A Holiday in Horsley Hills

Have you ever heard of this charming little hill station in Andhra Pradesh? It’s​ unlikely unless you’re​ living in Tirupati or Chittore district.  I never heard about this hill resort till I googled for info on hill stations in Andhra Pradesh. I was planning a summer get-away with my folks and considered the usual places like Ooty and Kodai at first. I soon realised that these popular tourist destinations are crowded and too far away from Tirupati requiring good planning well in advance. Therefore I decided in favour of a lesser known place Horsley Hills and made an online booking without even making enquiries about the place. When I later read the reviews, they were not encouraging at all. I gathered that May end is the very fag-end of the tourist season for this hill station . Desperately looking for some favorable news about the place we were going to visit, I inquired with a neighbour who knows the place well. But he didn’t say anything different. He said it’s as warm as Tirupati in summer.  I, therefore, forewarned my folks not to expect any great hill-station experience. I let them understand that we should be happy if there is no heat wave on the hills as in Tirupati or Chennai. With this background and toning down our expectations, we set out on our journey on one not so fine, warm day. We booked a well maintained Innova for our journey making sure the AC of the vehicle is in good working condition. That was a relief as we had a comfortable journey in spite of heat wave conditions on the way.

Travel always brings surprises – some pleasant and some unpleasant. In fact this unpredictability is what drives people to travel, I suppose. The first surprise was our stopover for tea. We stopped at a Rajasthani Dhaba for a much-needed tea break. Looking at the place and the ambiance, we did not expect the tea to be of any quality. To our pleasant surprise, though, the tea was excellent and beyond expectations. I would rank that tea on par or even better than what one would get in a decent 3-star hotel.

More surprises were in store for us as we reached our destination well before sunset. The place, it turned out, was much cooler than we expected. It was heavenly indeed. The guesthouse which is named as the Governor bungalow lived up to its name. Everything about the bungalow is posh – the size, the greenery around, huge corridors, clean & spacious rooms etc. I would highly recommend this bungalow for anyone planning a trip to this place. The huge corridors and a spacious sit-out made sure there was enough space to move around. This is especially important when one is travelling with kids. Besides, to our luck, there were hardly any other guests in the Bungalow which meant that we had the entire building at our disposal with an attender to take care of us. The only complaint we had for the bungalow was that the maintenance of the place was not up to the mark.

The sit-out was extremely cool as there was incessant breeze blowing across.  This was accompanied by a constant roar of the whistling wild winds making us wonder whether we were anywhere close to a seashore. It was an exhilarating experience especially because we were coming from Tirupati which was like a hot oven during this time of the year.

The following day we visited all the splendid view points. Here are a few pictures of the viewpoints:

I would venture to say that the view of the valleys and mountains around are comparable in their majesty with what one sees in Ooty or Kodai.

When we were not sightseeing, we had plenty of entertainment. My  7-month old grandson was our chief entertainer. He kept us company during his entire wakeful hours. Inspired, perhaps, by the ambiance, he showed splendid perseverance and picked up the technique of crawling for the first time even as we kept applauding. Here are a few pics of him entertaining us:

On the whole, the trip was memorable​ in several respects –  majestic viewpoints typical of any hill-station, a pleasant ambience with green vegetation all  around, a great bungalow to stay and finally a great entertainment centred around my grandson.

On the flip side, food was not up to the mark. As there was very little choice, we had to completely depend on the food served by the restaurant managed by the AP Tourism department. Needless to add it was lousy.

Published in: on June 7, 2017 at 12:15 pm  Leave a Comment  

A Trip to Vienna

Last week I was away in Vienna on a business trip but managed to take some time off to explore the city. In the limited time available, how does one choose places to visit in a city which is completely unknown to you? The only connection I had with the city dates back to 1977. My Ph.D thesis was reviewed by a well-known professor from the University of Vienna then and today I have no clue about where he lives. Well, under the circumstances Google comes in handy. Google says that Vienna has an illustrious history. It has a rich cultural life thanks to famous music composers like Mozart and several well-known painters.

