Sunday, 28 May 2017

Je t'aime PARIS

If you were a painting
I would display your aura
If you were a person
I would cherish your presence forever
If you were a bird
I would love to see you fly
If your were a flower
I would wake up to witness you blossom
But if you are a city
I wouldn't believe you are just stones and concrete
I would believe you have a heart
Graying hair and wrinkles on your forehead
Yet you are ageless
I would believe you define class
I would believe you define love
I would believe you are that prince called "PARIS"

By Aritra

Paris is the dream travel destination for millions of travelers across the globe. It is one of the most visited tourist attractions of the world, with unimaginable footfall every year. And like the millions of aspiring travelers, I too wanted to experience the splendor of the city and imbibe its exuberant vibes.

It was only some time back, that I was roaming in the lanes of champ-de-elysees, drowned in gaiety, I was witnessing the grandeur, world class brands and sheer panache all around. But all good things come to an end and the same is true for holidays, but the happy news is, they don't vanish. They continue to reign supreme on the dwindling paths of your memory lane. At times bringing a smile to your lips, or leaving you gasping for more.

The days I spent in Paris, will be cherished forever. Some say it is overcrowded due to the incredible number of tourists it pulls, but the reality is, it is an impeccable travel destination. After all, is there a soul on the face of this earth, you wouldn't love to sail in a cruise, on the emerald waters of a river and see couples sitting by the bank playing guitar, while the Eiffel Tower at a distance, lights up in its resplendence? I guess none.

The make of the city makes it unique. The lack of high risers, uniformity of architecture, splash of history, resonance of art, the narrow stone lanes and the open air street restaurants, it is extremely difficult to be not overwhelmed. 

Our first day, was the day the city revealed its eccentricity to us. We had opted for a home-stay option through Airbnb and the apartment was in Bastille, the heart of Paris. Truly speaking it was a great location to be. Very well connected to all major tourist spots and also a happening locality lined with many eateries, which are open till late at night. Our hosts, the lovely couple Yacine and Emmanuel were great company to be with. They made us very comfortable and we actually had long hours of chat. While Emmanuel is French, Yacine is from Africa, both of them are majorly associated with social work. It was indeed a pleasure meeting people, who believe in humanity and love, and practiced the same through their lives. Emmanuel also helped us in figuring out the best way of commuting in the city, and his magic bus number '69' made traveling easy and fun. This bus basically goes to every place of interest in Paris.

The first rendezvous with the majestic Eiffel Tower, is a moment I will always cherish. Books, internet and many other sources have made it visible to the world, but nothing compares to standing in front of its hugeness. It was one moment when I felt so happy to have planned the vacation.

The amount of walking I have done in the city is incredible, probably I don't walk that much in a month in India. And the sole reason being the weather, which infused infinite amount of energy into my ever lazed out self. 

Well, at this point I must confess. that this post is not about the artistry you cherish in Louvre, or the excitement of climbing 300 mt to the top of Eiffel or even the ecstasy of cruising on the river Seine, because the world knows enough of that. My narrative is enjoying unison with the soul of a city, and breathing in sync with it. It is the unbridled joy of walking kilometers hand in hand with your loved one on the banks of the river, waiting patiently for the sun to sink and the tower to light up.

One of my best moments with the city is the time we spent on Pont Alexandre III, a deck arch bridge on Seine connecting Champs-Elysees with the Eiffel Tower area. It is considered as the most ornate bridge in Paris. And trust me, the view from the bridge, its aura and the surrounding eateries, makes it worthy to spend some time. In fact it is a beautiful location for photo-shoot and we witnessed many newly weds posing amidst the grandeur.

Nature was truly giving and we cherished its different hues in full galore. The dawn and the dusk, the cloudy and sunny, it even drenched us in an unexpected shower when we were relaxing on the garden adjacent to Eiffel Tower one evening. 

Some words of advice to travelers:

a. Paris is famous for pickpockets and snatchers, be very cautious. One wrong move and you are doomed.  However, it is not as bad as it sounds, but its very important to know about this in advance.

b. Well, my personal experience says,never go with a tours and travels agency. Public transport is easy and safe, you can easily avail and roam around. Besides if you are an uncurbed soul, you need to have the power of deciding. However you have to do a good amount of homework about the metro and bus routes, which my husband did for us.

c. Food is expensive and be prepared to spend a good amount on that. But the eateries have great aura and are worth experiencing.

d. You can book a home-stay from Airbnb. It is safe. But while choosing see the location and study it's accessibility from nearby metro station and bus stands. We stayed in Bastille, with Yacine and Emmanuel. They are wonderful and warm hosts and the location is very convenient.

e. Make a note of holidays, on some days the Louvre Museum is closed.

f. We had booked our Eiffel, Louvre and Seine Cruise, through Viator. But I didn't find it very well organised and it's overpriced.

g. A little warning about Paris Airport, Charles De Gaulle, dear readers its huge and baffling. And anytime if you plan to transit via Paris, have sufficient lay over to enjoy hassle free travel.

