Ramakrishna Math at Old Madras road, Ulsoor is a island of peace, tranquility and spirituality in the otherwise increasingly traffic jam marred city of Bangalore. Most festivals like dussera, diwali etc are observed here. Diwali as the festival of light gives a enchanting looking to the already beautiful ashram. This diwali we visited Ramakrishna Math at Ulsoor. A lot of devotees were there and the main mandir was packed. Everyday evening an aarti (prayer) takes places. However, on festival a much more decorated one is done. During Diwali some people do Lakshmi puja and some people do Kali Puja. I am mentioning this to let you know that Ramakrishna was a devotee of goddess Kali and it is a very special day at Ramakrishna Math. The way to the main mandir, the way to the Vivekananda statue and surrounding areas were lighted with lamps and candles. The pedestal of the main temples was decorated with lamps and rangoli.
Inside the temple, a photo goddess Kali was put besides the photo of Ramakrishna, Swami Vivekananda and Sharada devi. A beautiful saree was adorned on the photo of Sharada devi. We sat inside and listened to what is mostly called shyma sangeet (songs on goddess Kali). After the aarti, prasad was distributed. It looked like a kind of haluwa and it was tasty. Meanwhile, some people got busy in photo session. While coming back home, I tried Ola auto for the second time and found out that they charge a convenience fee of Rs 20 over and above the actual meter.
Butterflies are one of the most amazing and beautiful creation of nature. Being surrounded by hundreds of butterflies makes one forget everything. The Sophia M. Sachs Butterfly House, is one such place.
Located at Faust Park in Chesterfield, the place is home to over 60 different and beautiful butterfly species. Faust is a St. Louis County Park in Chesterfield, Missouri. The park is about 22 miles from Saint Louis downtown. By car it roughly takes about 25 mins. Also metro services are available from downtown and takes around 90 minutes. But in that case one have to get down at Delmar loop station and take a bus.
15193 Olive Blvd.
Chesterfield, MO 63017 By Metro-Red line till delmar loop From delmar loop Bus no.-91
The first thing I noticed after reaching there, was a vast splendid glass house. In front of that there was a small lake with a beautiful garden.There were lots of picnic spots with children playing area. The park is open from Tuesday – Sunday.
10 AM to 4 PM
The gift shop at the entrance had beautiful butterflies themed goods. The ticket counter is at one corner of the shop. Tickets are $ 6 per person and free for children below 2 years. During my visit I saw few events going on. In one such event, scorpions were displayed. It was the first time I saw scorpions in my life. I couldn’t have asked myself more than this. There were also others insects kept on display. Among them were bugs, beetles, spiders and many more.
After buying the ticket it was the time to gaze at the mesmerizing beauty of the butterflies. Foods and water bottles are not allowed inside the glass house. Once I entered, I found myself in a garden combined with enchanting butterflies all around. One has to be extra cautious while walking since there were lots of butterflies lying on the walking path. The place offers a great chance to see many rare kinds of butterfly species. There were also many amazing plant species. One of them which caught my attention was a pitcher plant. It was the first time I had got a chance to see pitcher plant so closely. At one of the corner, there was a display showcasing the life cycle of a butterfly. One need to have a lot of patience to capture those lovely flying butterflies all around in camera. Also the place offers a variety of learning programs to kids and adults. All together I can say it’s a nice place for outing with family.
On Navami we decided to have prasad at Bengali Association Durga Puja, Ulsoor. This pandal is near to us and we thought we can spend some time there. To go there I booked an Ola cab. After booking I called the driver to make sure he is aware of the route. Then minutes later I see a cancellation notice. I was disappointed. I booked another Ola cab. I called the driver to check how much time he might take to reach. He said he is near Baiyappanahalli railway station and there is some traffic. It may take around half an hour’s time. He said if you can’t wait that much time you can cancel through the app. I said there will be charge for that and asked him to cancel. The driver said there will be a charge for him and that I need to cancel. I did not wanted to go over that anymore and simply cancelled the booking. The service graph of Ola has been going down continuously for quite some time. Also, the drivers now innovatively playing around with the Ola system.
Then we started our endeavour to look for an auto. I say endeavour as it is not easy to hear an auto driver say yes to your destination quickly. We tried more than 10 autos then we were able to board one. At Rs 55 we reached RBANMS ground. After entering the ground we noticed there was a huge line for the lunch. As we stood in line, I was hearing a discussion about food coupon. One women asked a gentleman that if food coupon will be required. The gentleman replied yes and without that lunch won’t be served. The women was furious that the pandal is taking money to serve food (prasad). But I have seen they do not deny food or prasad to anyone even without coupon. One visitor was saying he do not have coupon and if coupon is required. The man at the gate just said no problem, please come. Inside they served khichdi, vegetables. dal, papad and payasam. The food was tasty.
After food we went to the section where goddess Durga idol was kept. We took few pictures and then sat there. Meanwhile one of our brother came. He fed us chicken and veg roll. The stall in which he ordered, the cost of one chicken roll was Rs 150. The shops besides had a cost of Rs 80. Promptly he cancelled and ordered the one with Rs 80. A chicken roll costing Rs 150 looks preposterous. A kilo of chicken would come in that amount! Then we went for little food walk around the stalls. A gulab jamun cost Rs 20! Was happy to see tea in mud cups. Lastly the walk was closed with a sweet pan in the mouth.
