Sun-kissed in Miami!

On a warm tropical midmorning, as the sun shimmered upon the endless Atlantic, we let the crashing waves bury our feet in the loose sand of Miami beach. The relaxing sound of the untiring waves and the whispers of the balmy ocean breeze put our minds to rest as we escaped the daily routine. We spent our day lying on the beach in the bright warm Sun under the blue skies, listening to our favourite music, building sand castles and playing with the ocean waves.

So, if you are looking for a perfect tropical beach vacation, pack your bags and go to Miami. We went there in late October when the temperatures were around 80F. There were little drizzles and scattered thunderstorms now and then but that’s about it, the rain just came and went.

Miami is a city of contrasts. The beautiful relaxing tropical beaches on one side are a stark contrast to the modern and magnificent downtown that boasts of shiny skyscrappers and panoramic bayside views. And that’s not all, Miami downtown is known for both historic and modern buildings.

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The beautiful view of Miami Ocean Drive skyline from South Beach is unmissable. There are scenic trails in South Beach area so you can take a ride on your bycycle in this tropical setting. You may as well take a stroll around the Ocean Drive neighbourhood to see the Art Deco Historic District, the Versace Mansion, the Sunray Apartments where the famous chainsaw scene from Scarface was filmed, Caribbean inspired Mango’s Tropical Café restaurant and a many more fancy buildings and restaurants. This whole area glitters during the night and comes alive.

Wynwood walls, close to the Miami downtown is a haven to some wonderfully talented and budding graffiti artists. The murals, graffiti and street art are life-like and meticulous. This very famous thriving art hub in Miami and South Florida will leave you amazed.

Another place to explore in Miami is the Little Havana neighbourhood that bursts with Cuban vibes in Florida. It thrives with Cuban culture and art, and is also the right place to find the best Cuban food in Miami. You will find shops selling Cuban cigars, Cuban retirees playing dominoes at Máximo Gómez Park and some live performances at Cubaocho.

Trying Cuban food is a must for cuisine connoisseurs in Miami. The local restaurant ‘La Carreta’ in the Little Havana neighbourhood of Miami serves famous “abuela style” food, as well as the authentic Cuban Espresso. We did try a shot of the Espresso, and oh boy! It is definitely rich and dark! After food, don’t forget to grab an icecream at the famous Azucar Ice Cream Company. I tell you, the unique flavors are not to be missed!

 

With many more things to do and many more places to go around, Miami travel is both fun and refreshing for all age-groups. It is a must to-do for travel enthusiasts. Given the lot of variety it offers, no wonder Miami is a world famous travel destination. Amen to that!

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Sleepless in Seattle!

From lush green woods to beautiful lakes to cloudy skies, with the majestic Mt Rainier in the backdrop of a magnificent skyline, Seattle’s sweeping panoramic views steal your heart and take your breath away.

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Seattle downtown as seen from Kerry Park
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Mount Rainier as seen from aeroplane!

We visited the state of Washington on a short three day trip during the end of April month. Dense vegetation, with rains on and off, a little chilly but endurable weather, never-ending lake views and a lot of things to do in and around Seattle, we enjoyed the stay totally.

On the first day, we went to the beautiful and powerful Snoqualmie Falls just about half an hour to an hour drive from the SeaTac airport. From the surrounded observation deck, the gushing milky-white water fall is a sight to behold. With Salish Lodge on one side and lush green forests on the other, and water falling 268-foot and continuing into a river, it’s a picturesque scene that stays with you forever.  Rising mist from the base of the falls sprayed on our faces with the little drizzles from the cloudy skies made the experience magical.

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Later on that day, we took the elevator to the top floor of Seattle’s Space Needle and enjoyed the beautiful panorama of the city. We also visited Kerry Park, which offers the best and most amazing view of the Seattle city downtown. Pike Place Market, a happening place overlooking Elliott Bay waterfront has some attractions to visit like the first Starbucks Coffee Shop, the Pike Place Fish Market, the Market Theater Gum Wall, street entertainments and so on.

