Showing posts with label My Travel Diary. Show all posts
Showing posts with label My Travel Diary. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Wordless Wednesday ..... Telluride - Paradise on Earth !!

I know Wednesdays are meant to be wordless. But you won't mind if I speak a few .... will you ? One morning when I woke up and pulled open the curtains .... the morning looked more beautiful than ever. The dew drops on the green grass glistened like little jewels ... as if someone has sprinkled diamonds on a green carpet. The houses on the opposite hill played peek a boo behind a blanket of clouds. And the cacophony of the lone raven on the opposite tree echoed back.
The smell of freshly brewed coffee filled the air. As I sat on the patio of our log cabin sipping my morning coffee, I thanked God for the beautiful life he bestowed upon me.
I saw a bed of leaves below the maple tree on the lawn .... Autumn had slowly tip toed and soon the earth would be drenched in the beautiful autumn colors, I thought. Which also meant that Summer was bidding adieu ....
I thought how lucky I was to take a break from the mundane life and enjoy the last days of summer away in the mountains with J. Summer has always been more than a season for me .... it's a time when lasting memories are weaved.

This time we had left the hustle bustle behind and were holidaying in this beautiful and secluded town of Telluride ... a small spot on the map of Colorado. A beautiful and laid back town with a bunch of houses between the Rocky Mountains. A place which looks nothing less than paradise on earth. It's a place where you can completely be in peace with yourself.
You can either choose to walk the roads less travelled and loose yourself in the bounty of nature or you can laze around the small rustic town. Since I was undecided what I wanted we decided to do both.
We spent the first half of the day walking the trails. My favorite spot was the Bridal Falls. It reminded me of the animated movie 'UP' and I could not thank J enough for showing me that lovely place. I won't be wrong if I call it the paradise on earth. We hopped on the Gondola and the view from the top was spectacular.

As the shadows grew longer we hanged around one of the restaurants .... nothing fancy but a family owned one. You will love the local people as much as their food. The peach pie that I had was one of the best pies till date. And I was told the recipe was a family secret.
And what more can anybody ask for .... sitting on the foothill of the mountains, enjoying great food, sipping local wine and listening to live country music.
I felt like I lived an entire life in those few days. And yes memories were definitely made .... Moments that took my breath away and memories to last for ever !!

How to get there

It is about 6 hours by road from Denver

What is the best time to visit

If you like trekking, bicycling then Summer and Autumn is recommended.
It is also great during the winter months for skiing. The Ski Resort at Telluride is one of the best I have seen till date.
You can also plan your trip during the Telluride Film Festival which happens late summer and enjoy screening of movies and meet with some of the Hollywood stars if lucky.

Other attractions near by

If you are on an extended vacation, you can also visit
Black Canyon
Gunnison National Park

Things to keep in mind

Make sure you are well prepared for the fast changing weather conditions on the mountains.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Arches National Park .... Utah

After seven hours of drive through the scenic colorado highway we reached Moab, a small town in Utah .... almost past midnight. Our home for the next two days was a log cabin .... cozy and cute. After setting the alarm at 5 am we threw ourselves on the bunk bed ... dead tired.
I am not an early morning person and I have a record of missing the Sunrise. But not this one ........ not after I had seen the breathtaking photographs of the 'Arches National Park' at one of the art galleries of Vegas.
So I and J pulled ourselves out of the bed at 5 am. I dragged my feet to the car still half asleep. It was still dark and the stars shined bright in the clear Utah sky ... after driving for almost 15 minutes we reached the gates of the Arches National Park.
We drove through the park .... the early morning breeze was cool and we saw the Sun rise on the Utah Sky. The view was simply out of the world .... something that one should never miss if you are visiting the Arches.

At the foot of the Delicate Arch

We decided to hike to the 'Delicate Arch' as the Sun dawned over the park. We started our hike uphill looking into the horizon .... The trail was uncertain and little did we know what to expect .... the view of the Arch was far beyond our sight. After an uphill trek of almost 4.8 kms we experienced one of the most beautiful moments of our life. The view of the 'Delicate Arch' just took our breath away. The view of the valley from the top of the mountain looked splendid. We sat there gazing at this beauty of nature ...... It was indeed worth every effort ! After clicking few pictures we walked down the mountain.

