Portraits of India

I took a lot of photos of the people I met in Amritsar and Delhi.

The people I photographed were so polite and humble. The kind old man with the balloons almost made me cry because he was so happy to hear that I wanted to take his photo.

Here they are. I hope you like them!

DSC_0580This man sells balloons on Lawrence Road, Amritsar, often standing outside the school gates when it’s time for the end of school bell to ring.

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Four friends playing cards in Company Garden, Amritsar.
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A street food vendor, selling savoury laddoo. He walks around with his portable cooking station, lots of passers-by stop him for his laddoos which are served with pickled carrots. Delicious.
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A young boy selling cream rolls, flaky pastry filled with cream.

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This older gentleman has been selling puri and chole outside Company Garden for many years.
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Advising us to buy puri and chole – we didn’t on this occasion as we were about to jump in the car.
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Pani puri stall outside the Golden Temple, Amritsar. I love this photo so much. I think because of how proud he looks.

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“Take my photo” said the tall man giving out the halva prasad at The Golden Temple. DSC_0782

Chachey di Hatti near the Golden Temple, we bought a few spicy things here.
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A man peddling a rickshaw with the most colourful fabrics ever! I took this from the car, as we drove past he saw me with my camera. I waved, he waved back.
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“The press man” ironing clothes outside of the hotel we were staying at in Noida.
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I followed this lady with the beautiful parasol until I was close enough to take this photo (which I then showed her), at Qutub Minar, Delhi.
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Two Coolies at Delhi Train Station. DSC_1296

One of the many chefs at the famous Brothers Dhaba, Amritsar.
DSC_1315Fresh veggies for sale on Lawrence Road near the Am Papar stall.

The Golden Temple, Amritsar

Hello! I’ve already been back a week and I haven’t had a chance to even look at my blog. I don’t feel festive whatsoever for some reason, perhaps something to do with the 25+ degree weather in Amritsar and Delhi… oh and the fact that I haven’t bought any Christmas presents yet.

Back to the main point of my post… My favourite place in the world (The Golden Temple) was one of the main highlights from my trip to India – if you’ve had the fortune of visiting this amazing place, you’ll know what I mean. It is is overwhelmingly beautiful, breathtaking in fact and my photos do not do it justice.

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The Golden Temple (the holiest Sikh temple) is the pilgrimage destination for Sikhs and is open all day every day. It has a free kitchen, serving on average 100,000 people a day. One hundred thousand people… A DAY!

Lots and lots of worshippers volunteer their time to keep the temple clean and to help in the kitchen, preparing the food and washing the dishes. As with all Sikh temples, people of all religions and backgrounds are welcome. You must remove your shoes, wash your feet in the pool of water before entering and make sure your head is covered at all times (as a sign of respect).

There’s so much I could say about the history but I don’t want to get anything wrong, so all I will say is that I love it here. Each time we visit Amritsar I say I want to visit the Golden Temple more than once but we never manage to. Maybe next time.

Ready for some more photos? We visited as the sun was setting, which meant the light was amazing!

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I’ve got one more post about India in the pipeline… should be ready soon!

Bye for now :)

Cal’s Own

Last night, lots of North East bloggers congregated to say happy 2nd birthday to Cal’s Own :)

You can find this fine Brooklyn Style Pizza Pie establishment at 207 Chillingham Road, Heaton. If you haven’t been to Cal’s in the two years it’s been open then I suggest you stop reading this post and get yourself there quick smart. FOR THE LOVE OF PIZZA GO! I mean just look at it.

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If you’re still reading:

A) Thank you
B) Please go for pizza afterwards.

Although I hadn’t eaten in at Cal’s Own before, I had devoured a left-over slice that my husband brought home after he’d finished work. After last night’s birthday celebrations, I’ve already arranged two pizza nights with friends to take place after my hols (more about that later).

In between all the eating and mild fear of dribbling tomato sauce everywhere, I spent last night trying to take photos of food (I seem to have taken a lot of photos of olives) and chatting to Chloe, Fiona, Sam and my friend Ollie. (Ollie man get a blog so I can hyperlink your name).

Cal doesn’t make ordinary pizza, this is beyond delicious. It comes in pretty close to the best pizza I’ve ever eaten (consumed in excess between September 2000-August 2001 and last tasted in March 2004. Pizza Napoli in Aix-en-Provence if you’re ever in the area).

Last night, the food began with huge green olives and just kept on coming with busy staff bringing plate after plate of deliciousness (whilst also checking we had napkins, plates and drinks – thank you!). After the olives came warm bread, chicken, meatballs in a gorgeous thick tomato sauce, spicy sausages and then pizza! I was already pretty full by the time the thick base pizza came out, but of course had to have a slice (it was NOT small). It was immense and totally floored me. Literally stuffed.

