U.S.A. 2019 – Part II

This is part 2 of the U.S. 2019 trip post. To go back to part 1, click HERE.

Hello, New York City!

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NYC is probably my favourite city in the entire world. I am yet to realise my dream of moving there some day, but I never miss a chance to visit. This wasn’t my first time in NYC, though. Our first family trip to the U.S. was in 2009, so technically, this post has been 10 years in the making. We toured the East Coast, including NYC, Washington D.C., Boston, and Philadelphia. Since I had already covered most of the touristy spots like Liberty Island, the Empire State Building, and even the Niagara Falls, I decided to explore the city like a local this time.

My friend lives on the Lower East Side, where we saw a lot of eye-catching colours everywhere.

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Day 1: I was lucky enough to have a close friend living there, who would not only host me, but also show me around the city like a local. My incoming flight with was delayed and I reached at 3 AM. I must say this though: American Airlines’ service was very bad and the delay was handled very poorly (nobody had to pay me to write this!) He waited up for me until I arrived and then we spent the next couple of hours just catching up before falling asleep.

Bagels and pudding!

When we finally woke up the next afternoon, I decided to spend the remaining part of my first day doing all the typical New York-y things I had always dreamed of doing: having an everything-bagel (Tompkins Square Bagels), climbing out onto the fire escape, taking the subway during peak hours, etc. One of THE things to do when in NYC, at least according to my friend, is to try out pudding, which, to my surprise, did not refer to the pudding I am used to in the U.K./Europe. This was almost as if a delicious cake had been mashed into a cup-shaped dessert, and in all honestly, was probably the best thing I’ve tasted in recent memory. We finished a different-flavour cup every day, so make sure to visit Sugar Sweet Sunshine if you are visiting the Lower East Side of Manhattan!

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The Oculus with One World Trade Center in the background

10 years ago, during our first visit, we stopped at the site where the World Trade Center stood before the 9/11 tragedy. The site was under construction, and our tour guide told us that if we returned in 10 years, we would see a new tower there. At that spot today, stands the One World Trade Center, a shining new tower with an observation deck. The entrance to the station is via the Oculus, a dove-shaped, dome-like structure. Its insides are particularly beautiful, with the white dome towering over tourists trying their best to get that perfect Instagram shot while dodging busy commuters. We ended the day with superb fried chicken at Root & Bone.

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Day 2: I had read about the launch of The Vessel, a public space boasting superb architecture, and it was #1 on my NYC to-do list. It was one of the most aesthetically-pleasing installations I’ve ever seen, and the place to go if you are running out of ideas for your next picture. The best part of the experience, apart from it being completely free, is the reservation system for entry. To avoid over-crowding, one needs to reserve a slot using one of the many kiosks nearby, and arrive at the designated time to enter the installation.

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The Vessel

There is no time limit once you are inside, though. We had 1 hour to kill before our time slot arrived, so we explored the High Line. An elevated linear park right beside The Vessel, it was built on an abandoned railroad line and was now lined with green spaces to sit and relax, and a few pop-up stalls selling food and drinks. We finished the evening by making a quick stop at Grand Central Station, marvelling at its elevated main concourse and the magnificent (and famous) clock at its centre.

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The High Line

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Grand Central Terminal

Day 3: Now that I have Instagram (yes, I succumbed, but more on that later), I had to go check out the DUMBO neighbourhood in Brooklyn, and get my own version of that famous shot of the Manhattan Bridge (from Washington Street).

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Because everyone has this picture…

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…and this one, too!

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Walking back to Manhattan via Brooklyn Bridge

From DUMBO, I walked back to Manhattan via the Brooklyn Bridge. Be mindful of the cyclists and lane separation while stopping for pictures with the pretty arches of the bridge. At the other end of the bridge (Manhattan side), you will find some of the most popular and least expensive NYC souvenirs.

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Governors Island Ferry

Next, I decided to explore one of the nearby islands. The most popular choice is Staten Island, and its ferry ride is free. However, on the recommendation of another friend, I went for Governors Island (return ticket for the ferry is just $3). Spend half a day at Governors Island and explore old houses built for families from the military, the old fortifications, cafes, green spaces, and excellent views of Manhattan’s skyline. The ferry ride back also provides multiple opportunities for that classic skyline shot.

