The Mountains Of Darjeeling

I do not claim to be well traveled, but I have been around a bit. This is the story of April 2013, when I visited Darjeeling and Ghum with my chosen family.

Now this one was one of those trips you talk about all your life. One of those trip, where you did not really do anything but remember doing a lot! I am not really sure what makes this one of my favorite trips with fondest memories, but here is my chronicle about the trip.

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With an over zealous family and the camera around my neck, I was ready to embark on a brand new adventure. The 4 hour drive from New Jalpaiguri to Ghum is simply breathtaking. There is rarely a dull moment. The route is dotted with little eateries and we had a quick brunch at a little nondescript family run eatery where the lady served fresh, made to order, chow mien, fried rice and momos.

We stayed at the Sterling resorts in Ghum which shares its boundary with The Ghum Monastery – one of the oldest monasteries in Darjeeling.  Ghum is a great place to stay if you are looking for some peace and quiet away from the noise of the market.

An afternoon walk to the  picturesque Ghum Railway Station and Museum with a cup of steaming tea in hand and conversation with loved ones, is like chicken soup for the soul – only better.

The English influence is predominant all over Darjeeling and resonates in its gastronomic culture. One of my favorite stops was the Glenary Bakery. The nice cozy bakery/cafe in the heart of the Darjeeling market serves a variety of pastries, snacks and breads, all freshly baked and displayed enticingly, that a foodie like me just cannot walk out of there without a couple of boxes of goodies. sipping a cup of their decadent hot chocolate milk in the Darjeeling cold is pure bliss.This red fake telephone booth at the center of the cafe attracts a lot of attention and every member of our 6 people group wanted a picture in it!

There are some fancy and iconic must visit cafes in Darjeeling but one of the best momo I had was on the streets of Ghum. A little street leads from the sterling resort in Ghum to the Ghum main road and it is dotted with small households selling homemade momos from their tiny kitchens. I had a plate of 8 momos (veg) for Rs.25 and it was the best I have eaten. The lady was stuffing and steaming momos in front of us, and we got a freshly steamed batch! They were served with a spicy red chilli sauce and a small bowl of mild beetroot and vegetable broth. It is truly an amazing experience to sit with these very friendly locals, swapping stories and enjoying their local and authentic food.

d9Ghum Monastery

There are a lot of things to do in Darjeeling,  Himalayan Mountaineering Museum, Sri Padmaja Naidu Zoological Park, Trying out rock climbing at Tenzing rock, Great photo ops at Batasia Eco Garden and the Tibetan Refugee Camp.

d2Himalayan Mountaineering Institute
d3Batasia Eco Park

My favorite tourist spot was the Japanese temple and the Peace Pagoda. Tourists are invited to join in the ritualistic chanting in the prayer hall. The beating of the  ceremonial drums by the priest, fills the little prayer hall and reverberates within the soul. Within moments you are in a trans-like state. The experience of praying along side the monks and being a part of their rituals was a unique and amazing experience. Make sure to inquire about the prayer timings ( 4:30 AM to 6 AM and 4:30 PM to 6:30 PM) before you go so that you don’t miss out on the experience.

d4Japanese Temple
d5Japanese Temple

The peace pagoda is a 100 yards away from the temple. Peace pagoda is a Buddhist Stupa, built to unite all the races in the world in search for world peace. It is one of the most beautiful structures in Darjeeling and one to not be missed. One can have a panoramic view of Darjeeling from atop. It is a beautiful place for some amazing photography and some intense soul searching. I would recommend visiting here in the evening to avoid the tourist rush.

d7Peace Pagoda

I love the temples in Darjeeling with their endless rows of  vibrant and colorful prayer flags.

d8Prayer Flags at Mahakal Temple

No trip to Darjeeling can be complete without the mention Kanchenjunga or the Tiger Hill. We were fortunate enough  to get clear glimpses of the mighty peak from our resort’s backyard though we missed the iconic sunrise tour coz of bad weather.

d10Glimpse of Kanchenjunga

There is something magical about the air in the mountains and with a very heavy heart I bid Darjeeling farewell, making a silent promise to return and explore everything I couldn’t.

