Monthly Archives: June 2009

American Adventure:Panama City Beach

Left rome at about 8:30….almost on schedule 🙂
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The distance was 392 miles[630km]…covered it in 7hrs exact. Would have been less than 6 had we not been sidetracked, gone through small towns instead of going around them. The GPS keep on taking us into narrow streets instead of the highways. But I must say, I was really impressed by the sign system of the US. You can go from A to B over any distance just by know the direction of the destination [north/south etc. ] & get on the respective highway. You have signs telling you when to take the exit, which rd. you need to be on next. As you approach a traffic signal you have a signboard as well as spaced out strips on the ground that produce a different kind of noise than the regular road. The closer the you get to the signal, the distance bet. the strips decreases. I have seen 4-way intersections with no signals, just a 4-way stop sign. The car that arrives first at the intersection, is given the right of way, without any mishaps or blocking up the intersection. Excellent roadway system…no wonder ppl drive over long distances!

Ok enough of the road now…you must think I’m in love with the sadak & that i must do lotpot on it!

In PCB, checked into the edgewater resort. It’s not as good as the one in Orlando, but it good enough & this is the only one we could get reservations in, given the short notice. PCB is located in the Gulf Of Mexico…had planned to go to San Destin ,but the resort there were full. They gave these ‘resort tags’ to differentiate us from outsiders who might be wander around the resort…I call them Dog tags :), you may catch a glimpse of them hanging from out pants/hands/ankles. Very irritating. Also if you lost them there was a $5 fine…& it’s easy to loose one, considering you are on a beach swimming & playing around. Then there was a mandatory $25 breakage insurance, that the reception guy said covered us till $1500 worth of damage, making it sound as if he was giving us some sort of a gift. The advantage is that now we have something to vent out our frustration on :p

Ours is a beach front condo so you can see the the sea right from the balcony & being on the 7th floor, the view is absolutely breath taking!!!!!

Panorama picWhite sand…green blue ocean extending into the horizon…the sun reflecting off the water. You can hear the surf breaking on the shores all the time.
Beautiful.

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The afternoons was hot & no way were we going out in the blazing sun! I don’t know how the ppl can stand the heat & lay on the beach…the sand gets pretty hot too. Anyway since PCB is in a different time zone, it is 1 hr. behind Rome time, had plenty of time. So we relaxed for a couple of hrs, had lunch [finally had Peanut butter jelly sandwich!! thanks to Shivani SS Singh ]
Put on our bathing suites & walked down to the beach at 6 [local time] as it is the sunset is pretty late here…we had atleast 2 hrs of light. The sand was really soft & felt good beneath my feet, though they do make walking a bit difficult! It was white, & not brown making it look like powder. Walk down to the edge & tested the water…was cool. Walked along the edge letting the waves crash around my feet soaking in the surroundings. This is the second time I’ve been on a beach in my life. Am not counting Lakswadeep as I hardly remember anything….Had gone to Andaman & Nicobar, a long time back….memories are faint now.
Did’nt waste much time hanging around [just enough for a couple of pictures :)] & were jumping into the sea. The water felt cool, the waves kept pushing us back at the start, but soon you feel them pulling you out. ! there was some seeweed floating around, but that wasn’t a bother…the saltwater unfortunately was…It was too salty, after sometime you had a bitter taste with the water going in your mouth.
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Also you couldn’t keep your eyes open underwater as it would sting & that made swimming difficult. But these were only minor inconviniences compared to the fun we were having!! Swam out a bit, dove into the oncoming waves, scared shivani by going underwater & catching her legs :p. With the sun gone behind the clouds the beach had also emptied out [no sunbathers] Played around waiting for the sunset…the cloud hid the sun just before it dipped into the ocean, but still it was beautiful. Came out sat for a bit & then took a shower to wash out all the sand…

”]The Sunset[Click to enlarge]

It was starting to feel cold with the wind picking up, so decided to go into the resort pool as it is a bit heated. Swam in the pool for another half an hour with aabhas, shivani & mama [mum pa & aastha were still at the beach].
All this swimming had made us all ravenous so reluctantly we had to go inside, shower, change & then go out for dinner. It took us 45 mins to find a place to eat! There was way too much traffic on the road….ppl walking were going faster than us :(. It seems during the day everyone is at the beach & during the night everybody is on the roads…Crawled our way across beach road, found nothing so turned onto another, Hutchison, which turned out to be exactly opposite. Zero traffic! But then it had nothing on it…Cruised around till mama spotted Applebees. The place was nice, & we had a good dinner. An added bonus was some really good music, almost all were my favourites.