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Views from the top of Space Needle
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Puget Sound as seen from the top of Space Needle

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Another day tour we did was a ferry round-trip from Seattle to Bainbridge. We spent a day on Bainbridge Island driving around and stopping at a few landmarks and sight-seeing locations.

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Enroute to Bainbridge Island on the ferry
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Enroute to Bainbridge Island on the ferry

With great music playing in the car, the drive through winding roads meandering through beautiful green vegetation was super refreshing. Below are a few photographs from Rockaway Beach and Point White Pier on Bainbridge Island.

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Point White Pier on Bainbridge Island

It is phenomenal how you can hop on the WSDOT ferries and get to various enchanting islands surrounding Seattle, just for a day or two.

My main reason to do the Seattle trip in April was to visit the gorgeous Tulip fields of Skagit Valley. This rural part of Washington State blooms every Spring with vibrant colored Tulip fields. Under Washington’s cloudy skies these long-stretched fields are a paradise for photographers and flower-lovers. As you enter the Skagit valley, it’s beautiful around as you get to explore the country side of Washington away from the bustling downtown of Seattle.

In this quick three day trip, these are mostly the places we could go. We also had a chance to meet some of our good old friends after a very long time. We had a blast of a time!

Next Spring plan to go to Seattle and enjoy a relaxing and memorable trip! There are many more things to do and many more places to go in and around Seattle. Don’t forget to share your wonderful experiences 🙂

 

Remembering the woods of Pinetop-Lakeside, Arizona

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   
But I have promises to keep,   
And miles to go before I sleep,   
And miles to go before I sleep.
                                    – Robert Frost
It is a humbling experience to live in the placid woods – the crisp weather, the forest sounds, the sun peeking through the tall trees, the howling of the gentle wind and all that ambiance coming alive straight out of a fairy tale. One such remarkable experience is what we had living in a quaint little cottage in the deep woods of Pinetop-Lakeside, a popular summer resort in Arizona.

The cottage we rented

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We were up to a lot of shenanigans ranging from swinging, playing cricket, singing and yelling near the bonfire and running wild in the woods.

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About the town- Pinetop-Lakeside

Pinetop-Lakeside boasts of its exquisite natural beauty and is surrounded by the White Mountains, the Apache/Sitgreaves National Forest, and the Fort Apache Reservation. Since we were visiting only for a couple of days, the available recreational activities like hiking, biking, fishing etc were not in our to-do list.

Fools Hollow Lake

After spending one whole day goofing around the woods and experiencing life in the cottage, the second day we went to relax by the Fools Hollow Lake. It is a recreation lake park near the city of Show Low, a few miles away from our cabin.

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It was in deed difficult to say good-bye to such a pleasant vacation, a vacation full of life. Like they say “Get lost in nature and you will find yourself”, even if it was only for two days, I did gather enough memories for a lifetime to look back and find myself whenever I get lost. Now, this is what I called Nature Therapy.

Did you ever take a walk in the woods?

In and around my maternal ancestral village, Munganda – In pictures.

Tucked in lush green fields of Konaseema, an area in the Godavari delta of the East Godavari District in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh is my maternal ancestral village, called Munganda (Originally, Muni-khanda, The Land of the sages). I left half of my heart there, as most of my childhood memories are associated with it. I get reminded of my Grandma’s heart-warming meals, delightful conversations with my Grandpa, those verdant farm lands, the pristine weather, beautiful breezy evenings, the scenic bank of River Godavari, the dainty local flowers, swaying coconut trees, freshly produced coconuts, pineapples, bananas, jackfruits, toddypalms, and many more.

So, let me go down my memory lane and present to you a few photographs in and around my village, that I have taken over time. This is my humble attempt to let the world know of this picturesque and peaceful small village and its surroundings. I also take the opportunity to reverence my ancestors and their legacy.

Below are photographs of the Godavari River and its bank in the nearby village of Gannavaram. There is an aqueduct over the river connecting the two villages of P.Gannavaram and Lankala Gannavaram, originally constructed by the British, and later a new one was constructed by the Indian Government due to its ageing. It is named after Smt. Dokka Seethamma, a great humanitarian. Please read more about her here.

