Take a dip into the Maximum City

mumbai_taj

A weekend in Mumbai is not going to be enough to take a true dip into the maximum city, probably a week or a month won’t work either. But maybe this could just be enough time to get your head around why this metropolis is still so cool and why Bombay (as it was called till 1947) keeps attracting million visitors from every corner of the world every year. Hopefully my final Indian CREED* is going to show you why, give you a hint or hopefully make you book your flight there.
If you missed my previous guides, you can easily access them on my past posts. Make the most of it! 🙂

The thing about Mumbai is you go five yards and all of human existence is revealed. It’s an incredible cavalcade of life, and I love that.
Julian Sands

Mumbai is huge, filled with dreamers of all age, colour, race and religion. It is also full of real movie stars and starlets, mafia bosses and soldiers, millionaires and the poorest people in the world.

Mumbai is a city of contrast and nonsense, where a superficial look would be dangerous as well as useless. If you start your Indian trip from here, please be ready, the pollution and noise can be unbearable, the harassment by street vendors unsustainable, the amount and insistence of beggars totally out of control. But. Hold on and take the jump anyway. Mumbai is also a treasure of Portuguese-influenced architecture, secret temples, a crazy nightlife and an exploding food culture.
Mumbai is life. And you only if you are truly alive you can grasp its essence.

Here’s your:

Mumbai’s Creed

COFFEE

Birdsong Organic Cafe
A lovely cafe in Bandra, serving delicious Jacket potato. Apparently their hot chocolate is also delicious, I didn’t try as it was above 30 degrees when I was there 🙂

The Pantry
Perfect place for a generous breakfast made of granola and yoghurt for me and creamy waffle for my travel companion. Cappuccino is pretty good by Indian standards.

Kala Ghoda Cafe
I found this tiny, little coffee shop by chance while trying to get lost in the Colaba / Fort / Churchgate triangle. Espresso was very good and we had a nice little bite there too, however the staff needs to step their game up. Big time. On top of being quite rude (I wanted to sit upstairs, but I was forced to stay downstairs as one customer  was already up?) and the general attitude was very far from welcoming. When asked the wi-fi password we were abruptly told it was only available for about half hour as lunch time was about to start. I get it when cafes do that as they are open to make money, no to serve coffees to freelance workers who are bored to work from home but, firstly, they could have told us in a nicer way, secondly as we were consuming both food and drinks for about an hour and needed the internet for our on-the-road jobs, would have been quite good if we could use our laptops while eating right?
I was quite uncomfortable as they disconnected the line while I was in the middle of sending an important email.So, you might be wondering why on earth I’ve added Kala Rhoda in my coffee list, right? Well, the truth is that it is very hard to find good coffee in India so if you are looking for your daily caffeine dose, then head here, but only for a brief stop or even better, for a take away. Don’t go there to hang out with your friends or family as they will make you feel rushed or forced to make an order.[Photo Credits: Bobby Joshi]

Colaba Social
I’ve been raving about Social in Delhi and Bangalore, so I had to try the Mumbai venue too, right? Well expect for the temperature which probably was below zero due to the centralised A/C (and my double request to switch if off), it was another delicious breakfast with a elvis toast and nicely done cappuccino.[Photo Credits: Bobby Joshi]

READ

Mumbai is like heaven for bookworms like me. My five days there were like a torture as I couldn’t buy or carry any book in my backpack and I had to fight the temptations constantly.

Strand Book Stall

The city is filled with bookstalls everywhere, it’s almost impossible to walk for more than half a mile without bumping into yet another guy selling new and old books on the street. Especially near parks and stations. I loved it, even if it tortured me! LOL! On top of street vendors, there are also famous and less-known libraries and bookstores you should check out. Strand Book Stall was one of my favourites
Address: 15-C, Dhannur Building, Sir P.M. Road, Borabazar Precinct, Fort, Mumbai

David Sassoon Library
I found this beautiful library completely by chance as I was randomly walking on the Esplanade. Unfortunately, it is only open to members and you know me, I love everything that has to do with books, so I was desperately curious to enter and I offered a coffee bribe to the guardian to let me in, but he politely refused and offered me the option to buy a membership instead. Despite my strong, strong curiosity, I could not afford to spend 55,000 rupies for a couple of hours in a library, however I would suggest you to do so if you are planning to stay in Mumbai longer. I only managed to take the sneaky shot below, but I would have loved to run upstairs and see the rest of that book collection (possibly with the guardian shouting at me, that would be an experience worth doing!!).

