R Kelly pleads not guilty to sexual abuse charges

AP photo

CHICAGO (AP) — R&B star R. Kelly’s attorney has entered a not guilty plea on his client’s behalf to multiple charges of criminal sexual abuse.

Kelly appeared in a Chicago courtroom Monday for his arraignment with defense attorney Steve Greenberg.

Kelly’s next court date has been scheduled for March 22.

Kelly is charged with 10 counts of aggravated sexual abuse involving four females, including three who were underage when prosecutors allege that the abuse occurred.

Kelly, who was acquitted of child pornography charges in 2008, has denied wrongdoing and his attorney says he’s confident the singer will be vindicated.

The Grammy-winning R&B singer spent the weekend in jail and showed up for Monday’s hearing in an orange jail jumpsuit.

Greenberg says Kelly’s confidants are making arrangements to pay his $100,000 bail, but that coordinating the payment is complicated.

He says Kelly could be released Monday or Tuesday.

Advertisements

UAE worker wins supercar after renewing phone registration

Indian carpenter Balvir Singh can vouch for one thing now. It pays to be a good, law-abiding resident.

Singh re-registered his du mobile number and that has won him a luxury supercar McLaren 570S Spider worth over Dh750,000.

In line with the UAE Registration Policy,  du from Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Company (EITC) invited customers with expired ID registrations to renew the registration of their numbers before January 31 to avoid their services being cut-off.

All customers who renewed the ID registration before that period entered the draw to win the luxury car.

Hailing from a small town in the state of Punjab, India, Singh who has been working in the UAE as a carpenter for the last 10 years, said he and his friends would always fill up lucky draw coupons at grocery stores or online just to win ‘big’ but it never happened until one lucky Monday.

An extremely religious man, Singh said Mondays have proven very lucky for him: “Mondays are very special for me and some of the best things of my life happened on this day including my eldest son. On January 14 ( Monday) I got a message from du telecom saying that I had successfully registered for the lucky draw and On February 11 (Monday) I got a call that I had won the draw. However, I thought it was a fake call and my friends said the same. But when I got a message asking to visit du office, I checked online and realised that the address is correct.”

Singh visited the nearest du store and that’s when the news hit him. “I had never even heard of that car until this day and that’s when I checked online to see how it even looks.”

Earning a salary of Dh2,200, Singh describes himself as a simple man who wants to do good and help others. “I have lived a life of penury and seen very tough times but that never discouraged me. I’ve put my faith in God and believe in working hard and God has never disappointed me. “

Singh, who has never driven a car in his life and never ever had a licence, said: “I would only ride a bicycle as I would find bikes and cars too complicated. But I bought a scooty for my wife back home as she has to take care of the house and my two sons — five-year-old and seven-month-old.”

Singh sold the car for Dh625,000 and invested some of it as he intends to start a company some day and the rest of the money he sent back home.

Singh is heading back to his family for three or four months to enjoy some quality family time and also hopes to bring them to Dubai on tourist visa soon. He told Khaleej Times that he doesn’t intend to quit his work here.

“I have earned my livelihood from this job here in the UAE and intend to do so until my own company takes off. Once that happens, I will set some part of my profit for the needy.”

Representing du, Fahad Al Hassawi, Deputy CEO – Telco, EITC, said: “At du, we strive to spread happiness and joy amongst our customers. And, this is a testament to what we are trying to achieve. We congratulate Balvir on winning this prize and encourage our customers to partake in our upcoming competitions.”

Ritu Phogat quits wrestling, switches career to Mixed Martial Arts

Ritu Phogat quits wrestling, switches career to Mixed Martial Arts

Ritu Phogat has signed with EVOLVE MMA which is a a Singapore-based Mixed Martial Arts organisation (Instagram Photo)

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Ritu Phogat is the sister of Geeta Phogat, Babita Phogat and Vinesh Phogat
  • Ritu has signed with a Singapore-based MMA organisation named EVOLVE MMA
  • Can’t wait to represent India on the global stage and make my nation proud,” Ritu said

The third of the Phogat sisters, Ritu Phogat had decided to quit wrestling and pursue a career in Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). The 24-year-old from Haryana has had an eventful career in wrestling and was on course to follow her older sisters Geeta Phogat, Babita Phogat and Vinesh Phogat but has instead chosen to switch careers.