Below you will see the vast coconut and paddy fields. It is in deed therapeutic to get lost in this peaceful arena and to breathe the fresh air. Imagine the fresh and earthy smell on rainy days…even the fields get lusher.

I will take a moment here to thank the farmers, for I am alive today only because of them. Below is a photograph of my Grandfather with his assisting farmer, who is more like a family for us.

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And below is a photograph taken at Antharvedi, a convergence point of River Godavari and The Bay of Bengal. There is a launch pad that takes you around the waters.

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Here is a photograph of my very own Grandpa, an erudite and a venerated gentleman in his village. And, that is his favourite and a very old Radio Transistor. He is not just a retired Teacher, but an outstanding and inspirational one apart from being warming and amicable.

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He has worked very hard through-out his life and career to keep up the high standards and for the betterment of his family and the village. This is a photograph of his dearest bicycle, that has kept his company through thick and thin. He traveled miles and miles on this and has a lot of memories attached with it. I couldn’t resist capturing it in my camera forever.

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I am really blessed to have him as my Grandfather, for he has really been the light of my life and has given me some of the most memorable and enjoyable childhood days. I will be disrespectful if I don’t mention about my Great Grandfather, Sri Pulya Umamahesawara Sastry garu, who was a great Vedic Scholar,  (Abhinava Pandita Raya, Vaiyyakarana Kesari – 10 titles twice Rastrapathi awardee). Here is a link to his biography, in our mother tongue Telugu.

And..finally is the photograph of my all time favorite Grandma’s Brinjal Curry (Vankaya Kharam kura in Telugu). Nothing can ever come close to tickling my taste buds as this dish, she is a master chef. It is very close to my heart, hence the photograph 🙂

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On a final note, I dedicate this blog to the village most fascinating to me and to my ancestral legacy. May the villages and the farmers in India flourish and prosper. 

You can also read about Munganda on wiki here.

 

Oregon – A dream destination, through my lens.

Labor Day 2013, it was time to another vacation. This time, it was the four of us, myself, my husband and two travel enthusiast friends. The moment we all decided to go somewhere, I knew the destination was Oregon that I had been longing for. Our travel itinerary was Phoenix->Portland to and fro and each time we had one stop in Seattle.

Day 1: Crater Lake National Park, South-Central Oregon.

My jaw dropped at the view of the gorgeous deep blue Crater Lake. I am sure it has the clearest waters I have ever seen in my life. Every single gaze at its depth, color and vastness felt like I was basking in Heaven’s Love. It was over a little cold during that time, and we all wore light fall jackets. The zephyr, the calm and clear waters, the blue-est ever sight I saw was a total feast to eyes. Yet another travel destination got checked off my bucket list. Some pictures from my DSLR are here.

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Day 2: Into the wilderness of Oregon.

The next day we went on hiking some of the really verdant trails that lead to beautiful cascades and awe-inspiring scenery. It was therapeutic driving by the nature and getting lost in its unfathomable beauty. We pulled over time to time to take some pretty photographs. You can see below the beautiful Umpqua river scenery that we encountered as we drove through the Umpqua National Forest and the Rogue-Umpqua National Scenic Byway.


Below are a couple of photographs taken at the Clearwater Falls.

Photographs taken at the Watson Falls hike. It was a 270ft hike to reach the top of the cascade. Tried some long exposure shots.

 


Day 3: Along the rugged Pacific coastline, the PCH drive.

The third day, the last of our trip was completely dedicated to a drive on the PCH. The rugged coastline of Oregon, the majestic Pacific Ocean and the sights along the drive were breathtaking. We covered some of the famous locations along the coastline, relaxed in between, felt the choppy ocean waves,  gathered some travel souvenirs and made some great memories. Below are the photographs taken at The Heceta Beach Lighthouse (claimed to be the most photographed lighthouse in the USA), Thor’s Well, Sea Lion Caves and Cape Perpetua.


The Beaver State is one of my most memorable vacations. Its abundant natural beauty that is most enchanting and spiritual cast a spell on me. If I get another chance, my next time visit to Oregon will be a longer one and I would love to explore more of its beauty.

Hope you enjoyed this short write-up of our 3-day Oregon trip. See you later!