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The second half of the afternoon was spent at the ever-popular Central Park. Its vast expanse offered options for everything: from water-side strolls, to open-air music and dancing, to boat and canoe rides and souvenir shopping. The park starts from 59th street and goes on to more than 40 streets, so keep ample time in hand if you’d like to explore its entirety. Right next to Central Park is the Museum Mile, known for its multiple, renowned museums.

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Central Park

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Museum Mile

What a lucky co-incidence that I was in the U.S. to witness the 4th of July fireworks AND the annual ‘Manhattanhenge’ phenomenon. For those who aren’t aware of this, every year in July, the setting sun aligns perfectly between skyscrapers on the opposite sides of the road – for 2 days every year. It is a pretty miraculous sight, seeing the sun almost come down to street level, perfectly positioned between two buildings. However, to get a good look, you’ll have to reach the viewing spot on a bridge (33rd street) and (probably) start queuing from 5 PM, which I could not (sunset is around 8 PM). The place gets packed to the brim; even the street below had been cleared out for the phenomenon, with honking cars and people with cameras jostling for space.

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I tried my best!

I ended the night at Times Square. What trip is complete without a visit to this iconic plaza adorned with giant screens and bustling with people making merry. For a good view, go up the TKTS stairs, if you can avoid the crowds. For a better view, although not necessarily a better picture, try to enter any of the hotels nearby and head up to their café/restaurant located on the top floor. We headed up the New York Marriott Marquis, where the restaurant offers a bird’s eye view of the chaos below!

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Times Square from street level

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Times Square from the New York Marriott Marquis

Day 4: On Saturday morning, my friend and I, along with some of his friends, headed to Brooklyn to attend Smorgasburg, essentially a food festival that took place in an open park in Brooklyn with some of the best views of the Manhattan skyline. The atmosphere is festival-like, with a variety of different food from all over the globe, and a few innovative takes on American cuisine.

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After spending a few hours there, I realised I still hadn’t crossed off one thing on my list – The Rockefeller Center, and its observation deck – Top of the Rock. Offering 360-degree, unparalleled views of the city, this is a must-visit. The Center also houses prominent TV shows like Jimmy Fallon’s. I tried asking a few assistants how to get a ticket to his show, but could not get a definitive answer. Top of the Rock is also the place to get the closest aerial view of Central Park, unless you are staying at one of the posh suites of the upper-class hotels on the South End of the Park.

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View of Lower Manhattan from Top of the Rock

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View of Central Park from Top of the Rock

We spent my final evening riding the aerial tram to Roosevelt Island (regular ticket – works with the MTA card). Although, arguably, there is nothing special to do on the island, the aerial tram ride is definitely worth it, if only for the sweeping views of the city from above.

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Taken from the Roosevelt Island aerial tram

Like all good trips, this one ended too quickly, even though, at the end, I realised that I had been travelling for 2 weeks. The U.S. was, is and always will be one of the top destinations to visit for me. Even after my third time, I feel like I’ve just scratched the surface. Here’s hoping to more trips like this in the future.

Where did summer take you this year?

P.S. This year, I joined Instagram on the persistence of my close friend and host in NYC. If you’d like to get in touch, you can find me @adi.in.fr

U.S.A. 2019 – Part I

Apart from a few (and short) business trips, I haven’t travelled anywhere this year! So, when my family and I planned to have our annual reunion in the States instead of India, I was excited take off. When I got an offer to join a new company last year, I was in the U.S. and Canada, and my first vacation in said new company brought me back, fittingly, to the U.S. – this time to the East Coast.

Our first stop was Lincoln, Nebraska. I know, I know – why Nebraska? What’s there? Everyone keeps asking me the same question. Well, my sister is pursuing her Ph.D. from the University of Nebraska, renowned for its Food Science programs. Also, why not?! I never miss a chance to escape city life and explore the countryside. However, getting there was not easy. My parents and I both flew in to Chicago. From there, they took a long bus journey while I hopped on a flight which set me back by a lot (did you know: all check-in bags are extra on all domestic flights in the U.S., and they don’t come cheap.)

This was my third time visiting the U.S. (fourth for my family) and this time, we decided to live like locals. My sister rents a large apartment near her university, and, although small, the town is well equipped with restaurants, clubs and every amenity you could think of. It was quite nice to experience the countryside for a change.

Since living like a local meant less eating out and more cooking at home, we had to make a few trips to mega-stores like Walmart. The thing that struck me the most was the portion sizes. Having lived in Europe for almost 4 years now, I am used to smaller portions for decent to average prices (to the more expensive in Paris and Amsterdam). In contrast, the smallest jar/car/tub in the U.S. would be considered at least a medium to a large here. The amount of fat and fried food the average person (including my sister) consumed daily surprised me, and a friend later added that eating healthy was expensive.

