Trip to Annamalai during Karthigai Deepam

Tiruvannamalai is at the foot of Arunachala, a sacred hill dedicated to Shiva. Perched on the foothills of the mystical Annamalai Hills, the place is tranquil and a lush rich area with greenery. It is one of the largest temple in India around volcanoes. Thousands of pilgrims walk around every full moon. At the full moon in November Karthigai Deepam is celebrated as the festival of lights that still remains to be the most traditional and oldest festival celebrated across Tamil Nadu.

We wake up at 5:30. In the meantime I decided to have a South Indian breakfast of idly with spicy curries and a filter coffee. To get to Tiruvannamalai, we cross beautiful tropical landscapes, where rice fields and small villages predominate. We cross fields of sugar cane, coconut trees. Along the road there are large tamarind trees, which have small leaves a little thinner than the acacias but very thick trunks.

Their pods serve as spices. The driver offer us and we nibbled. They have a tart taste, not unpleasant. We cross dusty villages, fruit sellers, appetizing fries in tiny stalls, garages, children who go to school. The girls have their braided hair tight and wound up with big ribbons. Halfway the landscape is scattered with small hills, reddish, very dry, formed of huge piled erratic blocks.

Like old sages, gray cows with oblong heads watch with an unpolished eye the tribe of mischievous monkeys and beggars seated on the edge of the road. From time to time, the isolated statue of some deity watches absently about neighboring cultures. In this unchanging campaign with sun-drenched landscapes, I almost expect to meet the blue-skinned Krishna or the generous Lakshmi.

After several hours of driving we arrive at destination. What a shock awaits me on arrival! The streets are crowded with people, and as if restless. Thousands of cars, buses and two-wheelers converge on the city and hundreds of thousands of people disembark to honor their god. Like a human river, it flows on the circular road encircling Arunachala.

After arriving in Tiruvannamalai just minutes before reaching the temple it started to rain. It was slow at the beginning and then got stronger and stronger as we approached the temple. We end with the torrents of water that fell at the very moment when we stopped in the parking lot.

It is impossible to get out of the car and visit the temple in these conditions and impossible to predict if this rain would last a few minutes or days. We were going to give up, ready to abandon Tiruvannamalai for this time and continue our journey. But our driver, who is an eternal optimist, advised us to wait a moment. He knew how much we cared and he advised us to visit the Sri Ramana Maharshi ashram just to give the rain some time to stop.

On the way to the ashram our taxi turns into a boat. He leaves us in front of the ashram. We enter the enclosure but we realize that we have no desire to stay. We have to take off our shoes and I do not see myself walking barefoot in the muddy water of the inner courtyard, and then the ashrams. It is not really our cup of chai.

So we decide to go drink one in a small shop that is right in front of the Ashram. Our driver has disappeared. Like every time he leaves us somewhere he always finds someone to talk to or something to do. We feel good in this little shop! It's teeming with life. A young boy starts a conversation while we sip from our smoking hot cups.

The rain continues to fall. The face of our driver appears, smiling, and we follow him to return to the temple during a lull. I do not hesitate to take off this time. The temple is huge. We go under the main gopuram to find ourselves in the flooded yard. The visit promises to be unfruitful, although the temple is beautiful. It looks like many other temples of Tamil Nadu. We see puddles, tourists, and scaffolding. The sky is gray.

Intrigued we queue without thinking. We do not know where we are going but gradually we realize that we enter the cave of the temple. We move slowly. We are ecstatic at the inner pillars blackened by the smoke of candles and incense. We are invaded by the smells of incense, candles and by the sounds of bell, drums, conch. We follow the queue that advances, silently. Devotees come in honor of Shiva. The closer we come to the sanctuary, the more the temperature increases and the more the rooms become narrow.

