Trip to Alandi

Oct-2006: This is the trip which started it all. This was our first trip as a group which over the years led to many exciting trips. Not that there were not attempts made earlier, but nothing was coming through and it seems divine intervention was what was required. So, one fine day or rather afternoon as we were taking after lunch walk Ashk initiated the topic to go for some outing. Again, you know how these discussions are, they start with some small place and then within no time every one is throwing around names of some exotic locations and then the plan is non starter even before it had time to form. But that day, he not only talked about the outing but suggested rather asserted we go to Alandi.

Alandi is a holy town close to Pune which is a place of pilgrimage having samadhi of Sant Dnyaneshwar maharaj and is around 20 km from Pune city. This seemed like nice place to start our journey and everyone were on board in no time. We decided to go the coming Saturday and decided to travel by bike. We all were from different parts of Pune and so I, Ashk & Ram were to meet at their place (I was going to travel pillion) and then we were to meet near Bombay Sapers where Sam, Sandy & Rav were going to join us. We were planning to start early and plan was to be back by afternoon.

As this was our first official trip and also it was going to be a short one there was no specific planning done. I just showed up at Ashk place as per plan around 8:00 am and after some time Ram joined in and we started towards the meeting spot. We reached there around 9:00 am which was close to the agreed upon time, but there was no trace of other guys, they started arriving one after the other and Sam was the last one. Finally we were on our way. The road to take is straight from there, i.e. towards Vishartwadi and this goes all the way to Alandi. The road till Vishartwadi or till bit further was ok, but from there on the road was real bad. It becomes single lane, with good amount of traffic for company and as you approach the town the road was no more than gravel. It really tested us!

Somehow we managed to the town and after crossing the famous Indryani river we parked. We were quite hungry and the original plan was to eat something en-route, but as we had started late, we had come non stop here. So there was one nice restaurant just at the entrance point of the temple walkway and we had misal and vada sambar there which was nice along with tea. We then went straight away to take darshan of Sant Dnyaneshwar maharaj. The samadhi & and temple is tranquil and spiritual. This I think was my first visit there and I liked the place. Then we spent some time along the banks of the river, the name of which has been engraved in our minds from  childhood.The town is quite nice and well maintained, though the river could be kept in better shape.

We were not sure on what next and were contemplating, when Ashk informed us that one of his relatives is disciple of Sant and he manages one of the ashrams just outside the town and he is in today. So we headed there to meet him and we had nice discussion with him. It was almost lunch hour and they were serving food for the devotees and he asked us also to have the prasad. So we sat on the floor and had the lunch which was nice and a good experience. It was over 1:30 pm now and we had to head back. The weather was quite hot though. We were back on the adventurous road and our back & spine got a good rundown :(. Earlier in the day on our way to Alandi we had spotted a new Sai baba temple which was still under construction but is quite nice and Ashk wanted to stop there for some time. So we compiled and had darshan. The work was still going on but the marble temple looked quite imposing and nice.

We also had nimbu pani outside the main entry gate and now were heading back home. We entered Pune around 2:30 pm and one after other people started going there own ways. We also headed towards Ashk’s home. I then picked my bike and was back home around 3:30 pm. So this started the journey which took us to visit many forts, treks and general travel and we were also back to Alandi as well few times!

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Trek to Matheran

Dec 2002: We were in college then. So yeah, its been some time ;), long long time to be precise :). We had lot of trekking enthusiasts in our group and we had discussed going for a trek one day but it had not materialized. So one foggy winter evening we 3-4 friends had just gone to the snacks center per our routines and over tea and cream roll we somehow again got into this discussion on how we should plan a trek and how no one really makes it happen blah , blah and then someone suggested why plan lets do it this week, then other added why not tomorrow and then it was like why not start today only, who knows we might change our mind. It happened so fast that no one was quite sure about whats going on, but as people had given commitments just now it was difficult for any one to go back on their word now.

