After -22 degree Celsius of Levi, Lapland, -2 of Helsinki felt comfortable. After arrival at the Helsinki Airport (with free wifi) the first thing we went in search for was food. All 4 of us were hungry. Between us there was a lot of luggage so I offered to guard it while others promised to get me some vegetarian stuff. It didn’t take them long to come back. Soon we boarded a taxi to go on a visit to the Nokia House Helsinki. I was in Finland attending the #lumiainlapland event.

The Reception at the Nokia House, Helsinki

The Reception at the Nokia House, Helsinki #Lumia1020

We registered our names at the reception but it was the lake beyond the reception that caught my eye. Imagine having a lake at the back of your office! I was told that in summer the office cafe puts out a few tables near the lake as well! I am sure they would be occupied almost all the time.

Lake by the Nokia House, Helsinki, Finland

Lake by the Nokia House, Helsinki #lumia1020

I was wondering what it would be like to get out of a team meeting and then go walk by a lake! or if you were not too thrilled about something at work, go walk by the lake till you clam down. I could build endless such scenarios but then I wonder if you get used to having a lake by your office in the end?

A Cafe at Nokia House, Helsinki

A Cafe at Nokia House, Helsinki #lumia1020

We were at the Nokia House Helsinki on a Friday evening and the cafe didn’t had too many people. But I could visualize it busy and bustling at certain times of the day! The place is huge with am ATM within the office! I am told in Finland most of the transactions are done via the card but the ATM is for those exceptional days when you needed cash due to some weird reason!

The Designers at Nokia

The Designers at Nokia #Lumia1020

I had a great time interacting with Joeske Schellen (on the left), Head of Colors and Material Design and Jonne Harju, Senior Design Manager, Smart Devices. When they told me about the thought process that went into making a phone it was only then I appreciated how much hard work goes into making something I completely take for granted!

I asked them where do they think the next generation of cell phones are headed and Jonne said that probably they will become wearable! But he added that people might feel too bogged down with the numerous features they get and may go for something simpler.  Joeske talked about the bright colors used in the Lumia series and how it sets it apart from others immediately.

First Nokia Mobile Phone

With the First Nokia Mobile Phone #lumia1020

We went around the impressive store where I managed to get my hands on the first Nokia mobile phone- the Mobira Talkman. I am only pretending to make a call. How small my Lumia 1020 looks next to it! After a beautiful evening at the Nokia House Helsinki we finally said bye to our hosts, it was time to hit the city center of Helsinki.

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There is something magical about sunsets and sunrises. The point was driven home when I went to the Monsoon Palace at sunset at Udaipur. I say sunsets first because I watch them more. A lot of sunrises I just sleep through. Have you noticed that many people seem to be oblivious to the beauty of the sunsets and the sunrises. I used to be one of them till I discovered Skywatch Friday a few years ago. I was actually one of those people who could just walk through some of the most amazing skies virtually unmoved. I am glad it is a thing of past now.

I recently visited the Monsoon Palace, Udaipur. It is the place to be at sunset in Udaipur. The view of the city is gorgeous as well. I am told that the view from the Karni Mata temple is also worth checking out but that is on my agenda for the next time. Have you been out on sunsets when the sky decides to go quiet on you? I can’t count the number of times it has happened to me. So, now when I go to watch sunsets I keep my expectations low.

Sunset at Udaipur, Rajasthan

Sunset at Udaipur, Rajasthan #Canon500D

Thankfully this time when I was there the sky was in a party mood and it put up a good show. The Monsoon Palace, Udaipur was formerly known as the Sajjan Garh Palace after Maharana Sajjan Singh who got it constructed around 1884. As of now it is managed by the Forest Department of Rajasthan. It is open to public till sunset. It offers a stunning view of the city lakes, the city itself and the hills. It is a popular spot with the tourists to watch the sunset.

Sunset from Monsoon Palace, Udaipur, Rajasthan

Sunset from Monsoon Palace, Udaipur, Rajasthan #Canon550D

After spending an eternity clicking the view of the city, I finally walked inside the palace and went to the balcony to see the sunset. I then climbed up a flight of stairs too to see the view. All around it was gorgeous.

If you are in Udaipur, I will highly recommend visiting the Monsoon Palace at Sunset. It all depends on the nature’s mood on what kind of show it will put, but it is certainly worth a try. The palace is faraway from the entrance gate so it would be easier for you to go there in a vehicle.