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This wasn’t limited to just food. Take cars, for example. In almost every parking lot, I came across at least 2-3 monster trucks (Ford F Series) that would be too big for any street in Paris. However, although public transport was negligible, their network of highways deserves merit. Miles upon miles of (seemingly) straight roads, coupled with the largely automatic gear fleet, made driving long distances a breeze.

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Nebraska State Capitol Building

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Me and my sister trying to look cool at Holmes Lake

 

Art Alley

There wasn’t much to ‘see’ in Lincoln, so we went out to town casually in the evenings, after my sister returned from university. We passed by the Nebraska State Capitol building (reach before 6 PM if you want to climb up to the observation deck). A good place to have a picnic, a short hike (or a long run) is the Holmes Lake Recreational Area. From the right spot, the sunsets are quite dramatic. We also stopped by an apparently popular neon art alley after dinner. Though small, the lighting and the installations set it apart from the regular lanes elsewhere.

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Branched Oak Lake

Other short excursions worth mentioning are the Lee G. Simmons Wildlife Safari ($7 entry and you can explore with your own car and at your own pace) and Branched Oak Lake Recreational Area. In the latter, we saw (for first time) pre-installed grills for public use. Quite convenient, I must say.

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We finished our tour of Lincoln by visiting the Sunken Gardens, built in the 1930s. It was, quite literally, the prettiest garden I’ve ever seen. My sister told us it is also a popular spot for couples getting married, and we could see why.

After 4 days in Lincoln, we decided to rent a car and visit Minneapolis, Minnesota. We were lucky enough to catch the 4th of July fireworks. Finding a parking spot was difficult, and finding a good viewing spot even more. It was a spectacular event, and the cheering of the locals made it even more memorable.

A quick shout out to Hotel Ramada by Wyndham, where we stayed for 4 days. Located outside the city centre, the hotel is easily accessible by road and was close enough for us to reach the city within 15 minutes. The hotel itself was one of the best we had stayed in (we travel a lot as a family of 4). The staff was friendly and the services were top notch. Definitely recommended for anyone visiting Minnesota. Note: I am not being paid to advertise the hotel. I am doing so on my own accord.

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Minnehaha Falls

We headed out towards Minnehaha Falls the next morning. Set in Minnehaha Park, the “small” falls are enclosed within a lush, green viewing area. The park itself is quite large to explore, and multiple transport options are available if you don’t want to walk (mono-cycle, bicycle, quad-cycle).

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Mall of America

From the falls, we headed towards the Mall of America, located near the airport. It boasts to be the largest mall in the U.S., in terms of total floor area, and the fifth largest in North America. The mall was so big, that it even had its own amusement park inside it (no really!) If you’re bored of shopping and eating, head down towards the rides or try out the zip line, without leaving the mall!

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Lake Calhoun

The next day, we spent some time at Lake Calhoun (or Bde Maka Ska), one of the multiple lakes present in the city (we drove by Lake of the Isles as well). Bde Maka Ska, in particular, was perfect for water activities, and had options for biking, running, hiking etc. All this, bang right in the middle of the city.

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Spoonbridge and Cherry in Minneapolis Sculpture Garden

From there, we drove to the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, which lies just in front of Walker Art Center. The Sculpture Garden is full of interesting art pieces scattered over the lawns, but the most eye-catching, and the most popular, is the Spoonbridge and Cherry. Standing out from all the other sculptures, this installation is considered as one of the city’s icons (and is a good photo spot!)

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Photo tip: climb the ‘hill’ adjacent to Walker Art Center and reach the intersection of S Bryant Avenue and Groveland. You’ll get a nice shot of the Minneapolis skyline.

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We finished the day by heading towards Mill City. This area comprises of the Mill City Museum, the Minneapolis Stone Arch Bridge, Saint Anthony Falls and Mill Ruins Park. For starters, walking on the Stone Arch Bridge, which was a former railroad bridge, gave us panoramic views of Saint Anthony Falls. The bridge is also a good spot to capture the old ruins of a mill, preserved pristine below the Mill City Museum. You can even see the old Pillsbury building on the other side of the Mississippi river from the bridge.

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Come back down from the bridge and stroll along the trail underneath it to get a better view of the Stone Arches. The trail is excellent for those who want to discover the history of the city and its flour mills.