We enter the sanctuary that is bright with sulfurous, and burning flames powered by a 30 metre high wick immersed in 2000 liters of ghee. The walls are made of black granite, which adds to the feeling of being in the heart of a volcano. The people are no longer themselves, and the smell and sounds are even more intense. An unstable wooden bridge leads to priests. The priest hums Om Namah Shivaya and we take the heat of the candle that he accompany to the face and applies the tilak and we leave room for the ones behind us.

After this time out of time we visit a little inside the temple which is huge. We see sculptured columns in aisles behind which there are dozens of lingams, statues or nandi bull aligned. Outside the temple, the show is in full swing. Along the wall on the north side, sellers of colorful sweets wait, while across the street stalls brim with statuettes and religious images.

Near the main entrance, an army of women is desperately trying to sell tiny sachets of camphor, which the faithful will throw into the fire. My eyes are attracted to a man sitting on the floor. In front of him is a stack of cards and a green parakeet in a cage. The man beckons me to approach. For a few rupees, he releases the bird which, with its beak, chooses a card and gives it to his master.

This one then undertakes to interpret the figure represented on the map supposed to reveal my future. Too bad he does not speak hindi and I do not understand a word of tamil! Suddenly, a bell rings. The priests light an immense fire to which the faithful come to purify themselves before beginning around the sacred mountain their circumambulatory pilgrimage, called pradakshina.

Soon, there are hundreds, then thousands to move forward in the streets of the city. Barefoot, they are indifferent to the state of the road, clean or dirty, paved or dusty. They left their sandals in one of the makeshift shacks scattered all over the city where, for two rupees, a guardian watches over their shoes. By what miracle it manages to return to their owners the right pair among the kaleidoscope of shoes that invade the place remains a perfect mystery.

Unperturbed, cows stand or lie in the middle of the uninterrupted stream of passers-by. At the edge of the road, the sannyasin, ascetics who have renounced the world and live on begging, stretch out an emaciated hand while a yogi is in trance. In the lotus posture, he shakes a bell, mumbling an incomprehensible mantra. All night, the procession will continue under the glow of the round moon veiled by the puja smoke.

At each temple, shrine, ritual basin or simple altar, the pilgrims mark a halt, the time of a prayer. They hope to receive the blessing of Shiva, to wash away their sins or to gain some divine grace. The devotion is total. The crowd and the powerful fervor that emanates from it, the strangeness of the situation, and perhaps also the effects of the full moon.

Here more than elsewhere, travelers must agree to forget, for a time, their comfort and their familiar landmarks, at the risk of not being able to withstand the great cultural and material differences they face. We find our driver, and give him prasadam that he happily accepts and we head to the hotel where we decided to sleep that night. Apparently there are no more rooms without air conditioning.

When the rain stops, we decide to go out for a walk in the city. We see the temple at night. The Mahadeepam, can be observed for miles around. As Karthigai Deepam is celebrated, the adjacent houses and the temple is covered by rows of oil lamps! Dipams are lit in and outside every home as auspicious symbols. They are supposed to ward off bad luck and give prosperity and joy. Then we go back to the hotel, tired after the day.

Trip to Annamalai during Karthigai Deepam

Day 2

We wake up at 7 am and leave the hotel at 8 am. We begin by revisiting the temple. After an unmissable passage near the elephant to be blessed, we go inside one of the small temples. A priest calls us, seeing that we are lost and beckoning us to follow him through the dark alleys and resounding songs of meditation.

After arriving at the heart of the temple, he makes us sit in a corner in an adjacent room murmuring words we do not understand. He comes out with full hands and leads us a little further to drop flowers in our right hand and draw a line of white powder on the forehead. This small service is a rather unique experience. When we come out, we do not really know what to do with our flowers, so we put them near statues of gods.

We then come out of the temple, with the aim of climbing the sacred mountain of Shiva which is just behind the temple. We start our climb at 9:30. At the beginning of the path, we go through a part of the city a little remote. The real climb begins then but we are challenged by the fact that many tell us that it takes authorization to get on the mountain.