Balanced Rock

We drove back to our cabin and slept again to recharge ....... Yes that was a wise decision after hiking. It is very important to cool your heals !!

Post lunch we went back to the park ...... it was beautiful beyond expectation. It was a vast stretch of dessert with snow clad mountains in the horizon and clear blue skies interrupted by the majestic carvings of nature.

If I have to describe this place .... I would call it a wonderland carved by the symphony of time, gravity and water.


Tips for planning a trip to 'Arches National Park'

Best time to visit .....
April - May. Summers are hot and may not be ideal for hiking or trekking in the dessert. Spring is definitely pleasant and hence the best time to visit.

Where we stayed .....
Cabins @ The Archview Resort (15 minutes drive from the park). You may also choose from hotels in Moab.

A day well spent ....
Begin with collecting pamphlets/ newsletter from the 'Visitor Center' inside the park. It gives you a fair idea of what all to see and when to see. Some of the places are best viewed at Sunrise and some at sunset. So plan accordingly.

Landscape Arch

Must See ....
The Delicate Arch (the toughest of all hikes), Landscape Arch, Double Arch, The Windows, The Three Gossips, Balanced Rock, Park Avenue. Though most of them can be seen from the car ... but one has to get on the trails to experience the actual aura of these magnificent natural wonders.
Fees ....
There is a 5 $ individual fees or a 10 $ vehicle fee (valid for 10 days). You may call the park to check for details.
Camping ....
If you plan to camp inside the park, make sure you make reservations before to avoid any last moment discomfort. The park information line .... 435-719-2299

Sunset at Arches National Park

Other things to keep in mind
Check for weather conditions before proceeding to the park. Wear comfortable clothes and hiking/ walking shoes. The dessert can dehydrate you very quickly, so drink lots of water.
Other Places close by
Canyon Land National Park.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Garden of the Gods

"Winter is gone and Spring is on ...", yah that's what I have been humming since last week. The sun is bright and everything is so positive including the weather. I could finally dare to shed some clothes (read woolens). J and I thought that it was insane to waste the time indoors but we were not very sure where to head out. It being only the second week of March, most National/ State Parks are closed or had restricted access.

J came up with a plan to visit the "Garden of the Gods". I was very amused by the name itself and wondered if the garden had hundreds of intoxicating "Parijata" trees. Parijata is a divine tree as has several mentions in the Hindu Mythology. Since I was clueless about the place we played a guessing game. I guessed everything possible about the place. And after two hours of drive there we were standing before the gates of the "Garden of the God's".And you don't have to be a saint to get access into it. Everyone's welcome to this garden. It was nothing close to what I had imagined ..... but it was spectacular. Yah probably God carved this beautiful place in the middle of nowhere !!
We walked into the Visitor Centre and picked up some pamphlet ...... the information helped us go around this beautiful place.

J posing with the 'Imbalanced Rock'

It was a garden of majestic red rocks with the Pike Peaks at the background.One has to see it to believe it !! It has something for everybody .... the nature lover can spend hours gazing at the natural beauty of the park and the red rocks. The park is also the home to many beautiful birds. If you are lucky enough you can capture them in your camera and bring them home.

That's me on the rocks ... trying hard to balance and pose for the camera

It is an exciting place for the rock climbers. It's thrilling to watch them make it to the peak of some of these huge rocks. Also if you are not so much into climbing you can trek the many beautiful trails in the park or cycle around the park.
It is also a photographer's paradise ....... And it is just a great place to hang out for the romantics at heart.

A Rock Climber

How to get there ?
The Garden of God's is about an hour drive from Denver, Colorado. Admission to the park is free.

What is the best time to visit the place ?
I think spring is the best time to visit the place. It may get very hot during the summer months.Visitors receive frequent reminders to watch out for rattlesnakes in the hot days of summer. But with the unpredictable Colorado weather, make sure you check it before planning for a visit.

Activities within the park
Nature watching, Rock Climbing - Rock climbing is permitted, with annual permit obtained at the Garden of the Gods Visitor and Nature Center, Cycling, Trekking , Photography, Bird watching.

