US Chronicles – I

From spending time with my family here to the many great travels undertaken, it has been a memorable visit to the United States of America. It was a voluntary break I took from work, to relax and rejuvenate. Mark Twain had said: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Yours truly explored, dreamed and discovered. Each travel experience was unique and left me marvelling and reflecting on certain aspects.

The 17-mile Drive was enchanting – it took us through some promising sites. It was a drive through the pebble beach and pacific grove on the Monterey peninsula in northern California.

17-mile-drive

Pebble beach

San Francisco was a beauty. The streets looked busy and pretty. We drove through the crooked, Lombard street. Any traveller would be smitten by the Golden gate bridge. Pier 39 was buzzing with activities.

GoldenGateBridge

Golden Gate Bridge, San Franciso

The trip to Los Angeles and around was wonderful. We stayed at a bungalow on Hollywood hills. The visit to Disneyland was like walking bang on a fairy, fantasy land!

DisneyLand1

Universal studios was stupendous. The studio tour especially left us spell-bound.          The visits to the Dolby studio, Chinese theatre,  Madame Tussauds, etc in Los Angeles were worthwhile. We got an opportunity to see the bungalows of some popular Hollywood celebrities while on a trip to the Beverley hills.

UStudios-II

Universal studios

We went around Santa Monica (a beachfront city in Los Angeles county) on a guided tour. The Aquarium of the Pacific around Long Beach (a coastal city near Los Angeles), followed by the harbour cruise over there were wonderful. My little nephew was thrilled to see the octopus dancing in its own charismatic way in the aquarium.

Redwood forest was yet another nature-friendly place. Thomas train festival was being organized that weekend and it was a total fun zone for kids. Apart from the train ride, it was a walk through the forests I enjoyed most.

RedWoodForest

Redwood forest

We spent quite some time exploring the magnificent Stanford University. We also went on a guided tour of the University.

Standford

Stanford University

The Japanese gardens in Hayward was a beauty. It looked so pristine. It was refreshing to have gone there on a Saturday morning.

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Japanese garden

It was very touching to see the patriotic fervour here in Fremont, California while Indian Independence day was being celebrated! Actor Manoj Bajpayee was one of the guests.

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One of the tableaus during Indian Independence celebrations in Fremont, California

The Jelly Belly factory was another sweet visit. We went on a tour of the sweet factory and gathered firsthand information on how different flavoured jelly beans are processed and packaged. It was interesting to note that the 40th president of the United States, Mr Ronald Reagan used to savour these jelly beans!

JellyBelly

Sacramento, the capital of California, is less touristy but it is a very serene and beautiful place! The American River Parkway there was a beauty and my nephew loved it a lot, a nature lover that he is.

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California State Capitol

Yosemite national park was scenic no doubt. It was like experiencing nature at its best.

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Yosemite National Park

Grand Canyon was truly a geographic wonder!

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Grand Canyon

Las Vegas was a colourful city, with a lot of theme based hotels. It was nice to see the décor and aesthetics of these hotels.

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Excalibur hotel, Las Vegas

Berkeley University  had its own charm. Upon our return, we came across a Udupi palace (veggie) restaurant. Enjoyed some vadas and lassi.

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Berkeley University

A visit to the corporate head offices of Facebook and Google was fun. Loved the Google campus in Mountain View.

Well, the east coast of the US was beautiful! The weather cooperated too. I shall write more about the visit in my next post.

All along, I was reminded of my Europe travel days, where my husband and I used to enthusiastically explore places of interest. The other memorable aspect of this trip was that I caught up with some of my friends – a couple of whom I met after close to two decades! It was wonderful catching up with a couple of relatives and family friends. It also felt very nice being invited over for tea by the CEO of the first company I had worked for.

The Janmashtami, Ganesha and Navaraatri celebrations and a pooja arranged at home added more colour to the US stint. It was indeed a memorable stay at my sister’s place, who with her family, lives in the Bay Area, California. I love her home, which I fondly refer to as Radiance.

My travel taste buds are satiated fully for the season. It’s packing time now. Ahh, I am experiencing parting pangs!