By the end of our dinner, it was 11pm & we were all beat…Aabhas was literally asleep on his feet! Headed back to the resort & lay on the bed without even bothering to change. Was asleep soon 🙂

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Today [writing this on the 28th] plan to go parasailing & jetsking. Plus there is go carting & maybe even a bit of bowling.:D
Expect another post soon
Cheers

American Adventure:Seaworld

Seaworld Orlando:An experience that can only be felt, not described. Had a GREAT day. Saw things that one can only hope to see, dud stuff I would not have, learnt extraordinary things.

The day started off quite well with us getting on the road at the required time. Reached seaworld well ahead of schedule so we were in early [mama saved $300 using a coupon he had!]. Got ourselves the map, & set our course for ‘Manta’, the brand new ride that had been put up in the park [FYI:This is the first roller-coaster ride of my life] that shivani just had to go on.

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Having arrived early there was almost no waiting & the waiting area was a tunnel so that we could see the sea life. Got on the ride, strapped in & went horizontal[unlike other rides we were facing down with our backs parallel to the ground! We could see the drops drown to the ground. The theme was the Manta Ray & you are strapped to its belly]. Take off! With the first drop came the feeling of falling & scared the hell out of me, but once the rolls started it was superb! sitting gives you a sense of orientation, but with you face down, it is way weird! Tried to shout but the turns/twists/rolls kept knocking the air out of my lungs :)It was truly exhilarating & had a big adrenaline rush after the ride. Shivani, Mama, Papa & me were jazzed up to go again, but Mum, Mami, Aabhas & Aastha were kinnda in a petrified-shock! Put it off for later.Next on the list was the ‘Journey to Atlantis’.

After riding the Manta

After riding the Manta

It was pretty tame considering manta, but equally fun as you got to get wet! Mum & Papa sat in front & got soaked :D. It had three drops with a storyline of the lost city of Atlantis. Interestingly had zero wait time!
The last ride was the ‘ Kracken’ . It was the longest, lasting 3 mins though not as scary as Manta. Enjoyed it the most!! I was worried that my glasses would slip off during the ride & it almost did on the Manta! Had to close my eyes while plunging straight down, but they were open for the rest…though that did get me giddy:). I could not figure out where the cameras were located…so the pics came out real freaky. Shiavni & I wanted to go on again so that we could get a pic that looked good!

After the Kracken

After the Kracken

Sample Videos: Manta, Kracken [not mine, vids by others just to give you all an idea of what the ride was like :)…manta may look slow, but it runs around 90kmph,kracken at 100kmph].

We were done with the rides at around 10am. Shamu, the famous killer whale, had a show soon so we made our way to the ‘Shamu Stadium’ all the way across the park. The Shamu show is the most popular show at Seaworld, & runs for about 20 mins. And it was beautiful. With the new ‘Believe’ theme to raise awareness for nature, the show put on was simply wonderful.

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The trainers & the animals have a connection that you can feel sitting in the audience. It is humbling to see a tiny human & a huge whale work alongside in a pure combination of trust & love. Looking at the Orcas[scientific name] you feel that they are as intelligent as you, and they probably are. Shivani & me sat in the “splash zone” while the others went up. The sun was beating down hard by now and we were glad when the whale thumped its tail drenching us in the surprisingly cold[~13˚C] & salty water! This, coupled with the rides had already vasooled us the $80![watch:shamu underwater video]

The next 4.5hrs were spent going to a couple of other shows[the sealion show was very funny, with the caricature & all. The sealions were better actors than those we have in bollywood! Hilarious],DSC01942 having lunch & watching polar bears, dolphins,sharks, turtles etc. Went back to the resort around 4 to rest. It had gotten very HOT, with the sun shining down brightly & no wind at all :(. Had drunk loads of water only to have it sweated out. We were wearing our swimming trunks, that too was no helping in the heat. Having multiple entries, we decided to return when it was cooler, around 6. Went back to the resort & caught forty winks.
Were back at seaworld by 6:45, planning to ride the Manta & the Kracken again[only shivani & me, rest had chickened out :)] but the weather had become overcast & they shut down the rides due to the lightning. In the time we have been here in florida, the weather has gone freaky everyday, but in the afternoon making the evenings pleasant. Unfortunately, today it went exceptionally freaky & in the evening at that. This caused most of the things to shut down as it is park policy to bring close all open air sites with lightning within a 3 mile a radius of the park. This sort of threw our plans awry as we simply had to watch the famous ‘Shamu Rocks’ at the stadium & it was made of metal & only partially covered. As we started to make our way to the statdium, it started to pour, & I mean pour! Found shelter tried to wait out the storm, but it showed no signs of abating. Made the journey in spurts, walking as fast as we could when the rain slowed & hiding under when it intensified. It was a 15 min walk to the stadium & by the time we got there we were soaking wet. We almost didnt make with mami worrying that we would fall sick if we got wet. The stadium was not as full as usual, probably due to the storm, but it was good for us as we got good seats. Did not sit in the splash zone this time though :).
DSC01981Unlike the previous Shamu Show this was a Rock concert with Shamu & the trainers as the star dancers. The show was to start at 9, but one of the trainer said that they could perform only when the storm moved on & they would inform us in 15 mins. Thankfully everything went right & we were able to see the show. And what a show:FANTABULOUS!! It truly was a rocking show, with the lights, the music & the swift moves of both the whale & the trainers. DSC02004The whales sure did dance! Indescribable.Here are some videos instead:Vid 1 , Vid 2.
Loved Shamu’s both performances….even the videos dont do justice to them.

