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What Not To Do: Three Silly Mistakes and Narrow Escapes

Goof ups during travel are inevitable and the best made plans may also go haywire. Sometimes things just happen without any ill-intention but more often it is because of the ignorance…

On our maiden trip to USA, we were confident of our habits. We knew we would not be the kind of tourists who create unnecessary nuisance, complain about every possible thing and are generally pain in ….!! We definitely did not want to let anybody think that Indians are bad visitors so we tried to follow the system as much for our month-long vacation.

Inspite of arming ourselves with all information that included driving a rental car across the country we could not prevent few silly mistakes and man, were we glad to have narrowly escaped some serious altercations with law enforcement guys !!

So here are our silly mistakes…Laugh all you want at our goof ups..but luck might not favour you always as it did us..

Mistake #1: Discharged battery translates into a lost GPS signal

My husband Aby, being a pilot swears by the GPS. I, however, am little less into using the services of an accented girly voice who confuses me with ‘Naaeee Sarrack‘ instead of ‘nai sadak‘… after all there are enough ‘bhai-sahabs‘ and ‘bhabhi jis‘ on our roads who will guide us to a shop or an address…better still one odd might even offer to direct us to the address personally if only we were willing to give them a ‘lift’ till the ‘kone ki dukan(corner shop)’or the next ‘chauraha(crossing)’

Any ways, there we were enjoying a ride, marvelling at the sprawling meadows that lingered past our car, the early fall colours that peeped through the green foliage, the huge trucks with shining chrome, cars with boats trailing behind them… our cell phone guiding us through.

Past the open lands and colourful trees

Past the open lands and colourful trees

In all our wide-eyed fascination that usually affects people visiting America for the first time, we failed to check whether the charging cord was connected properly to the cell phone.

Last leg to Niagara

Last leg to Niagara

As we neared Niagara, it started pouring and simultaneously our phone battery drained off. Cars whizzed past us…there was no ‘bhai sahab‘ willing to stop by and help us, no auto -rickshaw walah to pull over along side our car to ask ‘kidhar jaana hai saab?‘ We kept driving, crossed the huge flyover and got LOST! A small insignificant board with words ‘Niagara lane’ pointed to our right. Since there seemed no other option, we took the turn only to find ourselves in a residential area with not a soul in sight.

We drove into someone’s driveway and after much thought decided to ring the doorbell unaware of the law against parking in stranger’s drive way. The house owners were away for the weekend and nobody answered our call. By then our phone which we re-plugged for charging showed just enough activity for us to call our hotel and ask for directions. but since we could not tell them our location properly, they could not help us!!

We sat there panicking and at our wits end… Only after half an hour or so when the cell phone revived and GPS signal was re-established then we realised that we were just few minutes away from the hotel. The rain had stopped by the time we reached our hotel but it was late evening and we missed the last boat ride to the Niagara falls, for the day.

lesson learnt: 

  1. When travelling abroad with family, it is better to take two cell phones with GPS and keep a check on charging!
  2. Never park in someone’s driveway. Had the home-owner been there that day, he could have charged us with trespassing or worse shot at us if he felt threatened by our presence( I was told about such incidents later by my cousin)
  3. It is always better to contact local police if in trouble.
  4. LOVE THY GPS!!

Mistake #2: Sleeping in the rear seat

On every road trip that we took within India, our daughter used to doze off on rear seat and free herself from the seat belt to lie down on the rear seat because sleeping in a seated posture was uncomfortable. I most times ignored it…

On our second road trip from San Jose’ to Los Angeles, the various stops along the picturesque Pacific Coast highway, tired her and she dozed off again. Being an outsider in a foreign land, I had instructed her not to remove the seat belt but due to habit she did take it off.

Cruising along the pacific coast highway

Cruising along the pacific coast highway

And then we were stopped by an officer of Highway Patrol(full story here). After confirming our credentials he left us with a warning.

lessons learnt:

  1. Never ever forget to wear seatbelt even in the rear seat!
  2. Be HONEST and ACCEPT your mistake when dealing with police.
  3. Have all important documents including driver’s licence, rental papers, hotel bills and itinerary details in order when travelling abroad.
  4. Do NOT argue when in a tight spot.

