Coming to America- New Hampshire

When we were on the verge of zeroing in on East Coast for our US trip, I was still in two minds because for some weird reason I always thought East Coast was made up of only skyscrapers and concretes! So a prospect of going to a land with no greenery to lift our spirits up, therefore, used to pull my excitement level down.

Then I had a long chat with Anonymously Disguised, who while hilariously pointing out that I was probably watching way too many serials on NBC to be harbouring such an illusion, busted my myth with a link to some of the most breathtaking and abundantly green nooks in that region. Now if I had all the time ( and money too!) in the world I would have covered each and every place she recommended. But since we didn’t, we chose a place that we could easily cover in a day.

And what a beautiful experience it turned out to be!

We hired a car for a day and headed out in the morning from Boston to The Cannon Mountain, a 4100 foot peak in the White Mountains of New Hampshire..

Don't get deceived by that serious expression. Its pure simple focus to promote "lane driving sane driving. In actual my heart was dancing like Katrina Kaif because of the driving I was getting to do on US roads with so much greenery around!
Oh don’t get deceived by that serious expression. I was actually paying attention to AuntyGPS and focusing real hard on not losing my way. We all know how skilled I am at finding my way around new routes and roads! 😉

Driving on US roads per se was great but it wasn’t an out of the world experience, because truth be told, Dubai and Oman roads are far more delightful an experience to drive on with their wide lanes and neatly done up roads. But the sheer thrill of driving into Mother Nature’s green and mountainous fold was an experience of a kind.

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We covered the distance of about 140mi in about 2.5 hours. We parked at the base of the mountain and took an aerial tramway ride right upto the top.

These were the views that rode along with us…

And somewhere in those mountains and valleys was a slice a Canada or New York or Vermont to be spotted as mentioned by various online travel websites. Don't ask me to where though. It's there somewhere! ;)
And somewhere in those mountains and valleys was a slice of Canada or New York or Vermont to be spotted as mentioned by various online travel websites. Don’t ask me where though. It was there somewhere! 😉

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And anyway who cared where as long as we were in the lap of these views!
And anyway who cared where as long as we were in the lap of these views!

Once we reached the summit, we headed off on a short  walking trail..

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It was amazing to discover so many unassuming paths   on the way that led us to some wonderful scenic sights
It was amazing to discover so many unassuming paths on the way that led us to some wonderful scenic sights
“The path to our destination is not always a straight one. We go down the wrong road, we get lost, we turn back. Maybe it doesn’t matter which road we embark on. Maybe what matters is that we embark.”- Barbara Hall
“The path to our destination is not always a straight one. We go down the wrong road, we get lost, we turn back. Maybe it doesn’t matter which road we embark on. Maybe what matters is that we embark.”- Barbara Hall

And by the end of the trail, though we were huffing and puffing, famished and hungry, we were immensely satiated by what the beautiful place had greeted us with. Our camera was filled with images and our hearts were filled with far more than what our camera could fit in..

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Day 24- Coming to America- Boston

This has been a long overdue post. Pardon me if it may seem haphazard by the end of the travelogue! I don’t know if I can even call it one because I have forgotten much of what I had wanted to say. I can’t even remember where I had jotted down all the notes on my observations and experiences of the place. Now all I have are just some pictures. Let me see if I can try gather some of my forgotten thoughts back when I browse through them…

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So we reached Boston after a wonderful experience in Washington which I have recounted here.

Let me admit, at first glance as soon as we stepped out of the airport, Boston didn’t impress me all that much. It was probably because we were still hungover from Washington which seemed much cleaner, more organized and more well laid-out. Boston on the other hand, looked ragged and very congested.

But as we got exploring, visited landmark sites that were witness to so many key events, oriented ourselves with its historic contribution to the American Revolution, we learned that beneath the raggedness were years of toil and sacrifices that made the city so much tougher. Here was the city where the seed of the “One Nation” dream was sowed.

