Thursday, June 21, 2012

East-Coast chronicles

Its been more than a week since I slept in my own bed that last night I felt my bed say to me "Welcome back sweetheart" :) A week long conference took Vijay and I to Boston. Since we were traveling all the way to the east coast, we decided to wing it and visit New York city for the weekend.
Boston, the largest city in New England, is full of history. Founded in 1630, it was the location of some major events during the American Revolution, including the Boston Massacre and the Boston Tea Party.


 Although Boston boasts of a well connected Subway/Train system (they call it the T), walking around the city is a lot of fun. And boy did we walk! All our vacations seem to always include a walk-a-thon! We landed in Boston on the morning of 11th at 7.30, reached the Boston Sheraton hotel at 8.30. Since check-in wasn't until later that day at 3 PM, we had some time to kill. As people check out at around 12 PM, usually most hotels let you have the room at 12 or so even though check in is at 3. That's what we expected here as well. We were told by the receptionist that she would call if a room frees up early. Since Vijay had some last minute work to do on his poster, after a quick breakfast, we headed back to the hotel. There was yet another conference called Sleep 2012 happening at the Sheraton. Everyone around us seemed to be carrying a Sleep 2012 bag with them.

I was so zonked from lack of sleep that as we sat down in the lobby, I was out. So there I was with my mouth wide open in the lobby of the hotel sleeping like I hadnt slept in years. We saw a number of people checking out when we were sitting in the lobby, so the first thought that came to our mind was that atleast one room must be available. During my forty winks, Vijay asked them atleast 3 times if our room was ready. The reply was as you know, not very pleasant. The "Sleep" people would surely have found an interesting subject in me! We headed out again for lunch and a little bit of sightseeing. The viewing gallery on top of the Prudential Tower was a treat! One can see the whole of Boston from 50 floors above the ground. Finally after a lot of waiting, we got our room at 3.45 PM. After a quick shower, we headed out to see the First Church of the Christ Scientist, walked along the chic Newbury street (lined with boutiques and eateries) and had delicious crepes at a quaint little crepery.

Since Vijay was busy at his conference, I had to entertain myself. Vijay's uncle & aunt came to my rescue. They took me to the Museum of Fine Arts and showed me around the city. They also gave me their museum pass to attend a "Drawing at the Gallery" session; which was a lot of fun. A bunch of people gather to draw/sketch from life. It was different for me since I haven't really done a lot of sketching, but it was a learning experience nevertheless. One of the things we found amusing as well as quite enjoyable was the Duck tour. They are sort of like open top buses which show you around the city, except that its not a bus, its a duck :) The interesting part is that they travel on land as well as on water. So the first half hour or so we were driving along the roads of Boston, the second half of it was on water - on the Charles river! It was a lot of fun.


We spent the weekend in New York City. NYC has a vibe to it that no other city has. Its always bustling with wide variety of people. Its one of the few cities where one can travel safely by train/bus in the middle of the night. We did whatever sight-seeing we could in 2 days. All the walking aside, the places we saw were memorable. Times Square, The Empire State building, Central Park, Brooklyn Bridge, Wall Street, The Statue of Liberty - I've seen these only in the movies. It was so exciting to  see them up close.


In all, I enjoyed my trip to the east coast. I made new friends and saw a lot of interesting sights. I also realized that NYC is infectious. Makes me wanna leave the confines of sweet old Mountain View for the Big Apple :)

Sunday, March 25, 2012


Friday, March 02, 2012

Along the Potomac...

Work and an extended weekend took Vijay and me to Washington DC. Well, it was a workshop that he had to attend. I was just there to chill and see the sights :D
The workshop was slated for the whole of Monday and half of Tuesday, so we decided to take the red eye on Friday and check out the place over the weekend. During the ride from Dulles airport to our hotel in Arlington, we saw snow flurries. It was quite windy and cold, but I realized that that's as close to seeing snow as I will get this winter. Nevertheless it was nice to see my first "snowfall".