But we were still 3-4 of us and we thought it would be fun if many others also join in. So we fanged out on different directions, scouting our college friends and trying to get them on board. Some hopped on instantly others had to be persuaded a bit. But in the end 10 souls were ready and we had a group. It was almost 6:00 pm and there were so many things to do. We had to plan for the actual plan :), then what transport to take, get things to eat, provision for money etc and most of all the place to go.  Many option were thrown in the air, but either they were too lofty or all were not ok with it. As we all were students and low on cash we had to factor that as well. So in the end Matheran was selected as we could go by the local train, which was a great option as we had direct connectivity from our place to the base village of Matheran called Nerul and also it was not too high and then we had one more attraction of the toy train.

So the place and mode of transportation finalized, some of us headed to get something to eat and water bottles etc and some got onto the finance part of it. The train to Nerul was at 9:00 pm from Akurdi and so we were racing against time. We had decided that all would meet at Pradhikaran road to have dinner. Slowly one by one people started arriving and we quickly had Chinese food there and headed towards the Akurdi station. We bought the tickets for the Pune – Mumbai passenger train and headed towards our platform. The station was fairly crowded and the train arrived in a bit though it was running late. Now we knew what to expect from the passenger train but what we saw and experienced was beyond the worst. It was jam packed and not only all seats were occupied but even on the floors people were sitting or sleeping. There was not enough space even to stand. The journey ahead was not going to be easy which had to be covered by standing all the way through.

It was so hot and cramped and it was only when the train started moving that the wind circulation made it bearable. There was lot of chatter going on there and we also saw couple of fights as well 🙂 Nothing new! The train ride was one of the worst I have had and it stopping at almost every station added more to our exasperation. Finally after what appeared to be eternity we reached Karjat and we had the vada pavs for which this station is famous. Later we got some seats or rather a piece of the seat :), which allowed us to rest. We reached the Nerul station at around 3:30 am, the journey had taken us ridiculous amount of time. We were quite tired so once on platform we found some benches and slept or rather tried to for some time. Then we were awake by 5:00 am and after getting fresh, we were ready to head towards Matheran.

It was quite and roads were empty when we started. Shops near the station had started opening the shutters. We made out way from the narrow lanes of the town and were on our way to the trail. Our original plan was to take the toy train ride, which is one of the few mountain railways and an icon of our country, but the first train does not leave before 7:00 am. We thought through it and as the journey had made us so stiff, we were no inclined to wait another hour or so there. So we decided to trek to the top now and would ride the train on our way back. Matheran top is around 8-10 km from Nerul. There is motorable road which goes all the way to the entry point and so this is the one we got on and started the hike. After a moment it was getting quite monotonous and so we decided to go off trail.

But we were not sure of the routes and we were lucky to meet the locals with the trail information at regular intervals. So with guidance from them and some of our own logic we went on. The trek is easy, but the off trail is always adventurous and interesting. All of us were making good progress. We took couple of breaks in between and had snacks which we had brought with us. It was quite cold in the morning and we were having chills when we started, but the hike warmed us up. Luckily we had started early on and so there were not too many people hiking with us else as this place is quite popular with Mumbai folks it is always swarming with people. En route you pass the rail tracks and the small mini stations as well and looking at them (we even crossed the 1st upbound train as we reached close to the top) we were dying to get on one. The hill is engulfed in forest and we were passing through some dense cover.

We reached the top in 2.5 hours I think as we took our own time climbing. The entry/exit to the top is regulated and cars can’t pass the entry point, before which they have to park. On the top you either walk or you can hire horses or the palanquin (which we referred to as shahi sawari !) . But for us commoners walk would do and after a quick break and rest we explored the place a bit. Matheran is a hill station and is covered with dense forest. It was quite cool on the top in the middle of the day as well and we saw few points which I don’t have much memory off. By this time we were quite hungry, so we had lunch at some restaurant there and now it was becoming difficult to keep our eye lids open. We hardly had the nights sleep and the walk and heavy food made us lazy. But there was no time for that as we had to catch the train to Nerul and from there back to Akurdi. So promising over-selves to come back soon to explore this wonderful place again, we headed back.

