Monthly Archives: February 2012

A memorable drive to the Capital

Trying to see all of Washington DC in two days is like going to a McDonald’s and trying to eat everything on their menu in a single meal! Impossible for most, however a challenge worth taking (OK…maybe if you are a BIG junk food fan). Travel definitely motivates us more than food…so not only did we plan to see as much of DC as we could in 2 days, we also decided to drive the 900 odd miles from St. Louis to DC to do all the running around. Oh, and did I mention, we planned to do all of this with our 8 month old!

In hindsight, convincing my wife to make this trip was probably the most difficult part of the trip! Travelling through 7 states with a 8 month old (who had just started crawling) strapped to his car seat for almost 15 hours is definitely not an easy feat, so I don’t blame her for her skepticism. However my persistence and the fact that her sister would also be accompanying us on this trip finally got us on the road over the Memorial day weekend in 2011.

As with most of our other long road trips, we usually hit the road by early afternoon, cover roughly half of the total distance and break for the night in a hotel and tackle the remaining half of the trip the next day. We stuck to the plan, started driving by about 1:00 PM, drove about 500 miles through Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky before breaking for the night in a hotel in West Virginia. The next morning we checked out of the hotel by 9:00 AM and rather than sticking to the tried and tested Interstates, we decided to take the more unconventional State Highways through West Virginia. This added an hour or so to our travel time, however driving through the Monongahela National Forest and the Seneca Rocks region was a feast for our eyes. Just being there a midst the mountains, forests, numerous small streams and lakes was quite invigorating! We reached our hotel in Arlington by 4:00 PM and I think Daivik was relieved to get out of his car seat finally! (Though, he had a pretty entertaining ride with his aunt doting on him every single minute that he was awake!)

As I mentioned earlier, there’s just too much to see and do in DC! Prioritizing and making the best use of our time, this is what we finally ended up doing:
Day 1 evening – spent 4-5 hours in the National Mall area visiting all the War memorials, Washington Monument, The Ellipse, Lincoln Memorial and an outside closeup view of the White House.
Day 2 – Got an early start and spent the first half of the day at the Museum of Natural History and the second half of the day at the Air and Space Museum. Also spent a short time at the Smithsonian Castle and at the Capitol.
Day 3 – Covered the Iwo Jima memorial, Arlington cemetery and a quick stop at the Pentagon before hitting the road for the return journey.

Finally, I think spending even the 2 days was definitely worth the drive…and to be honest I really enjoyed being behind the wheel. We drove through numerous cities (Louisville, Lexington, Charleston) and many more smaller towns and each of them had their own special character. Thankfully we did not encounter too much of traffic and the beautiful weather made it a very pleasant journey and a trip we will fondly remember for a very long time!

A few things that really helped us during the trip:

  • We booked a hotel very close to the National Mall area. Parking in DC (especially over a long weekend can be quite crazy). We found it a lot more convenient to park at the hotel and take a cab.
  • We walked and walked and walked! Thankfully we went prepared with our sneakers, Daivik’s stroller and lots of water…that definitely made it easier.
  • Taking your car along with you has a lot of advantages! We were able to dump our icebox, Daivik’s stroller, a whole bunch of his toys (even his bathtub!) and everything else we needed at the back of our CRV…most of them came in very handy all through the trip.
  • There were lots of decent restaurants close to where we stayed and ordering in food helped us (and more importantly Daivik) to get a good night’s rest.
Categories: Road Trips | Leave a comment

Yellowstone with a 9 month old

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page” – My wife sent this quote to me yesterday and i think that inspired me to finally document the “page” on Yellowstone 🙂

Yellowstone was the 3rd part of the ‘National Park road trip we set out on over the July 4th weekend in 2011. Even though this was the last leg of our journey, the 3 days we spent there were definitely the highlight of the trip. Its really hard to describe how amazing Yellowstone is through words…sometimes pictures make it easier, though i think most pictures wouldn’t do justice either! We had spent months planning for this trip and even after reading tons of reviews on what to do and not do (esp with a 9 moth old), we were still pleasantly surprised when we finally visited the park.

To be honest, we did not start the trip on a great note: We had booked a hotel at Gardiner, Montana which is at the northern end of Yellowstone. After spending almost the entire day at the Tetons (southern end of Yellowstone), we had started driving northwards around 8 PM, (when it was just about getting dark) hoping to cover the 100 miles or so through the park in about 2 hours. Our optimism quickly subsided when we realized that most of the roads inside the park are single lanes with speed limits between 40-50 mph. Also, as it was almost the end of the day there was a lot of cars moving out of the park, thus increasing traffic and slowing us down considerably. Daivik had been a good kiddo all through the day, but when he was still strapped to his car seat at 11:00 PM in the  night, he finally ran out of patience! We stopped over at the lodge near Mammoth Hot Springs to grab a quick bite, only to realize that all the restaurants inside the park close by 10:00 PM. So hungry and tired we finally arrived at our hotel by about 11:30 PM. Though on a brighter note, we had finally arrived at Yellowstone !

A good night’s rest and the perfect weather was enough to rejuvenate us next morning! We were in the park by 9:30 am and driving through the Eastern loop across Tower Roosevelt and towards the Canyon village.

