Walking the streets of any city in Italy is like walking through history, but it is even more so in Verona. There is no Via or Vicolo where there is not a thing of beauty, steeped in history, art and architecture. The city hosts the opera festival every year in the arena, second largest after the Colisseum in Rome. I had thought that the spectacular setting and the size would be fit for operas such as Aida and Nabucco, but was pleasantly surprised to see stunning performances of La Traviatta and La Boheme. However, the high point for me was when our restaurant owner who was a tenor stood up and sang Tosca.

I must have stopped at every Pasticcerias to sample dolci delights, they are to die for and the Soave, the Valpolicellas are enough to let you sit back and take a lazy ride through life. I even forgot about my trip to the Sun Valley.

This was my first trip to Salzburg and what struck me most was how different it was from the UK. It seemed to me that I had stepped back in time when the Austro Hungarian empire was at its peak. People in our hotel came down formally dressed for breakfast. It was the time of the Festspiele and the hills were indeed alive with the sound of music. One of my favourite time spender is people watching – from a sociological perspective, I must hastily add. I saw immaulately dressed men in black ties – actually of all colours – and perfumed women in glorious silk gowns and chignons after an evening at the Festival Halls. One evening, I heard Simon Callow read out pieces from Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet and the Tempest. These were followed by heart-rendingly beautiful music from the Venezuelan Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra. It was clear from the standing ovation they got that I was not alone in being moved by the music.

One evening, I heard Simon Callow read out pieces from Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet and the Tempest. These were followed by heart-rendingly beautiful music from the Venezuelan Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra. It was clear from the standing ovation they got that I was not alone in being moved by the music.

The annual technology conference is indeed a dream invitation – not because of who the guests are, but because they are all so truly inspiring. It is a epiphanous week; listening to Oprah or the Band of Techknights – Messrs Dropbox, Zynga, AirBnB, Quora, Groupon and the list goes on. And then of course, you could bump into Salma Hayek who insists on giving you her place in the lunch queue.

The hosts are amazing and this has to go down as the best organised conference since all that one could dream of had already been planned and set out there.

I have just got back from a week long holiday in Sicily. The highlight of my stay in a top notch hotel was meeting the famed Italian masterchef Fulvio Pierangelini – – 
I had the good luck to learn pasta in pomodoro sauce, pasta with sea food such as calamari, scampi, swordfish, clams and mussels with the guru of Italian cooking. It was revelation to me how different ways of chopping and treating tomatoes imparted completely different flavours to the dish. His style is simple; preserving the sanctity of the ingredients and purity of the dish, garlic and herbs are added just for flavouring and removed before serving and he does not believe in constant stirring the pan while the food is on the fire. Most important lesson for me was to use the tomato only after the parts that impart acidity to the food have been removed.

Maybe if I could do this to Indian food, I could make it less acidic, more palatable, and healthier.

An invitation to dinner at El Bulli is like being invited to tea by the Queen. Friends tiptoed around me, held their breath, and gazed at me like an angel from heaven because I suppose mere mortals don’t get a chance to get to eat at El Bulli. I had a 38-course vegetarian meal. I present the menu below.

It is situated in Costa Brava on the coast of Spain, and it truly invites you to a complete sensory experience; the beautiful coast, the waves crashing on the rocks below, and of course the gustatory experience is paramount led by your nose.

We stayed in a an old farmhouse, Mas Falgarona, run by a couple and a part of the Relais chain of hotels. Well this is how I would like my house to be – such peace and tranquility, fresh figs and pears from the garden, and Spanish wines from their cellar which would be serious competition to Burgundys.

This is close to Figueres home of Dali and his Theatre museum. He was a master, an engineer, an architect, a scientist and a visionary. He was trying to create 3D images and his famous Lincoln woman painting is something I am working on.  When you look at the large canvas you see the back of a curvaceous woman, but readjusting your eye you see the head of Abe Lincoln. And when I tried to capture this in camera all I got was Abe Lincoln. Further down the coast is where he lived with his muse and wife. It is a collection of fishermen’s cottages, added at different points in time. The house is best described as higgledy piggledy.

It is a trip worth making. Better to do it sooner than later.

El Bulli Menu

The chocolate box


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