Keukenhof-The Tulip paradise

The tulips in Netherlands showcase themselves for a brief period during the glorious spring. If you are around here it is a sin if you do not visit the Keukenhof during the two months. The fields are open from  24 March 2016 – 16 May 2016 from 08.00 – 19.30. So for two months this place will be buzzing with tourists!

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Me and my friend left to keukenhof on a bright Saturday morning on 9th April (Not a good time I would suggest as the tulip fields were pretty much empty.There were many flowers in the glasshouse though).  The best time is after mid April.

The park has brightly coloured flowers. Here you can get a sneak peak into the colours!

kkSnippets on Cost of travel

  • Keukenhof can be reached by ‘Arriva bus’ which charges 10 Euros  for a Round trip  from the Schiphol airport.
  • To airport you can take line 197 or 69 which will take another 3-4 euros with Ov chipkart
  • The entry ticket is 16 euros for a day.
  • We took bus 69 to airport and then a combo ticket which includes bus + entry of 24 euros which was 2 euros lesser than buying them separately
  • The food inside Keukenhof is typically 10 euros per meal

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There is a free locker to lock your stuff at Keukenhof . You can find tons of souvenir shops there from which you can take pretty gifts back from Netherlands.The park itself was brilliant.

If you dont like reading much, you can view this slideshow of flowers captured at Keukenhof by us! At the entrance of the park there were mostly hyacinths. Tulips were in the glasshouse.

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Here is the map of keukenhof with route we followed. There are five main places to visit. On the whole the walk inside takes about 5 hours.

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Wilhelmina

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There is a lake around the corner which houses swans and ducks. You can find stretch of pink tulip flowers around. There is a place to eat,shop and relax called Wilhelmina around the lake. There is also  ‘Stepping stones’ on the lake for kids (and adults) to jump around 😛

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Beatrix- Orchid show

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It is a place where flowers and fashion meet!  Mannequins dressed in flowers, floral shoes and hanging flowers from the ceiling. It was an unbelievable place.

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The Molen- The windmill

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You can climb on top of the windmill here and stand close to the blades. From there you can see the tulip fields. When we were there we could see only a strip of red tulip fields.

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The stretch of red tulip flowers

Whisper boat– Just below the mill there is a boat ride that takes you along a canal sandwiched between tulip fields. We heard about it only after we reached that point. You need to book tickets beforehand it seems!

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Willian Alexander pavilion

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That’s me posing 😛

It’s a huge glasshouse with ‘Tulips’ . wonderful colours which are hard for your eyes to believe  they are real. It has many places to click gorgeous pictures.

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Oranje Nassau

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It was a retro style flower show. It was a museum sort of decorated with flowers. You will find a pirate setting with flowers inside the chest instead of gold and a floral bridge.

What I really liked was the Beatrix and the William Alexander pavilion.

The best way to see the tulips is by cycling around the fields. The fields look like this when ripe with tulips.

Be sure to visit the park if you are around in these two months of April and May.

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Cheers!

 

Picture1Interested in Travelling around Amsterdam.Here are somethings to try out

For more things to do in Amsterdam visit Amsterdamned blog

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Amalfi Coast- Towns perched on seaside cliffs

A legend tells that when people of Amalfi die and go to heaven, they look around and say: “Well, nothing new. It looks just like home!”

Amalfi coast is along the south of Naples bay. It composes of lovely villages out of a fairytale. What makes the coastline dramatic are the pastel shaded houses perched on a cliff by the sea. I have been to beaches and hill stations but having the best of both worlds is a delight.

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Picture taken by us from the beach

These villages are along the south of the coastline and a mountainous region has to be crossed from naples which makes it difficult to access and hence it is not a popularly known international holiday destination. However it was famous among the elites in southern Europe in the past. When, in the mid 1800s, Prince Ferdinand of Bourbon constructed the coastal road between Vietri sul Mare and Positano, allowing easier access to this beautiful stretch of Italian coast.