Travel tales, like that of Paris, are more than just travel. They impart that pleasure for the soul, if you truly want. Yes it is crowded, yes it is expensive but its unique, in its aura, its vibe, its architecture and of course its soul, which unifies with that of the traveler if they intend to.

We loads of paintings, artistry and ambiance we have returned back to India, to relish those memories forever.

Aritra Chakrabarty Sengupta

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Marriot Marquis Houston- luxurious dwelling

Last month I had almost a week long stay in Marriott Maquis Hotel, in Houston. This starred hotel in Houston downtown is no doubt a luxurious abode, with all world class facilities. The location is great, with many restaurants, offices, shopping centres in walkable distance. Its distance from George Bush International airport is around 19 miles. 

The hotel is chicly furnished and is extensively maintained. Well! With the kind of money they charge, there is practically no room for bad execution, anyways. Initially we did face some internet issue (for info: wifi is chargeable), but thankfully it was well addressed.

But the hotel is special for me, and the reason is the grandiloquent view my room had to offer. For the few, who might be following my narratives, already know my fascination towards sky scrapers and the illuminated night view they offer to their dwellers. I truly feel at the top of the world, when I sit in the silent darkness of my rising abode and witness the lights moving around or  mesmerising in their stagnancy. To add to the beauty of the elaborate city, my room had a pool side view.  In totality what met my eyes, when I pulled aside the curtains, after returning from the seminar each day, was a high-flown city and its aureate lights, together with the turquoise fluorescence of the pools.

The Hotel's sixth floor terrace poolside is a sight to behold, numerous pools, lazy river, jacuzzi and  a bar by its side. If you are travelling with friends, definitely you can a have a gala time. 

The rooms are comfortable and well equipped. But the frequency of replenishing the toiletries was at times inadequate.There are many restaurants, sports bar etc and the lobby is luxurious, like all five-star properties.

Overall Marriott Maquis is a great hotel to be, the staff is warm and helpful. It is expensive and but we all know that luxury comes with a price.

Aritra Chakrabarty Sengupta

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Xochi-More than a restaurant review

When I visited this place in Houston, honestly I had no idea of its uniqueness. But after returning to India, when I read about Xochi, I appreciated its fame.

"Xochi (so-chee), from Xochitl, Goddess of the Flowers, meaning to bloom or catch fire, is the newest creative endeavor of award-winning Chef Hugo Ortega.  Xochi celebrates the culinary and indigenous richness of Oaxaca, Mexico and its varied geographic regions and preservation of primitive customs with an unrivaled menu of Oaxaca-inspired food and drink" - this excerpt has been taken from

To be frank, the cuisines mentioned in the menu card were gibberish to us. We read the description to acquire some insight on what the dishes might be. Needless to say it was a tough time to narrow down, to what we could eat. We were meticulously searching for familiar ingredients and ultimately got some. Most of us ordered from the "Plato Fuertes" category, and I specifically wanted to have "Ensalada de Betabel con Pollo". This dish comprised of roasted chicken, some rice portion, and vegetables with dressings, pretty much unknown to me. However, the good news is, it tasted great. They even customized the dish with fish for us. Unfortunately I don't remember the variety, but the twist made it more sumptuous for sure.

I would specially mention the guy who served us. In spite of the quantum of communication gap, he really took care. In all my ignorance, I even savored a dish called  “Tlayuda” which Chef Hugo specially complimented us with, without actually having a word of appreciation with him. Now for those who might be interested to know, Tlayuda is an iconic street food dish of Oaxaca, very large, thin Oaxacan tortillas with various toppings cooked over wood. (Info source:

Although I missed the opportunity to meet a celebrated culinary expect and have a word or two with him, my narrative is a token of appreciation for sure.

We had entered Xochi with inhibitions; a little unsure of the tastes they serve. But they surprised us with their unique ability of blending the needs of every customer with the authenticity of Oaxacan food. The food was warm and so was their gesture.

I recommend Xochi to food lovers and enthusiasts, who believe in experiencing and experimenting with the different flavors that life has to offer.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Pappasito' s - A restaurant review

Travel is an experience and I believe in making the most out of it. Every travel diary is like a painting, where nature meets human emotions. A place, is not only mountains, sea or sky scrapers, the people, their culture, their living habits and their existences infuses that uniqueness, which travelers tend to explore and extract. I also believe that food is an important criterion or means to plunge into the vulnerabilities of a race or kind or type of people. Hence whenever I travel to an unknown destination, I love to experience their eating habits, as much as my limitations as a consumer allows me. 

In my recent visit to Houston, unfortunately I didn't get the chance to experience much of their culture or food. However one of the few eateries I visited interested me enough to write a review about it.

Pappasito's Cantina, a Mexican restaurant in Hotel Hilton in Houston Downtown, is strategically located to attract the attention of the passerby crowd. And also since its open for longer hours compared to other eateries nearby, it saved the starvation of late eating people like us.

