Tag Archives: vacation

Palace Stay in India

While visiting India, Alex and I had the opportunity to stay at a palace in the small town of Karauli. Built in 1938, this palace provided a unique insight into the life of royalty in Colonial India. Located in the countryside of Rajasthan, Karauli was a welcome break from the busier cities of Delhi and Jaipur.

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Upon our arrival, we were escorted into the main reception room of the hotel. The first thing we noticed was a giant tiger, who had been stuffed many years ago. Everyone ran over to him immediately! Despite the prevalence of wild game on display, there was no sign of Bungalow Bill ūüėõ¬†karaulilobbyIMG_7892

After receiving our room keys, we had a chance to walk around the palace. The main courtyard was very beautiful and serene. It was the perfect place to sit down, enjoy a cup of masala chai, and read a book.

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Near the main building, they have a garage with a cool collection of vintage cars, which are still maintained and driven occasionally. My friend and I resisted the temptation to go for a joyride, but enjoyed ourselves anyway!

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Lunch was in the formal dining hall. It was a beautiful set-up, and right off of the main courtyard. They served us sandwiches and light soup, but it was a nice ‚Äúrefresher meal‚ÄĚ for us after a first few days spent in Delhi.

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The room itself was in a separate building from the main palace. We were surprised to find that we had one of the largest rooms in residence, the ‚ÄúQueen‚Äôs Room‚ÄĚ. It included a large main bedroom, a bathroom, a separate sitting room, and a large private balcony. We were very lucky!

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Being a 21st century traveler, the first thing I noticed was the absence of a television. Then came the realization that there were no outlets, either. Aside from the light next to our door, we felt like we had really stepped back in time! We laughed about it for a few minutes and then decided to fully embrace the experience. I’m glad we did!

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We had a good, authentic Indian dinner, which took place in one of the other main buildings. The food was good, and it wasn’t very spicy (read: easily digestible). Everyone enjoyed their meals, and I especially appreciated all of the vegetarian options that were offered.

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Overall, we had such a memorable stay.¬†Most of all, we really¬†appreciated the opportunity to have¬†some peace and quiet outside of the city, and also didn’t mind “unplugging” for a bit.

The biggest issue during our stay was that the screens on the bathroom windows were widely spaced (and not able to be closed), so we did have mosquitos flying around our room at night. To deal with this, we sprayed ourselves with mosquito repellant and wore long shirts and pants to bed. Neither of us woke up with any bites, luckily, but anyone staying out in the countryside should be aware that there are plenty of mosquitos around!

Cruises

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Cruises have gotten a bad rap over the past few years. Between passengers getting sick, falling overboard, and ships sinking and getting disabled, it seems like there’s always something in the news. But the truth is that cruises can be a great vacation option. It’s all-inclusive, requires a little less planning, and allows you to visit several destinations in a short amount of time. The greatest trade-off is that you get much less time to explore those places. A typical port stop is less than 12 hours, although it may be more than that depending on the itinerary.

When determining whether or not a cruise may be right for you, here are some factors to consider:

1. Are you looking for something “all-inclusive”? The cost of a cruise typically includes your room, entertainment, and meals on board. There can be an advantage in this, including easier budgeting, less planning, and let’s not forget all-you-can-eat buffets. Additional expenses could include excursions, shopping, alcoholic beverages, spa services, and gambling.

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2. Are you traveling alone? As a couple? With¬†several people? Cruises can be a great option for couples who are planning a romantic getaway. Everything on board is at your disposal and you won’t need to worry about stressing over the details that come with planning traditional vacation. If you’re traveling with other people, whether it’s your family or a group of friends, cruises provide¬†activities and events for all ages and personality types. Unfortunately, cruises don’t really cater to solo travelers. While they’re welcome, cruises charge for double occupancy, which means that they have to pay as if they are traveling with a companion. At that point, you might as well just bring along a friend!

