We left the Netherlands with fond memories and a slab of old Dutch cheese. We flew westward, to the eastern coast of Northern America. This was my third visit to the United States of America and was going to be the longest one yet.
Here is a pseudo-photo-blog since I find myself extremely lazy and disinclined for cooking up ways to fit the 2 months into a single blog. Plus it makes sense since it was a break from travelling and we were enjoying family time. But we have quite a few photos to share and events to document, so…
Home, Sweet Home
We caught a series of trains to Di’s place in Jersey City. The cost of public transportation was enough to make us realise that this country would hit our budget hard. Perhaps the only solace was that we would have our accommodation taken care of. We were going to stay with my sister in Jersey City and Parul’s brother in Washington D.C. for most of our duration in the country.
The days in New Jersey were spent in the usual routine. The biggest comfort for me was having the kitchen!
Salsa, of course, took the lion’s share of our time
We also caught up on some television shows and other usual comforts of the “regular” lifestyle.
I had a few friends around where Di lived and we managed to meet them a few times. One of the nights we went to party in the city and I drank myself to the point that I was sick We walked around in the city when the days permitted it.
Ma Papa came to Jersey City after Ma’s school term ended (for good this time Ma was kicking off her retired life) and we went to pick them up at the airport.
Washington DC & Shenandoah National Park
That night we drove to Washington DC in a rented Mustang. Praval did most of the driving. We just enjoyed the “feels”.
The first thing we did when we reached Washington DC in the dead of the night was to check out the Lincoln Memorial.
There were two things that stood out about this place. One, the number of birds lying about. This thing is a menace I tell you Second, the number of drunk people enjoying under the watchful eyes of Uncle Abe. Had this been India, a bunch of constables would have beaten them out with sticks
Over the weekend we went for a night’s camping to Shenandoah National Park. The drive was quite beautiful and kept getting better as we approached the park.
The national parks in USA are pretty sorted out and this was no exception. The camping grounds were well marked and equipped.
We bought a lot of firewood and prepared to spend the evening barbecuing. I think we had gotten a bit too much of food
Oh! And we discovered “The Doll” of Shenandoah at our campsite
So we made a video
While we were wrapping up the camp in the morning, we saw some deer grazing near the camp grounds
We also went for a short hike to the Dark Hollow Falls which was right next to our camping ground.
We then wrapped up, refuelled and drove around in the park for a bit.
The Skyline Drive made for some beautiful points where we could click the landscapes and our own buffoonery.
Back in Washington DC, we spent the days working on our fitness in the building’s gym, trying to wrap up our pending blog work and, once in a while, left the comfort of the house to explore the neighbourhoods of the town. Old Town Alexandria was a charming place to spend the day walking about.
Another favourite haunt of ours was Georgetown. Praval’s office was in that neighbourhood so we went there much more often, to grab a meal or to catch a movie. It was another nice place to walk around, a bit less touristy and more crowded than Old Town Alexandria.
Apart from these, a mention worthy feat of ours was watching John Wick 1 & 2 before going to watch John Wick 3 in the theater. The back to back consumption of such studaapa had a long lasting effect on us
We reached Jersey City in time to celebrate Ma’s 60th birthday Di’s friends had come over so we had a gala night at home.
That very night, Di went into labour and the next morning baby Anhad was born We were left at home to take care of Salsa while the adults went to the hospital with Di. The next morning we took an excited Big Sister to meet her Baby Brother It was interesting to listen to all the emotional ups and downs she was going through in accepting the situation
After much uncertainty and deliberation, Parul and I settled on the name Sushi as the one we’d give Anhad.
We literally spent our days and night looking at him move and yawn and smile and frown and burp. It was as if we were seeing those human emotions and actions for the first time! Strange, the things that those chemicals in your brain make you do
Silly little thing
Our days fell into a blissful routine again. Picking up Salsa from her playschool and taking her to the playground before walking back home became the norm. We got a bigger share of time with her since Sushi kept everyone else busy. I think everyone liked this arrangement
Our first outing with Sushi was the Father’s Day celebration at Pia Di’s place. It was an hour north of Jersey City so Parul and I took the train upstate. We had a blast enjoying the countryside and a day away from the city.
We joined Praval on his return to Washington DC. Of course, we rented another Mustang.
This time around we were going to meet our friends from school who had planned a trip to DC at an overlapping time. Ruchika was coming down from Canada and Shivank was going to be there with his family. Social media had managed to keep us in touch but we had not met each other in a long long time.
We walked around Georgetown on the first day; talking, drinking and talking some more.
On the second, we spent our day exploring a couple of museums and the National Mall.
If You’re Going to San Francisco
We had accidentally booked our SF flight for the day of Pride Parade. Though it was completely unintentional, we decided to make most of it. After dropping our bags at Aditi and Nishant’s place, where we were going to bunk for the remainder of our time in SF, we headed to Market Street to get a glimpse of the famous festival of SF.
