Sunday, April 28, 2013
Place: Costa Mesa, California
Company: Wife and daughter
Highlights: Moved to another neighboring city of Irvine. Did all the shifting between wifey and self, and with a toddler toddling around us! Quite a laborious experience but somehow managed! Got a nice house, nice quiet balcony (balcony in Irvine was facing a main road where cars used to zoom at 60 mph which gets quite noisy especially when it rains) and significant less rent. Costa Mesa is not as posh and luxurious as Irvine nor do the records indicate that it is as safe but now the office (same Santa Ana office) is just 2 miles. Adding one more chapter to our stay in US…
Place: Irvine, California
Company: Wife and daughter
Highlights: Quit Infosys and joined CTS. Hence the relocation. Exactly 3000 miles diametrically (in the US map) away from current location (Nashua). City of Irvine was mind-blowing. Palm trees everywhere, wide roads. It was like a tourist city. Reminded me of Mauritius. Also came to know that it is a fairly new city, developed in 1971 by a realty company by the same name! Plenty of shopping plazas, luxurious apartments and extremely safe. So, although work location was in Santa Ana, a neighbouring city, preferred to stay in Irvine. Stayed in Avalon Irvine, after initial 2 weeks in Homestead. Had to move out of Avalon Irvine due to rent increase after the annual contract. Enjoyed the 1 year stay in Irvine, and will always cherish it…
Monday, January 21, 2013
Place: Arches, Four Corners, Monument Valley, Bryce, Zion, Las Vegas
Company: Wife and daughter
I don’t think we have ever planned any vacation so hard and so long. This may be understandably because it is the longest vacation we (the three of us) have ever undertaken. Starting from different options on how to take leaves to make the best use of Christmas and New Year’s Day holidays to different vacation locations bearing weather conditions and cost-effectiveness (as compared to making the trip on non-holiday season). Added to this, are the variety of websites that showcase the flight rate deals, hotel deals and car rental deals, and the bundle packages. And then there was also an option of renting an RV (which I had explored last year same time too but the idea had flopped then and this year too).
When to take the leaves considering 25th and 1st were holidays, both Tuesdays, was a big question mark. The number of leaves had to go hand-in-hand with the vacation location and the cost-effectiveness of that vacation. It was like an algebraic equation with multiple variables (when to take leaves, cost-effectiveness, vacation location bearing weather condition, road-trip vs flight vs train, RV or not, no drive more than 4 hrs at a stretch to accommodate our 2-year daughter, etc.) and objective of the exercise was to solve the complex problem.
We started off with identifying the top places we want to see in US, and started fitting it in the equation. After much debate, we locked on to the most famous national parks in Utah (Arches, Monument Valley, Bryce and Zion). Summer, of course, is the right season to see these parks. But we were not sure (during planning phase), if we would be so near as now to Utah. Also, it was mentioned in various websites that although winter is off-season, it has one of the spectacular views since these parks would be covered with snow. And anyways, summer is preferred so that visitors could hike. With a toddler, we weren’t too keen on hiking anyways. So winter for these parks suited us.
Now that we had locked down on the ‘vacation-location’ variable, next toughest thing to decide was on the itinerary. We have spent many weekends and weeknights deciding and deciding on the optimal route. There is a direct flight from LAX to SGU which is an hour away from Zion. So, taking a car at SGU and doing the loop of the 4 parks seemed the optimal route. But there was another variable that had to be solved – no drive to be more than 4 hrs at a stretch to accommodate Paavani else it would be difficult to handle her. Arches seemed farthest of all parks, and yet it had to be seen. For we didn’t want to go to Utah again and again. Yet, this was the best of all plans.
This led to discovering nearby airports like Moab, Grand Junction, Denver, Salt Lake City, Flagstaff other than St George (SGU). Amongst all of this, the best route would have been to fly from home (SNA or LAX) to Moab, rent a car and drive down all the way to SGU and fly back home. However, after completing the itinerary for couple of hours, I was told by many websites that there is no rental car in Moab airport. (True enough, other than a strip of runway, there is nothing in Moab that can be called airport). So, the whole idea flopped.
Googling led to a website who had done similar trip as us but had taken the train from Chicago to Grand Junction and then they had driven down. However, this was not a great option since it was taking days for us to get to Grand Junction in train and multiple stop-overs from LAX.
Further research led to a cost-effective itinerary – SNA to SLC and then driving down all the way to LAS, covering the targeted parks, even though there was a drop-off charge for the rental car. This solved all the variables. Ideal would have been to drive only till SGU and take the direct flight back to LAX since we didn’t want to see LAS nor drive all the way to LAS but the deal was irresistible. So here goes:
Day 1: Had booked the cab for Home to SNA at 0630 hrs and he was right on time. We could sleep only at 0200 hrs and had to get up at 0500 hrs to be ready by 0630 hrs. 10 mins to airport. 0800 Delta flight to SLC. Reached SLC at 1100 hrs local time (4 hr flight). During the flight journey, saw snow-capped mountains and white blanketed desert area. Was mesmerized by it. Not sure where had seen such view last time around or if had seen at all before. Only plan after landing was to reach Moab by nightfall. So took it easy. Upgraded rental car from Corolla to Camry for better traction. Liked it, in the end with all its features – USB port, Aux cable (bought one during trip to utilize feature!), in-built telephone, etc.
Initial plan was to stock up on frozen food, milk and other toddler stuff in SLC and then start journey to Moab but since it was Christmas, no shop was open except fortunately a Starbucks on which we survived the entire journey to Moab. And what a journey it was to Moab. Unbelievably scenic; winding across snow-capped mountains and valleys. It was as if we were in Switzerland (comparing although never been to Swiss!) We must have taken over 200 snaps of just the drive! Truly folks in SLC have a great view.
As the road tapered towards Moab, the scenery around changed. It was more of a desert filled with snow. The last 30 miles was a single-lane road but I realized later that it would be single-lane road for rest of the trip until we were on our way to LAS! Finally by 5 pm, after 4.5 hours of journey, reached Moab’s Super 8 Hotel, right opposite Denny’s which was open all day even though it was Christmas. After some discussion, changed the next night’s hotel to a hotel which was closer to 4 corners monument, to avoid the long ride. Relaxed and retired for the night.
Day 2: Had no major plans for the day other than visiting Arches which was just 4 miles away. So woke up late, had late breakfast in the hotel, and left at 11. Paavani had a tummy upset and that concerned us since it was just the first day of the trip and she was not having any of the outside food. Only solace was the rice we had got for her to cook in the microwave in each hotel to be served with yogurt.
Entry to Arches was scary since the slopy road was filled with snow. But once we ascended, road leveled out and the 17-mile road offered wonderful scenery. All around we could see the small arches. Parade of elephants resembled Lord Ganesha, there were many Balancing Rocks, views of North and South Windows were good although we could not trek near it since Paavani had dozed off. And since she had slept, I ventured alone to the Landscape Arch which was about a mile’s trek in the desert snow. Then when I came back, Paavani was up and about, eager to walk in the snow. So we hiked again in the snow and visited the Tunnel Arch. It was most gratifying. But it was extremely cold. So headed back. Exited Arches by about 4 pm.
Had lunch at McDonald’s in Moab and drove 2-3 hrs to Cortez, Colorado. Most of the journey was in the dark and I wish we had left early – one to have experienced the obvious scenic views that one could sense lay beyond the road and two to avoid the risky road journey. It was snowing and a single lane road with gusty winds and pitch dark night all around! Thankfully, reached Cortez at about 8 pm and stayed in another Super 8 Hotel. Thankfully, Paavani was back to normal.
Day 3: Since it was a long ride today, left early – at about 9ish after a good breakfast. Reached 4 corners monument at 10. It was surprising to see the snow disappear in that 1 hr journey, although it was terribly cold due to the wind. This spot marked the only place in USA where 4 states converged into one point – Utah, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico.
