Current music favs- Blurryface & Lady Wood :)

I love listening to all kinds of music and exploring all the new music that comes out. Most of my recommendations come from iTunes new releases or a similar playlist playing on You Tube or from my sister or friends..Lol! So I recently checked out these two albums – Blurryface by Twenty One Pilots and Lady Wood by Tove Lo. Now the thing about albums for me is that, the entire album never really lives up to the expectations of a few really good songs. Thanks to the music apps out lately (I use Apple Music), I can listen to the entire album on the cloud and then decide which songs I really like and either download them or buy them.

So here are my favorite songs from these two albums:

Album Name: BlurryfaceΒ 

Artist: Twenty One Pilots

Songs that I love from this album:

I like walking or dancing to this one, itΒ has some dubstep kind of feel to it I think. My favorite lines from this song – “I wanted to be a better adversary to the evil I have done/Its deciding where to die and deciding where to fight”

I know ‘Stressed Out’ is the most popular song from their album, so I’m not going to mention that in this post. So this song is my favoriteΒ in terms of lyrics since it seems very like me lately πŸ˜€

Metaphorically, I’m the man
But literally, I don’t know what I’d do
“I’d live for you,” and that’s hard to do
Even harder to say when you know it’s not true
Even harder to write when you know that tonight
There were people back home who tried talking to you
But then you ignored them still
All these questions they’re for real
Like “Who would you live for?”,
“Who would you die for?”
And “Would you ever kill?”

 

This song has a very hip hoppish sound and I like listening to this when Im walking or running. It makes me feel like this song is about a prayer to God- but not sure what is really is about. Does anyone else have any thoughts on this? My favorite lines from this song:

Fear might be the death of me, fear leads to anxiety,
Don’t know what’s inside of me.

Don’t forget about me,
Don’t forget about me,
Even when I doubt you,

Album: Lady Wood

Artist: Tove Lo

Again, ‘Cool girl’ from this album has already got quite famous, so although I love that song from the album too, I haven’t mentioned it in the blog. With this song too, I can relate to the lyrics because I do that a lot too..lol!

You know I’m under the influence
So don’t trust every word I say, I say
When I’m under the influence
It’s a blur, but I want my way, my way

True disaster –Β Keep playing my heartstrings faster and faster
You can be just what I want, my true disaster

True disaster is the second video that has been released for this album and I really love the beats in this song as well. It has such a Madonna-ish disco sound and every time I hear it I want to dance πŸ˜€ I did listen to the lyrics of this song but don’t have any favorite lines really.

So, these are my favorite current listening songs. What do you think of my list? And what are your favorite songs at the moment? I’d love to be introduced to any new songs πŸ™‚

My reading recap for 2016

I have to begin with how proud I felt of myself when I was able to read more than my set challenge for 2016 on Goodreads! That said, I realized, people actually read at least twice of how much I did normally- at least the serious readers..lol!

So my huge challenge of reading 12 books in 2016, with my completing 15 in reality, sort of paled in comparison when I read how much others had read..and there are just so many amazing books out there waiting to be read and devoured!! But still, I’m not going to take away my small accomplishment from myself πŸ™‚ I have set an ambitious goal of 25 books to read in 2017 (Ok Ok, its not a lot – all you bookworms πŸ˜› lol), so lets see how I fare with that by the end of this year, but I’m all pumped up now.

Here is the list of all the books I read in 2016- with comments on my favorite reads and whether I recommend it or not. I’m not going to write any review notes for all the books in this post, but if you like, you can read my reviews for all the books read on my Goodreads profileΒ here. I did post a blog on my review for Homegoing, because that was the last book I read in 2016 and also my first blog on book reviews that I’ve decided to write henceforth on my blog.

  1. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi Β – Best book for 2016 and totally recommended!
  2. You are a Badass by Jen Sincere Recommended for Self Help readers
  3. The Hating Game by Sally Thorne – Yawn..
  4. Parenting : Illustrated with crappy pictures by Amber Dusick – Totally recommended for new parents and new moms like me!
  5. Me talk pretty one day by David Sedaris
  6. Paper Towns by John Green
  7. The girl on the train by Paula Hawkins
  8. The Diary of a young girl by Anne FrankRecommended for historic classic read
  9. Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
  10. The restaurant at the end of the Universe by Douglas AdamsSo funny!!! Recommended for Douglas Adams fans..lol
  11. The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith
  12. The Buried Giant by Kazoo Ishiguro – I was confused about this one
  13. The Bhagwan Gita by Eknath Easwaran – Recommended if you’re into getting some life lessons from religious books I guess
  14. If ignorance is bliss by John LloydRecommended for humorous facts
  15. The Orphan train by Christina Baker KlineThis book touched me, recommended for book club reads

I’m so excited about the books I’m going to read in 2017! I’ve already shortlisted most of the books I’m going to read and you’ll be reading my reviews for all of them as I finish them. How was your year in reading and have you read any of the books above? I’d really love to hear about your experiences at book clubs or if any book made a special impact on you last year that you’d absolutely want to recommend to others?

Vacation 2016 at Goa!

