Your fantasy world awaits you!

It’s finally that time of the year again! And, its Brussels again!! European and Belgian capital brings another of its amazing events- a celebration of geek culture.

comic-con4Comic Con Brussels returns to the buildings of Tour&Taxis during the weekend of Saturday 25 and Sunday 26 February 2017. Thousands of fans, Cosplayers and other visitors will be able to immerse themselves in the world of science fiction, fantasy and contemporary pop culture of the immensely popular comic books. Comic Con Brussels is an event entirely dedicated to Pop Culture in all its forms: comic, manga, fantasy, sci-fi & horror, gaming and Cosplay. You will find famous actors and authors for signing sessions, a Gaming Area, Fan Clubs, a cosplay contest and many thematic stands. It’s a Con that brings together all the things you love:MOVIES, GAMING, COMICS, MANGA, COLLECTIBLES, ANIME, TV, CLOTHING, TOYS AND GADGETS AND A LOT MORE!

comic-con1Comic Con Brussels wants to offer fans a total experience, which naturally also means inviting several international stars. Autograph hunters should prick up their ears because the list is quite long. With the actor Dirk Benedict, fans are in for a double treat. Many of us known him as Face in the popular series The A-Team but he also played Lt. Starbuck in Battlestar Galactica. We are also pleased to welcome the one and only Sam Jones, better known to audiences as Flash Gordon (with the eponymous soundtrack by Queen), another Eighties era gem who also starred in the blockbuster movie Ted by Seth MacFarlane. And how about a one-off, exclusive European appearance by Kevin Eastman, the original designer and inventor of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? And it wouldn’t be a real fantasy convention without Star Wars of course. Which is why Comic Con Brussels is proud to present an impressive list to mark the 40th anniversary of Star Wars: Paul Blake, or the bounty hunter Greedo in the legendary “Who shot first” scene with Han Solo, Anna Brewster who played the spy  Bazine Netal  in The Force Awakens, Femi Taylor or Oola, Garrick Hagon better known as Biggs, Luke Skywalker ‘s best friend in Star Wars : A New Hope and Michael Carter whom audiences will remember as Bib Fortuna will all be travelling to Brussels. Finally these two big names complete the already impressive line-up: Julian Glover (Grand Maester Pycelle in Game Of Thrones) and James Duva (Frank The Bunny in the cult classic Donnie Darko).

comic-con3But there is more to Comic Con Brussels than meeting international guests. There are hundreds of booths where you can browse some extraordinary merchandise and find fun gadgets, unique games, comics or T-shirts of that one series you have been a fan of for years. You can also learn a lot at Comic Con Brussels. Check out the many workshops where visitors can learn how to wield a Lightsaber, race real drones or enrol in a real Jedi Academy (especially for our youngest visitors, who enjoy free admission)! Do you think you know all there is to know about creating amazing costumes?  Then why not enter the Cosplay contest, which will be judged this year by the internationally renowned Cosplayer Nicole Marie Jean(USA) for a chance to win a 1,000-euro cash prize?

comic-con5This year’s hosts of Comic Con Brussels are the comedian and singer Alex Agnew and the British comedian Matthew Highton. A sure bet that this event will be a barrel of laughs.

comic-con2Whether you’re interested in fab costumes, international stars or plenty of unique merchandise, Comic Con Brussels is an entertaining and amazing event for people of all ages in the magnificent buildings of Tour & Taxis in Brussels.

(Copyright of all images lie with respective owners. No intrusion intended)

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‘Fairy Queen’ Ready to Haul Heritage Train Once Again

Fairy Queen1Its a journey worth albums- a short trip for a long-lasting memory. The ‘Fairy Queen’, the oldest surviving functional steam engine in the world is once again ready in this season to haul a heritage train from National Capital Delhi to Rewari, Haryana after a gap of 5 years. This train, which is a great attraction among steam engine lovers across the globe, will run between Delhi Cantt. Station and Rewari from tomorrow i.e. 11th February 2017 for a single day trip. Train will leave Delhi Cantt. railway station at 10.30 in the morning and reach Rewari at 1.00 pm. And on the return journey it will leave Rewari at 4.15 pm and reach Delhi Cantt. at 6.15 in the evening.

