San francisco 1

San Francisco : An Overview

San Francisco is the Spanish word for “Saint Francis” and it is a cultural, commercial and financial centre in the state of California. Founded in 1776 by Spanish colonists around the Golden Gate area; the gold rush brought rapid growth to the area.Unfortunately 3/4 of the city was destroyed in 1906 in the earthquake and fire. It was rebuilt rather quickly and subsequently became the birthplace of the UN in 1945. A popular tourist destination,it has a hospitable climate and various landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge, cable cars, Alcatraz Penitentiary, fisherman’s wharf and china town.,It also serves as the headquarters of many multinational companies and social media giants.The city and the surrounding bay area is home to a variety of cultural and educational institutions.

Where else do I start my SFO blog from ; than…the Golden gate bridge?

An iconic structure in San Francisco, The Golden Gate Bridge is one of the most photographed bridges in the world .

The Golden Gate Bridge:

Opened in 1937, it  has become a  symbol of San Francisco and connects San Francisco with Marin County. It is 1.6 km long lying across the strait between the San Francisco Bay and Pacific ocean. On both ends, it is flanked by the natural beauty of The Golden Gate National Parks. It carries US Route 101 and California State Route 1 across the strait and has pedestrian and bicycle traffic.There are walkways on the bridge for pedestrians and cyclists on either side of a six lane highway. There is a visitor centre and gift shop near the parking area.

The vermillion colour of the bridge was chosen to complement the surroundings and for visibility in fog.

Unfortunately it has the dubious distinction of being the most used suicide spot in the world!! After many such episodes, protective barricades have been put up.

We were driven down to this icon by our host. Arriving at Vista Point, the parking area, we walked up to the bridge and soon we were standing next to a great engineering marvel. We enjoyed the sight of the bridge and took some photographs. Later, we drove on the bridge….a novel experience! This was our golden gate bridge visit from the land side.

The Golden Gate Bridge

Driving on the golden gate bridge

We had a tryst with this iconic structure for a second time during our stay. This came courtesy our second host at SFO….our cousin who lives in Pleasanton.We did a Bay cruise . This cruise took us on the San Francisco Bay and we sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge. A view of San Francisco city and Alcatraz Island is  an attraction on the cruise.

The Golden Gate Bridge from the bay       

                                            

On the Bay Cruise  

View of San Francisco city from the bay

Alcatraz Island

This is another tourist destination in San Francisco. It is the site of an old abandoned prison and has the oldest functioning lighthouse on the US west coast. A ferry from Pier 33 takes one to Alcatraz island.

A view of Alcatraz island as we sailed on the Bay Cruise.

After finishing the cruise, we were driven down to Sausalito.

Had nice lunch at a Mexican restaurant there. Mexican food is similar to Indian and i grew fond of it.

Sausalito is a picturesque residential community with large number of houseboats which can be hired for stay. It has a wide choice of restaurants and is generally a fun place. We walked up along the waterfront enjoying the scenery.

A Typical street scene in Sausalito..duplex houses    

One day, we set off on a picnic to Santa Cruz Beach with a bag filled with goodies to munch on the way.   A nice drive on the highway and then off to the side road  and we found ourselves on a festive looking beach front. An amusement park on the beach with lots of excited children and adults with happy smiles and colourful gear…..

Had fun walking around and enjoying the festive beach front

Selfie time at Santa Cruz beach

                  

A local wanted to pose with us….a bonus….

And some good food!

All in all , a great time indeed!!!

From San Jose, we had the opportunity to visit Stanford University.

Stanford needs no introduction….and a visit to this iconic education centre  ; set in more than 8000 acres adjacent to Palo Alto was indeed very gratifying.

The tree lined avenues, landscaped lawns and traditional old architectural buildings, admixed with modern buildings and shopping centres  makes it an amalgamation of the old and the new. One does feel a sense of envy for the lucky ones who have been associated with it!

The corridors of learning

The church at Stanford

Some pictures from Stanford Campus highlighting the amalgamation of the ancient and the modern

Well friends, with this I stop here for the week…see you next week once again at San Francisco…..

For a detailed itinerary on SFO, please visit the link below

http://the-full-itinerary.com/2021/04/11/san-francisco-ca/

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In case you missed my blog last week…click on the big sur below:

The big sur

The big sur

We met last week at Zion National Park(https://travel-along.in/2021/11/12/zion-national-park/)

Leaving the canyons behind, we arrived San Jose from Las Vegas. We were picked up by our friend who lives in San Jose.Well we have been family friends for years , being neighbours we are like extended family….So it was a home coming of sorts for us!

