A Travellerspoint blog

Day 17 Los Angeles - Tourist Attractions

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Los Angeles is a big city and there is lots to see so we decided to take the city 'hop on hop off' tourist bus. We started with Financial District which was was upscale with new contemporary office buildings. We also saw the Walt Disney Concert Hall which was unique in its design. Then we saw Little Japan, Korea and China town which was very distinctive.
Financial District

Financial District


Walt Disney Concert Hall

Walt Disney Concert Hall

Next we went to 'Hollywood' sign - the audio guide of the bus tour had interesting stories to each place we visited including how the name Hollywood and sign came about.
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Then we went to Hollywood Boulevard. This is an energtic street full of visitors and tourists because of the many landmarks - famous Hollywood Walk of Fame (where thousands of stars -actors, producers, characters, musicians- names are embedded on the walk-way), Chinese Theatre, Hollywood and Highland Centre (shopping mall which has dancing fountains).
Chinese Theater

Chinese Theater


Hollywood Walk of Fame

Hollywood Walk of Fame

Hollywood Buolevard - street with entertainment!

Hollywood Buolevard - street with entertainment!

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Then we saw the old district - the 1930s Los Angles; Rodeo Drive - chic shopping area; Beverly Hills - upscale residential area and my fav stop the Santa Monica Pier. I really liked the atmosphere here - music, games, food stall, shopping it had everything. Lots of people coming in and out of the pier. We then went down to the Santa Monica beach to see the beautiful sun set and added bonus we saw dolphins .. I could not believe it! I captured the view in my heart though camera ran out of battery.

Rodeo Drive

Rodeo Drive


Beverly Hills

Beverly Hills

Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica Pier

the 1930's theatre

the 1930's theatre

Quick review of the bus tour:
• LA is a big city and so you have to plan how much of it you want to cover. Also consider the time it takes to go from one end to another because of traffic.
• The 'hop on and hop off' bus worked best for us because we just wanted to tour the whole city through day we did not have much time to explore each place.
• There are many tours - Hollywood tour, Beverly hills tour, Celebrity GPS tour, one can choose from.

Posted by deeptisubraya 20:00 Archived in USA Tagged west_coast Comments (0)

Day 16 Drive on Highway 1 from San Jose to Los Angeles

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Driving South on Highway 1, which is one of the most scenic routes, we began our long drive from San Jose to Los Angles. The highway is known to be one of the most beautiful coastlines in the USA and it lived up every bit. It is a very long stretch of road that follows the cliffs bordering the Pacific Ocean. It was awesome driving on curvy, hilly road. We also saw virgin beachfronts with elephant seals in their natural habitat.
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At one of the stops we took a short hike to the beach and there was a waterfall on the beach, something I had never seen before. The color of ocean was blue, in fact different glistening shades of blue as we progressed through the day.
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Miles and miles of Pacific ocean as a view, what more could one ask for!
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At the end as we were getting near to Los Angles we stopped at sunset, which was so soothing. I can't describe it any better.
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It took us more than 7 hours to reach Los Angeles but we took several breaks to eat, hike, enjoy the view and photo stops at every bend and curve of the road.

Posted by deeptisubraya 20:55 Archived in USA Tagged california Comments (0)

Day 15 World's Tallest Trees in Redwood State Park

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We went to Big Basin Redwood State Park near Santa Cruz. The drive to the park was short (45 mins to an hour from San Jose) and beautiful with views of the surrounding place. Though it was nice sunny day as we reached near the park it was misty and I felt like we were transported to a hill station of sorts.

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Coast redwood trees are the tallest trees in the world, they can reach heights of over 375 feet and dominate the forests. They are massive, regenerative, one of kind species. Some trees are around 2,000 years old while most trees average upto 500-700 years.
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At the entrance there was a 2,000 year old tree truck cut out and displayed as an exhibit with major historical ‘human course’ changing events, (i.e Jesus Chirst's birth; Alexander's birth; Columbus discovered America; American Independence and so many more) marked out. I found this to be interesting when on one side of the planet human course changing events were taking place on the other side these redwood trees were growing and have survived to tell the story! So it felt like being in a place which is 'eternity'!
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We took short hike trail around the park. On the way we saw 'father of the forest', which measured - height 250 ft and circumference at ground 66 ft and the 'mother of the forest', which measured height 329 ft, circumference at ground 70 ft. Redwood trees are strong and can survive storms, floods, fires etc. In recognition of its rare ecosystem it is designated by UN as a World Heritage Site. This is a absolute must see for nature lovers.
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Later that day we went to Gilroy. It was almost two weeks now in US and we had not yet started shopping. Gilroy has a huge shopping outlet with most of the well known brands. It was definitively worth the visit.