Bye for now,

RV

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US time

Hello! It’s been quite some time since I wrote here. Having been smitten by the travel bug, I feel dragged to this platform, from the pacific coast of the United States of America.

I arrived here over one-and-half months ago (Phew! Time flies!) to spend time with my sister and her family. Her two-and-half year old son (my nephew) is in one of his most adorable phases – he strings words together to form sentences from the sweet vocabulary he has developed. The last time I saw him in India was during October-November 2016 when his nonverbal ways tried to overpower his verbal prowess.

Travel within this vast country has been a part of this visit of course, with my sister having planned a neat itinerary and my brother-in-law driving us around enthusiastically. I will try to pen my thoughts on each of the travel experiences when time permits. There is something new in each of the outings to appreciate about and take pleasure in. The Lonely Planet guide has befriended me yet again – bought it soon after I arrived here! It acts as an additional source of information.

I arrived here summer time. The weather is thus great – on an average, the temperature is around 23 degree centrigrade during the day and anywhere around 12 degree centigrade during the night.

Having taken a break from work, its vacation in its truest sense. The overall system in the US is different from Europe. Most importantly, it’s a huge country unlike cute little ones in Europe! It’s a subcontinent, bigger than India. I have been living in the state of California, but I did travel to the states of Nevada and Arizona so far. The landscape of these states looks pretty different from one another.

My mother’s presence is adding more beauty to the US visit. Here’s an article by her, which is about her impressions on the flora around: http://www.newindianexpress.com/opinions/2017/jul/26/miracles-bloom-in-this-backyard-1633521.html

Btw, it feels like mini India here in the Bay area. The Independence day celebrations at Fremont, California reinforced the fact that the inhabitants are so Indian in their hearts. Felt touched to see tableaus from certain states of India! Krishna Janmashtami and Ganesh Chathurthi were no less in their grandeur!

As I reflect upon my travel so far, I realize there is so much to write about. I need to stop here, as I am all set to visit the public library in Union City, California. The library is located by a pond – an exotic locale indeed!

I will also post pictures soon.

See you for now!

 

Swiss Time

A big hello to you from Switzerland. Hope you are well.

The travel bug has bitten me this season too. After a trip to Portugal and Spain last week, we landed in yet another beautiful and rich country – Switzerland – two days ago. We have explored Basel and Zurich so far. It will be Luzern tomorrow. This was one of the countries in my bucketlist. P planned it around the time of my birthday. 🙂 Although a third visit for him to the landlocked country, he seems to be equally enjoying the visual treat offered by nature and the cultural facets unique to each city.

Well, the weather was just perfect until this evening. The temperatures rose to 30 degrees celsius at times. A feeling of irony set in as we experienced scorching heat in Switzerland! But as we travelled upwards to Luzern (Lucerne) this evening, closer to the Alps, there was a torrential rainfall! Phew! Mother Nature and her idiosyncrasies – I thought to myself. But that didn’t stop us from appreciating the hues of the city.

A visit to Interlaken and the surrounding, exotic areas is in the schedule next. After a tryst with nature there, we shall be going to Neuchatel, Bern and Geneva. Btw, many sites here have been taking us back in time…reminding us of our visits to Norway.

As usual, we have our LP guide with us. The brochures from the tourist info points too prove useful. All the moments are being captured using our DSLR camera. Hope to find some time to post some pictures as well.

Btw, if ever you are planning a trip to Europe, don’t hesitate to contact yours truly for some free tips/advice. 😉

PS: Apparently, author Mark Twain had visited Luzern years ago.

Vacation time

It was a very hectic April for yours truly as the labour of love (thesis related) came to a fulfilling end. May has opened up vistas for travel and fun here in Europe again.

I am presently enjoying some lovely weather at Florence in Italy…dashing off this post from the third floor of our hotel that is overlooking mountains with the blue skies almost brushing them. The view in front of me looks like a neat canvas! Well, P and I arrived in Florence on Saturday. We went to a beautiful place called Siena in the Tuscany region, on Sunday. It was Cinque Terre on the Italian Riviera yesterday. The details of the visits shall be posted later. Btw, this is my third consecutive trip to Italy! We decided to choose scenic, nature friendly options this time over the usual touristy ones.

