Archive for category Places
Since I came to US one dream was to visit NYC. For people outside United State NYC is the reflection of US. The first image that comes to mind when someone mentions is Statue of Liberty or those high risers from where Spider Man keeps jumping around. Finally this dream came true last Saturday. When my friend asked what all places you want to see and the only thing I came up with were Statue of Liberty and Times Square. If I had time I had a list of places to visit but time has been the constraint for some time now.
If anyone asks me what is the best way to see the city I always say, use public transport. We started from Bedford in the train bound to Grand Central Station, the journey takes around 90 minutes. On the way, I was told how NYC is structured in Streets and Avenues and the best ways to navigate the city. Grand Central Station suits the name grand perfectly. It is a lovely train station spanning multiple levels. This station looks very impressive from outside and inside, even though with all modern facilities it has maintained its historical touch.
From there we took the subway to go to Wall Street. We were in search for the Wall Street Bull, but could not see in directly. In our search we saw other landmarks such as Trinity Church, New York Stock Exchange, and many famous buildings that we keep hearing about. One surprise was the presence of hawkers on the street, I have not seen them any where else in US. Finally we found the bull, took some pictures and took a cab.
Cab was to the 83 Pier, where we were supposed to go take a city cruise. Inside the cab was a typical scene portrayed by television. Only difference was presence of a television that play local news and one could browse maps on it. On the way we passed Ground Zero. I was told, that the memorial has been shifted into a building nearby and at that location construction for One World Trade Center was in progress. We could see that first 2o floors were completed and work was in full flow.
We then took a 3 hour boat tour of New York from Circle Line Sightseeing. This was an excellent choice, not just because we could cover a lot of landmarks in three hours but because of tour guide. The guide on boat has excellent knowledge of the city, he went on to explain everything we saw in depth. And NYC is a place where we see a lot of things. He has knowledge of all the buildings that we saw, he could tell which famous celebrity lives where, what is the rent in specific area, which celebrity went to which school, what is significance of a particular building, when/why were they constructed, history and other relevant information of bridges and obviously about Statue of Liberty.
It was a very cold windy day, so we were shifting between inside of the boat and deck based on importance of landmark. It was great to see the most recognized landmark of US, Statue of Liberty. I was a bit surprised that it does not look as big as it looks in photographs. Passing under the bridges was another good view, we could see the underside of bridges and listen to the historic significance. NYC has both elevator bridges and swing bridges. There was a place where one bridge has to change its position to let us go.
By the time this tour was over, it was evening, so best idea was to go directly to Times Square. We followed the crowd and walked to Time Square. We had dinner at a Mexican Place and were surprised to find out calorie count of the food. NY states has law to mark all the calories and the high value of calories came as surprise to us. I believe the law succeeded in what it was meant for.
We were at broadway at this point. We could see the number of shows going on (which are always the same) and building of New York Times. Moving ahead we went to Hard Rock Cafe, the main one where the chain started. It has a lot of original equipments from Beatles and other famous bands. Times Square is the biggest advertisement area I have seen in my life. Of course there were shops of higher grade but the amount of light/neon on billboards was breathtaking. No amount of photographs or videos can capture what one sees in real. Other stores we visited were Toys R Us, M&M and few more. It was astounding to see the amount of effort and money put into those places. Everything was bigger and better then the normal shops we see all around world. Even McDonalds was so shiny, bright and filled with neon that it was hard to believe that it is owned by same chain.
It was pretty late by this time but how could one come to NY and not see Empire State building. We walked to Empire State Building, one architecture marvel from the 20s that was highest standing free structure for almost 40 years. We then walked on to Park Avenue, we could see the Chrysler Building, which New Yorkers take pride in. It looks wonderful at night, the radiator grill styling on top looks beautiful in lights. We reached back Grand Central Station, it looked completely different at night. Lights have added to the beauty. It was time to take the train back, we were tired but a day well spent.
Thank you friend for showing me such beautiful city! One thing that has been common in my visits all across east coast is the cold weather, wherever I go, whenever I go, it does not leave me alone. I wish next time wherever I go, I will find a better climate.
Fireworks at Magic Kingdom, Orlando. Beautifully lit Cinderella’s castle illuminated in varying colors and providing a perfect setup for fireworks named ‘wishes’. A lifetime experience.