After almost a year, my sister- my best friend, came down to visit us from the US for christmas vacations and after almost a year, we were ready for a proper vacation with our baby πŸ™‚ We decided to go to our favorite winter destination in India- Goa, because, it is such a beautiful place, and has something to offer for all age groups and people of all interests and well, just because I love beaches and really wanted a vacation! Lol

It was a small trip of 3 nights, and we stayed at an amazing resort called Sea Shell beach resort at Candolim, booked a suite and basically just lazed around alternating between the beach, the pool at the resort and various restaurants and shacks on beaches. So all in all, it was a great trip. I won’t go into details, because I can go on and on, but I wanted to put down a few tips and highlights of the trip, that helped make our trip better and more fun, especially if you’re traveling with a baby (we travelled with our 8 month old). Some of it was planned and some just turned out lucky for us πŸ™‚

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We had a lot planned for our baby’s food, but she didn’t really like any of the exotic stuff like idlis or pancakes for food. But we were able to manage between bananas, Gerber cereal, mashed potatoes and boiled vegetables sauteed in butter. Most places, including our resort were very helpful in preparing baby worthy food, and I loved that. But other than that, our daughter had a lot, and I seriously mean a lot of water!! lol

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Before this trip, we had made another small trip with our daughter when she was three months old to a nearby hill station to Lonavla, but it didn’t seem like a great experience for her. So we were a little apprehensive about how this trip would be for her, but were so pleasantly surprised because she had such a blast! I think I have a water baby- she loved the beach and wanted to just keep on playing with the waves, she loved the pool and she loved taking showers with me in the resort bathroom! hahah Also, Goa is so green and beautiful, that she was constantly looking around at the trees and the people – she smiled and laughed so much! Breakfast alfresco every morning, sleeping in the air conditioned room and feasting on bananas and water..she absolutely had a blast! I think it also helps that she is older now, so I think 8 months onwards is a good age to travel with babies.

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These things were a great help too – a cute bikini bought at Goa itself, swimming diapers (you can order those from Amazon, from the Huggies brand), a big hat to shield from the sun, chewy toys..

 

Well, us adults also had a swell time! We ate a lot and since I’m not breast feeding, I got to enjoy a lot of yummy cocktails all through the day too. The seafood there is to die for and its so cheap! We also had lunch at this restaurant called Souza Lobo that is definitely recommended. My sister and I got to go out little partying one of the nights as well, as my husband offered to watch our daughter and make her sleep..yay! The rest of the trip and days were pretty much a repetition of this – wake up and have alfresco buffet breakfast at the awesome resort, walk to the beach and play with the waves with our daughter, have a beer on the beach, head back and get into the pool at the resort and play in the pool with my baby for another hour, give her a bath and feed her and put her for her first nap of the day (which would be a good nap because she would be so tired with all the playing!), head out for lunch and drinks, come back and do an afternoon siesta with the baby (her second nap), have coffee in the evening at the resort balcony and head out for a long walk on the beach with our daughter in the carrier (Boba for us), where she blissfully falls asleep and we rest a little at one of the shacks for some beer/cocktails and seafood starters and then order in dinner and drinks back at the resort once we make her go to sleep for the night..such an amazing trip πŸ™‚

What are your recommendations and experiences traveling and vacationing with a baby?

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi – Book Review

“White” could be the way a person talked, “Black” the music a person listened to – Marjorie

Once in a while you come across books that leave an impression on you, teach you something new and make you want to think a lot, ask a lot of questions and want to know more about the topic covered in the book. Homegoing is one such book.

I’m so glad I was able to wrap up my reading for this year with this brilliant book. I can’t imagine, this is the author’s debut novel, because it is so well researched and so well written for a work of fiction. I love the different POVs in the book with every character getting their own chapter. And at the same time, all the stories and characters are interlinked. I also loved that there is something (I won’t mention what) that only the reader is made aware of, but the characters are not aware of- right from the beginning till the end. I learned so much about colonialism and imperialism from this book, and being an Indian, I found a lot of similarities between the African culture and their road to slavery and freedom , with that of our culture and history too.

I also love how the author tries to portray the connection between the yin and yang elements (water and fire) of the two family lines in the book- it matches the cover of the book and is quite significant, when you reach the final chapter.

My favorite characters in the book were some very strong people who had a positive outlook to their situation, such as Ness, Yaw, Marjorie, Effia (later on in the book), and Willie. The book has a family tree right at the beginning for readers to keep track of the relationships between the characters, which is great!

I think the only reason I didn’t give 5 stars to the book was because, it was a little sad- to be fair, the subject can’t really be happy and the ending was as positive as one could imagine given the storyline I think. But also, Part 2 of the book does drag a little – with some of the characters. But I really enjoyed the last chapter and the conclusion, so it was all good for me eventually. This book is definitely recommended!

My other favorite quotes from the book πŸ™‚

She would always associate real love with a hardness of spirit-Ness

Sometimes staying free required unimaginable sacrifice-Kojo

There should be no room in your life for regret – AbenaΒ 

Just because somebody sees or hears or feels something other folks can’t, doesn’t mean they’re crazy – Marcus (as said by his grandmother, Willie)Β 

 

When sleep eludes me..yawnnnn

When sleep eludes me,

I’m irritable

When sleep eludes me,

I get constipated (yeah, we all poop, its natural) ..lol

When sleep eludes me,

I can’t drag my body out of the bed to go for that morning jog

When sleep eludes me,

I feel like a zombie for the rest of the day

When sleep eludes me,

I eat a lot of junk and sometimes act a little crazy..