Mistake #3: Domino effect?

This one caught us off guard. Who knew x-ray machines get fooled by a harmless playing stuff?

While in San Jose’ my cousin gifted our daughter a box of domino tiles ‘Jenga’ which stacked up make the basic column and each player has to retrieve a tile taking care not to topple the column. With our suitcases packed to their teeth, we really did not have enough space in the check-in baggage. Running out of time to reach the airport I stuffed the game in the hand baggage.

At the airport, first the self check-in machine malfunctioned and by the time the airport staff helped us we were quite late and ran for last hand-baggage clearance before boarding. While we were cleared one of our bags, obviously the one with domino tiles was held back.

Game ?

Game ?

People had started the boarding but we were called back. A huge security personnel in army fatigues stood along with the airport staff near the bag. Panic clutched my heart and when asked to open the bag I kept fumbling. They took all things out scanned the domino box again through the X-ray and finally with a broad smile waved us off!

lessons learnt:

  1. No sharp items allowed in hand baggage stands true for toys too 😦
  2. Keep enough extra space while packing for souvenirs, gifts or last minute purchases.
  3. Whatever things are not needed for immediate personal use should be sent with check-in baggage.
  4. Obey when asked to show contents of your baggage at check points.

Lady luck was on our side may be because we met only people who understood our predicament and were ready to help in restaurants, in airports, shops. But with our lessons learnt, I am ready for another travelling experience…

Have you made some silly mistakes on your travels? How did you escape from consequences?

New York In Pictures: Five Pictures that Still Tug At My Heart

I had expected to fall in love with the city and want to not ever come back from there but surprisingly I did not fall in love with New York….. the rush, the expensiveness, the intimidating heights of skyscrapers, the sheer expanse of the city, the continuous and myriad soundscapes made me withdraw…

But yet some things stayed back in my heart and even after a year now I dive back in the photographs to revisit the memories.

  1. New York Skyline

The tall sky scrapers that make the New York skyline force your head  to look upwards and dwarf  you. They look like an eye-catching jigsaw puzzle…

New York Skyline from River

New York Skyline from River

2. One World trade Centre

The Freedom Tower that stands tall in place of twin towers of World Trade Centre after the 9/11 attack, piercing the clouds, shows the indomitable spirit of man against the terror…proof of victory of good over evil!

Reaching up in the skies...Indomitable Spirit

Freedom tower reaching up in the skies…Indomitable Spirit

3.Sailing down the Hudson River

The sail boat was lovely and looked like a pirate ship from the story books yet looked so at home with tall buildings as backdrop. I expected Captain Hook to materialise any time and stop our boat in search of Peter Pan…

Pirate Ship? In middle of New York?

Pirate Ship? In middle of New York?

4. Manhattan by Night

We went up the Rockefeller Centre instead of Empire State Building, because view was better from there….why? Because the view from Rockefeller had the Empire State Building in it of course!! We stayed at the deck from five in evening till the city lit up gradually one sky scraper at a time. The lit up New York  was definitely worth seeing.

As the city lights up...

As the city lights up…

5. Statue of Liberty

The Lady with whom world identifies New York stands since 1886…Statue of Liberty is magnificent to look at. Built by Gustave Eiffel and gifted by people of France to United States, it is the icon of freedom and holds a tablet inscribed with date 4th July 11776, the American Declaration of Independence.

And of course the lady... Liberty

And of course the lady… Liberty

Though I have no desire to stay in New York forever but I definitely would love to spend more time in the city and get to know it better…Who knows I might someday fall in love with this maddeningly crowded and always on the move city…A city that never sleeps!!

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A Drive Along the Picturesque Pacific Coast Highway 1

“Visiting USA? The drive along the coastal highway is a must-do.” So advised our cousins who had made the country their second home.

Aware that Indian driving licence is valid on US roads for about a year, we did not need much coaxing! We rented a car and were soon cruising along the Pacific Coast Highway 1 from San Francisco to Los Angeles.