Aditi went off with her friends and we somehow coordinated to meet up after the parade. Parul and I wandered on the side of Market street, clicking away with our cameras. Parul should be writing more about the SF Pride soon
There are many more pictures of the Pride parade that Parul and I took and processed. You can see them all here
We walked around at leisure and ended up in the San Francisco City Hall. We sat down to relax and take in the vibes of the place, the city and the festival. I had mixed emotions about the parade. There was an obvious commercial angle to it. Every brand probably took it as a chance to get some marketing and PR done. But underneath, the spirit of the festival remained. The liberty to be who you are out in the open. It was a happy feeling seeing everyone enjoying their pure unadulterated selves. Philosophically I might not completely align with this extreme but then my alignment hardly matters. The city had it’s own character and it was living it right there. We also wondered what it’d be like to get our parents to a festival like this. A culture they haven’t been exposed to. It’d be interesting to know how they’d react to a culture shock like this!
After the parade we went for some food with Aditi’s SF friends and ended up having a fun evening that ended with Cards Against Humanity
The next morning we were to meet Parul’s then boss, who was on a leave and had graciously invited Parul to meet her in Napa. We had contemplated a road trip across the USA at one point of time. But basic inquiry into the budgetary requirements had made us postpone it indefinitely. So we were quick to jump on the opportunity to drive to Napa. We were pleasantly surprised when the budget car that we had booked through Avis upgraded into a Nissan sports car!
We crossed a Golden Gate bridge that was dreamily shrouded in clouds.
It was not until we hit the highway that I realised how powerful the machine was. Plus the thrill of driving a low slung vehicle is immense. The perception of speed and power increase manifolds. Driving in US, however, is extremely stressful with a zillion signs to keep track of. But once we hit the country roads, the scenery more than made up for the stress of driving.
We met with Parul’s boss and then did a couple of tours in the nearby vineyards – Mondavi and Stony Hill. We liked the later better because of the intimate setup. Wine became less Greek to us and we think we have become better at understanding wine
A special mention to the yellow dress that served Parul so well. May it rest in peace, wherever it is
Back in San Francisco, we spent time at home with Nishant and Aditi, exploring the nearby Fisherman’s Warf and the Pier, and caught up with friends from our erstwhile offices (which were headquartered in SF).
San Francisco was definitely an interesting city. I got some time to walk around and explore the streets as well which were a mixed bag of pleasantries and unpleasantries.
Highway 1 to San Diego
The real reason why we were on the West Coast was because of Devashish. We had planned to meet him in SF and then accompany him on his drive to Seattle. He, as usual, messed up with our plans We were now going to drive south on Highway 1 to San Diego with him and Lavanya. But since our agenda was to spend time with Deva and to check out the American landscape, it made little difference to us whether we were headed north or south.
We arranged for some camping gear and gathered supplies for a night of camping (we were tasked with the wine (because we had been to Napa )). One the appointed morning, we bade Nishant and Aditi farewell, thanked them for hosting us and dumped our bags in Deva and Lavanya’s (D&L) new car. We headed south and the road got scenic as soon as we exited the city.
It was a fun ride that ended in a small camping ground where we set up our tents and prepared for the night. Deva, who was supposed to get all the ration for the camping, had forgotten all about it So we spent the night barbequeing a slab of paneer and drinking all the wine and sake (the sake was there because of the extremely fun night we had had with Nishant, Aditi and the MindTickle bunch a night before )
The next day we slowly made our way to San Diego, stopping multiple times for more scenery, photos and a bunch of sea lions
We reached San Diego late in the afternoon and checked into a hostel. The city has a nice vibe to it and we found a lot of Mexican restaurants there which made sense since it was so close to the border.
While D&L went to check out the SF zoo, we decided to give it a skip because of the ticket price. We did do the San Diego beach though and it was quite fun despite the slightly nippy water
Then of course there was the night life in the Gaslamp Quarter; more Mexican food and margaritas. Deva bought us dinner at a fancy Greek restaurant where we kept shouting ‘Oppa’ for no apparent reason
All in all, it was a good couple of days. Then D&L headed north back to SF and we stayed on in San Diego for a couple of days till it was time to take our flight to Vegas and thence to Mexico City.
Niagara & Liberty State Park
Two months later, our flight back to India would take us through the East Coast of USA. Parul’s parents were visiting Praval in Washington so we decided to spend some time with them since we hadn’t gotten much overlap in the past year. Parul had left earlier when I was doing the yearly ADK with the boiz.
Once I reached Jersey City, I caught the next day’s train to Niagara. The train took a beautiful route through upstate New York and I found myself in the city of Niagara by the end of the day. I do not have any pictures to show because my phone was a dead brick by then (🖕 Motorola)
Parul and family reached a couple of hours later and we settled into our pretty AirBnB.
We went out for a walk till the falls that night and saw it lit up in trippy lights.
We spent the next morning taking the Maid of Mist boat ride.
We went back to the BnB to dry up and then returned to walk about in the State Park and soak in the beauty of this gorgeous waterfall. Other than the extremely urban feeling of everything around it, the Niagara Falls is one of the more beautiful waterfalls I have seen. Though I must admit that I had imagined it to be much bigger
We drove back to Jersey City a day later. The roads were as beautiful as the train route had been.
The next day, we went to see the Statue of Liberty with family. The history of that statue is quite interesting and we had a fun day out.
That night, we caught our flight back to India, ending the four months or so in the western hemisphere.
We had gotten a taste of what this part of the world had to offer and I am certain we’ll be going back sometime, though not soon.