There are two ways to reach the Amalfi villages from Naples

  • Through Sorrento (30-45 min from Naples. Takes 2 hours to Amalfi coast)
  • Through Salerno (2-3 hours from Naples. Takes 30-45 mins to Amalfi Coast)

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Both the routes are very exhausting. We stayed at Maiori . It is beautiful town with a beach. Italy is a catholic country we arrived at Maiori on a good Friday. The whole village had red candles lit up and were on a procession to the church. Maiori has an elegant beach to walk at night ! we were too tired to take that opportunity so we skipped.

Below is the itinerary we followed

Maiori-> Amalfi-> Ravello-> Positano-> Sorrento

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We stayed in Maiori in an Airbnb Apartment which costed us 33 Euros. The town was beautiful but unfortunately we could not spend time at the beach. We purchased some souvenir Limoncellos.

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We left from maoiri to Amalfi using a STIA bus.  The ride was about 30 minutes but you will be holding your breath throughout the journey.

The hairpin curves!- The coastal road along the Amalfi Coast is famous for its hairpin bends, fantastic views and general scariness. The buses are driven by trained drivers who make your heart skip a beat when you brush against the fence on the turn. Just sit back and enjoy the ride if possible in the front seat where you can to see the villages along the cliff.

Tip: SITA buses have their own ticket station/office where you have to purchase a ticket before getting on .You CANNOT get a ticket in the bus. The frequency is one hr so have a ticket in hand! The daypass is useful which costs 8 Euros. A single ticket for 60 mins costs 2.2 euros.

Amalfi was a cute city on the cliffs with elegant souvenir shops and posh bistros.There is a view point on the rocky beach where you can see the panaroma of amalfi – It looks  like a painting !

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A photo from the sightseeing point on the rocks

The attraction there is the Duomo, the huge church on the top of a flight of stairs which looks beautiful from down the beach. Legend says that if you walk hand in hand with your loved one on the stairs of the church you will not get married to them 😛

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Ravello

Ravello is a hilltop town. It is about 45 mins by SITA bus from Amalfi. Ravello is a serene place isolated from the hustle of the world. Feels peaceful to be there and it is not as crowded as Amalfi. Two attractions there are

  • Villa Rufolo
  • Villa Cimbrone

There both have an entry charge of 5 euros. They are a big villa built along the cliff where you can witness an amazing view of these cities. The famous view of Ravello  in pictures is shot from the Villa rufolo.

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Ravello being on top of the hill makes it a good starting point for many hikes. The ‘path of gods ‘ as people call is one of the hiking paths from Ravello to Amalfi. It is called so because of its alluring view along the path. It requires a day to reach Ravello and trek back to Amalfi.

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Positano

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After Ravello we left to Positano. It takes about an hour from Ravello to Positano. Positano, is from out of a fairy tale. A cliff town overlooking the beach and the most enchanting passage to the beach  from the city.  An hour was definitely not enough in Posinato as the websites had mentioned.

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Lemons, Lemons Everywhere

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The Amalfi coast is famed for its production of Limoncello liqueur and the area is a known cultivator of lemons. The lemons there are very tasty! You will not have seen such big lemons in your life

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Positano had the famous lemon shops where everything was made of lemon- Soaps, Candles, Liquor, Dolls.

Positano is famous for its ceramic shops. The hotels there have ceramic top tables.Positano has a pebble beach, one of the reasons the water is so clear. The sunset looked beautiful from the beach.

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Sunset at Positano Beach

From positano we left to Sorrento where we had planned on Camping. The last bus from Positano was at 8 PM . We ran our way back to the bus. We hardly managed to squeeze into the bus hanging on the footboard. We took a whopping 2 hours to reach Sorrento.

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Amalfi Coast at night from the bus

We had a wonderful time at Amalfi Coast. There were some things we wished we knew before we went like getting struck among the huge crowd and having to wait hours for the bus. I have summarised those in my post on “Things No One tells about Amalfi Coast” . We left to Capri Island the next day. To know more about it click on “Capri Island-The Bewildering Blue Grotto

 
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Things no one tells about Amalfi Coast

Things no one tells you about Amalfi coast!

