About me

Am a contradiction of sorts. i love going out and having a good time with friends, and i can also stay home chill out over a book or a movie..

Am very passionate about writing, so give me a topic and watch me float away into wonderland... Love reading books- sometimes i read 3books simultaneously, crazy about music- need it all around me, all the time and ofcourse, i totally am ga ga goo goo over my 7yr old naughty brat- Floppy!! errr, Prince Floppy!! :)

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Skywatch Friday ... Mountains meet the sky

What a feast on the eyes right? This was clicked as we headed out from Yosemite after the hike to see them giant red Sequoia  trees towards the village.. There was a view point from where you could get a glimpse of the entire vista including the beautiful waterfalls. The place was packed with tourists, standing, lying down and doing all kinds of poses, it took me quite a while and a short trek to find a spot to click the vista without any heads bobbing into the frame!! :D 

The one thing that baffles me when I travel is the love people have for clicking pictures. I like to savour the place, enjoy the scene, take it all in before I pull out my camera and more often than not I forget to click a picture of me in the location.  Yes, we all want memories, but then dont you feel we lose the experience cos we are more focused on clicking the right picture, the right angle, the right color, making sure the sun is not around, etc etc...!! 

For more beautiful skies, visit Skywatch Friday

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Packing your bags.. the art!

I had earlier done a post on Travel light, travel fun, travel safe... Today decided to do one to help people pack for a long haul... I know packing can get daunting and for some it drives them mad. They end up spending hours, if not days ahead of the trip doing nothing but packing an repacking.. I for one have always been chill about it, takes me about half an hour and I typically do it the day am travelling...  

I am a minimalist to the core. I believe in owning very little and this extends to everything else in my life as well, even travelling.  For my domestic trips,  I carry just about enough items that will help me get through the trip and maybe one extra set of clothes [ just in case] which will invariably come back unused. But now when I was planning my 1st ever long vacation to USA, it kinda had me in a fix. Should I pack as I do for my local trips or should I carry more? Having seen my uncle [who visits from USA] over the years, I know it is enough to pack just enough, but then he has quite a few sets of clothes to everything else here at home, so he does not need to lug as much from there.

But I was gonna be travelling within the country, staying with friends and others for a day or so, therefore thought I would need more stuff than what I would carry for a typical 3.5week trip. Boy oh boy, did I learn my lesson.  I brought back so many clothes and undergarments untouched and regretted carrying so much. But then we wont know till we do it once, right?

So here are a few tips on what to carry in your check-in baggage and what to pack in your hand baggage.. Let me know if you have any other add-ons to this.. 

 The cool checkin kiosks at all airports... 
This is by Jetblue, but almost all airlines have this facility 
Show your passport, then swipe your card to pay for the bag, choose your seat, print out your boarding pass and proceed to security check in area.. voila! Saves so much time and is quite easy to use... 

What I carried... a suitcase and a backpack 

 The Minion luggage tag

 A red gold ribbon along with the luggage tag for easy identification..I had the red gold ribbon on my backpack as well. :) 

 The TSA approved lock on the suitcase.. You can change number and set the lock..
The universal Charger that came in handy...

A bag that can be folded and tucked away into a small pouch, these are such space savers and are useful when you are going on short trips or shopping expeditions. These LOQI bags are so handy and can hold quite a bit [upto 20kgs]. I also carried another one similar to this with a zip for my 2day trip within USA 

The pouch with all the charging cables [except phone and laptop]

Check in bag

Typically airlines allow about 20-25kgs check in baggage [per item], but do check our airline rules for details on how much is allowed.   I flew Cathay Pacific and they allowed 2 bags of max 23kgs each. I had decided I was carrying one suitcase and a backpack for the trip only.

Since I was travelling to the USA, friends had advised me to pick up a suitcase with a TSA lock on it.  Otherwise, airport authorities might end up breaking the lock if they want to inspect the suitcase.  What I noticed was that my suitcase had been inspected but the kind folks had left a paper that said the suitcase had been inspected and they had repacked it to the best of their abilities along with an apology for any mess-ups.