We do not pay too much attention to it first and we refuse to take a guide. But while continuing to climb, we are stopped by a forest ranger who refuses to pass us without authorization. After much insistence and once the tourists are gone, a little old man agrees to accompany us and we pass without problems.

We did not know that the climb would be so difficult. There is no shade at all and the sun is really hot now. Despite all the disadvantages, the view is superb and we get never tired of taking a picture. We go to the cave which is not very far. Completely exhausted, we turn back, a little disappointed not to have arrived at the top but happy to have seen the landscape.

We then return to the hotel for a shower and lunch. And here we go again to Chennai. The Tiruvannamalai Bus Stop is much more like India than the Chennai Railway Station.

Dash Diet - Enjoy a Trip with Mediterranean flavor

In some books, they talk about the Mediterranean diet in which they say the countries that surround the Mediterranean follow this diet and then if you also eat this diet, you will lose weight.

Why Spanish cuisine is a good example of Mediterranean Diet?

Spain's gastronomy includes feeding the three pillars of the Mediterranean Diet. Olive oil as food cooking fat, seasoning, and flavoring. Consumption of whole grains, and legumes. The preponderance of fish. In addition, vegetable consumption is common either as a single dish, salads and side dishes. Some communities consume lots of oily fish and seafood. Although some communities do use meat a lot on their plates.

Fresh seasonal fruits and are often used in desserts and other preparations. It is also common to use different spices and seasonings to add flavor to dishes without using an excessive amount of salt. Among the culinary techniques include roasts, steam cooking, baked or grilled food. These preparations do not require excessive amounts of fat but retain the maximum nutritional quality of food.

What are the benefits of the Mediterranean Diet gives us the Tunisian cuisine?

Tunisian cuisine is the result of a mixture of combinations of local culinary knowledge and contributions of diverse peoples. There are influences that have enriched Tunisian plates since the time of Carthage. Tunisian cuisine is strongly influenced by its North African neighbors. Here the Berbers brought the couscous to Tunisia, but also the Jewish community has a great impact on the Tunisian dishes.

The cuisine is based on olive oil and spices, whose proper mixing and dosing has created simple and inexpensive dishes. Like all Mediterranean countries, Tunisian cuisine is complemented by a wide variety of fish and meat such as sheep and beef, and fish mainly on the coasts.

One common component is the harissa, a mixture of ground chilies, garlic, salt and caraway, cumin type. Dates and nuts like almonds are part of the daily diet and are found in sweets and liqueurs. Another thing you can not stop doing if you visit Tunisia is taking a delicious tea in one of its many cafes. Although it is a Muslim country, alcohol is not prohibited and Tunisian wines are of excellent quality as well as boukha a brandy-like drink.

Typical dishes of Tunisian cuisine

Salad Mechuia: This dish is made from tomatoes, sweet and hot peppers, onions, garlic, all well chopped and roasted sprinkled with olive oil, salt, pepper, lemon juice, olives, capers, tuna and chopped egg .

Couscous: This traditional Arabian dish is prepared with semolina wheat with pieces of lamb, beef, chicken or fish, vegetables and legumes. It served with a more or less spicy sauce according to taste diner.

Tagines: it is a typical dish that consists of an egg pie with vegetables, lamb, potatoes, parmesan cheese and leaves maluska, all simmered

Masfuf: is traditional dessert, like couscous, made with raisins, beans Granada, dates, and almonds.

Mint tea: is the most popular drink in Tunisia, and is usually served well loaded with a lot of sugar, and often served with pine nuts.