Wow, this country is rich in art, culture, (cuisine) and history. With nature’s artistic and magical touch added to it, Italy is no doubt a traveller’s paradise! It’s exploring time now. Hence keeping the post short. Ciao! 🙂

Globetrotting in a different style

It’s been a month-long sojourn for yours truly in different avatars – as an inquisitive traveller, as an alert travel guide and at times as a cooperative co-guide too. This time the travelling treat is being enjoyed mostly with dear parents who arrived in Belgium almost a month ago. It’s been a wonderful experience. Gosh! They have infectious energy and enthusiasm levels.

During the week they arrived, we did some sightseeing in a few places in Belgium: Leuven, Antwerp, Louvain-la-Neuve. We then left for a week-long trip to the UK where we visited England (London, Bristol) and Wales (Cardiff). It was time for France (Rennes, Paris) next. We were back in Belgium and then after a day’s break, we went on a week-long trip to Italy (Pisa, Florence, Rome, Venice) and Vatican city. It was Cologne in Germany and Septon in Belgium the last weekend. There wasn’t even a single dull moment while revisiting some of these places, thanks to the fact that I viewed these places from a new perspective this time. 🙂 

The weather has been okay. It feels like winter at times. We plan to go to Brussels tomorrow. Well, looking forward to enjoying a few more trips/outings in Europe with them. They seem to be liking it here too. The planning of the trips with my dearest P has been paying off and the feeling is great. Btw, I was missing blogging. Hence this short blog. 😉 I shall be back with my signature blogs soon.

Normandy, Brittany France

Looking for a place with a Brittany and Normandy touch while in France? Rennes, Saint-Malo and Mont Saint-Michel could be the answer.

        Purring, sweet cat

Rennes is in northwestern France, 350 km away from Paris and it is the capital of the region of Brittany. We had been there in 2011 and 2012. Our friends B and C had hosted us in their beautiful villa. Well, their cat was the centre of attraction for me. She used to come purring to me always. Oh, I miss her!

Rennes as a place is quite close to our hearts as P lived there for a few years. We went on a stroll to a local park called Parc de Maurepas and along the scenic surroundings of the popular technical university. We also met up with our dear friends. We had lunch at a local restaurant that had some vegetarian pasta  to offer us. The best part came when we went around the place cycling. I thoroughly enjoy cycling specially in cycling friendly countries.

Saint-Malo, a blue beauty!  Saint-Malo beach

It was a Sunday morning and our German friend S drove us down to Saint-Malo with two other friends. Saint-Malo is a walled port city on the English Channel. Wow! It was just splendid and so cool for a short holiday. We went climbing up the friendly rocks. Pretty plants adorned the rocks. It was blue-blue up above as we looked up the sky and it was blue-blue down below thanks to the sky’s reflection on the sea. Indeed picture perfect! We had packed some food from home for lunch and we enjoyed it sitting by the beach. That night we dined at a friendly Lebanese restaurant in Rennes. A couple of more friends had joined us. The owner of the restaurant was indeed chirpy. It was the birthday of one of the customers. He played a “happy birthday” song with a Middle Eastern musical background. All of us enjoyed it.

Mont Saint-Michel  View from the Abbey of St Michel

The next day, our hosts took us in their car to Mont Saint-Michel, which is a rocky tidal island. (Midway, we picnicked at a park.) The Norman Benedictine Abbey of St Michel is located at the peak of this island. It’s one of the UNESCO recognized heritage sites. We used audio guides as we went into the Abbey. The Abbey was huge and beautiful; it had centuries-old history behind it. We had to climb up steep stairs to get some best views of the Abbey (once used as a prison during the French Revolution). The Abbey also offered us spectacular views of the waves below. Btw, there is reference to Mont Saint-Michel even in Walt Disney’s movie Micky, Donald, Goofy: The Three Musketeers. On another occasion, we were treated to a healthy vegetarian meal and dessert at a bio restaurant in Rennes. We were also invited over dinner at our French friends’ home one night.

Well, it was nice enjoying these three places with our friends. I have a feeling that we shall go there again! 🙂

PS: You just need to point your cursor to the pictures to read the captions.