Our next destination was Rhinelander, till that day I had not heard of the place but I was not planning and my idea of relaxation requires that. Just don’t think, keep on moving and that is why my friend called it ‘Random Trip’, not much of planning just visit places. Chicago to Rhinelander is about 338 miles and we started pretty late and the weather did not help us, it was raining heavily, road work was going on and there was danger of deer coming on the road. One hour of drive and we were in the dairy state of United States, Wisconsin. Whenever I travel home and as soon as I enter boundary of Rajasthan and then Udaipur, I feel a surge of excitement, a different kind of joy that words can’t explain, and I could see my friend going through same emotions.
By the time we reached Rhinelander it was 2 AM. It is a small and quite town in Northern Wisconsin and I would remember it for its peace and warm people. Our first destination was Lake Tomahawk, around 25 miles from our place of stay. There was snow all around and once we were off the highway the road looked very similar to Finnish WRC track. Lake tomahawk is place where my friend had done a summer camp so she knew one professor there. When we reached there, he was not available but we got permission to visit the place. The lake was frozen, I had never seen such a scene before, I was excited but at the same time cautious too. We saw the classroom built at the lake shore and a boathouse underneath. I walked on the lake for first time, took some photos and we moved on. We visited the place where students stay and it was very beautiful. I have never been to a log house before, so it was another new experience. It would definitely be a great experience to stay and study there, I must say the best classroom I have ever been to. Next destination was Clear Lake, very close to Tomahawk. We did not spend much time there because it was getting colder and it was similar scene as Tomahawk.
It grew very cold that night and I had my first experience with freezing rain and slippery roads. It snowed a lot at night and next morning we could see complete area covered with snow. It was so cold that doors of car were frozen, my friend had to climb through the boot and push doors from inside to open them. Another surprise for me was the way deer come outside your house. Coming from a densely populated country with very little forests it was a great sign, I had never imagined that in this age I would be seeing a deer outside the house.
Big Green Lake, Markesan
We then started for Markesan, place where my friend has spent her childhood. On the way we stopped at Big Green lake, the deepest lake in Wisconsin. I walked over frozen lake too and clicked some photos. We stayed at her cousins place and met few family members. It was a card night (something that I have never heard of) and I tried to understand how to play by watching them, but I realized in few minutes my skills in card playing were limited.
Next day we headed to Madison, it was just an hour drive from Markesan. We went to University of Wisconsin where my friend had done her undergraduate studies. This campus was not as “branded” by Badgers, their mascot, as is Virginia Tech with Hokie bird. Campus is located next to Lake Mendota and adds to the beauty of area. I am sure, if I would have visited that place in summer, I would want to take admission at that university just because of lake. We then headed to to Capitol and had the best tour ever. Tour guide was superb and his knowledge of place was great. He was witty and gave us an amazing tour. The Capitol has the fourth largest dome in the world and as per our tour guide it can accommodate more ice-cream than the Capitol’s dome in DC.
Madison has one more lake (actually five, but its called City of Four Lakes) and that is Monona. After Capitol we headed to Monona Terrace, this place reminded me of Fatehsagar and I had a strong urge to get back home. Since I had entered Wisconsin I have been hearing about its dairy products and especially the ice-cream. Some people had quoted ice-cream as Union at UW to have best ice-cream in the world. So, we decided to go there and get one. Quality ice-cream, great view of lake Mendota and good company made that evening memorable. I liked that place very much and wanted to sit there for hours, deep in thoughts (this happens every time I see a water body with sunset). It was my friend’s birthday so we went to celebrate at Nitty Gritty, unofficially the Official Birthday Place of Madison. That was end of day and I was too tired.
Next on our list was House on the Rocks, but that and my adventures with Popcorn and Marley in next post.
Trivia: I forgot to add, Wisconsin is a state with 15,00o lakes, 5ooo lakes more than Minnesota – land of 10,000 lakes.
After out 1600 miles tour to Orlando, I decided that I would not be doing this kind of travel by car anytime soon. But It just took one phone call and a look at Google Maps to overturn the decision. Most of the readers know my love for Udaipur – the city of lakes and how emotional I am to get back there. My friend, Amy who is from Wisconsin was planning a trip and gave me a call, I just asked for some time to decide. I just Googled Madison and first thing that popped us was the map of Wisconsin, I saw two big lakes and decided to go on the trip.
First destination was Chicago, 836 miles and we have one day to cover. We traveled through scenic West Virginia, Windy Kentucky and Rainy Indiana and by the time we reached Chicago it was late night. Driving through Chicago downtown was very scenic and I got first glimpses of Sears Tower.
