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RETURN TO CHENNAI - 14 DECEMBER 2017

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Shaji and I had agreed to meet up at 5 pm on 12th from where we would go to his lovely home for drinks and dinner. On the way we stopped at a supermarket for a couple of things I wanted to pick up. Amaretto biscuits and soft jelly candies I had had at the B&B were on my purchase list. Special goodies were on ample display for Xmas shoppers. Shaji had prepared a whole lot of stuff for dinner. But generous helping of artichokes in olive oil, steamed assorted seafood and fried chicken wings more than stuffed me, besides the Glenfiddich. The lively conversation revolved around life in the country, opportunities for new generation and work. Shaji is an excellent conversationalist and I lost my sense of time. After 9pm I suggested we leave as I had to pack up and get up early to go to the airport.
I had a 10 am flight out of Milan on the 13th. This meant that I had to take a taxi to Centrale at 6.30am, from where I could take a 7am, or thereabouts, bus to the Malpensa airport. Over break…

SIGHTSEEING IN MILAN - 12 DECEMBER 2017

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8. Santa Maria delle Grazie is a 15th century church built by the Duke of Milan and served as a Dominican convent, the refectory of which contains The Last supper, a Leonardo Da Vinci masterpiece completed between 1494 and 1498. Miraculously the painting survived a vicious aerial attack by the Allied forces in 1943, while many others perished. In 1980 the entire complex was accorded a World heritage site status by UNESCO. The church is open for worship and tour, while the refectory is a museum, which requires a prior booking for a fee of Euro14.
9. Sforza Castle is another iconic place of tourist interest in Milan. Remnants of a 14th century fort were used by Francesco Sforza, Duke of Milan, in the 15th century to build his resident castle. It was enlarged over centuries by successive residents of the castle, until it became one of Europe’s largest citadels in the 18th century. Today the castle, or what remains of the original structures houses the city’s many museums and art collecti…

SIGHTSEEING IN MILAN 10 DECEMBER 2017

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After a wash and additional warm garment fortifications I ventured out into the cold in search of the San Donato metro, which I was told was a 15 minute walk. That walk lasted the better part of thirty minutes with the aid of Google maps, a physical map of the city and directions elicited from many kind passersby! My sense of direction is so awful that I could lose my way even on a straight road. On the way, however, I  came across a statue of our country's "Father of the Nation", who looks increasingly more relevant in foreign lands than in our own.
The public transport network of trains, trams and buses is very efficient and lets you commute seamlessly on a single ticket. The one day pass for Euro4.50 is a great bargain for tourists. Between the afternoon of 10th and forenoon of 12th I covered all of what I had set out to see and experience, including the snow.
1. The San Siro stadium was opened in 1926 and is now home to two of the celebrated Italian football clubs, the…

AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY – MILAN 10-13 DECEMBER 2017

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If someone had asked me a month back about my chances of visiting Milan any time soon I would have responded by saying, "Zilch". That is what I like most about life. It serves up cards that you never expect, pleasant or unpleasant. I have been served so many pleasant ones that it has helped me to appreciate the unpleasant ones as part of life’s great balance.
I work for Genchi India Pvt Ltd in Chennai as its Director Operations. The owner of the Company is the ebullient Ali Ashraf, who I had got acquainted with in my drive through Kazakhstan on the way to London. When he asked me to be part of company negotiations in Milan I was honored and happy at the same time; honored to be included in the team and happy to be visiting Milan once again. I had been to Milan in August 2014 during the London expedition. A friend I had made at the time, Shaji Paramkulangara, had become a regular FB mate. While planning the trip I took inputs from him and agreed to catch up on one of the days …

Day 17 - Bangalore to Kanyakumari to Chennai - 12 June 2017

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When I started from Keys Hotel, Bangalore at 4 am the destination I had in mind for the day was the fourth corner, Kanyakumari. ORH had been booked in Kanyakumari for the next day and I had to get that advanced by a day. Ashok Kumar, Sr. Divisional Operations Manager of Trivandrum Division came to my rescue. He also arranged for the Station Manager of Kanyakumari railway station to be on standby to attest the log sheet. It was exactly 650 km from the hotel in Bangalore to the railway station in Kanyakumari. Much beyond expectations was covering this part of the journey in 7 hours. When I reached the railway station and got the log sheet attested by the Station Manager just after 11 am, technically all four corners had been covered. But, the Record Drive will be complete only upon reaching Chennai, as the expedition started from there.
If I were to halt in Kanyakumari I had a lot of time to kill in the day. after occupying the ORH I went for a drive to the Gandhi Mandapam at the land’s …

Day 16 - Pune to Bangalore - 11 June 2017

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I anticipated the day’s drive to be stress free and smooth, as I had done this stretch quite a few times in the past. I also decided to leave later than is usual, at 5 am. Access to the highway NH48 was neither far nor difficult. Normally it is a nightmare to leave a city because of poor sign posting. However, nowadays with the assistance of navigation systems, that problem has been more or less eliminated. I have seen terrible traffic snarls near the Khambatki ghat, a mountain pass through the Sahyadri range on the NH4. Early in the morning the pass is generally free.
The sight of the Suvarna Vidhan Soudha just off the highway near Belgaum made me get out of the car to take in. Apparently the Vidhan Soudha was built at a cost of nearly Rs. 500 crores to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of Karnataka formation day. Belgaum district has been in the centre of a border dispute between the states of Maharashtra and Karnataka since long. In order to spike any further dispute the Karnataka Gove…