Next was a fireworks & lights show:Reflections. It lasted for almost 20 mins! The show was a delicate choreography of water fountains, lights, showers, fireworks & music. It was amazing to watch, have never seen this or anything like this, it was one of a kind. Have a small video, the dang battery ran out, so its pretty short, but you will get an idea. It was a perfect way to finish of an absolutely magnificent day. One day that will be a flag point throughout my life!

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Am putting up the pics that I have. Some really good ones are on mamas camera, but will be able to get them only when we return to rome…will make a different album of those & put them up separately. Enjoy, & feel free to comment!

American Adventure:Downtown Disney

Got up late…around 7. Found that mum was having a migrane, that put any plans we had on hold[had none anyway]. Lounged around the resort. I tried to relocate the yellow corvette I had seen the day before so that I could have a closer look & take a pic, unfortunately it seemed to have gone :(. Ate cereal for breakfast, so did the other ppl, tried to work out how to spend the day. After a bit of brain-storming[mostly by mama] it was decided that after lunch we could watch a movie at AMC, & spend the remaining time admiring the nearby places. Being located in Downtown Disney, there would definitely be stuff to see. Mama also found an interesting holiday package:visit Seaworld & you can visit Aquatica for free within a year if you are a resident of Georgia or Florida. That being settled, we had to decide upon a movie [PG]…narrowed it down to Up, Land of the Lost, Imagine That. Imagine That won with mami not liking animated movies[Up] & shivani’s friend telling her that LotL was a dud. So Imagine that it was.

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Mami cooked lunch, nothing fancy, just Aalu, dal, chawal…come to think of it was the regular stuff I ate in pune AALU! but better [yeah I know you may say how can you make aalu better, but well she did]. Had it around 1, showered, left by 2 & were there in 15 mins. Got the tickets of the 3pm show. Having 30 mins to spare, we tried to get on the hot air balloon, but that ride required 30 mins too, so had to dump it.
Went in the hall 10 mins early to catch the trailers…they ran for 30 mins! The movie was OK. Had some funny bit, some emo-moments & entertaining ones.
Came out at 5. Took a walk around the place, mostly shops themed around Disney cartoons. By now it was cloudy bringing down the temperature considerably, but the flip side was we could not take a ride on the hot air balloon, it being windy & stuff. But we had lots to see & loads of photos to take. Aastha & shivani went crazy, snapping the cameras/phones all over the places & me getting towed everywhere to take their pics!
It was all very slow, but we had nothing more to do so we took our time, wandered in & out of the shops, browsed through interesting things. Saw huge robots/dinos built of lego pieces, an irish pub, a brit fish ‘n’ chips, T-rex & a dance show.
Left DD to go to play minigolf/put-put near our resort. Used coupons supplied at the resort to get games for 2 ppl free!Played an 18 hole game & enjoyed it!
Took some time getting used to it, & the holes were smartly constructed. Mama won, with papa coming a close second. Had dinner just next to the minigolf thing at CiCi’s. Again used coupons to get 4 buffets free by paying for only 4!! The food was good for the price we paid…had a choice from a variety of pizzas, salads, pastas. Fully loaded returned to the resort by 9:30.
Not tired much & nothing compared to yesterday! NASA drained me completely, fell asleep the moment I hit the bed…dead tired. But it was worth it. Seeing NASA, its history, the technology. Was inspiring & intimidating all at the same time. Very informative & educational. Will put up a post describing the NASA trip when am free. Have to be up tomm. by 6 for seaworld.

Take care!