If you’re already hungry after all this food chat, it’s about to get a lot worse for you.

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The most photographed olives in the world

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The atmosphere is super laid-back and the dining area is simply furnished with wooden tables and chairs, it has a cosy homely feel to it and I love the framed posters on the walls.

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On the way out I thought it would be nice to take some photos of the open kitchen and the giant pizza paddles… managed to snap some pizza-making action too!

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Thanks for a lovely evening and Happy 2nd Birthday Cal’s Own!

I’ll be back in December, but for now I’ll just be over here perusing the menu… what are you going to order?

I’d love to hear what you think if you’ve already been!

The Time I lived in Paris… (Part 1)

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Things were very different for me in 2010. I was working in finance (not loving it loads) and we hadn’t started looking for a house to buy, so were renting in South Gosforth.

One cold February morning I was asked into a meeting with my manager’s manager… He was really nice but obviously I was a bit worried about this and had no idea what it was about. He said he had an ‘opportunity’ for me. I was even more worried. WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?! What it meant was, there was a big project about to start and France was the first country to ‘go-live’ (apologies for corporate jargon). They wanted me to go and live in Paris for 6 months to support the local organisation. I won’t go into things in too much detail, but I talked about it with Ankush for a few days and came to the decision that I’d say yes. I felt beyond excited to have been given this opportunity (as well as extremely lucky) but also sad to be leaving Ankush behind for weeks at a time. WAHHH.

Time flew by and at the beginning of April, off I went!

People who know me, already know of my love of France and all things French. My love was cemented when I visited for the first time in 1997, on a school trip to Toulouse. I see myself as British, Indian and French. Ha ha. When people ask my (French) friend where in France she’s from, I like to interject to tell them I’m from the South. I’m sure that’s not annoying at all. I studied French (and business) at university and completed a year abroad in the beautiful southern city of Aix-en-Provence, near Marseille. I can’t believe this was 14 years ago. Terrifying. In short: best year ever where I met some of my favourite people in the world. Maybe I’ll go into more detail about this another time…

For the first two weeks, while I hunted for apartments, I resided in the very fancy Méridien Etoile at Porte Maillot because it was close to where I had to take the train to the office. The RER C train was not as glamorous as I’d envisioned. Also, it was almost impossible for me to say RER in French. Try saying AIR-UH-AIR quickly and you’ll see what I mean. It was smelly, old and always jam-packed, but it was quick and relatively painless. Oh except for the time I had a run-in with a very scary mean man and no-one helped me… or if there was a strike meaning it would take hours to get to and from work. (I quickly learnt to work from home on strike days).

The search for a suitable apartment was intense, I had no idea where I wanted to live. Luckily, my cousin had worked in Paris for 6 months (we JUST missed each other. Typical) and gave me some advice, as well as a friend from school who was living there (she still lives there). I also had help from a relocation agency through work, who sent me through options. Apartments go quickly in Paris, so I accepted one in the 17th arrondissement based on photos alone. Somehow I still have the word document the agency sent me. Here are the pics I saw:

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It was on the 7th floor of a beautiful building on Rue Rennequin, complete with narrow spiral staircase and no lift. I moved in and really quickly changed my mind. It was super tiny (and foisty), despite the agency saying there was plenty of room for guests to sleep. This was a lie. I decided to view the next apartment they offered me, which was in Neuilly sur Seine, Rue d’Orléans. It didn’t have anywhere near as much character as the first place, but it was much bigger and really convenient for work as the metro was less than 5 mins away. I also have the word document for this place:

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I loved it as soon as I moved in. I don’t think I’ve mentioned that it was above a bakery, so each morning I awoke to the smell of freshly baked croissants! Not too shabby.

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My apartment was the third (top) floor of the building on the right

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The first month was really tough. Everything was different. Paris was not like the other places in France I’d been to and Parisians were not like other French people I’d met (nice generalisation there). I missed home & Ankush loads. I didn’t know many people although a guy from Germany was also in the same boat as me, he was also in Paris for 6 months working on the project, so we became friends (and I am ever thankful for him carrying my heavy suitcase up 7 flights of stairs… and then down again a few days later when I left Rue Rennequin). I also made friends with a lovely girl from work called Natalie who’d been living in Paris for a while.

It was about 3 or 4 weeks in and I’d been invited to my friend from school’s apartment for dinner – where I’d also meet her husband for the first (or second) time. Unfortunately for him, my rush-hour journey on the metro was not a good one and the beautiful pastries I’d purchased from the bakery below my apartment barely survived the experience. He opened the door and I burst into tears as soon as he asked how I was. NOT COOL SHIVANI. NOT COOL. My friend hadn’t got home from work yet, so that was embarrassing to say the least.