We had done some prior inquiries and there was a train at 4:00 pm which we had booked as we were not sure if we would get the tickets latter on. We were right on time and boarded the train which is one of its kind. It has small carriages, pulled by a small diesel powered engine and it runs on small gauge. Before the train left the station they gave us some instructions, some of which scarred us no less, like don’t close the windows else the strong wind could knock the train off, or not to move much and the best one was you may have to off board and re board when required. It all sounded exciting and we were on our way. This train ride is one of the best I have had, which passes through one of the most beautiful landscape. On many occasions it is skirting the edge of the valley and many a time the strong wind drift really gets it wobbling 🙂 . At couple of locations where it had to make an ascent, the train started going backwards :), as forewarned some of us were asked to get off the train, when it being lighter started moving forward again, we had to run and made a dash to re board it ( not sure what happens if you are unable to do do). So after that singular experience, which we wont forget for long we reached Nerul.

We got off and bought the tickets for the not so desirable train back to our place! We were very tired by now and all of our faces were pitch dark with the dust and the ordeal, though the bigger one was waiting for us ahead. The train arrived and there was again the same chaos and we absentmindedly went with the flow. We didn’t realize for how long we were standing and when that journey go over, but finally somewhere around 9:00 pm we reached our destination, exactly 24 hours after we had started our amazing journey. We somehow managed to pick ourselves and drop on the bed at home. We were done!

PS: What an amazing time we had, to this beautiful hill station which I liked particularly because of the way they had maintained it and not allowed the modern jungle to spread on it. 

Trip To Hoover Dam & Red Rock Canyon

WP_20150801_14801/02-Aug-2015: We were some what tired from our two days sojourn and on on the return journey from Grand Canyon to Las Vegas except the drivers I think everyone had a nice nap. On the way we decided to halt at Hoover dam, which was not in the original plan, but as we were passing close to it, we decided lets stop over. I have been around these parts few times but have not been to this iconic dam.

Named one of the Top 10 Construction Achievements of the 20th Century, Hoover Dam is an engineering marvel. Built during depression, construction began in 1931 and when completed it was largest of its kind. It is located on the borders of two states (Nevada, Arizona) on a Black Canyon. There is a big motorable road on top which passes over the dam walls to the other side of the Canyon. Beneath you could see the contained waters of the mighty Colorado river.

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You also pass through one state to other and even transcend time zones! We parked on the other side and then walked the remaining distance. We only went half way and it was breathtaking to see the huge walls and gates of the dam constructed over 80 years ago. By this time Ar was quite tired and would not walk and G was tired of holding her, so we waited while others explored further and came back. It was already getting bit dark and we left for Las Vegas.

We reached our hotel by 8:00 pm and all were equally tired. Earlier we had planned that we might cook something at hotel but now decided to order something. We even had planned we might explore LV bit more tonight, but that plan was also quietly dropped! So after exploring a bit on what to order we decided to get a pizza. We went to Dominos and ordered few pizzas and waited for long time for it to arrive :(. Finally we got hold of the smoking hot food and were back. We had a nice dinner and spent some time chatting. Then it was time to take to bed as tomorrow we plan to leave early as we were heading back home and also we wanted to see if we could squeeze in one more attraction to our trip.

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We woke up got ready quickly, packed our bags and did checkout. We were heading to the Red Rock Canyon before getting on the route to home. Bye, bye LV, until next time! We enjoyed our stay there but did not do all the activities. Would be back for chopper ride and yes Celine Dion show!

Red Rock Canyon is around 20 miles on the west side of LV, so a nice half an hour ride takes you to this interesting park. I call it interesting as there is no vegetation there or hardly any and its all barren and splintered with rocks, but there is something to it that you start liking as you spend some time there, I think its the unique topography and play of colors!

Red Rock Canyon is located in Mojave Desert and as the name suggest is Canyon made of red rocks and you get a feeling that someone had just randomly thrown the rocks of all sizes and dimensions everywhere. As you enter through the park gate, you buy ticket for the scenic loop. The 13 mile Scenic Drive through Red Rock Canyon takes you from highs and lows of the canyon and has many scenic stops along the way. As said earlier the drive is scenic in its own way as the rustiness of this place I think is what is appealing. The rocks are pitch red and are of different hues which provide a different shades to the mountains. It is quite hot and dry though and we only got out at couple of places and we wanted to go back in the comfort of the ac in the car as soon as we could.