American Adventure:Florida Edition 1

If you have been reading my blog regularly, you’ll know that we were to leave for Florida on the 13th. You will also know that we were supposed to have left Rome by 6am. The first part was taken care of..but the second part was woefuly out of sync. Instead of 6, it was 8:30 by the time we left![many reasons:us packing late into the night & shivani returning late from ‘The Fray’ concert….she could’nt get the poster, so she got me the T-shirt instead. Thank you SHIVANU!!]
Had packed before on the 12th before going to sleep…2 pcs of luggage with our clothes, 4 backpacks with odds & ends, & 4 big bags of food/snacks & associated content[masalas,tea sugar, pressure cooker, nimki, bhujia..,you get the picture, right?]!! Thankfully, everything,JUST fit in the trunk. Took a whole bunch of pics throughout, the good ones are on mama’s camera & will try to upload them asap, but the ones with me are up on the album, link in the RHS under “US trip Links”. Left by 8:30. Stopped to get gas & some cappuccino for us all…I don’t know why but these rest-stop cappuccinos are always thick & yum! Chatted, goofed around with shivani, snacked, took pics [silly/funny/good ones]. Saw some great cars:many Mustangs, a couple of Corvettes & a Porsche 911 turbo.Had loaded up on DVDs & watched shivani’s ‘Take the Lead’ followed by ‘The Day The Earth Stood Still’. Had lunch around 2pm at IHOP[International House Of Pancakes]. Loved the three egg omelette filled with chicken with pancakes on the side! [eating complete different food here…fajitas, pancakes etc. & more to come :)]. Lunch took us an hour…slept for an hour or so once in the car….woke up to a strong rainstorm [heard later that there was a high alert for the storm] with the rain & wind making a huge din, reducing visiblity & increasing out ETA :(.
Finally made it to Orlando, Florida. Stopped at a mall to pick up some milk, eggs, bread, butter & water. In case you are wondering why we are picking up/packing cooking stuff that’s because the resort we are staying at [Sheraton Vistana Resort]
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is like a large housing colony with rooms that are like a 2 BHK’s[Bedroom Hall Kitchen set]. A resort with apartments[though they call it villas] you could say. Staying here for a week so must have groceries to cook breakfast/ snacks/ tea etc. Checked in, got our keys, free gift, coupons etc. & went to our ‘apartment’:1939.
It’s on the ground floor, with a lake as its ‘backyard’. It’s a sweet suite! Small & cosy, yet fun [with a jacuzzi in the bedroom!]svo5608gr-41256_ub.jpg.
Having food courts/gyms/swimming pools & loads of other activities within walking distance of 2mins…It’s gonna be fun!!
Moved in all the stuff into the apartment/villa & had tea[the kitchen if fully furnished, down to the microwave & dishwasher]. Aabhas & mama were going swimming, so we tagged along & took a small tour of our neighbourhood. Got back withing an hour, freshened up & left for dinner. Had planned to go to the pizza hut in the food court, but there was a long line & they didn’t have much choice in the pizzas & so we left for Uno.It was located out of the resort & Aabhas was the one to recommend it. Like the previous two times [at Chili’s & IHOP] I chose what mama likes at the respective places, here it was chicken milanese[roasted chicken breast, with salad & & garlic toast]. The servings were large & we ordered the food accordingly, & this time there was minimal waste of food [unlike chili’s!]. Place highly recommended….lots of stuff available[am staying off burgers & pizzas to try stuff you don’t get back in India] & everything we had was tasty.
After dinner [& a picture] we took a short drive around ‘Downtown Disney’ before returning to the resort. Everybody is now asleep except me…& no, no midnight coffee tonight!

Tomorrow we will leave for JFK Space Center, an hour long drive. This time no departure time has been set, so hoping we don’t get too late!!

More tommorrow..cheerio 😀

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PS:Check out my trip location/landmarks/routes etc on my google maps. You can also follow me on Twitter. All the links are available in the column on the right under “US trip Links”

American Adventure:Atlanta Daytrip

Had loads of stuff to do before 12:30pm today. Why? Mama had some meeting in Atlanta, so we decided to join him for the trip to have a look around. We were to leave for Atlanta around 12:30.No morning walk today…instead I went cycling for 3 miles…felt good, ridden a cylce after a LONG time :). Got back, mum oiled my hair [dandruff??] & we packed for the weeklong trip to florida, beginning tomorrow. Shivani was going to a concert [The Fray were performing in Atlanta] with her friends & her iTunes library would not sync with her iPhone…fixed that to stop her from fretting to kingdom come. Had to take Buddy & drop him off to his doggy hostel, for the time we would be in florida. Showered, got dressed & pestered Shivani to shower quickly [she was the one who knew the location of the hostel, or so I thought!]. Left with Jason, got lost, kept looking for a florist found it & soon located the neighboring doggy hostel. Dropped buddy along with a week load of food etc., rushed back, stuffed backpack with snack & water for Atlanta & heated a ‘Lean Cuisine’ Pizza for brunch.
Mama pulled in the driveway with me just gulping down the last bite. Wished everybody goodbye, reminded Shivani to get me some stuff from the concert & were off.