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I was revisiting Udaipur after 14 long years. And this time I was spending even less time in the city. I had one evening to be precise. I was invited by the Rajputana, a Justa Group Resort. The good folks were willing to host me for longer. It was I who had no leaves left in March other than the Friday I managed to club with the weekend. How I wish I had one more day! At Udaipur I spent some time at the City Palace and the Monsoon Palace. I am sure I have missed out on a thousand things but just these two made for such a memorable evening.

Udaiput city

The View of Udaipur from City Palace #Canon500D

I did a rushed tour of the city palace, you guessed it, due to lack of time. But even then there were places which would make me stop dead in the track. This view of the city for the kings and queens was one such spot.

Details of a Painting, City Palace, Udaipur

Details of a Painting, City Palace, Udaipur #Lumia1020

I was moving around the city palace like a woman possessed as I had only one and a half hours to spend before it would close for the evening. I realized how big the place was when I tried to cover it all in that short span of time. Still this warrior made me pause again for the rich details in the painting! They made things to last for a really long time in those days!

Monsoon Palace, Udaipur, Rajasthan

Monsoon Palace, Udaipur, Rajasthan #Canon500D

When I reached the Monsoon Palace the sky was already in a benign mood. The palace offers excellent opportunity to watch the sunset over the city with panoramic views all around. I had missed it when I visited Udaipur in the year 2000. I highly recommend this place for its views of the city. The palace has not much to offer in itself but the views are to die for.

The Monsoon Palace Grounds, Udaipur, Rajasthan

The Monsoon Palace Grounds, Udaipur, Rajasthan #Lumia1020

As it was March, the flowers were in full bloom. There were other visitors too but not so many that we got on each-other’s toes. In fact I asked a few of them to click my pictures too.

The View from the Monsoon Palace Balcony, Udaipur, Rajasthan

The View from the Monsoon Palace Balcony, Udaipur, Rajasthan #Canon550D

Kunal, my host from the hotel, and I were discussing later that school books conveyed such a typical picture of Rajasthan! I for sure thought that it was all desert till I visited it for the first time in 1990! Greenery and hills are so contrary to the typical notion of desert and yet this is Udaipur, Rajasthan.

The Lakes of the Udaipur City, Rajasthan

The Lakes of the Udaipur City, Rajasthan #Canon550D

This is one of the views you get of the city from the Monsoon Palace. If I am not mistaken the lakes are Pichola and Fateh Sagar. The drama in the sky provided the icing on the cake. I tore away myself from this spot with a lot of difficulty.

The Main Balcony of the Monsoon Palace, Udaipur, Rajasthan

The Main Balcony of the Monsoon Palace, Udaipur, Rajasthan #Canon550D

I was one of the last persons to leave the balcony, so mesmerized I was with the view. It is a pity that I had just a few hours in the beautiful city of Udaipur but on this occasion they were enough.

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The first quarter of the year is over. Now where did the time fly? In the meanwhile I did manage to travel a bit, I have been out 5 times already with the 6th one in line, starting this weekend. So, I thought I would do a quick update for Travel 2014 so far.

The Great Rann of Kutch, Gujarat

The Great Rann of Kutch, Gujarat Photo by Canon 550D

My first trip of the year was a hurried affair (planning wise) to Kutch, Gujarat. I only knew that I was going to stay at the Devpur Home Stay and I would wing it from there. This was also a trip that had two car breakdowns. It was a trip when I saw the white desert, the Great Rann of Kutch for the first time. Let us see when I find a way to go back to this charming region.

Sariska National Park, Rajasthan

Sariska National Park, Rajasthan, Photo by Canon 550D

Sariska, Rajasthan was a mother daughter trip, the only mother daughter trip that has happened so far this year. But then I am sure it is going to change. The brat is about to go out again but this time with her father. Trips with Chhavi are loads of fun because she adds her perspective to everything on the trip, which is bound to be different from mine!

Narkanda, Himachal Pradesh

Narkanda, Himachal Pradesh Photo by Canon 550D

Narkanda, Himachal Pradesh was a solo trip to a winter wonderland. I stayed with the Hatu, a HPTDC hotel. I have not been able to complete the travel account yet. The day I got back from Narkanda I got to hear from Nokia for a possible trip to Finland!

Lapland, Finland

Lapland, Finland Photo by Lumia 1020

Lapland, Finland was a trip way out of ordinary. Lapland is in the arctic circle. I was attending the #lumiainlapland event where I took an ice dip, went on a snow mobile ride, a husky ride and what not. I managed to spend a few hours in Helsinki too.