In order to shift her focus to MMA, Ritu has signed with a Singapore-based MMA organisation named EVOLVE MMA, which has the highest number of world champions on the planet.

“I am excited to have moved to Singapore to begin my new journey in Mixed Martial Arts. My managers Birbal Sports introduced me to Evolve and convinced me that this is the future,” Phogat said.

“I have a dream of becoming India’s first ever World Champion in Mixed Martial Arts and can’t wait to represent India on the global stage and make my nation proud,” she said.

In her short international wrestling career, Ritu won the gold medal at the 2016 Commonwealth Wrestling Championship in Singapore in the 48kg category.

In December 2016, Ritu became the most expensive female wrestler at the Pro Wrestling League auction, as she bagged a Rs 36 lakh contract with the Jaipur Ninjas franchise.

She won a bronze medal in the 48kg category in the 2017 Asian Championships in New Delhi and then became the first Indian wrestler to win a silver at the World U-23 Wrestling Championships in 2017.

In November last year, Ritu Phogat had been included in the TOPS scheme for the women’s 50-53kg freestyle event keeping in view the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Keys to a Kingdom of Luxe

Keys to a Kingdom of Luxe

Samode Mahal, Bagh & Haveli, Jaipur, offers an enticing vision into the lost world of Rajput royalty;

Like a subtle peeling of layers, the lens of photographer Karam Puri explores some of the most sumptuous places to stay in India. Authors Cosmo S Brockway and Harriet Compston take you through 40 carefully chosen properties that celebrate luxury and comfort like never before, but are vastly different in period and setting.

Roli’s Glorious Hotels of India, priced at `2,995, features a handpicked collection of the subcontinent’s most spectacular hotels, giving the reader a grand yet intimate tour of the lavish interiors. In fact, the majority of these properties have never been featured before in a publication. Celebrating India’s splendid heritage, while upholding exciting contemporary design, the hotels include historic palaces, destination spas, seductive beach resorts and romantic houseboats.

It is a journey that proves India’s mystique and magnificence, while celebrating its various hues. These uber luxe hidden gems, scattered across the length and breadth of the country, have one thing in common—an effortless blend of style and subtlety that keeps these places head and shoulders above the rest.

8 Most Famous Buddhist Temples In India

1. Mahabodhi TempleL

Locatedin: Bodh Gaya, Bihar

Mahabodhi temple is considered as one of the most important and sacred pilgrim sites in Buddhist religion. The main temple is in the form of a huge 180 feet pyramid structure which has several motifs engraved on it and gives a clear reflection of the custom, tradition, culture and teachings of Buddhism. The temple is also a home to a gorgeous statue of Buddha made from yellow sandstone.

8 Most Famous Buddhist Temples In India

Mahabodhi Temple

Specialty : It was the place where Lord Buddha attained enlightenment sitting under an ancient Bodhi tree which is still present within the temple.

Construction : Built in the 3rd century by Emperor Ashoka, the temple was rebuilt from bricks in the 5th century and has a remarkable architecture.

2. Mahaparinirvana Temple

Located in: Kushinagar

Mahaparinirvana Temple is known to be one of the holiest shrines in Buddhist religion. At present apart from an important pilgrim site, the place is also one of the most visited tourist placesnot only by domestic tourists but also by foreign travelers because of its spiritual aura and beautiful architecture. 

MahaParinirvana Temple, Kushinagar

Specialty : Famous for housing a huge six metres long idol of Buddha in a sleeping posture. The significance behind the idol is that it represents the highest state of salvation which Lord Buddha had attained when he finally left for his heavenly abode.

Construction : This ancient single storey Buddha temple made of red sandstone was built by one of the great followers of Lord Buddha, namely Swami Haribala.

Lord Buddha Statue at Parinirvana Temple, Kushinagar

3. Wat Thai Temple

Located in: Kushinagar

Wat Thai Temple is one of the other Buddhist treasures. The atmosphere of peace and serenity has enveloped the temple and hence it proves to be best for those who are seeking tranquillity or a quiet and calm place to practice meditation amidst nature. The temple also has prayer hall if you wish to sit, meditate and pray inside the temple premises. The unique architecture, the scenic beauty and the magical spiritual aura of the temple makes it hard for the travellers to resist its charms.