Tunisia is one of the countries that use olive oil and uses wine as part of their drinks. Many of the dishes are made with egg. Moreover, they use oily fish on their plates. Many of their desserts are made with nuts such as almonds and pinions, providing a source of vegetable protein and polyunsaturated fatty acids. However, these desserts contain a lot of sugar. Another interesting aspect of the Tunisian cuisine is employing many spices to flavor their dishes so that significantly reduces salt consumption in this area.

dash diet

Greek Mediterranean diet and food

Greek cuisine based on the Mediterranean diet has great influences from neighboring countries, especially Turkey. This results in a variety of flavors and sensations. It is characterized by its geographical location and its history, by the use of olive oil and spices.

The most used ingredients are Fresh vegetables such as eggplant, tomato, artichokes, spinach, onion or cucumber. Meats, especially lamb, which is usually present in all parties, but also sheep and beef. Fish, especially in coastal areas and islands. Highlights include lobster, octopus, squid, and cuttlefish. Cheeses, such as feta, Kasseri, the Kefalotyri, and mizithra. They have a large number of them own denomination of origin. Sauces, either Greek yogurt (called tzatziki sauce), lemon or tomato. Taramosalata also salsa, from Turkey is made from carp eggs, olives, onions, croutons and lemon juice, accompanied with pita bread.

Typical recipes

Horiatiki salata, known as Greek salad: Used as a starter or side dish, takes tomato, green pepper strips, red onion, Kalamata olives and Greek, gherkins and feta cheese. It is seasoned with olive oil, red wine vinegar, ground pepper, oregano and salt.

Moussaka is very similar to the Italian lasagna, which seems to be the key to its origin. It consists of layers of minced meat, eggplant slices and cheese on top that broil to bake. It can also be prepared with potatoes.

Pilaffs : These are dishes made of rice, and pieces of flavored lamb with onions and spices, which can be served mixed with Greek yogurt sauce, avgolemono sauce (leading lemon and egg), or tomato sauces spiced with coriander, pepper and cumin.

Dolmades : it Consists of grape leaves stuffed with lamb, rice, spices and pine nuts.

Mezzedes : This is a set of dishes used as a starter, among which are:

Hummus is a paste of chickpeas seasoned with lemon juice, garlic and sesame paste form (tahini).

Greek-style burger contains lamb, feta cheese, kalamata olives, onions and spices like garlic, parsley and pepper. You may also be added tzatziki sauce.

Tyropita is pie feta cheese and egg wrapped in filo pastry. One of its variants is the spanakopita, based on spinach and feta cheese with dill.

Melitzanosalata is a paste made from roasted eggplant, feta cheese, almonds, egg, garlic, olive oil, and vinegar.

Sweets :

Bougatsa, from Macedonia. It consists of a mass of minced meat, custard, and cheese wrapped in filo pastry.

Thiples, spirals or loops fried dough dipped in honey or syrup and served with nuts and cinnamon.

Baklava, a pastry puff pastry with walnuts and honey.

Kataifi, made with wires pumpkin and nuts.

These are just a few recipes from the wide variety of cuisine offered by this country, so go prepare and enjoy a taste of Greek cuisine at home. Although the Mediterranean diet consists of a gastronomic set of all the countries of the Mediterranean basin, Greek cuisine emerged in the Aegean islands. It is arguably was one of its bases, because as we've been seeing, the so-called triad or Mediterranean trilogy is present in the recipes like cereals, olive oil and wine.

Why the Croatia cuisine has the benefits of the Mediterranean Diet?

Croatian gastronomy is based on common popular dishes in all regions of the Baltic Sea. The main courses of the coast are based on fish and seafood, both of great quality in the Adriatic Sea. Both prawns as prstaci, that is called clams are most important seafood. Meat dishes are the specialty of the inner regions, and also offers a wide variety of sausages and cheeses from all corners of the country, such as Dalmatian ham and cheese Pag.

All dishes, both meat and fish are cooked with olive oil, and is usually accompanied with different types of boiled vegetables. In addition, its proximity to Italy made the Croat's large specialists in preparing pizzas and pasta. In addition to its quality wines, they are known their intense plum brandy, cherries and pomace. To finish with good taste, they offer pastries with nuts, fruits and cheeses.