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We took a break at couple of famous vista spots, where you have to hike a bit on the boulders and rocks and is fun and good exercise. The rocks had created a unique design pattern and we got some nice pic shots and when we shared it on social media, some people could not believe it to be real! We would have liked to explore this place bit more but we were pressed for time. It would be really interesting to hike around here, so that thought in mind, we bid farewell to this lovely place and headed towards home. On the way we stopped at one place to have chalupas and shake and then we were back home around 6:30 pm in the evening with loads of memories.

Thus ended a nice 2 days trip, in which we found solace in desert and rusty topography and managed to cover lot more than we had planned for!

Trip To Grand Canyon

DSC0214101-Aug-2015: After a tiring day yesterday, today everyone woke up late. After getting our morning chores done we had tea and garma garam poha. Then it was time to go to our first stop of the day Grand Canyon. It is located in the neighboring state of Arizona and the Canyon is layered bands of red rocks formed due to millions of years of erosion by the river Colorado which cuts through it. Its one of the natural wonders of the world and is amazing to be at. There are 3 rims North, South and West to watch these majestic Canyons.

I had been to South rim before and it was unreal to watch. From the South Rim you can peer all the way down into the heart of the Grand Canyon where the Colorado River runs a mile-deep from top. There are many vista points, outwardly hanging rock formations and though generally red in color, the Sun rays falling on the cliffs create multi hue color spectacle. It is indeed a mesmerizing sight and I was excited to go back to see it again.

Today though we were going to a different rim, the West one which is closer from Las Vegas. You basically take the I-93 S which merges to I-40 E and then you get on I-64 to reach the West side of the Grand Canyon and the journey takes around 5 hours with over 280 miles to cover. The route passes around Lake Mead, which is a water body formed out of Colorado river and we took a break there to see the great views.

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The whole route is ghat section and with lots of twists and turns and G was bit uncomfortable through this section. The weather was also quite hot and so we avoided too many stop overs. On the way we had our lunch at a Mexican place and there we deliberated upon the activities to be done when we reach the park. We had two options, one was to do river water rafting, which was V’s choice, but as I and G had done that on river Bias in Himachal we wanted to go for the other one which was to go on the Skywalk!

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Skywalk is an experience!0 Its a semi circular platform ring made of glass on which you walk. One end of Grand Canyon’s rim is 70 feet behind you and the other end is 3 miles in front of you and as you look down (if you have heart!) you see  —- nothing. There is nothing between your feet and the bottom of the Grand Canyon which is 2,000 feet below you. The constructors for this platform has done an amazing feet of engineering! I always wanted to do this and today was the opportunity. After lots of discussion, we finally picked this attraction.

We reached the West rim park by around 2:00 pm in the afternoon and straightaway went to the ticket booth. The ticket was priced I think $80 for adults and $60 for kids, which was on the higher side, but wait till you get on the Skywalk and its worth it. Not all of us joined in, I think we were 6-7 who went for it. After passing through the lobby and short walkway, here we were standing 2000 ft in air literally. I don’t think G saw much of the bottom, but I and Ar had a great experience walking there. We even sat there and the experience is hard to explain. You can see the bottom of the Canyon and the river flowing below you and the view of the rim opposite to you is enchanting. Not to mention we clicked many pics there and spent lot more time there than we had planned for.

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It was after this memorable experience we decided to explore the Grand Canyon rims from the vista points. This is indeed a natural wonder of the world and you get lost in history of this place,which is not few hundred or few thousand years but goes back millions of years. You could spend the whole day exploring this place. Off course we did not had so much time and surprisingly were already hungry as well. So we sat on the benches there and had some snacks brought with us and also go some snacks for kids from the eating joint there which had a huge queue and consumed more than half and hour of our time.

