Cotswolds Wildlife Park and Gardens (Better Late Than Never II)

Alright I definitely have to get more organised about posting my photographs after a session/trip… Because here we go again. Posting from the back log – This time from my visit to the Cotswolds Wildlife Park and Gardens (again sometime in 2016 while I was living in England). Hopefully from now on I learn my lesson and post more regularly. As a bonus though, this post is particularly Otter-heavy… So gets ready for the awwwws : D

Compared to the other Wildlife Parks and Zoos I had occasion to visit the Cotswolds was definitely one of the better ones. Being somewhat out in the country meant that it had large spaces and bigger enclosures for most of the animals, and a really large selection too. Though if you’re a “completionist” like me be sure to pack a lunch and some comfortable walking shoes, because it will take you all day to check out the park… and there are many animals you’ll want to visit repeatedly depending on the time of day.

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Chester Zoo – March 2015 (Better Late Than Never?)

Pardon the date in the post. As it should make evident, I took these pictures a while back on a visit to Chester Zoo in England. The trip was a fun from what I recollect. Unfortunately it was also cold and shaky hands make for bad photography. So while it was somewhat memorable, it wasn’t all that successful.

Still I’ve picked out a few worth publishing from the batch. Certainly a few gems in there I’m happy to add to the collection. Hopefully next time, if there ever is one, I’ll do the Zoo and its “Islands” justice.

I wish I had more to say on the visit. But time and other factors nudge me away from reminiscing. So hopefully these few shots speak for themselves.

What A Marwell-ous Day At the Zoo

Right, well, another Zoo post… I’m really making a habit of these aren’t I? Well… No regrets!!! : D

Here are some of my favourite shots from a visit to Marwell Zoo, in the English county of Hampshire. Tickets were quite affordable, compared to say ZSL, but then it was quite a drive away to get to. It wasn’t the sunny day one hopes for on a visit to the Zoo, but then it is England ; p

Quite honestly, Marwell was amazing. The animals had great enclosures and I’m sure during the summer it must be quite a sight to see many of them roaming in shared habitats. If you love near by or are planning a trip in that direction, take a day and go. You won’t regret it.

A Day at Whipsnade Zoo

If you’re a long-time reader of this blog you’ll know that I like, once in a while, to try my hand at photography. Now, I am by no means a professional. Barely even an amateur. But I do manage to get the odd picture or two that I can look at years on and feel quite pleased with.

One of my favourite things in the world to photograph is animals, and while I’d much rather photograph them in the wild, being a city a boy I rarely get the opportunity. So it is a delightful treat when I convince a friend to accompany me to the local Zoo.

Knowing of my love for the furry, slimy, scary and cuddly, a very dear friend decided to take me to Whipsnade Zoo, located in Bedfordshire. And I must say, if you haven’t been, you really should try to get out there. It is just breathtakingly gorgeous and seeing so many of the animals roaming in their large enclosures really warmed my heart. Many of the smaller herbivores were even roaming free about the whole compound, which was an especial treat! It may not be the great plains and jungles many of them are accustomed to, but it’s nice to see them being treated well. Or as well as can be hoped.

I hope some of these pictures inspire you to patronise this establishment for yourself. And take it from me, if you’re a real animal buff, get the ZSL Membership – 3 trips to either Whipsnade or the London Zoo and it’ll have paid for itself.

An Afternoon at the Museum(s)

Despite spending a wonderful year in Oxford I had not, much to my chagrin, visited the two linked museums in oxford – the Natural History Museum and the Pitt Rivers. So a few days past, thanks to the prodding of a very dear friend, I finally made the excursion to see the muss and fuss (and of course the Shrunken Heads!)

What followed was a realisation that these two museums are severely lacking in space. Oh don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean to imply that they were by any means shoddy or architecturally minuscule… Rather I make such a comment simply to make more dramatic the point (as is my habit ; p) that the institutions are absolutely bursting with an amazingly diverse collection of artefacts, fossils and various bits and bobs. While I have had the pleasure of visiting many museums, none made so vigorous an effort to catalogue the minutia of human existence as did the Pitt Rivers. And the Museum of Natural History can boast many wonders of its own… From masks to games to arms to cosmetics – the various displays house thousands of little pieces of the human story.

But it’s not all tiny puzzle pieces of the grander human experiment (apologies for the mixed metaphor). There is also much for the less anthropologically inclined, such as dinosaur fossils, various extinct species of animals and a fairly decent collection of stuffed animals. Admittedly I did not spend much time in Natural History Museum, owing most to the fact that I found it difficult to stare at the stuffed remains of so many beautiful creatures, which I would have given much to see in the wild. Sadly for many of us, and especially generations to come, stuffed and mounted is probably the only way many of them will ever be seen.