Forgot to add here, we had very flexible plan so we decided to spend next day visiting Chicago. Our plan had the first blow when we found out that some parts of Shedd Aquarium were on maintenance and we could not see Sharks. We decided to go to Sears Tower and walk to Navy Pier. With the map screenshots on my iPod I was all set to explore Chicago. It’s better to take public transport in big cities, so we decided to take Metra.
Finding Sears Tower using map wasn’t tricky, as we just had to find the tallest building in neighborhood. Our first impression after seeing Sears Tower was, it does not seems too tall. But when we thought about it again, it was clear all the nearby building were tall too and without the contrast of tall/short it was hard to appreciate the architecture marvel of 70s. As soon we entered the tower, we were hit by bad news that visibility at top of tower has reduced and there is no point going up.
Sears Tower in cloud cover
We decided to walk to Navy Pier which was 2.5 miles from Sears Tower. Even though I trained myself at the lost art of reading atlas, I am used to electronic maps so much that I forgot to point the static map in right direction and we were lost for a couple of minutes. Once we found the right direction, it was easy to figure out which direction to head to. But weatherman was once again wrong and instead of sunshine we were faced with cold and chilling winds and our jackets were not enough to protect us.
Walking was fun as we were at Rivewalk and could appreciate the beauty of Chicago and could lean more about city with the monuments on the way. On the way we saw statue of Mr. Chicago, Mr. Hey Hey and George Washington. We also found out that Chicago is not called Windy City because:
of the windy nature but NY newspaper used to refer them as “windy” with respect to their baseball team. “The ‘windy’ part of Windy City refers to Chicago broadcasters/reporters as being windy or blustery.”
We also found a building (
don’t know the name and Google/Maps and Wikimapia did not help me find it) (WGN Radio building, Thanks Amy for pointing it out) which had stones from different parts of worlds/monuments put on the outer wall. It was exciting to see part of a Pyramid, a brick from Abraham Lincoln’s house, stone from House of parliament (London), White House, a temple in India and Peking, Cambodia, Antarctica and many other famous places. This also proved the point that if one wants to enjoy the city he should take a walk.
Then I had the first sight of Lake Michigan, it was not completely frozen but I could see the ice floating on water. Chicago skyline looks great from it and I wondered how beautiful it would be at night. We moved ahead to Navy Pier, its a public place sort of like a shopping complex mixed with entertainment. We went to the glass museum where there were a lot of beautiful artifacts, modern and historic. It was quite interesting to notice what artists can do with glasses, by just adding color to them and placing them at different levels.
We wanted to go up on Ferris Wheel but it was cold and windy, we decided to go there just to find out that we were the only two people ready to go up. We went up and it was pleasure watching city from top. (The picture of Sears Tower is taken from top of Ferris Wheel). We had no energy left to walk and fight cold at the same time so took the bus to Metra station. Spring Break has started and with a BANG!
We visited Chicago again on our way back from Wisconsin and this time we just visited Sears Tower (It’s name will be changed in July, since Sears has moved out of building). We had to stand in queue for 45 minutes to get into Skydeck and as “sincere” MBA students we discussed which server model should be used to reduce queue length. There was a movie about history, difficulties, planning of Sears Tower. We took the elevator which goes at 1600 foots/sec. Interesting part was that we do not realize how fast the elevator was going, except the vibration at the end and I don’t think they were because of speed it was the altitude (might be slack in ropes, wind). We went to 99th floors (and since it was from basement I believe we went up 100 floors). View from the top was magnificent, we could almost see the entire city.
After completing EPCOT our next destination was Hollywood Studios (previously knows as Disney-MGM). We decided to take third mode of transport to go to next park, the ferry. Yes, Disney world has a fleet of 300 buses, 20 mono rail trains and ferries for people to move around. We were a bit late to reach the park and realized that theme parks can be crowded too (we did not face any queues for first two days).
We started with the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, it was a show based on the movie. Here a director was trying to shoot a movie and then things go wrong. A mix of humor and fake fight sequences, made this show really amazing. We could see - how movie sets are built, how fight sequences are coordinated, how blasts and gunfire are done. Overall, it was a very entertaining show and I could watch it multiple times.
