Fairytale fables

leisure travel

Fairytale fables

In this world, especially in India, the magnetism of megalopolises dazzles today’s traveller. But, today, a Rome-Paris-London-Amsterdam itinerary finds a place in the attic of the eclectic travel enthusiast, doing away with the jaded cliché of exploring what is now in the backyard of every backpacking, tech-savvy desi.

For many Indians, it went to the extent of finding a home away from home in these otherwise ‘done to death’ destinations, explains the famous Gujarati saying, ‘Rome ma raspoori ane Paris ma Paatra’.

Well, with the company of a cigar box guitar, I bring to life my middle-school essays, unleashing the unconventional in me, treading the fairytale treasure house of five diverse parts of the world.

Counties Kerry, Wicklow and Wexford, Ireland

With Belefonte’s voice bathing my heart with the line from the song Jamaican Farewell — “Sad to say I am on my way, Won’t be back for many days” — I bid goodbye to my beloved Dublin, the leitmotif clickety-click of high heels on her cobbled streets punctuated by thumping bodhran drums fading away as I drive down to fairytale Killarney, Ireland’s wild west.

After a hearty meal of jacket potatoes at an old inn, a meditative afternoon at the tranquil lakes of Killarney puts my senses to rest. First, the Ladies View, then,  the forbidding heritage sites of Ross Castle and Muckross House with legends of charming locales around the lakes. Finally, I cycle down Dingle Bay as the turquoise Atlantic roars on the rocks. Not far from Dublin lies one of the world’s prettiest Japanese gardens, at Powerscourt Townhouse, in County Wicklow. With a Neptune fountain, Japanese-style bridges, verdant grooves and a pet cemetery, it is the abode of meditative stillness and peace.

Onward to Wexford and there stands the Hook Lighthouse, one of Europe’s oldest. From its zenith, breathtaking views of the raging Irish Sea and tales from the mysterious lighthouse keeper’s granddaughter, a classic 1800s novel, come alive.

Houmt Souk & Erriadh, Tunisia

“Ahla beek, bonjour Krishna” in rustic Arabic and polished Parisian has Sidi Adel welcome me to his quaint white cottage with bright blue doors and windows and charming Maghrebi-style interiors. After a round of tantalising mint tea with pine nuts, a Tunisian welcome, we ride a moped to Houmt Souk that beholds a mind-boggling kaleidoscope of colours at the traditional market, as exotic amber, rose and oud fill the air.

Ahead is the famous Borj el Kebir, an ancient fortress. From its mazy terrace, a grandstand view of the pristine blue Mediterranean smiling at lovers from around the world would, it is said, inspire romance even in a clay statue.

At the Erriadh village, the colourful Festival de La Medina shows its innocence as the affectionate locals prepare traditional delicacies like breek, couscous and irresistible sweet meats like samsa, while Tunisia’s unconventional beauty is serenaded by local musicians, celebrating togetherness.

Bruges, Belgium

Aptly deemed the ‘Venice of the North’, a refreshing change from the swank and sleek spell of Belgium’s capital Brussels is the Flemish fairytale town of Bruges. It’s a haven for romantics, honeymooners, poets, artists and writers. Strolling down its cobbled pathways and canal-boating takes the cake. With the lapping waters caressing my senses, I cruise past flea markets with wooden swords, out-of-tune violins, medieval-style crockery and bizarre toys. Travellers revel in the verdant charms of the town.

Apart from old-style horse carriages with traditionally draped guides, cycling is one of best ways to explore Bruges. While dining at wayside eateries is fun, a trip to the local chocolatiers and a binge at the De Halve Maan Brewery convince you that ‘fun is Flemish’.

Stony Plain, Alberta, Canada

Ahead of Edmonton City lies the sleepy Stony Plain, a hidden jewel in the Canadian wonderland. To rev up my spirits, the Ziehr brothers, a locally renowned affable trio, reverberate the town’s cheerful balustrades with folk classics on the ukulele, fiddle and tambourine, and I join in with my cigar box guitar. In their near-to-wild-west accent, they enthral me with energetic rib-ticklers as we stroll down the ‘Town with the Painted Past’, mesmerised by 20 moralistic masterpieces depicting the town’s history.

After a simple, soul-nourishing service at a quaint little church and a visit to the Pioneer Museum that unravels the town’s agricultural past, another rendezvous with tranquility awaits me at the famous Shikaoi Park, Stony Plain’s Japanese Garden. After an afternoon of trampolines, hiking, horseback riding and cycling around the verdant surroundings of the village, a hot chocolate and scrambled egg soiree concludes the sojourn.

Stellenbosch, Cape wine route, South Africa

The Simonsberg peak with rolling vineyard rows stop me in my trekking pace. I stand rooted on the freshly laid gravel path that leads to the winery, awe-struck by the gentle clasp of winter clouds casting a thrilling contrast on the valley below. Past the grassy knolls where healthy bulls roam and into the picture-perfect Stellenbosch town, I am greeted cheerily by over-the-century-old Cape Dutch villas and homesteads, a well-preserved heritage of the country’s colonial past. Leaf-strewn, windswept lanes lined by these edifices lead me to the tiny town square with cafes, boutiques and outlets for relic collectibles.

My lunch at one of the elm-lined side restaurants is light and hearty, the world-famous Stellenbosch Shiraz goblet enthralling my taste buds with the depth of the well-furrowed, moist-black, mineral-rich soil of its vineyards. That evening, as I turn my cycle around a small mystical lake, momentarily rippled by a stately swan, the shadows lengthen into deep crimson tones. The stillness is music to my ears. I can never forget Stellenbosch for its unhurried welcome and the cosy alcove that is reminiscent of European elegance in a South African setting.

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