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As we came back to the table and were having food, some distance further from the rim we spotted a nice hillock tucked with boulders. We were excited to have some trek and leaving the ladies behind, we went to scale it. I was having a real trek after a long time and was enjoying all of it. At first we had to scale small rocks and boulders, but as we approached the top we had to pass on big ones, some as tall as meter. It was tiring, but finally we made it to the top and were glad we came. The top of hillock, which constituted only one rock where at max 3-4 people could stand was actually the edge of the rim and it offered unparalleled view of the valley and the river. We stood there for long time, before we were called back 😉 The journey back was equally interesting with the boulders and rocks really testing us.

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Grand Canyon parks gives special preference to local Indian communities for jobs and opportunities, which was nice to see. After our tummies full, we explored the park a bit more which along with other things had a huge horse ranch. All of us even got our pics clicked sitting on the horses there. There were some other activities to do, but as we were getting late and also it was quite hot outside we left. As we were leaving I remembered a funny but embarrassing incident from my last visit here. At that time we had come with a group and our guide (Terry) had given us clear instructions to be back in 45 mins.

Now leaving aside if 45 mins can do justice to this place, we were on our way back in the given time range when I and P spotted one souvenir shop. In those days we were lot into souvenir thing and so we went there to explore and we lost the sense of time. At some point what we see is couple of our friends coming running towards us and asking to hurry. On the way they told us Terry is angry as hell and was even planning to leave without us. But our friends somehow convinced him to give them 5-10 mins to find and get us back. We were lucky they found us otherwise we might have to camp there only :). As we entered the bus all our co travelers gave us round of claps and we went and took our seats with our faces covered :):).

So it was time to say goodbye to this gem of place, which you can’t explore enough. I am sure we would be back here sooner than later.

 

 

Trip to Las Vegas – Part II

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31-Jul-2015: The weather was bit okay today as even at night it can be quite hot in here. Last few times when I was here it was so bad to walk outside even though they used to have these water sprinklers on the facades of the Casinos which at least kept the walkways moist, but no better. We continued the walk and saw few other spectacular properties like of Newyork Newyork, no prize for guessing the theme of this one and MGM which was at one point the biggest Casino there. I remember being there earlier and they had this real lion roaming around in the Casino den above you which was a sight to see & fear as well :). There used to be a white tiger also in some Casino, I don’t remember which one was that. There are more animals in LV than in zoo, I think 🙂

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We saw few more Casinos from outside and then as we reached the Mandela Bay Casino where we decided to explore it from inside. Inside the casino you hear the familiar sound of the ticking of slot machines, coins and see the tables of poker and various games. As we had kids with us, who are not allowed in the playing area, basically there is a line in every Casino and the kids can’t cross that, we did not try our hand on any. In my earlier visits we had tried some luck on poker and slot machines off course with no good result 😦  Last time we had been to the LV, we went to Madame Tussaud’s, which was my first time at any of their museums, but as G and Ar had already been to their Hollywood one, we skipped it this time!

By this time kids were getting kinda bored, so we went to this children’s play area, where they had many shooting games, ball games, cars etc. Ar had some nice time there and by then we were also quite tired and hungry. We were thinking where to eat. I remember couple of instances from my earlier visits when we had been to this Indian place called Tamba which was nice and once we being quite tired and hungry saw only Mac D near by and for veg burger they had one cheese slice and one lettuce leaf stuffed between pair of buns:(, which we reluctantly had!, I also remember in one of the earlier visits being to Rainforest cafe for the first time and this is the place I really like especially the decor with feel of really jungle with the animals joining the party Fortunately we found this nice place today where they had some nice veg sandwiches. With our tummies full, we did some more sightseeing and then headed back to the pickup area close to top of the hour.

We were quite tired, especially the kids were eager to just go back and fall on bed, but the hour passed and we were still waiting. We might have stood there for over 45 mins when finally the shuttle arrived and dropped us back. It was almost 11:00 pm when we reached our room and we just fell on bed and went to sleep.

PS: Few day later I got a toll bill and I remember scratching my head for long time to figure it out, finally realizing we had taken a toll road in Laguna section en route to LV and it was pay back time 🙂

Also one of the interesting sight in LV is when the day breaks and if you go out to take a stroll or drive around it feels like a ghost town as there is hardly anyone around at that time. LV is awake at night and sleeps during day time!