Central Library
I had the Central Library on my list for almost two months as I had seen pictures of it and I was excited to finally be in the city to photograph it myself. Well, I did, but from the outside only. The building was under restoration and all the books were transferred in a miserable tent next to it. My heart broke, I have to admit, and I was quite pissed as there were no notice on their website or Facebook page. Anyway, would you do me a favour and go when it re-opens and show me how it looks like from the inside? Thanks! 🙂

Books

EXPLORE

Jehangir Art Gallery
This is a strange gallery, or at least it was when I went there. The floor was scattered with cardboard boxes and pieces of tapes, the first floor was closed to the public, despite the timetable said the opposite. Regardless, there was a very fascinating drawing and painting exhibition in the main room on the ground floor. I don’t know much about it as there were no information or leaflets.

Go to see a Bollywood movie
There are dozen of old and new cinemas in Bombay and you will have to pick the challenge to select one for your Bollywood vibe. Remember that most movies are in Hindi, but having experienced first hand, I can tell you that the dance, the expressions and the music are worth the ticket, even if you won’t understand a word!

Or…Be an extra in a Bollywood movie!
If you follow my Facebook page  you should already know that when I was in Mumbai, I was approached by a scout to take part as an extra in Bollywood movie. Unfortunately, I had plans that day and I had to refuse, but I will certainly accept next time I’ll go to Bombay. I’ve done some research for you and in fact it wasn’t something unusual or unique.. you can do it too! You can read the amazing story of a backpacker turned “actor” here. If you want 10 minutes of  Bollywood fame, my tip is to wander around Colaba where scouts are fishing  for Westerns to feature in local movies almost every day. Can’t wait to see you all in one! 🙂

Dhobi Ghats
This is also known as one of the largest open-air laundry in Asia and in fact, looking at it from the bridge that takes you there, it can easily be the largest in the world. The Dhobis, or washers, work in the open to wash clothes from hotels, hospitals and some privates.
It’s a maze of concrete wash pools, each fitted with its own flogging stone where men of all age are at work from morning to evening. Why, are you wondering they wash things this way? Well, that was also my question and it seems they use chemical products that are hard to find or dangerous to obtain such sparkling results.

The Other Mumbai: Dharavi Slum
Since before reading Shantaram and other books about India, I knew I was going to visit the largest slum in Asia one day. I didn’t know I would visit it in the vest of an ambassador for the best not-for-profit organisation around, Reality Gives. With the guys of RG I managed to learn about the live in the slum, its economy, culture and community sense. I was expecting to hear horror stories and to fall into pieces, but in fact the story is different and I highly suggest you to book a tour too via the link above. Please note that photography is not normally permitted to respect the privacy of the people who live there.

Sir JJ College of Architecture
One of the things I love the most, as mentioned already many times, it’s to go with the flow and get lost in a new city. So, when walking down Dadabhai Naoroji Road, I saw the gates of the Sir JJ College of Architecture opened, I could not stop myself to go inside for a quick peak. And hey, wasn’t one of the best things in Mumbai? There was a college cerebration going on, but other sculpture artists were busy with their creations in the garden, while the painting class were drawing two old men lying on the floor. Students and teachers made us feel most welcome and explained to us many things I did not know about the art and the Indian university system. If you get a change, try and get inside too.

Dhabba Walla
These are Six Sigma foodies. While I was in Mumbai, thanks to Shanti travel, I got to experience first hand another magic of the city that never sleeps: the Dabbawallas in action. It all started about 125 years back when a Parasi banker wanted to have home cooked food regularly in his office and gave this responsibility to the first ever Dabbawala. Other people also liked the idea and the demand for Dabba delivery soared and it still remain alive today. Even Richard Branson was so impressed that he came all the way to India to witness these guys’ delivery system in action and I couldn’t miss my chance either! They have been shifting dabba (lunch boxes) from Mumbai suburbs into the city’s office with less than one mistake in every six million deliveries, for this reason they have been awarded the Six Sigma  certificate and yes, that is without any computer or software in place! To watch them live too, get in touch with Shanti Travels and arrange your visit too.