Odisha – A Three Day Tour

One of my memorable travels in India is the trip to Odisha that I took with my parents. Odisha is one of the Eastern Coastal states of India. It’s surrounded by the Bay of Bengal on the East.

Our tour was a short 3-day one in the month of October and the weather was extremely pleasant.

Our itinerary was like this.

Day 1: Chilika Lake

We took the train to Balugaon Railway Station from Visakhaptnam. It was an overnight journey. We got down early in the morning and took a taxi to the village of Satapadi. There, we checked in to a nearby OTDC Tourist Lodge by the Chilka Lake side. It was a decent lodge, not really fancy and plush but was hygienic and spacious enough to serve the purpose. We freshened up and headed out for breakfast. We did not want to waste time by going out into the city, so quickly rushed to the near-by street food vendor. I still remember the idly that was served. It was paired with some hot and delicious white vatana and potato masala curry.  After eating sumptuously, we headed to the lake.

Chilika Lake is Asia’s largest salt-water lagoon and is separated from the Bay of Bengal by a sandy ridge. It’s area is about 1,100 sq km and is a home for a wide and unique variety of flora and fauna. Read more about the lake here.

There were different boat ride packages by the Dolphin Motor Boat Association, and we took the Dolphin Sight Seeing and Nalaban Bird Sanctuary package. We saw some amazing sights on the lake; of fishermen fishing in the early morning sun and a lot of birds, possibly cranes hovering by the catamarans. The boat first took us to the Kalijai, a famous Kali Temple located on a small island on the lake. Highly revered by the local populace, the deity has been venerated in the local folklore and legends. Our next destination was the Nalaban Island within the Lake. It is a Bird Sanctuary under Wildlife (Protection) Act. We couldn’t go further into the sanctuary, as during that time there was a temporary ban to enter in order to protect the birds…also, it was just the beginning of the right season. We could climb atop the watch tower and the view from there was splendid. Later, the boat sailed for quite some time in search of the dolphins but we were not lucky enough to spot them. Next was the third and the last destination before returning to the marina, the Chourbar Shiva Temple. Tucked away in the greens on a small island by the lake, this Shiva Temple is small and very peaceful.

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Day 2: Around the city of Puri, and the world famous Jagannath Temple.

After reaching Puri from Chilika Lake by taxi and bus, we checked into a hotel nearby the Puri Jagannath Temple. In the morning we headed out to roam around the Puri city. We went to the Puri Beach and got the glimpse of a beautiful dawn on the beach. The fishermen were making their way into the sea and could get some cool photographs of them. We took camel ride on the beach and it was super fun.

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Our next destination was the Govardhana Matha. It is one of the four cardinal mathas founded by Adi Shankara in the 8th century CE. After spending some time in the Matha, we headed to have lunch and take some much needed rest. Later in the evening, we made our way to the Puri Jagannath Temple, one of the Char Dham pilgrimages and is very famous for its Ratha Yatra. The Gods Jagannath, Balabhadra and the Goddess Subhadra constitute the main trinity of deities worshiped at the temple. I was particularly surprised by the temple’s unique ‘Bhog/Prashad’ (food offered to God) tradition. In this temple, we could buy our own choice of Prashads which is called as Bhog, take it on our own and give it to the temple priest for offering to the God. The various foods that go into the Bhog Thali are made in the temple premises, and one can just walk by and buy them. We saw a lot of monkeys lingering and playing in the temple area, they were harmless and friendly. Overall, the tradition and culture in the Jagannath temple is very distinct and interesting from the other Temples I visited. We also got to taste the famous Odisha cheese dessert Chhena poda that was sold on the streets near the temple.

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Day3: Bhubaneswar

On the third day we headed to Bhubaneswar, the capital city of Odisha. We first went to theLingaraja Temple, an outstanding specimen of the Odisha style of building the temple. Then, we visited the Odisha State Museum which had a good collection of antiques and specimens. It was our last stop before heading to the Bhubaneswar Railway Station for our return journey.

Overall, it was a very good and pleasant experience visiting Odisha. Though it was a short trip, we could get a mix of both spiritual and entertainment experiences as well as getting to taste the amazing cuisine of Odisha.