Tower of Terror
We moved on to The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, this is a free fall ride based on some random sequences (to go up and fall again) and a good mix of darkness, 3D animation and other visual effects. But the fun part is free fall and sudden bounce upwards. Moving on we went to Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. It was indoor roller coaster designed to be the Limousine where you go on a ride with Aerosmith. Best part of this ride was the high speed launch into the tunnel and there were three instances when we went upside down. The last attraction was a 3D interactive ride based on Toy Story, this ride is developed in collaboration with Pixar. This proved to be the best 3D interactive ride ever, we had the guns and we were supposed to shoot different items in a carnival like setup. That was end of Hollywood Studios, we went to downtown Orlando that night and had a lot of fun.
Cinderella’s Castle, Magic Kingdom
Next day it was time for Magic Kingdom, the most visited theme park in the world. We started with the oldest and most popular ride – The Space Mountain. It is another indoor roller coaster and most interesting part is the surprise element, we have no clue about which direction it is going to turn and does not have a big fall. Its not a fast ride and that is why it is loved by every age group. Since Brett was with us, we knew all tricks about Disney World and could do this ride three times that day. We headed to Buzz Lightyear Aestro Blasters which is another interactive ride where we shoot with laser guns. My gun did not work (or I didn’t know how to use it) and I could not have fun in this ride.
Next destination was Pirates of the Caribbean ride, the movie is based on this ride (Yep, this ride inspired the movie). This was a boat ride, where we move in a dark tunnel and see a lot of pirate animatronics and some very cool lighting effects. Surprise of this ride was a ‘drop’, I enjoyed it. There is a story that goes in Disney Circle, this ride is haunted and if workers do not greet the ghosts (GM/GN) the ride does not work properly the next day. We moved on to the Jungle Cruise, a boat ride with fake animals. Initially you think why a jungle cruise with no real animals, but in some time you realize its a fun ride and there are a lot of jokes involved.
We headed to the Haunted House, I thought it funny rather than scary but I was amazed to see the way it was done. Then we did few more stuff in Fantasy land like Snow White’s Scary Adventures and It’s a small world. I liked It’s a small world a lot, this is a boat ride (the longest one I had) and we move on to different countries and see animatronics from that area. For India it was the setup of Taj Mahal and Rajasthani dancers in front of it. We moved on to the famous Splash Mountain ride but sadly it was closed for renovation for last 2 months. Sad part was it was supposed to start operating from next day, so we missed it by a day. To make up for that we went on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad two times. It was a normal roller coaster with few ups and down, I liked the setup and synchronization of the ride.
Finally it was time to meet Mickey, we moved on to Mickey’s Toontown Fair. It was the real “magic” kingdom, picture (or I must say Toon) perfect. Every single piece from the Mickey’s life was live here. The photograph (from Mickey’s house) will tell rest of story, I have no words to describe the experience.
We had some more time to kill before the parade starts, people had already started taking positions three hours before the parade but we knew how to get a good spot. We went to Tomorrowland once again and tried few more things. Had maximum fun at Monster’s Inc Laugh Floor. It was a live show with a lot of practical (real time) jokes were blended with the movie sequences. It was 6:30 PM, so we selected a place to get a good view of the parade. The excitement of parade was so much that it was very hard to kill those 30 minutes. Parade was excellent, all the Disney characters made the appearance in a grand way. It was dark and the characters’ dress fitted with a lot of bulbs, synchronized dance and music was an experience that one would never forget in lifetime. It was a celebration, the way to spread fun in the world, an experience one cannot describe in words.
Fireworks @ Magic Kingdom
After the parade came the most anticipated moment of the day, fireworks. In the last post I wrote, till today that was the best fireworks because the next day it changed to Magic Kingdom’s fireworks. This was the fireworks of absolute brilliance, it was not just the fireworks, it was accompanied by Jiminy Cricket’s commentary and beautiful story. Fireworks were part of a story, as I said before, Disneyworld does not sell you some rides or fun, it is an experience, the package that takes one being from this life to magical world. That has happened to me, I was speechless after this magnificent show. I was in a magical world, I didn’t want to come out of it.
After the fun at Universal it was time to enter the magic of Walt Disney. We did not start with the parks, but Brett took us on the tour of resorts. We started with Polynesian Resort and as name suggests, its based on tropical rainforest style. It has a artificial white sand beach with the exact settings to give a full experience. We took Monorail (Yes, Disney has a full fledged monorail system) to go to Grand Floridian Resort. This hotel is based on the Victorian theme and is on the other end of the lake (Seven seas lagoon). This was a very beautiful hotel and we were mesmerized by its grandness. Next stop of monorail was Contemporary Resort, this is one of the oldest Disney hotels and has a lot of mosaics on walls. Monorail runs through this building. Next we went to Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort, this is the place where our friends used to work. Since he had worked at two of the parks and one resort, he knows almost everything possible about Disney World. It was a great time, knowing those small details, walking through shortcuts that people do not know usually and finding out how things works at Disney.