Fairy Queen2The locomotive was constructed by Kitson, Thompson and Hewitson at Leeds, in England, in 1855, and reached Kolkata, then known as Calcutta, in the same year. On arrival, it was given fleet number “22” by its owner, the East Indian Railway Company, not receiving a name until 1895. Initially, the 5 ft 6 in (1,676 mm) gauge locomotive was used to haul light mail trains in West Bengal, operating between Howrah and Raniganj, and during the Indian Rebellion of 1857 hauled troop trains. It was later consigned to line construction duty in Bihar, where it served until 1909.

Fairy Queen3It was restored and given a special spot in the newly built National Rail Museum at Chanakyapuri, in New Delhi which was opened to public 40 years back on 1st February, 1977. The locomotive was restored to full working order in 1997, in preparation for its first mainline journey in 88 years and its return to commercial service on 18 July. It was certified by the Guinness Book of Records in 1998 as the world’s oldest steam locomotive in regular operation. The following year, the train received a National Tourism Award for the most innovative and unique tourism project from Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the then Prime Minister of India.

The Trip: There will be three exclusive journeys. First one is tomorrow 11th February and next two on 11th March and then 8th April this year. Ticket price for complete two way journey on the day trip is 6480 Rs per adult passenger (3240 Rs for child below 12 yrs) and for one way trip (either way Delhi-Rewari or Rewari-Delhi) is 3240 Rs per adult passenger (1620 Rs for child below 12 yrs). Journey includes the trip and the visit to Heritage Steam Shed at Rewari. What else, there you will get chance to see another two of Indian railways’ heritage steam engines- Azad and Akbar.

Coaches: The Steam Express has a capacity of 60 seated air-conditioned chair car. Specially designed rail car has large glass windows for better viewing and also a long area in the front to give you a scenic view of the countryside. Whole trip is worth the price indeed.

Some wild moments in Sariska!

SO finally the cliché of the visit. Earlier four accounts- Bhangarh, Kankwari, Neelkanth and the Birds were quite fascinating and actually different from usual routines of visit to the national park. But then what about the wild inside you? Bhangarh might not haunt you but not sighting a tiger in the tiger reserve is certainly going to haunt you to a certain degree for a considerable duration of time. Purely on that terms Sariska has been third time lucky for me. My first trip to Sariska was almost thirty years ago when tiger safari was not a fancy idea, and second one 17 years ago when tiger was always second in my thought. (What was the first?)

Sariska Safari1
Foggy entry through the Sariska gate to the tiger reserve

But then as I have always said that though its always fascinating to watch a tiger in the wild, but not watching it doesn’t creates a sort of disappointment until I have given full time to the jungle. I thoroughly enjoy the jungles sans tiger too, as the most true wildlife enthusiasts will actually do. In that sense as well, safari in Sariska was quite satisfying.

Sariska Safari2
Reflections!

Jungle was as beautiful as always. But interesting part is that no two jungles and no two visits to the same jungle look the same. The  three hour safari had its moments of joy, admiration, awe and pure love. I am revisiting the safari only on those moments, and they are absolutely not in any particular order.

Well, we had the tiger sighting within first 25 minutes into safari, so once we had it, it made the rest of safari time relaxing and anxiety free. Tiger sighting was close but not from front as he chose to just walk in front of the cavalcade of the safari vehicles.

So here are the few glimpses of the mighty cat-

But this sighting was not without a drama and slightly unpleasant one. I always believe that one should enjoy the wildlife that comes their way during safari. It can be and it should be your luck to see an animal, not your right. There has been long debate about use of radio collars on tigers. Still they were accepted as way to track them and save them from poaching. But to use radio collars to help tiger sighting in safari is a bit ugly practice. Here too, while we were waiting for the tiger at a nullah, a supposedly VIP came on another safari vehicle along with a radio tracker, who kept on tracking the exact location of tiger and thus the whole group of six safari vehicles kept following the tiger guided by radio tracker. Look for yourself-

Talking about cats, I have not been so far fortunate to see them hunting in the wild. But we got to see a kill of a leopard who hunted a sambhar and then dragged him up on a tree. Leopard was not there but the kill was still hanging up on the tree-

As per numbers, it is the deer family which rules the jungles. You can find them everywhere and actually observing their behaviour patiently is also very interesting-

Another scene worth remembering from the safari was the cheetal-monkey play. Deer-monkey friendship is always take about in jungle tales. It was so warming to see them play and then drink water together from the same pond-

I had already written in earlier posts about the number of peahens and peacocks in the region. Same was here inside the park. They were everywhere- playing and dancing. How beautiful this bird is!

