Florid AH!!

My sister has been eating my head to put this up ūüėõ Stalking me everyday! This one is for her – Apologies for being off the grid. Will be around sooner!

From the cold of New York, D and I flew¬†to sultry Miami. My sister was picking us and we had landed early. D got woefully reminded of my lack of machine knowledge when I kept calling out every second car as a BMW which apparently my sister has? Or wait.. was it Honda? I am not sure anymore. It was a nice car with butt warming seats – that meant D had to get out for every single errand as my sister and I refused to move our bums ūüėÄ

First Dinner @ Versailles

First evening was spent trying to molest my sister into giving me attention. I was dying for it after being deprived for five years! What was surreal was being with her in a setting that is NOT India and NOT home.

Next day we left for Orlando – two days of Universal Studios and Island of Adventure which translated in two days of Harry Potter. D and I used to be pretty insane about the series and this was our dreams coming to life. Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade delivered! We spent two days trying out spells with our wand, having butterbeer, going on those amazing multi-dimensional rides, catching Celestina Warbeck’s show, riding the Hogwarts Express and of course, wondering about our lost letters. Honeydukes was an absolute treasure as I sampled never-melting ice-cream, chocolate frogs and fudge flies. We also randomly roamed in other areas of the parks and especially enjoyed exhibits from Minions, The Mummy, Transformers, MIB and so on. By the time it was evening, we were dead on our feet but just¬†not ready to stop. The place shone and twinkled with some¬†wonderful smells easing our senses into a soft lull.

Insert Hogwarts theme music here
She taught me how to pose!

We got¬†back to Miami and made grand plans of ferry, the multi-million homes and indulging in water sports. And because it was us, the weather played a spoiler and lo! We were greeted with THUNDERSTORMS in Miami! We made the best of indoors by helping ourselves to mimosas and wine and all day breakfast! And of course, shopping was on the cards – my sister is one of the best shopping companions ever. Her taste is amazing and this time she made sure I got my own stuff instead of raiding her wardrobe as usual! That felt like home ‚̧ A visit to Everglades worked out well as the weather set the scene for some thrilling time as we imagined being chased and attacked by those sleepy alligators. We also caught a show by the Gator Boys which was absolutely incredible! It helped that the guy was really good looking ūüėČ

She also taught me to tie my shoes…
Everglades in the storms
Stranded in the boat…

Sunday was my birthday (YAY!!!) and of course, the forecast was thunderstorms yet again. Basking in the holiday mood, we still confidently made our way to South Beach ready to take on the world. I caught two radically different versions of the beach that day. It was¬†dark and ominous in the beginning and this powerful spell of showers¬†drenched us in half a minute! Wet and dripping, we were well into our¬†“happy hours” when the sun shone in full glory. D and I happily albeit¬†unsteadily made our way back to South Beach and whew! I realized the true beauty of that place. There were shades of blue vying for attention and luckily the beach was almost deserted. We grabbed a pristine white spot as our tequila-led spirits led us into¬†dancing madly ūüôā

The dark before…
Happy Hours ūüėÄ
Birthday Brunch!
And the stunning after!

A quiet evening lovingly led us to the end of my birthday and the end of the Florida stay as we were all flying to New Orleans – our last stop before it was time to say goodbye.

Love her !!!!

Bliss at Central Park

The weather joked with us during our stay. Everywhere we went, our first leg was cloudy while the last day would dawn with merry sunshine. Some say the sun was celebrating our departure РI say it wanted us to see the places in every shade it created, clear skies being saved for the last!

Monday was warm with the temperature reaching 60s and the prospect of Central Park was inviting. It is almost a 2 hour train ride from Raritan which we spent catching up on sleep.

The golden hues of Central Park

Rows of yellow, auburn, gold and brown welcomed us into their warmth and we pretty much let our whims guide us as we rambled through the park over bridges, stony formations and tree houses. Deeper and deeper we went, catching glimpses of cyclists, joggers, artists, dreamers and lovers. The diversity represented different parts of the country and perhaps even the globe. Perfect setting for people watching.

We grabbed honey-roasted nuts (for me) and a hot dog (for D). Side note: We make the perfect combination of herbivore (me) and carnivore (him) balancing the gastronomical wants.


Munchies done, we walked down the Mall with elms forming a canopy above us. Artists, jugglers, musicians, couples and children lined the benches as the statues on each side looked at us gravely. The iconic Bethesda Terrace and Fountain opened before us with the dim gush of the water. Boats slipped down the lake, couples kissed at the benches, dogs rambled past and babies crooned at the sight of the cherubs.

We grabbed a place near the lake where the ducks were having breakfast. Timeless were those moments spent sitting there. A couple was posing in their wedding trousseau complete with bow-tied bicycles. The fall colors would have made a perfect picture as they kissed underneath an old tree.

Isn’t he a sassy duck?
D !!
These cherubs ‚̧

Our next stop was Strawberry Fields Рthe memorial for John Lennon. A group of performers were playing his songs and we listened to a beautiful rendition of Imagine. After that I let the bookworm in me take over and we walked chasing squirrels to the Alice in Wonderland monument. And it was gorgeous! It is surrounded by some memorable quotes from the books and I was reading them aloud to D. I think this was the first time I have seen him getting bewildered Рin a nice manner. Ever the practical one, he had already made arrangements for my tummy as it had loudly started demanding food.

We also found James Bond’s boat somewhere… 007!
Hey Alice! ūüôā

Wistfully, we made¬†our way to the Zoo and the exit. I spied a mother and¬†her young daughter playing on a blanket of fallen leaves, wearing matching hats – that was a perfect send off! That and Delacorte Music Clock. It was exactly one o’clock and the chime of a nursery song started with the animals rotating with their musical instruments. Outside, we saw the Confounding Clock with its rotating face and the sun gleaming¬†behind it.

The Confounding Clock!
Chasing squirrels was fun ūüėÄ

Wolfing down¬†pizza and falafel, we covered a part of Fifth Avenue on foot with D firmly pulling me forward as I stopped a million times to gape. I was tempted to go inside Tiffany’s with its gorgeous holiday decorations, but D saved me from possibly bankrupting us. We had time to wonder at the constellations of Grand Central Station (and sample cupcakes) as well as visit the NY Public Library and see the¬†Gutenberg Bible. Our night tour guide Tina had made a great pun on the library standing between the lions as “reading between the li-o-nes!” ūüėÄ

It was goodbye to NYC – who knows if we will ever see it again. But Miami and my sister were around the corner¬†ūüôā So it was not very¬†hard to say goodbye!

Birthday in Miami coming up next ūüėÄ

New York Hopping

It was a bustling mid-week afternoon when we placed our feet firmly on a packed street of New York not far from Penn Station. We looked up and up and up not even bothering to hide our wonder. That we were in awe doesn’t even cover the¬†happy incredulity over the fact that we were walking on the streets of NYC – arguably the greatest city in the world!

We were staying across the river in Jersey City at Newport with my cousin and bravely tackled the subway system. 33rd St PATH was close by and we managed our metro cards quite easily. No need for a copy of New York subway for dummies as we manged decently over next few days. We had an idea of destinations we wanted to cover and tried to follow the lines that ran through them. We also became skilled at asking for help Рunlike our expectations, people kindly directed us to places.

View from Newport
View from Newport

The first night was spent hogging like starved maniacs at Shake Shack in¬†Bryant Park. Cold shakes go well on cold nights I discovered. We also went to Eataly to freak out at the Nutella section …¬†It felt like coming home! ūüėÄ The last stop was the Empire State Building decked with¬†national colors to mark¬†Veteran’s Day. It was dark¬†and freezing on the 86th floor observation deck but forgotten at the sight of¬†the city spread around us like a twinkling blanket.

View from Empire State 86th Floor OD
View from Empire State 86th Floor OD – One World Trade, Statue of Liberty to right
The bright lights are Times Square - from Empire State Building
The bright lights are Times Square – from Empire State Building

The next two days were spent touristy style in Manhattan. We did the Big Bus hop-on hop-off bus including a night tour and ferry ride. It was the best decision as it really helped in getting oriented with the city layout. Times Square became our main point as all loops started from there Рwe did not mind at all. It is every bit mesmerizing and energetic as claimed.

Downtown loop went through SoHo, Greenwich, Little Italy, China Town, Chelsea, Financial District and Battery Park. One World Trade Center and the National 9/11 Memorial & Museum were incredible. There were flowers next to some of the names on the memorial and we could not even fathom the emotions of the people who had placed those flowers.

Other key stops included the High Line which is a work of genius, Wall Street and Brooklyn Bridge (you have to walk from City Hall to get there). The ferry that goes near the Statue of Liberty is close by. We timed our Brooklyn Bridge to reach just before sunset – we saw the rosy colors as well as the skyline getting lit from each side. Awe and some more awe!¬†Night tour follows a similar route but goes to just kiss the tip of Brooklyn and come back across the Manhattan Bridge.¬†Uptown Loop was more of a “Oh My God!!” and made us realize how not deep our pockets are. Chrysler Building, Rockefeller Center,¬†Guggenheim, the Met and of course Fifth Avenue were covered.

Empire State from Brooklyn Bridge
Empire State from Brooklyn Bridge
Chrysler Building from Brooklyn Bridge
Chrysler Building from Brooklyn Bridge
One World Trade Center from Brooklyn Bridge
One World Trade Center from Brooklyn Bridge
Manhattan Skyline from Brooklyn Bridge
Manhattan Skyline from Brooklyn Bridge
Street show at Times Square - we caught many at Central Park and Washington Square Park
Street show at Times Square – we caught many at Central Park and Washington Square Park

Some key eating points include Waffles and Dinges, Georgio’s Pizza, Financier Bakery, Sophie’s Cuban Cuisne, TGIF, Bravo Kosher Pizza, Dos Caminos and¬†super yummy food carts. Starbucks made good pee stops.¬†Special mention to¬†Magnolia Bakery as seen in SATC – the best chocolate pudding till date. We were randomly wandering down a street in Greenwich and accidentally happened on the apartment building as featured in Friends.

One day was spent in NJ where we visited Princeton –¬†B.E.A.U.T.I.F.U.L. No other words. We also visited Morristown and saw George Washington’s quarters – interesting, quiet and pretty. Every place was pretty! Inspiration was everywhere.

Princeton University
Princeton University

But apparently people are too busy to actually take note of it. Our last day in NYC approached and we kept Central Park for that special occasion…

Coming up next, Central Park! ūüôā It deserves a post of its own.

48 hours in DC

A burst of fall colors taking in their last breaths welcomed us in Washington DC. Fifteen minutes away, tucked in a beautiful lane of Arlington was our home for two days. It was a red-bricked home that was old and wise at ninety years. A shy dog named Roxy welcomed us with the owners. An artist’s home with bookshelves, potted plans, painted bowls of potpourri and musical instruments – we were overjoyed to be a part of it. The view from our window were trees blooming with reds and oranges as the sidewalks rustled with golden leaves.

Top right was our¬†room ūüôā

The subway was a short walk lined with pretty homes and radiant colors. We went to¬†Theodore Roosevelt Island and meandered down paths inviting us to get lost in their wilderness. There was not a soul in sight and only the whispering leaves and soft-footed deer. D literally had to tear me away to take a walk across the bridge into Georgetown.¬†And wow! This place is as pretty as a postcard. The buildings are timeless, the streets look like an artist drew and brought them to life. Up and down we rambled, catching some melt-in-mouth cupcakes at Georgetown Cupcakes¬†and some pizza. Something funny happened that evening – we had no clue where to add the tip! We made a frantic call to D’s cousin (My bro-in-law) and he explained the process to us as he caught his breath between laughs.

With sheepish smiles, we made our way back. It was barely 6:30 in the evening but¬†we felt the¬†jet lag catching up on us. We passed out in the middle of a mumbling conversation…

At the Island…

The next morning we were up early and energized. We visited the museums and monuments that cloudy windy day. Our first stop was the Holocaust Museum. I have read extensively on the same but nothing could have prepared me for the experience. Listening to the narrations of the survivors almost broke me and I wasn’t really strong enough to face such a tragedy. I couldn’t stay longer and had to leave – I just couldn’t.

We walked over to Natural History and of course I kept making connections with Night at the Museum Movies… The same thing happened at the Air and Space Museum. D went pretty mad – was wide-eyed and open-mouthed as we took in the fighter planes and air crafts. My favorite was our last stop at the Botanical Gardens which made an enchanting walk in the “woods”. The models of the monuments added a touch of gold to the otherwise green paradise.

Purple beauties at the Botanical Gardens

It was early evening and we started on the four monuments РThomas Jefferson Memorial, Lincoln Monument and World War II Memorial with the Washington Monument in the background. The dusk made these monuments simply breathtaking! The clouds and skies were an imposing background and heightened their magnetism. I should mention РI fell in love with the Washington Monument. I was sitting and staring at it lost in my thoughts till D had to gently shake me out of my stupor.

Jefferson Memorial


View from Lincoln Memorial

Our legs were beginning to give out even though we were by no means tired. We grabbed dinner at the famous Ben’s Chilli Bowl and licked our bowls clean – not literally unfortunately. We made slow work of the walk back taking in the sights which we might never see again.

Beautiful morning walk
I was so tempted to roll here!

The next morning was bright and sunny unlike our previous two days. We took a walk in the neighborhood before catching our bus to New York City. The sunshine, the gilded tree tops and rolling leaves across lawns was a sight to catch. A happy start!

Hello Uncle Sam!

That feeling when your vacation is just starting… The energy, the anticipation and the possibilities. The moment I got done with Immigration/Customs and took the first step in Houston, it sunk in. My first step outside India and it was unbelievable! The next significant moment happened 9 minutes later as I peed for the first time outside Indian soil.

Contrary to my expectation,¬†my fiance¬†(hence referred to as….. Mr. D!) and I felt at home from the first second. We dropped my bags at my sister’s place and then stepped out to City Center for some dinner. We had some pizza, burgers and the most yummy chocolate creme brulee cheesecake at this place called Ruggles. My first lesson¬†– the serving size are humongous in this country! And a paradise with those drool-worthy desserts. My stomach started preparing itself for three weeks of ecstatic food binge.

The Halloween lights were still twinkling and they made a pretty picture as we took a walk down the lanes. With Thanksgiving and Christmas round the block, the mood was already being set.

First dinner - Introducing Mr. Skoo!
First dinner – Introducing Mr. D!

The next day I woke up at six wanting dinner (Bully for time-zones) and helped myself to a pre-breakfast. We stepped out to make the most of daylight and went to a nearby pond to say hello to some ducks. After that, we made a healthy start to our holiday and went for a run at the Memorial Park trail. The air was teeming with adrenaline and I was bursting into random peals of laughter at the sheer joy! The brightness of the sun was warm and the blue of the sky was welcoming. Every ray of sunshine represented a promise for the rest of the trip.

The pond where we said hello to ducks
A capture during our run

The run did wonders to build our appetites and we caught some brunch at Onion Creek. They serve the yummiest mimosas and incredible scrambled eggs in queso sauce! My brother-in-law was determined that D and I did not sleep off; he ¬†did a great job at keeping us busy¬†till late evening which included a stop at the Memorial Mall and a¬†Mediterranean restaurant called Fadi’s. We also had to scramble at Target for a pair of boots for me because my sister’s were too big (My size turned out to be 4 – still a tad loose but better than 3!)

We were slowly getting used to right-side driving and feeling like kings of the road as pedestrians. There was still some disorientation about the time because of daylight savings which more or less stayed till the end of our trip – the sun setting at 4:30-5 was too much to accept!¬†At dawn, D and I¬†flew to Washington DC with big loopy smiles on our faces. Through our flight, we¬†swapped¬†first impressions which more or less stayed –

  1. The air is clean!!
  2. People like to keep their shutters down.
  3. The country really loves its cheese and condiments.
  4. Tipping is sacred and not doing so is a sin.
  5. Toilet paper deserves a special mention in Maslow’s Hierarchy for Americans.

And thus began my trip. First stop was Houston where we were essentially dumping our bags and then moving on to other places. Next stop is Washington DC – the place that stole my heart.