Disney’s Grand Victorian Resort
Animal Kingdom was our next destination. As soon as we enter we see the famous tree from Lion King (The Tree of Life). This is not just the tree, roots of the tree hold a theater we can watch a 3D movie based on the movie Bug’s Life. First destination was DinoLand USA – we went for the Dinosaur which is a dark ride based on a story on Dinosaurs and how the extinct because of a meteor. Now, I don’t remember that ride, so definitely it would not be as exciting. Next destination was Chester and Hester’s Dino-Rama, this is designed as sort of carnival, this was a first and the last ride Jamie did which had a ‘drop’.
At this point, I was praising Disney for having such great attention to detail and the whole experience, but the next ride was going to take the experience to a whole new level. We moved to Asia zone of Animal Kingdom and started with Expedition Everest, this was the most fun ride I had at Disney. Entrance of the ride itself was amazing, exactly like an Indian mountain village. Every single piece was designed in the exact way, according to Brett, the house was built in India and then transported to DisneyWorld. The ride is fun, because its a train track till the top and then we encounter a broken track because of yeti and it goes backwards, then forward and backward for long time. Moving in-out of tunnel, backward and forward gave an awesome experience. We did that ride twice and then started exploring Asia. The setup is of an Indian Village – Anandpur and I could feel, it was done with perfection. Shop names written in Hindi, restaurant menu, broken roads, half constructed temple – I could feel home and I count that as Disney’s success. We them moved to Asian zoo and that was beginning of new adventure. David tried to enactment of Homer Simpson doing ‘Boring! Boring!’ got him into trouble from a zoo keeper and then Wes’ light whistling made him a federal offender for ‘harassing endangered species’.
We moved on to African Safari and that was fun. The safari (actually just a ride) was done very well, one does never realizes that it was a ride. We go around in a open bus with a lots of animals all around, but the trenches and walls are concealed nicely that it gives us an illusion of open jungle. But a careful observation of how deer, lions, zebra can all live in a very small open jungle, will give you a clue. It was 4 PM and was time for African parade. The parade was very good, a nice blend of animal and Disney creatures with good music and fun atmosphere can cheer anyone up.
We were dead tired after walking all day, after all Animal Kingdom is the world’s largest Disney park (in area, 500 acres). We went for Finding Nemo – The Musical, this is the best musical I have seen in my life. The characters, music, props – they all were designed with perfection and stage was designed in a way to take us to a dream world of underwater. It was such a beautiful show that we all our tiredness was gone.
We moved to the next theme park, EPCOT – Disney’s park dedicated to international culture and technology of the future. EPCOT stands for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow and as it says, there are various attractions from different countries bundled together to form the “country”. We went ahead and moved to China, Norway, Mexico, Japan, France, Morocco and many more countries. Attractions include the ride, animatronics, restaurants etc from the countries. Moving on, we went to watch the American History show. It covered the main points of history and was pretty interesting.
It was 9 PM and was time for the fireworks. Everyone gathers around the lake and there was a big ball which floats on the water, it forms the shape of globe and we see a lot of different videos playing, along with them there are fireworks all around. This was the fireworks I had seen till that day (yep, I am going to change my opinion in next blog).
Fireworks at EPCOT
Next day, we started with EPCOT again. This time instead of visiting countries we did the rides. The Spaceship Earth reminds me of Infy, the outside structure is similar as Mysore’s Multiplex. This was a fun ride, where we travel through the technological changes – from ice age to space age. Then we did Mission Space, the most intense ride of our tour. This is based on the space simulation and enough G forces are produced to feel weightlessness. This ride was so intense that Disney have two versions of it, Green ride- a stripped down version of Orange ride. Imagine this ride as a centrifuge, but you have no idea you are inside one. I thought the feeling of weightlessness would be great, but it wasn’t. We did Orange and our opinion afterwards was, we should have done Green. This proved another point, none from our group is capable of space missions.
We did few more rides and finally ended up at Test Track. This is a ride developed by GM to showcase the testing they do with car. We went in a “car” and were experimented on with crash test, weather test, brake test (ABS, non-ABS), suspension etc. It was a fun ride. We moved to Hollywood Studios next, but that is the next blog.
