Wednesday, 2 November 2011

PHOTO FEATURE - Shimla , Himachal Pradesh

This post is dedicated to my brother Deepak, whom I lost earlier this year. Being the same age, we were obviously quite connected; even though we stayed in different cities for the most part. However, my first trip to Shimla (while he was staying there) was certainly one of the most memorable trips with him. It was during winter and it was snowing. We ate ice cream with snowflakes falling in it and played cricket in the house's backyard. A crazy dance by the fireplace at home followed. It was a trip I'll never forget... Here's to him and his zest for life...

I have this love-hate relationship with Shimla. I love the colonial feel of this town; the never-ending Mall Road, buildings with slanted roofs, the Indian Coffee House, the colonial structures… But, I hate the commercialism that has taken over it. It is flooded with tourists all-year-round. Still, it remains close to my heart. I visited Shimla twice in the past two years itself, but my fondest memory of this quaint town is of playing cricket in the snow-covered backyard of my cousin’s grand colonial home, and then dancing around the fireplace after a very cold, snowy day. Hmmm, some moments can never be replicated.

So, I’d like to share with you some photographs from my last trip to Shimla in a bid to relive those wonderful moments.

Built during the British colonial rule in India, Shimla's Mall Road is replete with shops and restaurants alike. But it is the string of colonial structures, such as Christ Church and Town Hall, sprawled throughout its stretch that make Mall Road special to me. I particularly love that all vehicles, with the exception of maybe cycle richshaws, are banned from its main street; making it ideal for walking. Hundreds of tourists keep the main street crowded every year, so you'll also find the usual tourist traps here.

Christ Church' prominent lemon yellow building displaying Neo-Gothic architecture was built sometime in 1800s and is the second oldest church in all of North India. When visiting, make sure you check the visitor timings. When I visited last year, it was open to visitors from 8-11a.m. and at 5p.m. in the evening.

The Municipal Library building, adjacent to Christ Church, displays Neo-Tudor architecture. The Tudor style is still visible in portions of the new additions to the many colleges of Oxford and Cambridge.

Undoubtedly one of my favourite places in Shimla, the Indian Coffee House makes the best filter coffee I've had in northern India. I cannot help but have two cups on every visit. This place has a true old-world charm with casual, cosy interiors, old, ragged posters, a blackboard menu and waiters in these unique old-style turbans. The only drawback is its food. Only the idli seems to be edible, the other items lack taste. Still, a must-visit.

A striking statue of Indira Gandhi at the Ridge on Mall Road. Shimla houses the Indira Gandhi Hospital, Medical and Dental College. I really like this photograph for the sheer grandeur it seems to emanate.

A virtual tour of the Louvre Museum, Paris

 The exterior of the Louvre Palace and Museum

Most people who visit the Louvre Museum in Paris are in search of Leonardo Da Vinci's Mona Lisa. As was I. Considered one of the world's most famous paintings (one that has been featured in several Hollywood films as well), the coveted Mona Lisa's enigmatic smile has been the topic of debate for centuries. However, my desire for seeing it up close to really decipher the secret behind that smile remained unfulfilled as this is the one painting that is kept at a few metres distance from viewers, with an exterior glass case, owing to the numerous visitors that flock here every single day. Here are a few glimpses of one of Da Vinci's most popular works.

Interestingly, this painting was stolen from the Louvre in 1911 and returned to it in 1913.

The thing that fascinates me most about the Musée du Louvre is the grand glass pyramid erected over the entrance. It is said that attendance to the museum has doubled since this glass pyramid was constructed.

The Louvre exhibits almost 35,000 objects from prehistory to the 19th century, sprawled over an area of 60,600 square metres. ‘The world’s most visited museum’ houses sculptures, objets d'art, paintings, drawings, and archaeological finds, and receives more than 15,000 visitors each day, 65 percent of whom are tourists.

                     Ground Floor: Egyptian, Near Eastern, Greek, Etruscan and Roman antiquities

First Floor: The Winged Victory of Samothrace

The collection is divided among eight curatorial departments: Egyptian Antiquities; Near Eastern Antiquities; Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities; Islamic Art; Sculpture; Decorative Arts; Paintings; Prints and Drawings.

The Wedding Feast at Cana by Veronese

                                              First Floor: French paintings from the 19th Century

I met this artist who was replicating an Italian sculpture at the museum's Ground Floor

Psyche and Cupid by Antonio Canova

Ground Floor: Etruscan and Roman antiquities

To check out detailed information on the various collections housed in the museum, frequent exhibitions an more, check out their official website here. You can also buy tickets online to avoid queuing up at the museum.