Aurangabad Trip – Day 2 (part 2)

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15-August-2011 : We woke up early today and took our luggage and put in the car. Today was 15 th August and we were in transit to way back. No kadhai jalebis today 😦 But never mind, it had been a memorable independence day weekend. We had hearty breakfast at hotel, did the checkout formalities and took some pics of the hotel and headed out. Unfortunately, we could hardly explore the hotel, which was quite big and had lots of activities.

Our first stop was Bibi ki makbara. It is a copy of the Taj Mahal and after seeing the original this was a disappointment, but G having not being to the original one found it interesting. Then we headed towards Panchakki which was an interesting place. It is flour mill, which runs on water. It is designed such that the flow of water, rotates the wheels and grounds the grains. Was a nice place.

From there we moved to our last item in our itinerary, Daulatabad fort, also called as Deogiri fort. This was the capital seat of Maharashtra long time ago and the fort is one of the few which are well maintained. This fort is considered to be impregnable and have been ever won through kutniti only. We reached at the base around 11:00 am and we could see the majesty of the fort from far distance. I would have liked to cover the complete fort, but G was not up to it that day and so we decided to cover till midway and hired a guide. We saw ramparts, many doors and the minar etc. It truly looked  invincible.

We were at the end of our trip and to think of it we managed to cover more than we ever thought we could. We left Aurangabad by 12:30 pm. On the way we decided to stop at the food mall which we had been told served good food. The food was nice and we were in Pune city by 4:00 pm, but after crossing Ranjangaon, the traffic started to build up and it took more than 2 hours to reach home. We were tired, but had checked out one of the long standing places to see in our list.

Hollywood Movie Time & Earlier Trips (part 2)

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28-Dec-2016 :  So here we were cruising towards LA, first at great pace till Artesia , then the pace reduces till you reach snail’s pace from there till Commerce City as there is work going on here to expand I-5. But today was our day, so we were still moving like snail even as we passed Commerce City, then 101, then LA city, then entering the Hollywood section of the highway 🙂 As you are getting exasperated, you pass Alvarado st and you see the sign ..  the famous sign !, yes you are there! We reached around 11:30 am and went straight to H&H parking.

After parking the car and yes parking is quite costly in Hollywood, we made our way to walk of fame. I still remember the first time we were here with G and Ar and sudden arrival of Spider man made Ar nervous. After that she stayed away from all characters that day. But next time around Ar was more forthcoming and she happily clicked pics with Miny mouse. This time around we had mainly come here for Ar as she had been talking about meeting Miny mouse since last few days, but when she meat her there she was not cozying up to her :), it didn’t help the matters that spider man dropped from nowhere 🙂

That’s when the idea of seeing a movie there came to me and we decided to let Ar settle down a bit and meanwhile decided to check at El Capitan theater about the running shows. There were couple of interesting movies running and G was interested in Moana and I wanted to see Star Wars: Rogue One which had just released. The Star wars show was at 12:30 pm just 25 mins away and the next one was quite late, so we decided to go for it. Now it was not very popular decision as we would be skipping the lunch, but we do regular lunch daily, we don’t come to Hollywood daily to watch the movie 😉 Now that’s my logic ..

This was one of the most unique movie watching experience of our life as not only we were seeing a movie in Hollywood, but as the theater belongs to Disney and the Start Wars movie is also produced by them, they had mad elaborate arrangements. Now before running ahead of the horse, let me describe the theater a bit. Its a old (Opened in 1926), Iconic and has great architecture which is mix of European and Indian influences. As you enter the lobby you are transported to a different era. Its painted vividly, with incarnate upholstery and and earthly oriental feel.

Now as part of special screening there were storm troopers to welcome us and to take pics with them in the lobby. Then we entered the theater itself, which again has high Indian influences in its design. One unique thing is that this theater is still one of the very few where you get reserved seats when you book the tickets. They still have Balcony and stalls and the old style of screen curtain etc, which transports you to good ol days! From the door, we were escorted to our seats by the helpful attendants.  Then after the usual trailers and all which thankfully were very less than usual we were greeted by a host and he welcomed us, did some chit chat and then the movie began, so we thought, But suddenly from behind the screen the storm troopers came and they did a small live show and then the movie started. Truly impressive and memorable. We made do with popcorn and blueberries to pang the hunger !

