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 🙂

 

Lake Pleasant and our Kayak!

NOW is the right time to take an adventure and to experience something magical!

Yes, we went Kayaking in the gorgeous blue waters of Lake Pleasant and enjoyed the thrill of navigating a Kayak through still waters for the first time in life.

Like Morpheus said, “Don’t think you are, know you are”, all it takes is just one moment to decide you can do it and just go do it! Kayaking has always been on my life’s To-do list and I am extremely happy that I made it happen. As much as it scared me to be so close to water wondering what secrets it hid beneath its seemingly calm surface, it offered me the experience of a lifetime and taught me that I am braver than my fears.

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Surrounded by mountainous desert landscape, we rowed a bit in the shallow blue waters along side the ducks and lived some wonderful moments of life! Needless to say, my fellow Kayaker was very good at grasping the paddling techniques and made the journey quite comfortable 🙂

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Are you a Kayaker? Or, do you have dreams to paddle a Kayak? Take me to your page, and inspire me more! 🙂

An impromptu day trip to Tonto Natural Bridge!

We can never have enough of nature – Henry David Thoreau

Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all – Helen Keller

What else can be a great pleasure in life than having a great company, good food and a beautiful place to explore. Just the day before to Memorial Day long weekend, we, a group of ten friends decided to head off to Tonto Natural Bridge State Park for a quick one day trip. We weren’t entirely sure of what all places to go, but we zeroed in on Tonto Natural Bridge as our first destination.

Let’s just go somewhere and not have any expectations can be one of the best escapes one can ever imagine. So, we took quick home prepped lunch and snacks and hit the road towards north of Payson, Arizona. As bright and warm weather welcomed us to the state park, we first had our lunch at the picnic tables and recreation area, before setting foot on the Pine Creek Trail. There are four different viewpoints from the parking lot to view the bridge from its top, but not until we hiked down the short rugged trail surrounded by pine trees, the spectacular view of world’s largest natural travertine bridge unraveled.

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Bridge from one of the viewpoints. PC: Sravan K

The bridge stands 183 feet high over a 400-foot long tunnel that measures 150 feet at its widest point. The amazing sight of sparkling water spilling off the bridge top is totally worth the hike.

There is some running water under the bridge and it was fun hopping over the boulders and soaking a little bit in the sprinkling waterfall. We took a lot of pictures, spent time hiking through the slippery rocks and admiring the vastness of the bridge.

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Panorama under the bridge – PC: Sravan K

There are three other trails Waterfall Trail, Gowan Trail and Anna Mae Trail. One of the them leads the way back up from the other side under the bridge.

It is a salubrious experience to explore Mother Nature and admire its wonders. Needless to mention the fun we had making our way through the rough trails in a spirit of adventure, this short one day trip to Tonto Natural Bridge remains one of my favourites.

 

Prescott’s beautiful lakes!

Located in the Bradshaw Mountains of Central Arizona, is the city of Prescott that boasts of mild climate and serene nature, making it a great happening destination throughout the year for vacationers.

Be it a family picnic or a romatic getaway or a recreational trip, Prescott’s wilderness and its gorgeous lakes are a great choice.

The three major lakes that the City of Prescott maintains are Goldwater Lake, Watson Lake and Willow Lake. While the spectacular Goldwater Lake is a small reservoir nestled in the piney mountains of Prescott National Park, Watson and Willow Lakes are man-made reservoirs within the Granite Dells area located in the North of Prescott.

Goldwater Lake located 4 miles south of downtown Prescott in the Goldwater Park Area offers picnic area by the lake and recreational activities like fishing, kayaking and canoeing are allowed. Gentle breeze from the crystal clear blue waters of the lake and the surrounding whispering shady tall ponderosa pine woods enliven the mood and leave you refreshed. There are trails connecting to the Prescott National Forest from the lake area for enthusiastic hikers.

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Amidst the eroded lumpy and rugged granite boulders of the Granite Dells are the man-made Watson and Willow Lakes. The enchanting blue waters of these lakes surrounded by the unique spectacular rock formations makes the vista quite scenic. The reflections of these rocks in the water on clear sky days makes the scene look even more breath-taking. There are hiking trails connecting the two lakes and camping, kayaking, canoeing and fishing are permitted.

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So, if you are looking to beat the boredom blues, or if you want to escape the mundaneness of every day life, Prescott is one wonderful getaway to consider. Go and have a tryst with this great wilderness! 🙂

The unfathomable Grand Canyon.