Talking about birds, here is another one I will not forget for its sheer sharpness, alertness and daring behaviour-

And while returning see, who was there to see off from the park after the end of the safari-

These forests always remind us of what we are and what we are supposed to be.

Sariska Safari46

Surajkund Mela is on but much more to do this February

The month starts with Basant Panchami today and the day also marks the start of two premier yearly events in the NCR region- Surajkund International Crafts Mela 2017 started today at Surajkund in Faridabad on the Delhi-Haryana border. While in the heart of Delhi 19th Bharat Rang Mahotsav, India’s biggest theatre festival also started. These both are much sought for events by the art & culture enthusiasts.

Surajkund Mela
Surajkund Mela

Surajkund Mela comes right at the nick of spring. With dates fixed for every year (February 1-15) , it makes easier for travellers to plan. A marvellous mix of handicrafts, folk arts and folk dances makes it a crowd puller. With lots of food stalls representing different states, it has lot more to offer. Hosted by Haryana Tourism, this fair also has a large entertainment value. With Valentine Day coming towards the end of the festival, young ones from NCR find it tempting to have some funtime at Surajkund. Artists from many other states also actively participate. Craftsmen from Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and other states display their art. Every year, a theme state is chosen for the Mela, which highlights the state in totality from its architecture to fine arts and crafts. Jharkhand has been chosen as the theme State for the 31st Surajkund International Crafts Mela-2017. The state will showcase its tribal heritage and culture.

Bharat Rang Mahotsav
Bharat Rang Mahotsav

19th Bharat Rang Mahotsav that started today will be there till 21st February. India’s biggest theatre festival hosted by National School of Drama will focus on entertainment, education, enrichment and enlightenment. There will be 12 participating countries and 16 Indian states, 94 productions in 23 languages and performances by 125 groups. Bharat Rang Mahotsav was established a two decades ago by the National School of Drama to stimulate the growth and development of theatre across the country. Originally a national festival showcasing the work of the most creative theatre workers in India, it has evolved to international scope, hosting theatre companies from around the world, and is now the largest theatre festival of Asia. The 19th Mahotsav will include several national and international performances, and various associated events in a wrap-around program. This year Bharat Rang Mahotsav travels to 5 more centres- Kurukshetra, Agartala, Patna, Pune and Hyderabad.

We have already read in the previous post about events in Rajasthan in February. But even outside, there are many reasons to travel this month.

Khajuraho Festival of Dances
Khajuraho Festival of Dances

Spring can be best time to visit Khajuraho, not only to see the monuments but also to witness the one of India’s premier dance festivals. Every ancient monument has a fascinating story to tell. But few match the mystery wrapped around the temples of Khajuraho. Once the capital of the great Chandela Kings, Khajuraho today is a quiet village of a few thousand people. It is also the setting of the Khajuraho Festival of Dances which draws the best classical dancers in the country every year, who perform against the spectacular backdrop of the floodlit temples. The seven-day extravaganza is a unique treat for connoisseurs from all over the world. This year it will be 43rd edition of this festival (20-26 February). The past and the present silhouetted against the glowing sun as the backdrop becomes an exquisite backdrop for the performers. In a setting where the earthly and the divine create perfect harmony – an event that celebrates the pure magic of the rich classical dance traditions of India. As dusk falls, the temples are lit up in a soft, dream-like ethereal stage. The finest exponents of different classical Indian styles are represented – Kathak, Bharatnatyam, Kuchipudi, Odissi, Manipuri, and many more. So while you can visit the monuments in day, be guest to dance festival in the evening.

India Art Fair
India Art Fair

India Art Fair, previously known as India Art Summit, is an annual summit of modern and contemporary art. India Art Fair is South Asia’s leading platform for modern and contemporary art and portal to the region’s cultural landscape. Founded in 2008, India Art Fair has become the bedrock of a now booming cultural community with connections to every level of the market. Building on these foundations, India Art Fair is expanding its programming to reflect South Asia’s immense diversity in the visual arts and to provide a platform for innovation across disciplines and exchange, throughout the region and the world. With a shared ambition to promote cultural discourse in South Asia, and provide a platform for these discussions, India Art Fair has developed platforms such as the Speakers’ Forum and Film Programme. This broad and exciting programme of lectures, screenings and conversations will engage a diverse range of stakeholders in the visual arts as well as cover a wide spectrum of artistic practices. This takes place from February 2-5 at NSIC grounds in Delhi’s Okhla Industrial Area.