Spent about 30 mins and then drove on to Monument Valley. Reached by about 1 pm. This place had the most unusual visitor center – went searching around and around but finally never found it – just saw a store and some map. Anyways, figured out enough that there was a 17 mile unpaved road around few of what are called Buttes that make up the Monument Valley. Ventured into the unpaved road. It was pretty slow mainly due to the unpaved road but the views of the Buttes were magnificent – Camel, 3 sisters and Elephant Buttes were notable. After about 1 hr, we headed back since we had had enough, and we still had a long way to go.
After 2 more hrs, stopped at the city of Page to have lunch at McD (Paavani) and Subway. Entire journey was good since it was in daylight and we could enjoy the beauty all around. Sometimes it was filled with snow and sometimes it petered out. It was as if we were in the desert, more like in Mars, and only civilized thing was the road. Otherwise it seemed lifeless all around. Empty and long stretch of roads with visibility of few miles ahead in a straight line) tempted anybody to drive over 100. I guess for the first time in my life I touched 110 mph at one stretch. However, there were stretches where it was snowing and the slush from the vehicle ahead and vehicles on the side splashed all around and the car was a total mess. In some ways, it was quite a challenging drive, especially to pass another vehicle during snow and on icy roads.
Then, left Page to Kanab where we had booked the Royal Inn hotel. About 45 mins of journey but it was already nightfall. Wished I had left Page earlier since there was a view of the dam (like Hoover dam) which I missed immediately after the city of Page. Reached Royal Inn at about 8, and retired. Rather liked Super 8 more than Royal Inn especially since cost of all of them were in the range of 50-60 USD.
Day 4: Took it easy. After a nice breakfast, left at 11 to Bryce national park. So reached about 12.30 pm. Spent about 30 mins in the visitor center which is very informative, even including a 20 minute video that shows Bryce in all it’s splendor. This too has a 17 odd mile stretch of road with full of view points. Saw all view points. Again, Paavani had slept off and hence had to hurry up on some of the view points. Snow added a lot of oooh to the view and one could imagine how dry and simple-rock-like these natural formations would look like in summer.
Bryce was different. Main scenic points are the sunset and sunrise points which showcases the true splendor of the natural amphitheater. A short hike is needed, especially for the sunrise point. But its worth it. After sunset and sunrise points, most other view points are mediocre, except Natural Bridge which looks like another Arch from Arches. Finally, we left in the evening and headed to Springdale.
Now, I had read about the fact that it is good to drive to Zion from Bryce instead of the other way round, just because views are great. It was one of the reasons we had planned the itinerary - so that we come to Zion from Bryce. Now what we did not know was that city of Springdale is within the Zion park itself. So when we drove from Bryce to Springdale, we actually had to pass through the park’s entry and since it was already nightfall, we missed the views. We could feel that we were amidst great mountains but we just couldn’t see it. The road is very very narrow and winding with mandated speeds as low as 20 mph but it was so dark that we couldn’t see anything. It was a thing which I repented a lot. Especially after having it read and planned accordingly.
Anyways, finally reached Quality Inn at about 8 pm. For the price of 80, it had good spacious room. Retired for the night.
Day 5: Woke up amidst mountains! Realized that Springdale is set amidst tall and towering mountains. They were really massive. If all these days we were in the middle of a desert, this was as if we were in the middle of mountains. 360 degrees we were covered with tall mountains. Visited Visitor center to ask what we could do, considering the cold and toddler. We were given few options but here in Zion, most of the viewpoints need quite a bit of a hike.
I had a lot of hope on visiting the Narrows – to see the view of the river in the gorge-like scenario, very much like those Enid Blyton novels which I had read and envisioned as a kid – especially the River of Adventure. Alas, due to weather, they had closed the last part of the trek. So after 45 mins of trek, we had to venture back. I was disheartened. But the trek and the views were great nevertheless.
Other treks which I had a lot of desire could not be achieved because of a number of factors – treks such as Angel’s Landing, Wailing Rock, etc. Anyways, had enough of Zion. For satisfaction, went back on the road to Bryce to experience the Zion views from the top. Midway through, there was a traffic jam near the tunnel. So turned back and that was pretty much about Zion. Lunched in a Thai restaurant in Springdale and headed down South to Las Vegas.
Quite unexpected, the road to Vegas was breath-taking, especially one stretch. This stretch of road winds through multiple mountains – but unlike the other similar drives we had done in the last week, this stretch was on an interstate road, with 65 mph speed. So it was different and a very good drive. As we neared Vegas, traffic thickened but finally we reached Riviera at about 6 pm. We had gained an hour since we were now in Pacific Time Zone.
To enjoy the lights, took Paavani on a car drive around the Strip – maybe it was a mistake, maybe not. Especially since she was too sleepy to see all the lights. Could not show her the Bellagio fountain either. Had a nice Indian restaurant within Riviera where we had good Indian dinner (and next day’s breakfast too) – after a long gap. Relaxed for the night.
Day 6: Checked out in the morning at 11. Was not quite happy with Riviera’s ‘Resourt-fee’. This turned out to be the costliest hotel in the entire trip and it was the least clean of them all. Anyways, whatever.
Showed couple of shows to Paavani at Circus-Circus casino and played few games. Shopped around the strip some more, and it was time to leave Vegas. Returned the rental car, realized that we had lost a cell phone, and finally took the shuttle to airport. With car-seat and a check-in baggage, it was pretty overbearing but somehow managed it. Took the flight to LAX which was a short 1 hr duration. Reached LAX by 8 pm. Had booked a shared van to back home and it was pretty tiring. Realized that I could have driven home faster from LAS than the flight to LAX and this shared cab to the Irvine home. Finally reached home by 11 pm.
Overview: It was a memorable trip. We might have planned for over 6 days for this 6 day trip! But planning was very crucial, especially with the toddler – to pack all her toys, her phone, her laptop, her potty, her favorite food items, her car seat – to make it as close to her homely env as possible. Planning was also crucial for our chosen itinerary and the cost-effectiveness. All those plans finally paid off and thankfully we were back home safe and sound. Those snow-capped natural formations and deserts are unforgettable and perhaps never-again experience. Utah is definitely a unique and beautiful state in this country! In all, over 1200 miles were driven. Planned route map is attached.
Tip: Some of the most useful websites during planning were Google's Flights and Hotel Finder. Without these, it would have been very difficult indeed!
Monday, November 26, 2012
Place: Big Bear Lake
Company: Mom-in-law, Wife and Daughter
Highlights: In a bid to show snow to mom-in-law, went to this mountain where water from Big Bear Lake is converted to snow for skiiing during off-season. It is still off-season since it has not snowed yet. Pretty much similar to natural snow and environment. Paavani enjoyed playing with snow. Went to couple of skiing resorts with varying range of skiing levels.Then went to Big Bear Lake and Big Bear Mountain to capture breath-taking views of the panorama. A 2.5 hr drive from Irvine home.
Place: Aquarium of the Pacific & Harbor Cruise
Company: Mom-in-law, Wife, Daughter
Highlights: Initially thought this would be a 2-3 hr thing but was exhausted at the amount of exhibits. This took almost all day [from 10 to 4]. Polar problems made me sad. Fishes with what looked like electric signals were amazing. Nature's painting of beautiful colors under the ocean is mesmerizing. Thanks to the aquarium, we get to see what we would otherwise never get to see. After the aquarium, went on a harbor cruise to see in and around Long Beach.