For the Foodies: You simply must try the Momos, Thupka, baked goodies and Laal chai.

Perfume -The Story Of A Murderer

He lived to find beauty. He killed to possess it.

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Source: http://www.wikipedia.org

I am talking about the 2006 German drama-mystery, Perfume – the story of a murderer, an adaptation from the novel of the same name, written by Patrick Suskind.

The film, directed by Tom Tykwer is set in 18th century Paris, where Jean Baptist Grenouille, an eccentric with superior olfactory senses creates the worlds finest perfumes. Events take a dark turn when he becomes obsessed with the quest to create the ultimate perfume.

The film starts with Jean Baptist Grenouille, a notorious murder, played by Ben Wishhaw, being sentenced to death.

The film then moves into the flashback narrating the life of Grenouille from the time of his birth in Paris stench, his growing up in an orphanage to his servitude in a tannery, to his quest for creating the ultimate perfume that can inspire love.

Born with superior olfactory senses, Grenouille is exposed to many smells when he visits a posh Paris market one day. He nose focuses on a girl selling plum and is very fascinated by it. He suffocates her to death when he tries to stop her from screaming. Grenouille realizes the smell of the girl’s body fades away when she dies. Hence starts Grenouille’s obsession to learn to preserve forever the scents that inspire love.

Grenouille convinces Baldini, a celebrated perfumer, to teach him the art of preserving scents; in turn he creates several new perfumes for Baldini. When Grenouille realizes that Baldini’s method cannot preserve scents of all objects he is devastated and moves to Grasse, to leave advanced perfumery methods.En route Grasse he realizes that he doesn’t have a smell of his own, and hence he sets on a new quest, to create the world’s most unique perfume to prove his worth.

He learns to preserve the scent of humans by covering them with animal fat and then distilling it. But in order to do that he has to kill the person. And to create the ultimate perfume he has to extract scent of 13 beautiful young women. Grenouille embarks on a killing spree killing young beautiful women dumping their naked corpse thought out the town creating havoc and chaos.

Grenouille selects Laure for his 13th scent, but her father, played by Alan Rickman, realizes the danger and takes her to a secluded country side inn. Will Grenouille find Laure, will he succeed in creating the perfume to inspire love, the movie will keep you on the edge of your seat.

The film moves to the present where jean Baptist Grenouille is being taken for execution. He applies a drop of the perfume on himself. The executioner and the crowd in attendance are overwhelmed by the beauty of the perfume. They declare Grenouille innocent before falling into an orgy.

The final scene, more gruesome than the murders, is at the birth place of Grenouille, where he pours his perfume on himself and is then devoured by the people.

The actor Ben Whishaw who plays Grenouille is very convincing as a half-crazy and part-scary genius. Grenouille is an ambivalent character and you never know whether to love him for his genius or to hate him for his cruel murders.

Dustin Hoffman as benevolent, unsuccessful perfumer Baldini is fabulous, and Alan Rickman plays the single, protective father with his usual flair.

This is one of those films – you may not savor it but you will not stop watching it, in horror and fascination. Perfume – the story disgusts but keeps you glued to the screen wanting you to punish Grenouille for his savagery and also hoping he is freed.

J’adore By Dior (Eau de parfum)

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Since I was a little girl, I was fascinated by J’adore. Every time I would walk into a perfume store and see the ads with the gorgeous golden bottle and even more gorgeous Claudia Schiffer, I would pine for a bottle of this juice for myself.

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Now, my perfume shelf is a riot of fragrances and my prized bottle of J’adore was pushed behind by newer and fancier concoctions until a couple of days back, it caught my eye again. All it took was a lackadaisical sniff of the perfume to remind me why I loved it so much and this compulsive review is the result of that sniff!