We took a walk around his house and since it was halloween time, saw the decorations in front of many houses.

He treated us to dinner at an Italian restaurant that night.

Dinner at an Italian restaurant with our hosts

Next day, he drove us to Big Sur..

Brief overview

The Big Sur is a rugged stretch of Pacific coastline of central California known for its scenic beauty.The Santa Lucia mountains rising abruptly from the Pacific ocean results in steep coastal cliffs, redwood forests and beaches.The narrow road lies between the Santa Lucia Mountains and the Pacific ocean.It has often been described as the longest and most scenic stretch of undeveloped coastline in America.In 1937, the present highway was completed after eighteen years of construction. The highway has since been declared California’s first Scenic Highway, and it provides a driving experience unsurpassed in natural beauty and scenic variety.(Resembles the Great Ocean Road in Melbourne with lesser winding roads!!)

Highly restrictive development plans for the area has led to it being sparsely populated and hence helped preserve its natural beauty.There are various look out points along the coast, besides hiking trails, reserve forests and camping grounds

Historically the name Big Sur was derived from El Sur Grande, The Big South( the name given to the unexplored wilderness areas south of Monterey)

Traveling to Big Sur

You can travel to the Big Sur only by car…either your own or a rental car.

Depending on the time in hand , you could spend anywhere from 2 hours to 2 days doing this trip. It entirely depends on how many stops you take!

Carmel, and San Simeon are two cities between which this beautiful drive lies. You could start from either end and skirt the pacific coastline. Whalewatching is another sought after activity here.

The Monterey Bay   

 

At Monterey with our friends…

         

The Bixby Creek Bridge

                                                            

The Pacific Coast

We visited Carmel...a small beach city in the Monterey peninsula known for its scenic beauty and artistic history.

Its narrow streets are dotted with restaurants and retail establishments. The atmosphere is very festive with tourists thronging the streets. Had lunch at one of the restaurants and strolled around the streets for some time.

I must mention here that I have never had such delicious Tiramisu anywhere else!!!

Our Next Destination was The 17 Mile drive

The 17 Mile Drive is a scenic drive in the Monterey Peninsula  along the Pacific coast and passes through famous golf courses, beaches, mansions and other attractions. Visitors have to pay a toll to use this road which passes through a gated community.A route map is provided to the visitor .

Most of the drive passes through the Del Monte Forest area and you can access the beaches at designated places. There are clear sign boards and following them one can reach the choice destination.

In contrast to Big Sur,which is natural by and large; 17 mile drive is more man made….with golf courses, large mansions,picnic spots and other recreational avenues.This is more a representation of American High-end Cultural lifestyle. Whatever it represents or whichever way it came….its definitely worth a drive.

The map showing the drive and attractions on 17 mile drive

One of the main attractions is Pebble beach

Pebble beach has a famous golf course by the sea…which is a novelty and is a venue for many international golf tournaments. I am no golf expert but from what little I know, there is no other golf course by the sea. It is extremely beautiful.

At Pebble Beach                                                                         

Golf course on Pebble Beach

Another point is Point Joe

Particularly rocky part which is infamous for ship wrecks in olden days named after Joe a native who lived here in a driftwood hut

Point Joe

Driving further down we were at Bird Rock

On a lucky day one can spot seals on the rock….but we were not in luck!

Finally we reached Lone Cypress

It is a single Cypress tree atop a rocky pedestal overlooking the Pacific.

The Lone Cypress

The view of this single lone cypress tree on a small cliff overlooking the mighty Pacific Ocean is beautiful to say the least.

As I stood and watched this, a poetic thought rushed through my mind….

Here I stand lone and tall!

Here I stand lone and tall!

Happy to see you all!

Must visit me one and all!

Do come to see me…lest I fall!!!

So let us get inspired by this lonely tree standing up to the vagaries of the mighty Pacific …Meanwhile you all stay strong till we meet next week at…..downtown San Francisco

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Zion National park

After finishing Bryce Canyon , we drove to Zion National park.

Geology and History

I must brief you on some features of  Zion so that the essence of this national park can be savoured in full .The prominent part of this park is the Zion Canyon which is 29 km long and 800mt deep .The canyon has been carved out of the  red and tan coloured cliffs of Navajo sandstone by the Virgin River.

The road to Zion is 6 miles long and ends at the Temple of Sinawava…a deity of the natives. The road then leads to The Narrows which is a hiking trail only 20 feet wide. The east side of the canyon is approached by the Zion Mount Carmel Highway passing through the Carmel tunnel and ending at Mount Carmel.