And this DUCK below was what took us around on the first day of getting in…

A replica of a WW2 amphibious vehicle
Its a replica of a WW2 amphibious vehicle

The Duck Tour was a fun way to get introduced to the city. We had a rollicking guide as our ConDUCKtor who kept us all amused and amazed by his terrific sense of humour and a vast knowledge of the city, sharing interesting stories as we cruised past some of the significant monuments and structures. Needless to say, Namnam, had a thoroughly enjoyable ride in this bus which also turned into a boat as it splashed down right into the Charles River giving us a beautiful panoramic view of Boston and Cambridge skylines. And guess who got to steer the boat too!

The guy sitting next to the li'l captain was our ConDUCKtor who was gifted with a terrific sense of humour and a vast knowledge of the city as he took us past all the significant monuments and sites sharing amusing and amazing stories all the while.
😀

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One of our favourite haunts in the 3 days that we were there was The Faneuil Hall Market Place.

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Faneuil Hall was built in 1742 and has been a market place and a meeting hall ever since. It is also a popular stop on the Freedom Trail, a 2.5 mile long walking track that passes along 16 historic sites significant to the building of this nation.

Since our hotel was close by, in the Waterfront area, we used to just head out there for an aimless stroll and to people-watch. The place would give out a very lively and festive vibe with performers, tourists and marketers thronging every evening.
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Boston’s Freedom Trail was not as elaborate as I had expected it to be because of the horribly hot weather. So out of the 16 locations, we could only get to tour about 4 or 5. It was quite enlightening nonetheless.

The Old State House, built in 1713, is one of the oldest public buildings in the United States. It was here that the American Revolution was set in motion. In 1776, the Declaration of Independence was read out from this balcony of the House.
The Old State House, built in 1713, is one of the oldest public buildings in the United States. It was here that the American Revolution was set in motion. In 1776, the Declaration of Independence was read out from this balcony of the House. It has now been turned into a history museum and is a conspicuous landmark on the Freedom Trail.

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The Old South Meeting House, built in 1729, was more of a meeting house than a church for colonists who gathered to challenge British rule. Among the many meetings conducted, the House was witness to one particular gathering that triggered one of the most important events leading to the American Revolution- The Boston Tea Party.
The Old South Meeting House, built in 1729, was more of a Puritan meeting house than a church for colonists who gathered to challenge British rule. Among the many meetings conducted, the House was witness to one particular gathering that triggered one of the most important events leading to the American Revolution- The Boston Tea Party of 1773.

So after a brush with history, we decided to spend a day in a place that had the power to shape a kid’s future. The Harvard University.

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Oh how I wished I could go back to college! Such was the electric vibe of the place. I was completely mesmerized. We were given a tour around the campus by a resident student who took us to all the key places..yes including the dorm buildings where Matt Damon and Natalie Portman stayed while they studied there.

And even Mark Zuckerberg!

Yes! That's the hostel he stayed in while he was a student there.
Yes! That’s the hostel he stayed in while he was a student there.

After that fulfilling tour of Harvard, I was content and ready to say my byes to Boston. But Namnam & R had one more pit stop to make. So we set out for our final stop where I chose to stay put and wait at the lobby while they went in to say their hellos to Freida Kahlo, Georgia O’Keeffe and many others.

Leaving you all with a final set of pictures from the Museum of Fine Arts

The Museum of Fine Arts

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Coming to America- Washington, D.C

**** Long long long post! Please bear with me ***

Sometimes I wish I could give real time updates while travelling. So many thoughts stream through my mind while I am on the go, but which never see the light of day when I get down to jotting them down in here days later. I’m in awe of those travel bloggers who can share their experiences so engagingly through their pictures and words with their frequent updates while they travel. I must learn from them how to balance enjoying a moment and sharing the experience as well all at the same time 🙂

Anyway,now that I am back from my holiday and it’s too late for real time updates, let me do the next best thing. Something that I enjoy doing just as much…

open my picture-folder, browse through the album that has moments of our holiday captured, take my mind back to those 13 days and relive and recount them here. For keepsake.