I’m told that Mozart gave his first performance at the imperial court at a tender age of six. So I decided to see the royal palace as a priority. That turned out to be a great visit thanks to an interesting story of a queen who lived in 19th century.

Well, before I write on the palace and the story, let me share with you about my visit to an amusement park known as Prater Park on one evening. It’s a great place to unwind and take a stroll  after a hard day’s work. I will describe here a couple of things that might interest many. As I entered the park, I saw a huge brightly lit advertisement for an eating place called Roller-coaster Restaurant. Well, I was not particularly hungry to get into the hotel. However, what attracted me to the restaurant was this advertisement. It said: “You cannot buy Happiness, but you can surely buy our Pizza!”  This Ad did it! It struck me as a profound statement differentiating at once between Happiness and mere Pleasure.

I went inside the hotel and decided to have one chocolate brownie for my little pleasure. This is a real fun place to go and eat. True to its name, as you sit in the restaurant and order food using a tablet, the food is served at your table, by a robot racing down a roller-coaster! See the picture below to get a feel of what I tried to describe. It was a wonderful experience indeed.

img_20170223_181708734

img_20170223_181558890

img_20170223_183338952

img_20170223_181558890 img_20170223_181550665

 

The following day, I decided to explore a couple of royal palaces belonging to late 18th and mid 19 the centuries.The Hofburg palace houses the famous Sisi museum. Sisi refers to the queen Elizabeth of Austria-Hungary. The museum is practically dedicated to the queen. Her sad story is worth narrating here. She was born into a Bavarian royalty and got married to the emperor of Austria Franz Joseph at a young age of 15. As a child she grew up in a completely carefree atmosphere and enjoyed complete freedom in her actions. The upshot of such an upbringing was that she was completely unprepared for her obligations as the first lady or even as a mother. Her duties as the queen involved rigid protocol of endless ceremonies and she hated it all from the day one and could not reconcile at all throughout her life. She would go through bouts of depression from time to time and write poetry eulogizing freedom and condemning rituals of the royalty. To cut a long story short, her life ended when she was finally assassinated by an Italian anarchist when she was traveling incognito in Geneva. Her story was like a typical fairy tale. A good fairy would bless her with all the good things in life while a bad fairy would appear next and deprive her of all the mental qualities and temperament required to get happiness out of the goodies.The question is: do we sympathize with her for losing her childhood freedom and getting trapped in a royal setting or do we blame her for not making the best out of her new situation? The queen’s story perhaps reflects a common human failing.

Oh, yea, I forgot to mention about one very interesting spectacle I saw while I was at the amusement park. It is Indoor Skydiving which is a newly invented sport. I believe in 2015 the first world cup of indoor skydiving was held. Inside a flight chamber made of glass and with the help of wind speeds of up to 280km/hour, one can experience flight that is comparable to a jump from a height of 4000 metres. Here are a few photos of divers in action captured on my smart phone:

img_20170223_173510643

 

img_20170223_173629326

 

Published in: on February 26, 2017 at 11:32 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,