Checker board Mesa and Crazy Quilt Mesa are two prominent sandstone peaks adjoining the Mount Carmel Road . They have a checker board pattern caused by contraction and expansion of the Navajo sandstone due to temperature changes. Some of this is believed to belong to the Jurassic age.The Mesa canyon sometimes holds water used by the the local sheep.

Apart from this, there is a slot canyon at Kolob terrace, Angels Landing …one of the most daring hiking trails, the sentinel and such other peaks. Most of these can be reached by hiking trails

The Virgin River; a tributary of the Colorado River , runs through the park.

Suggested Itinerary

1.One day tour from Vegas(like we did). Local tour operators from Vegas do this. We had booked online from India via Viator. This trip does not cover all parts of the park and limited time is allowed at the stops.

2.You can drive down to Zion and drive along all the roads (except Scenic drive in the Shuttle season). Private vehicles are not allowed on scenic drive during shuttle season(March to November) You have to check this online as the dates may vary. There are two shuttle routes

3. Shuttle route one starts from Zion canyon visitor centre to Scenic drive. It has various stops along scenic drive and one can go upto the temple of sinawava from where the hikers depart for The Narrows.

4. Shuttle route two is the Springdale or town shuttle to and from Springdale…a nearby town.

5. Springdale offers various accommodation options….this is probably the best way to see the park…stay at Springdale and do some hikes and tours.

Our Trip

We did a day tour from Las Vegas covering Bryce and Zion. After finishing Bryce( on which I had detailed in my last blog) we drove to Zion.

Contrary to our trip to Bryce where we had some walking and mild trekking to do, Zion was mostly covered in the vehicle itself.

Our First halt at Zion was at Checkerboard Mesa and Crazy Quilt Mesa and the Mesa Canyon

We had to do a short trek down from the road and found ourselves among horizontal, wavy rock formations. The upper areas had vertical line formations too.

The Wave formations at Mesa Canyon      

                            

A long shot of the wavelike Crazy Quilt Mesa

The Horizontal wavy rocks

It was a short photo halt and soon continued our drive through the national park. Then came some winding roads amid huge red sandstone cliffs. This is actually called the Scenic Drive.

At Scenic Drive     

                                                                                          

The sandstone cliffs of Zion

Driving along the scenic drive, we soon reached the Mount Carmel Tunnel…a real marvel. The Tunnel is around a mile in length and has windows at  six locations through which one can see the cliffs as one drives on.

The Mount Carmel Tunnel

View through one of the tunnel windows

View through another tunnel window    

                                         

The windows on the cliffside( through which we see the cliffs as we drive through the tunnel) as seen from below

Further down we reached the Virgin River. There was a large crowd assembled there. It was nearing sunset and   most of the people had cameras on tripods ready to shoot the changing colours of Zion as the sun sets. I was told that this is a daily phenomenon and this spot was a favourite of photographers who stood patiently to get the colour changes on the sandstone as the angle of sun rays changed at sunset.We watched the setting sun for sometime soaking in the beauty of the river.

The Virgin River at sunset       

Soon it was time to return to the van and we drove back to Vegas after a short halt at Panguitch town.

Before I leave, I must pay a tribute to the natives of this wonderful area….how else can I do that; but by sharing some pictures of their native artwork!

The typical Native Exhibits

I have just given you a sneak peek of the Park.

Suffice it to say that this is a park where you need to spend time. It is impossible to cover all of it in half a day as we did. Time constraint had made us do this tour. But for the more adventurous, there’s plenty awaitng you at Zion….If you have the luxury to do it, spend a couple of days here…hike around…soak in the beauty of this beautiful park…..

So friends, with this episode we bid goodbye to the canyons and move on to the Pacific Coast….San Francisco….see you next week at The Big Sur….

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Bryce Canyon

The last canyon visit scheduled from Vegas was to Bryce and Zion.I will be covering Bryce in this episode and Zion in my next episode. They are located in the state of Utah.

Before I actually give you the tour details, I need to explain the geology of the place to give you an idea of what lay in store for us in the tour.

Geology

Bryce Canyon National park lies within the Colorado Plateau and is strictly speaking not a canyon at all!!. It is a collection of uniquely shaped rock formations  which resemble a collection of amphitheatres in the Paunsaugunt Plateau . The rocks are in red, white and orange colours and offer spectacular views…the colour often changing due to the direction of sunlight.  The distinctive feature of Bryce are the HOODOOS… the effect of frost weathering of rocks and crevices.