This is a offshoot of the post on “Amalfi Coast”

  1. Transportation to and within Amalfi is a big headache

The chauffer drive service is 400 Euros which is very expensive. A car driver approached us and offered a ride from Pompeii to Salerno at 100 euros when the bus ride was 2 euros.

The SITA bus is the cheapest means of transport hence it is overcrowded. We could hardly get a place to stand in the buses. The last bus back to Sorrento was at 8 PM and it was full beyond capacity when we arrived at bus stop. We pushed our way it and the door had to shut us all hanging on the footboard into the bus. The bus was jam packed. We were shocked when on our way back the driver hit a wall while turning along a hair pin turn and the window glass shattered. Very dangerous ride indeed. SITA bus is preferred because the day pass is 8 Euros

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There is the hop on Hop off buses which cost 5 euros per ride but frequency is less. You will on average make 8 trips within the coastal cities so it was cost around 40. The number of seats is less in these buses.

  1. A day is not enough for covering all the villages

You will see in websites or tour packages offering a day trip to Amalfi coast. A day is not enough for covering all the villages. These are the typical times between villages. If you start from Sorrento and come back you will spend 5 hours just to and from Sorrento and another 3 hours travelling within villages. The bus timetables are such that you get a bus every one hour. So you cannot afford to lose your bus. At least 2-3 days are required !

  1. Be half an hour before schedule for catching a bus

Our bus to Positano from Amalfi was at 5 PM .We went at 4:50 PM and we were informed that the bus was full and we have to wait for the next bus. We waited for about an hour and then a huge crowd now gathered within this hour. Now again a group of people were left behind at 6 PM.

  1. The villages are over crowded on Holidays

My mood was off in Amalfi because I all I saw was a big group of people. I regretted going there on Easter. I could hardly stand in a place to pose for a photo . There were numerous group tours that day and people were moving past us in huge numbers. Maybe because it was Easter holidays we faced a big crowd. It is safe to go to these places off season.

  1. Capri is not for those who have sea sickness

There are numerous ferries connecting the villages. Also there is a fast ferry to the Capri Island. It is not for those with sea sickness. We have been in typical slow boats or cruises. These boats are bumpy and they jump on water. I had a floating sensation for a day after getting out of the ferry from Capri. Numerous people puked after exiting the Blue gretto on a row boat.

To know more about Capri Island visit my Post 

  1. The trip involves a lot of walking

The villages have small streets that have to be walked after getting down at the bus stop. There are some stairs to be climbed too. Also in you want to hike you better be prepared.

  1. It is overpriced

Be it the chauffeur drive, food, stay all are overpriced here. The people of the village live on tourism. If you search hotels or Airbnb apartments you can see for yourself the cost of staying here. That’s why most people stay in Sorrento or Salerno and commute here. But this makes it very tedious. You must make a trade-off between both! We managed to find a cheap Airbnb apartment in Maiori.

 

 

Ethiopian Restaurant ‘Eetcafe Ibis’

We had a great time at the Ethiopian Restaurant ‘Eetcafe Ibis’. For starters the café was themed in a  typical Ethiopian way where beer was served in Coconut shells. They had a variety of Beers-coconut, mango, palmnut, banana flavored.

We had samosas for starters which was similar to indian Samosas!

12970336_10154044968144350_1995389273_oMostly flavored I have not tasted in any cuisine. The non vegetarian itemswere similar to the Khasi tribal food of North east India which is boiled with fat.

Deserts were delightful. We were served coconut icecreams in Cocunut shells , lemon icecreams in a lemon and Pineapple icecream in a pineapple.

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The main course costs about 15 euors per person and deserts about 5 euros. The waitress was friendly J

We had a nice time in at Eetcafe Ibis

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World Pillow Fight Day-Amsterdam

Amsterdam never ceases to amaze me. Not in my wildest dreams had I imagined such an event with this intensity. Thousands of people came together on Dam Square for the year’s most massive pillow fight on April 2nd. We went there with our Cameras to capture the event but soon started picking a fight with Pillows.

