withdrawal of government support, and floods.  The company initially had 3 lines:

– The Coastal Line: This line was the company’s original one and went out of business with the advent of bus service and increased usage of cars along the same route.

– The Northern Line: Built to have an alternative route to transport military supplies in case the coastal line was destroyed. This is the existing line.

– The Central Line: The bridges of this line were destroyed in WWII when the Germans left France and were never rebuilt.

The existing line takes an adventurous path from the coast, through the French Alps. It goes through several hand carved tunnels and provides breathtaking views while navigating the mountainous terrain. The train reaches an altitude of over 1000 metres at its peak and the longest tunnel it traverses is the Colle Saint-Michel Tunnel which is 3,457 metres long.

This is the only train line to cut through the French Alps and I highly recommend trying it out if you are in the area (and want to get a different train experience than the boring SNCF trains). There are mordernization efforts underway to upgrade the rail lines as well as carriages. This will be cool, but will take away from the “Quaint-ness” of the ride. These improvements will probably be completed in a couple of years, so try and get on the “Train des Pignes” soon if you want to get the old school experience!

Here are a few pictures and videos from our experience (These do not do justice to the train ride as we only rode the first 20 km and did not get to go through the best parts of line)

CIMG3232Rail Terminal in Nice

CIMG3238Line Map

CIMG3235Old School Poster

CIMG3200Ritu outside Train

CIMG3227Ritu on Train

CIMG3219View from initial part of the line

Using the hand crank windshield wiper 🙂

Random video during the train ride


If you could play a song outside a famous church, what would it be. I like this guy’s choice….

When hoopy recommended the Blue Lagoon Spa to us, I was skeptical. The term “Spa” usually invokes the following impressions from me:

1) Overpriced

2) Over – “Foo Foo” – ed

3) Overrated

The Blue Lagoon Spa is none of the above. It is “priced”,  classy but not too prissy, and it definitely surpassed expectations. From the mist emanating from the natural geothermal pool, to the massaging waterfall and soothing viking beer, it was an awesome experience.

There are many recommended ways to spend your time there. Here are a few of them:

The Gondalia:

Dip in Lagoon


Dip in Lagoon


Dip in Lagoon

Hookah (if only!)

The Metro:

Dip in Lagoon

Apply silica mud on face


Dip in Lagoon

Apply silica mud on body


Dip in Lagoon

The Workout:

Swim in Lagoon

Stand under waterfall

Hang in steam room

Dip in Lagoon



A note about the price: While the cost of entrance is worth the experience, I found out that most Icelanders seldom visit it because every city has local thermal pools for 1/10th the price. Next time a visit to the local geothermal pool is in order!

Some photos from our visit:


We left Shekhar’s place today at 5:30 pm.  After walking 2 blocks Sahir got a call from Shekhar telling him that we forgot our phone charger :)…. he brought the charger to us while we waited at the corner of 14th and 4th ave. This city never fails to amaze me with the people, the hustle bustle and just the overall energy. We took the 6 train to 51st street and then the E train to Queens and then the air train to JFK. After security and having our last meal – a yummy chicken sandwich and orzo salad from Balducci we walked to our gate and Sahir caught a glimpse of college football on TV. Unfortunately they weren’t playing the TX game so we continued our trek to the gate. There wasn’t a seat available so we sat on the ground and looked at each other and the first thing we said was “He’ll be alright”.

We are waiting at our gate in this hustling bustling airport ready to head out to Reykjavik, Iceland. The trip that we have been planning since March. A part of me is super excited because I still cannot believe that this is actually happening!?! really? we are going to be traveling and living out of a backpack for 4 months?? but at the same time all I can think about is my little Stolu.

Stolu has been sick for the past 3 days, he has been throwing up a lot and after Sameer took him to vet today, the doctor gave him some shots and medications. The verdict is that the vet doesn’t know what’s going on but if these medications don’t work by Tuesday then they will have to proceed with other vigorous methods like taking x-rays, bloodwork and potentially surgery. These sound very scary to me especially because we are not there with him. True, we cannot really do much if we were there but still being with him sounds very comforting right now.  I am SO grateful and thankful that his uncle Sameer is taking such good care of him. It is not easy to take care of a sick animal because you cannot do anything to help him. The animal will do what he has to but at the same time it is not easy to see the animal all depressed and uncomfortable either.

Stoli has been sick only once before. When he was very little I fed him bad treats (i didn’t realize they were expired) and he got diarrhea. He was only 3-4 months old then and he had no idea what was happening to him. He would come out of the litter box with poop all over him and I had to give him a bath every 2 hours. The medicines that the doctor gave him  fixed his tummy and he was good within 4-5 days. We pray and hope that the medicines fix his tummy again and he gets better soon.

Thank you very much Sameer and Zejfa for taking care of our little baby like he was your own. Sorry baby Stolu that we aren’t there with you right now… everything will be fine and you will be better soon.

Love you Stolu baby

Update: Stolu is doing fine now. He is eating and back to being his crazy self 🙂 Hopefully whatever it was has passed.


September 2009
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