Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Memorable Memorial Day at Boston

After this kind of trip, the long weekend of Memorial day was to be spent relaxing – and boy, were we relaxed at the end of the long weekend!

If the last trip was ‘heights of planning’ where we planned almost every half day, this trip was one of spontaneity and uncertainty. I had booked tickets to Boston probably a month before the long weekend, while S and Sre dropped out of the long weekend plans due to unavoidable circumstances. The long weekend was vague at the start of every day, not knowing what to do in the next 6 hrs but slowly and surely gaining momentum as the day progressed – it was ‘living in the present’ taken to the extreme. It was fantastic fun – did many things that I never thought I would do, talked about so many topics that I lost count and spent time talking (actually, talking and talking and talking) to one of my best friends for the best part of 4 days.

I landed in Boston on Friday at P’s place. Work-from-home was the order of the day. Little work done and lot of time spent sleeping; it was work-from-home at its best. P and I have been going through quite a busy schedule on the professional front and we decided to explicitly not make this trip strenuous. We decided to put up at Boston itself and roam around to see what we could do best. I met one of P’s friends, T – a very interesting chap and became a very good friend of mine in a short period of time. Friday passed without a whimper but loads of discussion, points and counter-points on infinite topics ranging from physics to engineering to religion and politics (and the discussions continued pretty much for the next 4 days).

As I said, the unspoken theme of the trip was ‘living in the present’. Saturday, we suddenly out-of-the-blue decided, we had to do rafting and if possible, sky-diving. And for this, we had to drive down to Maine since the places near Boston to do such activities were booked for the long weekend. Maine, they say is a very beautiful state in the US, but it was a 5 hr drive from Boston. We decided to ditch Maine. Instead, T played a movie at his place ‘Dan in real life’, which probably would go down as one of the most illogical and insane romantic stories I have ever watched till date. T and P were intensely grossed in the movie, seemingly taken in by the emotions and feelings of the different characters. For me, it was a movie whose only goal was to attain unsurpassed stupidity. We subsequently embarked on our tour of Boston downtown where we took long walks on different bridges and had dinner at the Quincy center (if you are by any chance at the Quincy center, do not have Japanese veg food – ‘pathetic’ is probably a praise for the food. It was rice and tomato ketchup that we had, along with some fried cabbage!) Boston downtown is beautiful at night, especially with the reflection of its skyline on the Charles River. Traffic and noise level were down to a minimum and it was time well spent in the midst of all the chatter and banter.

Sunday was the day of glorious uncertainties. As was the case, we woke up with nothing to do. We suddenly hit upon the idea of playing Golf on a hot Sunday afternoon. The idea sounded exciting, but there was one problem. We didn’t even know the G of Golf. I, for one have never watched nor tried to understood the seemingly boring game of Golf. As Mark Twain said, ‘Golf is a good walk spoiled’. I had agreed to that statement, before I stepped onto the Golf course. We called into one of the beginners Golf courses and learnt the terminology of Golf clubs, balls, tees and pars. The perception that Golf was a costly game was broken when we rented Golf clubs and played a 9-hole course for just $17. With a few important pointers from a good samaritan, we started on our Golf journey which was thoroughly refreshing and exciting although we were playing in 80F heat. I and P matched shot for shot and we got a score of 54, which on a 9-hole course is not bad at all by some standards for absolute beginners. We subsequently proceeded to a Chinese restaurant, had our lunch and decided to go karting. As was the case again, the plan was dropped in favor of another game of golf, this time at a more challenging course (yes, we are totally over-confident 😛 ) We played another 9-hole till it got dark, and in the process lost 10 balls and our stamina. It is a tiring game if you have to walk for around 5 miles in the hot sun, learn the game and shoot the ball into a hole (sounds too much of work, but believe me, its an experience to cherish). To round off another day, we watched ‘What Women Want’ and needless to say, Helen Hunt made my day 😉 (yes, better than the golf 😛 )

The final day of the trip was no different and this time we decided to proceed to the Hopkinton State Park to do kayaking. Hopkinton State Park was about 20 minutes from P’s place. It was a beautiful drive and the Park was slightly crowded. The lake in the Park was vast and there was a strong wind blowing. (I digress, but there were a group of Mexicans and Puerto Ricans who had come along to Kayak in their little-little dresses. My friend said ‘Oh boy! Aren’t they hot? I replied, ‘Not just hot, they are sluuuurrppp, sluuuurpppp hot’ 😀 ) Kayaking in the face of strong winds and quirky changing currents was a lot of fun and 3 miles of kayaking had drained us out totally. We went back home and just crashed for 2 hrs. We subsequently proceeded to the Harvard square where we visited the famed Harvard university (which included visiting the Harvard Arts and Science center and Harvard Business school, and touching the toe of John Harvard (which sounded silly to me, considering American traditions!)). P owed me a drink (not really owed, but yeah, I would take pride in calling it that!) and he took us to this place called ‘Top of the Hub’ in the evening. ‘Top of the Hub’ is a bar and restaurant, on the 52nd floor in Prudential towers, essentially overlooking entire Boston. It was a breathtaking sight at night and a good Italian dinner of Sphagetti and Lasagna made our day.

I had to take leave very early the next day and P and I had little time to say goodbyes. I, for one, enjoyed the trip so thoroughly amidst all the chaos of ‘what to do’ every morning. It was relaxing yet exciting. P was, is and will be an enjoyable company always. The highlight however was meeting T, who was funny, talkative and great company. I do hope he would be a part of many more trips that I and P would be a part of. The long weekend of Memorial day was indeed very memorable.


Christmas in Florida!


One of the best things to happen in life is to see the one of the best places on earth with the best of your friends.