The movie itself was good and we had a great time. Ar also seemed to have enjoyed the latter part of it. After the end, we went to basement gallery to checkout the exhibition of outfits worn by the stars in the movie. It was really a great experience. We were out of theater by 3:00 pm and Ar had another chance to take pic with Miny mouse which she did but rather grumpily. Then we pulled the car from the parking and headed towards our next destination Beverly Hills, where we were planning to have our home made lunch.

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There are many tours which start at Hollywood to all these places like Beverly Hills to star homes etc, which we never thought of taking, but we always wanted to visit this place which is home to the famous Hollywood start. So we had planned to go visit couple of parks their one which has a lake and on the way just go through the area and see some homes etc.. But we were already quite late, so we decided to skip the lake and only visit the Beverly Hills gardens which has the famous Beverly Hills sign and is located in the center of the Beverly Hills.

The park is elongated small patches spread across blocks, one with a duck and Lilly pond at then center and many piece of arts located in its premise. We reached there in around 20- 25 mins and luckily found the parking spot at the very entrance. We were all quite hungry and first took care of that matter. G had brought in home made chapati wraps. Then we walked around a bit, saw the famous sign and decided to head out. Before leaving we rode through few of the streets of this famous place, which are wide and quite. Really liked this place.

It was almost 4:30 pm and we decided to head home. On the way back we took I-405, which I thought would be clear, but no luck, it was jam packed and we moved at snails pace for more than and hour, before it cleared after Artesea. We were back home by 6:30 pm after a usual but unique in a way, a place which we now know quite well 🙂

PS: When are we going next? And yes we didn’t spot any real stars this time either 😉

Hollywood Trip & Earlier Trips (part 1)

28-Dec-2016 : I don’t know what, but Hollywood has some pull which takes you to it again and again. So here we were back to Hollywood after being here few days back and before than countless times more. I still remember the very first time I had been here more than a decade ago in March of 2006 and if there was one, this was the only place I wanted to visit and see. At that time we had started late in the day, definitely past noon. We had lunch at Pizza hut and headed towards Hollywood, ever reliable but late starter Raghu on the wheels. Once you enter LA downtown you are in fairyland and then in some time far away you see the famous 9 letters sign HOLLYWOOD on the top of the hill and you know this is what you had been waiting for.

On that day we could not cover much, but we walked the walk of fame having stars of famous hollywood personalities, also walked the Red Carpet as celebs at the Kodak theater, yes that’s what it was called then, it has been renamed Academy theater since. Few years back they had renovated the whole block and now it is called Hollywood and Highland, which along with the theater has a great viewing arena with different levels from which you get straight view of the famous sign.

There are many eating joints and shopping centers. I remember that was the day I first ate Subway that to foot long, with all the veggies and sauce filled till they were overflowing 🙂 We also saw the Chinese theater, with great architecture and the front area having hand and even feet prints of the famous. How can we forget the El Capitan theater and Capital records building or Paramount studio or Charlie Chaplin studio .. We can go on and on .. Another attraction on the walk of fame are the Superman, Spidy et al, no not the real ones ,but you wont know if they were real :). We were there till late in the evening and left around 7:00 pm. I remembered that day for long time to come.Only miss was seeing a real superstar, but you don’t see them here right, do you 🙂

Since that day I had been to Hollywood many times and I like being there each time. The usual plan for a visit to this place is to park close to the Hollywood Blvd, take the walk of fame, go and have look at Kodak theater, do your celebrity red carpet walk, go to the arena to see the sign and then just move around. Also on the characters you see on the walk of fame is a good indicator on who are the current popular and favs of people.One of the places we eat while being there is either in the food courts on H&H or the Baja fresh just opposite the Chinese theater. There are also many cool performances and stuff going on. One of the time we were there Samsung was showcasing their galaxy VR with Dinosaur display, I think it was at time of release of Jurassic World.   It was the first time we saw VR and it felt so real!