Kala Ghoda Arts Festival
Kala Ghoda Arts Festival

More for art lovers, Mumbai’s favourite cultural festival, the nine-day Kala Ghoda Arts Festival, is all set to kick-off, this year in partnership with HT (February 4-12). The KGAF calendar features dance, theatre, music and literature events, in addition to art installations, workshops, heritage walks and film screenings. For those looking forward to the diverse calendar of events, this festival hasn’t been soon enough. The festival is quirky and fresh, bringing to us the best of art and culture. The art installations are amazing; the literature events enriching. The nine-day festival adds to the beauty of the city, with its rich programmes. Kala Ghoda is a festival so rich and diverse, yet binding us together. Music performances are exemplary, with elite artists performing for the whole city. It captures the city’s culture and gives the new generation a chance to connect with it. An exciting line-up will feature discussions with 80 authors and storytellers across genres, from model-turned-author Padma Lakshmi to filmmaker Dibakar Banerjee and authors Ashwin Sanghi and Amit Chaudhuri, on everything from mythology to photography, poetry, the environment and Bollywood.

Sufi Sutra which is now Sur Jahan
Sufi Sutra which is now Sur Jahan

For music fans 7th edition of Sur Jahan will be held at Mohar Kunj, Kolkata on February 3 to 5, 2017. Interestingly, like the World Sufi Spirit Festival of Rajasthan, this festival has also changed its name fro Sufi Sutra to Sur Jahan. Any clues??? Anyway,  like previous years, it remains non ticketed festival and open to music lovers. Held in the first weekend of February every year with the motto of ‘Music for Peace, Music for All’, the event showcases international and national music teams, with cultural exchange workshops during the day and concerts in the evenings. The celebrations create the atmosphere of a carnival, with stalls by rural handicraft artists and folk performances. It is being held since 2011 and is now a permanent and much-awaited fixture in the city’s cultural calendar. Since its inception, teams from 22 countries and 12 states of India have participated in this annual musical extravaganza. Among the major attractions this year are the Ale Möller Quartet and Ellika Solo Rafael, both from Sweden, BraAgas of Czech republic, Virelai of Denmark and Otava Yo from Russia. Indian part will be represented by Punjab Qawwali, Bauls of Bengal and Folks of Bengal – an initiative of banglanatak dot com MusiCal supporting urban folk artists. The festival will also showcase Rural Craft & Cultural Hubs of West Bengal, an initiative of West Bengal government’s Department of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises and Textiles (MSME&T) in association with UNESCO. Alike last year Sur Jahan is again traveling to Goa this year Feb 8-10.

Nasik Sula Fest
Nasik Sula Fest

But if you like music with some fun then Sula Fest is for you. Held every year in India’s wine capital- Nasik’s Sula vineyards, Sula Fest is the celebration of wine, music and food. The country’s most gorgeously situated, eagerly awaited Gourmet World Music Festival is back and this one promises to be even bigger and better! It also marks the fashion statement as is underlined as a sponsor like Vera Moda. This year is its 10th edition (February 3-5). This year there would be 120 artists performing on three different stages. From 12:30 PM onwards, SulaFest partygoers can expect a megamix of great music, wine, drinks, food, fashion and shopping in the idyllic environs of the winery’s beautiful open-air, Greek-Style amphitheater.

Fun in Goa Carnival
Fun in Goa Carnival

If you are more in the fun mood, than head to Goa for the carnival from February 25-28.  India’s answer to carnivals of Brazil, Caribbean and Europe. Carnival came to Goa with the Portuguese in 1510. This is the local version of the carnival celebrated worldwide before Mardi Gas. In the localised version parade is lead by local King Momo. This three day event is the place where all the colours of Goa come out in a glorious swagger and sweeps away the local as well foreign folks with its charm and charisma. Goa is almost synonymous with fun, music, food, entertainment and merry making and without any real doubt the only place in India that breaks away from the general image of the country as a conservative nation. It can be attributed to the historical fact that Goa was under Portuguese rule in the past and is still in its hang over. The Goa Carnival was started by the Portuguese rulers and since then it it has become an integral part of Goa. During the Carnival days Goa enters into a different zone of its own and become very crowded place. from every part of the world travellers come to enjoy the Goa Carnival. There is celebrations everywhere. Food and drinks are in plenty in accordance with live performances and multi-coloured processions. The scene of Goa Carnival resembles some fairy tale descriptions where people hop around in jovial mood with masks on, fireworks, fortune tellers, group of dancers and and above all happy people all around. Music swings into Goa Carnival quite naturally. The myriad facets of the Goan music compels any onlooker to jig with it. The stylish Spanish guitar, the casual drum beats and the soulful voice are enough to make you move your feet. It is a perfect gateway for everyone who is on the verge of a virtual breakdown in today’s dull, dreary and mundane world.