Meet some dishes of Croatian cuisine

We bring you four typical recipes from the kitchen of Croatia, one salad, two fish and seafood, and dessert.

Octopus salad: This traditional dish is made with roasted Croatian baked with potatoes and onions, seasoned with wine, garlic and chopped parsley octopus.

Prawns Makarska: these prawns are a typical dish consisting of a stew prepared with prawns marinated in salt, pepper, garlic, olive oil and parsley, served together with pasta and a sauce made with smoked lobster, banana powder, paprika and white wine.

Dalmatian Fish soup: is a stew with onion, potato, carrot, laurel, olive oil, wine, and peppercorns, to which is added subsequently added rice, tomato sauce, and garlic.

Krafne: is a typical dessert that is usually made for Carnival and Easter. Some circles are made with flour, egg yolks, sugar, yeast and milk, which are allowed to stand for a while before frying, fried once and sprinkled with icing sugar.

As you have seen, all dishes are cooked with olive oil and wine, two of the three pillars that make up the Mediterranean Diet. It is a common denominator in the kitchen of the countries in the Mediterranean basin. Most dishes are based on fish and shellfish, such as sardines and anchovies. Also they accompany the dishes with boiled vegetables as a side dish.

Cruise to the Galapagos

The Galapagos Islands, an archipelago of 14 volcanic islands located in the Pacific Ocean, is a magical place for holidays, a paradise on earth that challenges the mind and provokes the senses, where the animals have an appearance and behaviours impossible to find anywhere else in the world, where the crystal clear waters, beaches full of colors will join a dizzying journey to the limits of nature.

Discovered by chance in 1535 by Fray Tomas de Berlanga, the Galapagos Islands were a place of visit for pirates and buccaneers, who nicknamed it the "enchanted islands". A paradise of evolution, it is here that Charles Darwin and Jacques Cousteau have developed theories on evolution.

The Galapagos are 1,000 kilometers from the west coast of South America and are located north and south of the equator, which crosses the northern part of the larger island, Isabela. The archipelago encompasses an incredible variety of plant and animal forms, as well as an incredible wealth of landscapes and environments.

The archipelago is located at the confluence of three tectonic plates: the Pacific plate, the Cocos plate and the Nazca plate. The edge of the islands increases from west to south-east. EspaƱola is the oldest island and is about 5 million years old, Fernandina however, is the youngest and is less than 700,000 years old.

The relative isolation due to distance from the mainland and the wide variety of climates and habitats due to currents in the area have led to the evolution of numerous endemic species of animals and plants, from the observation that Charles Darwin was inspired to formulate the theory of evolution.

The Galapagos archipelago is famous worldwide for the fauna that has no equal where you can swim with sea lions, look closely at the blue-footed boobies, iguanas, pelicans, giant tortoises, penguins , albatrosses, petrels and shearwaters, birds of storms, tropic birds, cormorants, frigate birds, herons and egrets, flamingos, ducks, buzzards, moorhens, the ralli, plovers , the oystercatchers, sandpipers, curlews and sandpipers, gulls, owls, cuckoos, swallows, birds mimes, Darwin's finches, sea lions, whales and dolphins.

The Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador are an ideal destination for families. Children can interact with wildlife, giant tortoises from 100 years of sea lions and iguanas. Trips to the Charles Darwin Research Center is a training evolution, and the beaches and the islands offer postcard-worthy settings. The trips are offered by a number of reputable, well-known companies and institutions. Designed for families, each provides expert guidance to enhance the experience.

A tour to the Galapagos is synonymous with Cruises and a short trip to the Galapagos in a cruise will be a total trip because it will allow you to live intensely in and out of the water in one of the most extraordinary places of our planet. This formula is a double benefit for the traveller who can then choose to time the favourite and the best cruise cabin available in addition to getting a savings on the price as well as saving on expensive land hotels.