Mani Bhavan Gandhi Sandhralaya
There are very few museums or memorial places in the world where my heart sunk and I felt as I was touching a piece of history with my own eyes. One was Anne Frank’s house in Amsterdam and the second the WWII memorial in Berlin. Now, in Mumbai, Mahatma Gandhi’s house gave me the same feeling for its powerful photographic and video journey as well as his intact room on the first floor. If you don’t believe in soul, maybe a place like this will change your mind, because there, I felt as Bapu was still alive.

Mumbai CST
Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST), formerly  known as Victoria Terminus (VT), is a UNESCO World Heritage Site which serves also serves as the headquarters of the Central Railways. From the inside and the outside, the Gothic influence mixed with the Mughal architecture is clearly visible and this improbable juxtaposition makes it a grand building overall. Built in 1887, it is one of the busiest railway stations in India: take care!!

EAT

Leopold Cafe
Does this place really need a introduction? Everybody knows about Leopold Cafe, right? If you don’t, read this
Leopold, as it is popularly referred to be one of the city’s oldest restaurants in Mumbai, India. It has created its own heritage and legacy into the food business since ages… To call it a restaurant, it would be demeaning as an institution since it has become a landmark in Mumbai as it is the preferred place both for local Indians and foreign tourists. Founded in 1871, Leopold is open from morning 7:30am till midnight. It boasts of a varied and eclectic clientele. The interiors are very much like a european cafe and the food is so scrumptious and delicious, you’ll want for more and more and more!!!! Whether it’s lunch, Sunday brunch or an evening spent with friends drinking.

Salt Water Cafe
This lovely restaurant came highly recommended to me by my local friends and once I got there I understood why. The menu is filled with delicious local and international dishes and the wood-filled venue itself is also very lovely. The only issue was that once inside it was freezing. Everybody in fact looked like their were having their meal in a refrigerator and despite having asked them twice they couldn’t turn off the A/C. Remember to bring a jumper and a scarf, there is nothing worst than feeling cold while eating.

JamJar
A super cool restaurant in an up-and-coming area of Mumbai that reminds me of Dalston in London. The food was good and coffee was not bad either.Staff is super friendly, but what is the key factor here is the beautifully Gaudi-inspired terrace and the quirky indoor design.
A must-visit, especially for those foodie instagramers on the hunt for cool restaurant to add to their gallery.

Elco Pani Puri Center
A very popular stop for Indian families for Pani Puri on every day of the week. It was a Wednesday lunch time and there was a 45-minutes wait when we went, but it was totally worth it! If you go, make sure to ask advice about the most amazing dishes to your neighbours tables: we did so and soon enough with a table covered by the most delicious local food ever.

DREAM

I’ve been one of the earlier fan of Airbnb for a long time, so whenever I feel tired of hotels and resorts,  I try to find a nice little accommodation where I can pretend to have a house for a couple of days. Even in Mumbai, Airbnb didn’t fail to meet my standards. If you also want to start airbnb-ing, why don’t you sign us using this link? It will give £14 credit to you and £14 to me when you travel.
So, it’s a win-win strategy for both of us, right?

Gallery

Bangalore ain’t just IT!

bangalore style

If I say Bangalore, what are the first things that come to mind? I bet it’s the followings:
huge call centers, IT towers, tecchies and engineers all around, right?
Well, that’s surely what I thought when I was almost forced to pass through the city on my way from Kerala to Hampi.

OH! I was so wrong. Bangalore, probably because of IT and its huge English-speaking, tech-savvy manpower has become so much more in the recent years. The main business city of Karnataka in fact, it’s also a cultural and art hub with an impressive number of galleries, cultural centers, cinemas, restaurants and lots of fun stuff to do. Unfortunately, I had a train ticket booked, otherwise I would have spent there much longer than two day.

So, the best way to enjoy your stay in this varied Indian central state is by landing in Bangalore for a few days of fun and then moving on to Hampi (next blog post) for some chill-out time. Due to time restriction I did not manage to visit Mysore as well, but I’ve heard great things about it. If you are in fact going there, please make sure to stay at the brand new Zostel.
Here’s your:

Bangalore’s Creed

COFFEE

Social Offline
After visiting Social in Delhi, I had to check the one in Bangalore too! I actually came back here twice. For dinner and drinks with a bunch of friends, but I prefer it as a daytime hangout place. With free wifi it is also the perfect spot if you, like me, are working on the go.
Cappuccino and Elvis Presley Waffles is my favourite Social combination.