HOODOOS are tall thin spires of rock that protrude from the bottom of an arid drainage basin or badland and consist of relatively soft rock topped by harder , less easily eroded stone that protects each column from the elements.

History

Before the hoodos were formed , the area was full of water. Utah was a mountain encircled basin. For millions of years, the rivers deposited sediments into a large system of lakes. When the lakes dried up over the years, muddy limestone walls remained. Weathering and erosion shaped these rocks further. Almost 200 days in a year, the area sees wide temperature swings between freezing nights and warm afternoons. This is what causes frost weathering. As the snow and ice melts, the water seeps into the crevices in the rock. When it refreezes, it expands and causes cracks or windows .  As the windows enlarge, their tops collapse leaving columns. This phenomenon happening repeatedly over millions of years has resulted in the formation of Hoodoos.

A Typical Hoodo

Suggested Itinerary

  1. A single day tour from Las Vegas(like we did) arranged through any tour operator.We  had booked this tour also online from India via Viator.
  2. A road trip lasting 2-3 days with your own vehicle or a rental car. This will give you time to hike and explore the place more in detail
  3. Stay at one of the towns close by like Panguitch ,Tropic, Cedar city or Kanab and take a drive . This will also give you more time at the canyon.

Our Trip

We were picked up early morning from our Vegas Hotel in a minivan with around 10 other tourists. As the weather was expected to be unusually chill again, we were advised by our guide to pick up some warm clothing at the town of Panguitch where we had a stop . We did pick up some warm clothing there and felt much relieved from the biting cold.

The shop at Panguitch where we picked up the woollens   

A model of an elk and some other graffiti at the store

After that, we stopped at a Subway joint and picked up breakfast of our choice and headed to Utah.

The drive was through desert roads with orange and pink rocks on either side. We were in for a pleasant surprise….a natural arch of sandstone across the road…like a tunnel. There were two such tunnels called the Red Rock Arch Tunnels which have served as the unofficial gateway to Bryce  and Red Canyons

Red Rock Arch Tunnels

After a short drive we were at the Visitor centre and parking area of Bryce Canyon. The Guide accompanied us to the walking paths and explained to us about the two main lookouts here. He then asked us to follow the sign boards and visit both the lookouts . The more adventurous, could do a small hike down to see some of the hoodoos at close range.

We decided to stick to the main walking path and after following that trail, reached a lookout from where we got a great view of the Bryce amphitheatre which is a hoodoo filled depression lying below the hiking path .In the far distance, we could see the Grand Canyon too….as explained by the guide.

The Bryce Amphitheatre    

                                                                      

Close up of the Amphitheatre

A long shot of the National park with the Kaibab plateau and Grand Canyon in the far distance

After enjoying the views , we walked up to the sunrise and sunset points on the trail and got some amazing views and pictures.

Some views from the lookouts….

Walking further down for a short while we were close up with some hoodoos…

Close encounters of a rocky kind!!!

A short video clip of Bryce Canyon

Besides hiking trails and camp grounds , Bryce is also an important stargazing destination. The high elevation, the clean dry air and lack of light pollution, makes it a one of the darkest places on earth. This makes it a stargazers paradise. They have guides called the Dark Rangers who offer moonlight walks among the hoodoos. But for all such activities, one must have more time in hand and of course should plan well in advance!

All in all…..another of nature’s marvels…lucky to have seen it…

After the walking and small trekking, we returned to the van at the appointed time to proceed to Zion National park which will be where we meet next week…till then, goodbye and soak in the hoodoos…

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Antelope Canyon

Friends…I must tell you…this is one of the most amazing places I have been to….its incredible!!!

We had made our Antelope Canyon tour bookings online from India via Viator. The tour company that was assigned to us was Coexist West Coast tours. They did a good job of it.

The day finally arrived and with lot of excitement, we waited outside the hotel lobby for the pickup. Never expected this kind of freezing weather in Las Vegas and we were caught unawares with our woollens dropped off elsewhere. The bus pickup point was something like a small bus stop with a canopy on top. The warm air being pumped out from the canopy was definitely a blessing and we were pleasantly surprised and much comforted.

Finally a minivan arrived and we were a group of 12 tourists on the van to Antelope canyon. The driver had stocked up some soft drinks and nibbles and we were all allowed to help ourselves. The drive to Antelope canyon was along the desert fringed roads of Arizona

The Rocky desert fringed roads of Arizona   

                                

A roadside desert beauty in full bloom!!!