Specialty : A wonderful combination of Buddhist and Thai architecture, the temple is a living architectural masterpiece. Apart from the architectural wonder, the temple is surrounded with a lush green forest area, full of trees and shrubs which all the more multiplies the beauty of the place manifolds.

Wat Thai Temple, Kushinagar India

4. Sarnath Temple

Located in: Varanasi

Sarnath Temple is widely known to be one of the holiest and must – visit pilgrim sites holding great significance in the Buddhism religion. It is located in Varanasi.

Construction : Built by Emperor Ashoka.

Specialty : It is believed that it was at this place that the first spiritual discourse as an enlightened master was given by Lord Buddha. Hence, the place has a great significance in Buddhism and is a must visit Buddhist pilgrim site.

Sarnath Temple

Specialty : It is believed that it was at this place that the first spiritual discourse as an enlightened master was given by Lord Buddha. Hence, the place has a great significance in Buddhism and is a must visit Buddhist pilgrim site.

Major Attractions : This mesmerizing temple also features Chaukhandi Stupa, Mulagandha Kuti Vihar, Dhamek Stupa, Dharmarajika Stupa as well as many other architectural masterpieces. These additions just increase the Buddhist significance of the place even more.

Chaukhandi Stupa, Sarnath

5. Sanchi Stupa

Located in: Madhya Pradesh

One of the oldest stone structures present in India representing clearly the beauty of Buddhist art and architecture is Sanchi Stupa. Sanchi Stupa is one of those places which you would not want to miss even if you are not much moved by religious matters. Its beauty is enough to capture your heart.

Sanchi Stupa, Sarnath

Specialty : The stupa has a huge hemispherical dome housing many relics of Lord Buddha and four intricately carved gateways which face totally different directions.

Construction : The temple was built under the strict supervision of Emperor Ashoka’s wife and daughter. The magnificent architecture of the structure will definitely leave you speechless.

Good to know : Due to its increasing popularity has also found itself a place in the esteemed list of world heritage sites by UNESCO.

Sanchi Supa Carved Gates

6. Red Maitreya Temple

Located in: Leh

The temple is situated at one of the most beautiful locations amidst the mighty mountains and serene landscapes of Lehin the state of Himachal Pradesh. A part of the Thiksey Monastery, the Red Maitreya temple is greatly famous for housing the 49 feet tall statue of Lord Buddha. Moreover, other than its pure creativity and devotional attribute, the serene location just adds on to the charm of the temple. It is a religious hub of many Buddhist devotees!

Tsemo Maitreya Temple, Leh

Specialty : The unique thing of this statue which makes it special and attracts thousands of devotees and travellers is the fact that this huge statue of Lord Buddha is made from clay and is painted in a gorgeous golden colour which makes it look even more mesmerizing.

Good to know : The walls of the temple are decorated with mesmerizing paintings which give a true sneak-peek of the features of Buddhist art and craft.

Maitreya Buddha Statue, Leh

7. Golden Pagoda

Located in: Arunachal Pradesh

Nestled in the foothills of Eastern Himalayas, the Golden Pagoda Temple located in the Namsai district of Arunachal Pradesh. Spreading over a sprawling 20 hectares of area, this wonderful temple is also known to have 12 domes in the Pagoda. Also known as Kong Mu Kham, the temple is also famous for serving as a venue for Kathina festival which is celebrated with a lot of enthusiasm in the month of November. You surely wouldn’t want to miss visiting this amazing temple!

Construction : Built in the year 2010, the architecture of the temple is inspired by the Burmese architectural style which adds on to its uniqueness.

Tip : If you visit this temple, don’t miss the Loi Krathong ceremony which happens at the end of the Kathina festival as the sight of thousands of lighted lamps floating in a nearby pond is one of the most beautiful sights you will ever witness.

The Golden Pagoda, Namsai Arunachal Pradesh

8. Theravada Buddhist Temple

Located in: Itanagar

One of the most popular Buddhist pilgrim destinations in Eastern India, Theravada Buddhist Temple is one of the great places to visit for those seeking a place to meditate. Even if you are not much of a Buddhism follower but are in the nearby area then make sure to visit the place as the natural beauty of the place is completely surreal. Great for meditation and prayers, exceptionally blessed by nature and great significance in Buddhism, what else could you ask for?