The satiny black ribbon like road lives up to its claim of being the most picturesque route. It was scenic all along with blue water splashing on rocks, frothing, misting, roaring….every rock and wave was camera worthy. The wide smooth road with hardly any traffic, was flanked by hills on one side and ocean on the other. The ocean changed colours as the sun rose up higher in the sky.

Along the Pacific Coast

Crashing waves make a beautiful picture

Sea and rocks

Scenic… all along the highway

As we reached Monterey Bay, we saw some other tourists walking downhill to a small not much frequented beach. Huge waves crashed on the hills pulling kelp from the ocean and spitting it out on beach.

When the wave subsided, we quickly clicked some pictures because we had not catered for wet clothes and shoes…what with rented car and all.

beach somewhere at Monterey beach

Huge waves crashing on the rocks

Some 190 km south of San Francisco we reached the Bixby Creek bridge which is tallest single-span concrete bridge in world. Till 1932, the residents of Big Sur were almost cut-off in winters as the old coast road used to be impassable.

We couldn’t resist stopping for a quick picture, though leaving the car unattended at Highway was not advisable.

Monterey bay

Bixby Creek Bridge…the tallest single-span concrete bridge in world

Further on, a detour led to Pebble Beach, but we drove to Big Sur instead and stopped at a river-side-inn for a quick bite only to find the food a little too expensive. Moreover, the view of the gurgling stream and birds chirping in the woods from the wooden chairs kept in the stream seemed much inviting than the glass windows and carpeted interiors of the restaurant.

It feels refreshing being closer to nature

It feels refreshing being closer to nature

Big Sur derives its name from Spanish ‘el pais grande del sur‘ and refers to the 90 mile beautiful, rugged coastline between Carmel and Hearst Castle. Highway 1 through Big Sur is called American National Scenic Byway.

It was no doubt beautiful. Many fitness enthusiasts were busy cycling, biking  and running in the bright sun with the breeze bringing in the sea smell.

Big Sur

Scenic views all along the Big Sur

wild plants

Even the wild grass looked beautiful

By the time we reached ‘Whale Watchers Cafe’ we were hungry and the place was very attractive. The sandwiches and salads here were not as costly and we were past the stage of bothering about expenditure!

Whale Watcher's cafe where we had sandwiches...

Whale Watcher’s café where we had sandwiches…

We were told that there were tours to watch Humpback Whales, Orca and White-sided dolphins which were a regular sight in October. We stared past the road side railing in the deep blue ocean but it was just not our lucky day.

over the railing

Beyond the railing, in the deep blue frolic the whales and dolphins

Energised, we sped on as we wanted to make it to Los Angeles before dark. We were advised to avoid the chaotic traffic at LA. Had we, however, gone even a bit more faster, we would have missed the wild seals sun-bathing on a rock.

As we drove past, the corner of my eye caught a sudden movement. I insisted we stop….. And there they were lazing on the rocks! One  seal raised its head to look at us equally surprised as we were!

wild seals

Surprised seals looking right back at us

Later, further ahead we came across a seal spotting deck and to our surprise the beach was full of large elephant-seals playing in sea, snoring, lazing around. it was a rookery where every year the seals come to breed, the alpha males show-off their strength to females and the best man….er…seal wins!!

Huge Elephant Seals lazing on the beach

Huge Elephant Seals lazing on the beach

Sun had set by the time, we left coast highway and drove inland. Even after driving for so long with many stops and the hot sun, we were not the least bit tired instead the breathtaking views that our eyes had literally feasted upon along the PCH 1 had  left us wanting for more …..

A Brush with American Highway Police: A day to remember!!

Alng the Pacific Ocean

Along the coastal Highway

Having driven all day along the black ribbon of a road, the Pacific coastal Highway, I was relaxed and absolutely satiated with the breathtaking views throughout. We had stopped almost after every fifteen minutes to take in the view and capture as many shots and memories in our camera….I was very happy….

We were nearing Los Angeles, when suddenly I realised that the rental car we were driving had stopped….

Why are you stopping the car?”

There is a police car with blinking lights behind us….I think he has tailgated us for few minutes now!”

I thought my husband was joking. But I could see the highway patrol police officer striding towards the rented car that we were driving from San Francisco to Los Angeles.