OM Made Café
Lovely, lovely, lovely rooftop cafe with a great view over the city. It’s meant to be great for sunset too, but I actually spent a lovely afternoon writing there with a bite and a couple of coffees. Delicious beans, overpriced and not super amazing food. But the place is worth a visit for sure! 

Koshy’s
This is the true Bangalorean hub for artists, writers, actors and anyone who feels a bit arty inside. You should totally try the caramel custard along with a cup of tea.
Ph Credits: Bobby Koshi

READ

Blossom Book House
Hands down to Mayi Gowda who moved to Bangalore to study engineering and to sustain his studies he started selling books and magazines on MG Road. Fast-forward to a few years and he is now the proud owner of the best bookshop in Bangalore.

Books

EXPLORE

Freedom Park
Interestingly enough, this large venue was formerly the Central Jail and it was only opened to the public in November 2008.

Cubbon Park
Spread across 300 acres this is the place you need to come for your walking, running or yoga exercises. Come here at weekends and you will e surrounded by happy families with their ice-creams and balloons. Great place for people watching and street photography as well as refresh yourself from Bangalore’s traffic!

KR Market
KR Market, also known as City Market, is the largest market in Bangalore.
Curious fact: It was the first locality in the whole of Asia to get electricity and it is also considered to be the largest flower market in Asia.
Ph. Credits: The Girl Who Clicks

EAT

The Egg Factory
This is truly an egg factory as the name suggests! I never seen SO many different options to cook an egg and the taste is also great. Oh, their menu is super cool too! Ooops! I stole one as a souvenir guys! 😛

Ph. Credits: Rachel Prianka 

Nagarjuna restaurant
A classical south-Indian restaurant that serves all-you-can-eat kind of dinner on banana leaves. Mainly frequented by locals on a night out, it’s a nice place for some spicy and tasty food.

Ph. Credits: Burrp

DREAM

The Laika Boutique Stay is a small boutique hotel located on Bangalore’s Mahatma Gandhi (MG) Road. Laika, the lovely owner who runs the hotel received the property from her grandmother several years ago. For decades, the place was left in an abandoned state and shape, but one day, Laika, gifted with incredible entrepreneurial and spirit and incredible energy decided to turn the property upside down and opened this fantastic boutique hotel with a warm, homely feeling. Without showing off, the rooms are stylish and with contemporary design blended with heritage features. There are eight and all are equipped with air-conditioning, wi-fi, television, telephone, 24-hours hot/cold water. The ground level has a beautiful garden, common dining area with an attached kitchen.
Here you can easily get comfortable around one of her two living room’s large wooden table or work a bit on your laptop with the help of superfast internet connection. (The fastest in India I found! Ode to the IT industry!)

Laika and her team also organize tailored tours to Hampi and Mysore as well as to other destinations. Breakfast was also one of the most amazing I had in my entire trip in india, with all sorts of deliciousness from southern and central India, as well as continental options. If you, like me, fall in love with Laika’s dishes, just ask her to show you the secrets: she also hosts mouthwatering cooking class in her own kitchen!

You can book your stay at Laika’s little paradise here

If you are not an airbnb user yet, get your discount here

Gallery

Your Ultimate Guide to a Weekend on the Jurassic Coast

The Jurassic Coast, I’m sure you all know, it’s a beautiful part of England. But if you only have a weekend there, it can be hard to choose what you really want to see and experience. That’s why this guide is going to take off your shoulders the heavy duty of deciding where to go and what to do. In a very simple way, this is also the perfect route if you just took the impromptu decision to take off to Dorset on a Friday morning. Old Harry's Rock