Rules:
– Soft pillows only!
– Swing lightly, many people will be swinging at once
– Do not swing at people without pillows or with cameras
– Remove glasses, necklaces, bracelets and other things which can be broken beforehand
– Events are usually free and appropriate for all ages
– Wait until the signal to begin

The event began at 3 PM . When people had bought pillows and started hitting each other politely. Soon it became frantic and there were feathers and cotton in the air. There were torn pillows on the floor and people were refilling them with cotton to hit each other.

What amazed me was that people of different ages be it children or old people were fplaying with the same enthusiasm. Some say the events are to help relieve city stress and get people outside, while others claim it’s just a bit of fun. This is me playing with a child. I got so into the fight

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People were dressed in carnival costumes. It was a joyous event and we has fun. It was choking after a while the cotton and feathers entering your windpipe. I took some breaks and got back into the arena this time with goggles.

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It was the most crowds I had seen in Dam square since I came here- People of Amsterdam fighting and a row of tourists filming the event. In the other side of dam square were artists performing and some dressed up in comic costumes.

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Flash Mob in Amsterdam

It was a cloudy day with chances of rain and we were praying to the clouds not to pour; because it was our big day- The day of the’ First International flash mob 2016’
The same choreographed songs were to be performed in 10 countries- 17 cities on 19th March. 2016, 11- 12:00 Local time in each country participating! Amsterdam was one of the participating cities and out motto was “One Love” in support of refugees.

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It was an amazing concept and it was to be a surprise flash mob with no publicity. The Amsterdam group led by Sneha, were practising it for over 2 months in our ‘Bollywood Amsterdam meetup’. We were fully prepared for the moves of the choreo which will forever be struck to our heads. We met for a practice session at Vondelpark at 10:30 AM. We got a spot under the bridge and switched on our speakers. We had practised indoors but never out in the open when the temperature was 7 degrees. We wore colourful bright clothes to make the atmosphere radiant. We took off our jackets and did a real practice (We were shivering!) .We had audience cheering us for our trail flash mob which was encouraging.
The clock struck 11 and it was time to go to Museumplein. It was the famous spot ‘I Amsterdam sign’ in front of the Rijksmusem, the biggest museum in Amsterdam.

It was buzzing with tourists. We were the intruders who would break in to dance in front of the museum :D. We set up the speakers and switched it on. Martine, our show opening performer, started her ‘Head spinning stunt’ which caught the eye of the audience. We casually started cheering around her and then started dancing. First the girls danced for 2 minutes and then the guys joined us.2a

Soon people were cheerful and started filming us. We danced happily as it was great moment for the people around and for us. It was amazing how people joined us and started following. We had new people on the spot dancing with us 😀

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The sad part for us was there was not a representative videographer filming us from our side. We set up two cameras on the tripod which were blocked by tourists. We did click some after photos which came out cool.It was a thrilling experience performing a dance out the blue and startling people.

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We rejoiced our victory of completing it successfully and then left to Saravana Bhavan. It was delight having south Indian food after a heavy day. Our Dutch collogues enjoyed the food but found it a bit spicy I think :P.

If you happened to be among the audience on march 19th or heard about it in some way,please share your thoughts with us!

Carnival at Maastricht

Maastricht’s carnival is one of the joyous and fun events to visit with friends and family. Dutch sure know how to party!  . The first day of Carnival is six weeks before Easter Sunday. Carnival officially begins on Sunday and lasts three days -Typically February first or second week.Almost everyone dresses in some weird, outlandish, colorful, funky costume that you will feel out of place if you are dressed normally.

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One of friends who was dressed soberly immediately bought a colorful scarf to feel in place when he saw the crowd 😛

 

The carnival is a holiday mainly celebrated in the south of the country. For me the carnival looked like the dutch way of celebrating Holi! Streets painted with Color and  people going crazy. You have to be there to experience it ! People go on parades in streets

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From the time you get on the train you see people sitting in jazzy clothes or smearing glitter and paints on their faces. And when you get down the station of Maastrict  you see a cheerful people dressed animatedly. The crowd will walk acorss the Maas river to the city square and dance there to the live DJs

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Some families actually spend months preparing for this event. There are not only individual costumes but also teams dressed up to a theme for example…

Avatars

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The Blue family

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Dragons

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The pack of cards

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You can see babies and dogs dressed for the carnival.

