In Alpine villages, Hobbits lurk; Tolkien’s real places

THE REAL LORD OF THE RINGSHead southwest of Zurich, past the misty mountains and jagged peaks that tower over the city of Lucerne and the lake town of Interlaken, and up the deeply cloven valley that winds from Lake Thun into the heart of the Bernese Oberland region – and with a little imagination you could find yourself staring into the verdant Elvish valley of Rivendell or in the middle of a huffing and puffing Hobbit walking party.

That’s because the steep-sided cliffs, glacial grottoes and fertile dells of forests and wildflowers were the true inspiration for JRR Tolkien’s Middle Earth sagas: The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Naturally, the stunning Alpine villages of Lauterbrunnen, Grindelwald and Wengen – and the soaring Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau peaks that guard them – are not some sort of hidden secret; travellers have been exploring these valleys since the Berner Oberland Bahn railway opened in 1890. But their role in the creation of Tolkien’s fantastical Middle Earth epic is less known. The author acknowledged as much in the 1950s in a little-known letter to his son, Michael. “From Rivendell to the other side of the Misty Mountains,” he wrote, “the journey… including the glissade down the slithering stones into the pine woods… is based on my adventures in Switzerland in 1911.

Traversing the Bernese Oberland on a summer holiday had a profound effect on the 19-year-old author-to-be. Some 57 years later he wistfully remembered the regret at leaving the eternal snows of the Jungfrau and the sharp outline of the pyramid-shaped Silberhorn peak against the dark blue of the sky. They were “the Silvertine of my dreams,” he wrote, referencing one of the peaks that stood above the Dwarven city of Moria in The Lord of the Rings.

For fans of the fantasy series, Switzerland’s ultra-efficient train network makes it easy to shadow Bilbo and Frodo Baggins’ footsteps and retrace Tolkien’s journey from the town of Interlaken (seen by Tolkien scholars as inspiration for The Hobbit’s Esgaroth, or Lake-Town) to the moraines beyond the mountain village of Mürren (see Mount Doom in the final part of the Rings’ trilogy).

The hybrid aerial rail and cableway Bergbahn Lauterbrunnen-Mürren brings hikers up to car-free Mürren and its rotating mountain restaurant Piz Gloria atop the 2,970m Shilthorn. Alternatively, the Wengernalpbahn shuttles visitors up the opposite side of the valley to Kleine Scheidegg for views of the notorious North Face of the Eiger peak – one of hardest professional climbs in the Alps – before connecting to the Jungfraubahn train. Tackling a steep 25% gradient, the cogwheel train tunnels its way through the mountain, past viewing galleries glazed into the side of the peak, to the Jungfraujoch – a narrow col below the Jungfrau itself, on which is built the Sphinx, a three-storey astronomical observation station. At 3,741m, it’s the highest viewing platform and rail station in Europe, and the eagle-eye views of the Bernese Alps let you chart the next stage of Tolkien’s cross-country adventure.

Happy Hobbiting!

The source of this article is BBC travel here.

The French delicacies that make Michelin Star restaurants

france michelin starsAnn Mah reports in the New York Times travel section.

“To understand French cuisine, I realized I had to visit the regions and meet the country chefs, farmers and home cooks who proudly preserve tradition. Last summer, I embarked on a tour of France through five of its signature dishes, a decadent journey that convinced me that the best, most honest food in France is found in the provinces.”

“In the Mediterranean fishing village of Cassis, I rose early and strolled along the port, watched local chefs and fishermen haggle over the morning catch and dined on the resulting bouillabaisse a few hours later. In the Languedoc, I visited a duck farm and witnessed the late-afternoon gavage — the controversial force-feeding that enlarges the liver — before joining a farmer for a glass of rough wine and a few slices of baguette spread with pâté de foie gras de canard.”


Lyon: Quenelle de Brochet

Perched at an epicurean crossroads, Lyon, in the southeastern Rhône-Alpes region, has long rejoiced in the bounty of its surroundings: Provençal produce, Alpine butter and cheese, Bresse poultry, Beaujolais wine and Massif Central beef. But it was the Mères Lyonnaises who officially sealed the city’s culinary reputation. ”

Languedoc-Roussillon and Midi-Pyrénées: Cassoulet

The territory once known as the Languedoc, in the southwest, is a sun-warmed expanse where medieval villages rise in the distance and grapevines sprawl across low hills. (After the French Revolution, the region was divided into administrative départements, and its ancient capital, Toulouse, became part of the Midi-Pyrénées.) The cuisine, rustic and slow-simmered, matches this bucolic landscape, with dishes like duck confit or the region’s renowned cassoulet washed down with robust local wine.

cassoulet-articleLarge“Perhaps no French dish has achieved greater mythical status than cassoulet, a hearty concoction of sausages, confit (typically duck), pork and white beans, cooked for hours. According to local legend, the dish was invented in the town of Castelnaudary — the self-proclaimed “capital of cassoulet” — during the Hundred Years’ War. Trapped by the English, the starving villagers pooled their last scraps of meat and beans, simmering everything in a giant caldron; after feasting on the ragout, the French soldiers regained their strength and rallied to chase the English all the way to the Channel.”