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After a final night’s hearty dinner at a local American diner, we headed back to Lincoln the next day. There are also some well-known zoos in Nebraska (Lincoln and Omaha), which I had to skip because I was flying out to New York City for the second leg of my trip. My parents, who stayed back for a couple of more days, said they were worth the visit.

Overall, I found customer service to be of top quality in the U.S., and I think they should be proud of that. From the lady who handled my delayed arrival to Chicago, to the staff at the hotel they graciously booked for me, to everyone at Lincoln airport, especially the security personnel, to our hotel staff in Minneapolis, everyone was friendly, warm and welcoming. I could not shake off the feeling that Lincoln airport, which is smaller than most malls you’d come across, had some of the nicest airport staff I’ve met. In compared to what I’ve seen in the U.S., customer service is a joke in Europe, especially France!

Since this is a long post, I’ve decided to split it into 2 parts. Click HERE to read about the second leg of the journey.

The United States of America (West Coast)

Country Counter: 23        

Cities Visited: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas

Timeframe: August 2018

Ah, the US! Who amongst us hasn’t had “the American Dream” in some point in their lives. I’ve always been a fan of Hollywood. So much so, that I pushed my parents to visit the US for our first international trip. We instead went for England. Anyway, come 2009, when Barack Obama had just been historically sworn in as POTUS, we finally decided to visit. My family and I received 10-year visitor visas, giving us ample time for multiple visits. However, I will share the story of my first trip to the US (East Coast) in a future blog post. My sister moved to the US last year but my parents couldn’t accompany her, as my father had major health issues. Our aforementioned 10-year visa also terminates this (10 years passed by like it was yesterday), and I hadn’t been anywhere this year (first trip of 2018, can you believe it?). Hence, we decided to take a family trip to the West Coast of the US. This is that story.

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First, let me say that I fell in love with the weather in and around San Francisco. With the bay nearby, it was around 12-18 degrees (Celsius) in August, which was a relief from the heat in Europe for me, and from the heat of Delhi for my parents. From the start, everyone, from people who had visited before to our cab driver, warned us to avoid certain streets and be mindful of the homelessness problem. I had also read numerous articles on how the real estate market in San Francisco was literally not affordable for most of the working population in the area, so all these added warnings started to worry us. However, on ground, the picture was different. Yes, there were homeless people (which country doesn’t have them), but they did not pose any problem at all, and didn’t fail to distract us from the beauty of the city. Walking around the bay, watching people celebrate, everyone with a smile on their face – we felt welcome. And that is something I do not usually say for every place I’ve been.

The highlight of the city was, of course, the Golden Gate bridge. Made popular by countless movies, the bridge is a delight to witness. San Francisco’s resident fog, named Karl lovingly, constantly lingered over the bridge, so it was difficult to get that bright, sunny shot. However, even engulfed with fog, the bridge was marvellous. I drove back at night to get a shot with the lights on. Clearly marked walking and hiking paths were laid out everywhere, for those who wished to walk around the area while catching a glimpse of the wonderful bridge.

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We booked a city tour, which took us around town and saved us from walking all over the hilly roads. I was constantly seeking to visit all the sites made popular by Hollywood – Twin Peaks, Alamo Square’s Painted Ladies, Lombard street (known as the steepest street in the world, which it isn’t) etc. Twin Peaks was windy but worth the short drive up the hill. On a clear day, you get amazing views of the city. I took this picture (below) while the view was blocked by Karl, but still managed to capture it. The Painted Ladies, made famous by the now-decades-old show Full House, brought back fond memories of TV from my childhood. The best part of the whole experience was that, being a city located on a hilly terrain, if you drive just a bit in any direction, you reach a spot with great views of downtown, like this one.

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Another short, but memorable, drive we took was to the Muir woods, home to some of the world’s tallest trees. The place itself is so tranquil and well maintained that, not only do you feel dwarfed (and somewhat humbled) by the sheer size of the trees, but the area also instills peace while you are walking through it. There are multiple hiking paths inside the woods area, which are easy enough for beginners (like my mother) to cover within half an hour.

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The only thing I regret is not being able to visit Yosemite National Park. The day we landed, the place caught fire and was closed for all tourism purposes. The fire was brought under control only after 4 weeks, and I read that California is facing its worst year of forest fires. May God be with the people there. It pains me to see such historic and beautiful places getting damaged.

After four days in SF, we drove down to Los Angeles. Finally, my dream came true! I have dreamt of visiting Hollywood since I was 6 years old.