Day One

Let’s say that you’ve left London (or your home town) early in the morning to start your long drive to Dorset, if you have been smart (and lucky) enough, you should hit the coast around lunch time. So, what’s best than a pub lunch to stretch your legs and get some fuel into your belly. The best place is  Banks Arms, an award-winning and stunning pub perked on the coast of Studland. Not only has a beautiful indoor area, but also has a grand al-fresco area looking into the sea. If you are a member of the national trust you can park here for free.* The Bankers Arms  Once you have recovered from your first leg of your road trip and you are finally ready to explore, gather your things, set your camera ON  and head to Old Harry’s Rocks. Leaving the pub behind you,  walk down the road on the right and take the first little path on the left. There you can enjoy a very first view of the stunning white cliffs and warm your camera and fingers with some first stunning shots. Once you’ve done so, walk back and carry on on the main path towards the coast. Take time to embrace the scene, the stunning coast changing shape and colour around you  and if you are not too scared, go up to the edge to see how high you are. Old Harry's Rock Once you are done, go back to the car and drive to Corfe where you can once again park for free* at Castle. You can then walk up the castle ruins and enjoy the view from there. It’s pretty impressive. Corfe CastleThe view from Corfe CastleBut once you are in Corfe, don’t forget to go to the train station for a short time travel when a on old-style train will pass by.  Check the train timetable as they are not very frequent.   Corfe Station While you are in the centre, you should also go and visit the little church in the main square and if you are lucky as we were, you might bump into a groom holding hands with his freshly wedded bride. Watch the show and maybe wish the couple well. And I know you are a bit peckish by now, so head to the bakery in front of the church and try their onion and cheese pies and yes, there is a fabulous Sweet Shop next to it. Buy some sugary fuel for the rest of your journey too. The Sweet Shop in Corfe If you didn’t have a very long lunch and didn’t spend hours at the sweet shop, you should be now ready to see the most famous part of Dorset, so go back to your car and drive to  Lulworth Cove.

IMG_4401 You can once again park here to admire the untouched beauty of the cove and embrace the calm of the place. After this and depending on your energy level, you have a double option. You can either get into your car and drive to Durdle Door for sunset photo or if you have time you can walk your way there. It isn’t close nor easy, but surely is a great experience with some stunning views of this incredible coast. Take some beers and crisps and enjoy the sun go down sitting on the beach at Durdle Door, see the ray of light painting it and changing the coulor of the sea itself, embrace nature and its incredible, speechless beauty. IMG_4402You are almost done for the day, it’s time for dinner, so drive to Wareham and eat some burgers or sausages and mash at Hall & Woodhouse. Service is friendly and food is great. Remember that kitchens close early in the countryside (even earlier than London!), so make sure to hit here or any other restaurant in the same square before 8pm. Hood & Woodhouse

Lulworth Cove

Day Two
On your second day, go and explore the west side of the Jurassic Coast. Start your day with a delicious full English breakfast or, if your are watching your weight, some skinny pancakes at Cafe Blue in Weymouth.
Cafe Blue - Weymouth Weymouth looks like a city that stopped in time and when we were there we were lucky to stumble on the Armed Forces Seafront Parade with over 1,000 veterans, marching bands and historic military vehicles.Weymouth The ParadeThe Parade
After your breakfast, you should totally take a walk on the beach and maybe cool your feet in the water for a bit or maybe go for a swim if the weather allows it. But don’t chill too much! There is still so much to see 🙂
Weymouth beach
Once you are ready, head back to your car and drive towards the Isle of Portland. On the way there, drive slowly: safety first, but there are also some stunning viewpoints over Portland. The street can be narrow sometimes, but you should be able to find some space to park here for a couple of panoramic shots.
Once you get to Portland head to the still functioning lighthouse and maybe walk down on the rocks or take a  leisurely walk throughout the beach huts and do some people watching. There are some stunning views here both towards the sea and the countryside: in the summer the green is greenest and the blue is bluest.
Portland Bill Lighthouse
Nissan Figaro
Beach huts in Portland
Porland beach huts But we are not done for the day yet, so it’s time to go again and this time we are going to…guess.. yup another  beach! Well, probably the most famous beach in Dorset: Chesil Beach. If you haven’t read the novel by Ian McEwan, you should maybe bring it along with you so that you can read it while you sit on the perfectly-rounded stones that form this 29 km long, 200m wide and 15m high beach. I was told you cannot take these beautiful rocks with you as they are part of the protected UNESCO site that covers the entire Jurassic Coast, so…you’ve been warned!
Chesil Beach
Once you are ready you can hop back on your car and drive to one next and last destination for the day: Lyme Regis, another small, beautiful village by the coast. On your way there, if you have time, remember to stop in some of the small towns you will pass by; Attonsbury, one of them, is super-cute, and filled with colourful cottages. Once you get to Lyme Regis, park your car on top of the hill before entering the city centre so you can take a pleasant walk down through the main street. Grab your ice-cream from Parlour Stores on Cobb Road (it’s like proper Italian gelato) and walk along the Cobb.