There are many museums there and we had seen few last time we were there and really liked the Hollywood museum which had good old memorabilia. We had also been to Madam Tussaud’s , 1st for G and Ar, 3rd for me and it was good, this one being Hollywood special.

Now one thing which have been in my mind since long which had to yet been realized it to watch a Hollywood production at one of the Hollywood’s iconic theaters. Now that would be one for the ages! So today as we started towards Hollywood, we didn’t had any of the above in mind if you are making guess here :). We were here few days back to trek the Hollywood hill and went on top of the sign, but on that day Ar wanted to meet Miny and Micky mouse and we could only give her excuse of she not appropriately dressed (read Miny mouse shoes and bow et al) for the occasion .. hmm so who were responsible for that .. not me I believe:).

Aurangabad Trip – Day 1 (part 1)

13-Aug-2011 : Did I list the dates right 🙂 Its been more than 5 years from the days we did this trip and I even wrote a blog on the Day 0 of this trip and then .. we are here today 🙂 So what we are 64 months late, the memories are with us and I need to jot them down before they fade. So lets start from where we left it last time around.

Finally after noon and long journey we reached the hotel. We were quite tired, but didn’t had much time to rest as we had to have lunch and proceed for site-seeing as we had a reasonable itinerary planned for next 3 days. Our itinerary included: Ellora, Dualatabad fort, some temples on day 1 , Ajanta on day 2, Bibi ka Makbara and other remaining places on last day + some shopping and city seeing. But then if planning = execution all the time then what’s the fun.. 🙂 right… So we set out from the Hotel @ 2:30 pm ….

Its a 45 minutes drive from our hotel to Ellora caves. En route you have to pass under some old stone gates, remember Aurangabad is a walled city. The road is ok, but there was lot of traffic and we were able to reach Ellora by 3:30 pm. The complex is huge and has many caves. there is a nice waterfall as well near one end of caves. The main attraction here is obviously the Kailas temple, which has been completely carved out of rock. What a piece of architecture, they started carving from top of the hill sand billed the top first and then the base. What kind of vision and engineering it would required! We spent a long time there and then explore other caves in the complex, each section belonging to different ages and so nice.

It was already 6:00 pm and we started back. One the way we wanted to cover Grishneshwar temple, but were already quite late and so decided to head straight back to hotel. On the way again we faced lot of traffic an reached hotel by 7:15 pm. We took some rest and were thinking of watching a movie, PVR multiplex was just besides the hotel, but couldn’t agree on a movie and decided to give it a skip for today. We had dinner in the hotel only which was quite good and then took to bed. It had been a tiring day, but we were able to very few things and were looking forward to next few days here!

Next day we woke up early as today we were to go to Ajanta caves. Its around 100 km from Aurangabad city and took around 2:30 hours to reach. We had breakfast at hotel which was good and then left the hotel around 8:00 am. We reached Ajanta caves around 11:00 pm. Nowadays you have to park more than 4 km from the caves entrance due to pollution corroding the paintings. A electric buses takes visitors from parking to the main lobby.

When we reached the bust stop there was already a long line for the bus and we also joined the queue. But the buses were not frequent and even after waiting for half an hour and looking at number of people in front of us, we were not sure when our number would come. As the weather was good and we could see few people hitting the road, we also decided to walk all the way. Now that turned out to be not so good decision. G was quite tired before we reached the lobby and on the way we saw 4-5 buses passing us by, so if we would have hold out for few more minutes, we would have been on it :(.

So we reached the main lobby by 12:30 pm and once you enter there is a small bazaar which we decided to explore on our way back. The first sight of the caves complex is breathtaking. Its an U shaped gorge, also called horse shoe along river Waghur. Its a very extensive site and the oldest of caves are over 2200 years old. There are total 30 caves belonging to different periods, some of them having paintings exclusively, so have statuses and some were persuade half way only. The paintings are beautiful and have survived for some many thousand years.