On my recent Business Trip to Paris

Last week, as I was busying myself with packing stuff for my business trip to Paris, my granddaughter kept following me persistently with a couple of questions: Enna venum Thata; enna pannara?(what do you want, grandpa; what are you doing?). She found it funny to see me move from room to room picking things up for packing. I kept dodging her questions and at one point asked her mother exasperatingly to take her away from me and allow me to focus on my job.
I might have felt a little irritated to face the same set of questions repeatedly; however, I found it extremely useful to ask myself the same questions at every step in Paris. I used these questions as a mantra throughout my stay lest I should lose my way or forget my daily itinerary or miss out on important appointments and objectives of my visit. The value of this mantra, strangely coming from a 2 year-old kid, cannot be overstated in our daily lives. Don’t we often find ourselves doing things that have no relationship to what we want to achieve in life? These twin questions can indeed serve as a useful guide to do course correction in our lives.
Having started the blog on a philosophical note, let me now come down to earth and tell you something about the trip itself. Paris was exceptionally hot and dry last week. The delegates who attended the conference at the well-known palais des congress (place of meetings?)found it extremely difficult to keep themselves dressed up in their formal suits with temperatures soaring to an intolerable 36deg centigrade.
I had one evening free and was wondering what to do. My boss advised me to keep away from crowds while my niece told me not to venture into lonely or suspicious looking deserted lanes of Paris known for mugging. My sister said: You are safer in a 3-star hotel, not in posh hotels. A well-meaning friend of mine told me jokingly: keep away from the infamous Lido shows! I was also warned of the presence of Italian mafia in the city by another friend. With so many conflicting suggestions coming in, I decided to do my own thing. So, I defied my boss’s advice and went to see Eiffel tower by night which I missed seeing in illuminated light in my earlier visits to the city. It’s indeed a wonderful sight to watch in the night. Here are a couple of photographs of the illuminated tower.

wp-1472321492843.jpg

wp-1472321492609.jpg

wp-1472321492624.jpg

 

The tiredness of standing in the long queues for security check, ticketing counters and elevators was forgotten once I got on to the tower.

On the topmost floor there was a surprise in store for the tourists. Besides the usual points such as the Seine river view or Champs- Elysees view and not to forget the several selfie points, there was a point for which several couples (married & unmarried) queued up laughing all the way. I was curious to see what it was. It turned out to be …… a point for kissing which is written in bold letters on the wall above. I must congratulate the tourism department for their great sense of humour.
On the penultimate day of the conference, we had a traditional cocktail party. Although there was nothing to look forward to in such parties for teetotalers like me, I still attended the party since the venue is a famous place in Paris. It’s called Cite de la mode et du design which is a City of Fashion and Design overlooking the Seine river. This is an old general Store-house converted into a new structure. It’s contemporary in design with a bold architecture. It houses a museum of contemporary art in comic books, live animation and video games.  I have taken a few pictures of this remarkable building from the other side of the river:

wp-1472321492615.jpg

wp-1472321492632.jpg

(more…)

Published in: on August 28, 2016 at 1:16 am  Comments (2)  
Tags: ,

God, demigods and mini gods – A trip

In our culture we give equal importance to all three – God, demigods and mini-gods. We worship all. Hindu religious practices are loaded with symbolism and if one doesn’t understand the essence behind the symbols, one is likely to misinterpret the practices as paganism or polytheism.
Anyway, let me narrate our recent travel experience without being judgmental.
Last week, we made a 2-day trip to Shirdi, Shani Singanapore and Malshej Ghat. We reached Shirdi by 6pm and headed straight to the temple, finished our darshan and relaxed for the night in a lodge operated by Maharashtra Tourism. Shirdi Saibaba shrine is popular all over India as a sacred place of worship.
The following day we had to decide between Nashik,famous for Rama temple, and Shani Shinganapore. We decided to go to Shinganapore purely to satisfy our curiosity about this unique shrine. We left Shirdi at 9am and reached the shrine by 11am.The village is unique in several respects. This is perhaps the only temple completely dedicated to Shaneshwar, our mini-god associated with the planet Saturn. This is also perhaps the only place where the deity,in the form of a black stone, has no roof. It is completely open to the sky. Devotees worship by pouring Til oil on the deity. See picture below:

shani shinganapore

This place has a strange belief that Shani will punish those who commit crimes. Therefore none of the houses are provided with doors. I was told that there was not a single case of theft reported untill 2010. However, a number of thefts have been reported in the past 5 years completely shattering their belief. I’m also told that a branch of UCO bank was opened two years back without providing locks to its doors! How stupid! There has to be a limit to what one can do in the name of beliefs!