My personal thoughts on conservation and preservation aside, the Pitt Rivers is a wonderful family friendly afternoon that I encourage all of you in or about Oxford to drop in on. Admission is free and you can even enjoy a nice picnic in the garden out front.

For more details about visiting and what’s on go to Pitt Rivers Museum or Natural History Museum sites.

Nice Weather for Ducks – Live at Lodhi Garden Restaurant

So I recently went to a gig by a friend’s band – Jester – where the opening act was a college band called ‘Nice Weather for Ducks‘, though they really could have fooled me. For a college outfit they have a really tight sound and their vocalist has some pretty decent chops. So I didn’t miss the chance to catch them again at Lodhi Garden Restaurant on Saturday, the 26th of August.

Though their set was short, it was entertaining. They played well and, all-in-all, the crowd, a majority of which was not there to listen to any live music, self-composed or otherwise, gave them a pretty decent ovation. In my opinion, if this was a TC gig, they would have walked off to a pretty decent roar.

The band bills themselves as ‘experimental’ and I suppose to some extent they are – they have elements of fusion, a little punk-ishness and some old school alternative vibes – though they wouldn’t match what most of us, or I at least, would think of when envisioning experimental rock. But this is not a bad thing.

If you haven’t heard them yet I suggest you check them out – Nice Weather for Ducks – I hear their EP is dropping soon!

Packed Panels, Featured Writers and Even More Cosplay – The 4th Annual Comic Con India 2014 – Day III

With the dust settled, the clouds parted and a good night’s sleep finally had, I sit down to reminisce about the third and final day of Comic Con Delhi 2014… Oh how I miss it already. Contrary to my beliefs Sunday’s crowds weren’t nearly as intense as I imagined. Indeed Saturday probably saw a lot more people fluttering in and jamming up the aisles. But despite the crowds being lesser than my expectations, the Con still had an amazing day – the Cosplayers (though they seemed to congregate much later in the day than before) came strong and proud and the panels were hands down the best of the Con (save the best for last I guess!).

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Sold Out Cubees, Signed Copies and More Cosplay – The 4th Annual Comic Con – Day II

Despite how encouraging yesterday was the three amigos at stall C12 could not have been prepared for the reaction that Delhi showed today. People came out in droves to check out Comic Con ok its second day. And they came ready and happy to spend many hours browsing the offerings and supporting the exhibitors. The independent publishers saw massive crowds pretty much all day and from most accounts, people saw the works and wares practically flying. And Meta Desi saw the surprising turn of events when our Cubees, which were put out simply as a novel gimmick, sold out of all but one character! (On a personal victory, Cowzilla and Dara – from “Holy Hell” – were amongst the most popular).

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Euro-Trippin – All Roads Lead To Rome

Like the former two cities we visited, Rome was easily manageable on foot – well, at least most of the ‘must-see’ spots aren’t that far away from each other. Which was very good, because I actually found the public transportation system to be rather confusing – there was no call for stops on the buses so we basically had to guess-timate where we were based on our little map, as we passed things we could spot on it – terribly frustrating. Also, buying tickets was a bit of a pain because the machines wouldn’t accept notes if the change to be given was more than 6 Euros – WTF?!

Despite the annoyance of the buses, we had a marvelous stay in Rome. Speaking of stays, I should mention here that the place where we hung our hats for the night – Funny Palace (ok I know that’s not the most confidence inspiring name) – was pretty great. It was just a few minutes from the main Bus/Train Terminal (Termini), which was fantastic, and the proprietor – Mabri – was a really nice guy who really set us up with a great itinerary for hitting up the town in a way best suited to our length of stay – he even marked out the best routes and areas for us and gave us some good tips on avoiding queues and long waits for tickets and threw in a bottle of wine as a welcome gift : ) The room itself was super comfortable and all-in-all I was happy with the pick.

The first great stop on our sight-seeing tour was the Palatino (Palatine Hill) and the Forum Romana (the Forum). It was amazing to walk through the various ruins and imagine what these great structures must have once been like. To look at now, for the average person they might be underwhelming, but if you just sit there and look with your mind’s eye, their once proud majesty and beauty is inspiring – you just need to envision it as it once stood (sort of the loading screen in Assassin’s Creed where you see the city scale to fruition before your eyes). If you’re a history or architecture buff you’ll still get more of a kick out of visiting, as I did, but for a lot of people… Well, let’s just say I saw a lot of disappointed faces. It will definitely be more worth it if you get an audio guide and really get to learn a little (having said that, the two us made do with eavesdropping over other groups ; p – at least that we got a lot of different stories and did bits).