Nearby Attractions
Seven Falls
Pikes Peak

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Kankada Tarkari .... Crab Curry Odiya Style

What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear 'San Francisco' ? If your instant answer is the Golden Gate Bridge, please congratulate yourself. You belong to the category of normal or sane people walking on the surface of this blue planet. Why ? The Golden Gate Bridge is the most photographed bridge of the world ? Oh sure you knew ....
Or did somebody whisper 'Crabs at Fisherman's Wraf' ? Welcome aboard. I don't want to be the only insane, crazy Crustacean eater. The Golden Gate and other things are secondary !
The first time I was at Fisherman's Wraf I just went crazy at the very sight of these one pound ones. They were huge as compared to their cousins residing in the Bay of Bengal. All I needed was salt, pepper, lime juice and a little space in those tight shops selling sea food. Forgetting all codes of conduct I started with my hands ... I didn't require any of those sophisticated tools for cracking the claws. J stared at me startled ...... "Crabby Girl" was his clear expression. I ignored all that and the crowd around me and continued cracking my crab trying to reach the sweet meat in every corner and then smacking it clean.
When I turned around to ask the shop guy for another one ...... the self looked empty. This Chinese guy selling crabs signaled that the crabs are gone. The only thing I understood from his broken english was that I needed to wait for two more hours if I wished for another one. The next trailer with this priced Pacific catch would arrive at 9.30 pm he said.
Was the wait worth, especially in the month of December when the chilled Pacific wind freezes you. Yes without a doubt !
The crabby affair continues till date. I go nuts at the very sight of these . Ask me if I am willing to take a six hours flight from New York to San Francisco ...... The answer is 'Yes' (Courtesy if it is a Business Trip).
For the time being I have to satisfy myself with the ones available in the neighborhood sea food stores. The guy selling those tells me that these crabs travel all the way from the Pacific coast to make it to my kitchen. I have no option but to believe him for the love of these beautiful creations of God !!

So get your hands dirty and enjoy !!

Preparation Time - 40 minutes

Crabs Cleaned Cooked and de shelled - 2
Potato - 1 medium
Chopped Onion - 1 medium
Ginger - 1 inch
Garlic Cloves - 2 big
Cumin Seeds - 1 tsp
Coriander Seeds - 1tsp
Dry Red Chilies - 2
Cinnamon - 1 inch
Cumin Powder - 1/2 tsp
Garam Masala Powder - 1 big pinch
Turmeric - 1/2 tsp
Red Chili Powder - 1/2 tsp (per taste)
Bay Leaf - 1
Salt per taste
Mustard Oil for cooking ( You can also use Canola/Vegetable Oil)

Method of Preparation

1. Cut potatoes into wedges. For the masala make a smooth paste of onion, ginger and garlic Coriander seeds, cumin seeds, dry red chilies and cinnamon in a blender.
2. Heat Mustard Oil in a kadhai and fry the potato wedges on both sides till golden brown. Remove and keep aside.
3 Reduce the heat and add the bay leaf. Add the masala, turmeric, red chili powder and salt. Fry till the masala is cooked and there is no raw smell.
4 Add water to make a gravy of diluted consistency. Add the Potato wedges and crabs. Simmer for 5 minutes. Sprinkle garam masala powder and cook for one more minute.

Serving Tips
Serve warm with plain rice.

Oops ...... Sorry I forgot about the normal people who are not crabby and who would visit SFO for reasons more than crabs .... Here is the list of things you can do when in this beautiful city .... But my last word - Do check out the Pacific Crabs ;-)
1 Golden Gate Bridge
2 China Town
3 Alcatraz
4 Embarcadero
5 Pier 39
6 Fisherman's Wraf
7 The Exploratorium
8 Cable Cars
9 Coit Tower

Monday, October 18, 2010

Weekend Wanderings ........ Williamstown, Massachusetts

Hello all of you there !!! It's Monday again ..... I am sure many of you like me are fighting the Monday morning blues and gearing up for another busy week.
I hope you all had a wonderful weekend with your family and friends. Thought of beginning this week sharing some clicks from our weekend wanderings ....Most of the pictures are from this beautiful town called Williamstown in Massachusetts. This small town shares it's border with Vermont and New York.

This time we didn't land up there 'Chasing the Clouds' but because we failed to follow the instructions of our GPS .... sounds little stupid, isn't it. But like they say .... 'All is well that end's well'. Had a lovely time walking down this cute little place. Loved the architecture of the old churches with the colorful autumn leaves in the backdrop. Every spot looked carved out .... perfect for a postcard.