Washington Monument

This is one trip which I have spent a lot of time planning and organizing for ever since it started to take shape. And those who know me well know how much I love doing that. The kick it gives me! It’s not because I have too much time on hand or I’m “jobless”. It’s simply because I find spending my time on it every bit worthwhile.
On that note let me take you to the first city that welcomed us on the American land. The capital city, Washington, D.C.

Oops! Let me correct myself. Washington, as I learned only recently is neither a city nor a state. Its a federal district, bordered by two states Maryland and Virginia. It’s commonly known as Washington, the District or simply D.C which stands for District of Columbia. It was founded in 1791 as the national capital of United States.

Now even though our flight was 13 hour long, we didn’t feel the strain of a jet lag as we got out of the airport. Maybe it was because we had a good few hours of sleep in the flight or maybe it was pure excitement of a holiday!

A bit of a setback, however, was that when we reached our hotel we were told that our room wouldn’t be ready for another 3 hours!  We could have at least left our luggage and freshened up before kick-starting our vacation. But that was not to be. The usual check-in time in hotels there was 4 pm! Too late isnt it? So we decided to keep our luggage in the storage room and venture out to grab something to eat and get wandering.

Probably  the American weather thought that since we were coming from an extremely hot region, we would feel more at home if were welcomed with the same kind of weather. Else why it would greet us with the hottest temperature on the very day we land is beyond me 😯 ! Anyway, consoling ourselves that it was still not as bad as the Gulf weather, we surged forward.

After a light lunch, we made a quick hop over to this place which had been on top of my must-see list ever since I started planning for this trip! The Smithsonian Institution Building. This beauty had me just stand there and gape at it speechless for sometime right at the gate.

The Castle, as it's aptly nicknamed, is a visitor information center for the Smithsonian Institution. It was built in stages from 1849 to 1855 and classified as a National Historic Landmark in 1965. Image courtesy: Namnam :)
The Castle, as it’s aptly nicknamed, is a visitor information center for the Smithsonian Institution. It was built in stages from 1849 to 1855 and classified as a National Historic Landmark in 1965. Image courtesy: Namnam 🙂

As we strolled around the Castle wondering where to go next, we got a call from the hotel informing us of our room being ready. We headed back to unwind ourselves and postpone the exploring for a bit later in the evening.

And how did we unwind? We had two interesting options- either Keep up with the Kardashians or *Hillary*-iously catch up with *Trump*ing elections. We chose to amuse ourselves with both alternatively! 😉

Once we were fairly amused, we set out to take a stroll on the ellipse and see the most popular address in the world… and take some pictures in front of it!

Yup! The White House
Yup! The White House

Then we proceeded to the National Mall, a national park that protects all the iconic monuments and memorials that tell heartbreaking yet inspiring stories of toil and grit that went in making this nation. It was at this point as we were strolling towards it that I fell in love with D.C. for the sheer way it took pride in safeguarding the nation’s enriching history.

When the mounting Washington Monument emerged in view as we walked on, to say that we were overwhelmed would be an understatement…

The Washington Monument made of marble standing at 555 feet is world's tallest stone structure and tallest obelisk. As the name suggests, the monument was built to honour the founding father and 1st president of United States, George Washington
The Washington Monument made of marble standing at 555feet is world’s tallest stone structure and tallest obelisk. As the name suggests, the monument was built to honour the founding father and 1st president of United Stated, George Washington

And while we were there our girl saw a huge spread of grass and wished to take a break from walking to stretch a bit….backwards!

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After that little break, it was time to visit another memorial. Here though, I have to mention that at the time of planning for this holiday I had asked Namnam to do a little research of her own and make a list of places that she wished to see. And she made a note of this particular memorial that we walked to next and the one after that…

The World War 2 Memorial- an awe-inspiring symbol of service, sacrifice, unity and victory.