 Once again, look at the fishermen and weekenders working on their boats and admire the landscape. Inhale the atmosphere and breath deeply. Take a wander through the little streets and the colourful houses or maybe chill in the park for a while.

Lyme RegisThe best way to close the day is to get some fish & chips and couple of drinks from Cobb Gate Fish Bar right on the beach and sit there to enjoy your food and the sun going down. But beware! The seagulls here are particularly hungry and brave, so make sure to protect your food and eat quickly!

Day Three

You are on your third and final day of your weekend away and it’s time to explore the east side of the Jurassic Coast. The best way to start your day is to head to Clavell’s Cafe in Kimmeridge’s; a super cute family-run restaurant. The food here is amazing and prices very reasonable

Covell's Cafe Covell Cafe

After you have filled your stomach, you can either walk up to Clavell Tower (about 20 minutes) or drive at the bottom of it. Whatever you decide, make sure to stop on the way to take pictures of the cutest cottages right outside the restaurant.
Best house of KimmeridgeIf you decide to drive it’s 5£ for the toll road and parking there. We decided to drive as it was raining, but I guess it is a pleasant walk to the tower on a sunny day.
Clavell Tower Clavell Tower is a four storey circular tower that stands on the cliff overlooking Kimmeridge Bay  Built in 1830 its location has attracted many writers including Hardy and PD James and it was recently turned into a holiday accommodation with one bedroom on each of the four floor.
Clovell Tower
Jump back on your car and drive to Swanage. Park on top of the hill for long car park stay and take in the view over the bay. Walk towards the beach and pay 0.65£ to stroll to the new pier and take some pictures of the fishermen in action. The wooden floor of the pier is filled with plaques with names and words dedicated to beloved ones who’ve passed away. Sit on one of the benches and let your cheeks be caressed by the wind for a while and maybe give some thoughts to your own beloved ones who are no longer here.
The Pier
Walk along the beach up to the other end of the cove and admire the colourful beach huts and stop somewhere for people watching and for taking in the scene and the sky.
The PierSwanage
But a trip to Dorset wouldn’t be complete without an afternoon tea, so head to Swanage city centre and sit at a table at Love Cake Etc. Beware that portions are very, very generous so keep that in mind before ordering.  Staff is incredibly nice and genuine too.
Love Cake Etc Menu
Love Cake Etc
Love Cake Etc
Have a safe journey back!!
——–
During this weekend we stayed at an amazing converted church in East Stoke, kindly sponsored by AirBnb. You can see a few pictures of this property below and book here. *All views on the the accommodation or the places mentioned above are my own. 
AirBnb AirBnb AirBnb AirBnb AirBnb
Notes to the reader:
*Car Parks: many of the locations and sights mentioned above offer free car parking to National Trust members, if you are one remember to bring your sticker, if you are not, but are thinking to explore more in the next few months, if might be worth getting a membership ahead.
**This guide is tailored for a long weekend away – obviously, if you are travelling during the week, it can also work, but please double check opening times of the places listed above.
*** In order to really enjoy and explore the Jurassic Coast, a car is necessary; this was the way I managed to see so much in such a limited amount of time. If you do not own a car, I recommend you to rent one through one of the most popular rental cars or ask a car-owner friend to come with you! 🙂
*** *If you have some extra time or even an extra day, add the Blue Pool to your itinerary. We couldn’t see it, but the pictures of it are very promising!Did I forget anything? Would you add something to this guide? Let me know below!
Copyright © 2015 Sabrina Andrea Sachs. All rights reserved.
Unless otherwise indicated, all materials on these pages are copyrighted by Sabrina Andrea Sachs. No part of these pages, either text or image may be used for any purpose. Therefore, reproduction, modification, storage in a retrieval system or retransmission, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical or otherwise, for reasons other than personal use, is strictly prohibited without prior written permission. If you are interested in buying any copy or prints, please email me to thestorytellerphotos@gmail.com