It all started with a chance conversation between P and me. How about Orlando during holidays? Oh, yes…sure! Why don’t we cover Miami too? Why not? Oh, by the way, Key West (southernmost point of USA) is not too far. Of course, we should cover that too. And so it began – a journey of 4 friends across 900 miles which included loads of fun, hearty back-slapping and leg-pulling pooled with lots of adventure.

After 10s of conversations about the plan (we had to squeeze the entire plan of visiting 3 cities comprehensively in 4 days), flight tickets, accommodation, places to visit, things to do – we were still not done with our iterations even after we met at Orlando International Airport on 21st night. P flew in from Boston, S from Detroit, Sre from NJ and yours truly from Richmond. It was a holiday we had all looked forward to very eagerly for the past one month – and the excitement was visible in each of our faces. Tired from our respective journeys, yet the curiosity and anticipation of the next 4 days was palpable.

We had decided to drive from Orlando to Miami that night to beat the holiday traffic. It was one straight boring road and barring one incident (where we were almost hit by a vehicle speeding at 140mph) – the journey was rather uneventful, what with each of us catching up on stuff and general banter. But entering Miami overwhelmed us. A place of million dollar homes and billion dollar deals – it looked and felt exactly like that. We drove around the downtown which was beautiful and courtesy our GPS, instead of the hotel – we drove to the Airport gate. Thoroughly frustrated, we finally found our hotel only to find that the room had only 1 bed instead of two. We hardly had any sleep that day and early next morning, we started off for Key West.

The drive from Miami to Key West can only be described as awesome. For most part of the journey, the road is built on the ocean – which essentially meant that the ocean was on both sides of the road – which made for a breathtaking sight. Superlatives flowed from each one at this particular marvel – and many infinite photographs and banter later, we reached Key West only to find that accommodation was in a smoking room – and we were all non-smokers. Cursing our luck on accommodation was of no avail – so much for our thorough planning on accomodation 😦 .

Key West probably was the most interesting part of of journey. Key West is essentially theSunset southernmost point of the US – only 90 miles from Cuba. The houses, electricity (wires hanging around), compound walls, décor reflected a heavy Mexican culture rather than the influence of the US. There were short winding roads, people hanging out on the streets, road signs not clearly visible, very warm and affectionate people – coupled with the above facts reminded us of India. The Sunset Cruise on the peaceful Atlantic was brilliant (I digress, but most of the sunset cruises I have been on have been awesome – Mumbai, London and this one – each one will be cherished for a long time to come). You are just so much at peace with yourself, people around you and nature – forgetting about time, work and other pressures in life seems all too natural.

The next day, we did a couple of very interesting things – Snorkeling and Parasailing. Snorkeling is akin to the little brotherParasailing of Scuba diving. You get into the ocean, not very deep and without oxygen tanks around your back (which you do in scuba diving) but with a pipe in your mouth through which you breathe air. Key West is supposedly the third largest coral reef in the world after the Great Barrier Reef and the one at Bali, Thailand. After the initial struggle with breathing with our mouths, the experience of seeing corals and fish of different variety, colors, shapes and sizes was exhilarating. The shapeless jelly fish (of which P should have a wonderful memory of – it caused a burning rash all over his right shoulder), the long bluish purple coral, three types of fish co-existing under the same coral, creatures of variegated colors – it was one of the few sights that can only be experienced and not explained. When we were back aboard the ship – each one of us felt – ‘anything after this is just plain bonus’ (Unfortunately, our cameras were not water-proof and hence no pictures on this one 😦 ). We did Parasailing too in the afternoon. A parachute fastened to a speed boat via a rope in summary is parasailing. Two-at-a-time, we were sent very very high in the sky. The sight from high above the sky, over probably the most violent ocean that exists on earth was just thrilling. (I digress again – but I and Sre high above in the sky agreed upon the fact that this was probably a very good way of proposing to a girl – with a high percentage of ‘Yes’ chances 🙂 Wanna try? 😉 )

We started off from Key West that afternoon to go to Orlando via Miami again. We reached Miami around eveningMiami Skyline time as each of us wanted to experience Miami downtown (whatever that meant anyways 🙂 ). But all we could manage was being overawed by the Miami skyline and the skyline’s reflection on the Atlantic ocean. This was also probably the first time for us where we parked our car right next to the beach. Each one of us had an enlightening photography lesson from one, Mr. Gary Mercer, who was very kind enough to teach us about the nuances of photography at night. Slightly wiser than before on digital photography, we started off for Orlando – which was supposed to be our final destination before we broke off to our respective places again.

Orlando for two days went off in a flash – a very very tiring flash at that. Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure on Universalthe first day and Sea World on the second day was the scheduled routine. Each of the theme parks was very enjoyable to say the least. However, few of the things stand out in each of the theme parks. Terminator, MIB, Revenge of the Mummy in Universal Studios, Spiderman and Hulk ride in Islands of Adventure and Shamu the Whale show at Sea world are not to be missed. Food and Maps in each of these places are, let’s say – dismal on the optimistic side. Express pass is a must for Universal and Islands if anyone has to complete both of them in one day (and that probably was one of the wisest (or the only wise 😉 ) decisions takeSea Worldn during the trip). Again, a discovery – breakfast at Waffle house is brilliant (and no, waffle house is not paying me any advertising money for this – unfortunately 🙂 )

At the end of the journey, as each of us parted ways – there was lot of silence rather than talk which was the order of the day for the past 4 days. Promises of meeting very soon were in plenty, plans were being made but I guess everyone (atleast me) perceived a sense of disappointment of the fun ending too soon. I am already looking forward for the next trip with you guys – and as they say, journey and destinations are in plenty – the only scarcity being great company like you people 🙂 .


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