And then you ask, but why does sleep elude you sis? Why don’t you just sleep and not crib?

And I’ll smile that zombie eyed smile and say, well, I’ll let sleep elude me….

..As long as I can give my baby the sleep that eluded me, instead πŸ™‚

A toast to all the sleep deprived moms! I’d like to believe our little angels will be thanking us in their dreams when they smile and snuggle up to us.

So mommies, how do you manage sleep deprivation? Coffee? Sarcasm? Some dancing in front of the baby perhaps? πŸ˜€

 

 

 

How I rate the books I read

Since this is my first post for the ‘Books & Music’ review category, I thought it would be best I explained my rating process for the books I read, since that is what I will be writing about in later posts.

Before I begin this post, I’d just like to mention that I am in no way an expert on books and I really admire anyone who has written a book, since that is a dream of mine and I haven’t gotten around to it yet..hahah. So the reviews in this category will just be my opinion, and if you decide to follow me or my blogs, do let me know if you agree with my rating for the book reviews I write about and if you have any recommendations for me as well!

So, here’s the very simple way I rate the books I read and I will be using the same ratings on the Goodreads review I post for the books I read as well.

  • 5 Stars – It would be really rare that I give a book 5 star rating, unless it supersedes the Harry Potter series maybe..lol! I would rate a book 5 Stars if the story was amazing, the book made me smile or cry, the book taught me something that lasted with me for a very long time and the book was unputdownable
  • 4 Stars – If I really enjoyed a book, you will mostly see me rating it under 4 stars, which would be quite similar in terms of the emotional learnings I received from the book. This would be a book I will usually recommend to readers as well
  • 3 Stars – If the book has a good story, or a good underlying message that I was able to think about and discuss in a book club, but had a few shortfalls- say, in terms of continuity of the story, or the way it ended, or if it had a few open ended questions, or very complicated writing, or touched on subjects or humor that I did not find very appealing, I will rate it 3 stars. This is a book I would recommend with a few caveats to fellow readers
  • 1 & 2 Stars – Similar to the 4 and 5 Star conundrum, if you see me rate a book a 2 Star (since it is very rare you’ll find me rate someone a single star), it means, I’ve had a really bad experience with the book. Either the story was too simple, or there was no message for me, or I wasn’t able to relate to it in anyway, or the humor was too crass/discriminating- you get the drill. This is a book I will regret picking up and will definitely not recommend

So, there you go! What are your ways to rate books? Do you have a more specific way of rating you use? Would love to hear your views as well πŸ™‚

 

 

 

 

First weekend getaway with baby!

Poppins is now three months old and we decided we could go on a short weekend getaway with friends this month, since it’s been raining and it would be amazing and green all over Maharashtra now. I was still a little apprehensive about the travel, since my baby is just three months old and this would be her first outing to a new place and with so many people, I wasn’t even sure how to plan it and how it would impact her schedule and her mood or health, but we decided to give it a go anyway. How else would we know how to manage a trip outside with our baby? Hehhe

So, we packed all the necessary stuff- warm clothes for us and her, socks and mittens for her, formula, bottles, boiled water, her bottle steriliser, blanket and bed that she sleeps on, her pillows and medicines, diaper bag stuff and thought we were completely ready for the trip. The trip was to Lonavla at this rented bunglow where three couples with kids, a no kid couple and two bachelors were to party over this weekend. Poppins loves the car ride till Lonavla- at first she just wanted to see everything from the window, even if she still doesn’t have neck control and then she fell asleep. She was also great when we reached the place- oh the house was so big and beautiful! It was near a hill with small waterfalls and each bedroom had an attached bathroom. We had cooks and cleaners at our beck and call, wine, beer and whiskey, playmates for the kids, an indoor swimming pool! Poppins had fun the initial few hours there and my husband and I took turns to take care of her, feed her and get her to nap , while the other went downstairs and chilled with food, drinks and chatter with the others.

However, the house wasn’t noise proof and the gang was quite loud. Since our baby is used to napping during the day when it is quiet at home, she had a lot of trouble falling asleep. I don’t think she liked all the noise and people and being locked in that tiny room and the cold weather either. All that made her really agitated and by night time she was crying her lungs out. We had to put in quite an effort to put her to sleep eventually. Next morning too, since the weather was cold, we hadn’t planned to give her a massage or her bath and I think that was another mistake, because she likes her schedule and wasn’t able to sleep without that and then got really cranky again. Luckily for us, Lonavla is near Pune, so we just decided to leave earlier. Our baby slept through the ride back home too but once home she again had trouble all night trying to wind down.

So although we managed to go out in a small trip and also had some fun the first couple of hours on Saturday, I feel we made q mistake in taking our three month along to a trip suddenly without getting her used to people and outside steadily through shorter outings. Also, since she’s on a sort of a schedule now, it was difficult for her to adjust without her usual activities. So that was our lesson for the next trip, if we make one before the family trip to Delhi.