This memorial has been built to pay tribute to all those Americans who served and sacrificed their lives for their nation during the war, and recognize the victory they brought about.
This memorial has been built to pay tribute to all those Americans who served and sacrificed their lives for their nation during the war, and recognize the victory they brought about.
There are 56 granite pillars like these with bronze panels surrounding the memorial with two archways on either side.
There are 56 granite pillars like these with bronze panels surrounding the memorial with two archways on either side.
Each pillar bears the name of a U.S State and territory that represented the country at the time of the war.
Each pillar bears the name of a U.S State and territory that represented the country at the time of the war.
A beautiful plaza and a fountain adorn the space buzzing with people, with an ever so inviting Lincoln Memorial watching over from a distance.
A beautiful plaza and a fountain adorn this space buzzing with people, with an ever so inviting Lincoln Memorial watching over from a distance.

As the day was about to call it a night, we walked over to our last stop for the day…

The magnificent Lincoln Memorial by the Reflecting Pool
The magnificent Lincoln Memorial by the Reflecting Pool

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Inside this building sat the most majestic statue I had ever seen in my life!

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With this image tucked safely in our hearts, we wrapped up our first day like a dream.

Our second day here took us to that part of the district which held the crux of this nation’s judiciary and polity.

The Supreme Court, another architectural marvel

Being a Saturday the Court was closed for visitors. But we could liberally click pictures and yes selfies too from the outside!
Being a Saturday the Court was closed for visitors. But we could liberally click pictures and yes selfies too from the outside!

And the US Capitol, the official seat of the nation’s legislature

 It was built in 1800 sans the dome at first. Subsequently the dome was added as a part of its expansion. Unfortunately I couldn't get a better shot of the building from the outside because of a scaffolding that was erected around the dome for restoration.
It was built in 1800 sans the dome at first. Subsequently the dome was added as a part of its expansion. Unfortunately I couldn’t get a better shot of the building from the outside because of a scaffolding that was erected around the dome for restoration.

We took a brief tour of the monument which started off with an enriching orientation about how the nation came together despite the strife and struggle of many states to form one government. We were then taken to the Rotunda, the tallest section of the Capitol, that housed an impressive collection of historical paintings, some even bearing considerable significance to the American Revolution. We were one of the lucky few to have been allowed access to the hall that day as it was the last day of public access to this part of the Capitol before the Rotunda was to be closed for restoration till next year.

Although the insides were a bit of an eye-sour what with all the scaffolding blocking the paintings and sculptures, I couldn't help feeling elated to have got a chance to see all those creations and hear so many amazing stories of independence and interpretations of them. We couldn't have got luckier!
Although the insides were a bit of an eye-sour what with all the scaffolding blocking the paintings and sculptures, I couldn’t help feeling elated to have got a chance to see all those creations and hear so many amazing stories and interpretations of them. We couldn’t have got luckier!

However, there were some of us who got utterly bored by the lecture of the tour-guide and endless walking at times. So this is how we kept ourselves engaged..

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Moving on, we headed to The Statuary National Hall, a chamber dedicated to sculptures of prominent Americans. This gallery took shape when each state of this country was invited to contribute two statues of prominent citizens. One could find sculptures of people from different walks of life, not necessarily politicians or leaders.

This ceiling, originally wooden was replaced by a double-sunk coffered ceiling to contain the echoes emanating from the chamber
This ceiling, originally wooden was replaced by a double-sunk coffered ceiling to contain the echoes emanating from the chamber

After that immensely enlightening tour it was time to head to our next halt, The Library of Congress.

The library is the second largest in the world, with the largest being the British Library.
The library is the second largest in the world, with the largest being the British Library.

Namnam, who couldn’t stop jumping around at the prospect of going inside the reading room because of some 160 million books believed to be residing there, was literally in tears when she got to know that she had to be 16years or above to be allowed access to the room!

Seeing her sullen face, R suggested she leave a note to the Library telling them of her disappointment. So there she is doing just that, urging them to do away with the age restriction and let young readers like her have access to the treasure trove too just as well :D
Seeing her sullen face, R suggested she leave a note to the Library telling them of her disappointment. So there she is doing just that, urging them to do away with the age restriction and let young readers like her have access to the treasure trove too just as well 😀

From here we went on to check out the National Air and Space Museum, which boasts of the largest collection of aircraft and spacecraft in the world. It looked so unassuming from the outside but turned out to be a revelation when we stepped inside. We came out of the museum with R’s jaws dropped and Namnam’s eyes bulging out of wonderment. The NASM is one of the most popular of the 19 museums that make up the Smithsonian Institution.