The first halt was at Lake Powell the second largest man made reservoir in the USA. Lake Powell is a man made reservoir on the River Colorado in Utah and Arizona. It was created by flooding the Glen Canyon by the Glen Canyon Dam which also led to the creation of Glen Canyon national Recreation area.

We walked up to the edge of Lake Powell and took some pictures.

Lake Powell

If you do not have time constraints, you can take a kayaking tour on Lake Powell and if you kayak for more than 2 miles….you will reach antelope canyon!!!!

After leaving Lake Powell, we were taken to a Subway joint and we could pick up a  breakfast of our choice. It  was really sumptuous and tasty.

 I had heard a lot of the beauty of Antelope canyon and so was eagerly awaiting our arrival there. Let me just brief you about the origins and history of this wonder on earth….

 Antelope canyon is a slot canyon carved out by the waters of the Colorado River. The flowing waters carrying sand along with it has carved out this magnificent canyon whose walls resemble fluid rock. Located close to the city of Page in Arizona, it is a photograper’s delight. Its towering walls with  wavelike lines and the varied hues of colour as the sunlight trickles in; makes it an awe inspiring giant sandstone sculpture. The sculptor of course is nature….

The natives of this place called Navajos now run this place which includes Lake Powell area called The Navajo Park Recreation area. The Navajo name for this place means “where the waters run between rocks”. This place was once home to herds of pronghorn antelopes  ……

 As we were nearing the canyon a real surprise awaited us. We could see melting snow by the road side and the guide informed us that it had snowed in the canyon the previous night and it was a very rare phenonmenon. So we were even more excited to see it!

Snow on the roadside….a rare occurrence in that season

We drove past the upper and lower antelope canyon and were taken to Canyon X as they call it. We were told that this is identical to Antelope canyon and minus the crowds…so we could spend more time and get some awesome pictures without the crowds. Antelope canyon is one of the most photographed places and so this is one of the important considerations while travelling here. There are even special photography tours offered here.

 The Canyon is very sacred to the Navajo people who are the original natives here and this canyon can only be explored under their guidance. One cannot do a tour in the canyon by oneself. A very helpful and friendly group of people…I must admit. One of the locals even offered me her jacket as it was unusually cold and we were caught unawares without proper winter wear.

One we arrived there; we were handed over to The Navajo guides who are now engaged in tourism as an occupation. Two of the Navajo guides took us by a van to the actual canyon which was about 2 km from where we were dropped off by the other guide.

Once we reached the canyon, the guide asked us to follow him and we were in a magical world of rock formations in various colours and designs. It was around noon and the sun was peeping in through the crevices and adding to the colour of this vibrant canyon We walked in between the crevices; some very narrow where we had to squeeze ourselves and at places stoop down to avoid hitting the ledges. No amount of description by me is going to equal the majestic views…..so let me just show you the pictures….

Just imagine yourself walking in between these beautifully coloured rocks….

The Entrance and one of the narrowest crevices inside

  See the different shades of colour        

                                    

The lines on the rock resemble strokes of a paint brush

The artist is none other than flowing water and sand    

                     

The final result looks like fluid rock!!!

Imagine a throne in this heavenly place!!!      

         

The blue sky seen in between the towering sandstone      

      

Lost in nature’s beauty   (note the jacket provided by the Navajo lady)

Feeling sad to leave this awesome place

It took us close to two hours to walk the distance of approximately 1.5 km . After we finished the tour we were driven back to the entrance and our original guide took charge .

We were quite tired and hungry and everyone started nibbling at the left overs of the breakfast and some other goodies provided by the tour company.

Our next destination was The Horseshoe Bend.... a horseshoe shaped turn of the Colorado river near Page in Arizona.

We were dropped off at the parking area and we had to walk around 2 km to the cliff from where you get a view of the river. The initial part of the climb is steep but it gradually settles to level ground and you reach a cliff side from where you can look down to this dramatic bend of the river. From the cliff we could see the dramatic sweep of the river around a sandstone escarpment. Kayaking on the river at horse shoe bend is another option for the more adventurous!!

The Horse shoe bend is part of the Glen Canyon National Recreation area and a few miles away from the Grand Canyon National park.

The Horseshoe bend       

After the   trek back to the van, most of us were tired and once the drive started, we were all busy admiring the pictures that we had clicked….reliving those moments…

Must tell you all this too….some coincidence this is!!!…its exactly two years to the date….that we were at this amazing destination.

Next week I take you to yet another canyon….the land of HOODOS…

See you then….may have to look for me among the hoodos!!!!!. 