Here are some pictures from our trip:

Mahabaleshwar for a day

It’s very difficult to keep oneself entertained and plan for interesting travel vacations when you’re pregnant in India and have lack of resources or are paranoid like me. So after 5 months of being stuck in Pune and cancelling all our other travel plans for this little baby to come, my husband decided I deserved a treat and planned an overnight getaway to Mahabaleshwar. Now it’s not like this would be my first visit to the place of strawberries, but this was going to be a different sort of getaway- one which just included being a sloth and one which didn’t include any usual sight seeing or activities as you may call it. Hehe… This would be a first for me, you know a getaway with no agenda and no alcohol and eating healthy, but it would definitely be better than nothing at all, I thought πŸ™‚

So, on 24th Dec, we had a heavy breakfast at home and then left home by 10 am for our resort. Mahabaleshwar is just 120 kms from Pune, which makes it closer to Bombay. So when we left, we thought it shouldn’t take us more than 3 hours to reach, even with traffic, but little did we know. The journey onwards was just excruciating due to the traffic. There was roadwork going on along the entire route and it being a long weekend, there were almost thrice the number of vehicles on the road, just adding to the traffic and mayhem 😦 We had no other alternative but to brave it out and take a few rest stops along the way to refresh and stretch my limbs and go for pee breaks. So my tip number one for weekend getaways, specially if you’reΒ pregnant or traveling with kids is to have enough food and water in the car Β and have planned stops for loo on the way, or avoid going out during the usual festive long weekends, just to avoid the traffic! Hehe

Finally, after 5 long hours, we reached our resort- Bella Vista hotel at mahabaleshwara – this is 5 kms from Mapro garden. And this place was just a treat to the sore eyes after all those cars and dusty roads! We were quickly taken to our room, which was non AC , but that was perfectly fine since it’s quite cold during winters and you don’t really need the airconditioning πŸ™‚ Our room was really pretty and had this view from the window, the bed was nice and the bathroom very luxurious too.

So we quickly freshened up and took a small nap to relax ourselves and then ordered in hot pakoras and tea for evening snacks! You see, the slothing had begun! Hehhe .. Once done, we stepped out to explore the resort and were pleasantly surprised. It’s a small resort, but was nicely nestled between trees and shrubs and lots of colourful plants! They were so beautiful! They have a small lawn area and a sun deck near the restaurant and a Viennese style swimming pool with similar romantic settings πŸ™‚ we saw a lot of newly weds, pregnant couples and families with kids and concluded that this resort probably caters to this kind of crowd specifically, since they don’t serve alcohol, don’t use msg at all in any of their food and the entire premise was non smoking! So I was really happy πŸ™‚ We walked until sunset and took a lot of pictures! Hehe

We headed back into our room to relax and watch Fringe on our laptop until dinner time. We had such a lovely and quite dinner, of Chinese food since they assured us that they didn’t use Msg in their food. There was a live band playing too and all that just added to the charm of the place and the night. I loved it! Post dinner, we took another quick walk to see the lights and the moon and then had an early night, so we could sleep really long and wake up on time for breakfast! Lol!

Next morning, we woke up to the sound of birds chirping outside our window and the view of a wintry misty mountain early in the morning! How I wish I could wake up to this all my mornings! Hehe But I guess that’s why people have getaways , so they can appreciate the simple joys of nature more πŸ™‚ We quickly headed off for our buffet breakfast, which is complimentary and boy did they have a spread!! I hogged on puri, sabzi, idli, sambhar, masala omelette and coffee! Yes, you can call me a glutton but I don’t really care! I was just so satisfyingly full! Hehe.. Post breakfast, we went out to the lawn to soak in some sun and walk barefoot on the grass and just sit and feel like we were meditating πŸ™‚ And at that moment I felt like I didn’t want this sloth vacation to end just yet, but we had to head back sadly.

So we showered and checked out and stopped on the way to buy some strawberries too! The journey and road back was much better and faster and there was hardly any traffic, so we made it back within 3 hours, which was a boon again πŸ™‚

So all in all, I thought a trip that feels relaxing and ends well, is a great trip πŸ™‚ And I’ll probably recommend a two day slothing vacation Coz it’s really easy to get used to doing nothing! Hehe

Travel Tips:

Stay- Bella Vista resort (great for couples, elderly people, pregnant women and people with children). A one night non AC room cost us 7k INR

Other expenses- 1500 on food, 1100 on diesel

Loo stops – Onwards to Mahabaleshwar -mc Donald’s after the toll, food plaza just after the ghats, Mapro garden

Loo stops- onwards to Pune- Mapro garden, Mapro food mall just before you touch the expressway, lots many on the way too

Same state, different experience- Goa in the monsoon!

So it’s monsoon in India and the best time to trek and travel around to soak in all the green. But people would not consider going to a beach destination for a weekend getaway during monsoons, I mean, what’s the point of going to the beach if you can’t walk on the beach to soak up the sun? But my cousins had a different idea altogether and wanted to visit Goa to celebrate the birthdays of two of my cousins, even though it was just for the weekend.

So we booked our buses and decided to stay at palolem beach- yeah during the non season time, even got a hotel booked near the sea- the beach resort, booked our buses and packed our bags and left Friday night from Pune 😊 The bus ride was quite uneventful and there were two loo stops on the way, which were dark, scary and quite dirty, but you’ve got to make do with whatever is available I guess 😊 we stopped at a place in the morning for coffee and loo and just the freshness and the view of green around marked the beginning of an amazing trip!