Posted by deeptisubraya 20:50 Archived in USA Tagged california Comments (0)

Day 14 San Francisco - Walking around

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We decided to go to San Francisco again by ourselves (our hosts took a break). So we planned to take the train from San Jose. But we started late and missed the morning 9-9:30 express train. Instead we got on the 10:00 am train which stopped at every stop and took almost two hours, it was noon by the time we reached the city.

After getting down & orienting ourselves to the city, we tried to use the public transport - bus/tram but it took us long to move from one place to another. So we decided to walk it around. This way we explored some of the shopping malls, local stores and lunch options. We covered Federal Building, Union Square Park, Chinatown, Financial District and Museum of Modern Arts. Then walked around till evening to catch the train back home.

Union Square Park

Union Square Park

China Town

China Town

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Business District

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San Francisco Museum of Modern Arts

The San Francisco Cable Car system today is more popular with the tourists than residents. It is operated on very few routes. I have seen it as icon of San Francisco in so many movies, that I had to take a ride. But we waited for nearly 20 minutes and just when we decided to move on, this one came along going in the opposite direction. Well, picture will do till I get my ride.
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Tip of the day: San Francisco city is hilly terrain, i.e, there are many ups and downs so take this it account when you decide to walk around this lovely city!

Posted by deeptisubraya 20:48 Archived in USA Tagged california Comments (0)

Day 13 San Francisco - Tourist Attractions

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My first visit to the beautiful San Francisco city. It took us around an hour or so to drive from San Jose to San Francisco. We started at the touristic Pier 39 where we saw many sea lions. The pier itself was like mini carnival - with music in the background, lots of people/tourists, food stalls, shopping stalls, beautiful views of the Golden gate bridge and Alcatraz island.
We shopped like excited tourists. We tried the famous Ghirardelli Chocolates, which is an experience in itself, the choice just spoils you. We explored all the areas of the pier, there are two levels and on the second level many areas have exhibits of the native wild habitat.
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Next we visited the Coit viewing tower in Telegraph Hill. The view tower itself is an old structure, with very narrow space but it offers fantastic views of Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, Pier 39, Angel Island, the Bay Bridge, Russian Hill, the Financial District, Lombard Street, and Nob Hill.
Golden Gate bridge view from Coit Tower

Golden Gate bridge view from Coit Tower

Alcatraz island

Alcatraz island

Financial District View from Coit Tower

Financial District View from Coit Tower

Lombard street view from Coit Tower

Lombard street view from Coit Tower


Then we went to most crooked street - Lombard street. It is popular with tourists for its one block steep eight tight hairpin turns. There was lots of traffic and we drove through the street.
We then visited the Palace of Fine Arts in Marina District. It is structure built to show case exhibits but the place itself is so alluring and beautiful. It is used commonly as a location for weddings and photo shoots. Many movies were shot here and it was also shown in a Bollywood movie 'My Name is Khan'. It is surrounded by beautiful lake and park. We stopped for lunch at Marina Drive.
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Next we visited the most popular attraction of the city- Golden Gate Bridge. There are walkways for pedestrians on the bridge and we walked nearly till the middle of the bridge. The views of Pacific ocean and the city from the bridge are amazing.
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Need I say much about the Golden Gate Bridge - it was opened in 1937 and has been declared one of the 'Wonders of the Modern World' by the American Society of Civil Engineers.
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We went to China Beach Park for some stunning views of the bridge and ocean. Then next to Golden gate park where we relaxed a bit. From there we headed towards highway and stopped at various points for photos as we drove back to San Jose. It was an awesome day!

Quick review of the day trip:
• If you are driving around in your own car parking in San Francisco city is not easy especially at the tourist attractions.
• The city is quite big and you have plan how much to cover.
• The city has interesting sights - some classical architectural of the yesteryears and many building with modern contemporary architecture.