Things got easier though, especially when friends and family decided to come and stay for the weekend! I will go into this more another time with lots more photos. It’s not really possible to fit 6 months into one blog post. I could try, but I’m not going to. I do promise however, that the next instalment will be far more cheery than this one :)

Hope you’ve enjoyed reading.

À plus tard mes amis!

St Mary’s Inn

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St Mary’s Ale has been brewed by local Wylam Brewery

St Mary’s Inn is a newly opened gastropub in St Mary’s Park just outside Morpeth and is the brand new venture by the Jesmond Dene House family. I was lucky enough to be invited along with Chloe to sample the menu and have a peek around the place.

We drove up on Monday evening, encountering lots of lovely fog along the way which resulted in us getting a bit lost and me having to jump out of the car to ask for directions (only to be told to go back the way we came from but just ‘keep going’).  We made it eventually… only 5 minutes later than we’d expected. I’d call this success. It was really dark so I have no photos to show you of the beautiful building (a former hospital) from the outside, but if you’ve read my blog before you’ll know that I have plenty of photos of the interior to show you!

We were greeted by smiling staff (always nice!) and were shown around by a lovely young chap whose name has escaped my useless brain (SORRY). He knew lots about the refurbishment of the building and told us all about the artwork by local artists, hanging on the walls.

I don’t think I’ve mentioned that you can book a room to stay overnight at St Mary’s Inn have I?! Upstairs there will be a total of 11 rooms, 4 of which were ready for us to view. The beautiful paintings of Northumbrian landscapes in the hallway are by Judy Appleby, with each room being named after a Northumbrian reservoir.

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The first thing I noticed as soon as we walked in was the beautiful fragrance, as we went round each room I kept repeating how much I loved it. The rooms have been furnished very tastefully, they’re simple, elegant and spacious. There’s something about crisp white bedding that just makes me want to climb into the bed and hibernate. I didn’t do this, obviously.

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Downstairs there are 3 main bar areas, with wood burning stoves and the most adorable wire dog sculptures – you might recognise them from Jesmond Dene House, created by sculptor Gary Tiplady. The photos might not convey just how cosy this place is – you have to see it to believe it.

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Then there’s the area where breakfast and afternoon tea will be served… I love the walls in here so much!

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Most of the art downstairs is by Norman Cornish, these paintings have been given to St Mary’s Inn by the Northumbria University Gallery.

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There are also cartoons by local cartoonist David Haldane who lives in Morpeth. You might recognise his name as David creates the daily cartoons for The Times and has also featured in Punch Magazine and Spitting Image. I particularly liked this cartoon:

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We then sauntered over to the restaurant area… there’s also a private dining room (which seats 20 people). It wasn’t quite ready to be photographed but we had a peek and it was lovely. As there were other diners, I didn’t take too many photos in the restaurant area.

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After reading the menu approximately 100 times, I opted for a true pub classic (I’m so predictable), Cumberland Sausage, Mash and Roast Onions (£11.50) and a side of Cauliflower Cheese (£3.00), while Chloe opted for the Ricotta Dumplings with Winter Squash (£10.50). Next time I visit I am definitely getting the Salt Cod Fritters with Tartare Sauce from the Snacks section of the menu. In fact I quite fancy that right now. Produce is locally sourced and there is a really good variety of menu options to choose from, as well as a children’s menu.

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Look at that cheese sauce!

Look at that cheese sauce!

Both of us loved our meals, they were well presented, piping hot and most importantly, totally delicious. The cauliflower cheese was AMAZING. The cheese sauce was perfect. I’ll probably order it with any of the mains I choose in the future. Is this acceptable?

Chloe knew before we’d even looked at the menu that she would have the Banoffee Doughnut (£3.50) for dessert and although it was a tough choice, I chose the Brewer’s Malt Profiteroles with Hot Chocolate Sauce (£7). LOOK AT THEM! You’ll notice that they’re slightly more biscuit-y than your normal profiteroles… I was very pleasantly surprised by this twist on a classic dessert. Extremely tasty and very (very) generous with the amount of hot chocolate sauce – enough for Chloe to pour a dollop or two on her banoffee doughnut!

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I enjoyed the relaxed, cosy atmosphere at St Mary’s Inn as well as the emphasis on providing good food and ingredients being locally sourced. I’ve got a feeling it’s going to get very busy here, so if you fancy popping in, do ring to book in advance so you’re not disappointed. The phone number is 01670 293293 or email hello@stmarysinn.co.uk. It’s only 20 minutes away from where I live, so will definitely be popping back for more tastiness with Ankush.

I’d love to hear what you think if you visit, do let me know!

* Our meals were provided free of charge for review purposes, but as with everything on my blog, my opinions are 100% honest.