All weird thoughts….. corrupt cops, being handcuffed by the walkie-talkie toting police officer à la Hollywood style, images of prisons with brutal convicts dressed in orange overalls…. flashed in my mind in those few seconds that the officer took to reach the car.

I wondered where we had goofed up and was ready to kneel on road with “hands where I can see them” if ordered. My heart was in my mouth and I instantly developed a headache!

All day we had driven along the Pacific Coastal Highway (read about the picturesque drive here)skirting the immense blue ocean enjoying the spell-binding scenery.

Eye-catching sight all along the Pacific Coastal Highway

Eye-catching sight all along the Pacific Coastal Highway

Beyond Morro Bay we turned inland driving along Cabrillo Highway. It was already evening and we were two hundred miles short of Los Angeles. We did not want to risk night travel in a new city. We were revelling in the leisure journey with no maddening traffic to bother us.

Lost in Rod Stewart’s version of ‘The way you look tonight’ playing on the radio, I missed the worried frown creasing my husband’s face and realized that something was amiss only when he pulled over.

The officer leaned in to inspect, from my side of the car and noted our daughter sleeping at rear seat without the seat belt. He started rattling off our offences. Apparently we were over-speeding and did not heed his signal to stop plus one of us was without seat-belt….three charges!!

At that point of time I was totally nervous, dreading the worst and faltering when answering the officer’s questions. The fun-filled day seemed history….

But he was nowhere like the rude policemen of the television shows. He patiently heard us out when we apologized for all the mistakes. The only excuse we had was the mesmerizing scenery and joy of holidaying in America. He checked our credentials, the car rental documents, hotel reservations and holiday itinerary.

At some moment he decided we were some over-enthusiastic harmless first-time tourists and then…. Just like that, with a warning, he let us off the hook wishing us an enjoyable stay and a happy vacation!!

Having learnt our lesson, we thanked our lady-luck for the issue not blowing into some major problem and diligently stuck to the permissible speed limits for rest of our vacation.

In retrospect, I am glad I spend so much of my time watching Hollywood movies and American sitcoms… Ha! At least we knew what a tailgating police vehicle meant! Had we kept on driving, we would have irked the officer more, landing ourselves in big trouble.

A first-time month-long vacation abroad, in itself, is a memorable experience but getting nearly arrested is definitely nothing to forget about.

 

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Washington DC to Detroit by Amtrak

Having spent ten days in America eating all those refined flour breads, muffins, cakes, pizzas, pretzels, cinnamon roll, burgers…. we desperately wanted to eat home-made Indian food of Dal(lentil soup), whole wheat flour chapatis(soft Indian flat bread) and vegetables so we took a break and headed straight to my cousins home at Troy, Michigan.

We made sure to travel by most modes of transport when in America. ‘Union Station‘ being Amtrak’s headquarter was our obvious choice to travel to Detroit though my cousin was not very enthusiastic about our choice of transport.

Union Station is a major train station, transportation hub, leisure destination and the railroad’s second-busiest station. It also serves the Washington Metro, and buses. It also functions as huge shopping mall and is visited by as many as 40 million people every year!

Union Station, Washington DC

The station has huge vaulted ceiling which is almost 96 feet above the floor. Expensive material like gold leaf, marble and white granite have been used in the interiors.

There are many high-end shops, cafe, restaurants, salons and large waiting spaces in the station.

inside the union station

When all the checking of boarding tickets, luggage etc was over and we reached the platform from where we were to board the train, we noticed most people had left the platform and hurried to another platform across the railway tracks. Soon we realised that last-minute changes had been done and boarding was from the other side. We were totally lost Boarding the Amtrakbeing new to the huge station. We located the elevator and ran all the way to new platform because the it was already the departure time.

Two Amtrak trains were parked on the station and we had to confirm from the ticket checking officer about the one which was scheduled for Detroit. We were out of breath by the time we reached our seats.

Only after putting away our luggage and settling down in our seats, did we realise that we were not carrying any beverage with us. All the panic and running across the station had made us all very thirsty. But we were pleasantly surprised to find a small cafeteria on the train with coffee, juices, quick meals and a bar counter. We helped ourselves with the coffee and sandwiches while the seats filled up.