Specialty : The neatly laid structure of the temple is totally outstanding.

Good to know : The temple is surrounded from lush greenery from all the sides giving it a protective, peaceful and comfortable vibe.

Theravada Buddhist Temple Itanagar

Buddhism is known for spreading love, warmth, kindness and humanity. While visiting these gorgeous Buddhist pilgrim places, the hospitality and the calm atmosphere prevailing in these temples will surely leave you speechless. We wish you luck that you visit if not all then most of the above – mentioned places as all of them hold special significance in their own way. We would love to hear from you, so feel free to drop comments sharing your experience with us.

If you’re travelling to the US, add this on your list

If you’re travelling to the US, add this on your list

You can go coast to coast in the US for just $300.Source:Supplied

Why spend time and money flying from city to city in the United States when you could sit back, relax and be escorted from coast to coast, ticking off many of America’s most iconic spots along the way — and all for the price of next to nothing?

A $300 Amtrak journey from California to New York will let you do just that — and it’s an epic trek through mountains, along rivers, into great cities, and through the American West.

The super-affordable 5471km trip starts in San Francisco and ends at New York City.

The journey from San Francisco to Chicago. Picture: AmtrakSource:Supplied

And the second part of the journey from Chicago to New York City. Picture: AmtrakSource:Supplied

It begins with a four-day trip on a California Zephyr train that passes through Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa and Illinois. (It takes longer if you hop off to explore at stops.)

From Chicago, you can transfer to the Lake Shore Limited train to complete the journey, which continues through Indiana, Ohio, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and New York.

The first part of the journey costs just $183 and the Chicago-New York leg costs $117, which combined is just $300.

These are the iconic — and breathtaking — sights you’ll see on your journey as you pass through each unique state, according to travel blogger Derek Low, who did it himself.

What a way to begin.Source:Supplied

The amazing Sierra Nevada.Source:Supplied

Hey, Reno!Source:istock

Salt Lake City, Utah.Source:Supplied

You’ll travel alongside parts of the Colorado River along the way.Source:istock

Change trains in Chicago!Source:Supplied

You’ll ride through Boston, Massachusetts.Source:istock

Hello, New York City!Source:Getty Images

Hot stuff: the world’s most awesome deserts.

1: Namib Desert, Namibia

Hot stuff: the world’s most awesome deserts.

Third party image reference

A longtime Wanderlust favourite, the Namib is a coastal desert in southern Africa, a land of towering ochre-coloured dunes, gravel plains and barren mountains. As well as being home to some of the tallest sand dunes in the world, the Namib supports over 3,500 species of plants as well as mountain zebra, gemsbok, short-eared elephant shrew, Grant’s golden mole, Karoo bustard and Peringuey’s adder.

2: Sahara, North Africa

Third party image reference

The largest ‘hot’ desert in the world, the Sahara stretches across eleven North African countries and at 3.5 million square miles, is as big as the United States of America. From the Red Sea to Morocco’s Atlantic coast, it’s the daddy of all deserts. Even its name means desert in Arabic.

3: Bardenas Reales, Spain

Third party image reference

Recently declared a biosphere reserve by UNESCO, Bardenas Reales in south-east Navarre is one of the few deserts in Europe. These are the Spanish badlands, a landscape of sculptured clay, chalk, sandstone – once home to legendary outlaws like Sanchicorrota, who used to fool his pursuers by putting his horse’s shoes on backwards.

4: Gobi, Mongolia

Third party image reference

The Gobi is Asia’s largest desert, the fifth-largest in the world, stretching across China and Mongolia. It is known for its dunes, mountains and hardy nomads as well as rare animals like snow leopards and Bactrian camels. It is a ‘cold’ desert too, with temperatures in winter dropping below -40 °C.

5: Mojave, Southwest USA

Third party image reference

It may be the smallest desert in North America, but it packs quite a punch. It is the driest desert on the continent, and the hottest – temperatures can top 134°F. Set across four states, it is home to both Joshua Tree and Death Valley national parks.

Stunning nature beauty: Rivers that look like watercolor paintings

Stunning nature beauty: Rivers that look like watercolor paintings

From above they look like canvasses with colorful paint dripping down them – but these images actually show the breathtaking natural wonder of braided rivers. The spectacular sight occurs when rivers continuously split into smaller channels, giving the impression they have been braided.