On our way back to Bombay, we stopped over for fresh sugar cane juice from a way-side vendor. Here we saw an interesting live demo of sugar juice being extracted using an ox to drive a mechanical device. See below the spectacle of an ox religiously moving round and round to do the job!

sugar cane juice extractor

It would automatically start circling the moment the owner sits inside the circle and would stop instantly the moment he signals making a hissing sound. While one could admire the innovative use of an animal as a substitute for electricity, look at it from the ox’s point of view. It is doomed to work like this mechanically throughout its life. It doesn’t know of any world outside its routine as it’s completely immersed in whatever it has to do for a living. Indeed it has no way of knowing that there is life beyond this mundane activity even as it toils hard day in and day out to satisfy its owner.
Well, if this description bears any resemblance to the lives of the common folks like us, it’s not surprising.

After the juice break, we kept driving towards Bombay on Kalyan route. We kept driving for over 2 to 3 hours without finding a single road-side dhaba for our lunch break. It was well past our lunch time and everyone was getting restless and critical of the driver’s choice of this route. In desperation we stopped at a point and inquired about a decent restaurant to eat. Lucky for us, we were directed to a nearby place and the food turned out to be much better than our expectations. Our lunch break turned out to be a lucky break too as we discovered a few more surprises on the way back. We were re-energized and were indeed lucky to reach the famous Malshej ghats at the right moment. It rained heavily before we reached the ghats. Thanks to heavy rains, dozens of water falls got activated. We stopped at a point where it was just drizzling and got out of our vehicle. It was an out-of-the-world experience! There were several water falls – big & small – everywhere! The fog and the mist added to the mystical experience. Excited, we roamed around the place like children and clicked several pictures to carry the experience back home!

malshej1

malshej2

malshej4

malshej6

malshej7

malshej8

Reluctantly, we got into our vehicle and started driving. The rain became heavy again and we could see some stones lying on the road giving us scary thoughts of a land slide. Soon the euphoria yielded place to a frightful feeling as our vehicle drove under a forceful water fall. For those ten seconds we did not know what was happening as plenty of water gushed into the vehicle completely wetting us. We were overwhelmed by thoughts of a possible landslide combined with water flooding our vehicle. Well, after those nail-biting 10 seconds, our driver skillfully manoeuvred the vehicle out of the water fall much to everyone’s relief. The rest of the journey to Bombay was uneventful.

Published in: on August 9, 2015 at 4:59 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , ,

A trip to Muir wood National Monument – A great experience

The Muir wood national Monument is 12 miles north of San francisco. It is named after the famous Scottish-American naturalist belonging to 20th century. We drove to the forest 2 weeks back to spend half a day. it is famous for its tall and imposing redwood trees. John Muir was a great conservation activist of the 20th century. He is today referred to as the “Father of the National Parks” in the US.

John Muir was an ecological thinker and had raised the environmental consciousness of Americans through his inspired writings. Here are a few quotable quotes from his writings:

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul”.

“God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand tempests and floods. But he cannot save them from fools. Any fool can destroy trees. They cannot run away”.

“In every walk with Nature one receives far more than he seeks.”

Inspired by these words of wisdom, we decided to explore the place. I’m told that the tallest tree here is about 260 feet high. The trees form an impressive canopy making the walking paths cool and comfortable. The maximum temperature even in summer time is not more than 20 degree centigrade.

The main trail is the centerpiece of the forest and people visit mainly to see this. There are a few other trails branching off at different points from the main trail. The walkway made with wooden boards makes it easy to stroll.
The photographs below were taken during our walk through the main trail:

IMG_2008

IMG_2011

IMG_2014

IMG_2016

Qb3rm0upPghnD8uLbLidw0mF8yniCMEceuYxuwvrCN-gw161-h213-p-no

IMG_2025

IMG_2030

IMG_2034

IMG_2035

IMG_2038

There was a section in the trail which is called the cathedral groove.
The trees of Cathedral Grove form a multiple treetop canopy similar to the ceiling of a cathedral (see pics below). Beams of light filter down from the canopy of the Grove, giving an impression of being inside the main body of a church.
We tried to capture the beauty of this place in the photos below:

cathedral grove 1

cathedral grove -2

IMG_2019

Overall, it was a great pleasure trip as well as an aesthetic experience.