Kila Raipur Rural Olympics
Kila Raipur Rural Olympics

Looking for some serious fun in the games than head to Kila Raipur in Punjab for the Rural Olympics. It was in 1933. Philanthropist Inder Singh Grewal visualised an annual recreational meet where farmers from areas surrounding Kila Raipur could get together and test their corporal endurance. The idea gave birth to Kila Raipur Sports, the undisputed “Rural Olympics”. In over six decades the festival has grown from a toddler to a prancing, energetic youthful organisation. This pioneer rural sports festival has become an annual international event, which is normally held in the first weekend of February. A dynamic team of organisers – Grewal Sports Association – has taken yet again another pioneering step of giving rural women a break in sports. Today this festival of the rustics attracts more than 4,000 sportsmen and women, both of recognised and traditional sports. The three-day festival is witnessed by more than a million people. Besides, several million others watch it on television, read about it in newspapers and magazines. Whether you are in Punjab or in Toronto or in Southall, you will know the latest about Kila Raipur Sports. Its participants come from all over the globe. Since it takes several months for the immigrants in England, Canada or the USA to select, train and send their Kabbadi and Tug of War teams to this festival which of late has become a truly international, talks about destination KILA RAIPUR start much early. This year the three day olympics are from 17-19 February. Even though Punjab is in grip of election fever, people won’t let anything come between this fun.

Adoor Gajamela
Adoor Gajamela

But if you are of some religious type, than go to Kerala for Adoor Gajamela on 6 February. The picture of a huge tusker in all his adornment is something that catches the mind of all. If you are an elephant lover then don’t miss this wonderful elephant pageant at the Parthasarathy Temple in Adoor. The festival is part of the ten-day annual celebration held at the temple. Kerala’s first elephant pageant for the year, the end of the 10 day festival at Parthasarathy Temple features a procession of nine decorated elephants. Traditional art forms such a panchavadyam (a musical ensemble with five different types of instruments) accompany the parade. Hundreds of people throng the temple premises to witness this spectacle where nine tuskers come in their ceremonial attire to entice all. Parthasarathy Temple is dedicated to Lord Krishna, who is also known as Parthasarathy – the charioteer of Parthan, another name for Arjuna. Arjuna is one of the five Pandava princes, in the Indian epic Mahabharata.

5 reasons to go to Rajasthan in February!

Rajasthan is the land of rich history and heritage. To live upto its charm it celebrates in multiple forms all the year round. February is one of the most pleasant times to visit Rajasthan, even to the desert side. We give here five more reasons to visit Rajasthan in this month.

world-sacred-spirit-festival2

  1. Desert Festival, Jaisalmer, February 8-10, 2017

Desert Festival

Its one of Rajasthan’s premier showcase festivals. Once a year, the empty sands around Jaisalmer come alive with a mesmerising performance on the sand dunes in the form of the Desert Festival. The festival, organised by the Department of Tourism around January-February, goes on for three whole days and lets you enjoy the rich and colourful Rajasthani folk culture. Rajasthani men and tall, beautiful women dressed in their best and brightest costumes dance and sing ballads of valour, romance and tragedy, while traditional musicians attempt to outdo each other to showcase their musical superiority. The high points of the festival are puppeteers, acrobats, camel tattoo shows, camel races, camel polo, traditional processions, camel mounted bands, folk dances, etc.

2.  Nagaur Fair, Nagaur, February 1-4, 2017

Nagaur Fair

The Nagaur Fair is said to be the second biggest cattle fair in India. Held every year between the months of January and February, it is popularly known as the Cattle Fair of Nagaur as this is where owners gather to trade animals. Approximately 70,000 bullocks, camels and horses are traded every year at this fair. The animals are lavishly decorated and even their owners dress up with colourful turbans and long moustaches. Besides cattle, sheep, horses and even spices are traded. Other attractions include the Mirchi Bazaar (largest red chilli market of India), sale of wooden items, iron-crafts and camel leather accessories. Several sports are also held during the fair. These include tug-of-war, camel races and bullock races. Nagaur fair is also famous for its jugglers, puppeteers, storytellers, etc. Nagaur lies midway between Jodhpur and Bikaner.