It tends to take place on steep slopes that have a large supply of coarse-grained sediments. As the river flow decreases, these sediments are deposited to form small temporary islands that disrupt the water flow. The wide blocks of water tend to be shallow, with mesmerising patterns constantly created.

A bird’s eye view of Brahmaputra River, Tibet, China. It is a perfect example of a braided river and is highly susceptible to channel migration and avulsion, where land is suddenly separated by flooding or a change in the course of a river.

The spectacular Joekulgilkvisl snakes its way through the Icelandic Highlands. The Rhyolite Mountains can be seen behind partially covered with snow.

Also in the Icelandic Highlands is the Tungnaa River, which looks spellbinding from above with its ever-changing channels.

Erosion shapes the path of the Awatere River in Marlborough, New Zealand, creating beautiful patterns when captured from above.

In both vibrant color and black and white, the Hopkins River on South Island, New Zealand (left) and the Toklat River in the Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska (right), look like works of art.

Braided rivers tend to occur on steep slopes, or in mountainous areas, that have a large supply of coarse-grained sediments. As the river flow decreases, these sediments are deposited to form small temporary islands that disrupt the water flow. This incredible water network can be found in Iceland.

From above it is clear to see the interweaving and braiding of the Cook River in West Coast South Island, New Zealand.

Silver braids of glacial silt are illuminated by the sun on the Canning River which traces the western boundary of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge’s coastal plain in the US.

One of Europe’s most impressive braided rivers is the Tagliamento which winds from the Alps to the Adriatic Sea at a point between Trieste and Venice.

An aerial view of the Kvichak River with numerous split channels in Southwestern Alaska reflects the clouds above.

Another Alaskan wonder is the Katmai Peninsula which looks like a vibrant painting when surrounded by the lush green landscape.

The natural wonder can be found across the globe, pictured is the tidal plains near the Malaspina Glacier in Southeast Alaska.

The sunrises over the Sagavanirktok River in Alaska, with fog hanging over the split streams on the horizon.

The braided Tasman River flows from the glaciers of Mount Cook in New Zealand’s Southern Alps at Mount Cook National Park.

Autumn colors perfectly accentuate the Eagle River in Chugach State Park, also in Alaska.

Rick Steves: The hidden gems of the Italian Riviera

Rick Steves’ European favorites

Rick Steves: The hidden gems of the Italian Riviera

After several years of being covered in scaffolding, the Château d’Azay-le-Rideau has returned to its romantic glory.

Cruising might not be for everyone, but it’s an economic, efficient and popular of mode of travel in Europe and beyond.

A footpath is all that connects Italy’s Civita di Bagnoregio to the “mainland.”

The town of Varenna on Lake Como is the perfect place to savor a lakeside meal or aperitivo.

Sampling one of Germany’s hundreds of sausage varieties from a street vendor is a classic German experience.

Wandering the ruins of Hadrian’s Wall is a highlight of any visit to northern England.

Monks at Sénanque Abbey in Provence divide their day between prayer and work, which includes tending their perfect rows of lavender.

Do your research on the big aggregator sites, but then book directly with a family-run hotel for a glimpse into the local culture.

Iceland’s thermal features are fascinating — but beware that testing the waters can result in severe burns.

Tiny Zahara is a characteristically whitewashed Andalusian town with an evocative Moorish castle.

The thatched roof of Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, where Shakespeare’s wife grew up, seems to drip over the 500-year-old building.

Though expensive, riding a gondola at night in Venice is one of the great experiences in Europe.

The picture-perfect village of Oia in Santorini, resting a thousand feet high above a volcanic crater, is a dream come true for photographers and sunset watchers.

A trip to Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina, is one of Europe’s richest experiences.

Ireland’s legendary green countryside is the backdrop for the coastal town of Kinsale, a winner in the annual “Tidy Towns” contest.

Get your ticket to cross Northern Ireland’s Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge first thing in the morning, before the cruise groups — and the wind — take over.

Visitors to Switzerland’s gorgeous Berner Oberland can take in spectacular peak views from the Thrill Walk on the Schilthorn cliffside.

The Rhine River is best experienced from the deck of a relaxing riverboat, surrounded by the wonders of this romantic and historic gorge.

Taking a train like Switzerland’s Bernina Express keeps you close to Europe’s charms.