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the grand canyon

Hi friends,

With this episode we move on to the famous canyons in the USA. Needless to say, the Grand Canyon is undoubtedly the most popular and commonly visited canyon. There are other canyons which are more picturesque as you will discover in the forth coming episodes. We traveled to the canyons from Las Vegas….since there are day trips available from there.

One can visit various parts of the Grand Canyon like the north, south or west rim. The West Rim provides one with an opportunity to walk on a glass bridge called the Sky Walk. This Sky walk is 10 feet wide, and extends 70 feet over the rim to get a clearer view of the canyon floor. There are various options like helicopter ride to get an aerial view as well as visiting the Colorado river float where a boat ride on the river is available.All these are of course at additional cost.

Be that as it may…let’s start our journey to the Grand Canyon

Our trip to Grand Canyon was booked with Canyon Tours. It was a one day bus tour to the South rim of the Grand Canyon. We had made the online reservations from India itself. On arrival at Las Vegas, they needed a confirmation call to inform the room number of the hotel. Having completed all this, we were all set to go to the canyon. The cost of the tour was 75 dollars per person.

The pickup was from The Excalibur Hotel and we reached there around 6.15 am. There were lot of tourists waiting there for multiple pickups. After some eager waiting, our Gray line bus arrived and we boarded it. This bus took us to their office and we were separated into different groups depending on the part of the canyon chosen and additional activities opted for. We were provided with green wrist bands for easy identification!!

We got into our specific bus and our first halt was at Hoover Dam. Hoover dam is an arch gravity dam on the Colorado river on the border between the states of Nevada and Arizona. This dam protects Southern California and Arizona from the disastrous floods in the Colorado besides providing power and irrigation to many areas along its path. It has also resulted in the formation of Lake Mead. It is located close to Boulder city, Nevada

Repeated years of drought have reduced the water level in the dam reservoir which is clearly seen along the reservoir walls.

Located between Nevada and Arizona following different time zones, this dam provided the opportunity to pass through the two time zones as we drove along.

The Hoover Dam and the winding roads leading to it

The Arch Bridge

The white line represents the original water level …..effect of drought

Clock showing Arizona time…there’s a similar one for Nevada            

The plaque showing the location in the two states

Lake Mead                                                                                                    

At Hoover Dam

From Hoover dam we boarded the bus and reached the visitor centre at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon National Park by noon. Our guide asked us to look out for elk as we drove by but we were not so lucky to spot one.

The drive to the canyon

At the Visitor centre, we were provided with a sumptuous lunch which was part of the deal. We had a choice of dishes for the meal. Meanwhile, the tourists who had booked for a helicopter ride over the canyon had finished that and they joined us at the visitor centre. Needless to say, the helicopter ride over the canyon provides an ariel view of the wonder…..

The Park Entrance   and Visitor centre with the stone Elk …note the green wristband!

The driver who doubled up as a guide( something that is usual in these tours here compared to what happens in India) gave us an insight about the details of the Canyon.

The Canyon and the rim are located within the Grand Canyon National park in the Colorado Plateau and consist essentially of horizontally layered rocks predominantly reddish in colour. The Grand Canyon is actually carved out by the Colorado River and is about 450 km long, 29 km wide and more than 1800 metres deep. This canyon was formed about 5 to 6 million years ago and the river continues to carve deeper and deeper into the rocks.

We reached the first View Point….Mather point lookout

After a short walk , we reached the rim of the canyon and the sheer size and depth of the vast expanse that one beholds was truly amazing. The rim is protected with metallic grills and we stood at the tip of the rim and enjoyed the scenery. Took a lot of pictures and walked along the rim.

The first view as one walks up to Mather Point                             

The differently coloured horizontal layers of rock

Different views along the rim                                                

A short video of the canyon

On the Edge!!!                                                                   

The Colorado River(dry) at the bottom of the canyon

After spending half an hour at Mather point, we boarded the bus and were taken to The Bright Angel Lodge view point.

Here we walked through the Lodge which has a small cafeteria and toilets and came out at the other side which literally opens into the canyon. The view from here too was awe inspiring! At bright angel point, we saw some hiking trails and also the Grand Canyon Railway station. As we walked along the trails, there were some really isolated points where people were indulging in daredevil photography! Unlike at Mather point, people can really walk up to the edges of the canyon and there are no protective railings. This probably explains the dubious distinction that the canyon has….of swallowing people into itself!!!

The lonely tree at the edge

People risking their lives at unprotected edges of the canyon

Is your life worth wasting for a few likes on Facebook??                        