First destination in Orlando was Universal Studios. I had never read about Universal Orlando so had an idea that it would be a ‘studio’ rather than a theme park, where we can have a tour of sets. I was wrong, I figured out it was a theme park based on movies/ TV shows mostly from the Universal.
Universal Studio has two parks, first one is Universal Studios Florida and other one is Island of Adventure. Universal Studios is divided into several regions – Production Studios, Hollywood, New York etc. Each area is setup exactly like the famous locations from that place and we get the complete experience of which the corresponding place.
On the entrance we see the familiar Universal Globe rotating. The park has a small pond and all the attractions are around it. We started with the Krustyland, which is The Simpsons based ride. It was the best simulation (till that time) I had ever been to.
Krustyland – The Simpsons Ride
Then we moved to the MIB ride, this was more of a game rather than a ride. We move over the rails and we have the laser guns. We shoot the aliens and score points and compete amongst our group.
Moving on we went to Terminator 3D experience. Usually 3D movies are just about the glasses and screen, but when one can have a complete setup they can do wonders. This movie has real actors performing roles, real smoke, lighting effects, moving chairs and a lot of 3D effects to give the complete experience.
Next was the ‘ET Adventure’ based on the movie Extra Terrestrial. This ride is simulated as we are riding on one of the bicycle and go around the sky discovering new places. This was a very good simulation, even the odor of the area was changed for simulation. It is said that Steven Spielberg personally monitored and contributed a lot in developing this ride.
Moving on we went to ‘Revenge of The Mummy’ based on the movie The Mummy. It is a indoor roller coaster, before this day I had thought we don’t have roller coasters indoors. This was a good ride, completely in dark so we had no idea where we are heading to, with real water spray, fire bursts and complete darkness combined with 360 degree turns and few falls simulate a very good “tomb” adventure.
‘Disaster Movie’ was the next attraction. This is not a ride but simulation of a disaster, we are seated in a underground subway and suddenly earthquake shakes everything. We experience water rushing in, a truck falling on us, moving earth, fire in a controlled environment to feel what actually can happen during a disaster. Before the ride, a few actors from audiences are selected which are filmed in front of everyone doing some “non-sense” but by the end of ride, we see all that in one rendered movie with changed background. This is supposed to be trailer of “Mutha Nature” movie. Pre-show of this has a 3-D hologram of Christopher Walken directing us how the movie is going to be. I must say, was very impressed by the 3-D hologram and the way it was used on that set.
We did few more things such as Shrek 4D movie, but those did not impressed us much. We moved to the next park – Island of Adventure. This park is known for roller coasters and we tried every ‘adventure’. We started with Jurassic Park adventure ride, which basically is a boat which goes through the park and finally had a 85 ft fall (splash).
Next up was another roller coaster (I don’t remember the name), but it was pretty neat too. We were seating on chairs hanging and it went upside down a few times. Incredible Hulk was next up, at first I was reluctant but my friends pulled me in. It goes from 0-60 mph in 2 seconds and has the world’s longest cobra roll. I had maximum fun in it, and went once again for it.
The Incredible Hulk
Spider man ride was next and that proved to be most realistic show of our tour, it was an amazing simulation with all the villains in the movie. This ride had a drop, many 360 rotations, fire, water spray, fog and excellent graphics.
We went ahead to Dudley Do-Right ride and then the wrong happened. We were on the top of the hill and just before the fall there was a glitch. We were stuck for 15 minutes on the top, first we thought it was part of ride as there was Dudley Do shouting “I won’t let the ride fall”, but when it repeated over 20 times we realized there was a problem. We were not soaked after the splash, but there was place (we didn’t know of) where people from over the bridge can put quarters an squirt us with water.
Dudley Do Right Ride
The last part was a tour of Greek building. It was a sort of adventure and was done very nicely. A lot of fire all around, a bridge made of water and video projecting over a thin layer of water. It was another cool simulation.
There were many other things in park, but it was night and we moved to Universal City Walk, this was a good place, on a lake side at night all the places lighted up gave a very scenic view. Usually it would take a lot more time to cover, but since it was off-season we could walk into any ride anytime and that is why we could do things multiple times. Overall, it was a lot of fun. But this was just the start, next three days at Disney World proved to be much more fun, about that on next post.
Last week our class had a chance to visit Chateau Morrisette Winery, this trip was to understand the business and to taste wine. The winery is located off the Blue Ridge Parkway, a very picturesque place.