We reached Madgaon bus stand quite late, now hungry and dying for a shower and had to take the funniest Rick from there to reach our resort at palolem. However, the drive to palolem was again breathtaking and made us forget our hunger and tiredness completely! We had to pass through a small ghat and at the bottom of it there were these fluorescent step based paddy fields and the weather was cool due to the rains, oh gosh, it was just beautiful to the eyes😊 I don’t have any pictures of this drive unfortunately , since the auto guy didn’t want to stop on the way. So anyway, we reached the resort by 11 am, met our other cousin, freshened up and straightaway dived into breakfast and a much needed coffee for me. This resort is right on the beach so you can imagine the view we had for breakfast! It’s my dream to eventually retire and settle down at a place where I can enjoy such a view for all my breakfasts 😊

Luckily for us it was nice and bright that time, so we changed and went ahead to take a dip in the water and walk the food off. I found the beach really clean and there weren’t too many people either, maybe since it was off season, but whatever the reason it worked in our favour 😊 so we walked and ran and jumped in the water and took silly pictures.. It was just amazing!

We headed back when it suddenly got overcast and managed to get drenched in a sudden heavy downpour too, but even that was so much fun! We ordered some drinks while we waited for our other cousins to turn up and then went ahead and showered up. Now the funny thing was, we thought we’d have lunch at a different shack but found out that this was the only shack open in the whole of palolem beach area this time of the season! Hahah… And since all of us were feeling so lazy, we didn’t want to venture out to look for another place in the city for lunch. So once our other cousins turned up, we just settled in at the same place, ordered tons of seafood and beer and other drinks ( since the alcohol in Goa is crazy cheap!!) and just alternated between eating, lounging at the beach side cafe sipping our drinks or taking a walk along the beach😊 oh it was blissful! Another thing we did was take a slow boat ride to the mangroves near the beach and even that is something that I would recommend to everyone traveling to palolem during the monsoons. It’s not your typical Goa party and thrill fare, in fact quite the opposite, but it was as enjoyable as anything else.

Finally we returned back to our resort and got down to eating, drinking and celebrating some more. What a lazy and amazing day it was!

We woke up on Sunday nice and easy, had a yummy breakfast of eggs and toast and coffee at the shack, went for one last walk on the beach and then showered and checked out around 12 pm. We hired an suv so all of us could fit in and headed out to the city side for lunch at this famous place called Mattin’s corner. This restaurant turned out to be amazing! The decor inside was like a shack, not air conditioned, but still cool. There was a live saxophone music player entertaining the patrons and the walls were decorated with funny paintings by Mario Miranda! We ordered more seafood and more drinks, yes gluttony we did on this trip, which we suffered for later too.. Hehe, but it was worth it anywau😊

Post lunch, one of our cousins headed back to the station to catch his train back to Bangalore while the four of us went to Colva beach to lounge about until it was time for our buses and trains back to Pune and Mumbai. We had a final round of coffee at the cafe coffee day coffee shop by the beach and headed off to our transportations back to the reality and Monday blues that comes with going to work.. Heheh.. What a trip this was, short and sweet 😊Goa, I do love you!

Mode of transport- overnight sleeper bus from Pune

Total expenses per person – about 3k only

Place we stayed at- palolem beach resort

My American trip- where I drank coffee, talked to strangers and practiced gluttony :)

When my husband and I got our tourist visas approved at the Mumbai consulate, after the long wait and application process, all I could think of was not that I was going to visit the US, but that I was finally going to get to hang out with two of my favorite people in the world- my little sister and my best friend πŸ™‚

So bags packed, out of offices set, we left for our super long onward air journey to Atlanta, where my sister stays. Since I’m the traveler in question here, a travel journey cannot be complete unless its met with unnecessary hurdles on the way- so this time, it was separate middle seats for my husband and me, a grueling and scary stop over and pre immigration check at Abu Dhabi airport, and a flight glitch on the last leg at Dallas, delaying our arrival at Atlanta by a night..sigh. The silver lining was, we got a free hotel stay for the night at the Mariott at Dallas from the airline folks, and free breakfast coupons at the airport, which we promptly redeemed..hehheeh

We finally reached Atlanta around 11 am Saturday morning on 3rd May ’15, where my sister came to pick us up- that was our first Uber ride there. Now here’s the thing I really liked about the Uber concept in America, its quite different than how it is in India, coz although the people driving us are drivers, they treat you more like friends or strangers they’d like to know a little better, than passengers, who just need to pay them. And it’s not creepy πŸ™‚ I think I learnt more about the different people I met along all our Uber rides, about the American way of life, than I would have, by just sight seeing. There were so many stories with different angles of lives- mothers, students, expats who have migrated to America, that I’ll probably put up another blog just about the stories I learnt from them, maybe in my Diary blog πŸ™‚ But I did enjoy all the Uber rides throughout my trip there and totally recommend it to other single travelers who like to talk to strangers πŸ™‚

So, once home, we didn’t do much, other than catch up and head off to catch the latest Fast n Furious movie (which was really lame), but the theatre experience, with those beer holders and reclining chairs was pretty cool, I thought. We had an early dinner, or supper if you want to call it that, at this cute Mexican place called ‘Noche’, with amazing food- here’s a glimpse of what we ate πŸ˜‰

That done, the three of us (my sister, husband and I) went pub hopping at the Buckhead area in Atlanta to get a feel of the night life there. We went to a couple of places, danced like no one was watching, drank a few, ate a little and head banged to a local band playing and basically had a swell time! Finally, we went for a late night waffle treat to waffle house and wrapped up the night πŸ™‚

Day 2, we went out for a late brunch to place called ‘Nook’, which is near Piedmont park, hogged on food again, and then worked off our heavy lunch with a long walk at Piedmont park in the sun. I wished that I had more time there, so I could’ve experienced how it was to run in that park too, but maybe another time. This was the day, I also became the proud owner of a brand new apple Mac air, that I funded myself! woo hoo!