Posted by deeptisubraya 03:22 Archived in USA Tagged california Comments (0)

Day 12 San Francisco - Architectural tour

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Now it was more than 10 days that we were out of a routine. I could really use a day just to enjoy the warm California sun in the backyard. I did just that! Might I add, I also had unpacking, laundry and repacking to do. We had some pending details of the trip to be finalized as well.

My husband went on a Architectural walking tour in San Francisco. This was a 2 hour walk around the city showing the city's famous buildings and places, mainly in the Central Business District and Cultural District.

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One of the most interesting building was the contemporary Jewish Museum, with unique trapezoidal metal clad facade. It is old thermal power plant converted into contemporary art museum in early 2000s.
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Golden Gate park windmill, one of the landmarks of San Francisco built in 1903.
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Posted by deeptisubraya 03:21 Archived in USA Tagged california Comments (0)

Day 11 Mono Lake – Drive back to San Jose

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There was storm expected with snowfall near Lake Tahoe and surrounding area. We were planning to see Lake Tahoe and around but due to the weather warning we decided to cut short the trip and drive back. So instead we went to Mono Lake. It’s a beautiful lake surrounded by mountains. We then stopped at various places along the long drive back. It was extremely windy and chilly at most places.
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Mono lake

This beautiful road was trip was due to – my co-sister & brother-inlaw. From planning where to stay, packing food to eat, driving us around these amazing places to stopping at every scenic spot for photos, they took care of everything and were wonderful hosts!

Quick review of the trip
• This was our first road trip and driving around was a beautiful experience. Waking up early to catch the sunrise is an effort worth it! Would definitely recommend it, specially for photography and nature lovers!
• There are lots of things to do - camping, hiking, treks, fishing etc which you can plan if you have more time on hand.
• Always carry layers of clothes. Sudden changes in weather through the day is very likely especially at elevated view points.
• Check weather status every single day and plan accordingly. Be ready for change in plans due to weather conditions and unforeseen reasons.
• Be aware of surroundings and if you encounter wild animals avoid getting their attention.
• Plan your food because I did not see any restaurants or even small eating joints in the national parks/ lakes/ woods. You will have to drive back to town to find a place to eat.

Posted by deeptisubraya 21:45 Archived in USA Tagged california Comments (2)

Day 10 Mono County-Devil’s post pile

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It was dark outside. We got up before sunrise around 5-5:30 in the morning to do some sunrise photography. We were staying just outside the national park in a motel. My husband went to keep breakfast and some other things required in the car. He came back in 5 mins and in a very clam tone said ‘there are bears near the car’ and even calmer was the reply from his brother ‘okay get in and stay here’. I was shocked and excited! What there are bears, out in the parking lot next to our car!! I had to see outside, it was dark and we could see huge animals walking across.

Eventually, we did go to our car and from our car we saw two huge bears and a baby bear at the end of the parking lot. That was close! I have no photos because we did not want to attract bear's attention from flash of the camera. There were 'caution' boards on wild bear all over the motel. The smell of food attracts bears and if they get wild they can break apart even a car. As it was early morning before sunrise they were out from the woods, near parking lot maybe in search of food.

We drove towards Mono county, the sun had still not risen and we saw wild mule deers/ coyotes (American jackal) rushing back into the woods from the main roads. During the day as we drive around none of animals are to be seen, they are hiding or deep in the woods. This was fantastic experience to see so many animals in their habitat. We stopped at Gul Lake (before sunrise), it was such a serene place.
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Then we drove around Silver Lake to capture the beautiful fall colors. We patiently waited for light from the sunrise to reach out. At one place, we crossed yellow trees to go over to the lake, by the time we came back the sun had fully risen, the sun light shinning through the yellow leaves gave it a golden glow. It's one of the most amazing things I have ever seen. The sunlight gave the yellow colour so much life, glow ... its hard to describe.
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In all the confusion of the bear, we indeed forgot to bring the breakfast basket but the sunrise and views around, served as one of the best breakfast's I have ever had/felt, which recharged and refreshed my mind, my soul.