We reached winery and were greeted by their officials, we then moved to their restaurant and met the VP, marketing manager, the wine maker and a wine taster. They told us about the history – how it started, what motivated to start the business, why this location etc. I was surprised to find out that there are graduate level courses in wine making. Then we had our set of questions related to business- how do your brand it, why/how to name a wine, how do you hedge risks, what is the impact of current economic situation on wine industry, what kind of grapes do you grow, why not grow all grapes, different kind of grapes, how do you price the wine, how much wine do we get out of the yield. We bombarded the panel with a lot of questions and they answered us properly. It was really nice to see a business from this close, what we study in MBA is very practical but real world scenarios makes it extremely complex.
A tour of the cellar
Then we went on the tour of winery. Adding to the beauty of surroundings is the beautiful winery building, the largest salvaged-timber building in the US. Timber is used from buildings from Seattle and Canada and some of which dates back to 1300s. It was a really beautiful building form inside with all the timber held together by wooden pegs. We learnt more about the history and how ‘dog’ became the brand for Chateau Morrisette. We learnt about crushing of grapes, putting them in barrels in other processes. I was not aware about the importance of barrels in wine making (of course, I never looked at Wikipedia for this) – barrels are usually made of oak (French) and then are toasted in different styles for different kind of wines. A barrel costs up to $1000 and usually exported from Europe.
Then we headed for wine tasting, most of the people tasted wine and I tried to photograph them. There were around 10-12 different kind of wines, another surprise for me when I found different kinds of wine are served at different temperatures. One important thing to learn from CM was from the wine tasting person. She was an expert in her subject, loved the field and the way she was explaining was amazing. It proves if you love your field and are expert in it, you can market anything you want and can sell products even if they are not needed.
We started back for Blacksburg and this time we took a different routs, through Blue Ridge Parkway. It was amazingly beautiful, very long trees, curvy roads, beautiful view of the valley, lots of deer and sunset. It was an extremely cold ( -4 C) day and still we were came out of car for the beautiful view. It took us long time, but it was worth it.
Trivia : Hokie is a brand in Virginia and for the same reason CM has a wine specially for Hokies – The Hokie Bird Red/White Wine. (obviously this increases the price as royalty has to be paid to VT too).
Series of adventure continue, this time we went for Camping and Canoeing near Independence, VA. As usual the gang met up a Graduate Life Center and introduced ourselves. We were 15 in total and had three vehicles to go. We packed our food, camping equipments and were all set to go.
We were in the van and since we didn’t knew the way, we were supposed to follow the car. Once we had an interesting incident when we couldn’t see the car in front and thought we had lost the way, only to figure out later that we had overtaken them. Way to camping location was awesome, completely surrounded by trees on both sides with magnificent fall colors (Yellow, Orange, Red, Purple).
I had no clue till now that it was just a camping and canoeing trip, I had thought of this as trek. When we reached the location, I am mesmerized with the beauty. It was on the bank of a very shallow(currently) river with crystal clear water with trees all around on the mountains. After we had set out tents,set up propane stove, we decided to get some wood for fire. I was the first one to jump in water and surprised to find out water was not as cold as expected. After some time I took my camera in to and clicked a lot of pictures. I had a chance to go pretty close to flock of ducks.
After we got wood, we started preparing our dinner. Most of them was processed, so we just had to boil or heat it. It was getting colder by that time and Hot Top Ramen tasted pretty good. We checked with the owners there about the trails nearby, but there weren’t any. It was getting darker, best was to sit around fire and play some games. We realized that a lot of games were not known in other countries, so decided to play Black Jack. ( I didn’t knew how to play, but learnt it quickly. There is nothing to learn in it, it is just based luck :P)
Around 8:30 we realized that our firewood won’t last long, so went for search of some more wood. We found some but that wasn’t dry and it didn’t last more than an hour. We retired for sleep, only to figure out our tents were extremely cold. Somehow I managed to get sleep, but in few hours got up because it was extremely cold. It was so cold that when I picked up my iPod to check time, the steel body almost gave me a shock and I threw it.
Since I was not getting any sleep and from my tent I could see there was some light, I got up and came out of tent. It was extremely foggy, river was completely covered with fog, our tents and all other equipments were wet. I fugured out that what I was considering as rain at night was just droplets falling of from tree leaves because of fog. It was extremely beautiful scene and I along with Zhang went to collect some more wood and click some more photos.