Going up the Eiffel Tower is one of the great travel thrills in Europe.

European department stores (such as Galeries Lafayette in Paris) can be glamorous platforms for top fashion and people-watching.

Scotland’s sparsely populated Isle of Skye is easiest to explore with a set of wheels that allows you to enjoy the scenery at your own pace.

France’s Chartres Cathedral boasts the world’s largest surviving collection of medieval stained glass, filled with stories and symbolism.

Balance out visits to hectic big cities by also spending time in tranquil villages like Beilstein, in Germany’s Mosel Valley.

The burgeoning HafenCity district and its spectacular new Elbphilharmonie concert hall are revitalizing Hamburg’s riverfront.

Florence’s Duomo Museum, which reopened in 2016 after an extensive renovation, offers one of Italy’s great artistic experiences.

Little tuk-tuks are a fun way to sightsee around Lisbon.

London’s many attractions — such as its famous Harrods department store — make it a great winter destination for sightseeing and shopping.

Carcassonne, in the south of France, is the perfect medieval fortress-city.

Attending a Gaelic football match at Dublin’s Croke Park is a great way to meet new Irish friends — as long as you root for the same side.

The little village of Gimmelwald, high in the Swiss Alps, is one of my all-time favorite European destinations.

Experiential sightseeing, such as this food tour of Rome’s Testaccio neighborhood, is time and money well spent.

The ultimate Riviera port town: Vernazza.

Europe’s most scenic train rides are Switzerland’s top three: the Golden Pass, Bernina Express (shown here) and Glacier Express.

The best Gothic interior is found in Paris’ Sainte-Chapelle church.

Café-sitting, coffee-sipping and people-watching are some of the best ways to slow down and enjoy life like Europeans do.

London, York, Bath and Edinburgh (shown here) are the most interesting cities in Britain.

A European picnic is a fine way to enjoy a cheap — and local — meal.

If you want a Swiss city, see Bern (shown here) or Luzern instead of Geneva.

Sognefjord is Norway’s most spectacular fjord.

Europe’s most underrated sight is Rome’s ancient seaport, Ostia Antica.

After Prague, Kraków (shown here) and Budapest are Eastern Europe’s best cities.

Grocery stores in St. Petersburg brim with colorful drinks, pickled goodies, fresh produce and friendly locals.

The ultimate hike in England’s Lake District: Catbells above Keswick.

Hadrian’s Wall will give history buffs goose bumps.

The most pleasing French château is Vaux-le-Vicomte, near Paris.

The ultimate medieval walled town in Germany: Rothenburg.

Splurging on a gondola ride in Venice buys you a memory for a lifetime.

Head to a historic British pub to make friends with a bartender and get a glimpse — and a taste — of traditional English culture.

There’s magic afoot when you sightsee at night in Rome, as this young girl discovers near the Spanish Steps.

Memorable seaside views, whitewashed homes scrambling up the hillside, well-worn harborside cafés perfect for lingering — and no cars — all combine to make Hydra my ideal Greek isle.

Standing at a bar with a sampler of tapas and chalkboard specials on the wall is a quintessential Spain experience.

The views from the Rock of Gibraltar take in two continents, one ocean and the Mediterranean Sea.

For the best food deals in Frankfurt, line up with locals at Kleinmarkthalle, a delightful old-school market.

Warsaw’s magnificent Lazienki Park, filled with Neoclassical palaces, statuary and water features, is a great place to see Poles at play.

Ireland’s romantic Dingle Peninsula is gloriously green.

Sitting on a stone at the Castlerigg circle, in England’s Lake District, inspires contemplation.

Splurging at a French restaurant often includes dining leisurely at an outdoor table.

When it comes to basking in the beauty of the Italian Riviera, the Cinque Terre is tops for me. But there’s much more to this region on the Mediterranean coast than those famous five villages.

A handful of charming towns lie within an hour of the Cinque Terre, with posh ports set against rugged mountain backdrops that have drawn poets, authors and romantics over the years from Lord Byron to Elizabeth Taylor.

To the north of the Cinque Terre is a trio of beach towns: Levanto, the northern gateway to the Cinque Terre; Sestri Levante, stunningly situated on a narrow peninsula flanked by two beaches; and Santa Margherita Ligure, a thriving city with an active waterfront and easy connections to yacht-happy Portofino. At the south end of the Cinque Terre is the pretty resort of Porto Venere.