I sat playing ‘solitaire’ on my laptop when an old woman on the seat across the aisle, interrupted me and started advising on the game. Out of formality, I sat near her and let her explain me the game.

After a while, I realised that the woman had already consumed considerable amount of Vodka before boarding the train and was repeating her instructions and sentences to me. She asked for my email, misspelt my name and offered me some alcohol. She had half eaten sandwiches stuffed in her purse which was spilling over with scarves, reading glasses, water and what not. I felt the need to distance myself from her as in her drunk state, she started abusing other passengers, the speed of train etc. I did not want to be on her list of her offenders!

sight-seeing deckWe were there to enjoy our journey and the interaction with the old woman was eating into our fun time. I politely excused myself and went to the sight-seeing deck which had large glass windows for an unobstructed view.

The train chugged past beautiful country houses, small quaint stations, bridges, river, forest and hills….all making the journey worth remembering.

bridge

hill and river pass by

small station

Soon it was dark and we returned with packed pizza to our seats. As we slept off, we were rudely awakened by a commotion. Another passenger drunk to bones was arguing with the train staff disturbing everybody else. He had no clue where his seat was!

“I am JC man! People call me Jesus Christ…. Where is my seat? Why are you not taking me to my seat? You see, I am Jesus Christ …. JC”

He soon started shouting on another woman with a kid. His behaviour irked yet another passenger who threatened to bash him up. The staff interrupted and took the drunk man away.

With great difficulty, could I sleep again. Later in the morning, train reached Detroit. The old woman was already gone and forgot her spectacles, blanket and granola bars on her seat. Her seat looked more like a dustbin with empty liquor bottles lying all over. The man calling himself Jesus Christ and the man who threatened him , both were not to be seen either.

My cousin waited to pick us up at Detroit station. Our adventurous train journey ended with lots of memories stored in pictures and events that happened on board.

This is also for A to Z Challenge.

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Ripley’s Believe it or not!! Museum at New York

After going crazy shooting picture after picture in Madam Tussaud’s museum at New York, I was TIRED!! But the Ripley’s Museum  was right next door and I could not dissuade my daughter and husband from dragging me there. Well….I am gflad they did!

I, before entering the museum, thought that there would be pictures and plaques describing various unbelievable weird things that happened at some place in world at some point of time. I wasn’t prepared to see so many things in the museum that my jaw dropped literally! BELIEVE IT OR NOT!!

Museum of Ripley's believe it or notBesides the two-headed goat, calf, tallest man, the large cockroaches, moose etc etc… my interest was piqued due to a painting made of butterflies!

painting of dead butterflies

Another very interesting display was that of the ‘Death Mask’ of Emperor Napolean Bonaparte. Earlier, the death masks were made to preserve the likeness of important people. This authentic mask is derived from the mold casted from wax and plaster in 1821 soon after the emperor’s death by his physician at a remote island off Africa.

The emperor’s army always marched on the right side of the road forcing others to do the same and hence most motorists still follow the right side of the road!!

Death mask of Napolean

One disturbing fact that I was stunned to read in the museum was about the Great Pacific garbage patch also known as Pacific Trash Vortex. The trash dumped in the ocean has large amount of plastic, chemical sludge and other debris trapped by the North Pacific Gyre. This patch extends over an indeterminate area.

When I read this fact in the museum , all I could visualise was a big horrible whirlpool of waste dumped by humans in the huge ocean….I could imagine only the sea life getting destroyed because of our insensitive and careless attitudes towards nature and how we have been abusing the natural resources….

The museum’s large selection of display with many such facts was an eyeopener and I would recommend my friends to definitely go and see the museum…May be we all can come out wiser and preserve what is good on our planet.

This is also for A to Z Challenge.

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Muir Woods, San Francisco

Managing travel, accommodation, food and sight-seeing in a different country where one is new to most do’s and don’ts, tires no end.  After 15 days in USA, we obviously were! And we needed a break from all planning, thinking and managing. So when we landed at my cousin’s home at San José, we precisely did that…….left all the decisions, planning, what to see, what to eat etc on his young shoulders.