It was a hour long ride, mama dropped us off at a mall, whose name I can’t place now…we or rather mum & Aastha went snail pace shopping while Papa & I scouted the whole mall in an hour & a half[Trust me, it was BIG]. Spent 3 hrs. in & around before mama called to say that he was done. Joined us soon & we had ice-creams before heading back. Aastha got some clothes, a pair of her dream brand sunglasses [those huge ‘bumblebee’ ones! Hate them!! *yuck*]. Mama got me an iDesign Cube Clock…verryy cool & slick :), I was looking for a laptop sleeve but they had only the 15.4″ ones, not 13.3″, mama said he would take us to an electronic store & I could get the sleeve there. Mentioned the thing about an external HD, to which he replied that he already had a 320GB one at home!
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[Though I was planning to get a 400GB one, I am not one to look a gift in the horse’s mouth! 320~400 anyway :p]
Reached rome at around 6 & played with the HD[3 partitions:Mac, Time Machine & Windows/NTFS. Fiddled around with time machine till I finally had it down pat. Convenient & classy]. Set up the car headphones/remote so that we could watch movies on the car DVD player…afterall it would be a 7hr drive :(. Checked to see that everything played on all the screens & the headphones. Helped mami to pack food stuff esp. Indian stuff [masalas,daals…going to make khichdi there :p. Obviously, not ON the beach!!!] Had dinner two hrs. ago, now having piping hot cappuccino & finishing this.

Have to get up by 5…the plan is to leave here by 6. How fruitful it will be? Hah! Unlikely :). Anyway must atleast give it a shot. So off to sleep.

Good Night 😀

American Adventure:day to day happenings

7th June:
Gotup early…the excitement of a new place does that to me!. Sat outside admiring the quiet morning.Had a nice hot shower & mum fixed me some breakfast.

Panorama view using my phone

Panorama view using my phone

Sat on the deck chatting with Mama Mami. Its a nice place to sit, having trees in front of you & the chirping of birds…feels like you are in a cabin up in the hills[took this photo on my phone using the panorama option, the view was circluar but appears flat in the pic, that’s why the dark line. 3D to 2D conversion problem :(].Serene.
Mama went to check up on his patients while mami prepared lunch. Watched Federer beat Soderling to conquer the final frontier:French Open. One tennis match I watched throughout…& the guy deserved it.Went shopping after lunch ,visited a couple of stores in the local mall. Like everything else, malls of the US are way more huge than the malls in India. The girls went for their drawn out browsing/shopping & we, the guys were done in half an hour. T-shirts & shorts were on ‘buy 1 get 1 free’ offer so ended up buying 3 tees & shorts. Now have something breezy to wear in Florida![Had brought only shirts & jeans…my shorts & tees are either all torn or way past their useful life] Came back feeling drowsy & slept for 3 hrs straight waking up at 8:30pm.
Mama had ordered pizza from Dominos for dinner. Was almost the same except the thin crust was better. The chicken wings were spicy!! Stayed up chatting quite late…Finally everybody was off to sleep but me thanks to my 3 hrs. Stayed up surfing the net & listening to songs. Sleep overtook me around 2am……..Zzz

The living room

The living room

Buddy Singh!

Buddy Singh!

8th June:

Woke up late today…around 9. Mama Mami already out for work. Set myself up with breakfast of cereals with fruits. Started poking around the house, discovering weird/amazing things.

-2 kitchens:1 on the mainlevel, 1 below [a ‘basement’ if you will]-
Switches are inverted! In India to turn anything off, you press on the upper part of the switch, here you press on the lower part. Can’t get the hang of it!!
-Number of tellys:HD one in the living room, one in mama’s room, two upstairs & a home theatre in the ‘basement’
-Lightning Internet Speeds!
In-home gym
-Love the central cooling!! No sweating anytime now :D`
-Buddy wearing a collar that says “Buddy Singh” & that keeps him in check, preventing him from leaving the property.
-At 8:30pm it seems as if it cannot be later than 5pm. The sun is out for a LONG time & darkness comes up suddenly, as it is night by 9:15!

Played TT with papa for almost an hour, sweating profusely had a cold shower. Spent most of the watching TV playing with aabhas & shivani. The day was a pretty relaxed one.

9th June:
Mum woke me at 6am to accompany her & papa for an hour long morning walk. Were out by 6:40, after having a cup of tea with mama mami, buddy too  came with us! The walk was truly spectacular. We made a partial circuit around the golf course & the early morning light was wonderful. The hilly landscape, the lake, the trees & the awesome weather added to the charm making it one of the best morning walks.

DSC00021DSC00045Came back in 1.5hrs[had taken my camera & the photography slowed us down!]. Took a 20 min massage on mama’s massage chair. Ultra relaxing!. The motion on the back & feet the almost finger like, hitting all the correct points. Soreness & tiredness buh-bye! Too bad it costs way too much 😦 around $3600, or mum would have definitely bought it!!