When most people imagine the “Italian Riviera,” they’re thinking of the shimmering resort towns north of the Cinque Terre, with their big, stately, Old World hotels looming over crowded pebble beaches. Here, fastidiously landscaped parks and promenades are jammed with more Italian visitors than American tourists.

These towns can be user-friendly home bases for day trips along the Riviera coast, but they’re also worth visiting in their own right. After exploring the villages and trails of the Cinque Terre, they can feel like a return to civilization — for reasons both good and bad (modern amenities, urban scene, traffic).

A bike ride between Levanto and the sleepy village of Bonassola offers up views of the Italian Riviera’s stunning coastline.

Levanto, just minutes north by train of the Cinque Terre resort town Monterosso, is the handiest. Graced with a long, sandy beach, it’s packed in summer with surfers and families. The rest of the year, it’s just a small, sleepy town with kids playing in the square and locals whizzing around on bicycles. Levanto also offers an easy, level hike (or bike ride) to the sleepy village of Bonassola. Serious hikers can do the no-wimps-allowed hike to Monterosso.

A bit farther away, and with a little less train service, is Sestri Levante, a charming town on a peninsula squeezed as skinny as a hot dog between two crescent beaches. One of the bays — Baia delle Favole — is named in honor of Hans Christian Andersen, who visited in the mid-1800s (favole means “fairy tale”).

The most appealing town north of the Cinque Terre — but also the most distant (one hour by train) — is Santa Margherita Ligure. This easygoing, old-school resort town has an enjoyable urban bustle and a handful of sights (including the Baroque Basilica of Santa Margherita), along with easy access to posh Portofino. While Portofino’s velour allure is tarnished by a nonstop traffic jam in peak season, Santa Margherita Ligure has a breezy harborfront with a beach promenade, and its aristocratic architecture hints at old money.

From Santa Margherita Ligure, you can take a bus to Portofino, but a boat makes the 15-minute trip with more class and scenery, and without the traffic jams. You can also hike between the towns, either following the sidewalk along (and sometimes hanging over) the sea (2.5 miles), or you can take a quieter two-hour hike high into the hills.

Portofino is the movie star’s Italian Riviera. The yacht-harbor resort with grand scenery — and its sleek jewelry shops, art galleries and haute couture boutiques filling a humble village shell — has the sheen of new money. It’s the kind of place where the sailing masts are taller than the houses and church steeples. But the piccolo harbor, classic Italian architecture and wooded peninsula make Portofino an appealing destination nonetheless.

Porto Venere is the perfect jumping-off point for scenic boat rides along the Italian Riviera.

Porto Venere is fun to explore, especially if you climb up-up-up behind town for increasingly better views. Porto Venere faces not the open sea but the beautiful Gulf of La Spezia — more romantically known as the Gulf of Poets — where Lord Byron was said to have gone for a hardy swim despite rough seas and local warnings to the contrary. (He survived … at least, for a little while longer.) Scanning the bay, you’ll see the outskirts of muscular La Spezia, the often-snow-covered peaks of the Apuan Alps, the resort town of Lerici and — across a narrow strait — the rugged island of Palmaria.

Whether it’s glitz and glamour, beach relaxation, or hearty hiking that inspires you, choose one or more of these gems for a classic Italian Riviera experience.

The charming villages of Italy’s Cinque Terre

Riomaggiore, Italy.

Riomaggiore, Italy.

Riomaggiore, Italy.

Riomaggiore, Italy.

Riomaggiore, Italy.

Riomaggiore, Italy.

Riomaggiore, Italy.

Riomaggiore, Italy.

Riomaggiore, Italy.

Riomaggiore, Italy.

Riomaggiore, Italy.

Riomaggiore, Italy.

Riomaggiore, Italy.

Riomaggiore, Italy.

Riomaggiore, Italy.

Riomaggiore, Italy.

Riomaggiore, Italy.

Vernazza, Italy.

Vernazza, Italy.

Vernazza, Italy.

Vernazza, Italy.

Vernazza, Italy.

Vernazza, Italy.

Vernazza, Italy.

Vernazza, Italy.

Vernazza, Italy.

Vernazza, Italy.