3. Beneshwar Festival, Dungarpur, February 7-10, 2017

Beneshwar Fair

Beneshwar Fair is a popular tribal festival held in the Beneshwar Temple of Dungarpur. This festival, held on the full moon day of February or Magh Shukla Purnima, attracts a large number of tourists. On this pious occasion, Bhils travel all the way from Gujarat, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh to take a dip at the confluence of three rivers- Mahi, Som and Jakham. In addition to this fair, the Vagad Festival is also one of the popular celebrations of Dungarpur. This festival showcases dance forms and music from the region. Holi, the popular Hindu festival, is celebrated here with tribal dances. Dungarpur is the southernmost district of Rajasthan, accessible from Udaipur very easily or even Ahmedabad in Gujarat.

4. Shekhawati Festival, Nawalgarh, February 9-12, 2017

Shekhawati Festival

For last 22 years Shekhawati has played host to one of India’s unique cultural festivals. The Shekhawati Festival involves not only every villager of this large province but also people from all parts of India and the world. While the main activity is centred around the huge Surya Mandal Stadium in Navalgarh, Shekhawati Festival is truly a celebration of the various aspects and locales of Shekhawati. The locals get a chance to exhibit their prodigious skills. Famed artists and craftsmen from every corner of Rajasthan use this festival as an opportunity to display their talent to the world. There are organised tours to the famed portals of famous Havelis, forts and temples of the region. For those seeking in-depth knowledge of arts and crafts of the region there are seminars and workshops. The Morarka Foundation who has been instrumental in the conception, design and organisation and patronisation of the Shekhawati Festival ensures that this is also a platform to reward the inhabitants of the region for their achievements of the year.

5. World Sacred Spirit Festival, Nagaur, February 13-15, 2017 and Jodhpur, February 17-19, 2017

World-sacred-spirit-festival

This festival is held in two cities- Jodhpur and Nagaur, one after another. This is actually a celebration of Sufi culture and traditions. The prestigious sites of the Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur and the Ahhichatragarh Fort in Nagaur open their doors to an extraordinary sacred and historical musical journey. Lit by the sparkling incandescence of a thousand candles, magnificent, inherited and spiritual arts will carry you to the very origin of a tradition linked to those pilgrims of the past, travelers of the spirit, who brought to civilisation a sense of inspiration and meaning. The line-up of artistes for this year includes names like surbahar and sitar player Irshad Khan, folk singer, musician and storyteller Parvathy Baul and musician Mehdi Nassouli, Oud player and Composer Issa Murad, flute player Rishab Prasanna, tabla player Zuheb Ahmed Khan from Palestine, flute player Lingling Yu from China and musicians Samuel Cattiau and Quentin Dujardin. The festival will have musicians from the Orient, Africa and India. This festival started as a celebration to mark the Unesco World Heritage Award for conservation at the Ahhichatragarh Fort of Nagaur. Now it is into its 10th year. Musicians like Prem Joshua from Germany, Sahar Mohammadi from Iran, Dhrupad practitioner and performer Pelva Naik and sarod maestro Amjad Ali Khan from India will also perform at the fest. Earlier this festival was known as World Sufi Spirit Festival but was later rechristened as World Sacred Spirit Festival.

Leela Palace Udaipur is the best hotel in the country

Leela Palace, Udaipur
Leela Palace, Udaipur

Rajasthan seems to have developed a penchant for exquisite and exclusive hotels. No doubt, most of these hotels are a different class altogether which make them loved ones among those who are looking for something elite. As per TripAdvisor Travellers’s Choice survey for 2017 among the top 25 hotels in India, 9 are in Rajasthan and all the top three are from state with two among them from Udaipur. Actually City of Lakes Udaipur along with Pink City Jaipur have three hotels each in the list which is maximum for any Indian city. And interestingly, in this list there is also a mini competition among the big hotel chains that quite explains the Indian hotel industry scenario. Among the top 25 hotels eight belong to the Oberoi Group of Hotels and seven to Taj Group of Hotels. That leaves only ten of top 25 out of the fold and among these ten two are from Orange County, one from Leela Group and One from ITC’s Fortune group. Rest six are independent boutique hotels or resorts.