Made breakfast for everybody minus Aabhas [he was out with mama]:5 chicken burgers…took around an hour with the defrosting & frying of the chicken patties, heating of the buns+cheese & layering the burger with salad+mayo+patties+salad+ketchup+cheese. Tasted scrumptious & I was damn proud! Spent most of the day helping aastha with her project [shivani did more work than aastha, she definitely deserves a mention in the acknowledgement!].For lunch we had leftovers:Shrimp/panner/chicken & watched KHNH on the telly till mama came back [with aabhas] followed by mami. Spent time with them & decided to have dinner outside, to save a very tired mami the hassle of cooking. Went to Chili’s & had a well spread selection of fajitas, Southwetsern eggrolls, nachos, & loads of other stuff [en

ded up wasting most…the servings were WAY too large!].The dessert was full paisa vasool:Molten Chocolate Cake:Jhakaas!:D Came home, watched the telly & had to sleep by 11:30…eyelids refused to stay open!

10th June:
Morning walk:Today we took a different route. It wasn’t as scenic but was good enough. Did not let mum take buddy, even though she was quite adamant. How is a little dog such as a japanese chin supposed to walk 3kms? With its stature & our pace the walk becomes more of a jog! Hence decided that Buddy will come with us on alternate days. After the walk it was massage time :D.

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Did extensive google map scouting in & around mama’s house. Plan to cycle around tomorrow instead of the walk. Fixed lunch for everybody minus Aabhas [he was at the driving school]. The cooking took around an hour again, the clearing, cleaning & setting up the dishwasher took another hour. Played pool in the basement till the guys had to go to the Dollar Store to do some shopping. With Jason driving, there wasn’t enough space, so Aabhas & I stayed behind [good enough for me!].

rainy day

rainy day

It had started to rain & it was looking so beautiful that I simply had to go upstairs,open the window & sit on the sofa to enjoy the weather.

Helped shivani make cookies when everybody returned…turned out pretty good! Played tennis with Aabhas & Shivani on the xbox till dinner time. Dinner had 2 subzis that the ‘roti-lady’ had cooked along with daal, ‘chicken bhurji’ & parathas. After dinner headed off to Walmart to get some things…mostly food/groceries. Got myself a pair of T-shirts…the one with weird quotes on them [always wanted one of these!]. By the time we got back, it was around 10:30pm & all were very sleepy, had to complete this post so made myself some coffee

[my midnight coffee!!] & this time it is the proper ‘coffee’.None of the instant ‘Nescaf’ stuff, proper strained coffee from beans using a proper coffee maker! With the help of a running ipod & a mug of steaming coffee, this post is now complete!

Coffee maker

Coffee maker

Guten Nacht!! [ironic:ipod playing Have a Nice Day:-Bon Jovi :D]

American Adventure:The Journey Concludes

[American Adventure:Part 1Part 2]

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We are here!! 23 hrs of cramped seats, ear poppings & constant noise later we are here. And it seems to have been worth it.

The Crappy Part:Getting here
I knew it was a long journey & was humoring myself that it would be an easy one, with my pune-lucknow-28hrs-travel-experience & all. But it was uncomfortable. Left for IGI by 9:10pm…got there by 9:40. Had 8 bags & checked them in quickly [thanks to the uncle who helped us to get it done qiuickly], went through passport check as well as the security check without any hassles, pokes or prods 🙂

Had to wait until 12:30 till boarding began, [flying on KLM]we were in the air by 1:40am[all times are w.r.t IST]. I had the window seat & papa was across the aisle[ Our seats were 18G,H,J,K…funny thing:No ‘I’ between ‘H’ & ‘K’!!]. One redeeming feature of the arduous flight is that they have the new planes with the mini-tv’s in headrest’s rear. Once that was turned on I was in heaven! [pun intended:)]. It had movies, TV shows & music. Had to make a whole list of what to watch…spoilt for choice.
Saw the foll. movies & TV shows, in between dozing off, listening to the radio or ipod, taking pics, & eating [:)].

  • The International
  • Valkyrie
  • Watchmen
  • Yes Man
  • He’s just not that into you
  • FRIENDS [again :)]
  • Scrubs
  • 30 Rock
  • Grey’s Anatomy
  • Numb3rs
  • House
interesting stats

interesting stats

over moscow

over moscow

Distance in perspective

Distance in perspective

Over Amsterdam

Over Amsterdam

Dawn in the sky

Dawn in the sky

Arrived at Amsterdam [Schipohl Airport] at around 9:20am IST [6am local]. Got down & freshened up[European loos rock! & by that I mean they are clean :)]. An Indian looking girl with a weird accent came up & asked me for some money to make calls to her parents, unfortunately we weren’t carrying any euros & none of our phones work in Amsterdam…

The connecting flight to Atlanta wasn’t until 1:30pm [10:20 local], so we whiled away the time roaming about the huge airport

on the horizontal escalator at Schipohl,Amsterdam

on the horizontal escalator thingie at Schipohl,Amsterdam

[our Indian airports are nothing compared to it…we had to use the horizontal escalators/conveyrs to take us from part to the other!]. Since we did not have the Schengen visa, could not go out of the airport. Had some breakfast:3 Croissants, 1 Hot chocolate[have to drink the american coffee to see the difference between freshly grounded beans & our instant Nescafe!