While browsing hostels, I stumbled upon one whose location seemed, at first glance, to be incorrect. It was right ON the Walk of Fame, and next to the studio where Jimmy Kimmel Live is shot. I’m a big fan of the show, plus, being right on the Walk of Fame seemed to be too good a chance to give up. After confirming the location, I booked a full dorm room with 4 beds (very convenient for a family). While I won’t make this whole post about the hostel, let me just say that everything about the Hollywood Walk of Fame hostel was great – location, helpfulness of the staff, ambience, etc.

For sightseeing in Los Angeles, we booked a day tour with one of the operators based outside the Chinese Theatre. Note: I usually never discredit anyone, but DO NOT book with operators next to the Chinese Theatre. Not only was it more expensive than alternative, but similar, deals on offer, the tour operator was not at all knowledgeable, and we did not hit any of the spots that were promised on the tour. By the end, I was chatting up with other groups on the bus, who said they felt cheated as well.

The city itself is like any other metropolis, with the downtown area having its share of beautifully designed buildings. However, I realised that staying in Hollywood, on the Walk of Fame, is not exactly staying in the city. Hollywood is on the outskirts, and it takes a 25-minute train ride to reach the centre. But this did not bog us down because there is plenty of action packed near the Hollywood area, including THREE major studios with tours – Universal, Warner Brothers and Paramount.

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We spent one full day at Universal. While I haven’t been to Disneyland in the US, I have been to the one in France. I had imagined the experience would be quite similar, as they are all movie studio-based theme parks. Boy was I wrong. Honestly, I cannot stop gushing about Universal Studios to anyone who asks (Disneyland Paris pales in comparison). Universal is well worth its ticket price of $110 or so. One of the major highlights of the trip, and not just for me. Even my parents, who have limited interest in Hollywood, seemed to enjoy every ride. The famous Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, Transformers: The Ride, Jurassic Park: The Ride – all were amazing. It was great to see my parents light up with smiles after, what is essentially, a roller coaster ride. Even the seemingly “humble” studio tour – where you just sit on a bus with a hundred people and drive through various movie sets – was awesome (includes the famous King Kong 360 3D, the world’s largest 3D set, designed by Peter Jackson himself). A must-visit for all if passing by Los Angeles. Remember to keep a full day aside for this, as the waiting times for rides can be long, especially if you go in the summer like we did.

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On the 7th day of our trip, I started to get a bit annoyed. This was Los Angeles after all, one of my dream cities, and I just wanted to have a day to myself. Luckily, my family understood. So, on Friday, my sister hired a car and took my parents to see some beaches she wanted to visit, and try out some of the local celebrity ice cream – Ghiradelli (delicious).

My day alone turned out to be one of the happiest days of the trip, and of this year – unforgettable! I’ve been longing to write this bit down since I returned. I started off by heading into the lobby to see what kind of activity was planned for the day. Another good reason to stay in a (good) hostel – they always have weekly activities. I had been planning to hike up to the Hollywood, and luckily, the activity that morning was a hike to the sign. The lobby was filled with young people travelling in small groups or individually. Everyone was quite friendly. I met a small group of people who were ready to hike to the top of the sign – the guide was only going to lead us to the first viewing platform, which is BELOW the sign. It is a flat area quite close to the sign, which is on Mount Lee (not Mount Hollywood, as people imagine). He told us that once we reached there, he will give us directions to those who are willing to go up to the sign itself. Excited, we all set out.

A 20-minute walk from the hostel brought us to the bus stop which takes you to the starting point of the hike. The time spent walking, and on the bus ride, was a good way of getting to know your fellow hikers. Once we set off, the view along the entire way amazed me. The hills were packed with beautiful houses and mansions, which, by the look of it, could only belong to ultra-rich individuals. The guide told me that the average price of a house here was well over $10 million. But the view of the valley and downtown LA is to die for.

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We reached the first point in about 35-40 minutes, including two 5-minute breaks. The hike was a moderate climb, although first timers would find some parts a bit tricky. Once we all finished taking pictures here, I again floated the idea of us going to the sign itself. Almost everyone backed out, either due to tiredness or other arrangements. Luckily, the group of 5 I met at the hostel agreed. Another tricky part here is getting on the right track. Before visiting, I had read that the main trail was closed in July 2017, as the residents complained about “too many” tourists. They took it a step further (and this is the part that appalled me a bit) by asking (paying?) Google to give FALSE DIRECTIONS on the Google Maps App. Initially, I had a hard time believing this myself, but as I talked to people from there, they confirmed that this was true indeed. What losers!