Place: Calabasas and Griffith, Hollywood Blvd at Los Angeles
Company: Mom-in-law, Wife and Daughter
Highlights: Aksharabhyaasa for Paavani at Calabasas temple. After the event, went to Griffith Park Observatory in Los Angeles. First time here. Enormous amount of cars. Had to park the car about 0.5 miles from summit and walk all the way up to the top with Paavani on shoulder. Nice views of Hollywood sign and LA. Saw the sun set too. Then went inside the observatory. Wonderful science exhibits. Then went to Hollywood Boulevard street to show Kodak Theatre and other happenings to Mom-in-law. Third time here. Finally, after a long day, headed back home.
Place: San Diego Zoo & Mt Soledad
Company: Mom-in-law, Wife, Daughter
Highlights: Tried to be as early as possible - especially to beat the traffic from Irvine. Last time we visited Balboa Park, we got stuck in traffic near Carlsbad. So this time, left at 8 and reached by 10. Stayed all day till closure at 5. Thanks to AAA, tickets were little cheaper. Wide variety of animals and attractions to keep everyone occupied all day. Did not take shuttle service and hence walked everywhere. Notable attractions - air tram, welcome bird show, sea lion show, etc. other than the animals, of couse. Paavani slept off at about 4 after watching the elephants. She missed only Giraffe and Hippo. On the way back, also visited Mount Soledad. Very nice view of San Diego freeways and the Pacific from atop.
Place: Palomar Mountain
Company: Mom-in-law, Wife, Daughter
Highlights: Searching for nearby (one-day picnic) places led to this mountain with breath-taking views. Thankfully, the day we visited, it was a cloudy day. That is to say, it was cloudy for those on the ground. For those on Palomar, we were above the clouds. As if we were characters in those mythological serials where Gods and Angels walk and talk on clouds. Such was the scenery everywhere. Very similar to what we see from airplane. Also went on a short trail - Paavani's first. Missed visiting the observatory - incidentally I had seen a documentary couple of years ago on how the huge lens used in this observatory made its way from East coast to where it is situated now. On the way back, also went to Palo casino. Visited couple of lakes and drove amidst clouds while coming back. A short memorable trip.
Sunday, August 26, 2012
Place: San Diego
Company: Father, Wife and daughter
Highlights: Huge traffic jam caused delay in reaching San Diego but it was good that we didnt turn back home. Balboa Park is a very nice park with lots of things to do. We chose spots fun for toddlers. A small train, a nice carousel, a water fountain, a pet-place, etc. Ended the day in the park with a nice ice cream and coffee.
Place: Calabasas, Los Angeles
Company: Father, Wife and daughter
Highlights: In a bid to show the Hindu temple to dad, went to Calabasas temple. Pretty nice temple constructed on similar lines of Pittsburgh temple. On the way back, visited the LA and Hollywood view point from Mulholland Drive scenic spot. Remembered the day when me and my wife had come to this same spot with Kedar and Niraj. Then went to Hollywood Blvd too. Had to wait for an hour on the parking lot for Paavani to wake up. Pondered about watching Independence Day fireworks in LA itself but decided to see near home as it was an hour away.
Sunday, July 1, 2012
Place: San Francisco, Yosemite, Lake Tahoe
Company: Wife and daughter for SFO, joined with friend and his family for Y and LT.
Day 0: Took the 9 pm flight from SNA to SJC southwest. Rental car from Enterprise. Reached Niraj's house at almost midnight. Chatted and slept.
Day 1: Left to Mystery Spot at 9 am. Enjoyed the MS's illusions and uniqueness. Using PCH, drove all the way to Golden Gate, with stops before at major scenic spots. GG at about 3 pm. Spent some time at GG and then had lunch at a Thai restaurant on the way to Lombard Street. Lost way, so parked in Chinatown, took the cable car and went to Lombard Street. Walked down and up the crooked street. Returned back, exhausted. Switched rental car to minivan, Enterprise to Alamo, ready for next day. Thankfully realised the missing GPS holder and got it back in time.
Day 2: Left to Yosemite Park at 9 am. Reached about 2-ish. Went to Bridal Veil Falls, then got stuck in traffic due to long weekend. So parked at some place and walked around to enjoy the beauty of the nature. Thanks to Niraj's parents, had nice home made food. Finally exited the park and headed to Country Inn at Sonora. Reached about 9-ish and retired.
Day 3: Breakfast at Country Inn. Left to Lake Tahoe. Saw snow on the way. Reached Tahoe at 2-ish and had nice lunch at Taj Mahal restaurant. Then went to Tahoe and relaxed at the beach for couple of hours. Headed back to San Jose at 7-ish and reached by midnight.
Day 4: Alcatraz all day. Cruise, the walk to the prison cells, the stories of multiple escape attempts, the life and story of prisoners and officers, etc. Very thoughtful. Missed the planned return cruise by a minute. So had to rush to the airport to catch the flight back to SNA at 5 pm. Reached home just before 7 pm.
Overall, a nice trip, slightly hectic on day 1. Poor Paavani hated car seat. Food was not all that easy nor nice. Her tantrum in Crooked Street wanting to climb up and down the complete set of stairs will be a scene to remember. Gouri and self gave an interview to a guy with camera in GG in memory of the bridge's 75th anniversary. Niraj and company was nice. Esp Paavani calling his parents Thatha and Ajji. And Momi too! A trip to remember...
Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Place: Detroit, Frankenmuth
Company: Wife and daughter
Day 1: Left Nashua by car to Providence at 5 am, after a 4 hr sleep. Reached airport at 7-ish. Paavani ran around the airport saying Hi to one and all! By the time the flight took off, she was awake for 4 hrs already and exhausted enough to sleep the entire 1.75 hr flight. 13 degrees in Detroit with most of it covered in snow. So, stayed home entire day. Watched Chup Chup Ke.
Day 2: Went to Frankenmuth and visited the World's largest Christmas store. Nice time pass for children, with many a dazzling material all around. Home made Masala Dosa for lunch and Missal Paav for dinner.
Day 3: Went to GM headquarters and metro rail for Paavani. Then to Somerset Mall. Caught the 9:37 pm flight back to Providence. Again Paavani slept all through, and even unto the next morning. Reached Nashua at 2 am.
Had been wanting to visit Detroit since May last year, and finally got done now. My first was in 2005 alone, second was in 2006 with parents, third was in 2009 with wife and fourth now in 2012 with wife and daughter.
Monday, January 2, 2012
Place: North Conway, NH, USA
Company: Wife and Daughter
Day 1: Initially had planned to take the hour-long 1330 hrs scenic train to Conway but just as I pulled into the parking lot of the station, the engine puffed away. Traffic at North Conway is much to blame but apart from that, it is a very beautiful town set in the midst of the White Mountain Region of New Hampshire state. Multiple things to do in and around this town, much like Gatlinburg of Smoky Mountain region. Having missed the train, had lunch at Shalimar of India and checked in at our resort - Eastern Slope Inn. Nice resort, set right in the middle of the town. Catchy thing about the resort is that it has a heated Jacuzzi in the open air. So when we checked in, it was snowing and there were people in swim trunks dipping into the steamy open-air Jacuzzi! A sight to see!
Day 2: Took the 2-hr 1130 hrs train to Bartlett. Quite over-priced but fun. Lunch at a Thai restaurant. Siesta! Rushed to Mount Cranmore which is just about a mile away to see the Fireworks as part of New Year's Eve celebrations. It was a treat! Headed back to the Inn to enjoy a game of table tennis and then roamed around the streets and tiny shops of North Conway. Then again there was Fireworks at North Conway itself which was slow but enchanting. Watched New Year's Ball drop at New York on TV and said Good Bye to 2011!
Day 3: A nice warm day. Went to Mt Cranmore again to enjoy the white snow more. Daughter had much fun walking and walking in the granular snow. Went on a coaster ride too. Had lunch and headed back home.