I did not have a carnival costume so I decided to wear my Indian wear –bright yellow and pink which quite went well with the crowd. That was the only time I could wear colorful Indian wear with the Dutch; Other times I feel they dressed in plain dark colors. And as for my friends we improvised what make up had to be done with just my Kajal and pink lipstick. We ended up looking like this

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I think we looked pretty good! People did ask us for photos 😛

It was like a mini comicon. We met

Darth vader and stroomtroppers

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Princess Leia  and R2D2

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Ghost busters

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Snow white and Seven dwarfsIMG_3166

 

I really loved the concept of dressing as a family. The kids on their cradle are also dressed according to the theme (see pic below- one dressed like a lion and another as a cow)

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It was a nice sight to see fathers and kids dancing in the square! A place where everyone is crazy you have the guilt free pass lose your mind too! we saw people curled up on roads after they hit their limits 😛

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And a man looking like a colourful ostricht. In the same frame you can see a superman kid , green lantern and a minion baby!

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We had a great time and will definitely go the Next time too!

Republic day performance- Amsterdam

Never have I celebrated Republic day so enthusiastically. Here in Netherlands I found a new way to make it special- by performing a patriotic dance on stage:

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The Bollywood Amsterdam group which I am a part of planned on performing to the ‘ABCD Vande mataram song’. We had 17 days at hand and we managed to concoct a partly jazz, hiphop and Bollywood dance show. The costume was plain white shirt and black pant to keep it simple. The venue was Amstelveen –the Indian Hub of Amsterdam. The  organization “Bridging the gap” organizes these Indian events which provides a good get together and means of networking for Indians in Netherlands.

We sensed kindergarten vibes when we entered the building. Much to our dismay there were only kids performing at the show and we happened to be the only adult dance team. We were stocked up as the last and closing performance of the day. The initial performances were of kids singing slokas, cute children dressed in Indian wear dancing for Punjabi songs and even some dutch kids dancing. The room was clamorous with occasional bursts of cry from kids and parents rushing them out. It was time for our performance!!

We got ready for it and entered from backstage. We were in for a surprise- the stage WAS for kids-it was too small to fit us in. We barely managed to stand in it leave along move freely and dance. Our initial few steps were messed up due to our shock but we soon got used to it

You can see the dance here- Youtube video 

On the whole the dance seemed energetic and patriotic. The final show with flags turned out to the killer. It came out just as planned and we got a round of applause.

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Indian bites organized  small canteen with tasty indian snacks. We got around and took some pictures and went to a friends home to party.

 

New Years Dive

It was my first new year outside India.  I wanted  it to be crazy. We decided to do the ‘New year dive’ –the dutch tradition of jumping into the icy cold waters of the north sea at New year Jan 1 noon. We signed up for it and went to Zandvoort for it. It did not disappoint us :D.  The day was sunny and the beach was refreshing. There was a tent and a bunch of people standing with orange caps. We too went, registered and got the orange caps. There were about thousand people gathered for the event. We were stunned by the magnitude of it.

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I had planned of doing the dive with a bunch of friends and they all arrived. We got ready for the dive-changing into our swimsuits! There were people of all ages- yound kids to old people and also dogs who came for the dive. Half an hr before the dive organizing team cheered us to dance, jump and making us form a Mexican wave. The clock struck and it was time!

People ran like crazy into the waters. Just when I went in I realized I had never exposed myself to such cold waters in my life. It was freezing and I could not feel my legs anymore. We ran back to the sands from the water. It was the case with most of the people. We came back to the starting point and  tried regaining consciousness in our legs. It was crazy.

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Just when we were settling down one of us challenged to go in again. We , out of our minds, ran again into the waters. This time, deep and dancing and jumping inside the waters. That was something to remember.

We came back and got dressed. Unox ,the sponsoring company , provided us with free soup. We returned back to the city searching for a cozy café but alas we could not find any. We finally gave up on our search for café and went into a greek restaurant. Ten of us were there and we socialized for sometime. It was a nice beginning to the new year!

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