J’adore celebrates the bouquet of Ylang Ylang, Damask Rose and Sambac Jasmine. Other noticeable notes are Tuberose, Magnolia, Plum, and Mandarin. There is also a hint of Musk, Vanilla and Blackberry. The perfume is a perfect concoction with no floral note overpowering the other

Despite having a list of flowers as the main notes, the fragrance is not overwhelmingly floral or sickly sweet. The white flowers blend beautifully with fruity notes and the warm musky base notes to create a fresh, smooth, luminous golden scent. The pale yellow, musky floral dry down of this perfume is my absolute favorite.

It has been my to-go fragrance and can be worn any time of the day and year. J’adore (Eau de parfum) has one of the best longevity that I know of. I can still get a faint dry down whiff of it on my skin by the end of the day and on my clothes even the next day! The Silage is exceptionally good too.

I know my crush on J’adore is going to be short-lived and the sensual amphora shaped bottle will be pushed back until I am ready to be blown away by this simple yet sophisticated potion again.

As common and overdone this scent, I am not embarrassed to fall in love with it time and again.

Now for today’s tip: A lot of women have complained about longevity of perfumes. ‘It does not last on me for more than an hour’ or ‘after an hour, I cannot smell it on me anymore’.  Well, when we first smell a fragrance, the scent receptors send a signal to the brain’s limbic system, which determines how we will process and feel about that particular scent. But the receptors in our nose essentially turn off after around two breaths, and the scent—no matter how strong initially—starts to fade.  So next time you want to test the longevity of your perfume, ask someone around you if they can still smell it!

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“In the end, it’s not going to matter how many breaths you took, but how many moments took your breath away” ―Shing Xion

Location: Glacier Point, Yosemite, California

Issey Miyaki L’eau d’issey (Summer EDT 2012)

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What I really like about Issey Miyaki perfumes is the new editions it launches every season, and it keeps me and my nose ever inquisitive. Though I must admit every time I go to an outlet to pick up a bottle, I get a little paranoid as to what if the next edition is still better than this one? Almost all the L’eau d’Issey editions have my approval, be it the Florale, Noir, Summer or the Amber. There is generally very subtle difference in the scents from the original L’eau d’Issey, the theme almost always being the same – Fresh, Floral and aquatic.

This time around, I gathered courage (and funds) and finally decided to pick a limited edition bottle and as I had always liked this green and blue summery bottle, I bought the to Issey Miyaki L’eau d’issey (Summer EDT 2012)

The well known variant blatantly announces Summer. I love the way the bottle plays with transparency against the green opaque leafs. A light blue transparent bottle is wrapped with opaque, fresh green leaves, giving the bottle a very natural, tranquil and rain forest feel. The original shape of the Leau d’Issey bottle is retained.

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It is difficult to describe the perfume without comparing it with its sister L’eau d’issey. The Fragrance can be described as fresh, aquatic and floral with hints of summer, grass and something else green.  The fragrance is very light, fresh and exhilarating. It is a very feminine scent and oozes elegance. The fragrance envelops you and lingers for hours making you feel fresh and confident. It feels like a splash of fresh fragrant water on a warm summer day.

The inspiration of this edition is desert, palms and tranquility. One can definitely smell the roses, melon, pear, peony and fresh cut grass in the top notes, more flowers along with fresh aquatic notes in the middle and citrusy, spicy and woody notes in the dry down.  Aquatic notes abound in freshness and energy, are in harmony with flowers, aromatic herbs, citruses, spices, wood and amber.

The staying power of the perfume is very good. It lasts for 3-4 hours on my skin and even longer on my clothes. I especially like to use this one during the day for its freshness and crispness. It just seems perfect for warm summery days.

I like this special edition even more than the signature L’eau d’Issey as it is more fresh and green and little less expensive than the signature scent.

Tip for today: Do not buy a fragrance by just smelling it on paper. Perfumes smell different on different people. On my shopping sprees, I generally make the first stop at perfume store and spray the juice I like, and continue my shopping. This way I can really experience all the notes on my skin before I actually commit to a bottle!