Cave 1 especially is covered with well maintained paintings and has one of the pictures which every school children knows. After covering few of the caves G was quite tired and she rested while I covered few more. Even a day would not be enough to cover the complete site, we saw as much as we could and started back. On the way back we shopped at the bazaar for some handmade items and also had our late lunch there. The bus stop was packed, but we were going by bus only this time, no walking :). After long time we somehow pushed around to get into one of the bus and covered the way back to main gate standing, it was fully packed. Then we got to our car and started back to our hotel.

We reached back by around 7:00 pm and were fairly tired, but we had covered the place we wanted to see for so long. Not sure if G agrees with that completely :). We had dinner at hotel only and gave up on plan to watch movie in Aurangabad :(. We packed up as tomorrow early morning we were checking out and after some sight seeing would be heading back to our home.

Trip to Julian – CA

27-Dec-2016 : We had heard about Julian from few people, about it being a small and tony place to visit. We also had heard it being a historic town, which has maintained its historic legacy and so were looking forward to visiting it. I was on year end leave and today we were tossing between going here or San Diego downtown. Unfortunately we didn’t get up and get ready early, so we decided to go to Julian as the other place would require more time to explore and early sunset during this time of the year doesn’t leave much time. I did some analysis on the area and discovered that is more to this place than it being a historic town. In second part of 1800’s, during gold rush days, gold was discovered in Julian and the town developed along gold mines. Today there are still few mines which are open for guided tours along with few museums. This town is also famous for apple orchards and apple pie’s. There is also a nice lake nearby, all this made for a perfect place for a day trip.

We left home by 10:30 am and were on our way to south via I-5. Julian is towards San Diego. You take I-5, then you take exit for CA-78 and then at the end of this freeway you continue through 2 lane road passing through towns and villages. The weather was perfect, light clouds and we were enjoying the ride. We have been on this route many times and now there is a sense of nostalgia associated with it. The traffic was light and we were cruising along.Once CA-78 end, you pass through a town and then hit single lane highway reminiscent of many Indian roads, which I enjoy. These roads have there own character and are not monotonous as Interstate highways. We were passing along countryside and it was beautiful. Many orange and grapes orchards, farms, cows, horses, few scattered farm houses. A timeless setting! We kept the thought of plucking the overflowing orange trees with fruits at bay 🙂

Then we entered ghat section and you need to cross few hills before you reach the destination. Far away we could see snow clad hills and mountains and G wondered when we would be going to place like that. As we move along these hills appear come closer and so we though we may pass or reach near them. It was only when we were close to 3 miles of Julian I saw snow on side of road we realized, we might be passing through or to them and not just close ;). We even pulled near a hillock clad with snow, though Ar was fast sleep.

From that point the traffic was moving at ants pace and it took us more than half an hour to cover the remaining distance. As we moved closer to the destination we could see many snow covered hills and on the other side of road we saw a parking lot. Having fed up with long queue, we decided to pull over and cover the remaining half a km on foot. After parking the car, we crossed the road and went to one of snow covered hill and had some fun in snow. Ar was too excited to see and play in snow. Unfortunately we hadn’t anticipated snow and so were not prepared and got cold in no time. So we decided to move on and we were already quite late , it was 1:30 pm and lot to cover.

We straightaway decided to head for mines, which is located on C street uphill. On the way we saw great views of the old charm of town clad in snow. After reaching the mines, we found the tour guide and started the tour. It costs $10 for adult and for Ar it was free. The guide explained about the whole history about the place and showed us tool, techniques of gold mining in old days. He also demonstrated gold panning and panned gold from gravel. We were already struck with gold fever 🙂 Ar by now was feeling cold and so G and her waited for some time inside the cabin having old style coal heater. Then he took us inside the mine and showed us the quartz view and explained many areas inside the mine. The mine was bit more comfort from the chilly windy outside.  Ar was now enjoying the tour from midway and she was crying maybe from cold or darkness or may be mineophobia!  The tour lasted for over 2 hours and we covered many internal mines, the mine being quite extensive, per guide it had eleven vertical levels. Finally we started feeling cold air and we knew we were close to the exit and withing 2 mins were out of the mine.