If you see a cool/funky luggage tag make sure to grab it, will be easy to identify your bag if you have one of these on it... Check out my cool Minion tag [gift from a friend and he travelled with me all over USA]

What and how to pack

  • All your clothes, undergarments, towels, socks, extra footwear, accessories, cosmetics, toiletries, medication, extra books to read, gifts and other eatables you were carrying for the people you were visiting go into your suitcase.
  • If you are carrying a perfume bottle, make sure to pack it inside socks or wrap it in a stole/tshirt so it stays protected for the journey
  • If you are carrying lotions or creams, again wrap it well so there are no leaks, you can also cellotape the mouth to keep it shut.
  • Pickles, sauces, jams and others need to be packed in thick plastic covers, sealed with cellotape and wrapped in a tshirt or towel [ that you are ok to discard in case of any spillage]
  • Carry all basic medicines along with any specific ones you need.
  • Keep a copy of your passport and local address in your suitcase.
  • Roll up t-shirts, undergarments, and any other item that can be rolled. It helps in saving space and easy to identify and pull out as well.
  • Foldable bags [1-2] that you can carry for a short day trip or  stay over.
  • I always throw in 1-2 freshener sachets in the suitcase. It helps in fighting any kind of musty smell and feels nice every time I open the suitcase.
  • Carry one hand towel and one bath towel – I always carry light thin ones that I know will dry fast. 

Hand baggage

Note: This can either be a backpack or a backpack plus a hand bag. But remember the flights have restriction on size and weight for this as well, so do not attempt to carry another ginormous stroller as a hand baggage. Also, in case you have a few hours transit, you will have to be lugging them around, so keep it light and small. 
  • Important documents- Have a pouch of sorts to store your passport, foreign currency and other important documents that you have to carry. Keep them all in one place so it is easy to pull out at the airport during check in and security checks.  Remember to keep your wallet also along with this so you can pull out your ID card whenever needed. 
  • Laptop – If you are carrying your laptop make sure to carry a backpack that has provision for the same. Best way to keep it from getting scratched or damaged. Remember to pack the charger as well.
  • Camera – I carried my DSLR in my backpack with just one lens. If you are the kind to carry all lenses, best would be to carry a camera bag.  Again remember to carry the charger and extra memory cards as well
  • Other chargers & cables  - if you carry an ipod/mp3 player, phone, other devices that require charging, remember to put them all in a pouch and have them in your backpack. This extends for power banks as well.
  • Hand sanitizer and wet wipes – carry a bottle/a packet. Flights are known to be the largest germ carriers, so best to use these.
  • Hand lotion – our skin tends to dry out in flight, as the air is quite dry, so use the lotion liberally.
  • Lip balm – For the 1st few days after landing in LA I had the toughest time as the area around my lips had dried up and was hurting like crazy. A Vaseline based lip balm was what came to my rescue and helped fade the pain an dryness away. I would advise you use this in flight as well.
  • Tissues – Use them to wipe your hands, face, or just about anything but always keep a packet handy. Infact this time I carried around a tissue  roll through the length of the journey [what if the public loo I visited had run out of tissues...egads..]
  • Eats – Carry oatmeal bars/granola bars, chocolates, biscuits, small bottle of juice and ofcourse water when you travel. It does not matter if it is for a flight or when exploring a new town. These are life savers!  Also remember to pack in some chewing gum or mint.
  • A set of clothes & a hand towel-   Always carry a set of clothes in your back pack. You never know when it would come in handy. Just a T-shirt, pants, and a set of undergarments would do. Same holds true for a towel.
  • Medication – If you are on any special medication, remember to carry that in a pouch in your back pack.  It could be to help you with motion sickness or a pre existing condition, but don’t forget.
  • Address and phone number – Yes these days we all whip out our phones for details. It wouldn’t hurt to carry a notebook in your backpack with address and phone number of those you are visiting/staying with.
  • Book to read/write – If you are in the habit of reading, carry one book for the flight and similarly if you are into journals, do carry one along with a good pen.
  • Headphones – Oh yes, always carry good noise cancelling headphones. Most airlines will give you a pair of headphones, but having your own gives the freedom to listen to music while you are exploring a town as well.
  • Universal Charger – If you are travelling to a different country, best to carry one of these as it comes with provisions for different charging styles. Do some research and figure out what that country uses and make sure to carry an adaptor/charger that will work.
  • Disposable bag - in case you want to trash something or to carry a wet towel, it is best to pack it separately so it does not soil other items in the bag

I was travelling for 3.5weeks and what I did was pack in about 10 tops/tshirts/shirts/blouses along with a pair of jeans and 3 other pants [palazzos, printed pants and a black workout pant of sorts]. As for undergarments I took enough to last me a year [cos I wasn’t sure if I would be able to do laundry].

I should have just gone with my intuition and packed as I would for a local trip. Lesson learnt! NO more lugging more than I need, plus most homes had washer-dryer I was able to wash clothes and I repeated them. J

Bottom line- If you have your passport, some money, local address details and a set of clothes, rest can be purchased [ incase your check in bag goes missing or takes longer to arrive]. So don't panic or worry unnecessarily, all you need to focus on is the holiday and the experience... :D

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Skywatch Friday ... The clouds below

The first flight had me slightly anxious, but thereon I became a domestic flight ninja of sorts. I knew where to go, what to ask or what to look for when walking through the security lines. Infact, towards the end of my trip, it became a game with myself to see how many seconds it took me to put on my shoes after the security check. :-) I started spending lot more time walking around the airport, exploring the shops and not being too worried about departure time or how far the gate was...

 Here are a few photographs I captured when up in air...  The sight below was breathtaking.. Sometimes it was water, other times it was nothing but long stretches of mountains and once i saw snow capped mountains as well.. :-) Reasons why I love the window seat so much... 

For more beautiful skies, visit Skywatch Friday

Friday, June 2, 2017

Universal Studios, LA

I had a plan in my head when I booked my tickets to USA. But then it kept changing every few hours, until finally I took a few places off my list and added few others.. One of them that I gave few extra hours to was UniversalStudios.

I was gonna be back from my Vegas- Grand Canyon trip [yes yes am yet to write about it], and had given myself 2 extra days in LA.. My uncle and aunt were gonna be away, so I had their place to myself and make the most of the two days. On the 1st day, I decided to head to Universal Studios and second day was set for Getty Center, Ikea and spend the rest of the evening with uncle- aunt before packing my bags for the early morning flight that awaited me thereon.

I was up bright and early, went for a short walk around the neighborhood, showered, made myself a yumm breakfast of French toast, a glass of orange juice and bowl of berries :D [I drool as I am writing this now..sigh]

I walked up the stairs towards the entrance, heart was beating fast and adrenalin was rushing to the head, that is how excited I was... They have these kiosks that help you do away with long lines, picked up a ticket [mine was $80- includes all rides and shows] and entered the place.. That was it.. I do not remember how it was 6hours when I left the place towards the exit gates... the only breaks i took was to grab something to eat/drink- churros, coke, a salad and a pretzel...

Wheee…. WOWWIEEEEEEEEEE……….OhMyGawddddd…….*Grins* -- These were the only sounds I made while walking around the place… lolz…

Here is a photo tour of how my day at Universal Studios was… 


Monday, May 29, 2017

Getty Center, LA

While I was planning my trip, one of my uncles [in Chennai] insisted I visit the Getty centre. I had seen pictures from grandparents' earlier visit and knew it would be a lovely place. I did not know much about the place, except that it was all about art and there was a huge garden within the campus. On my last day in LA, after having a relaxed breakfast, I made my way to the bus stand to head to Getty Centre. The J. Paul Getty Museum, commonly referred to as "Getty", is situated in the Brentwood neighbourhood of Los Angeles.. There is another centre, The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Villa located in Malibu.

A short bus ride took me straight to the main entrance, where I was told to go to the place where electric tram took us up the hill to the main Getty centre. From there you are free to wander about. Everything is free, there is plenty of open space, benches to sit and enjoy the view from, a couple of galleries displaying different kinds of art, and of course the garden down below. There are also guided tours at specific timings.  And as with every place, there are a couple of gift shops selling interesting stationery to bags , toys and more..  The art collection features Western art from the Middle Ages to the present. It is said that over 1.3 million visitors annually, making it one of the most visited museums in the United States. 

I noticed there was a Garden tour in half an hour. After enquiring about the assembly point, I began wander around the grounds.  Situated atop the hill, it offers a 360 view of the city below, with such beautiful vistas all around.

Keeping the various elements around, the architect Richard Meier designed the complex to highlight both nature and culture. The lady who gave the garden tour explained in length about the architecture and the architect's mind as well. From that, Richard Meier sounds a bit like someone with a major OCD. 

The walls are all beige, they are fitted with 30x30 inch squares that flow seamlessly from the ceiling to the floor and around. 
The trees in the centre are all aligned to be in line, they are also white flower blooming trees as Meier would not have other colours in the complex. 
When they asked him to plant a coral tree, the tree of LA, he made sure to put it behind a wall,so it did not mess up the rest of the space. :D
*mind voice- damn this guy must have been crazy, wonder what he was like at home*
The smaller plants are also white flower blooming ones..
There were few other trees which were in a straight line, Sequoia trees.. They all looked like a military man had blown the whistle and ordered them to stand straight. 

Wait, there is more. Cos trees have roots and have roots have a mind of their own which could lead to them changing positions over time, these trees are all planted in giant boxes which have then been hidden into the ground.. 

As for the garden, that was put together by Robert Irwin. The main garden is in three parts-- the Stream Garden, the plaza and the Bowl Garden. They have zig-zagged down the Stream's path, passed the bougainvillea shooting from rebar bowers[ a smaller version of what you see in Singapore gardens], crossed over the water cascading into the pool below, then strolled into the intimate, exuberant spirals of the Bowl, centered on its water-bound azalea maze. The past year saw the state go through terrible drought followed by rains. During the drought season, the Government shut off water and so the garden is pretty dry with nothing but succulents all across. The zig zag path is also dry and so we did not see/enjoy what Irwin had designed. 

Oh and even the trees around the campus - they are all pruned to a certain height, almost  looking like someone gave them a bad haircut. In one area, there is a long walkway with mauve pillars, around which are wines with purple flowers in them. Now these were allowed, but had to be trimmed and kept in a certain way acc to the architect. 

The day was quite windy, infact during certain moments I thought it was gonna whisk me away. After the tour, I spent some time exploring the art galleries, there are quite a few water bodies, ponds and interesting sculptures scattered through the property. I also picked up some souvenir at the store and grabbed a cup of coffee at one of the many kiosks outside. It is a beautiful place to just sit and soak it all in. 

Soon it was time to bid adieu to this magical place and head back down. The tram awaits... adios... 

Friday, May 26, 2017

Strolling along the Venice Beach , Los Angeles

Narrow lanes
Short bridges
Waterways all over
These are a few words that come to my mind when someone says "Venice"..

But for us it was more of We went, we saw and we left... lolz.. read on to know what happened... 

There we were, about 15-17 of us, sitting around the table enjoying a lazy breakfast when a cousin announced "lets go to Venice Beach", will be fun. We can even rent cycles and ride around the place. Lunch can happen at one of the places and we can come back. I was lost, I did not even know there was a Venice Beach in LA... Another cousin looked at me and said "you should go, its your 1st time in this country, so come check it out, there are street performers, shops, marijuana doctors, food etc etc... its a fun vibrant place. Within an hour, all of us but uncle-fiancee piled into two cars and headed out. The drive was long, took nearly an hour, then came the drama of finding parking. Phew, a public parking lot came in sight and we found  spot for the SUV. During the ride, I did some digging about this beach... Originally called "Venice of America," this area was founded by tobacco millionaire Abbot Kinney back in 1905 [meant to be a beach resort town]. He along with his partner bought a 2 mile long ocean view property here.  

At the entrance is a banner that announces "Venice" and down the road is where you see the ocean. There is a long boardwalk filled with street vendors on one side and performers on the other. We watched a magic show and a music gig.. I also noticed quite a few guys handing out Music CDs... They just give it to you and then follow you asking for money.  The stores are a lot like what we see in Goa- filled with junk- hats, caps, t-shirts, souvenirs, and some products looked very Indian. And then came the row of Marijuana Doctors, all painted in neon green. You can walk in and get a legal prescription for the drug... :O 

I spotted a basketball court and a skating rink as well..Suddenly I heard loud music on the left, I turn to notice a huge workout area, with guys looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger's older brothers, ginormous muscles..  The coolest thing were the walls all along the beach, they were covered in interesting murals and graffiti...   For a Friday afternoon, the place was jam packed.. You gotta be careful of your stuff else some could go missing~ I was walking along when suddenly someone slammed into me, my handbag fell, scattering the contents. I picked up as much as I could and walked ahead. But something stopped me in my tracks, I looked back and saw my phone cable lying on the ground. Grabbed it and heaved a sigh of relief that nothing valuable was lost... 

We walked around for many  45mins when suddenly one of the little ones announced he was hungry. And thus began the hunt to find a eatery, battle between good food vs decent looking place. After a few mins, we got back to the road near the parking lot and headed into a Chinese/Thai place, occupying the largest bench and thus ended the visit to the beach. Apparently, the beach has a stretch which resembles venice- with small bridges and water ways and is quite a sight around sunset... Oh well, guess it will wait for my next trip..