Monday, September 11, 2006

‘Park’ your savings!

“...cue blue birdsa-tweeting and turtledoves a-cooing!!”

Cape Town capers
Capetonians form an enviable lot. Peopling one of the most likeable cities of Africa, they most certainly had divine decree going for them to have been placed in the midst of some of the most panoramic precincts in the world. And a walk inside the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden in Cape Town is just what you need to find that out for yourself. Lush landscapes lolling in the shadows of the eastern slopes of the Table Mountain, the 528-hectare spread of Kirstenbosch is an awesome microcosm of indigenous South African flora, typically the fynbos and the proteas. While exotic bird calls enrapture, find your way to the Fragrance Garden, Medicine Garden, Society Conservatory etc. or simply marvel at the 346-year old Van Riebeeck’s Hedge! A hiker’s paradise, the cobbled walkways meandering as though leading right into the ever-beckoning Table Mountain are perfect for that introspective retreat when you’ve tired yourself out with Cape Town beach-hopping or Waterfront shopping. Go, find peace... under the Table!

A fun Danish den!
In the Tivoli Gardens of Copenhagen, there is nothing that remotely brings to mind the terror tradition of the Vikings of medieval Denmark, once the Nordic nemesis feared for their fierce sea raids along the European coastline. Open for just five months in a year (April to September), Tivoli nevertheless remains one of the most popular parks of the world, and founded in 1843, also one of the oldest. A centrally located unique park littered with amazing miniature theme gardens, it can be reached by a short bike ride from any part of a city that doesn’t consider cyclists a nuisance! It’s also an amusement park; one you could walk in to without necessarily escorting a kid. Apart from old(est) and new rides – in fact even supposed to have been inspiration to Walt Disney’s amusement arcade – the Gardens are also constantly abuzz with activity around its scenic flower gardens, pantomime theatre, concert hall, and then with some incredible pyrotechnics at night! Feel like a part of a fairytale…

Bliss in bloom
They look like what we might’ve regarded were there no idol worship, they feel like that reassuring touch when despairing with all-is-lost, they smell like that first breath after a stint underwater… flowers represent a sublime confluence of divinity and love. For those who stopped to smell the roses as a matter of ritual, Buchart Gardens is one place not to be missed. A lush 50-acre spread in Victoria, Canada, the place, in no corner, reminds of the cement quarry site that it was before it was taken over in 1904 by the Butcharts, who transformed it into the paradise that it is now. Though any season is the right season to behold the fl oral flourish here, it makes real good sense to wade through roses, tulips, dahlias, azaleas, rhododendrons and a whole burst of blossoms now. Will turn on the poet in you…

‘Still’ in Singapore...?
The land looks no bigger than the arrow tip pointing to its location at the tip of the Malay Peninsula on political world maps. And yet there isn’t a greater draw in the region of South East Asia to meet every criterion in the travel book so exhaustively that one could claim to have gone Around the World in a lot lesser number of days than Jules Verne took about it! Roads so clean you could lick off dropped jelly (and you better – pick, if not lick – or you’ll be fined!), malls so plush you could shop yourself poor and food so great you’d pause the calorie count... it’s a joy anywhere in Singapore! But a 52-hectare delight awaits nature fiends in the Singapore Botanic Gardens, a magnificent expanse of green that transports you closest to a walk in the woods, short of the perils of predators. Divided into the Tanglin, Central and Bukit Timah cores, the Gardens’ biggest attraction besides the Swan Lake, Swiss Ball Fountain, Sun Rockery, Ginger Garden etc is the National Orchid Garden with some of those splendid blooms named after dignitaries like Princess Di and Nelson Mandela. Not that you’d miss any but there are even music concerts at the Symphony Lake. Sounds like Rhythm Divine already…

An outdoor opera
Into the Great Outdoors, that’s where a trip Down Under leads you. And like a continental précis, there comes alive in the oldest city of Sydney all imaginable elements of recreation from this grand landmass in the Southern Hemisphere. Now, even if your ideas of the same were a private chat with a flower or making friends with squirrels, there are enough venues for vent. The Royal Botanic Gardens, cheek by jowl with the Sydney Harbor, provide in its many theme gardens of rose, begonia, palm, succulents etc, an exquisite haven for flying foxes and Pearl White butterflies apart from thousands of other species of flora and fauna. Bushwalk around some beautiful sculptures and statues, or simply sit back on the grass to behold the mosaic of colours behind the Harbour at sundown.

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