If you are in New England, then do drive down ..... There can't be a much better time than Autumn to enjoy this little town.
I hope you enjoyed touring this little rustic town with me.
Have a lovely week ahead !!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Destination Maine ........ Lobsters !

I had almost shrunk into the sofa and covered my face with a cushion when Julie dropped those live crustaceans into a pot of boiling water. I could have never imagined doing such a thing .... killing a live lobster. I could literally see the lobsters shouting' Lobster Killer .... Lobster Killer'.
Ask me if I would eat lobsters even after watching this cold blooded murder of an innocent creature ......... the answer is 'YES' (evil grin).
We went camping at Maine last year .......... the most important attraction influencing our decision was the famous 'Maine Lobsters'. And why not if Anthony Bourdain can travel around the world to taste the best of food, we can least step into his shoes and drive to Maine for it's lobsters. Sadly Anthony gets paid for trotting the globe and eating the best food. But for us it was a self sponsored trip. However it was one of our 'Great American Road Trips' if I may say so.

To me it looked like one of the sceneries that I used to paint as a kid. Mountains,Ocean and greenery ..... all rightly balanced and at the same place.
The entire landscape of Maine was so mesmerizing ........
It was a six hours long drive from Connecticut to Acadia National Park ..... our final destination at Maine. I and J are so influenced by the poem 'The Road not Taken' by Robert Frost that we mostly decide to take the road less travelled by ! So decided to drive through the country roads instead of taking the highway.

Our first stop was Camden ....... a rustic port town. We walked through the broad walks and narrow lanes along the sea coast. We were lucky to have a glimpse of the traditional 'Boat Making' technique at Camden downtown. It was a beautiful laid back town.
We took the marine drive from Camden to Acadia. The view of the full moon rising from the Atlantic looked panoramic.

We reached Acadia at dusk and camped their for the night. Nothing can be more romantic than sleeping under the stars on a full moon night. We woke up with the first rays of the Sun and chirping of the birds. The dew drops on the leaves shined like little pearls. Everything was just perfect.

We spent the day driving around the Acadia National Park. My favorite was the uphill drive to the Cadillac Mountain. The view of the ocean from the peak of the mountain was spectacular. The small islands looked like a necklace of emerald in the ocean. And the sun set from the Cadillac was intoxicating.
I forgot telling you about the beautiful rugged coast line. It is the best place to enjoy reading your favorite book and gazing at the vastness of the ocean.

Our trip to Maine would be incomplete if I don't mention about the beautiful down town of Bar Harbor and Bass Harbor. If you are a shopaholic then take some time out to look at the Maine Art and Craft shops.
It will be a sin if I do not write about the 'Maine Lobster' ........ our motivation for this trip. Yes, we bought a small piece of Maine to our house ..... sorry two ! One big steamed Lobster made it's way to our kitchen. And a hand crafted Mousse from the local art and craft stores of Bar Harbor.

Plan your trip to Maine during the summer months. That is the best time to see the place and also get the best catch of lobsters.
Have at least one day for spending at the Acadia National Park.
Don't miss the Sunrise/ Sunset from the Cadillac Mountain.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Chasing the Clouds .......

Sundays are pretty laid back. I woke up late morning ...........well almost noon, pulled the curtains away and opened the blinds. Gossh their was plenty of sunshine.It was a beautiful sunny day. I watched two squirrels run and play around the trees through my kitchen window as I brewed my morning ..... ahem noon tea ! As I lazily sipped my cuppa tea I noticed some yellow and orange spots on the opposite hill. Ahh Autumn is here !! I can vouch for it ........ with days getting shorter and nights getting cooler. And if you still don't feel assured about it, check for the new arrivals of Cashmere's, boots and 'Fall Decor' at most departmental stores.

Like any other Sunday, my day started at noon and was unplanned. J and I had a heavy Brunch of leftover Chicken Biryani and then we hit the road ...... obviously with no plans or destination. The sky was blue with white cottony clouds which resembled huge feather beds. We decided to chase the clouds ...... I know that's kind of juvenile. After doing that for few minutes we dumped the idea .... we had too, that was a stupid one. But every white cloud too has a silver lining, we ended up in one of the beautiful counties of New England - Litchfield. Soon we were driving through the beautiful Litchfield countryside. Like every time I awed at every silly thing.