Trip to Las Vegas – Part I

WP_20150731_00931-Jul-2015: I have been to Las Vegas and Grand Canyon before and now that G and Ar had arrived few months back wanted to go with them to visit these places. So we  were waiting for the right time to go as we have been travelling too much lately and so when an opportunity came to go with some other folks the plan fell into place. There was one more family of 4 and one of our colleague who were to go with us. The plan was a short trip as it was difficult to take more leaves at that time. So we were to leave bit early on Friday and then be there over the weekend and be back by Sunday evening. As we were going in a big group, we booked a 3 room condo which was around 2 miles from the strip.

I think there is something with Friday’s and Las Vegas. Last few times as well when I traveled there, we had left on Friday eve. Its important to leave early though else you get stuck in traffic. I remember the first time we going there, we encountered heavy rains that too in the mountain section to add to the traffic which had slowed to snails pace and which caused us to reach LV quite late, I think it was early morning next day! But it was nice in a way as we were to get our hotel next day only, so it worked out fine, but still we had to sleep in car for few hours in the parking lot of the Hotel (Imperial palace) before we got the keys! Next time around we were better planned and we had stayed in downtown LV in the famous Four Seasons hotel which was quite nice.

So coming back to our times, the day we were to go was as expected packed with work (Moore’s law!). Finally I was able to wrap it up and left for home. G and Ar were already ready. So I got ready quickly, had my lunch and then we loaded the car and were on the way by around 3:00 pm. I thought there was less air in our car’s tires and so V had brought with him the air pressure checker and pump. All tires appeared to be fine and so assured we left. We took the El toro road and hit the freeway. The traffic had started building by now, it being Friday evening and our progress was slow. The route to take is I-15 which takes you straight to Vegas. Once we hit I-15 we started making good progress. As you move towards and beyond Barstow the geography starts changing as it becomes more dry, rocky with hardly any trees, yes you enter the desert.

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On the way we stopped a bit at a hotel to refresh, have some home made bhadang and refilled the gas at the pump. It was quite hot and dry which is not very pleasant. It was by providence as we got in the car and might have gone 5 mins we spotted dark clouds approaching and then it started raining heavily. It might have rained for over half an hour and it changed the weather completely. My kind of weather :). Later there was nice breeze blowing and we had nice time driving with our sun roof opened and windows lowered. It was late evening now and as we approached Vegas you get this spectacular view of lights and you know you are about to enter this magnificent city. I still remember being here some time back when we had entered the city at night and we could see the sparkling lights from miles on the freeway!

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We headed straight towards out hotel/condos, which was outside the strip. These were managed by some hotel chain and had other amenities as well. The rooms were big, each one having big beds, TV and then a kitchen area to cook. We unwound there a bit and then got ready to explore the city. They have bus service every hour which drops and later picks you up from the strip. The Strip is this famous 4.2 miles long street in the middle of new Vegas lined by Casinos and hotels. We were dropped behind the Mirage Casino which is at one end of the Strip and then we headed out. Our first stop was Mirage only who have this Volcano show when every 30 mins or so this Volcano erupts with high flares which is sight to see.

Then we saw the Venetian from the outside only, which is Venice themed Casino with all the bells and whistles of the gondolas plying on the canal with shopping centers lined along its banks. They also have a unique interior which gives you a feeling of night sky when you enter during day time and a sunny sky when you enter during night. When it comes to being over the top nothing beats LV.

To it you can add the Treasure island Casino who has this live pirate show with canon firing and gun shots and is quite entertaining, which we could not see this time unfortunately. Then there is this very tall Stratosphere, rising in the sky with a UFO like disk at the top. They also have ride which drops you from that height which would be cool and then you can’t forget the Luxor which is Egyptian themed Casino and is in the shape of a Pyramid and the star attraction is this high powered white light beam which is projected from the center to the sky. It is so powerful you can spot it from anywhere in LV and beyond!