And there he was taking us to the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s wharf, the crooked street, Gherardeli Chocolate factory, Muir woods etc…..

Muir Woods National Monument, a part of  Golden Gate National Recreation Area is 12 miles north of San Francisco and has old growth Coast Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) forests, one of a few such remaining in the San Francisco Bay Area. The park is named after the naturalist John Muir who campaigned for establishing national parks.

pathway

Pathway through the park

As we entered the park, there was a big slice of tree trunk mounted as a plaque showing the various years of growth of the forests. The park was quiet, cool and damp….. the silence at occasions broken by the chirping of birds.

Since the park is a popular tourist attraction, there are walkways made throughout the forest to prevent the young sprouts of the trees from being crushed and destroyed under the feet of many visitors to the park.

 The Sequoia, for which the park is known for, are giant trees with their heights reaching 380 feet. The bark is thick and very porous and the foliage creates a huge canopy which obstructs the sun rays from filtering down on the pathways. Most of the trees are 500 to 800 years old and the oldest one being 1200 years old.

tall trees with thick canopy DSC_0050 DSC_0053 DSC_0073

Some trails were closed due to fallen trees when we visited the monument and we could not go to the Redwood Creek. The park has many hiking trails too though picnicking and camping are not allowed.

The Aramark  Cafe was a welcome place because after walking through the park we were famished. Huge bears carved out of tree trunks were placed outside the café and our daughter made us click her photographs as she posed with each one of them. Some huge mouth-watering sandwiches and  salads, and many pictures later we shopped for souvenirs in the gift shop of the cafe’ and headed for other must-dos of our list.

This post is also for A to Z challenge.

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Las Vegas minus the sins

I have been a goooood girl for as long as I can remember except for maybe answering back or screaming at my mom as a teenage. No drugs, no casual affairs, no pre-marital sex, hell….not even short short revealing clothes!! So when we planned to travel to Las Vegas, my friends teased and tried encouraging me to for once cross the self-imposed moral line.

“It is the sin city girl! Go gamble….what if you win a jackpot! Or go for those male striptease bars….ooh!!”

“Nobody knows you there, wear some reallllly shoooort dress…..soak the sun, sweety! Get that niiice chocolate tan!!”

Welcome to vegasSin City“, “The Gambling Capital of World“, “Capital of Second Chances“, “The Entertainment Capital of World” are some of the names by which people world over identify Las Vegas. With over 25 largest hotels having 62,000 rooms in all on the famous Vegas Strip alone, the epithets are obviously apt.

People flock to Vegas primarily for gambling, striptease bars, paid sex and usually remark “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas“.

We reached Vegas on a hot sunny afternoon along with other tourists of the package tour. Our tour guide Angela made all arrangements for the room and keys. We were to be back on the tour bus, two days later in the morning for return journey to San Francisco.

We spent our time mostly out of casinos, one, because kids are not allowed in casinos and we had our 11-year-old tagging along, two, because we really did not want to gamble and set a bad example for our daughter and three, we did not want to get addicted and lose the precious dollars, after all they  say…’ The house always wins!’

We did not go to slot machines, poker tables etc (I don’t even know all the varieties of gambling) but honestly we did not miss doing what most people do in Vegas. In fact we had other things  and only two days to do as family.

Each of the big hotels besides having casinos have some or the other entertainment shows scheduled throughout the day, there are huge shopping areas, variety of food joints and restaurants. The Blue Man Group, Variety show were family friendly shows where we could take our girl.

The free shows of the Bellagio fountains gyrating on 30 different songs are very popular tourist attraction. I definitely loved the fountains and spent much time watching those.

Hotel MirageThen there was this fire volcano show at Hotel Mirage, where the fire and music and water were choreographed to enthrall visitors. At short intervals the fire would blow up like a volcano from under the water. Though by the end of show, our faces were red due to intense heat and my nose felt like a tank full of the gasoline.

The Venetian‘s gondola ride was another entertaining experience.

Gondola ride at Venetian

Golden Gate CasinoAt the old city, near the original Golden Gate Casino, there were zip-lines for the thrill rides.