After a few miles of driving through the country roads I spotted a hand written board ' Wine Festival'. Yah J too had spotted it. He hardly can miss any such thing. We looked at each other and had this evil grin on our faces. Without even a second thought we followed the little hand made arrows signs on the white paper board ..........and it lead us to heaven .... oops the Winery.

A big board at the Winery gate read ' Wine Festival ....... Wine Tasting and more .... 10 $ per person'. J was more than eager to hand out 20 bucks and grab two wine glasses ....... I wonder where this enthusiasm goes when I ask him out for shopping !! There were 'Hot Dog Stalls','Italian Cheese shop', 'Sprinkle your own cupcakes' ,'home made ice-creams' and many more around.

We happily walked to the wine tasting room with out glasses. There were many more wine freaks like us ...... The first wine we tasted was ' Railway White' - a home grown dry white wine. My eyes were glued to the glass as the girl at that tasting booth poured some. 'Is that all' ....... I thought when she was done. I gulped it down without even thinking how on earth they named this 'Railway White' and waited for the next one ..... 'Chardonnay'. I am sure Chardonnay needs no intro .... all the drunkards ...... sorry again wine experts know a hell lot about it.

Seeing the crowd we decided to take a small stroll into the Vineyard and come back for the remaining. The vines were laden with ripe black grapes ( not sure what variety was that) ..... I popped a handful into my mouth. They burst into sweetness. The vineyard was beautiful ...... I laid down on the cool grass between the vines with warm rays of sun kissing my skin. Ahh that's undiluted pleasure.

As we walked back towards the tasting room, I heard strings of guitar and 'Brown Eyed Girl' . There was a middle aged guy singing and playing the guitar. We completed our wine tasting ........ eight varieties of wine !! We pulled out our chairs from the boot of our car and hung around listening to the live music.It was utter bliss.

Sunday indeed turned out to be a fun day !! Well do I need to tell you guys that I am fit as a fiddle now ;-) The wine festival did it all !!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Sun Temple, Konark

The Black Pagoda .... Jewel of the East !!

I was in Middle School and it was summer break .... Mom said that Ushman uncle would be visiting us sometime soon from Bilaspur - a small town in Madhya Pradesh. She started planning the itinerary for his trip. I had heard her discussing about several places but the one place which I was excited about was the Sun Temple in Konark.Aai had narrated several stories about the temple and I had read a little about it in my history lessons.
I eagerly waited for the day when he would arrive. No sooner than I had thought we were on our way to Konark,a small beach town on the Bay of Bengal. We travelled through lush green villages and small towns. That was my first visit to this place. I was awed at the very first sight of it and my jaws dropped.

Baba explained us the history of this huge piece of art and the stories associated with it. I saw people gazing at the fine carvings on red sandstone ..... each carving telling a story of its own. The most distinct carvings were giant wheels. I climbed onto one of them and posed for a picture with my family. As we toured around this impressive structure, I counted the wheels on it. There were 12 pairs. There were several carvings of horses and elephants too.

I played with my little sister on the lush green lawns around the temple. After spending the afternoon in the temple premises, we were off to the beautiful beach of Chandrabhaga which was minutes away.Being on the east coast this beautiful beach is known for its beautiful Sun rise. I got into my favorite act of building sand castes and collecting shells and conchs.
The Sunset at the beach was spectacular..... the day got over sooner than I had wished. It was time to get back home. Mom stopped at Pipli a small town famous for handicrafts and applique work on our way back to Bhubaneswar. She bought an colorful wall hanging as a souvenir for Uncle Ushman.

Aai had prepared pan cakes for all of us. I hogged on it and described her how wonderful our trip was.

Tourist Information
How to reach
Easily accessible from Bhubaneswar by road. Takes about 2 hours to reach there.
September - February is the best time of the year to visit this place.
Where to Stay
Can choose from luxury to budget hotels on the marine drive to Puri. These hotels are on the beach and offer a spectacular view of the Bay of Bengal.
You may return to Bhubaneswar the same day if you wish so.
Other Events at Konark
You may plan your trip around the Konark Dance Festival which happens every year in the month of February.