Vernazza, Italy.

Vernazza, Italy.

Vernazza, Italy.

Vernazza, Italy.

Vernazza, Italy.

Vernazza, Italy.

Vernazza, Italy.

Vernazza, Italy.

Manarola, Italy.

Manarola, Italy.

Vernazza, Italy.

Manarola, Italy.

Manarola, Italy.

Manarola, Italy.

Manarola, Italy.

Manarola, Italy.

Manarola, Italy.

Manarola, Italy.

Manarola, Italy.

Manarola, Italy.

Manarola, Italy.

Manarola, Italy.

Manarola, Italy.

Manarola, Italy.

Manarola, Italy.

Monterosso al Mare, Italy.

Monterosso al Mare, Italy.

Monterosso al Mare, Italy.

Monterosso al Mare, Italy.

Monterosso al Mare, Italy.

Monterosso al Mare, Italy.

Monterosso al Mare, Italy.

Monterosso al Mare, Italy.

Monterosso al Mare, Italy.

Monterosso al Mare, Italy.

Monterosso al Mare, Italy.

Monterosso al Mare, Italy.

Monterosso al Mare, Italy.

Monterosso al Mare, Italy.

Monterosso al Mare, Italy.

Corniglia, Italy.

Corniglia, Italy.

Corniglia, Italy.

Corniglia, Italy.

Corniglia, Italy.

Corniglia, Italy.

Corniglia, Italy.

Corniglia, Italy.

Corniglia, Italy.

Corniglia, Italy.

Corniglia, Italy.

Corniglia, Italy.

Corniglia, Italy.

Corniglia, Italy.

Corniglia, Italy.

Corniglia, Italy.

Corniglia, Italy.

Indore: Nature in full bloom, Gulawat Lotus Valley; Where Goddess Saraswati dwells

Indore: Nature in full bloom, Gulawat Lotus Valley; Where Goddess Saraswati dwells

Indore: Gulawat is a beautiful lotus valley located about 30 kms away from city of Indore. Gulawat village is located in Hatod tehsil of Indore district. Gulawat Lotus Lake offers breathtaking views of the lotus valley and is therefore a place of great interest for photographers too.

Recently, apart from tourists many couples visited this location for their pre-wedding photo shoots. The valley is a perfect weekend getaway place for Indoreans as the lake is surrounded by greenery which makes the environment serene. Located at one end of Yashwant Sagar in Indore the valley is very beautiful and attracts various migrating birds.

Main attractions
The lake with lots of surfaced lotuses is one of the most beautiful views one can come across. Sunrise, boating, horse riding and the temple are some of the other attractions. A 100-metre-long bridge over the lake gives travellers a perfect view of the lake and beautiful lotuses. A little ahead, a bamboo forest adds to the already mesmerizing experience. A Hanuman temple is also located near the valley.

How to reach
The major road route from Indore is smooth for the first 20 kms after which a driver requires to do some off-roading in the village area. The off-roading is not always inconvenient as it can be considered pretty adventurous as well.

Best time to visit
The valley is beautiful throughout the year. But considering the greener pastures and cool weather, people prefer visiting the valley during monsoon and winters.

Food arrangements
Local villagers and vendors have set up some handcarts providing munchies to the visitors. Tourists specially enjoy the roasted corn during rainy season. Other than these snacks if the visitors plan on spending more time at the valley they should carry food products and eatables themselves.

Free Press spoke to some people who have visited Gulawat Lotus Valley. Excerpts:

The place is beautiful and offers a variety of serene spots for us to relax and enjoy our weekend. Adventures like horse riding and boating added to our already amazing experience. It is spot which can be enjoyed with family and also with friends. Mayuna Singh, Doctor

Gulawat is a photographer’s delight! The place is filled with naturally beautiful scenes where photographers can show their talent. Some sunsets and other photographic sets are also available at the valley. It is a must visit place, especially during this season. Amit Khare, Photographer

The location is very good, especially for pre-wedding shoots. Some changes in the place can make it a perfect and complete picnic spot as well. The boatmen at the valley should increase the number of boats and install more swings in the area. The valley has also provided business to many villagers in the area. The government should deploy a worker who can support the tourists in the area. The worker can mak sure the villagers don’t ask for parking or any other additional payments from visitor. Mahesh Kumawat, Photographer