Later that day we went to Devils Postpile National Monument. This is an interesting place where columnar rocks, look like man made pillars plied together. But these are not man made they are naturally formed out of lava, some thousands of years before. Even the rocks fallen below seem to be cut out to some particular shape but it is naturally formed shape. This experience was - see it to believe it!
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Next we took a hike down to Rainbow falls (near the devil's post pile), we went through a route where forest fire had occurred (around 20-22 years before) but the place looked burnt out of life compared to green pastures around the park. It was an unusual hike experience - the lone tree trunks looked like a vast cemetery. This just makes you realize how difficult it is to bring back life after a disaster, natural or man-made.
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The rainbow falls itself was refreshing after the hike. There are many view points from where one can see the falls from different heights. There are many visitors who hike but there are patches on the trail when there is no one and caution sign boards keep reminding you that this a wild habitat. Encounter with wild animals - bears, coyotes is likely. So walk with caution and awareness of the surroundings.
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We then drove to elevated view point Minaret Summit in Inyo National forest which is at 9,265 ft. The surrounding views were worth the drive from this view point. After sunset though it got cold and we had to head back.
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Posted by deeptisubraya 21:34 Archived in USA Tagged california Comments (0)

Day 9 Yosemite National Park

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Packed and stuffed in the car for next 3-4 days we left San Jose. This was our first road trip in US and we were a excited bunch! It was chilly when we started but went on to be a beautiful sunny day. The hills surrounding San Jose changed into planes and as we approached Yosemite there was so much greenery.

Yosemite National Park is valley with protected wildlife. There are many activities for visitors - trekking, climbing, camping. We had only a day so we drove around the valley. We went to the famous 'El Capitan', which is a stunning viewpoint.
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It’s one of biggest national park in US and we stopped along the way for many photo stops and short hike to scenic points /waterfalls/lakes . There were many spectacular granite cliffs. We saw many people climbing it. And camp tents around the lakes.
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The national park also has diverse vegetation and tall coniferous trees. Under one of many picnic spots shaded by these tall trees we stopped for our lunch. It was our first lunch out in the woods. We had all the required things - stove, ice box,veggies, bread etc, in the trunk of the car and came up with a delicious hot veg burger.

Next we stopped at 'Half Dome', which is a complete view of giant cliffs, clear streams and greenery. If I could stay back here. This would be my camping site.
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Then we went to the 'U shaped' Valley and Mirror Lake, there was crystal clear reflections. Its difficult to say where is the sky and where is the lake.
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Looking at it I was excited like a child! There were many people here trying to capture the view/ feeling in their cameras.
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We saw mule deers running around and were happy not to encounter any bears. Then we drove around the Tigoa Pass, which was very serene.
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I have heard that the camping experience is worth doing and I would recommend it though we could not do it because of time constraints. We had many more things to see in our itinerary. We enjoyed driving around this beautiful valley which at every turn had amazing views. We spent the whole day being in awe and taking pictures of every sight that we could.

Posted by deeptisubraya 21:30 Archived in USA Tagged california Comments (0)

Day 8 San Jose - welcome change

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The first thing that struck me at San Jose was the weather. It was chilly & cold in New York. Jackets, overcoats, shawls, gloves were needed through the day to keep us warm. Here relaxing in the back yard with sun shining over head and walking around bare feet was such a welcome change. We rested the whole day at my brother-in-law's place. California is blessed with beautiful weather.

We needed a day to relax and get over the jet lag 3 hours between east coast & west coast (But I was still feeling the jet lag from Dubai). Though we had to prepare for a road trip the next day.

Posted by deeptisubraya 21:27 Archived in USA Tagged california Comments (0)

Day 7 Manhattan - Walking around

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We had breakfast at a little café by the street in Manhattan with some coffee & American Bagels (we got used to Bagel by now and were enjoying it). It felt a bit cold but it was a sunny day of October. Then we set out walking to see Columbia University, then we continued walking towards east side of Manhattan via central park.

We reached Guggenheim Museum, which is designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, famous American Architect. It had Picasso’s collection on display. We went to the museum, I was amazed by the intriguing architecture, the levels were spiral with skylight coming in - it actually gave me dizzy feeling after going around some three floors. This was a second time that I was visiting a Picasso's exhibition. I think it takes a while to like him, to see the genius behind the obvious painting.
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We went downtown to have lunch - pasta (my observation was that Americans have a preference to pizza over pasta. Choices in pasta were limited even in Italian joints). Then we went Grand Central, 5th Avenue, TImes Square. Took a train from downtown west to Upper west. Some where along the 90th street the train stopped and immediately announcements were made that it would take a while to start. We had flight to catch so we were rushing against time. We got out, caught taxi, picked our bags from the hotel and headed to the airport. Most of the flight I slept I think we were exhausted from all the traveling. We reached San Jose ( 8 hours flight with a stopover in Dallas) later that night.