Let me be frank. I don’t get it when people say what’s in Grand Canyon except for the rock. Personally, I get very philosophical every time I visit it or think about it. May be it’s just me, as it is said ‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder‘. So, here is my little ode to this magnificent natural wonder that awe-inspires me every single time I visit it.

Standing royal, the Grand Canyon reiterates the power of nature to us. Every glance at its dimensions takes our breath away and each attempt to peruse it reminds us how tiny we are in this Universe. It inspires us to be undeterred by the trivial problems of life and to stand sentinel to protect ourselves and those who trust in us. Here is my Grand Salute, to The Grand Canyon!

This photograph was taken by me a few years ago when we visited the Canyon during winter time. Isn’t it more stunning to see it dotted with snow, and don’t you agree that no camera can beat the naked eye’s view! 🙂

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Do share links of your blogs on Grand Canyon, I would love to read!

 

A happy day with the Arts People!

Last weekend, as the sun shone bright, I reached the venue where I was supposed to volunteer as a Vendor Relief, and was so looking forward to it. With not many expectations in mind, I checked in to the Phoenix Festival of the Arts and took my badge and t-shirt.

Spotting this mom-dotty duo who were volunteering at the entrance welcoming guests and just began to have their lunch, I took a quick chance to approach them and ask for their company as I was already starving. So, that’s how my day began, with very pleasant and welcoming lunch partners. Is this how life feels in a strange land, with strange people? Yeah, I think being in the company of total strangers is one of the nicest feelings in this world. No prejudices, no barriers, no opinions, no distances and no strings attached. We enjoyed lunch together while we spoke about what and why the volunteering, etc. Also, I got to see this Christmas Parade by some pretty  children in the Fair Grounds.

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My next stop was the beginning of my volunteering. So, this event was an Art Festival held by the Phoenix center for the Arts every year.

As a Vendor Relief, my job was to go around booths asking if they needed some break and I could watch the booth for them. “When you help others, you actually help yourself”, said Swami Vivekananda. And yes, how true is that! Every time I volunteer, or help someone, or do good, it comes back to me. And what is it? The positivity, the goodness and the satisfaction. And also I get a good exposure of the world, the people in it, their stories, their joys and their sorrows. It opens up my mind to wider arenas and my heart to acceptance. This time also, I am so thankful to the Universe that I had a fantastic experience and I got to learn many new things from all these artists. So, why don’t do you join me and share my experience? 🙂

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First things first. Dressing up to the occasion. Well, it is definitely a choice, if you don’t want to. But, dressing appropriately to an occasion connects you to the event, puts you in the right mood and also changes the way people look at you which is important if you want to ‘connect’.

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Since it was an Art Festival, I decided to give an Ethnic touch to my ensemble by wearing a Red Cotton high-low kurti with white printed designs on it that I got in India paired with blue jeans. Wearing an Indian Kurti, when you are in an Art Festival on a Foreign land is for sure trendy and classy, and makes it look unique. I paired this attire with big cream colored Stone ear-hangings, and a knitted scarf to beat the cold in case. But, tee hee..once I got the volunteer t-shirt, I had to layer myself up with it that’s a different story though 😉 To perfectly complement the outfit, I carried my favorite Fossil Explorer Straw Cross Body Bag and wore my perfect colorful Mojdis bought in a craft expo in Hyderabad, India, though replaced them later with my comfy Crocs as my walking time increased. Ta da! Didnt I pretty much nail the outfit?

My first stop was this booth where a lady was exhibiting her hand made jewelry. Call it an act of Universe or not, a particular blue resin pendant caught my attention and it had etched on it, Dancing Ganesha with eight arms. I am a Hindu, and all our prayers and Pujas first begin with praying to Lord Ganesh. You can read more about the significance here. Isn’t it interesting that you are alone on a strange land, with complete strangers around you and how the Universe makes you feel that you are still connected and belonged. I asked her if she needed a reliever, to which she said No and then we had a brief conversation about her beautiful jewelry creations. It was a fun start!

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Moving on further, I found this very creative artist Kelly, who is a graphic designer and also creates her own designs and prints. Her designs were beautiful and after discussing about both of our interests and goals in life, what and how etc, I watched her booth for a while and she took a quick break. This meeting is so special to me because of late I was looking for some answers regarding Graphic Design and related fields, and voila I get to meet with this awesome artist specialized in the same field! Visit her website here to know more about her works.