The Train at Grand Canyon Station

It was a bright and sunny October day and after the walk, we enjoyed some awesome icecream at the lodge.

Boarded the bus back to Vegas and were dropped back at the hotel at 9.30 pm after a short dinner break at a Mc donald’s joint on the way. After the sun goes down, it tends to get chill very quickly….typical of the desert climate.

As we drove up to Vegas, it was an amazing sight of the lit up city with its bright neon lights. A tiring but satisfying trip to the south rim of The Grand Canyon had come to an end!!

I hope I have succeeded in taking you all through a virtual trip of the Grand Canyon….would appreciate comments and feedback please….

See you all next week at The Antelope Canyon….a photographer’s delight….

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las vegas 4

Our last hotel at Vegas was Flamingo…checked out of Bally’s and checked in at Flamingo.

It is one of the oldest hotels on the strip and has Flamingos as its theme…it has a courtyard which is a habitat for flamingos. The decor in this hotel is all pink…to match the pink of the flamingo.

Good hotel and the advantage of having a monorail station just behind; it makes commuting out of the Strip very easy.

The illuminated entrance to flamingo hotel and casino

Flamingos inside the hotel

Flamingos…outside!!!!!!!!

A short video clip of the Monorail

Having heard a lot about Fremont street, we decided to go there . Took a bus from The Strip to Fremont street which is in down town Vegas.

Fremont street is actually the older part of Las Vegas and hence the hotels, casinos etc are older than the ones on the Strip. The glitz ,glamour and feel of Las Vegas is the same here too. The neon signs …some of them flashing incessantly were actually blinding at times. The  crowds were of course there with daiquiris in their hands, smoking away.

We saw some of the most famous casinos here…golden gate, golden nugget and queens…to name a few.

Some famous casinos on Fremont street

The Fremont street experience was our next stop…

Fremont Street Experience

It is a pedestrian mall and attraction occupying a few blocks of Fremont street known as Glitter gulch. The central attraction is a canopy which is approximately 90 feet high. Various shows are held here under the canopy.    Music is played throughout this area except at the performance venues. There are 3 stages where free performances are held.

People with painted bodies dressed up like for a fancy dress and giving performances are also a common sight.

The lit up canopy at night

A live performance under the canopy

One of the main attractions here is the Zip line…we were not adventurous enough for trying it out and stood and watched others zip by …

A video clip of the Zip line

After experiencing Fremont street, we returned to our hotel by the regular bus.

Glitter Gulch ……this is the name that downtown Las Vegas got in the 1940s. The building of the Hoover Dam( to be covered in my next blog) brought abundant electricity to Las Vegas and soon the main thoroughfare of Fremont street was glowing with neon lights everywhere. This set Las Vegas apart from the rest of America…the sheer number of Neon lights….and that’s Glitter Gulch for you!!!

Glitter Gulch…..

The following picture symbolizes Vegas….happiness and cheer all around….

So friends let us say bye to Vegas on this happy note….

C you all next week with another exciting episode…

Now we move on to the Canyons….so brace yourself up for some exciting journeys….through some of the vast and beautiful landscapes of the Canyons in America…..

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Las vegas 3

The weekend saw unusual weather with temperatures dipping to near zero and we were caught unawares! Not having expected  this cold wave we had not carried our woollens and we did shiver at Las Vegas!

We had decided to stay at different hotels in Las Vegas to enjoy different experiences. So we had to move to our next hotel and that was Bally’s. Checked out of Luxor and left our luggage there, explored more of the strip and reached Bally’s by 3pm. The check in was cumbersome with a long queue of people. Finally we got our room and reached there.

Bally’s is a 26 storey hotel and casino with no specific theme and like most hotels  has the casino in the ground floor with rooms on the top floors. One of the main features is the Grand Bazaar shops…. Neat rows of shops in a quadrangle catering to every need including restaurants offering cuisine from around the world, retail outlets selling mementos and trinkets, cannabis shops, bars, game parlours etc.

Bally’s Hotel and one of the shops at Grand Bazar

We explored Caesar’s Palace hotel and casino

Caesar’s Palace as the name implies has a Roman theme .It is one of the most popular resorts in Vegas and prides itself in hosting many celebrity shows specially in its main performance arena called The Colosseum.

Once we were inside, we were transported to the Roman times with the entire hotel depicting roman architecture. The novelty is the ceiling which is painted like the sky and so one gets the impression that one is strolling on the streets under a Roman Sky!!!