We recharged with some yummy cold coffee at this cute little popular coffee joint called ‘Caribou coffee’, where I had a hazelnut iced latte, walked back home, packed and left for the airport again for the next destination- Vegas!! woo hoo! We had quite a comfortable flight journey with Delta to Vegas, and reached late at night, an checked in at this amazing hotel & Casino- Monte Carlo. So, to be frank, I wasn’t personally excited about Vegas (I know, most of you would think, what?!!! who isn’t excited about Vegas?!)- but well, I don’t enjoy gambling since I have a pretty shitty luck, I’m not single or having a bachelorette party, and I can’t drink too much- but boy, when we entered ‘the Strip’- as they call it, the lights just took my breath away! There was so much energy everywhere, even that late in the night, that I realized, no wonder people never sleep here! Lol! So I changed my mind and decided that I did like Vegas after all πŸ™‚

Day 3 – We woke up pretty early in the morning, since my sister had booked us all into a day trip to Grand Canyon! I was so excited! The bus reached bang on time, and we set off with this funny tour guide informing us about Vegas’s history and stuff on the way. The bus stopped first at Hoover dam, where we got off and took some pictures, and more importantly- breakfast, and made another stop at the Chevron petrol pump where I went to the loo and we all got ourselves the much needed coffee! So before I tell you about my adventure at the Canyons, I have to mention how cool the loo situation here is! So everyone I’ve traveled with knows of my bladder situation, but here, that wasn’t such a major problem, since they have really good and clean toilets almost every half an hour or hour away! So pee away to glory, my friends! hehe..

Funny thing though, instead of the sunshine we were expecting, it got completely overcast and started pouring when we reached the Canyons! And we just weren’t prepared for the cold there! We had to wait a long time for the rains to subside, so we could go on our helicopter ride of the Canyons, but I must say, the wait was totally worth it! Firstly, it was my first ever helicopter ride, and secondly, the view was just magnificent from up there! And my sister and I got front seats too!

We spent some time on a boat ride on the river the canyon sorrounded and had quite a lot of laughs with this African couple who were with us, while we were trying to take care of a Spanish lady who could’t speak English and wanted to take a lot of selfies! hehe We had the most delicious lunch of pulled pork and mashed potatoes and veggies at Guano point cafe, which gave us the spectacular view of the canyon (but it was really freezing, so we actually didn’t linger)

We reached back at the hotel, changed and freshened up and headed off to party Vegas style! Well, we walked through Bellagio and Ceasar’s Palace, took the train from Monte Carlo, saw the famous fountains in front of Bellagio, and settled for the evening at a Mexican restaurant. We didn’t last long though, I realized Im too old to party Vegas style, and I didn’t see the point of gambling, so I retired early , while my sister kept going at those blackjack tables πŸ™‚

Day 4 – We had the biggest brunch ever, at our hotel- I think it must have lasted for 3 hours, and it was a complete example of gluttony, but what the heck, Vegas isn’t called the sin city for nothing! hehe..we freshened up and walked around a bit for shopping, and had a few beers and food at a cafe at the MGM Grand. My sister booked us all into this Cirque Du Soleil show called ‘Ka’ for the evening, and I have to tell you, I had never seen something like this before in my life!! the show was mesmerising and so were the costumes, the music, the stage and the theatre! I loved it and would recommend it to anyone who is visiting Vegas πŸ™‚ We hopped on to a sports bar at the MGM after the show, and drank and ate some more and then danced away in our room back at the hotel, until the security had to tell us ‘to keep it down ma’am’..hehehe

Day 5- Was our time to say good bye to Vegas, and collect the car onwards for our road trip from Vegas to San Francisco, with a stop over at Santa Barbara. So, it was a hassle free collection of our Ford from the rental store, we settled in with my husband behind the wheels and started off our GPS to head out of the city. The view was mostly arid and desert like, with a lot of shrubs and Joshua trees, but with the music, it was really exciting! We stopped over a while later for lunch at a casino, and had another filling brunch buffet! I can’t imagine how much I have eaten so far on this trip!LOL

I do have to mention in short about our driving adventure on the way to our stopover to the night, where my little sister took the wheels, and this is where I mention, she just got her license and this was her first time driving on the highway! We got a lot of stares and thought maybe the Americans look at people in other cars like Indians do as well, when I was told they don’t do that normally, unless they want to give stink eye to the shitty driver in the car! Lol..she also managed to take the car onto the wrong lane and swerve back into the right lane, giving the guy behind us a near heart attack..oops! But luckily God was on our side that day and we reached our stop over for the night- Santa Barbara without any major hassles.

We checked into this really cute motel called -Orange Inn (yeah it did have an orange tree, hence the name, a no brainer that one;)), changed and headed out to have dinner.