What fascinated me about the Smithsonian Institution was this little trivia about how it came to be named after James Smithson an English scientist who left $508,318 in his will in 1829, to the people of United States to create an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge. Isn’t that a wonderful vision of a gift to give to the people of a country!

And guess what’s more awesome. There’s no entrance fee to get inside these museums. You can stroll in and around absolutely free!! How incredible is that!

The only place where we paid to get entry to was inside the Air & Space Museum to get a flight simulator experience which as per Namnam was amazing!

Our next halt was the International Spy Museum, not a part of Smithsonian Institution. The entry tickets were a bit too steep to my liking though. It was fun nonetheless to get around it like a spy with fake names and missions to carry out!

We closed in on our second day with a visit to Madame Tussaud’s where we got to say hello to a lot of celebrities some of whom looked much frailer than their real self and some, much healthier and some, like our stammer k..k..k..king of Bollywood and our desi “Bradley Cooper” looked just meh! Namnam was mighty pleased with the place when she got to pose with Selena Gomez and Taylor Swift among a few others, even though she went looking for Justin Beiber!

While my day was wax-made when I got to meet my eternal crush over a tiny cup of tea and…and…and..hold hands too!!

:P
😛

Oh and yes, since it was the election season, this place too had a poll running inside the museum for their visitors and it was neither Hillary or Trump who was tipped to run the country…but Beyonce Knowles!!

And just like that our stay in Washington was about to end.

The first half of the day was spent in a very forgettable neighborhood town of Georgetown. I say forgettable because there wasn’t much to do there. We could have taken a cruise along the Potomac River which flows right alongside this town, but opted against it since we had covered most of the monuments we had intended to and the cruise wouldn’t have offered anything new anyway.

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I included a visit to this part of the town in our itinerary because of all the good reviews it had garnered on Tripadvisor and other travel websites. So I thought it would give us an idea about how locals live there. While it did give us a little peek into how the locals laze around on a weekend there, when we had breakfast in one of the much recommended restaurants Baked&Wired, it didn’t quite enthrall us the way we had hoped to. On top of that, a fuming 100 degrees Fahrenheit temperature didn’t help us one bit!

But we still found a way to cool ourselves down, rather Namnam did…

Wish such fountains would find a spot for public in hot cities like Dubai too!
Wish such fountains would find a spot for public in hot cities like Dubai too!

While the first half was nondescript, the second half more than made up for it. We visited the massive National Museum of Natural History where we were greeted by Henry the elephant…

This is the largest mounted specimen of an elephant.
This is the largest mounted specimen of an elephant.

This museum, where again the admission is free, is the most visited natural history museum and we could get a fair idea as to why it was so with an amazing amount of exhibits of all kinds of natural creatures and specimens that were on display here. I was astonished to see the Gems Hall filled with diamonds and stones owned and worn by many Indian royals from bygone eras.

There was a Butterfly Pavilion that one could access at an entry price of $6. It was a beautiful little enclosure with variety of butterflies dancing around us, even latching on to us at times! Namnam got a chance to hold a butterfly and bring home some beautiful memories too..

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As we exited the building, I realized even more so that we could have easily given a miss to Georgetown and utilized the time to explore this museum to our heart’s content. Better luck next time I guess. Oh yes, there IS going to be a next time. Don’t ask when though!

The day and eventually our stay in D.C was almost coming to a close. But not before I had a chance to meet a dear dear friend from school. Nims and her husband were super sweet to have come all the way from Virginia to meet us. It was a wonderful evening spent over drinks, yummy food and loads and loads of yapping that my friend and I both couldn’t/wouldn’t put a stop to ;).

A fitting end to the first leg of our holiday 🙂