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Posted by deeptisubraya 00:36 Archived in USA Tagged east_coast Comments (0)

East Coast bus tour (review)

We visited New York in October 2012 and took a local tour company's package for a bus tour of 5 nights and 6 days which covered the following places - Philadelphia, Washington, Niagara Falls, Boston and Manhattan. Please read my previous blog entires on each of these places.

Quick review of the group tour:
• It was packed with lots of sight seeing, one after another. This was our first experience of bus group tour, one cannot simply go and explore sights. You have to adhere to group & bus timing.
• If you don’t have a car or someone to drive, then the bus tours are the only economic alternative to visit Niagara Falls and Washington DC from New York. Unlike Euro rail which is well connected, fast and reasonably priced the other option is to fly down.
• The drive from Maryland to Niagara felt like a really long day. It was about 7-8 hours drive in between we visited chocolate factory & glass museum which was not much of interest to us. Maybe educational/interesting for children.
• At Niagara Falls we had to wait in long lines to get on the 'maid of mist' ride as almost all the tour companies bring tourist at the same time to visit the falls, so if you are on your own avoid mornings.
• IMAX movie on Niagara Falls (based on myths and stories around the falls than facts on the falls) was disappointing. We expected a good documentary but it was about a tribe love story around the falls. Would not recommend it. The movie is USD 15 and can be given a miss.
• At Empire State Building we went early, so breezed through the lines and did not have to wait anywhere, so visit in the mornings.
• The evening we reached Boston we were taken to China Town to a seafood restaurant for dinner. Since we were vegetarians we decided to find some other option, but as we crossed China Town, the place seemed deserted (and it was only 7 in the evening). We walked around and managed to find a reasonable place open with veg options.
• The tour group had majority of Chinese tourists followed by Indians.
• The hotels provided to stay were up scale and most places(other than Boston China town) where we stopped for food we had many options to choose from.
• You can opt for how many additional sightseeing you want to do and pay accordingly.
• Overall it was reasonable experience.

Interesting points about the tour:
• The tour guide was Chinese, so initially for a day or two we struggled to understand him due to his accent, then you get a hang of it. When he said ' so now we have reached don don' I could not fathom where we were and read up the entire map to find a place called 'don don'. Only later I realized he was referring to down town!
• The tour guide uses a wall clock to show what time we are expected to come back. Say it is 11:00 AM now and we are to return to the bus in one and half hour, he would turn the clock to 12:30 and point towards it to tell us by what time we are supposed to be back.
• At so many points, the entire bus of tourists would get down click photo of the attraction and get back. Then as we drive the guide would give the explanation. This was in the interest of time and I it worked well!
• There is rotation policy that is followed for seating in the bus. Every morning we were given different seat numbers to sit. This way when we started the tour we were sitting at the back and and by the end of the trip we were sitting in the front.

Posted by deeptisubraya 00:28 Archived in USA Tagged review east_coast Comments (0)

Day 6 Manhattan, New York

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We left early from our hotel in New Jersey to go to New York down town. We visited the financial district, the famous NY bull, NY Stock Exchange.
It was early in the morning and there were many office goers busy rushing through the cold dark streets. I am banker from Dubai and could almost imagine the morning rush to get to the office, only it was a lot cold in here!
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Next we visited the Empire State Building, which was the highlight of NY for me. The whole of Manhattan from the 86th floor looked spectacular. The audio tour ‘with a story to tell’ gave Manhattan life. The central park looked elegant among the towering buildings. The south down town looked gigantic. One could imagine the immigrants arriving through the island and then making it big in New York city - Manhattan. The Empire State Building itself had so much story behind it.