The crew was amazing and very welcoming, there was an uninhibitedness about the place. The decor was interesting and was dominated by the red colour. It was great to see people come to celebrate their weekend drowned in euphoria. We had ordered shrimp and chicken Fajita, it was more than enough for two people. The preparation was delicious, rise portion, tossed veggies and tacos tasted great. But the grilled shrimp was remember-worthy, I generally don't consume too much shrimp in restaurants, but that night was an exception.

Overall Pappasito was a wholesome experience and a good place to visit.

Aritra Chakrabarty Sengupta 

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Hi Houston!!

My first visit to the United States of America was purely official, I visited Houston for attending and presenting in a seminar conducted by Aspen Tech Inc. It was held in the Marriott Maquis Hotel, in Houston downtown.

Houston, is the most populous city of the State of Texas and the fourth most populous city of the United States. It is hub of different industries and job opportunities. The skyline of the city is expectantly lined with enormous sky scrappers and a lot is being built. In fact the city is anticipated to rise up in the radar of big cities of the US.

But my heart was not particularly concerned with the high-risers and hustle-bustle of the glittering city life. I wanted rendezvous with the soul of the city, but time was limited. The days kept me busy with the conference, anxiety of presenting and much more.

But the evenings were relaxed, and that was the time I tried to know Houston.

Coming from a developing country to one of the most developed countries of the world, definitely gives the opportunity to admire the perfectness of the manmade wonder cities. The cleanliness of the streets, the traffic control, noise control and intervening relaxation provided by the greens, water bodies, gives that feel good factor. 

The first admire-worthy aspect was the view from my hotel room. The magnificent poolside and the beautiful city, I knew I would love my stay. 

Anyways overcoming the jet-lag was a task, but as soon as I did that, I stepped out of the hotel, to sneak around. Contrary to India, most of the eateries close by 9 or 9:30 in the night. So locating a good place for dinner was the first challenge. We narrowed down to Pappasito's Cantina, a Mexican Restaurant in Hotel Hilton, with an impressive interior, dominated by the colour 'red'. We ordered shrimp and chicken fajita, and it was mouth smacking.

The next evening with we to the famous Galleria Mall of Houston. It was enormous, but commonality of all malls, strikingly disappoints you, whatever may be the size. This one however, is more known for the high end brands. Louis Vuitton, to Prada, to Burberry and many more, it was a melting pot, of high street fashion like Zara, Forever 21 and the ballroom class. However, as most of these names are available in India, I didn't buy much.

Third evening was the most beautiful one. Aspen Tech had arranged a party for all its customers, and the best part was, it was a rooftop party was Texas special country music. The poet and writer in me, always commemorates uniqueness. Be it a simple old eatery, or a gigantic city, I never tend to miss the little feeling that everything inanimate bears within itself. I loved the easy breezy looking, bearded musicians, who made the atmospheric tangibly amorous that night.

I believe that it not possible to explore everything, it is important to be at peace with the moment and relish its existence. And hence the last evening, I spent mostly with myself by the pool. I love swimming, but the temperature was low for a tropical girl like me. The sunset was endearing, I loved the breeze and the gradual lighting up of the enormous city. I could spent hours with myself and let the air play with my long black traces, but again time was limited. Nobody would know, my humming of my loved tunes. 

I didn't get much time to interact with people of the city, but my sparse interaction left warm memories in my heart. Aspen Tech gave us a very warm welcome and to the dreamer, writer me,  some frames I could cherish.

No travel, is long or short.
No travel is irrelevant.
No travel is unworthy of a painting in the mind.
No travel is insignificant to me......

Aritra Chakrabarty Sengupta

A little warning for the people who travel to the city. If you are a foreigner completely unaware of the surroundings, avoid going out alone too far. We experienced people who asked for money, and at times when denied they shadowed for sometime. I have no idea what their intention was, but whatever it was, it wasn't too noble. 

Mia Cucina - A restaurant review

Mumbai is a city for sheer indulgence. No matter how much it wears and tears you apart, yet it sets up every opportunity to mend those wounds. So when the week long toil is about to break you apart, weekend dawns with the hope of rejuvenation. As the day shifts from Monday, to Tuesday, to Wednesday and so on, planning and formulating the upcoming weekend activities gradually build around us.

Few weekends back the scene was no different and as per our plans, I and two of my friends went to Mia Cucina, Hiranandani Gardens Powai.

I loved the concept of that entire lane lined with restaurants with open sitting arrangements, somewhat resonating the European culture. We chose Mia Cucina, because it was relatively less crowded than the rest. However, that does not essentially mean that it is less popular. Basically, the other ones are relatively new, making them more attractive to the prospective visitors. 

We ordered Bruschetta polio con olivata, Spaghetti with chicken & white sauce and another Fish dish,and it is worth mentioning that the food was good.

In totality, Mia Cucina is a good visit, if you want nice food, open air ambiance and relatively less crowd compared to the other revered eateries in the vicinity, do visit Mia Cucina.

Aritra Chakrabarty Sengupta