Overall: For the first time, went on a vacation in US (for 2 nights and 3 days) without seeing any other Indian tourist! 241 miles driven in total. Very refreshing holiday, after a 8 month hiatus! Paavani's first vacation in US.
Sunday, June 5, 2011
Place: UAE - Sharjah, Dubai, Al-Ain
Day 1: 16th: Took the Airarabia flight at 0430 hrs to Sharjah. First international flight for my daughter Paavani and first flight for my mother in law. Reached Sharjah at 0630 hrs local time but due to immigration formalities which took almost 1.5 hrs, could get out of the airport only at 0830 hrs. Brother in law picked us up from the airport and took us to his house in Sharjah.
Day 2: 17th: Left home at 10 am to go to Dubai which is just an hour away. First stop was on Jumeira Beach. This beach was filled with Europeans. Beautiful beach, nice waves, bluish green color of the sea. Beach is adjoined with a nice park to relax and have snacks. Wonderful atmosphere.
Day 3: 18th: Did nothing in the morning but went to Desert safari in the evening at 4 pm. Never expected it to be like a theme ride! These SUVs have raw power to rip through the desert sand dunes like anything and drivers tend to go over them like a ride. One will be tossed here and there during the ride. Fun for the first few minutes but gets boring after some time. Finally went to a camp-like setting under the open sky – with all the seating arrangement pointing towards the center stage which was later occupied by the belly dancer and other traditional Dubai dancers. Camel ride, motor bike ride, costume, henna, etc too were present. After a nice dinner, headed back.
Days 4, 5, 6 : 19th – 21st: Relaxed. Went to a nearby park and played shuttle after a long time. There are lots of parks in Sharjah and nice places to relax and spend time. Place called Cornish was in within walking distance. A nice setting to spend with family amidst the back water.
Day 7: 22nd: Went to Al-Ain wildlife park. This place has animals & birds from all parts of the country. It is extremely vast and needs almost 5-6 hrs to completely see this park. Once done, we went to Jebel Hafeet mountain. Wonderful drive up the mountain with steep ascent but beautiful road. Once atop, one can see the desert in its pristine glory. Very nice climate. Localites performing dance all around. Apparently, it goes up till midnight plus some motorcycle stunts. But we headed back after sunset to avoid the traffic. Another huge park right below the mountain. Finally reached home at 9.30 pm.
Day 8: Time to go back. Stayed home. Took the Airarabia 1030 pm flight back to Bangalore.
Overall: UAE is a wonderful country which accommodates for the well being of a family. Lots of Indians, Pakistanis, Afghanistanis, etc living in a country that is made beautiful by the Government. Just shows that if India, Pakistan, Afghanistan is made beautiful, then the citizenry can indeed keep it beautiful. Enjoyed the trip thoroughly.
Sunday, March 6, 2011
Company: Maternal Uncle
Day 0: Left in 2215 hrs Rajahamsa bus to Muddebihal.
Day 1: Reached Kushtagi at 0800 hrs. Walked to Adavi Temple where the Saptaaha celebrations for 2011 had just started. Very much country life. No air or noise pollution. Freshness of life all around.
Had bath in a pond after a long time. Attended a series of Pravachans (religious discourses) which were very well presented in flawless Kannada. It is a pleasure to see the knowledge one has on the story and the control in narration given in in-depth Kannada. Had lunch, siesta and saw the opening ceremony in the evening and left to Bangalore at 8 pm. Took the bus to Hospet and the Airavath to Bangalore.
Day 2: Reached Bangalore at 5.30 am and home at 6.15 am. Nice lazy Sunday thereafter.
Summar: Saptaaha is a 7 day celebration to Sri Raghavendra Swamy that is conducted in the Feb-Mar period in various parts of the country every year. The 2nd day denotes the birthday and the 7th day denotes the day Venkatanaatha assumed pontiff role and became Raghavendra Swamy. I wanted to visit at least one day of a Saptaaha celebration since a long time and finally the wish got fulfilled on March 5th 2011 in Kushtagi.
Monday, February 21, 2011
Company: Wife, Daughter, Parents, Mom-in-law
Highlights: A much needed long-drive! 108 kms one way on a beautiful stretch of road amidst country side. Paavani's first long-drive in a car. Thanked Guru Raghavendra Swamy for a smooth labour and delivery. It was here that the priest had blessed us for "Santhaana Prapthhirasthu" when we had visited in Jan 2010.
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
Company: Parents, Wife, Daughter
Day 0: Nanded Express train 3 AC at 2300 hrs. Too high AC. Apparently some passengers complained AC to be low and hence for us it became unbearable. But clean and neat. Thankfully Paavani didn’t make much fuss.
Day 1: Reached MALM station at 7.30 am and city at 8 am. Booked nice room at Pannaga International. Went for Tungabhadra river bath. Been long time since I had river bath. It’s a feel-good factor. Had darshan and food. Siesta. Visited relative’s house + darshan in the evening. Retired for the night.
Day 2: Panchamruta Abhisheka Seva to Raghavendra Swamy Brindavan was the only highlight of the day. Had thought about this seva to facilitate a smooth pregnancy and delivery for my wife and since it was smooth, here I was!
Returned back in same train. Boarded at 2000 hrs. Couldn’t get AC. So hahd to manage in 2nd class sleeper. It was one of the worst bogeys I have ever been. Lights not turning off. Fans not turning on. Windows not present. Peeled plyboards. No lights in lavatories. Cockroaches and mosquitoes. It was a shock!
Day 3: Reached on time at 6 am. Sad to see multiple mosquito bites on Paavani’s face :-(
1. Paavani’s third out station trip in as many months! Wonder where she will be off to in her fourth month!
2. After seeing Guru Raghavendra Vaibhava in Suvarna Channel, one can relate more to the Brindavan in Mantralayam.
Thursday, January 6, 2011
Company: Wife and daughter
Highlights: 3rd time in Chennai in 2010! And all pertaining to US Consulate. Chennai weather in winter was comparable to Bangalore weather. This time took the aerial route. 40 mins actual travel time but couple of hours for the paraphernalia! Paavani wailed during take-off but thankfully slept within 5 minutes.
But she cried and fussed a lot all through the Chennai stay (made us sleep only 3 hrs) making the trip slightly chaotic. However, she slept like an angel for the crucial period of 4 hours - 2 of which were spent inside the consulate. I had to wait outside while Gouri tried to manage the show inside - carrying the important documents and the baby! Needless to say, it was tough on her. Added to the woes was my mistake in not sending all docs with her and also her counter number never came due to a technical glitch during shift change and she had a hard time convincing folks.
For the first time, I stood outside the consulate waiting for 2 hrs. There was a time when I felt I was putting my wife and daughter to too much trouble because of me and my job requirement. I even felt that I should have said no. Finally she came out successful, tired but victorious!
We got back to the saidapet guest house, had lunch, took slight rest and headed back to the airport. Paavani's wails had reduced but was always lying in the undercurrent. The journey to Bangalore was uneventful but the journey from BIAL to home was terrible. Traffic and Paavani's uneasiness had reached its peak and we wished fervently to reach as fast as possible.
Thankfully, all's well that ends well. First time in airplane for Paavani! Within 3 months, she has now traveled in 2 AC train and flown in airplane twice! She has even visited 2 Indian Metro cities! Boy, what a start! :-)
Sunday, December 19, 2010
Company: Traveled with parents, wife and daughter. Met all spouse's relations in Mumbai
Chalukya Express from YPR at 0630 hrs to Kalyan 2AC Train. Left Jayanagar at 0400 hrs, picked up wife and daughter from Jalahalli, went to YPR station and parked the car there. The train was very comfortable. Realized that I liked 2AC as much as I like the Sleeper! Very luxurious - what with curtains and bedspreads and pillows. Sometimes stifling with no fresh air unlike the Sleeper (esp because of the good weather outside) but overall very spacious - a much needed factor for a two-month old baby.