John Muir used to say: The forests and each tree has a story to tell.
I wondered what story a tree could tell. As I kept watching an impressive grove, this is the story I seemed to gather from the trees:
“Hey, we are about 800 years old and 260 feet tall. You want to know how to cross-check my age? Just take a small cross-section of my core and measure the number of rings or bands(see the third picture from above). In the beginning, we fiercely competed with each other to grow in height. You may wonder what we were competing for. We were competing for sunlight which is a rich source of nutrition for our growth. The taller we grow, the more we get exposed to the sunlight. We all ended up growing to the heights that you are seeing today. As we kept growing further we realized that this stupid growth is affecting our other parts. Stems, branches and leaves started becoming weak due to lack of nutrition because entire energy was being used up for growing tall. Soon, we made a pact and stopped growing. We formed a canopy instead. This ensured that all of us got equal sunshine and our branches and stems began growing strong and healthy.”

Is there a lesson here for our politicians who put undue emphasis on unbridled growth neglecting redistribution?

Published in: on May 21, 2015 at 8:29 pm  Comments (1)  
Tags: ,

A trip to remember – The Lake Tahoe in California

Last weekend we made a 2-day trip to a place called Lake Tahoe which is located along the border between California and Nevada. It’s a four-hour drive from San francisco where we are holidaying with my daughter presently.
Lake Tahoe is the sixth largest lake by volume in the United States.

The lake was formed about 2 million years ago and the modern lake was shaped during the ice ages. The place is a major tourist attraction as it is home to several ski resorts and trekking trails.The Nevada side has a large number of casinos.
The cool and crystal clear water of the lake is surrounded by picturesque mountain ranges all around.
Our first stop was at Emerald bay which has several beautiful view points. Here are a few great sceneries:

IMG_1686

IMG_1692

IMG_1693

IMG_1696

Then we drove to a place called “Fallen leaf lake” nearby. It is serene and peaceful. Have a look at the place in the pictures below. Doesn’t it look like a huge nature-made amphitheatre?

IMG_1782

IMG_1790

IMG_1803

IMG_1794

I told my daughter – ‘look at the place. It has all the five elements in the right balance – the clear blue sky above, clear & cool water, gentle breeze, fire with just the right intensity of sun shine and finally the element earth represented by majestic hills on all 3 sides around us. I concluded: ‘This well balanced combination of the five elements, indeed, is the secret of the great experience we are having here’. My daughter said: ‘You’re missing the sixth element’. I asked her curiously what was it. She said: ‘The sixth element is the great Bissibela rice that we brought with us for our lunch’! I couldn’t agree more. Without a good lunch made by my wife, of what use is all this beauty of nature?

Then we went on a cable tram which took us to the high camp surrounded by snow mountains. Here are a few photographs taken from our cable tram and at high camp:

IMG_1886

IMG_1891IMG_1893

IMG_1899

IMG_1925IMG_1927

The place has a number of trekking possibilities too. We had a short trekking experience along a trail leading up to the lake. A photograph taken along the trekking path is here:

IMG_1837

Finally, I must mention about our visit in the evening to a Casino on the Nevada side. It’s a world by itself. There is plenty of action all around. You can see the excitement of people as they make money. Drinks are being served continuously to celebrate winnings and to keep up the spirits of the losers. I played a few rounds of roulette and slot machine. I said to myself before playing: let me play this for the charity I’m supporting. Believe it or not, I made 300 dollars for an investment of mere 11 dollars! Here are a couple of photos of the casino we visited:

IMG_1843IMG_1848

Published in: on April 26, 2015 at 7:34 am  Comments (1)  
Tags:

Rediscovering Paris

Last week I was in Paris to attend an international technical conference related to Power industry. This takes place once in 2 years and I normally make it a point to attend the event. Delegates from all over the world come here to take part in the conference. Big events like this are invariably inaugurated by politicians without whose blessings nothing moves. Politicians, Businessmen, CEOs and Technologists attended the event. It’s all about role-playing you see, I told my friend. Asked to explain, I said: politicians sell dreams. Businessmen sell visions. CEOs make huge promises and what do we technologists do? We break those promises. Being the lowest in the above hierarchy, we cannot even complain that no one consulted us before making those promises!

One comes to appreciate the importance of time at such conferences. Each contributor is given 3 minutes and an extra one minute to wind up. It’s entirely up to each speaker to effectively plan and use those 3 minutes. It’s indeed a challenge. One speaker explained to me how it felt at the end of 3 minutes when the alarm bell rang warning her to wind up in the next one minute. She said: The coordinator of the session and the entire hall with 400 delegates looked like one big crocodile ready to swallow her up. How true! Time as the devourer of all is depicted in several mythologies.  And when it happens, Time doesn’t even ring the alarm bell and grant us that extra one minute to complete what we intended to finish.

Someone asked me whether I took any time off  for tourism during the week. No chance. With a packed technical programme and meetings, I hardly had any time for that.The organizers, however, hosted a cocktail exclusively for delegates in the famous Louvre museum. It was an exclusive evening visit  to the museum from 7.30pm to 11pm. The place was well illuminated and looked like a paradise on earth. Here is a picture of the place with grand illumination.

Louvre illumination

 

Picture yourself inside this impressively illuminated pyramid. You sure will get an out of the world experience especially when you climb to the top of the pyramid inside using the elevators provided.  Could it be the equivalent of  the mythological ‘Indraloka’ on Earth, I wondered.  No, I’m not exaggerating.

After a quick round of sober drinks and snacks, I did go around the museum. I managed to see sculptures and famous paintings including the most popular Mona Lisa.

If sightseeing in  Paris can be done in one day, visiting museums will easily take a month. It’s a city of museums with one of the finest collections of art, sculptures and paintings.

If you want to discover the beauty of Paris, the best time to go out and explore the city is in the late evening. I’m not talking about night clubs and the (in)famous Lido show. I’m referring to cruise along the river Seine and visit to museums. Many museums are open in the evening hours twice in a week.  The museums are not crowded at such hours and the ambience is just right to capture the brilliance of painters and sculptors. One feels transported to the ancient times as one listens to the guides who passionately narrate the story of each painting and the painter.

The late evening cruises along the river Seine are wonderful as you pass through well-lit historical monuments on either side of the river. One also gets to see the imposing Eiffel Tower in grand illumination. Interestingly the very same places look very ordinary during the day time.

And finally, a word of unsolicited advice for first-time visitors to France. They say when in Rome be a Roman. So, when in France should one be like the French? I’m afraid no.  For instance, it’s nearly impossible to say Bonjour, Bonsoir, A bientotou etc with the right accent and pronunciation. But even more difficult is to greet a French acquaintance the way the French normally do – that is kiss on the cheeks 3 times.  Ordinarily there should be no difficulty in doing this. However, given our natural inhibitions, I’m sure there will be no spontaneity in our greetings. The second difficulty is that there are several do’s and don’ts for this greeting , as I learnt from a french contact of mine. What are the rules? Depending on which part of France you are from, you do cheek kissing either twice , thrice or four times. And most importantly, you dare not plant your lips on the cheek! You are only supposed to give air kisses! I overheard a Serbian woman explaining to a Brazilian woman: In Serbia, you are supposed to kiss thrice. So if i draw you close 3 times don’t get me wrong!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Published in: on September 5, 2014 at 9:18 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

My Footprints in Stanford & Half-Moon Bay

When my daughter suggested we go to Stanford university campus for sight-seeing, I wasn’t exactly enthusiastic because one doesn’t expect a university campus to be a tourist attraction.  However, we did make it on one fine day and my views on the campus changed completely. For one thing, the place has plenty of open spaces and more importantly those spaces are well utilized as you can see from the following pictures. In the photo below, we are standing in the backdrop of a street lined with palm trees.