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3. What do you want out of a vacation? If you want to relax, hang out on the beach, or enjoy excursions, a cruise might be a good option. If you are hoping to immerse yourself in culture, food, or history, a cruise would be less ideal. I find that it’s difficult to get a true understanding of the local culture while on a cruise; partly because most port cities cater to tourists, but also because of the brief time that’s spent at each destination. For example, Rome is a popular port of call on Mediterranean cruises. It’s impossible to even begin to scratch the surface of the Eternal City within a few hours!

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Overall, cruising is a unique and exciting experience. I’d definitely recommend going on one if you have the chance. And don’t worry about getting seasickness! Cruise ships are much larger and therefore more stable than the smaller boats we are all used to. But just in case, they do sell medicine on board!

The London Underground

The tube, the underground, the metro, the subway…whatever you call it, it’s been getting people around London quickly and efficiently for years. In fact, it was even used as a nighttime shelter during World War II!

Londoners rely heavily on this mode of transport, because it is extraordinarily well-connected and easy to navigate. There are 11 interconnected lines, which are each color coded differently. If you are flying into London from Heathrow Airport, you can travel from the terminal to downtown via the Piccadilly Line. Whether you plan to be in London for one day or a week, I highly recommend using the tube to get around.

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I recommend purchasing an “Oyster card”. It will hold your prepaid fare and is scanned each time you take the tube. You can buy one of these at any station and top it up whenever you’d like.

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One word of advice: make sure you factor transportation costs into your budget when coming to London. The fares can get pretty expensive if you are traveling with more than one person. Here is the current Underground fare chart. I can’t recommend whether or not you should pay as you go or purchase the travelcard because it will vary depending on your individual needs and which zones you will be traveling in. We personally chose the pay as you go option, and it cost us around $150 total for 6 days in all 9 zones.

Tour of Buckingham Palace

During the months of August and September each year, Buckingham Palace opens its doors to the public. Since Alex and I were in London celebrating our wedding anniversary in August, we had the opportunity to go and visit.

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The tour of Buckingham Palace includes a visit to the State Rooms and garden. The private residences of the royal family are not accessible whether or not they are in residence at the time. If you are curious as to whether or not the Queen is present during your visit, just look at the flag on top of the Palace. If it is the British flag, she is not there, and if it is the Royal Standard, she is. When we visited, the British Flag was flying.

The cost of the tour was around 20 GBP per person, which roughly translates to around $32. When booking online, you will see that there is limited space for each time slot. I thought this meant that it was fairly exclusive due to space limitations, but apparently it is not. I was stunned to see a line wrapped around the palace for the same entry time. It will be PACKED when you arrive, but this shouldn’t deter you from booking tickets. The tour itself is self-paced and comes with an audio guide, so you can mosey around at your leisure. The crowd breaks up once you are inside the palace.

We were not allowed to take photographs once inside, so unfortunately I can only share my experiences with you. We initially entered the palace through the side entrance and traveled through several corridors towards the state rooms. On the way, there is a large viewing deck on the quadrangle, which is basically the interior courtyard. This is where all the cars go when they enter the palace. ¬†Since it’s a working palace, it’s not unusual to see activity here of some sort.

Moving on, we visited the state rooms. The most “famous” room is the bright red throne room where William and Kate took their official wedding portraits. Each room had it’s own color scheme distinguishing it from the rest and were all very beautiful and ornate.

Our tour ended in the gardens, where were now allowed to use our cameras. I snapped these while we were outside:

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All in all, we spent between 2 and 3 hours walking in and around the Palace. They also have a great souvenir shop on the way out, selling “official” royal items. I would also recommend trying to see the Changing of the Guards before or after your visit. The British Monarchy’s Official Website will have up to date information on dates and times. It’s a very big ceremonial tradition and is always intriguing to watch.

As far as logistics of getting to Buckingham Palace, your best best is to get off the Tube at either Victoria Station or St. James’s Park (Circle and District Lines).