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We then had a view of few other Casinos like Alladin, Paris which has the famous replica of Eiffel towers and we clicked some nice pics there as well. Then we crossed the streets through this wonderful bridge and there are many of this kind which are an art in itself and got on the side of the Bellagio Casino. This is one of the landmarks of Vegas and has this huge lake in front of it which has a musical fountain show which happens every 15 minutes. I don’t remember what all songs were played when we were there but it is a show not to be missed.

The first time we had been to LV Bellagio’s musical fountain was the show which we could not move ahead from, it was so good! By now we were tired a bit and so we entered the Bellagios shopping complex and had some ice cream sitting on the stair case. The interiors of many of the Casinos are so spectacular and has great architecture lined with all the luxury shops. Many different live shows also keep happening in LV and this time around we didn’t see any, not that we saw much in earlier visits leave alone some like Circus, Pirates and few.

Barbara Lake And Irvine Spectrum

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30-Dec-2016: I was on long leave and we were going around places. Some time back we had got his tickets for rides in Irvine Spectrum which we had not completely exhausted and so wanted to use that. But we also wanted to go out some place to have lunch. So we decided to go to some park/beach etc for lunch and then head towards Irvine Spectrum. Considering how late we were and time on our hand we decided to drop beach etc and through of going to this lake called Barbara lake which is en-route to our final destination. So G got the lunch ready ,which was parathas and we packed up and left.

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Barbara lake is one of the natural lakes here (many are artificial) and in the Laguna area. It is on Laguna Canyon road as is tucked in between the hills. There is an entry gate close to a mile before the lake, where you have to park and rest you have to hike. After parking we started the hike, which at the beginning did not sound very exciting. It was after noon and was fairly hot and also most of the area was dry wilderness. There are many rolling hills through which you hike to reach the lake. Ar was not interested and wanted to go home. Seeing the lake and may be ducks! kept her going. The route is pretty straight forward and well marked. There were only few people around but the place was not quite as the hike is parallel to the highway (CA 133) and you continuously here the vehicles passing by.

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On the way there were hardly any trees and so no shade, but suddenly the area started turning green with lots of trees and we knew we are close to the lake. Finally we reached the lake which at that time was quite small, though in good rainy season it would be quite big.  What we liked the most the natural setup of the lake and the forest surrounding it as we were quite bored by the many artificial man made lakes with perfectly curated park and tress around it. Another natural thing about it was there were no benches to sit and unfortunately thinking that there would be ones we had not picked the sheet in our cars trunk. We used some paper and even the back pack to sit along the shore. It was so quite there and bit cool due to water. There were few ducks in the lake, some swimming close to us. We had nice lunch alongside such a nice and serene place. After the lunch we would have very much liked to have a nice siesta alongside such a nice place, but we had other engagements and so we had to leave.

The way back as the way in was not much exiting. We just drugged along the trial to reach the parking. We were quite tired and thought of going back home crossed our mind, but Ar was excited to go do the rides and so we jumped in the car and headed north towards Irvine. We were going to the Irvine Spectrum complex, which is large and nice complex of shops and entertainment zone. It is strategically located in between I-5 and I-405. The parking is huge and is located close to the complex. The Complex is a sky open boulevard flanked by shops. The architecture is Mediterranean and is really nice place to shop and unwind oneself. We like to come here once a while and it has an added attraction of rides and other activities.

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They have rides like Merry go round, Giant wheel, train along with some seasonal attractions. You can but individual ride ticket ($5) or you could buy a ride book which include 4 tickets for each ride ($51).  We had got the book last time and had enjoyed the rides but there some tickets left (2 of train, 2 Carousal and 1 Giant wheel).

So this was a good time to exhaust the remaining tickets. So G ad Ar went to the train ride, then Ar did the Carousal which by the way is her favorite and G and Ar did the Giant wheel (we bought one more). I was mainly the photo and videographer 🙂 There was also the ice rink, but we did not do it. The Giant ride especially is really good, it being one the tallest in US and you get a nice view from the top. Especially in the night the view is spectacular, with the whole wheel lit in multi colored led lights and you get the city lights view from the top. Today luckily there was no rush as usual and so we were done in 1 – 1/2 hours and ready to head home.

We did couple of thing today but enjoyed a lot, especially Ar who was looking forward to rides for some time.