IMG_0474

IMG_0475

 

 

IMG_0473

 

The campus boasts of a huge tower named after one of the Presidents of the USA Hubert Hoover, which houses a library related to 20th century history. The presided donated his great collection of materials to the university, his alma mater. The Hoover tower is about 250 feet tall and the viewing deck offers an expansive view of the beautiful campus:

IMG_7052.CR2

IMG_7054.CR2

 

 

 

IMG_7053.CR2

 

 

Here is a surprise for tourists like me. There is a beautiful church located right in the middle of the campus. It’s considered as one of the great architectural jewels among college campus churches. The church is non-denominational in character and offers wedding services to all denominations. To us Indians it would be a culture shock to learn that the church also offers services for same-sex blessings! The church serves the spiritual and cultural needs of the university community. This is something to be noted by people back in India. Our overemphasis on secularism seems to alienate the students from spiritual and religious education.

 

IMG_0471

 

IMG_0468

 

IMG_0467

 

IMG_0465

 

After the church visit we took a coffee break and proceeded to the well-known Cactus garden in the campus. What I saw in the garden was surely beyond my expectations. The sheer variety of cactuses is mind-boggling. One has to see it to to believe it. Here are a few sample pictures:

 

IMG_0482

IMG_0485

 

IMG_0486

IMG_0490

 

IMG_0493

 

IMG_0496

IMG_0499

 

IMG_0501

IMG_0502

IMG_0504

 

 

We returned home after a thoroughly enjoyable outing to Stanford University campus. On another day we set out to spend an evening at whats is known as Half-moon Bay. As the name suggests the sea-shore resembles a  half-moon in appearance and is considered to be one of the most beautiful coast lines in California.

 

IMG_0509

IMG_0511

 

IMG_0513

IMG_0515

IMG_0517

IMG_0519

Published in: on May 26, 2014 at 5:09 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

My first Outing in San francisco

My friend from Chicago tells me that if there is one city which should not be missed in the US, it’s San francisco(SFO). He was surely exaggerating when he added: This is the only city worth visiting in the US.  As I reached SFO, I figured that one needs more than a couple of days to cover all places of tourist interest. Unlike many metros in the US, SFO has a fairly decent public transport. Nevertheless, my daughter and son-in-law accompanied us for our first outing in the city. We live in the southern part of SFO in a suburb called Mountain View and the city is up north about 50 miles away or an hour away from where we live. We packed our lunch and left at about 9.30am. Our first stop was an interesting flower market in the downtown area. We walked through several shops where exotic flowers were on display. The colourful  display of flowers was a treat to watch and one could sense and feel the passion with which the vendors presented their plants. Here are a few sample pictures:

 

IMG_6959.CR2 IMG_6986.CR2   IMG_6967.CR2 IMG_6972.CR2   IMG_7004.CR2

Next we went to visit the famous Lombard street, which is  considered a must for all tourists. And what is it famous for? …..It’s famous for being crooked! It was fun walking along the street which is very steep to climb. The small stretch of one block has 8 hair-pin bends! One wonders how the residents manage to live in such a street which attracts hundreds of tourists everyday. The photo below tries to capture the slopy twists and turns of the street: IMG_7019.CR2   IMG_5902.CR2