Right next to the ruins of the forum is the Colosseum – the great amphitheater in Rome where so many of exciting stories and movies are set. It is a monumental sight, though it is quite a shame just how much of it has given way to the ages – you see much evidence of the various measures being taken just to hold it together. Still, one advantage of this is that you get to see an x-ray like view of the intricacies of the building – the complex tunnel work in the subterranean levels below the arena floor and the numerous facades and stairways. Though it may not look the part it did in Spartacus or Gladiator, it is still an amazing sight to behold, especially at night – the lights within and without the building serve to bathe it in a beautiful golden and red glow which makes it look just a septic as you would have imagined it should be.

No visit to Rome in complete without a visit to the Vatican. Technically it is the smallest sovereign state in the world (but don’t worry you don’t need a passport to cross over) so for a few hours, you’ll be leaving Italy. The compound is surrounded by massive fortified walls which give it a rather medieval visage as you approach it, but inside, as modernized as any other city. We were advised to book online to avoid queues (which entails a 4 Euro surcharge) and did so to find that everyone had the same idea, meaning there were actually only a handful of people in line. Fail! Still, the extra coin was soon forgotten after we began to walk the halls of the Musee Vaticani (the Vatican Museums). What struck me first of was how beautifully well-preserved the exhibits were. Take for example, the Egyptian exhibits in the Museu Gregario Egizion – the statues were completely undamaged, still had their unblemished marble sheen and there were statues of deities I was familiar with but had never seen, even in the likes of the British Museum in London. And while in the Museu pio Constantine, in looking around at the wonderful statues don’t forget to look down – the intricate mosaics that cover the floors themselves are a work of art. But of course the thing that everyone wants to head towards is the famous Sistine Chapel. The fame of the chapel lies in its frescos, particularly the ceiling of the chapel which was painted by Michelangelo. I would have liked to share a picture with you, but they are super strict about people taking photographs in that room (though it was hilarious to see so many people try – and get caught). Personally, I didn’t think it was that far apart from the many (MANY) frescos we had seen on this trip, but I did marvel at the idea that one man took on the project of such a vast scale – it would have been no small task – and that it impressive.

An area that I would definitely recommend you try out, though it is less ‘tourist top 10’ is what we were told is the old part of town – the area across the Ponte Sisto or Ponte Garibaldi bridges, around the Santa Maria in Trastevere. While the architecture in the area is fairly similar to the rest of the city, the vibe is definitely a little bit more rustic and the crowd is generally younger. There were dozens of places to get a cheap cocktail or grab a nice bite or just lounge about. But try and plan your route back if you’re staying not too close because it would be hard walk after a full meal (or a good few drinks) and as I said, public transportation can be confusing.

I really would love to go on forever about the various other sights in Rome, and there are so many more you should see – the Pantheon (which looks so majestic and powerful at night), the Trevi Fountain (where you can join in the tradition of tossing in a coin and making a wish), the Spanish Steps (a great place to just sit and enjoy the sun or watch the crowds) or the Piazza Navona (a really pretty square full of life and colors, both day and night) – but, for the sake of time and brevity, I’ll leave you to discover those on your own (though I have thrown in some pictures).

I can’t however leave you without talking about the food. Oh the food! Personally, Italian is one of my favorite cuisines of all-time (though after a full straight week of it I may not partake for a while). Eating out can be a bit of a hit-and-miss, though for the most part my taste buds were really in heaven. If I had to give you a rule of thumb, it would be to eat at places where the wait staff/hosts are locals – where they weren’t, the food tended to be a bit sub-par. Having said that, the pizzas were just amazing! In India you are hard pressed to find a place that does a good classic thin crust pizza, and if they do they charge a ridiculous amount or it’s so lean it barely feeds one. In Rome we adopted the habit of usually ordering two kinds of pizza and then feasting to our heart’s content. But not just Pizza, the pasta of course is just as brilliant. From day one I was scarfing down amazing Carbonara and Pesto. I’m fairly certain by the end of day three, we had put on twice the weight we had lost walking around Europe thus far. But you know what, WORTH IT! Two places I will go ahead and recommend are Primo Cafe in the Piazza Campo de’ Fiori (where I had an amazing pizza and house white for my birthday dinner) and a little roadside cafe called Cafe Moca, next to the river, where you can get a refreshing Granita made of freshly crushed ice and your choice  of fresh fruit and delicious syrups.

Well I leave you there dear reader (mostly because I am now famished after reliving my gastronomical adventure in Italy). Till next time!

Aquariums and Falcon Farms

Last month I was in Dubai visiting my brother (and doing a fair bit of shopping). I managed to get a few good snaps while I was there and I’ve finally gotten around to sharing them. Have a look!