We sat in the ground and chit chatted. Looked around and enjoyed the festive atmosphere. Around 6 PM we went to the section where Bollywood singer Anwesha Dutta Gupta was to perform. We booked sit for our self. The program was supposed to start at 7.30 PM but it started well past 8 PM. She sang both Bengali and Hindi songs. She sang both old and new songs. When she sang Manna Dey’s Laga chunari mein daag, the performance of the tabla player (Shomu da) was awesome. He received all round applause. We left little before 10 PM before the show ended. Outside it was chock a block traffic. After reaching the main road I tried to hire autos who were quoting Rs 300 – 400 for around 3.5 KM. What can I say apart from God bless them! Then tried to book Ola cab but nothing available. So took chance with auto on Ola. Was able to book one. Called and spoke to the driver who said he is on the side of Lavanya theatre. He said he will not be able to come as there was huge traffic. I asked if it is walkable and started walking towards Lavanya theatre. After a short walk, we boarded the auto. At Rs 80 we were home.
Durga pujas which takes place in various parts of Bangalore are quite a distance apart. So on the day of Ashtami, we hired a car to see the pandals. An Etios sedan for 8 hours – 80 KM should not cost more than Rs 1000 but for the last moment booking I was ok with Rs 1200. Overall I am happy with that amount as the driver was good and well versed with the routes.
We started our tour around 4 PM and headed to Kundalahalli durga puja. In Kundalahalli, the puja takes place at VSR Convention Hall or Kalyana Mantapa on ITPL road. I have been visiting this puja for few times now. It do not get that crowded but have decent amenities in place. The highlight of this pandal is the beautiful idol of goddess Durga.
Then we headed to Koramangala. From 2015 I am noticing that two durga pujas taking place under the name Sarathi albeit in a little different name – Sarathi Socio Cultural Trust and Sarathi Cultural Association. The puja by Sarathi Socio Cultural Trust takes place at Mangala Kalyana Mantapa, 80 Feet road, Koramangala. For visitors apart from doing darshan of goddess Durga, this place is a foodies paradise. Good food outlets / restaurants setup their stalls here. Prices are little bit on the upper side but you will be happy with the food you get to eat here. You will also be happy to hear that free parking facility is available. After parking our car, first we went for darshan inside the Kalyana Mantapa. Then it was feast time. I noticed that Royal restaurant of Kolkata has opened a stall here. Other two members went for veg paneer roll (Rs 100) and I savoured non veg chicken roll (Rs 100). I also went for a chicken stick (Rs 100) which was very tasty. I would say this is one of the best Durga Puja in Bangalore and given that it takes place at a prime location like Koramangala, the pandel could be pretty crowded. They also organize good cultural / entertainment programs over the 4 / 5 days of puja. Upcoming bollywood singer Anwesha Dutta Gupta performed here this time.
Next we went to Sarathi Cultural Association puja. To reach there we had to walk little bit. This puja takes place on a ground besides Koramangala 80 Feet road park. The idol of goddess Durga, Lakshmi, Saraswati, Kartik and Ganesh were very beautiful. There were not much food stalls and the cutlets we had were not that great. However, this pandal manages to get good artists to perform. This time they had Bhoomi, a Bengali band which specializes in folk songs. Earlier, I had never heard Bhoomi’s songs but one of our accomplice pointed to Bhoomi after seeing their lead singer Soumitra Roy who was doing sound check on stage. Bhoomi’s performance was very entertaining with songs like Lale Laleshwari, Sohag Chand etc. That day our plan was to cover Kundalahalli puja, Koramangala, Palace ground and Bengali Association grand puja in Ulsoor. To watch Bhoomi’s performance we cancelled visit to Palace ground. After Bhoomi’s performance there was a huge rush at the exit. I feel the organisers should anticipate such situations and should have plans in place to manage better.
Around 10 PM we left Koramangala to reach RBAMNs ground in Ulsoor for the Bengali Association Durga puja. As expected there was traffic on the road leading to the ground. So got down from the car and walked little bit to reach the pandal. There dhunuchi dance performance was going on. This is dance done with incense in front of goddess Durga. One of the boy did a awesome performance. This is the biggest and best Durga puja in Bangalore. It is said to have around 15000 to 20,000 foot falls on the days of puja. There are huge arrays of food stalls. One can also find stalls for imitation jewellery, builders, amway etc. They provide lunch on the days of puja. One can buy coupon in this regard but I have not seen them telling no to people who do not have coupon. Also, it terms of entertainment they get the some of the best people to perform. This time they had Anwesha Dutta Gupta on Navami. Last year they had Cactus. We left the pandal around 11 Pm and reached our house by 11.30 PM. Been a very entertaining and satisfying day. Thank you Maa Durga.