We then relaxed at a well-known tea shop called Samovar tea lounge which specializes in serving the famous OOlong tea besides Indian Masala Chai. We set out to visit a place called Presidio. This place was originally a Spanish military base (a couple of centuries back) and now converted to a National Park. It was a welcome change from the hustle and bustle of the downtown. We walked around and then settled down in a cosy corner to eat our packed lunch. As you can see from the pictures below, there is a huge lake in front and in the background there are buildings with an open architecture. The open space and the open architecture afford celebration of  events like marriages. In fact we found an Indian marriage being celebrated at the time of our visit. Here are a few photos taken at the place:

 

 

IMG_7026.CR2   IMG_7028.CR2   IMG_5921.CR2   IMG_5910.CR2   IMG_5908.CR2   IMG_5913.CR2

Then we drove to the major tourist attraction in SFO, which is, the Golden Gate Bridge. This is the world’s first suspension bridge built way back in 1920s. We took a walk on the foot path along the bridge. The scenic place provides enough photo opportunities: IMG_7031.CR2       IMG_7034.CR2     IMG_5926.CR2   IMG_5927.CR2 IMG_5931.CR2

 

The last 2 pictures are not of the Golden gate. These are of San francisco – Oakland Bridge.

Published in: on May 16, 2014 at 3:52 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,

My trip to Chicago

Think of Chicago and you think of  the iconic towers, chilly winds, the great Michigan lake and the America’s first ever planetarium. This is also a city where every Indian would feel proud on seeing a block in the downtown named after Swami Vivekanada, who delivered an impressive talk on Hinduism at the Parliament of World’s Religions in 1893 .

Last weekend I made a trip to Chicago to see my friend and the city. My friend lives in a rather sleepy suburb of Chicago called Martin Grove. I reached in the afternoon, relaxed for a while and then we set out for a drive to a Balaji temple about 20 miles away. The temple seemed to be a great meeting place for Indians of all communities and origins. I was told that the temple serves several purposes besides worshipping – one can have food in the canteen and have ‘satsung’ or discourses. On some special occasions they also conduct music concerts and Bhajans. In this respect these temples in the US follow our age-old traditions back in India when temples were the centres of cultural activities. Here is a picture of the Balaji temple that we visited:

DSCN1663[1]

 

 

After a sumptuous dinner in the temple, we drove to downtown to see Chicago by night. What a spectacle it was. The beautifully illuminated skyline is simply out of the world. I completely agreed with the 12-year-old son of my friend who proudly announced: Oh boy, our skyline is the best in the world! We drove through the iconic towers Sears tower,Willis tower, Trump tower etc. We then drove through the famous ‘ Navy pier’  showcasing an impressively illuminated 150 ft giant wheel offering joy rides. Here are a couple of pictures of Chicago by night:

 

DSCN1664[1]

DSCN1667[1]

 

The following day, we drove straight to Millinium park. The park is situated right in the middle of the town overlooking the iconic towers. The main attraction here is the so-called ‘cloud gate’, which is a huge steel structure consisting of concave surfaces meant to reflect and distort the city’s towers. It is a hit with tourists providing an occasion for photo-op. Here are a couple of pictures taken at the park:

DSCN1675[1]

DSCN4880

 

Next we went to the planetarium where we enjoyed 3 well presented shows. Michigan Lake can be viewed from the planetarium and the following pictures were taken as we took a stroll along the lake:

 

DSCN1679[1]

DSCN1684[1]

 Finally, we completed our tour with a visit to the iconic Sears tower. The tower is 1350 ft high offering a grand view of the city. The unique attraction of the tower visit is the all-glass balcony projecting out. One can walk into the balcony and feel the thrill of looking through the floor to the street down 1350 ft below! The pictures below gives an idea of the view from the tower:

DSCN1687[1]

DSCN1695[1]

DSCN1695[1] DSCN1692[1]

We timed our city tour to complete everything before 7 pm since heavy showers were forecast from 7 pm. I was amazed to see the onset of showers exactly at 7 pm even as we were driving back home as per our plan. That is the precision of weather forecast over here!

Published in: on May 7, 2014 at 3:11 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: