The horseshoe bend.. Arizona

After the jaw dropping few hours at the Grand Canyon, we were headed back and then towards the Horseshoe bend. There was another tour that had Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe bend, but since I was keen on the Grand Canyon i chose this one..  We were a handful of us in the bus and it was quite exciting… Located near the town of Page, Arizona, the horse shoe bend got its name based on the shape formation of the mountain. From up here, you can see the Colorado river flow down below, all the way down the canyon… This is a continuation of the Grand Canyon… 
I had read and seen pictures of the place, but did not know of anyone personally who had visited here. Anyways, it was all part of the travel experience right?  The van pulled into the parking lot and we were told we had an hour to get back to the van. If any of us found it difficult to hike up, we could always come sit in the van and wait for the others.
Now, even though the hike to the edge of the horse shoe bend is less than a mile, the first few yards is uphill and quite steep. Beyond that it was all sand with ups and downs.. The path is not difficult, I spotted many wearing flip flops and sandals, walking by. It took me about 15mins and as I neared the ledge, it got a bit scary. I kept thinking “please God, let me not slip and slide down the edge”. There are no fences or walls, or even ropes for us to hold on to.. You go as far as you can, stand for as long as you want or sit or walk around, or jump on nearby rocks, click pictures but it is all upto you how safe you remain!! 
It was a good thing I carried my water bottle, even though it was cool and windy, I was thirsty and I hear that in summers it gets quite hot.. There are no shaded areas, so make sure to carry a cap along. met a couple who have been coming here every month on their anniversary date and all they do is drive down here with their dog, sit for a few minutes and go back.. I also spotted quite a few others with their dogs 🙂 
I am not scared of heights, but I guess I was afraid of slipping and falling [esp since it has happened before to me] Hands were shaking as I was trying to click pictures and so I stepped back a bit before clicking them~ Oh well, fear conquered and I survived the trip.. Yipee…

Solo travel.. my take!

As
most people know, I love travelling on my own and it so happens that most of my
travels have been solo travel. I had done an earlier post about how fun it is doing trips on your own. I do know it is not everyone’s cup of tea and that is
perfectly fine! There are a few who keep talking about travelling on their own,
but just don’t do it, cos they are unable to get themselves to do it. They need
to accept it and let it be, instead of harping on it.
Another
thing that most people assume is that just cos I travel on my own, it means I
don’t have friends or am a loner. I am not, trust me! I plan these trips on my
own cos I love it and I enjoy my space & freedom when I am off exploring a
new town. I don’t get scared, or even if there are moments of uncertainty, I
just take a moment, breath and figure out a solution. Nothing is rocket science
or life threatening. If it does get to that point, am sure I will find someone
to rescue me…



So,
is there a flip side to travelling solo? Well, I wouldn’t exactly call it flip
side, but yes there are a few sticky points in this. Actually I have so far
faced only two issues.

      1. Photographs –

Well,
when you are exploring a new town, you go about enjoying the scenes, sights,
and devour the local treats.  There are
bound to be a few landmark buildings that you click pictures of. But then when
you want a picture in front of the place, it becomes a “what do I do now” kinda
moment. There have been so many trips where I have not a single picture of
myself at the location. But over the years, I have started asking other
travellers or a local to click my picture. This time during my USA trip, I
asked someone or the other at literally every spot to click a picture of mine.
I did click a few selfies, but then am not comfortable with that and invariably
the picture looks weird.  And then there
is the whole “is anyone watching me shamelessly click a picture of myself”… lol
       2. Looking out for your things while you go do an
activity –

I
was in Goa, at Calangute beach and spotted a few parasailers and others on the
jet skis. I so badly wanted to give both a shot but then I had my backpack with
me which contained everything from cash, to room keys to my ID, cards etc. What
do I do? There were no locker facilities or a safe place to put these. And so,
I spent nearly an hour walking up and down the place, all the while my eyes and
mind was keen on doing these activities. It did notice a family that was
staying at the same place as I was, and smiled at them. In a few minutes, we
were yapping away about how hot it was and so on. I don’t know if it was
telepathy or the man had been watching me stare longingly at the para
sailers/jet ski, but he suggested I go give them a shot. When I hesitated, he
immediately said don’t worry, you can leave your bag with us. It will get wet
and you wouldn’t wanna get your things wet/lost in the process. His wife chimed
in and reassured me. I decided to throw caution to the wind and do just
that.  Phew, it was such a relief to come
back to the shore and see them holding onto my bag.. God bless them! The kids
were so curious to know how the activities were and we yapped a while before
going our separate ways!!  Not sure if I will
trust people so willingly everywhere….


What
are the other issues you have faced when travelling alone? Any
scary/terrifying/awkward instances ? Do share…
  

Skywatch Friday… Garden & art..

Walking along The Mall in Washington D.C, after spending about 7 hours exploring the museums and food trucks, I was ready to head back to the train station at Smithsonian. Along the way, spotted the garden alongside a vintage building and took a stroll through it… 
Here are a few pictures captured from there… 

For more beautiful skies, visit Skywatch Friday

The Nawabi Food festival, J Hind GRT Grand , Chennai













I havent been to GRT Grand in ages and I did read about how the hotel was hit bad by the Cyclone last Dec, which led them to renovating the entire place. Must say, it looks smashing now.. Complete makeover! It had a swanky plush look, as against the slightly outdated earlier look. I was headed to J.Hind, the restaurant on the ground floor that was hosting a Nawabi food festival with the Nawab of Arcot. 

The month-long celebration of Nawabi cuisine will showcase the best-kept secrets of the royal kitchens for foodies in Chennai. Over the last month, the team of chefs from Grand Chennai by GRT Hotels visited the kitchens at Amir Mahal, spent time with the staff, and learned the nuances of the centuries-old cuisine. The Nawabs of Arcot are well-known for their heritage and culture, but not as much is known about their cuisine and so this festival was a good way to introduce the dishes to the world.. 

Some of the dishes on the 12-course degustation menu include saffron infused subzi galouti tikka, Dungara paneer tikka, patti samosa, pathar ka gosht, anda jhinga tamatar, Arcot gosht biryani, sundried tomato roti, and Nawabi paan shot among others [a good mix of veg & non veg dishes].  

The other cool aspect of this food festival is that the Chef shows off various techniques that most of us have seen only on MasterChef or other such international cookery shows. There was Spherification,  sous vide, use of liquid nitrogen, the smoking gun with apple wood and few other techniques as well that were shown off to the guests at the table. Now, while these were fun to watch and I was quite kicked that our Local chefs were incorporating the techniques into the cooking, I hope they are paying heed to safety aspect as well. The dishes were presented in fine dining style, some on a rugged looked plate, while others were served in a jar or a large container of sorts. 

Starting with the trio of amusebouches kicked off the meal, followed by the simple yet flavour packed soup – Narwal dodo ka shorba which was poured onto a bowl that had a small potli filled with spices. And then came the 1st show of the evening, the Focaccia Sheermal, a chat dish was prepared with liquid nitrogen in play. And with each dish, we had some element of surprise in either the technique or the way it was presented. Agreed the theatrics was fun, but the bottom line is the food quality, right?!

I enjoyed most of the veg dishes, the tomato based main gravy was odd  I couldn’t put my finger on it. Loved the daal and paneer sabzi, with the sun dried tomato roti. There was a veg version of the biryani which was like a well made pulao… With ref to the desserts, I enjoyed the Badam halwa the most. Dont eat paan, so did not try that. And the jackfruit ice cream served with frozen rose was not really my thing- i dont like the fruit nor do i like flowers.. but there were many around who loved the dessert..  My friend who had come along was impressed with few of the non veg dishes but he felt the Biryani was a let down… 

The 12 course degustation menu will be available for lunch and dinner, and is priced at INR 1450++ (vegetarian) and 1650++ (non-vegetarian). More on this festival can be found here

Address:
GRT Grand 120 Sir Thyagaraya Road, T. Nagar; Chennai, Tamil Nadu 600 017

Call for reservations: 044 28150500

Disclaimer:

The reviews posted on this blog are based on my personal experience. Also remember that restaurants and eat outs sometimes change with time, so does their food and service. So, kindly consider these factors while visiting the places. Remember, no two palates are the same. Bon AppĂ©tit  đź™‚ 

Skywatch Friday… Skyscrapers galore..

More from the city that I entered with quite a bit of apprehension but loved just as much as the others… Since I did not have too many days and other plans cropped up, I decided to do a hop on hop off bus tour.. Sitting atop cos I thought that would add to the experience, little did i expect it to be as windy and cold as it was… I was nearly freezing but the sights kept me glued to the seat… Here are more shots from that morning…

For more beautiful skies, visit Skywatch Friday

Quincy Market or Faneuil Hall Market, Boston

I was in Boston just for 2 days and on the 1st day, I was up and ready along with my friend & her family by 7am. Since I had grabbed breakfast at home, I was good to go. The train journey from Acton to North station took about 45mins. The agenda for the day was Harvard, MIT, and Quincy Market/ Faneuhill Hall Market place.  By 12.30 I was on my way to the oldest market place in Boston, quite excited about all that I had heard and read. 
The atmosphere is just amazing here.. I must have easily spent about 4-5hours without seeing the same stall twice or tiring out. There are closed buildings with stalls inside them, alongside eateries and a large hall that contains multiple food outlets to choose from. And then there is this giant common dining area with tables and chairs and a beautiful ceiling. This is a building that has been restored and old boards have been hung on the wall, giving it a vintage feel. 
And if you step outside this space, you will come upon performers, more stalls selling interesting stuff-  jewellery made from flowers, wallets and knick knacks made with paper, art pieces, clothes, bags, and everything else you can dream off. 
And then on the far end there are a few buildings that contain brand stores selling products at discounted rates- Banana republic, Aldo, Old Navy, Crocs, Victoria Secret and few other brands I have only heard of. The beauty of this place is that there is something for everyone, literally~! 
I picked up a few souvenir stuff, a pair of Beatles guitar puck style earrings and a paper wallet that had BB8 print on it.Most of the products sold here were within $10 and so quite affordable. As for the food, you are spoilt for choice. The one dish that I saw many order was the Crab/clam chowder. I opted for the tortellini and it was yummilicious!! 
The most amazing thing about the place was they had a common area with games- table tennis, chess, puzzles etc and then there was a trolley of sorts with shelves lined with books and a couple of colourful chairs near it. It was the “reading room”. You grab a book, sit read and replace it when done! How cool is that right?  

More stories to follow from my trip to USA..stay tuned…

Skywatch Friday… Fire escapes of New york

While in New york, I did a brief tour via the hop on hop off buses and the views were beautiful, especially since I was sitting on the top. But then after a while, the cold winds got a bit too much and I had to rush downstairs to warm myself up… 
I loved clicking shots of the various tall buildings sprouting from the ground, almost felt like I was watching a movie or an animation being put together, where buildings just grow and go all the way to the skies. The one thing that caught my eye were the fire escape stairways in these buildings, having seen them in many a TV show or movie, it was interesting to see them in real.. Here are two shots that I love…

For more beautiful skies, visit Skywatch Friday

Let the conversation flow…


 Sometimes you meet someone, and conversation just flows nonstop, and seamlessly. You are amazed at the end of the meet and smiling away.

And then there are some when you have no clues what to talk about, either they aren’t the talking kind or just very different from you or blah. And these are times when you want to leave the place asap and not look back.

For me atleast a good conversation is the biggest Turn on. I don’t need good looks, or bank balance, but being able to talk to someone is what keeps me in high spirits and happy.  There are people around me who often question this , ask me why it is so important to be able to hold a conversation. Sometimes, we might be poles apart and yet be able to coexist they argue. But I guess for me that doesn’t work, I can’t co-exist, rather I don’t want to co-exist with anyone.