Breakfast@Rs.720!

Breakfast@Rs.720!

Plus I have to taste to believe the so called caffiene ‘kick’], 1 tea [costing €12 i.e Rs.720! *winces* ] & lay down to stretch out or bodies [the plane seats are damn cramped. No width or legspace 😦 ]. Half an hour later started our ambling about again, the duty free shops, electronic stores [handled the Aluminum MB & drooled :D], bookstores etc. making our way to gate F3 where we were to board KL 0621 for Atlanta.

Wings of fire

Wings of fire

After the long que past the security check we boarded. This time all our seats were together in the center 21-D,E,F,G but somehow we ended up sitting in row 20! Papa noticed the mistake about 15 mins into the flight but thankfully nobody asked us to change…would have been so embarrassing!

This was the worst part of the journey. A second flight of over 10 hrs. & the excitement of getting to our destination doubled the frustation. Time seemed to pass so ssslllllooowwwllly! Same routine as in the previous flight:Movie, food & sleep. This time we had to fill in the custom & immigration forms as they are required in the US. Finally landed in Atlanta around 11:10pm [1:45pm local,6.6.09,saturday]. Home free!!

The Good Part:
Mum, having been here many times took it upon her to herd us, though why she was running I had no idea!. Customs & immigration were a breeze, while baggage claim was unnecessarily time consuming & convoluted. We collected our bags after the custom/immig. from the conveyer belt[8 HUGE bags…other passengers were staring with wide eyes & open mouths! One woman asked mum if we were moving here :D], loaded them on the trolley, & rolled them to another conveyer belt. Loaded the luggage onto it & then went for a security check. Was pretty thorough, this one. Had to remove all electronic gadgets, belts, jackets & shoes. We went down an escalator then up another to finally board the APM[Automated People Mover] to get to the exit of the airport. Here there was another conveyer belt that brought our luggage…after a wait of 30 mins 😦 [why the double work? Why cant you just bring the directly here, instead of asking us to pick it up inbetween?] Here the luggage carts were pay to use, so papa who was excited to try out his credit cards internationally, got his chance!

We saw Aabhas first followed by Jason, Rachel & the former little, but now not-so-little Shivani [she is getting taller than me! not that I am tal, but still!]. Finally saw Amar Mama, greeted him & gave him a big hug! Due to the large number of bags mama had to bring 2 cars, one he drive, Jason & Rachel were in the other. Loaded up & left for Rome[Rome of Italy is has seven hills & three rivers around it. So does this place, hence the name too], a 2hr drive from Atlanta. The drive was great, being in the company of family & driving through a beautiful place in a fantastic car[Hemant would have liked the car!]!

Reached home around 4:30 to finally meet dear Mami, making the reunion complete :). An addition to the household is now Buddy,a Japanese Chin, a super funny & cute dog[though it was some time before I stopped calling it Jelly & started calling it Buddy :)]. The first thing we did was to take a tour of the house. And what a house it is!! Beautiful & comfortable, blending regal with futuristic. Absolute fantastic.

Beautiful Home

Beautiful Home

The neighbourhood was the crowning glory. Located within a former forest, Berry Forest, it is surrounded by pine tree. There is a golf course behind the house adding to the greenery. No walls or fences, just a change in the colour of the grass to mark property limits, tall trees with birds nesting in them & NO noise. No vehicles, ppl shouting, dogs barking or anything. Feels like a resort at a remote hill station. Perfect spot for a vacation. Give it 20 on 10!
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Chatted away for an hour, then sat down for Lunch/Dinner. Had Shrimp, Chicken, Paneer:Scrumptious! had a bath & drank a BIG mug of tea :). FInally went to sleep at around 12, almost countering the jet lag.

Random Notes:
-The shops at the IGI were way overpriced! 1 glass of soup for Rs.90, 2 Samosas for Rs.160!!
-Aastha dropped her boarding pass in Amsterdam & mum dropped her passport in Atlanta. Thankfully the other passengers attracted their attention in time!
-Weather is super nice here. Not hot or cold…just right.

FOR ALL PICS CLICK ON “AMERICAN ADVENTURE” IN THE BLOGROLL COLOUMN, ON THE LEFT

American Adventure:The Journey

Bags are packed. Everybody is ready & just waiting for me to finish this & then we’ll be gone. Have to be at IGIA by 9:30pm.