Reached Kalyan exactly on time at 0455 hrs. Took an auto to Dombivli. Refreshed and rested at bride's neighbour's place. Off to choultry at 1000 hrs and there we stayed till it was time to head back to Bangalore! General time spend with all spouse relatives - everyone excited to hold Paavani and play with her. Festivities, Feast, Pooja, etc went on as per schedule and tradition. Had a bit of fun at night with some competitions between bride and groom, some singing sessions, some games, etc.
The Wedding day of my brother-in-law. Due to late night sleep the previous day, was feeling drowsy and slept most of the morning along with Paavani! The main ceremony being done, it was now just a matter of time. Sure enough, it was 2100 hrs and we were on our way back to Kalyan station to catch the same train (Chalukya Express) back to Bangalore. It arrived half hour late. Snuggled cosily into our own cabin. 2 AC once more.
Entire day in train. Bit of an experience at Birur. Since train was about 2 hrs late, the service for snacks and coffee/tea had kind of dried out. So at Birur, got down to get 2 cups of coffee. While I took the coffee, the train started moving. I paid cash, got the 2 cups in my hand and saw that the train had gained momentum. Fearing that I will not be able to get on the train with the cups of coffee, I kept the 2 cups on the platform and ran to the speeding train and got on 3 bogeys behind my 2 AC coach and made my way back sombrely through the vestibules. It was my first such failure! To make up for it, I got down in Arsikere way before the train had stopped and got 5 plates of idly, ran back to get the change and was safe in the train even before it started. Finally reached Bangalore about an hour late at 2300 hrs. Dropped wife and Paavani at wife's place and drove back home.
On the whole, it was a nice family gathering. Little bit hectic because of the 2 month old daughter but to be fair, Paavani was most accommodating. She didn't fuss about much. Just grateful that it went well and it was over and done with! The first time on a travel with my daughter Paavani - and the first travel for Paavani herself!
Saturday, December 4, 2010
Place: Srikalahasthi, Tiruchanoor and Tirumala
Company: Parents and Maternal Uncle
Day 1: Left Bangalore at 1215 hrs in Alto. Reached Srikalahasthi at 1915 hrs. Nice and easy drive. Halted in pilgrims' guest house.
Day 2: Pooja at Srikalahasthi temple. Since we were early, it got done early. Else we had to face the brunt of the queue. Tiruchanoor at 1315 hrs. Quick darshan. Then, headed to Tirumala. Upon reaching Tirumala, went for Rs 300 darshan and was back in 2 hrs. Dinner and rest.
Day 3: Bath at Swami Pushkarni at chilly 0630 hrs. Rs 50 darshan at 0830 hrs. After satisfactory darshan, was back by 1100 hrs. Left for Bangalore after checking out by 1145 hrs. Pretty quick drive. Lunch at Giri's near Chittoor outskirts. Nice. Also stopped at Mulbagal Sripadaraja Swamy Mutt. Home by 1915 hrs. 630 kms of drive.
Sunday, November 7, 2010
Album: Click here
Highlights: Situated just half an hour from Bangalore South, this is a nice Raghavendra Swamy Mutt set amidst lush greenery and scenic road. Specialty is it is filled all around with Tulasi plant. It is spacious and airy. A Sunday well spent!
Place: Chikmagalur, Belur, Halebid, Shravanabelagola
Album: Click here
Day 1: Even at 10 am, had not decided where to spend the 2nd wedding anniversary! Finally did some googling and decided on Chikmagalur. Called up Naturecraft Homestay resort and made booking and left Bangalore at about 12 noon. Road is very good all the way to Chikmagalur and hence made good time. Reached Chikmagalur at 6 pm and the last stretch to resort was real dark and scary especially because there was no cell signal. The homestay was good. Had dinner, watched a movie on the laptop and retired at 1 am.
Day 2: Checked out of the resort after breakfast although had plans of staying till morrow. First scenic spot was Sitalayyanagiri. Seemed a simple ride till then. But the next 2 kms was a horror stretch. Road is nice but it is very steep and absolutely dangerous if there is an oncoming vehicle (which cannot be seen until the last minute because of the bends in the hill). Have not driven on such roads much and it was a nice scary experience*. Just when we thought we had reached the top of Mullayanagiri, we found ourselves in the parking lot! There was a hill to climb too! Climbed the hill too and enjoyed the exhilarating feeling*!
Then, climbed down the hill and climbed another hill – Bababudangiri. This was not as scary as the last but road was horrible. It was a mist filled drive as if we were on an airplane. But here too had to climb up and down a few steps* to view the Manikyadhaara Falls. Nothing great about it though.
Ditched plans of going to Kemmangundi, Kalhatti falls and instead headed back to Chikmagalur. Had lunch, then drove to Belur. After a quick visit, went to Halebid. Although I had been here, didn’t remember much. Seemed similar to Aihole. Reasonable road. Finally halted at Hassan at Suvarna Regency.
Day 3: Our second year wedding anniversary. Left at 9 to Shravanabelagola. Forgot last when I had visited so was shocked to see a hill and so many steps!! Still went ahead and started climbing* despite fellow pilgrims warning us not to. It was not that difficult though. Anyways, after paying respects, headed back to Bangalore. Was informed of the road via Magadi, and yes, its very good and skips most of Bangalore North.
All in all, it was nice trip. With a 5 month old pregnant wife, it didn’t seem worth the risk, but thankfully, it went well. Hence posting after birth!
*Definitely, hardly a thing to do with wife being 5 month pregnant!!
Thursday, July 8, 2010
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
Saturday, February 13, 2010
Place: Kundapur, Basrur, Koteshwar, Udupi
Company: Guru (pal) and Gouri (wife)
Day 0: Left at 7 pm on 6th in KSRTC Bhatkal Rajahamsa bus via Kundapur. Extremely slow driving.
Day 1: Reached K at 8.30 am. Adiga's (friend) driver picked us up at bus stand and took us to Basrur (Adiga's ancestral home). Freshened up and then went to Marriage hall at Koteshwara. Breakfast, ceremony and lunch at the wedding hall.
Then went to Udupi at 4 pm - 1 hr bus journey. Visited Lord Krishna temple. Took rest for some time. Then went to Malpe beach. Saw sunset there. Returned and had dinner. Took the 8.20 pm Rajahamsa bus back to Bangalore.
Day 2: As usual, horrible road. Thankfully, bus dropped us off at Jayanagar 4th block.
Monday, February 1, 2010
Company: Wife and parents
Prelude: Wife and self had booked darshan tickets for Rs 50 on 31st at 11 am. Parents had original plans of going to Mumbai on 31st to visit visiting bro! But Bro got busy, so parents' trip to mumbai got cancelled. So, tried getting darshan tickets at 11 am on 31st. But didnt. Instead got it at 4 pm for 30th which we shouldnt have taken for a host of reasons but we did.
Day 1: Due to unavoidable reasons, left home at 11.30 am. First 90 kms in 3 hrs thanks to Bangalore traffic and lunch stop at Woody's in Kolar. Road construction all the way. Made 160 in the next 3 hrs. Reached Tirumala at 6.30 pm. Didnt put on the CD even once. Spoke all along! Then, in Tirumala, wife and self went to Varaha temple, Raghavendra Mutt, Mahadwaram (where we saw AP CM) etc while parents went to queue. But alas, Rs 50 queue was closed till 9 pm. So they forfeited the 30th 4 pm tickets and took Rs 300 tickets. They came back at 10 after we finished dinner at Uttaradi Mutt.