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Luckily, our guide gave us the right directions. They did come in handy as this next part of the trail is quite a climb, the path is dusty with the occasional rattlesnakes, and the scorching LA heat is unbearable for a long hike. If you plan to attempt this, make sure you bring at least 2-3 bottles of water with you. People to keep you company are a great advantage as well.

When people ask me how was the trip, was it everything that you imagined it would be, I say LA was good. But this hike was the best (yet)! Once you reach the top, sweating and dehydrated, the killer view is worth the arduous journey. This picture below captures it all. That is a genuine smile on my face, not one that we fake for pictures. Do you see the sheer amount of happiness on my face, with the Hollywood sign and Los Angeles behind me? 😊

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Welcome to Hollywood, baby!

The day ended quite well. We met some more people on our way down, on the bus and back at the hostel. The evening was spent playing pool and grabbing the local brews. We were longing for a beer after that hike. We even made a short trip back up to the Griffith Observatory, which doubles up as a cool science museum. Don’t miss their Tesla Coil, and go outside and wander around for the best night time views of the city lit up.

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We checked out the next day and headed towards Las Vegas. We decided to spend only the weekend, as the city doesn’t have many “tourist” spots (unless you have a gambling problem). On our way, we stopped for an hour at the Hoover Dam. Again, made famous by featuring in many Hollywood films, the dam itself is an engineering marvel. Just walking along the bridge, with the huge installations towering above you, is a sight to behold. The dam, originally built to hold the “wild” Colorado river, is somehow, also beautiful enough to attract millions of tourists every year.

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We reached Las Vegas around 3 PM. It is a four-and-a-half-hour drive from Los Angeles (traffic and halts included) through completely barren but beautiful landscape, including deserted valleys and small towns. We booked the Shalimar Hotel, another great choice. I would highly recommend this hotel if you are looking for a good price-comfort-privacy-staff friendliness package. Admittedly, even though there isn’t much to see and do in Las Vegas, keep the evening aside to just casually stroll through their world famous “strip.” The strip, a few kilometres long, is buzzing with activity till late night. It was also the most lit up street I’ve ever seen. Tall buildings, housing expensive hotels and casinos, lit up brilliantly with a myriad of colours and animations. Yes, they have their own Eiffel Tower, Disneyland, Manhattan and the like.

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For those wanting to catch the famous Welcome to Las Vegas sign, head to the other end of the strip towards the Mandalay Bay hotel, and you’ll arrive into an enclosed area. I was surprised by the planning that went into this area around the sign – it has its own parking lot, and by lanes to drive in and out for photo stops. If you plan on renting a car, you can easily slide into the lot, park for as long as you want, take pictures with the sign, and drive out just as easily as you drove in.

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The next day, we decided to just “touch” the edge of the Grand Canyon. Our holidays were limited, owing to my sister’s PhD schedule, which she had to return to soon, and my work schedule back in Paris. While we wanted to spend more time at the Canyon, we could only squeeze in one day. However, we decided to go for it, as it is not very likely that all of us would be visiting the Eastern US coast again anytime soon.

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The West Rim of the Canyon (the West and the South are the most accessible from Las Vegas) has a new attraction – the great Skywalk. I had read about its opening, and the accolades that came with it – highest in the Northern Hemisphere, can hold the weight of 72 jets etc. While it’s all good advertising, do not plan to go there thinking you’ll find it empty like the pictures you see on the Internet. For spending more time, the visitor centre has other attractions as well, including a helicopter ride of the Canyon (which my parents experienced and said was great), a visit to the tribal habitations of the area (the land belongs to the Native Americans) and other, heritage related locations.

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The only thing that was a bit disappointing was that you are not allowed to take anything with you on the bridge – not even your phone or camera. If you want your picture taken, you must wait in a slow-moving line, and pay the company’s representatives to take pictures for you. A bit of on-the-nose capitalism, I thought. Driving all this way just for a short walk on the bridge, without any pictures to capture the moment.

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We drove back the same night to Las Vegas and hopped on a bus to San Francisco. We spent another day in SF. Our initial plan was to visit Yosemite if it had reopened. Unfortunately, the fire was more difficult to control than was previously estimated.

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All in all, a great trip. California had always been on my radar, and now I can happily cross it off my list.

Hope your summer went great as well.

Until next time,

Adi