The Metro system in DC is so well connected that we decided that renting a car would be more of a hassle than anything else. On checking into a bed and breakfast in Arlington, we took the metro into Washington to do our first bit of sight-seeing. Having heard so much about the Smithsonian, our first stop was the Air and Space Museum. We caught two shows there, Hubble 3D at the IMax theatre and one called Infinity Express at the Einstein planetarium. Both the shows were quite engrossing, although, due to lack of sleep, I dozed off a couple of times. The most fun we had was at the flight simulator exhibit. Vijay was the pilot and I was the gunner. The objective is to gun down as many enemy planes as possible. We managed to gun down one plane :P Of course, if my *ahem* co-pilot had been a little more careful in steering the plane properly (and not crashed into water 3 times!), I would have gunned down more planes :) It was awesome fun anyway.

All museums close at 5.30 PM, so by early evening, we were out. It had got much colder during the day and the wind was picking up. Having never experienced such cold weather (it was close to 0 deg C), I started feeling sick. Also, we didn't want to get caught outside without transportation in case the wind became too hard to handle. Back at the hotel, we caught up on some much needed sleep, to get ready for the next day. The forecast for Sunday seemed a little more manageable; the temperature had gone up a few notches and wasn't as windy. So far so good. After checking out of the B&B, we headed to Fairmont Hotel in downtown Washington. Vijay's workshop was being held at the same hotel.

The National Mall is a large area starting at the Lincoln memorial, right up to the United States Capitol. Our objective was to see the White House, all the memorials, the Washington monument and whatever else that was possible. Our first stop was the White House. Even though you cant really see it up close, it was quite an experience peering thru the fence and trying to see if one can see some kind of activity inside the Oval office :D

One gazillion pics later, we headed over to the World War II memorial, dedicated to those who served in the armed forces as civilians. It consists of 56 pillars, one for each of the 50 states and the 6 territories. My feet were killing me, but we had barely started. The Lincoln Memorial can be accessed through the WWII memorial, but since there was some construction happening near the famous reflecting pool, it was closed for visitors. We had to walk around the huge pool to see the famous statue of Mr.Abraham Lincoln sitting on a majestic throne-like chair. Since it was a Sunday, there was quiet a crowd in all these places; filled with foreigners as well as locals. If only the reflecting pool was open, we would have tried to take a picture like the one in the movie Forrest Gump :) Although, we did take a picture of the monument's reflection on the Potomac river!

Next, we walked to the Martin Luther King Memorial, Theodore Roosevelt Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial and finally the Washington Monument. In all, I think we walked about 10 miles that day!! I was dead tired. Back at the hotel, after a vegetarian Mexican Gumbo and a cup of frozen yogurt, I was out like a light.

The next day Vijay was off to his workshop at 7.30 AM. I, in turn, was too tired to wake up. Finally when I did wake up, I decided that it was foolish of me to spend the day indoors when there were still so many things to see in DC. After a quick shower, I headed out to see the Museum of Natural History. I had to take the Metro to the museum, so in my quest to find the station (we had been going to the same station to for 2 days now), I ventured out in what I hoped was the right direction. After walking for about 20 mins in the wrong direction, I got hungry. I hadn't eaten breakfast or lunch. So I stopped at a bagel place and asked the guy at the counter for directions. He was quite friendly and told me the exact route I needed to take. Sight-seeing alone is quite a bore. But I had an entire day to kill. So after the tour of the Natural history museum, I entered the Freer Gallery, where I spent a good hour. On my way back home, I lost my way again, but got back on track soon enough.
That night, we dined at this nice little Ethiopian place called Das. Ethiopian cuisine is quite similar to Indian. We feasted on a dish called Injera. Its a dosa type dish with a bunch of curries on the side. The veg platter that we ordered included a dal, red lentil gravy, collard greens, cauliflower-carrot-beans curry & a cabbage-carrot curry. The food was light, healthy and tasty.

On Tuesday, after Vijay got back from the workshop, we headed to the United States Capitol for a tour. It houses the Senate and the House of Representatives. Architecturally, it was one of the most beautiful buildings I had seen in DC.

Finally it was time to leave the Capitol as well as the capital city. In all, this was a trip that was worth the jet-lag and the sore feet.