Our plan was to cover all the prominent sights and do 1-2 easy trails and/or hikes… and that’s pretty much what we did. We saw the Tower, Undine and Upper falls, did a hike to the Lower falls and Artiste Points. Drove alongside the Yellowstone river and saw spectacular glimpses of the mountains across the Yellowstone Lake.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Most of the day was spent hopping in and out of the car to enjoy the natural beauty surrounding us. We drove up to the West Thumb region and along the way we witnessed ‘Mudpots‘ and ‘Sulphur Cauldrons’ for the first time. The West Thumb area has numerous Hot Springs, Geysers and Sapphire pools and all of them were pretty special. Considering all the diversity that exists within this park (Hot springs, Geysers, Mountains, Water falls, River, Canyon, Lakes…this park has it all!), not to forget all the wildlife, I am sure anyone visiting this place would be completely awed by the experience!

What I will remember most about the next day is visiting the Old Faithful Geyser and my hike to catch an aerial view of the Grand Prismatic Spring. From all the reading I had done on to To-Do’s in Yellowstone, this proved to be one of the most useful ones. While travelling northwards in the Upper Geyser Basin, there is a trail known as the ‘Fairy Falls’ trail. About 0.5 miles into the trek, there is a short, uphill spur that you can take up to a hilltop that overlooks the entire Midway Geyser Basin and most importantly the Grand Prismatic Spring. Its a bird’s eye view and definitely worth the climb up the hill. There was no way we could have taken Daivik and his stroller up the hill…so Vaishakhi gave me detailed instructions on what to do with the camera and waited downhill with the little one. After about 50 shots of the Prismatic spring and views to cherish for a lifetime, down I came.  We spend the remaining day mostly in the Midway and Lower Geyser Basin viewing some of the most amazing spectacles and trying to capture them on film.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is said that half of the world’s geothermal features are in Yellowstone due to the ongoing volcanic activities and the park authorities have done a pretty amazing job of making most of them very very accessible (even to wheelchairs and strollers). Almost the entire trip we had Daivik’s stroller with us and did not face any hindrance in visiting a site.

With respect to wildlife, Yellowstone has almost 60 species of mammals. The most popular being the Grizzly bear, Black bear, Wolf,  Bison, Elk, Moose, Pronghorn and Deer. During the 3 days we spent there, we spotted a Black bear and plenty of bisons, elks, mooses, pronghorns and deers. Towards the flag end of the trip there was a 10 minute shower and thanks to Vaishakhi’s heroic efforts with the camera from the back sear of our car, we were lucky enough to capture the double rainbow across the plains of Yellowstone. I think this was the perfect way to end this trip!

More photos here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/vaishakhi/sets/72157627298039428/

Categories: National Parks | 3 Comments

Cancun!!

One of the disadvantages of planning and booking a trip way in advance is that you need to wait for a really long time to enjoy the outcome! The waiting is even more difficult when the destination happens to be a beach on the Caribbean Sea.

Though we began ticking the days off months in advance, we were also quite apprehensive on how Daivik (6 months old then) would react to his first flight, first vacation, first beach, and literally a list of many other firsts. Hence, most of the planning for this trip revolved around him and making sure we had everything we needed with us. Also, in order to make life a little easy for us we booked an All-Inclusive deal for a 3 night stay at the Gran Melia, Cancun.

The flight to Cancun was very uneventful and the little one slept through most of it. We reached the resort at round 12 pm (2 hours before check in time), it took about 10 minutes to complete the check in formalities and thankfully our room was promptly handed over to us. We had booked a room with a view of the sea and we were not disappointed when we stood out on our balcony.

Just standing there and gazing down at the pool and sea below, with the sea breeze blowing in my face was enough to relieve a week’s worth of stress. As expected, it did not take long for us to find ourselves in front of the calm blue waters.

Most of our trips are usually packed with “things to do” and “places to see”  and we spend a good portion of the time just running around trying to tick off a checklist. Knowing that, we try and make sure there is at least 1 vacation in a year, where we just sit back and relax and do nothing! Cancun was that trip for 2011. The 4 days we were there, we just sat by the sea or the pool, taking an occasional dip in the water and binging on the wide selection of food and drinks that were on offer (being on the all-inclusive really helped!). The only exception was one afternoon we took 3 hours off from our beach side paradise to go to the nearby Aqua world and take a submarine tour to view the corals and underwater aquatic life. It was 3 hours very well spent though!

One of the highlights of our stay was trying out the different dining options in the resort. There are about 5-6 restaurants in the resort and the food and drinks were pretty good in all the ones we tried. The buffet had a huge spread, and most restaurants also offered “ala carte” menus. The garlic grilled prawns and salmon in the ‘Verandah’ restaurant was awesome. There are two “reservations required” restaurants, Tempo (Mediterranean/Italian) and Kunah (exotic Mexican). We had reserved the Kunah a day before we left for the trip. I emailed the staff requesting for a reservation and they promptly replied within 2 hours confirming my reservation. We did not get a chance to try ‘Tempo’ as kids were not allowed. We did try the La-Perla and Quetzel restaurants, both are primarily for buffet and remember enjoying most of the stuff we ate.

Even without any major activities, it did not take long for the 4 days to fly by! Daivik was the perfect kid, and i think he enjoyed the warm tropical paradise almost as much as we did. If i had another day or two, I would probably have ventured out to see the Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza (couple of hours from the Cancun hotel zone). That apart, it was a perfect holiday and I am glad we will always remember this trip as Daivik’s fist beach vacation!

Categories: Beaches | 2 Comments

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