The boats that sail between the Galapagos Islands are divided into different types: small sailing yachts or sailboats, small motor yachts or catamarans (12 to 20 passengers) and the largest cruise ship shipment (40 to 90 passengers). All sailing boats also have the engine, so the distances and routes provided can be observed. There are also three price bands: tourist class, first class and luxury category. Each ship has its own yacht or route, during which tourists explores the different areas of the islands.

Depending on the boat, you can choose only one part of the route and participate in a shorter cruise. Some yachts and ships offer itineraries also reduced by 4-5 days, but once on the long journey to the islands, it is highly advisable to spend a minimum of one week. For families or groups of friends, you can charter a yacht, with the same itinerary, guided hikes and crew included.

To those who are interested in an one-week cruise to the Galapagos, which also includes the more remote islands of Isabela and Fernandina, boarding the yacht driven by professional crew, and few people allows great flexibility and the ability to move quickly which is preferable as the hotels are not always beautiful, and you also miss the opportunity to see animals.

The best way to try to save money is to go to Ecuador and try a cruise once you get there. However, especially if you go during peak season, consider the risk factor: you may not find the cruise or finding just the expensive ones. The choice depends on you, how much you are willing to risk and when you care to go to the Galapagos. If you decide that the risk is not for you then you can contact the Ecuadorian agencies before departure.

Before you decide to book a cruise decide the type of yacht you want. Usually the agencies offer various yachts, each of which belongs to one of the following classes in order from cheapest to most expensive: economic, tourist, tourist superior, first-class luxury cruises.

The Voyagers Travel Company is one of the agencies of Ecuador with a large number of boats to choose from. It is probably for this reason that they can offer prices are sometimes lower than other agencies, and offer an incredible variety of choice. From them you will find all kinds of cruises for all tastes and especially for all budgets. Their website usually provides details of the boats, where they are given the size and speed, in addition to the itinerary of the cruise and the cost. In addition, there are also photos of the yacht. Consider that usually the lower-priced boats are very small so if the sea is rough it is good to have the bigger cruises.

National Geographic Expeditions promises when you are traveling with them, you will travel not as an observer but as an active participant with a team of naturalists. Their family Galapagos Odyssey keeps this promise with tide pooling on Isla Santiago, a visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station on Isla Santa Cruz, caving on Isla Isabela, snorkel among sea lions at Isla Floreana and plenty of opportunities to watch birds and kayaking. The National Geographic Endeavour or Islander cruise ship features a fitness center, swimming pool, lounge and bar, access to health club, a sauna, and internet.

Avalon Waterways sets the standard in cruises and small ship cruising with the latest fleet where you can travel on the youngest armada of vessels with modern design, contemporary and larger cabins with notable comfort and take pleasure in fine food.

There are cruises from 4, 5, 6 and 8 days. Prior to choosing the ideal duration of navigation consider the day of arrival and departure too, Many opt for the cruise of 6 days, because it is considered a good compromise between being not too short or too expensive. The cost, however, depends on the yacht that you choose.

Not all the yachts offer the same path that varies depending on the size of the boat (do not forget that you are in the open ocean and sometimes the boats are small), the conditions of the sea and, of course, the length of the navigation. It could happen that the route that you have been provided by the agency may change during the cruise because of the rough sea.

Discover Ecuador, a unique destination with a bright sun. It is easy to combine the four worlds that start with the enchanted Galapagos Islands, crossing the Andes with its volcanoes, national parks, travel train, and of course, the Amazon region with its mega biodiversity and the Pacific coast, with 600 kilometers of exotic beaches.

A trip to the Galapagos must be arranged in advance but the costs are not as high as one might think. The strict rules of the National Park, literally forces the tourists to follow a well-defined plan without digressing, obviously limiting the freedom of travel and discovery at its core, where they have lived the last dinosaurs. Galapagos is one of the few remaining paradises on earth and as such must be protected.