My sister booked another Uber, and I just love the Uber concept in America. You get to ride in different cars, with decent people and mostly locals who can give you the best suggestions on places to eat, drink, dance, see at the place and are so nice, friendly and chatty! So our Uber driver for that night was a middle aged lady who had lived in Santa Barbara all her life, and she suggested us to go to this seafood place called Brosby brothers, by the wharf. The food, service and ambience of the place was just amazing! I would recommend this place for dinner to anyone who is visiting Santa Barbara πŸ™‚

Day 6 – We woke up bright and walked around in the town and stopped by this amazing breakfast place called Tupelo Junction. We ordered freshly squeezed orange juice, freshly brewed pots of coffee, sandwiches, eggs to order, waffles and what not! Yes, US has been my gateway to gluttony, and I’m just half way through my trip yet! loved this place, and again recommended. After breakfast we walked around this beautiful town and did a lot of shopping as well!

Finally, we wrapped up from our motel and started the drive onwards to San Francisco, which was our next destination. The drive from Santa Barabara to SFO is beautiful in its own way, since here the landscape changes from the previous sandy dessert and beach side, to lofty green hills, and plains laced with vineyards. The air gets chilly too and we had to go through an entire stretch of road where it suddenly started pouring and there was a hailstorm, and all this while my sister was driving!! Talk about stress driving! It was scary and funny at the same time, but totally worth it, since it was our own little adventure πŸ˜€

However, I must say, entering SFO was a nightmare, since the highway had crazy traffic, quite similar to how it is in India, just more managed. I guess it might be since it was a weekday and evening, but from the highway to our hotel, it took us almost an hour. We had our hotel booked near the airport, and after checking in, we headed off to look for a good place to have dinner and drinks at, since we had heard so much about the food and drink scene at SFO. So, a friend of my sister’s recommended us to check this place out called- Alembic. So with great expectations, three hungry souls went to this place, it was bustling with people and we were quickly ushered to a table. Now, although we love to eat, we’re not the sort of experimental food people as such, and when we saw their menu, we were stumped! Everything on their menu was exotic! We weren’t sure what to order that we could really eat and fill our tummies, but since we were so hungry, we settled on some of the safer sounding options- the squid ink pasta, bone marrow spread with bread, cheese platter and a pork dish. Well, I’m not sure my review or feedback here would do justice to the place really, so let’s just say, we weren’t too much into the food, and will probably not go back there just for dinner:) The cocktails however, were amazing and quite innovative!:)

Day 7- After a really disappointing breakfast spread at the SFO hotel, we got ready and booked an uber to take us to the Golden Gate bridge. It was quite huge and interesting, but we literally spent just about 15 minutes clicking pictures at this place, since, you got it- we were hungry again for lunch! So we hailed another Uber and went to Fisherman’s Wharf for lunch and spending our afternoon:)

We went to lunch at Pier 39, at Fog Harbor Fish House. The restaurant was amazing, and we had a direct view of the ocean, and Alcatraz prison, but who wanted to look at that when the most delicious seafood was in front of us to be devoured! So amidst the three of us, we finished a whole lot of fish and prawns and mashed potato..lol!

Lunch done, we walked around the pier and stop by at a Ben & Jerry’s ice cream parlor for dessert. The place was so sunny and colorful and bright, that eating my amazing ice cream seemed like the best treat in the world!

Our ice creams done, we booked a boat ride that would take us under the golden gate bridge and around the famous Alcatraz prison. It was nice and sunny initially, so we wanted to stay on the deck to get a good view, but as soon as the boat started, it was clear, us Indians from the tropical weather would not be able to brave the cold SFO winds! so we decided to put on our hoodies and alternate between the deck and the cabin inside..hehe

After the amazing boat ride, we went on to stroll about at the wharf and check out the many shops and farmers markets there. I just loved the colors and buzz of this place! It was so lively and the shops – I think I must have bought something from every little shop we visited there! Yeah, touristy me..hehe, from little sea themed trinkets, to funky socks, to magnets, to fruits, coffee and tiny sugar and cinnamon coated donuts, to posters and hoodies, I don’t think I left anything out! I think I really loved this place in whatever we saw of SFO in those two days πŸ™‚

After an afternoon well spent, what else was there to do, but head out to mission district and check out the pubs again! So we started with a small german bar, had a few german beers each and something to eat, then went on to two other bars, and tried different sorts of wine and beers. We were quite full quite early, but from the looks of it, SFO night life seemed really happening. We were too full and too tired from our day’s adventure, so we couldn’t extend the night, but it was a good evening nevertheless πŸ™‚

Day 8- So this was the day when the three of us were to head out in our separate directions. I was to head off to Seattle to meet my best friend, my husband head off to Belgium for some business and my sister had her holidays over, so it was back to Atlanta and work for her, until I was back from Seattle. I had an early morning flight with Delta (I like their flights for domestic travel in US I think), and the flight was quite uneventful. The view while our plane was descending was so beautiful- mountains and green trees surrounded by water. I was really excited to see Seattle:) Once I landed, my best friend Bunny and her husband picked me up, and we dropped my bags at their place (they live at downtown, which made it awesome for a tourist like me!), and went off to have brunch at a cafe called Bronte. Good coffee (Seattle is really famous for its depressing weather, grunge rock, legal weed and awesome coffee by the way) and good breakfast with lots of conversation and catching up. My perfect beginning to the day:)

Brunch done, they took me on a drive to a place called ‘Deception Pass’ and all along the drive was so beautiful! The roads were lined with Pine trees all along and it felt like christmas all the time. And Seattle was sunny and really green when I reached there. After reaching Deception Pass, we walked down towards under the bridge, where there was an opening like a rocky beach with logs, near the water body where you could sit and basically chill and admire the beautiful sights around you:) I loved the place.