Happy Eating!

More at here

Goan Eatings

Goan (Goa, and it’s vicinities, India) cuisine is a melange of Konkan, Portuguese and Arabic influences. While Goa’s two major communities—Hindus and Catholics—both make liberal use of spices and seafood, Catholics use coconut vinegar, beef and pork—ingredients introduced by the Portuguese. The colonisers also introduced bread-making techniques and foodstuffs brought from other international colonies such as chilli, cashew nut, guava, pineapple, tomato and potato. Their dishes were given local twists: the spicy vinegar-infused vindaloo is a Goan version of a Portuguese meat stew cooked with garlic and wine (vinho e alhos). Here are five ways to discover how locals use spices and fresh produce to create mouth-watering dishes.

Take a spice plantation tour
Several spice plantations clustered around Ponda in south Goa offer an introductory tour, followed by a traditional lunch. This is an interesting way to learn about the organic cultivation of spices such as pepper, cinnamon, cardamom and nutmeg; trees such as cashew and areca nut; and fruits such as jackfruit, custard apple, mango and pineapple.

Goa has several excellent restaurants which represent the culinary diversity of the state. Among the best is Panaji’s Mum’s Kitchen, which offers a mix of familiar dishes like xacuti (a curry with coconut, spices and poppy seeds), balchao (a fiery tomato-chilli curry) and cafreal (fried chicken marinated with spices).

Cook like a Goan
If your passion for food goes beyond eating, enrol yourself at the Siolim Cooking School to discover local culinary secrets. The classes are conducted at Siolim House, a heritage hotel in Bardez. Participants are taken to a market, introduced to local spices and ingredients, and given insights into the cultural and religious importance of food. They are also taught well-known Goan dishes such as chicken cafreal, pork sorpotel (a spicy curry of vinegar and chillies), xacuti and fish curry. Siolim House also runs cooking holidays for hotel guests.

Happy eating and traveling
Source of this article is Happy Trips here.

New double-decker train, Travel to a beautiful scenic place

_DOUBLE_1_1891890g -DOUBLE-D_1891902f DOUBLE-DECKE_1891888gTo travel from Hyderabad, India to Tirupati (a very beautiful, hilly scenic place) by road would take you around 9 hours (355 miles). Now if you want to drive along with horrendous traffic, and with all the fuel subsidies. It would cost you around 33 USD (one way) for gas(petrol) if you have your own vehicle.

Now, if you want to relax, and take it easy and sit in the comfort of an air-conditioned car and arrive safely at Tirupati in about 6 hours. It will cost you 7 USD one way!

As South Central Railway’s first air-conditioned, chair-car, double-Decker super-fast express.

It was driven by loco pilot Karimullah, who has 18 years of experience behind the locomotive wheel and assistant loco pilot Ramakrishna (three years). On its inaugural run, it was flagged off not by a ‘neta’ or a senior official, but by Abdul Rehman, a train lighting helper, as he would retire from service this month-end.

The Kacheguda-Guntur train no. 22118 will leave on Tuesdays and Fridays at 5.30 a.m. and reach at 10.40 a.m. with halts at Malkajgiri, Nalgonda, Miryalaguda and Piduguralla. On the return, no. 22117 will leave Guntur at 12.45 p.m. and reach Kacheguda at 5.55 p.m. The 10-rake train can carry 120 passengers in each, totalling to a whopping 1,200 passengers, the equivalent of 55 to 60 trains.

Starting from Wednesday, the same rake will leave for Tirupati at 6.45 a.m. and return by Thursday night, in time for its run to Guntur on Friday.

The unique selling proposition of the rake is that for the first time in Indian Railways, it comes with VESDA (Very Early Smoke/Fire Detection with Alarm System). There are 17 sensors at different points in each coach for the purpose. Each chair-car coach can seat 120 persons.

The fare to Guntur is Rs. 415 (around 7 USD, including taxes) and Rs. 720 (around 7 USD, including taxes) for Tirupati.


Where do the foodies shop or eat in Washington, DC?

Washington DC is a superb place for a wide ranging palette of taste buds.
This afternoon my lunch would be the Caribbean Ox-Tail with collard greens and Rice. Hm-mm.

Now if you like cheese – where do you go for a Ten Year Cheddar cheese. The finest and extensive collection of cheeses is Cheesetique. – Knowledgeable staff, sign for each cheese offering history, tasting notes, and serving suggestions.

What about excellent ready-to-sauté crabcakes? – What about Black Salt Fish Market ? A complete freshly cooked seafood meal? – We have The Fishery, in Chevy Chase!

What about excellent prepared food? Want a Bell & Evans birds? Around 150 of them are sold at Dawson’s Market often sells during its weekly Tuesday special (an all-natural bird for $5.99).

What about locally made pastas and sauces  for quick meals, sandwiches stuffed with house-smoked meats, thin-crust pizzas, and roast-chicken dinners, all created by former 1789 pastry chef Travis Olson? Try the 10,000-square-foot emporium near Dupont Circle, DC. – Glen’s Garden Market.

Happy eating!

PS: Source of today’s Post is the Washingtonian Magazine. You can find many other foodie’s haven here.