Inside Ceasar’s Palace( the roman architecture and the ceiling resembling the open sky)

Enjoyed some middle east dishes at the Grand Bazar including some delectable Baklava

Next we headed to Bellagio hotel and Casino

Inspired by Lake Como in the town of Bellagio in Italy, the highlight is an 8 acre lake between the Strip and the Hotel building. Set in great landscape, the lake is beautiful and during the evenings, there is the famous Bellagio Fountain….a musical fountain similar to the Burj Khalifa fountain in Dubai. The picture at the beginning of this blog is that of this famous fountain.

Even inside the hotel building there are many well manicured flower beds and gardens that make this hotel one of the most beautifully designed ones in Vegas.

It was Diwali time and the decoration at Bellagio was in Indian style.

Bellagio Hotel with lake where the fountain plays

Diwali decorations at Bellagio centre court

Beautiful flower beds at Bellagio

Evening we did yet another wonderful resort on the strip…The Venetian

The Venetian together with the adjacent Palazzo resort which is a part of it, is the second largest Hotel in the world.

Needless to say, it resembles Venice…the city of canals. Amazing thought and architectural brains have put together a hotel and casino with canals running through it …complete with gondolas and the boatmen who are synonymous with venice!!!

It includes an indoor shopping area called The Grand Canal Shops and The Convention centre.

The decor transports one to San Marco…or The St. Mark’s  square ; the biggest public square in Venice.

The ceiling is designed to resemble the sky which makes the feel more authentic .

The Grand Canal Shops resembling the ones in San Marco.( Venice)

So friends… take a deep breath…let me take you to Venice for a few minutes….just close your eyes and imagine sitting in one of those gondolas!!!! and the boatmen singing typical Italian tunes…….

The gondolas cruising the canals inside The Venetian…..

Did any of you feel the gondola swaying in the water???…if it did…I have been successful in taking you to Venice…..

From Venice we were instantly transported back to Vegas as we stepped out of the Venetian and walked back to our hotel wonder struck by the sheer expanse and beauty of the resort….

See you next week again at Vegas with a different experience….

So…CIAO CIAO….!!!

(P.S…Ciao is the Italian word for goodbye…..)

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Las Vegas 2

ABBA was on top of my mind…Money money money..the famous song kept reverberating in my mind…..after all we were hitting the casino….what if we hit a jackpot???

So we walked into the casino full of hope…took some time to understand how to play at the slot machines. After the initial learning process we actually started gambling…and soon realised sadly that it was definitely not our cup of tea!!Were pretty unsuccessful and decided that it’s wiser to hold on to our hard earned money rather than lose it to the prospect of a windfall. So we retreated quietly…much of the excitement lost…!!! and sure enough the song disappeared from my mind!!!!

Non the less…let me walk you through a casino….have a look at the video and imagine yourself walking around……

A short video clip depicting the interior of a casino

Trying his luck!!

Next we decided to explore the adjacent resorts of Mandalay Bay and Excalibur. All these are connected by a tram system and we took the tram to Mandalay Bay….the hotel adjacent to Luxor.

Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino is  a 42 storeyed resort spread over 120 acres  and is famous for its golden beach, alluring wave pool, great entertainment and night life options. It also houses the Shark reef Aquarium. Named after the poem Mandalay by Rudyard Kipling, its theme is Tropical….

The Tram connecting the three resorts

Mandalay Bay with the sphynx of Luxor next to it

The pool at Mandalay Bay

From Mandalay Bay we took the tram to Excalibur Hotel and Casino.

This hotel is  built with a castle theme and its exterior reminds you of the castles in fairy tales. Like its sister resorts, this too has plush interiors with brightly lit casinos, a variety of dine in options and innumerable entertainment shows.

Excalibur Hotel and Casino resembling a castle.

After spending some time there,we took the monorail to Stratosphere which is located on Las Vegas Boulevard …..away from the las vegas strip

Stratosphere

This hotel and casino has an observation tower which is 1149 ft tall, tallest in the US. The tower is topped by a Pod with a revolving restaurant, lounges and observation decks.

Stratosphere hotel and casino and Las Vegas Boulevard

On Top Of The World!!!( on the observation deck at Stratosphere)

View of Las Vegas from the stratosphere….the glittering lights exemplify the spirit

The beauty of the lit up Vegas brought my thoughts back home where it was Diwali.. the festival of lights which I had missed !!!

Returning back we walked up Las Vegas Boulevard for some time and took the monorail to our hotel.

So friends….let me meet you next week again at Vegas..at yet another marvelous resort

Bye for now…..

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