Lake Palace, Udaipur
Lake Palace, Udaipur

Owing to its history, most of the top hotels in Rajasthan are either heritage hotels or the modern hotels with heritage look and feel. Numero uno hotel in India as per 2017 TripAdvisor Travellers’s Choice is the Leela Palace at Udaipur. In a tough competition within the lake city, Leela Palace has established itself at the top notch. It was also voted most favourite leisure hotel of the country couple of years back by Conde Nast Traveller India readers. Umaid Bhawan Palace at Jodhpur is the second which was India’s top heritage hotel in 2014 in TripAdvisor travellers’s choice. At 3rd position in the list is arguably one of the most beautiful lake hotels in the world- Taj Lake Palace, again at Udaipur. Of the two Orange counties in the list, Orange county Coorg is at the fourth place. At 5th place is another city from Rajasthan- Jaipur through Oberoi Rajvilas. Oberoi has another property at 6th place, this time Oberoi Amar Vilas from Agra.

Orange Country Resorts, Kabini
Orange Country Resorts, Kabini

At no 7 is another of Orange county resort at Kabini, located in Nagarhole National Park which has been already included in National Geographic’s list of 25 best ecolodges in the world. On 8th is Wildflower Hall at Mashobra near Shimla which was sometime back, India’s best hill station hotel in TripAdvisor Travellers’s Choice. 9th is third entrant from Oberoi bouquet in the top 10- The Oberoi, Bangalore. Completing top 10 among all these biggies is Namah at Dhikuli in the Jim Corbett National Park region.

Oberoi Udaivilas in Udaipur. In foreground is the lake Pichola.
Oberoi Udaivilas in Udaipur. In foreground is the lake Pichola.

At 11th is the third hotel from Udaipur- Oberoi Udaivilas, which for long has been touted as the costliest hotel in India. Next one is also from Oberoi, its flagship hotel in Gurgaon. 13th is second entrant from the Jim Corbett National Park- Aahana, the Corbett Wilderness. 14th in the list is a comparatively new entrant from Rajasthan- Suryagarh near Jaisalmer in Rajasthan. Built in a fort style on way to Sam dunes, this hotel is quickly rising up the ranks. 15th is Aveda Kumarakom in Kerala and next is a beautiful heritage property in Jaipur owned by, Oberoi again- Rambagh Palace. Then comes another Oberoi property- Oberoi Cecil in Shimla, a heritage hotel part of Shimla’s rich colonial history. The iconic Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai has been ranked 18th and at 19th is third property from Jaipur in the list- Jai Mahal Palace. Only property from Goa in the list- Taj Exotica Goa at Benaulim is on the 20th position.

Amanbagh at Ajabgarh
Amanbagh at Ajabgarh

Among the last five, at 21st is the only ITC property in the list Fortune, The Savoy at Mussoorie. The Tamara Coorg at Yavakapadi Village is on 22nd position. There is no Delhi hotel in the list but Gurgaon has second hotel- Trident at 23rd. On 24th is Vivanta by Taj at Madikeri. Completing the list is Amanbagh at most unlikely of the places- Ajabgarh in Alwar, Rajasthan.

Wanna shake a leg! Head to Brussels!!

brussels_dance1Between 1st February and 31st March, join the movers and shakers of Brussels and share with them the creativity of the capital of dance! BRUSSELS, DANCE! is an original initiative by cultural venues to celebrate the vitality and effervescence of a capital city. Recently and spontaneously, artists from all over Europe, especially contemporary dancers, have settled down in Brussels.

For this second edition, twelve Brussels venues – from the Dutch speaking and the French speaking communities – in collaboration with Visit Brussels, have combined forces to bring more attention to the dynamism of the choreographic scene in Brussels. For two months, BRUSSELS, DANCE! will present a programme of contemporary dance that emerged from the capital. The venues range from alternative spaces yet to be institutionalised to the more established big venues, giving audiences plenty to choose from. Our ambition is to bring new audiences to contemporary dance as well as make regular dance attenders circulate more between venues.

brussels_dance2There is also a 2 months long programme of choreographic interventions in public spaces, with the support of Promotion de Bruxelles and in partnership with STIB (Brussels Intercommunal Transport Company). Everybody in Brussels will have the opportunity to discover and to be surprised, by the creativity of today’s artists. A free pass, that can be found in every partner venue, will give access to discounted tickets to any BRUSSELS, DANCE! show programmed by any of the partner venue.

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