Day 2: 7 am bath at Pushkarni. Wife and I entered Rs 50 queue whereas parents entered Rs 300 ticket queue (again) at 8.30 am. We were out at 10 am but they were out at 11 am. Packed up stuff. Lunch at UM at 12. Left at 12.30. Got a flat tyre at 3.30 pm. Delayed by 1 hr. It was a 'bad day at office' for driving. Made some wrong calls and had few close calls. Felt frustrated with my driving and wanted to reach home at the earliest. Got home at 8.30 pm.
2010 Annual Tirumala trip completed. Due to time constraints, could not go to any nearby place. Not even Tirupathi. 555 kms overall driven in 2 days. Reached a top speed of 115 km/hr. First time ever such high speed in India.
Highlights: Went in Volvo and back in Shatabdi. Bladder control for 4 hrs on the Volvo! [Really long time since I last went in KSRTC bus - more than 1.25 yrs] Going in local Chennai bus from Bus stand to Saidapet guest house was an adventure. Ended up getting down 2 stops before and hence ended up walking the distance! Stayed at the company guest house. Deja vu. This time, did not go to the beach as there was a threat of rain.
Company: Wife and parents
Day 0: Hampi link express at 10.30 pm. Was a long time (almost an year) since I went in an Indian train!
Day 1: Saw the flood ravaged city. Its almost back to normal but one can still see the debris and the level which the water had reached. The Mutt is back in business. Did hejje namaskar for the first time! Went to our relatives house. Saw videos of the massacre which the floods had caused in and around the city. Also heard about the sorrow tales. Could not go to Bichchale because of the washed out and unrepaired bridge. Took the Udyan back to Bangalore at 10.30 pm.
Day 2: Reached Bangalore at 9 am. For some strange reason, train started going backwards to Cantonment for about 5 mins when it was just few meters away from the Central station!
Sunday, January 17, 2010
Company: Wife and parents
Highlights: Raghavendra Swamy Mutt. Beautiful early morning drive on NH7 and SH17(?) Early darshan, enjoyed the calm atmosphere amidst a rural setting. Lunch at 9 am. Headed back home after lunch.
Time: Dec 23rd to 25th 2009
Place: Thiruvannamalai, Tirukoilur, Yercaud
Company: Wife and parents
Album: Click here
After thinking and rethinking, finally decided on the above mentioned places for the long weekend. Left at 9 am in Alto towards Thiruvannamalai. NH7 till Krishnagiri is good but after that, road was not all that good. Reached T at about 3 pm. Visited the massive temple of Arunachaleshwar after lunch at a local restaurant. There is Arunachaleshwar hill right in front of the temple which is somewhat very soothing and supposed to be one of healing too. Devotees are known to walk around the hill (14 kms) as Pradakshina.
Then headed towards Tirukoilur - beautiful road. It was just about an hour's drive - or less. Since there was no accomodation that day (painting in the rooms) in the Raghothama Swamy Mutt premises, had to go to town for lodging. [Had stayed in the Mutt room last time when I had come here with parents]. Found a decent lodge right in front of the Tirukoilur Trivikrama temple. Visited the Trivikrama temple, and then went for dinner.
Got up by 3.30 am to again visit the Trivikrama temple as we were told that the Lord Trivikrama will be dressed in 'Vishwaroopa' custom at about 5 am. But when we went to the temple at 5 am, the idol seemed to be in the same attire as the previous night! Speaking of the idol, this is a special idol with one leg raised, as if to conquer the Sky - as per the story of Vamana.
Then, at about 6, went to RS Mutt. It is the only Mutt with no shade. This Swamy specially asked for such a place. If and when the branch of a tree grows and tries to give shade, it will automatically wither away. It is beautifully located just beside a river, however there was hardly any water flow when we went. Atmosphere is very calming and soothing.
Had to forego lunch because of our further plans. So, left at about 8, had breakfast, checked out of the lodge and headed towards Salem and thence onto Yercaud. It was about 3-4 hours bumpy journey. Road is being widened and hence it is sloppy. Upon reaching Salem, directly headed to Yercaud, which is about 30-45 mins from Salem with high elevation gain and 20 hair pin bends.
Reached Yercaud and searched around for a lodge. Found Classic Cottage for a reasonable amount and checked in. Had lunch at Hotel Tamil Nadu and then went to Pagoda Point. It was all covered with mist and fog but yet pristine. Then went to Lady's Seat. A different view point and also beautiful. Remembered being here with Pavan, Preetham and Ashwin. Then sat around the lake for evening snacks. Retired.
Whole Yercaud was amidst clouds! We were walking, driving, breathing clouds! Kiliyur falls paraking lot was next destination but did not venture to the falls as it was too steep a trail. Took some snaps and then headed downhill to Salem and thence onto Bangalore. Reached Bangalore at about 4 pm. Beautiful road all the way.
Overall, had driven 667 kms and all inclusive expense came to Rs 5000 for all 4 of us. Mileage in Alto was about 20ish. Realized that this trip too was a religious+hill station trip like Rameshwar-Kodaikanal and Dwarka-Khandala. It was a nice outing and nice drive, although Thiruvannamalai was the only thing I had not seen before.
Saturday, December 19, 2009
Highlights: On 12/14 I was told to leave immediately as the assignment was not extended. Got tickets for 12/15 from BOS to NYC to Dubai and Bangalore. Hurriedly packed the things, shipped the car to bro and gave a surprise visit to all folks in Bangalore!
Saturday, December 12, 2009
Places: Durham/Raleigh/Cary, Smoky Mountains, Gatlinburg, Chattanooga
Album: Click here
Day 1: Left Marlborough at 5 am. It so happened that we were shifting our house too and we had to clean out the house at 5 in the morning! We were to move into a new house once we came back from Raleigh. So, packed the car with the final few items in the house and left to Malden, where we were to park our car. Yasser was kind enough to give us a parking space in his apt. Reached Malden at 6 and took the T to Airport at 6.30. Reached airport at 7 and boarded the 8.30 am flight to Atlanta.
After 1 hr lay over in Atlanta, finally reached Raleigh airport at 2 pm. Abhishek and Archana had come to airport to pick up. We stayed with them as long as we stayed in Raleigh. It was a short commute to their home but then everything is a short commute in Raleigh. Raleigh, Durham and Cary are all nearby cities. Went to an Indo-Chinese restaurant for lunch. Headed back home, settled and then saw –with beer! - 12 angry men movie and Bhoothayyana Maga Aayu.Nice movies. Retired.
Day 2: Went to office in Raleigh. Had a strange experience sitting in a cubicle [I don’t have a cubicle of my own in Marlborough] and being able to hear a dozen other people in cubicles in and around me. Got settled in the new office with a laptop of my own. Thankfully, less work. Lunch with Abhi, Archana, Mithun and Swati. From today on, till 30th.
In the evening, Mithun and Swati came to Abhi’s house and we all saw Bhagyada Lakshmi Baramma and had laughs. Retired.
Day 3: Office during day time. Usual. In the evening, Swati invited us for dinner. Had a nice time chit-chatting at Mithun’s house with Mojito.
Day 4: Office during day time. Usual. In the evening, we all went to Starbucks for one more round of chit-chat. Then went to an Indian restaurant – Kadhai. Ambience and food was average. Took the booked rental car from Raleigh airport for the tomorrow trip.
Day 5: Me and Gouri left at 9 am to the Great Smoky Mountains from Raleigh in the rented car. The atmosphere was covered with fog everywhere. It was as if we were in Heaven! The newly bought GPS informed me that the destination will be reached at 3 pm. I pressed on the gas pedal to get it as much lower as possible. We drove for 4 hrs straight and then, upon seeing messages that the I-40 was closed due to a rock slide, we stopped at a fuel station to plan ahead. GPS was now showing destination ETA as 2.25 pm. By chance, it so happened that the keys remained in the car and the car got locked and we both were outside!