We drove around a bit further after deception pass and stopped over for loo breaks and coffee and a bite at a sleepy local town probably near Seattle and Canadian border. Amazing coffee, cheese fondeau and chocolate mousse, we drove back to the ferry point, while listening to Beatles and took the ferry back. The ferry ride was so exciting, you had to drive your car into the ferry and park it there and could go and sit upstairs, buy refreshments and enjoy the view. Bunny told me, this is where they had shot that horse suicide scene from the Ring! Eerie! heheh Dinner was at a joint nearby, with some drinks to wrap up the night and a few drags of that very legal hindukush strain, that just made my day or night, or whatever- I was zoned out πŸ˜€

Day 9- This was a sunday and originally, my best friend Bunny had done a lot of research and we were supposed to have brunch at a seafood place at Pike place market, which is walking distance from their place and then head out to mount rainier or another pretty place. But obviously, when you have greedy, lazy and buzzed people as tourists, its tough to do much jam packed sight seeing, so somehow, between fish tacos and a yummy special margherita, her husband and I managed to convince our guide- Bunny to chuck the sight seeing plan and just spend the entire day pub hopping and talking! Which, according to me sounded like a really good plan! So, out first or should I say second stop was at an Irish bar, followed by JM cafe, where we pretty much stayed until the end of the night! We were joined in by other friends, and got chatting with fellow drunks and the guys serving us, who eventually had their shifts end, and joined us for drinks as well! I had a swell time, on those lemon drops! JM cafe is supposed to be one of the oldest bars that survived the Seattle fire in the 1800s, I was told..so I did visit a heritage place after all..lol

Day 10- Woke up in leisure, since my friends had to go to work on Monday morning, but gave me the keys, so I could explore Pike place market and just the downtown area in general at my own pace. I love doing that- getting to explore a place, even if its just a street, alone, at my own pace. Noticing people, the buildings, cafes, talking to strangers who might be willing to talk to me, basically doing whatever I want. So that morning, I stepped out to Pike place market, visited the famous Gum Wall (this I think is one of the grossest piece of wall art I have seen, by the way, since it involves actual chewing gum, which has been chewed and then stuck on the walls! weird art these people have), had mac and cheese at the oldest mac and cheese shop (which was heavenly by the way), spoke to some other fellow tourists, had chocolate at a chocolate shop, sipped on coffee, and bought some souvenirs and gifts. My highlight of this exploration however, was this old and used book store that I found, where I must have spent an hour just browsing through all the comments the readers had made on their recommendations and the variety of books and authors available there are dirt cheap rates, that I wasn’t even aware existed! I think I could live there and I wish they have more book shops like these in India, instead of the crosswords and the borders, where the helpers have to look up on their computers to tell you if a book is available or not. Sigh..I bought around 7 books from this shop and then spent another hour at a souvenir shop, not buying anything, but talking to the shopkeeper! He was really friendly and since there was no one else in the shop, we spent the entire hour talking about our countries, cultures, art, politics, philosophies and god knows what! It was super fun!:)

So, I met u with my friends for dinner again, and that was the end of my short and amazing Seattle trip. We went to a mexican place that night for dinner and I just loved Seattle! I would definitely like to visit here again and plan a trip further to Canada or Alaska. That would be heavenly! Another destination added to the never ending list of places to travel! sigh!

Day 11, 12 and 13 – Day 10 went away in just traveling back from Seattle to Atlanta and the last two days I just wanted to relax at home and hang out with my sister, so I wouldn’t be too tired on my long flight back to Mumbai. I loved US, and I get the appeal now. Other than the fact that two of my closest people live there (they can make any place worthwhile for me actually), the people we met- from the uber drivers, to restaurant owners or people serving us, or just in general, were mostly warm and welcoming and really talkative! It wouldn’t be difficult to do a trip alone here, if you have your trip and stay planned I think. So anyway, I have a visa that’s valid for 10 years, and I intend to use it to its fullest, since there is much more to see and many more hangouts with my friends and family to be planned:)

Total trip cost- 12K INR for the visas, 85K INR for the return flight tickets and approx 45K INR on food, drinks and shopping. We didn’t need to spend any money on stay or travel in US, courtesy friends and family πŸ™‚

Stay- If you have friends or family, do plan to crash at their place, if its not an inconvenience to them:) Else, there are plenty budget motels and bed and breakfast places to choose from too. It helps to plan and book in advance

Places to visit- really depends on time and what’s on your list, but if you’re visiting any of the places above, worth checking out the places I’ve mentioned in my blog, at least for food and drinks too. You wouldn’t be dissappointed πŸ™‚

Tip- Book Ubers- they’re safe. Talk to the locals and don’t buy souvenirs from the airports, they’re more expensive πŸ™‚

Drink coffee!! I know the Australians and Europeans will say the American coffee sucks, but for the Indian who has mostly milky filter coffees as options, the make your own drip coffee there available at all petrol stations or rest stops, were a welcome change and addiction πŸ˜‰