At Sarathi Cultural Association Durga puja, Koramangala
RBAMNS ground, Bengali Association Durga puja, Ulsoor
Anwesha Dutta Gupta performing at Bengali Association Durga puja, Ulsoor
Who does not love colors??….and when it is the beautiful nature itself, we are bound to fall in love. Located at the junction of two rivers Mississippi and Illinois is the city Grafton. The oldest city in Jersey County, Illinois-Grafton is a must visit for the nature lover.Our group started from Saint Louis at around 8 am. It took almost 2 hours to reach there. Of course we halted in between at Alton to have breakfast. It was the first time I was about to see fall colors in USA. So no doubt I was very excited. The weather was perfect for driving and the road was super smooth. Till the time we reached Grafton I could not take my eyes from the beautiful road alongside Mississippi river with colorful flowering trees on both ends. The Sam Vadalabene Bike Trail which is a stretch of about 20 mile is a perfect place for biking with a perfect scenic view of river on one side. I could see lots of cyclists on the stretch. If you are a wine lover then this place is ideal for you. There were lot of winery shops and you can enjoy the art of preparing wine at the Grafton Winery & Brewhaus. We stopped at the Grafton Harbor which is an ideal place for boating experience. There were lot of boats which were available on rents. Also there were ample good restaurants to satisfy your hunger.
It was the month of October and the weather was pretty chill. I was lucky to carry my jacket. So I would definitely suggest you guys to check the temperature for the day before starting your journey. After spending a quality time at the Grafton Harbor we headed for Pere Marquette State Park,which looks exceptionally colorful during the fall. The park has 10 about hiking trails and also provides horse riding. Once we reached there,the first thing I saw was a beautiful wooden house with colorful flowering trees in background. There was a beautiful water fountain in front of it. Until that moment i had seen such scenic beauty only in books. Of course i couldn’t resist myself from posing in front of camera. After spending a good amount of time here,we decided to have our lunch at the picnic spot. Lots of picnic areas are available through out the park. These areas are well equipped with tables,grills and trash containers. We were carrying our food from home. So without wasting any time we started our lunch. I couldn’t have asked myself for a better place to explore the fall. There were lot of camping opportunities provided by the park. There were also equestrian trails which is about 20 miles provided by the park with a parking area for visitors on Graham Hollow Road.
After lunch we headed for “Eagle Roost Scenic Overlook”. The town is called “The Winter Home of The Bald Eagle”and i came to know that there are guided eagle watching tours from late December through mid-February. Of course I was not lucky to spot any eagle but definitely visiting during the right season would make you enjoy the guided eagle tours. After this we decided to go for a long drive around the park. The weather was pretty gloomy and it was an ideal driving place. Since we had just planned for a day, it was the time for us to start heading back to Saint Louis. Also if you love to do fishing,then this place is ideal for u. The town has lots of events such as Two Rivers Family Fishing Fair, Music in the Park, and Art in the Park,which makes this place a very popular tourist attraction. More then anything else I just couldn’t stop myself from admiring the mother nature. Its an ideal place to go for weekend vacation away from the noisy city and enjoy the scenic beauty.
County: Jersey County
Tourist attraction spots:
Pere Marquette State Park
Grafton Zip line Adventures
The Sam Vadalabene Trail near the Brussels Free Ferry
Hiking Trails at Pere Marquette State Park
Best time to visit for fall color: Late september-Mid october
Durga Puja our biggest celebration is becoming a even more quieter celebration for me. This year I came to know about the date after my mom told me about it. These days in Bangalore, a number of public Durga puja celebrations takes place. This first time I went to one of the venue was on Ashtami to pickup my mother from there at night. However, I did not go inside (not sure why). On Navami, in the afternoon went to the 12th main, Defense colony, Indiranagar Durga puja venue for pushpanjali. This time their preparations seemed to be better in terms of people management and systems. In quick time I was able to perform pushpanjali. Most puja pandels have foods stalls and outside this venue some Lumbini women selling their artifacts. I was there for sometime and came back home.
In the evening around 5 pm went to the RBMNS ground Durga puja venue near Ulsoor lake. This is probably the biggest puja in Bangalore and is conducted by the Bengali association. Inside the venue went to the pandel. After offering a prayer, tried clicking snaps. But as usual it is very tricky to click a good shot at an event in India. A photowalk was also organized by the BLR Photowalk team there. Met some of the photowalk members there. This venue almost resembled like a mela (fair) with food stalls, product stalls and various people selling artifacts. The organizers should be able to retrieve a good percentage of the money they spend on the puja from these stalls as rent.
Without doubt the food stalls are good and is a hit. One can find some authentic Bengali food here. To start with I tried chicken momo and chicken lollipop from a stall run by a Nepali/Tibetian. The man was very enthusiastic in calling customers and he was doing so in Bengali. However, his helpers were slow in delivering and exchanging money. Nevertheless, the food stuffs at his stall was tasty. Then went to try prawn lollipop. 6 pieces for Rs 150. Tummy was almost full. So went around walking and smelling around food stalls. Finally around 7.30 pm left the venue with reminiscences of Durga puja at my native where the four days of the puja used to be a feast. Not even a single moment to spare.