For ex, a decade or so ago, when my parents were actively looking to get me  married off, they would bring about proposals of guys working in this BIG IT Firm, with a car worth x lakhs, have a house and the works- you get the drift right? And I would play along, telling them I need to meet the guy alone before taking a decision. Unfortunately that is where things would go downhill, much to their chagrin. I would meet the guy and within minutes be ready to bolt or slap them. 

When I would come back home and tell family it was a NO from me, they dint get it. Their argument was “some people are silent, that doesn’t mean you can’t live with them… blah blah”. This made me wonder why they dint get the concept of “conversations and how it was essential for open communication between two people”

Similarly, there are a few in my family circle with who I have nothing in common. We chit chat for a few seconds and I walk away. There are those aunts who I have known for a few decades and every time we meet the only thing they ask me ” What is the latest movie you saw” .. Am like ‘are you serious’… these days I just smile the minute we encounter and walk away…. And then there are others with who I can yap away for hours- it would be across topics and flow seamlessly.. So much fun I tell you!

Why is it that with some we are able to hit it off instantly and it continues for days/weeks/months/years beyond? and with some it dies after a short span of time while there are some that just dont take off at all? 

Is it to do with their social skills? Do they know/not know how to have a conversation? 



During many of my dates, I have had guys just fire away one question after another, making me wondering if I was there for a fun date or an interview… And when they ran out of questions, it was on to fidgeting with the menu card or looking around randomly, refusing to make eye contact… 

Recently, I connected with a guy on a dating app, and within minutes we were done and there was nothing but blank space. We had exchange notes on what we did for a living, our location and then the guy went silent. I gave up and moved on. But the guy messaged after a day asking how I was doing, and then silence… This was on rinse repeat mode for a few days. And one evening he sends me a msg saying ” I dont know what to ask you.. you say something na”. I took the chance and replied ” It can’t be an interview session all the time. Sometimes when there is nothing between two people, it is best to move on.”. He either did not get the message or was the Duh/desperate kind. His reply ” No, no, you say something na..”. I again replied ” Conversations need to flow easy, cannot be forced. I think its best to call it quits and move on in life.. “. He again sent a “No, but I like you, dont know what to talk…. “.. I gave up and just left it at it… 

Think of all those people in our life who seem to bring out the best in us whenever you talk to them.. We feel comfortable talking to them and could go on talking forever. They could be old friends or someone we just met, but the conversation just seems to flow smoothly and naturally.How and why? Have we been trained on the art of making conversation? Well, here are a few points I could think of on this…. 
1. Listen without an intent to just reply – there are many who are already playing a response in their heads, that most times they fail to listen. Don’t do that. Actively listen to what the other person is saying and then respond accordingly. Its alright if you have nothing to contribute! 
2. Its not always about you – Don’t hog the conversation about your fun/show off/sob stories. After briefly talking about something that happened in your life, shift the focus to the other person. It is good to have them talk about their life. You just might learn something new!
3. Body language and gestures – it is always good to use hands when talking, but don’t go over the top by flailing your arms about. It sometimes intimidates the other person and they shy away. Similarly, hands folded across your chest is a big NO NO esp if you are standing and talking.  When sitting, don’t have your head in their face or keep moving your head away when the other person is talking to you. Let them know you are listening to them. 
I have the habit of nodding or saying “umm. ah. ok..” when someone is talking [ be it in person or on phone. just my way of acknowledging that am listening to what they are saying.. but I know of few who think this is unnecessary..well, I am happy doing this, cos silence could make the other person wonder if you are even there on the other side”]
4. Occasional pauses and silence is good – you dont have to go on and on and on. Sometimes a brief second of silence is good. Also, pause between sentences, dont want it to sound like lecture. Dont fidget, or pick up your phone and continue texting when the other person is talking… 
5. Interesting/offbeat topics – there is more to life than work and home.. Look for some other interests to share. If you are learning a language, an art form or travelled to somewhere new do share stories and ask for the same from the other person. You can also show off photographs on the phone or something you bought from there [if you are carrying it with you].. Or if nothing comes to your mind, you could talk about the place you are at, the coffee shop/restaurant… 
Well, let me know your thoughts on how important conversations are to you!!