Route & timings:
ND[1 am]->Amsterdam [5:50am local time] .
Departure from Amsterdam at 10:30am [local time]…meaning 4hrs of aimless wandering inside the terminal at Amsterdam *BORING*. Amsterdam[10:30am]->Atlanta[1:40 pm local time]
[Amsterdam is 3.5 hrs behind ISt & Atlanta is 9.5 hrs behind IST].
The whole journey will take 23hrs[should be in Atlanta by 11:10pm, 6th June by your watches]….a piece of cake for me considering it takes 26-30hrs to get from Pune to Lucknow!!
Since we are heading west, we will be gaining a day.

The next time I put up a post it will be from the US, unless of course I get an open wifi connection at Amsterdam.
See you all soon!

American Adventure:Prelude

This is the first of many entries that will encompass my month long vacation to the US, visiting family [specifically:Mamaji!…if you don’t get it, no worries. It’s an inside joke with my roomies!]

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Finished with my exams had to rush home to finish with my packing. Had approx. 2hrs. to wrap everything before I left for the station. Planned to reach early so that I could stash the hulking piece of luggage that I was carting around.
But I am getting ahead of myself.

Put clothes, shoes, kit, in the BIG bag. Plugged in the Mac for charging & plugged the iPod into the Mac. Though my phone was almost fully charged, plugged in that too. Had to collect all my clothes lying around the flat, hanging on the clothesline, sort them & put it in the cupboard or bags as required. Since I would be back after a long time, had to put stuff away to protect from dust & prying eyes.

Looking at the clock-3:20pm. ETD-1 hr[ETD as in Estimated Time of Departure…self derived from ETA :)]

Surveying the mess, I saw my travel sandals covered in dust, washed it quickly & set it to dry. This reminded me that I had to wash my nike shorts also, did that too & hung it to dry along with a prayer [for a quick dry :)]

Had a bath & got dressed. Set up my backpack: Put in the MB, iPod, my 3 standard pair of headphones[yup, 3-Sony’s noise cancellation,default white iPod buds & Creative HQ-80], book[The Appeal:John Grisham] etc. Put the cables & chargers in the BIG bag [though I don’t know useful they will be in the US, considering the different ratings used there. But since I will be needing them in Delhi had to pack them]. Zipped up. Gave a mental rundown of anything I had forgotton, crosschecking it with the written list I had. All Done. Gave the flat a look over, put away some of the important things in the cupboard.

Final check:
Ticket:Yes
Wallet:Yes
Phone:Yes

Locked up & ready to leave. Pressed the lift call button & as usual, it was out of order. Carried the BIG bag down three floors & hailed a rickshawallah. Got in & got on the road. Time Check-4:20pm…on the dot 🙂

Reached the station at 4:45 paid the auto guy Rs.75 [the guy was honest, & I did not have to haggle]. Its a good thing Pune station has ramps all over because carrying it all over would have been a b*tch :(. Asked a passing coolie “Boss, pushpak kis number pe aaegi? ” The guy gave me a quizzical look & walked away without answering. It took me a moment to realise that I had said pushpak insead of jhelum ! Anyway found the train & hoped in the first AC 2 compartment I saw, headed to my berth, no.19. Was dismayed to find that the whole block was full, with zero space for luggage anywhere. Started to argue when the guy pulled out his ticket & said that his berth was 19. Opened my mouth to say something, but then my dimaag ki batti went ON [without any help from mentos or any other associated mouthfreshner!]. This was 19 of A1, I was in 19 of A2! Proffering my apologies & feeling embarrassed [one advantage of being dark or saavla is that you can’t see me go red when embarrassed :)] Went into the right compartment & thankfully this 19 had loads of space to put my BIG bag. Stuffed the dang thing under the seat & heaved a sigh of relief.

My co-passengers constituted of an uncle, his son & a girl. They were cool, we chatted throughout, making this journey way better than my previous one! Tina got down at Gwalior at around 4:15pm the next day. The train finally reached H.Nizaamuddin at 9:30pm & I was at UP Sadan by 10, having palak paneer 🙂 [I had nothing except a packet of Goodday biscuits & kurkure+water during the 28 hr journey …BTW check out the label on the bottle!!
dsc00908.jpg
URIA:that’s what I read initially, till i figured it to be URJA 😀 ]
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Had been watching LOST Season 1, till I remembered that I too was going to be traveling on an international flight across the world…watching a plane crash on an abandoned/alien island definitely not a good idea before a 16hr flight.

Watching ’13′[of House MD fame] get punk’d! Hahaa that was fun! *yawn* time to sleep[though I wish I could have a warm glass of milk]…mum, pa & aastha arriving here at around 9.

Keep an eye out for more entries.
[Links to pictures etc. in the  blogroll on the right hand coloumn]

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