Udaipur, Rajasthan

Udaipur, Rajasthan, Photo by Lumia 1020

I visited Udaipur and Chittorgarh, Rajasthan on the invitation of Justa Resorts and stayed at The Rajputana and the Lake Palace Nahargarh, which is close to Chittorgarh. It was a short trip. During my three day stay with them, I often wished that I stayed for one more day that they originally proposed. But then I had no leaves. Thankfully March is over now, I have new set of leaves to juggle through the whole financial year!

Now if everything goes according to the plan my nephew and I are heading to Maldives on a personal vacation. And I am so looking forward to not to travel for at least two weeks after that. It will be three weeks of continuous travel after I comeback from Maldives. While I will not trade my travels for many things, I do get tried in the end.

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My personal traveling style certainly does not include staying in villas! I do not earn enough, and even if I do, I cannot spend it on villas. I want to travel every 15 days, I certainly do not earn enough to stay every 15 days in a posh accommodation. How I wish I could take just two vacations in a year and splurge. But that is just not me.

And yet I ended up staying in a villa! When I go on such trips, I do feel someone up there is keeping a kind eye on me. For my #lumiainlapland trip I was staying at the Levi Spirit Villa in Levi, Lapland. After seeing a bit of luxury on my invited trips, I am sort of getting accustomed to it on the sponsored trips. But at this villa even my eyes popped out. First, the location took my breath away, it was located in a winter wonderland! Each villa has four bed rooms on the second floor and one bedroom is in the attic. We were four members from India who shared the villa.

Levi Spirit Villa, Lapland, Finland

Levi Spirit Villa, Lapland, Finland; Photo by Lumia 1020

Levi Spirit Villa was sheer luxury. With a nicely done living area the villa had things that I could not even try in my two night stay. For example I could never switch on the music system with Bose speakers. I never managed to switch on the large living room TV as well. For that matter I never managed to switch on the bedroom TV. Then downstairs there was home theater, sadly that also went unused too.

What I did use was the sauna and the outdoor Jacuzzi. Each villa had its own sauna and Jacuzzi. Now that was ultimate luxury for me. On the second evening all four of us went to the outdoor Jacuzzi and enjoyed watching the snow outside. It was such fun to be in hot water while there was snow everywhere around us. Better still, have a look at the video to see the villa virtually.

With beer in hand we went to the hot sauna (this one was a different sauna than the ice dip madness) and I had such a great time. I had to almost pinch myself to believe that this was for real. For me my fist villa stay with the Levi Spirit has been such a memorable experience.

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It was anything but a lazy Sunday. I woke up at the Lake Palace, Nahargarh in Rajasthan. As I wanted to click pictures when the light was good I woke up 15 minutes before sunrise at the ungodly hour of 6.15 am. I had manage to crash only at 11.45 pm the previous night. I was staying there only one night, though it was all my fault.

When the Justa group invited me to visit The Rajputana, Udaipur and the Lake Palace at Nahargarh they wanted me to spend more time. However, as it is March rnd, I have hardly got any leaves left. I took Friday off to travel till Sunday. Beyond that I had no scope. So there I was up at sunrise, clicking pictures.

After I was done with clicking pictures, I went for a swim in this gorgeous pool at the Lake Palace, Nahargarh. I didn’t had much time as I was leaving at 9.30 am for the Udaipur airport to catch the flight back home. But it was fun swimming a few laps in beauty of a pool, which I had all to myself at about 7.00 am today. Surprisingly the water was not too cold, which was perfect for me. The palace has a lot of birds, particularly pigeons which like to hang around in the changing rooms sometimes.

The Infinity Pool, Lake Palace, Nahargarh, Rajasthan

The Infinity Pool, Lake Palace, Nahargarh, Rajasthan Photo by Limia 1020

I quite reluctantly tore myself out of the pool as there was no way I could afford to miss my flight. In the rush, I went charging to the changing room, only to find two pigeons taking offense at my approach what they considered to be their domain. One of them flew past my nose giving it a light graze. Now it was my turn to get startled.

The hotel is about 32 kilometers from Chittorgarh, so if you are looking for an offbeat place to stay near Chittorgarh you could give this a try. You go to the hotel by a boat as it is in the middle of a lake.

There are many trips to document now, and at least one more trip to go, starting next Saturday. Stay tuned, I will keep them coming.

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