As I kept walking further down the aisles, the talent and creativity of the various artists and artisans enthralled me and the variety of stalls that lined up amazed me. The diversity of arts included Pottery, Canvas Paintings, Glass Art, Hand Made Jewelry, Homemade Bath and Body Products, Arts and crafts made of Recycled metal, Handmade bags, Custom Printed T-shirts, Pashmina Scarves, and what not! There was live music and food trucks served up delicious warm food. Kids played around in merriment. It was a fun-filled warm sunny Saturday.

In another brief meeting, I met this lovely couple from Berrie Creative who were selling their unique and creative vibrant colored lampshades made of glass and wire. And I did not know that a small conversation with them would give me a hope for a life-time! They told me how to never give up on an interest and keep experimenting. Trust me, I have never seen such creative glass art in my life. The lamp shades were mesmerizing.

Later, I relieved a couple of artists so that they have their lunch. They were very kind and appreciated me for helping them out. Isn’t is wonderful when people realize your effort and good intentions and respond back to you positively. Ohh, what would I do without all these beautiful people in my life!

My next stop was Reflections in Metal, a unique art handcrafted out of rolled steel. Their display had amazing pieces of art and in quite large numbers. The vendors were so welcoming and were explaining well about their art to the guests. I couldn’t remember their names, but after talking about their work I took a photograph with them which made them very happy. And when I waved them Goodbye and Merry Christmas, the eldest gentleman of the two stopped me and gifted me a Metal Cross that was among the items being sold! Wow! What was that! Does affection and appreciation has any bounds? I was so elated, particularly when someone fondly gifted me a Cross, and that too during Christmas season…like I always believe, connections don’t happen without a reason. Now, this Cross is in my Puja room along with the other Gods. I am Hindu, and what Hinduism teaches is Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam. It is a Sanskrit phrase found in Hindu texts such as the Maha Upanishad, which means “The world is one family”, and I believe in it. 

My next meeting was with Mr. David Jarvinen of The Mosaic Guys who stunned me with his Mosaic Art work! We exchanged a few pleasantries about India and its vivacious culture, and how David conducts workshops on his art teaching different skills. He has a great knowledge and understanding on art, culture, diversity of India and even Hinduism..so we talked about it for a while. It is very important for an artist to know about different cultures, don’t you think? This awareness widens ones horizons and helps in becoming more creative by drawing inspiration from a multitude of talents. I am so looking forward to meet David in one of his workshops some time in future. I would love to learn various mosaic art techniques 🙂

Taking a stroll asking vendors if they needed a break, I witnessed their passion for art and had many beautiful conversations. Me being an art lover, and a beginner in Acrylic Canvas Art met many Canvas Artists, Muralists and appreciated their work. Some of the muralists were donating the money from their sold murals to a humanitarian cause. It was a therapy to watch the paintings come alive! I made new connections, new friends and drew new inspirations 🙂

A special mention is needed about ‘Paintings by the disabled’ stall. All the paintings were unbelievably lively and excellent! We bought a miniature Canvas Painting of the Prickly Pear Cactus.

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Towards the end, my family joined me in the festival. They enjoyed live music and chilled out on the lawn watching Muralists painting murals under the warm winter sun. The whole environment was fun and frolic lifting up spirits.

And then while finishing up my shift, I met Amelie. With a calm face and a gorgeous smile, she invited me to her booth. Her paintings were so full of life, spirituality and love. I am so glad I got to know her and could make friends with her. Visit her website here to see more of her brilliant and life-changing artwork.

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Finally, I wrapped up my evening at the festival by taking my family around. My son goofed around all the while and really enjoyed each and every aspect of it. There were these folks from circus entertaining kids and adults alike, walking around the place.

We came back home after purchasing a lamp shade and a face balm from Flower Song Soaps.The lampshade now lights up our Puja/Meditation room. Every time I see the lamp, I remember that lovely couple, their smiles and the encouragement they gave me. I am using the face balm daily post scrubbing my face, and it gives me the perfect moisturizing for Arizonan winters along with an exquisite fragrance.

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So whenever I say I believe in Fairy tales, I mean it. Look what all this love gave me in the middle of an ordinary life – in deed a Fairy tale!

Thank you Phoenix Festival of the Arts for having me and thank you for everything. These moments will be cherished forever.

Thanks readers for stopping by. I hope you enjoyed sharing my experience. Do you have any such fairy tales in your life? Did you ever experience such happy moments. Please don’t forget to leave it in the comments 🙂

On a final note, I would like to appeal to you, please encourage and appreciate handcrafts and local made.