With help from the fuel station attendant, we called up a number of police stations, officers, sheriff’s house, etc with no luck. A locksmith would have charged us dearly considering that today was thanksgiving holiday. Finally, called Budget Car Rental and they said they would send someone to unlock the car. It took 2 hrs of wait in the cold for help to come! Finally we were back on our way. GPS now showed destination ETA as 5 pm but then this was through the rock-slid road. So, we followed the flashing messages and took the detour. It was a 50 mile long detour.
Half way through the detour, we felt hungry and stopped at a subway. Lunch inspired us to think that we had GPS which we can use to find alternative road that is nearby to our destination. Upon using this, it gave the direction back on the rock-slid road but we didn’t realize till we reached it! But we did one more “find alternative” and this one gave the route via the same fuel station where we had got stuck. By the time we passed this fuel station, it was 6 pm. So, from 1 to 6, we were either waiting or roaming around the same place! It was frustrating! We should have done the alternative search once the car door opened in the fuel station at 3.30 pm!
Rest of the journey was uneventful. Except that it was a wooded, winding road called ‘Scenic Highway’ and it was snowing lightly. Little did I know that because of this snow, the 7 mile road to Clingman’s Dome will be closed tomorrow. CD is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains. Reached Gatlinburg at 7.30 pm and we were exhausted. Had a glimpse of the bubbling Gatlinburg. A beautiful quaint little town, very much the same as how it was when I had visited in 2006.
Day 6: Trekked 1.4 miles to Grotto Falls amidst thick forest. It’s a nice little falls where you can stand behind the falls and hear the roar of the water falling in front. Also, the road to this falls is very nice. Its called Roaring Fork Road and it is amidst thick foliage and it’s a one-way road at very high altitude. A very nice experience. On this road, I used to drive in just shifting the gears – D, D2 and D3, without really pressing on the accelerator.
Via Gatlinburg, we then went to Clingman’s Dome but saw that the road was closed. Yet, we walked a little distance on the fallen snow-turned ice. Last thing we saw in GSM was Cades Cove – a 4-, 8- and 12 mile loop road. We took the 8 mile loop road as traffic was slow and were done with GSM by 5 pm. The same road I had cycled with Murali, Deb and Soumik in March 2006. Memories.
Drove on then to Chattanooga. It was 2.5 straight road on I-75. Sometimes I was driving on just cruise control, accelerating and decelerating the car with just the left thumb! Road was good too with runway like reflectors in the night and it was an enjoyable drive. Stayed at Chattanooga. Dinner after much search ended in Waffle House.
Day 7: 3 Main Attractions at Chattanooga: Ruby Falls, Rock City and Incline Railway.
Our first visit was to Ruby Falls. Ruby Falls is a falls within caves. It truly is a natural wonder. It is something out of a fairy tale. I have read novel s of Enid Blyton where such falls as these have been described where the water comes from an unknown source, falls within a cave, travels underneath the earth, through more caves and finally merges onto the main river. And this is exactly what it is!
Leo Lambert dug through the Lookout Mountain in 1928, removed the debris in bucketfuls, worked 60 feet down from the top of the mountain towards the ground almost single handedly and discovered this cave. Once he discovered the cave, which was about just 2 feet tall, he crawled inside and was gone for 17 straight hours! He discovered the falls within, which he named after his wife Ruby, who also crawled in later! This cave has been later renovated and made comfortable for visitors.
Our next visit was Rock City. This is more of a rock garden – garden amidst huge rocks. It has a number of trails and visitor can choose appropriate to health. The trail goes through a number of scenic spots, including the place from where we can see 7 states and the look-out over Chattanooga and Tennessee River. It also goes twice between 2 HUGE boulders and you will have to walk sideways. So it helps if you are lean! Also, there are some puppets kept in the form of fairy tales like snow white and 7 dwarfs, Cinderella, etc.
Our next visit was to the Incline Railway. It takes about 30-40 minutes to go from top to bottom and back to top or vice versa. It is just one coach that has a steep incline, much like a theme park ride except that it is much slow. The coach itself has steps so you can imagine the steepness. If you are going from top to bottom, the starting platform itself is inclined and you just go down. If you are going from bottom to top, the starting platform is not so inclined but it gets steeper and steeper and so its kind of exciting. The cog rail in the Mount Washington is much exciting in many ways as compared to this.
We then headed back to Raleigh but had booked a hotel at Knoxville for the night halt. Reached the hotel at about 6.30, had dinner at the Taste of Thai. Retired.
Day 8: Just drove back to Raleigh. 6 hours of drive. Took I-81 and I-77 to by-pass I-40. Reached home, after the rental car return. Then, with Abhi and Archana, we went to Venkateshwara temple in Cary. A very nice temple especially because of the chanting sloka in the back ground. Retired.
Day 9: Office during day time. Usual. In the evening, Swati and Mithun came to Abhi’s house. Wine! Saw American football of Patriots Vs Saints. Unfortunately, Patriots lost. Had nice dinner. Retired.
Day 10: Office during day time. Went lunch with some office client folks like Satya, Arun and Prabhu to a South Indian restaurant called Towers. Very tasty lunch. After long time, had idli, dosa, vada, kesari bhath, chutney, sambar, etc!
Alas, all good times have to come to an end. Left office at 3.30 pm with Mithun. Picked up Gouri from Abhi’s house and headed to the RDU airport. Way too early, considering how fast we reached because of the proximity! An uneventful flight back to Boston, except that it was a very small airplane. So the noise of the wings bore through us all through the 2 hrs journey. The smaller planes do not go to high altitudes, so when we went over New York, it was a spectacular scene. Could easily make out the Manhattan and the 4 other Boroughs, the location of WTC, Empire State, Central Park and Statue of Liberty. NY looks so beautiful from up top in night.
Reached on time at 8.15 pm, Malden at 9.30 pm, took the car from Yasser and finally reached Marlborough at 10.45 pm. Got into our new home at 11 pm! All in all, a very nice time spent with best of friends, and a nice experience of home away from home. Also experienced another office in US! Added to it was the bonus trip: Smoky Mountains and Chattanooga trip!
PS: I also realized the 3 ways of driving a car – with cruise control using thumbs only, with gears only and then the normal way of using the accelerator and the brake! :-)
Thursday, November 5, 2009
Time: Oct 16th-19th 2009
Places: Detroit (brother's house), Chicago
Company: Wife (but went to Chicago with family)
Album: Click here
Day 0: Left Marlborough at 1 pm for 4.30 pm flight from Boston to Detroit via Philadelphia. Reached Detroit at 10.30 pm. Family get-together at brother's house [Dad, mom, bro, sis in law, wife and me]
Day 1: Deepavali. Pooja and feast. Suddenly, decided to go to Chicago! So rented a car, planned the itinerary, booked the hotel and left the house at 1 pm. Went to Detroit downtown to see GM building and other neighbouring buildings via train. Saw Canada side too!
Left to Chicago at 3 pm. Reached Navy Pier at about 7 pm. Roamed around till 8 and then went to Signature Lounge at John Hancock tower. Waited in the queue for about 30 mins and then got a table with a wonderful view! This is better than Sears tower because entry is free and if you pay, you get to drink with view!
Retired for the night at Aurora.
Day 2: Sri Venkateshwara Temple at Aurora. Very nice. Definitely worth a visit. Beautiful idol. Much better and bigger than the one in Pittsburgh.
Then headed to Bahai temple in Wilmette. Beautiful architecture. Reminiscences of Lotus Temple in Delhi but latter is much better and huge compared to this.
On our back to Detroit, went via Divan Street to see local Indian shops and ads and restaurants.
Reached Detroit at 9 pm. Dinner and retired.
