30 June 2009

Ridiculously beautiful Switzerland!

Next day we were headed to Interlaken (where we were to halt at night), on route stopping at Montreux - where we took a quick walk around the city
and along its beautiful promenade along lake Geneva
its here that one of the most famous landmarks of the city stands - a statue of one of the city's most famous residents - Freddie Mercury
but our main destination here was Ch√Ęteau de Chillon (a small castle) near by
after the castle we then headed to Lausanne -

where we saw the famous Notre-Dame de Lausanne (below) that was restored by Viollet-le-Duc
then we caught the golden pass panoramic train, on which we had booked the most amazing seats possible - the ones right in front (where the driver is suppose to seat).
It was from this view while winding up and down the valleys
appreciating the many lakes
and the Alps that it really sank in - 'this really is a ridiculously beautiful country'.
Once you get here you too will stop wondering why people refer to this country as 'heaven on earth'!

29 June 2009

Geneva

Our first stop in Switzerland - Geneva -
is set in an amazingly beautiful landscape on the edge of the pristine waters of lake Geneva.
In fact the lake front was soo unbelievable that it has sabotaged all my memories of the city.
I will have to spent more time in the city and away from the lake
to make an opinion about the city
- hopefully that chance will come soon!

28 June 2009

tourist.be

This is my fourth visit to this country and like always this trip too would be a lightning visit.

The day started with a lesson in history at the famous battle ground of Waterloo where the English finally managed stop Napolean,
the site today is marked by this impressive abstract conical hill called 'Lion's mound'.

The later half of the day was spent in the capital - Brussels.
Here we saw the city's most famous landmark
- the petite Mannekin Pis -

and had lots of chocolates around the Grote Markt,
the central market square of Brussels.
And also managed to see one of the buildings designed by the Belgian master architect of the Art Nouveau style - Victor HortaSadly there wasn't much time to explore the city further since we had an early morning flight to catch to Geneva.

27 June 2009

NL

Now to mainland Europe! This was my first visit to the Netherlands after having lived here for 2 years from 2005 till 2007. I was a bit worried of having to face bitter sweet memories at every street corner and was quiet apprehensive. The fear of being unable to appreciate the 3 cities I would visit in this country loomed large!

Luckily my experience in my first city of call - Amsterdam - was quiet contrary and I really enjoyed the city.
As planned we did our round of all the usual touristic stuff - the Van Gogh Museum,
the flower market (above), Dam Square and the of course the famous canal tour. To my surprise I really enjoyed it and I had forgotten how beautiful this city really is!

I also managed to have a pleasant time in the Hague,
where my little cousins just adored the Mini-Holland Park (Madurodam).

My last stop in NL was Rotterdam - now this was never going to be easy! It is here that I went to school and lived. In under 2 years the city had really changed a lot!
Lots of new buildings and infrastructure was being built and parts of the city - that I spend most of my time in - is now a giant building site.I went to my school (the Berlage Institute - below photo) where I met quiet a few familiar faces (Marja, PV, Trummer, Danny, Suchada and Janki),
walked past my favourite housing project in the city,
went to see my favorite building in the city - the Kunsthal -
designed by OMA (above and below)
walked by the Erasmus bridge in front of which I rode my bike everyday.. here too was a brand new tower disappearing into the sky..
walked past my supermarket
and even dared to walk by where I lived! Ahhhh the good old days..
I bite my lip really hard and I didn't let a tear drop - now I'm left wondering if that was a good idea?

Anyhow I'm happy that I was able to visit this slightly eccentric dutch city once again!

24 June 2009

Back in London!

So we started with all the usual tourist spots

Here's a few photos:
the tower bridge (invariably in the minds of tourists who arrive here this is famous London bridge that fell down!)
the london eye
the river Thames as seen from the eye
the British Museum
my favorite section in here is the Persian empire - it's amazing the amount of stuff they bought here from all around the world!
My favourite museum in London is the Natural History Museum.. It's an awesome building with a great collection!
View from Parliament Hill in Hampstead Heath
The forecourt of architect Denys Lasdun's masterpiece - the National Theatre - at the Southbank
And Richard Seifert's exquisite - Centre Point on Oxford Street

The rest of this posting will focus on a few of projects that I've long wanted to see but never managed to get to while I lived here.

First is a small and extremely bizarre building in Woking (techinically this is beyond the limits of London but it's close) - the Woking Mosque, officially called the Shah Jahan Mosque. This was the first purpose built mosque in UK, besides the obvious surprise of finding a piece of exotic architecture in a typical English suburban setting
there is a fascinating story to it's conception - it was built by orientalist Dr. Gottlieb Wilhelm Leitner, a Christian who served in the British army in India. On his return he decided to built a Mosque and a Hindu temple in memory of his days in India and constructed this building in 1889 with money he had collected from some Muslim donors. Sadly he never managed to get enough funds for the temple.

Next is a housing estate that I've long wanted to see - designed by Berthold Lubetkin. And actually it was by pure luck that I happened to pass by this project
the Sivill House is a 76-flat council housing block on Columbia Road in Bethnal Green - on my way to see Columbia Road Flower Market with some friends.
The next set of buildings are all inside the fabulous Kew Gardens - the Royal Botanical Gardens as it is officially known is undoubtedly the world best botanical garden not only for its extensive collection of plants but also because its great collection of architecture. And since 2003 UNESCO has declared it a World Heritage Site.

The most impressive building in the entire garden is the Palm House.
Built in 1844-48 by Richard Turner to Decimus Burton's designs,
it is Kew's most recognisable building,
having gained iconic status as the world's most important surviving Victorian glass and iron structure.

Next to the Palm House is the Princess of Wales Conservatory
(opened by Diana in 1987)
it houses 10 climate zones.

And right behind that is latest plant house in the garden - the Davies Alpine House designed by Wilkinson Eyre Architects.
The arched shape of this greenhouse is both a new landmark and a welcoming gesture towards visitors to Kew.
In the tradition of the innovative, high-tech glasshouses of Kew, this design provides a balanced, energy-efficient growing climate for Kew's collection of Alpine plants.

A good half an hour walk from the Alpine House is the award-winning Sackler Crossing, by British architect John Pawson.
This has to one of the most beautiful bridges ever built!
Made of granite and bronze it opened in May 2006.
The Sackler Crossing beautifully combines with the tranquil rhythm of the gently rounded contours of the land, the smooth water surface and the powerful verticals of the trees - it's really great!

And lastly is the latest addition to Kew's architecture collection - the Xstrata Treetop Walkway.
It's 18 metres high and allows visitors to stroll through the canopy of the Capability Brown’s woodland in Kew’s deciduous arboretum.
It was designed by Marks Barfield Architects, the architects of the London Eye.
At 200 metres long the Walkway provides an opportunity to experience trees and wildlife at height, as well as offering a bird’s eye view of Kew’s 300 acre site and the London skyline beyond.

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