There was so much to see that of the 25 biggest hotels on the Vegas Strip, we could visit hardly three or four. There were street artists making paintings with spray cans, charcoal, playing musical instruments, people dressed up as Elvis Presley, levitating street-artist……

Levitating man on street bagpiper Elvis Presley lookalike

We could not cover all  of must-eat food joints because there was a huge variety and the three of us wanted to eat three different things at three different places!!

Vegas 16 Oct (36)

The City of Lights, Silver City……Las Vegas minus its sins was as entertaining as it must be for those who want a taste of this sin city’s lusts and joys. And I certainly did bring back memories which I can share with everybody.

For me…. “What happens in Vegas, can come out of Vegas….it need not stay in Vegas

This post is also for A to Z Challenge.

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In the air over Grand Canyon

to the helicopter ride over grand canyon

To the Chopper Ride registration

 Fifteen days into our vacation, we were scheduled for a visit to the Grand Canyon. Having finished the ground tour of  the canyon, we waited for our turn at the chopper ride which would fly us over the canyon and ultimately drop us near the great Colorado River later for boat ride down the river.

After a long queue and a long wait finally it was our turn for the chopper ride. Me and my daughter were mighty excited since it was our first helicopter ride! My husband, being a airforce fighter pilot himself, was elated to fly over the canyon but not because he was in a chopper. However if he had the opportunity to fly a fighter over the canyon himself, then he would have been much excited!!

our chopper rideOur chopper pilot was a 75-year-old retired ex-army  pilot…still fit and strong. Once seated in the chopper with two more chinese passengers, he instructed us with dos and don’ts and then blades whirred into action lifting us up in the air.

Up in airSoon he was taking us deeper in the canyon, sometimes low and then higher allowing us to capture and marvel at the grandness of the wide canyon. He banked and maneuvered the chopper deftly and it simply was a thrilling experience.

The muddy waters of the River Colorado, looked like a stream from the air till he slowly dove the bird like chopper lower and lower…

Aerial view of Colorado

Aerial view of Colorado

over the boat ride landing area

The boat ride terminal from air

The helicopter deposited us with the boat ride crew and returned for next group of tourists. It would come back for us after an hour and till then we enjoyed the boat ride in the huge and mighty but muddy Colorado.

The Chopper ride was the highlight of our tour to the Grand Canyon and though quite expensive, was worth every dollar spent.

This post is also for A to Z Challenge.

 

Falls at Niagara, Finger Lakes and Fall colors

One of the places we planned to visit was Niagara Falls on our vacation to USA. Niagara Niagara FallsFalls, forming the southern end of Niagara Gorge, is a group of three water falls, Horseshoe Fall, American Fall and the Bridal Veil Fall, on the international borders of Canada and USA. These falls were formed when glaciers at Wisconsin glaciation receded. These falls are not very high but are definitely very wide.

While driving from Newark to Niagara we were caught in a heavy downpour, our phone was completely discharged and as a result our GPS stopped. We turned at a wrong road which brought us in a residential area. We had nobody to turn for help and we were totally stranded. After wasting about an hour fretting, we took a risk of driving further down the road… and voilà! we were right there staring at the road sign pointing the direction of our hotel. It was such a relief ….all our worries subsided as we put our luggage in the hotel room.

It was already late for us to board the boat ride at the falls and since it was still raining in Niagara by nightthe evening we spent the few hours watching the lit up falls when the Canadians focussed colorful lights on the falls. We took the ‘Maid of the Mist’ boat ride the next morning, got wet from the mist at falls, felt chilled to the bones and enjoyed each and every minute.

We drove back to Newark the next day along the ‘Finger Lakes’ so called because of the long and narrow shape resembling the fingers. The skies were clear in the morning and it was a pleasant ride with huge and beautiful vacation homes all along the road, the gleaming boats bobbing in the lakes and cool breeze accompanying us….

beautiful vacation homes

boats

We hoped to see the fall colors during our vacation, but it seemed the fall had not kicked in completely. The foliage was still green though some trees showed up in reds and yellows…

Fall colors

This post is also written for A to Z challenge.