Day 3: By mistake, had switched off the 4 am alarm and woke up at 4.45 am. Flight was at 6 am!! Bro sped through in the morning at almost 90 mph to reach airport at 5.20 am. Finished security and ran like crazy to the gate. We were the last few to board the flight to Boston via Washington DC.
Reached home at 11.30 am and back to office by 1.
Boston to Philadelphia to Detroit on Friday;
Detroit to Chicago on Saturday;
Chicago to Detroit on Sunday;
Detroit to Washington to Boston on Monday!!
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Place: Washington DC, Luray Caverns
Album: Click here
Video: Luray Caverns
Left Marlboro at 2.30 am. Reached Preflight parking at 3.30 am. Airport at 4 am. Boarding gate 1 hour before time! Slept till boarding. Jetblue flight to Baltimore. Landed at 8 am. First time in this airport. Took shuttle to Amtrak. Not so cold here as compared to Boston.
First time in Amtrak. Took 8.45 am train to Union Station, Washington DC. Had yummy breakfast of scrambled eggs at Sbarro in Union Station, which actually has a huge variety of cuisines. Walked over to Capitol Hill. Took snaps all the way. Then walked to Washington Monument. More snaps. Stopped over at National Gallery of Art to take pics of unique art sculptures.
Then took Metro [orange line] to Vienna. First time in Washington Metro, although 3rd time in Washington. Had a different experience. Learnt that one pass card per passenger unlike Boston and New York. Cushion seats! Lighting at the door when train door opens. And all underground metro stations are built very similar to one another, like a huge round-shaped tunnel. Looks very nice and neat.
Reached Vienna at 2 pm. Brother's brother-in-law had come to pick us up. Had yummy lunch of Pulav at their house. Took their car then to Luray Caverns which was about 1.5 hrs away. Luray caverns is a massive cave with variety of cave structures and cave shapes. Also, the pathway is very nice as it wounds itself down to 160 feet where weddings take place amidst huge stalactites that look like bridal veil and waterfalls. There are also "fried eggs" kind of shapes and wishing well and Pluto's Chasm and reflecting pools which is a wonder to see. Its totally worth it to see this Caverns although it does not take more than an hour to see in entirety. Returned back to the house at 8.30 pm. Had a nice time with the family and their kids. Yummy Paani Puris for dinner!
Got up at 9 after a fitful sleep and went out for breakfast at 11 to IHOP but it was packed and hence went to Panera. Left the family then and took metro to go to Farruget-West where met Abhi and Mithun who had come down from Raleigh along with their wives Archana and Swati, just to meet me and Gouri. Went with them in their car to Heritage India restaurant and met A and S who were waiting for us. Had a nice time talking but not so nice service/food. Then we split - me and Gouri headed to White House and world war 2 memorial. After more snaps, we walked to Lincoln Memorial where the rest 4 were waiting for us.
More yapping, more snaps, more coffee, more ice cream, more chat, more jokes, more discussions later, finally bid adieu to the Raliegh folks and headed back in Metro to Vienna station. Instead of calling the folks up again to pick us up, we thought we might as well walk the distance thinking we knew where to go. After about 20 minutes, we realised we didnt know where to go, our sense of direction having failed us. Funny part was, we didnt even know the apt name nor the street address where we had to go, so we didnt stop a taxi. But at the same time, we didnt want to call the folks to pick us up.
Finally after 30 minutes or so of walking in an unknown land at 9 pm on a chilly night, we recognised one of the roads and made our way to the house. 10 more mins and we were home! Got an applause for having reached the house from the station just on our own without knowing the apt name and the address nor even having a map! It was really adventurous and exciting.
Sadly, kids had to sleep and we couldnt spend much time with them. Yummy Masala Dosas for dinner!
Got up at 4.30. Reached IAD airport at 6. Jetblue. Landed Boston at 8.30. Office and back to the grind by 10.
A great trip in many ways. Thanks to Swati for initiating the trip thought amongst Mithun, Abhi and Archie to meet us two all the way from Raleigh. Felt nice and honored to have pals coming down a great distance just to meet and spend time. It was nice traveling in Metro within DC. Always have felt that to really feel the city, one has to travel in the local public transportation system of the city. Walking on our own in an unknown place in the chill night without knowing the address where we had to go was a great adventure! Lastly, kids at the house where we stayed really made this stay so much wonderful and cherishable - playing with them, having fun, running around, teaching them, them teaching us - boy! it was so nice. Missing them a lot!
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Place: New York
Album: Click here
After a long delay, finally made it to New York for the 1st time with wife and 6th time overall! Started Marlborough at 7 pm on Friday in car and took just one pit stop. Had a nice hearty conversation with wife and before I knew it, I was in Brooklyn, at my cousin’s place. Strangely, did not miss the route even once. I was known to miss the roads in NY during my last car-trips to NY. This part of Brooklyn is known for its mugging and is really a very hostile area to stay or move around. Chatted with cousin and her hubby till 1 am and finally slept.
Left at 9ish and visited Statue of Liberty first from Battery park. Temp was coldish although sunny. Spent considerable amount of time in SoL and then walked through the world financial district of New York. Took snaps with the Bull, the Wall Street and at the World Trade Center. Then, took Path to 34th street, where we went into Macy’s, one of the biggest Macy’s store ever, covering one whole block. Shopped for about 1-2 hours and had lunch at Burger King.
Then, went to Empire State Building. Had a longish queue, and by the time, we went to the 86th floor, it was the perfect time: the sun was setting, which meant we had the view with Sun and had the view of Manhattan in lights. Took a goodish number of snaps and also saw the sun set.
Then walked to Times Square, sat amidst the ever-present crowd, then walked to Rockefeller Center, had dinner at a bakery and finally took the subway back to Brooklyn. Spent some nerve-racking minutes waiting for the taxi at 11 pm amidst a scary looking population and finally reached safely. Came to know from cousin later that subway after 9 pm is not at all advised at her part of NY!
Had a long chat with cousin and her hubby and saw their snaps. They had been to LV, Hawaii, Greece, Turkey, Egypt and Kenya and snaps were amazing. And I thought, I traveled a lot!
Had lunch and left their place at about 2 pm. Since it was unplanned and we hadn’t taken mapquest directions nor did we have GPS, we took the help of AAA map to chart out a route to Flushing where I had heard was Sri Raghavendraswamy Mutt. We made it in less than 20 minutes without missing a road. The Mutt was very calm and peaceful, very much like Bahai temples. Also, the Ganesha temple in front was very nice and extremely grand. The cafeteria in the basement catered to many of Indian delicacies!
Wanted to go to Central Park next and hence, once more charted out a route from Bowne St, Flushing to Central Park, Manhattan using AAA map. We made it, once again in less than 30 minutes without missing a road nor getting a honk via Queensboro bridge! Searched but couldn’t find a parking space near Central Park and hence, just went around the park and made our way to I-95 and thence onto Marlborough.
We were back in home by 10 pm after a delicious Pizza at Lake William’s. It was the first time I was driving in Manhattan without a mapquest direction. In fact, it was the first time we were driving with AAA map! This trip was our first trip with our new digital camera Samsung SL420, and boy, is it a nice camera!
Time: September 13th 2009
Place: Cliff Walk, Newport Beach, Rhode Island
Album: Click here
Highlights: Cliff walk is a nice walk along the cliff beside the Atlantic Ocean. Its not really cliff in the true sense because sometimes there are nice mansions too bordering the cliff. There is a separate entry/entrance fee to view the mansions but cliff walk itself is free. The path is well paved for most of the length but at times, one has to walk on the rocks. Its about 3.5 to 4 miles from one end to the other, but we walked only about 2 miles [Till almost The Studio]. The beach at the very beginning on Memorial Blvd also is very nice, with nice waves.