The time was already 4:00 pm and we all were cold as numb and Ar we could see was clearly uncomfortable. So we had to cancel all our plans and decided to head home. Some how we managed to reach the car parking as fast as we could off course after some customary confusion 😉 . We were bit worried if the car will start and after initial grumpy sound it started and we turned on the heater to get to normal. My hand were quite numb and it was some time I was ready to drive. It was already 4:30 pm and we were bit worried if we would be able to hit the highway before dark, I didn’t want to enjoy driving in dark in those small serpentine roads. The evening sights in those hills were really beautiful and the sight of light cars driving through the winding roads was enchanting. We were also quite hungry but decided to stop only after reaching I-5, which we eventually postponed to once we reach in our locality. We made by eating fruits and biscuits.

We finally reached to Oso parkway around 6:30 and decided  to have pizza. It looked like ages before the pizza was ready and we ate the it warm in car only. We were back home by 8:00 pm which and ended a day which did not went as per plan, but was quite and adventurous and memorable no less 🙂

PS: We didn’t cover the gold company, museum, lake, not even taking about apple plucking and discovering the Julian.So we need to be bacckkk 🙂

Trek to Mt Lee (Hollywood sign)

23-Dec-2016 : Now this trek was in making for some time, but I was not sure about the trail details etc and so it was not happening. So holiday season which starting today was a good time to go for it. We tentatively decided on this trek without much analysis on the trek and with threat of rain washing the day for today. We were to finalize if we are going or now in the morning. We woke bit late (so much for a plan) at 8:00 am and somehow managed to get out of office by 9:45 am. There are few trail heads for this trek, one located on Beachwood dr, another being from Griffith observatory. Looking at a blog,  Beachwood looked like a good option, so we decided to head there first and if it does not work out then head for other option.

We hit I5 by 10:00 pm and surprising the traffic was thin. In fact in all these time I had not seen so less a traffic enroute LA, but we were not complaining.  Due to less traffic we reached Beachwood drive on expected time around 11:00 am. This place is just off 101 and it is in the heart of Hollywood. Its an area really located amidst woods and it is so tranquil, green quite and cool, it reminded us of Pune or Satara. We parked besides the road, luckily today being weekday else it is not allowed and would be bit difficult to get here. We parked around 2800 and I had thought the trail starts around 3000. So we got our stuff and headed towards the trail. Once we reached 3000 we couldn’t see any trail around and thought maybe this is wrong way. There was a guy besides the road who guided us towards Ledgewood dr, which he uses to go to Hollywood sign.

Without knowing any better we decided to follow his advise and headed back and picked that road. Along the way we saw some really beautiful houses, nestled in thick woods. It was really steep hike and we were still not sure if we are heading in the right direction. There were few others who passed us asking the way to the sign and he were as clueless as them. It didn’t help that it was cloudy today and we couldn’t see far away. Suddenly I saw a glimpse of letters O, LL and I knew we were heading in the right direction :). We kept on the same road in about 25 -30 mins we reached the at a gate and we took right turn there. We saw the Hollywood sign up close, but some thing was not correct. We were to be behind the sign and not in front of it. It was my bad, I had not read the blog completely which I should have. I had thought I would check ones we reach there, but sadly I was not able to find the network for most part of the trek. Finally there was 1 bar on the phone,just enough to access the blog and though the details were bit vague after reading it I realized we had to continue on the Beachwood dr till the end.

So we started the decent and reached the base in no time, Ar was quite tired and even G wanted to consider going back. But we had to make a try :). So were back heading onward Beachwood dr. At around 3100 we saw a gate and knew instantly we have made to the trail head.  After just crossing the gate there was a horse table and they have some rides which take you to Hollywood sign. We took a right turn from there and started following the semi – marked trail. The weather was great, cloudy and bit cold but perfect for trek. On the way you get great views of LA. After 10-15 mins we came to a vista point where you get a good close view of Hollywood sign and also there were few stone blocks.We were quite hungry by now and Ar was also tired, so we decide to take lunch break there. We had brought in sandwich, fruits etc and devoured it in the perfect setting. Once done we started again on the trail, when G noticed a small detour on left going uphill and decided to explore for shortcut. So off she went while we waited for long time before she emerged to inform us of her discovery. So we took the shortcut, which passed through some trenches and shrubs and finally and connected to main trail.