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Next we went on NY cruise with views of Statue of Liberty and down town. Although it was a sunny day It was breezy & cold. However, the views were amazing of the Manhattan skyline. There are options to take the Ellis island tour and climb the statue of liberty, this takes about 2-3 hours. We did not want to spend so much time on the Ellis Island. The cruise offered close views of the Statue of Liberty which we were happy with! A lot has been written about the statue nonetheless - it a gift from France to America given in 1886 representing the Roman goddess of Freedom and sure is a icon of the country.
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From this point we went on our own with ‘bye bye’ to the Tour. (For a review on the east coast bus tour with tour operators please read the next blog entry). It was mid-noon and we headed to our hotel on 110th Street Uptown West in Manhattan. Be prepared - in Manhattan the rooms are small and it makes you feel just how expensive Manhattan is (though we were paying USD 120 + taxes) we had just enough space to put our luggage and crash on the bed. We found an Indian Joint in Uptown West Manhattan where we had lunch, which was reasonably priced.

We headed out in the evening using NY underground sub from 110th street Upper Manhattan West to 60th Street. We went see Lincoln centre. It is interesting place with lawns, fountains and building. It is a creative open space in between tall buildings. Then we continued walking down the street crossing the central park down to NY Times Square.

It is said that if you visit Times Square you are bound to bump into someone you know. That’s exactly what happened I met a school senior of mine who was also visiting US. We stopped for coffee with his friends. We were a lot of excited people visiting US so we had many things to talk about.

Then we walked further to East village to meet a kindergarten friend of mine. She had made reservations for us in an Indian restaurant ‘Vatan’. It was different experience with all you can eat, Indian way of eating (with legs crossed with food laid out on low table). I enjoyed the food and the company of a dear friend though we had not seen each other for more than 20 years.

Later we went to the Comedy Club in West village (where she had already made reservations for us in an underground club – Comedy Cellar). It was my first experience, I enjoyed it & laughed my way through the 2 hrs. It was naughty, funny and hilarious!

At around about 1:00 AM we came down to Times Square again . Times Square had slowed down just a little by then though there were still people around and huge billboards with bright lights.

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Posted by deeptisubraya 22:43 Archived in USA Tagged east_coast Comments (0)

Day 5 Boston-Connecticut-New York

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We left early in the morning to see Boston – Harvard University was our first stop, beautiful campus for beautiful minds. Then we went around MIT, which is also a beautiful campus. We went on Boston Cruise around the harbor, which was amazing with down town views. It was a chilly morning but with jackets and sweaters it was warm enough.
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We walked back from the cruise point to Quincy market for brunch, which is located in the heart of downtown. Quincy market building itself is a historical building and it a large market space. It has huge food court with lots of options. We had some pasta and sandwiches which was good. The market space around had street vendors, jugglers, more food stalls and shopping areas. It is bordered by the financial district, the waterfront, the North End, Government Center and Hay market. We went around the finical district to see the buildings, then waterfront which gave some beautiful views.
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Driving down from Boston on the way we stopped at Connecticut to see Yale University campus, which was also a beautiful place. We drove that afternoon to New York. As we drove the view was so colorful – green, red, yellow. The fall season brought in its beauty.
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We reached Manhattan that evening. We visited the UN building. The display kept at the entrance caught my attention - a 'cracked metal ball' - reminder of the state of the world and a 'twisted gun' - what the world needs to do. It was creative with a very strong message.
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Next we visited Rock Fella Centre then Times Square but it began to rain so we had to head back.
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Posted by deeptisubraya 20:01 Archived in USA Tagged east_coast Comments (0)

Day 4 Niagara Falls

Started early to see the falls. We were made to stand in lines for nearly a hour then another 45 mins before we got our blue rain coats and way into the boat for the ‘Maid of the Mist’ cruise ride. The cruise ride which goes almost under the falls is a one of kind experience. The falls in itself are huge and mind blowing! We got wet in spite the rain coat. We also saw the city on the Canadian side.

But the most beautiful experience in Niagara was the fall colours of the trees around - green, red, orange they were adding a magical touch to the whole scene!

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We headed back into the bus after an Indian brunch of veg thali at the food court and we were off towards Boston. I caught up on sleep and woke up to lit night view of Boston downtown. Even with my sleepy eyes I could make out that it was beautiful!

Quick review on the food court: There are many food stalls in the food court with reasonable food and decent price but the place looks a bit worn and old. Its the most visited food court in Niagara (I presume) and could use some renovation.

Posted by deeptisubraya 08:58 Archived in USA Tagged east_coast Comments (0)

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