We cooked breakfast and put on some fire. It was 3 hours since I was up and we could not see sun, it was under the cloud cover, but things had started to get warmer. We checked with the owners of the place and decided to go for canoeing at 11. I thought 5 mile canoeing will just take 1 hour but was surprised to find out it will be taking us at least 3 hours. ( In normal conditions when there was sufficient water in 3 hours 10 miles of Canoeing can be done)
Canoeing didn’t start well, Rahul and me has no idea how to steer it, but in just quarter of a mile we found the key. It was fun steering all around, but there was very less water. At some points our boat was stuck in rocks, so we had to get down and pull it out. Once our boat overturned and we had to throw a lot of water out. That time I realized that sometimes theoretical knowledge wont help much. Since there was some water in Canoe I thought how bad can it be, just because of buoyancy we will be able to float and move around. I was wrong, actually water imbalances a boat too much, it will just go in one direction and could tilt the boat. It was hard time steering it. Canoe trip was fun but mostly it was like ‘series of unfortunate incidents’, I liked it though.
While coming back I was so tired that I didn’t realize when we reached back home. It was a great weekend and thanks all for making it such wonderful. Hope to do same soon.
(continued from part I)
5:45 PM : We are out of the Museum, but we(Rahul and I) found ourselves on the other side of the museum. So, we ask others to meet us as Washington Memorial and we start for that. By this time we were hungry and looking for some food, but everywhere around there was only Non-vegetarian food, the only fuel that was powering me was diet coke.
We could see Washington memorial since the arrival at Smithsonian, but we found out how big it was when we reached there(Funny that even knowing that it is the world’s tallest stone structure I was thinking of this as small). We were extremely tired and had no energy to go any further. I wanted to see more places, so I asked Rahul to wait and relax and went ahead.
I could see the big pool, and I remembered I had seen it in few movies. That was the World War II memorial. This was the most beautiful place I have seen in Washington, a big pool where you can see reflection of Lincoln Memorial as well as Washington Memorial (from two different sides).
World War II Memorial
I did not have much time, so I moved to Lincoln memorial. This was a very beautiful place too. Over so many years, I have read a lot of Lincoln stories and that was main reason this place holds a lot of importance for me. I wanted to stay more and then go ahead towards Potomac River, but all my friends have already reached White house. So I started back.
View of Lincoln View from WW II Memorial
Taking a perpendicular path to what I have been taking all day, we can easily reach White House – home of the most powerful person on earth. I had expected a lot of security, but there wasn’t any (visible to me). It was pretty crowded place and everyone was busy taking a snap in front of White House.
I clicked few more pictures of surrounding area and then we stared walking toward Metro Station. From Metro we went to Du Pont Circle, we met a friend’s relative there and went with them for dinner. India Heritage is the name of the place, after a long time I had great quality Indian food. As everyone would expect a lot of Indians in that restaurant, it wasn’t the case, the place was full of Americans.
Du Pont Circle
Around 9:30 we finished our dinner, we started back for our place to stay (back to Virginia State). It took us about 90 mins to reach back. We were so tired, but still interacted with new friends, copied photos to laptop(Yeah, I had finished 1 GB of quota on my camera) and then slept like a log.
Next morning, everyone was tired and didn’t want to go anyplace to early. Once again it was Rahul and I who planned to leave. We went to the Zoo (Washington Zoo Photoset) and to our surprise we met Tania and Vuko. We weren’t lucky to see many animals but could catch glimpses of Giant Panda, Elephant, Hippopotamus and few more animals on the way. Our aim was 11:30 show of feeding of Giant Octopus. When we reached that place we found out that, Octopus wasn’t hungry and was hiding behind a rock. After a long wait, it came out but I was surprised to find out that octopus was not as giant as I had thought. We were discussing same but that time a volunteer told us that this was a baby octopus, now we could imagine how big the adult would be. [Interesting piece of info, Octopus are usually named after the place where they are born, this one was called Vancouver].
We saw few more animals (Tigers, Deer, Crocodile) and then planned to move out, but then we saw Orangutan in action. It was jumping across cages, walking on the ropes and was very mobile. Was great fun watching it. We rested for another half an hour and then left the zoo. We had planned to go to Madam Tussaud’s museum too, but did not have time.
Reached back West falls church by 1:30, had lunch at Subway and started back for VT. Return journey was fun too, played few games and slept. Overall it was an excellent trip. Thanks to GSA, specially Lindsay and Krishna without whom it wouldn’t have been possible.
This trip is over, I hope over the period of two years I would be visiting more places too. Its late now and am feeling sleepy, want to write about the metro system in DC and few more things I noticed but that would be sometime later. (DC Trip Photoset)