After walking another 10 mins we reached a dead end with a old paved road running perpendicular to it. Here you have to take right and then just follow the trail all the way to top. From here the trail is bit steep and we had to comment Ar as she was pushing through. We had to take some breaks, but in half an hour we made it to the top. As always its a great feeling reaching the top after all the hard work. We finally made it on top of Hollywood sign on Mt Lee. From here you get 360 degree view of LA, along with pacific coastline. You could just stay there for ever. But it was very windy and chilly and so we dropped the plan to eat our second round of lunch there. We started the descent and just bellow the top there is place to sit which was shielded by cliff end and so was less windy and cold. We took a break there and had fruits and then started the non stop descent. On the way there were not many hikers left and we were alone for most of the time. We reached the base around 3:15 and G and AR waited near the gate, while I continued long hike to car park.

In the morning we had told Ar that we would be going to Hollywood walk of fame and she could meet Micky and Minny mouse, but we were already running late and considering the traffic situation in LA and the early sunsets in this time of the year, we decided to keep that for another day and started back home. It was a wonderful day and good start to long holidays for us. Ar did a great job hiking 8+ km with 1000 feet elevation, way to go! We had finally put behind the Hollywood sign and were ready for the next one. On the way back there was quite a bit traffic and we reached back home around 5:30 pm. We were bit tired as well, so finished the day with old favorite pizza :).

PS: After her mini discovery of shortcut earlier in the day, G was looking for shortcuts everywhere making me nervous, one of them was slope almost 80 degree ascent close to top tucked with stones, a dreadful thought going that route!

East Coast Trip – Day 7 (Boston)

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7-Oct-2015 : Today was the last day of our trip, which made us bit sad. We had breakfast at room only. Today our guide had given us luxury as we were to start at 7:00 pm. So after many days we had a good sleep :). Once boarded the bus, we were again heading back to Boston city. Today was the Boston cruise day. We were to see many historic points through cruise. There is so much to explore in this historic town, but had to do it with the time available. We reached Boston by 9:30 pm and boarded the cruise on the historic dock overlooking the famous Boston harbor.

We were cruising along the Boston Harbor. We passed the point where the Boston tea party happened, which triggered the American war of independence. We passed along many historic districts of Boston. We also saw the oldest ship of the US navy. One of my childhood dreams of going to the places I was visiting and seeing and exploring them for myself.

After the cruise, we headed to Quincy market which is historic food district of Boston. Its located inside building from 1800’s. There are so much options there ,even Indian. But that place was still being setup to start the day 🙂 that we gave it a skip and had Mexican food and coffee. The place was so crowded that we had to have our lunch standing. It was time to leave and some of our travelers were fairing good bye as their last destination was Boston.

We left the Boston and headed towards New York. On the way we took break at rest area where different buses of the tour had assembled. They quickly got us unboard our bus and get on a bus as per our destination. We were headed to the airport and so we picked the appropriate bus ans were on our way. We reached airport by 6:00 pm, well before our boarding time of 8:00 pm. we took the metro to our terminal, completed the formalities and then settled down. We decided to have pizza and for sake of trying ordered one with goat cheese. We couldn’t get it down the throat and had to let it go :(. We then had burger which was ok, but there were not much options and boarding time was approaching.

We got on the plane and were headed home :). What an amazing trip, one of our best and cherished ones. We reached LA by 9 :00 pm. We had already booked the shuttle, but it kept us waiting for long time and we reached home around 11:00 pm.

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PS: I was on leave the next day and was to join office day after that, but I was so sick I could only join on Monday and was still sick for many days!