Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Our Trip to the Yellowstone National Park

June 23, 2014

We decided to see Yellowstone National Park this Memorial Day. A typical long weekend is not going to be enough unless you live pretty close to the Park in Montana or Wyoming. But I managed to get 2 additional days off so we decided to do it. It was a fascinating and very humbling experience to see Nature’s fury striking a balance with life and I felt like I was standing on a ticking time bomb. Even though we had 5 days, we could only spend 3 full days at the park because of travel back and forth from Salt Lake City which was the only closest point of entry for us. It was slightly a hectic pace and we managed to see everything that we wanted to and more because we made sure we were in bed on time. This holiday was a like an anomaly because we like relaxed vacations where we wake up late usually by 9 am mainly because we don’t want to miss out on free breakfast. However, for those who have more time, I would recommend a week with 5 full days at the park. The reason I decided to blog about this trip was because I spent hours on the internet to come up with some points of interest and a good itinerary and it was exhausting. I researched TripAdvisor who unfortunately did not have much content except for reviews (they seem to have 2 different pages for Yellowstone and the one that did have content doesn’t rank well, hint for their SEO team!) and I also referenced Frommers, individual blogging sites, nps.gov, trekking sites etc. My itinerary may not be perfect, but I can assure you that it will at least get you started on the right path. Before I jump into the itinerary, here are some tips on what to wear and carry

  • Most websites suggest wearing layers and they are right. However, we went almost end of May and the weather was in high 60s but the sun was scorching
  • Full sleeve shirts and hats helped me, especially if you are sensitive to sun’s rays
  • Of course, lots and lots of sunscreen
  • Bug spray, we carried it per the recommendation on many sites but unless you are camping, we didn’t have to use it
  • Lots of water and/or vitamin water, energy drinks etc. and snacks like nuts and bars or whatever that you may think is helpful for the family
  • Comfortable shoes as there is good amount of walking to be done

What really helped me with the itinerary was the below map that I found in Google Images of the park and various entrances and attractions. This itinerary covers the major points of interests with at least 2 miles of walking in a day. However, for more adventure and hiking the lesser known spots, you need more time and I definitely wished I had. Yellowstone National Park spans an area of approximately 3,400 sq miles comprising of lakes, rivers, and mountains ranges. Half of the world’s geothermal features are here in this Park fueled by the underground volcanic activity which is why I was referring to this place as ticking time bomb. The Park is also famous for unique species of plants, microorganisms, animals, and birds. Popular suggestion is that we do a loop but it is okay if you do go back and forth as sometimes you may discover an attraction that you may have missed. And, it is really not a bad drive provided you are able to go past the slow drivers at the passing zones. We could not do a loop because we booked this trip in the last minute and being the Memorial Day weekend, all the lodges inside the park were full. But I am glad we did not book inside the Lodge because although the food is not bad, it may be boring to pick from the same options morning and night, especially if you are a vegetarian.

Day 1: We flew into Salt Lake City and drove to West Yellowstone, MT. It was a long drive (nearly 5 hours). We had booked Explorer Cabins for the first 2 nights, close to all the restaurants in the area. The accommodation was new with basic kitchen amenities. The restaurants in the area offer a lot of options apart from pizza, Chinese or a grill. We loved the Cafe Madriz, Spanish for its Tapas, Paella and even Ratatouille. Madison Crossing Lounge, a contemporary and eclectic restaurant was another one that we liked. First day was just travel, hotel check-in, dinner and sleep.

Day 2: We were up early and drove to Yellowstone National Park West Entrance which was only about 15 minutes from the hotel and continued to Madison Junction, a total of 14 miles. What we did not expect is a traffic back-up for almost 40 minutes and it was not because of accident or anything else but it was a herd of Bison. Welcome to Yellowstone!

Bison - Yellowstone

Herd of Bison

On our first day at the Park, we took a right at the Madison Junction and explored the Geyser Basin, Old Faithful and West Thumb. First stop was at the Firehole Falls at the confluence of Firehole and Gibbon Rivers. Its a small waterfall with a nice view. We then stopped at the Fountain Paint Pot Geyser area and thus began our tour of the various geysers, hot springs, mud pots, fumaroles and vents and of course, the pungent smell of rotten egg from the sulfuric acid. It took me back to my Chemistry lab days in school. How does each of these geothermal features differ from one another? Well, Geysers are Hot Springs that erupt, the super heater water below the ground become trapped in channels building the pressure. Hot Springs are vast with no blockage so there is water circulation. The trillions of microorganisms around this area makes hot springs extremely colorful. Mud Pots are water saturated sediment which is clay-like with steam rising up making it bubble and even burst. Fumaroles don’t have water but only steam from underground that escapes out with a hissing noise. Steam Vents are similar to Fumaroles but they are just cracks on the ground with hot steam escaping out. The surprising thing for me were the colors like turquoise, emerald and coral around these hot springs. I had seen a lot of pictures while researching and didn’t think much of it but itis real. Colors are mostly because of the heat-loving bacteria called thermophiles that thrive well and create a bacteria mat around the hot springs. Most spectacular sight at the Fountain Paint Pot GB is the Red Spouter.

Red Spouter at Fountain Paint Pot

Red Spouter

Our next stop was Midway Geyser Basin. The 2 most important sights to see here are the Excelsior Geyser, the third largest in the world and the Grand Prismatic Spring, largest hot spring in the Park, second in the world.

Grand Prismatic Spring

Grand Prismatic Spring

Excelsior Geyser - Midway GB

Excelsior Geyser

They are the most beautiful sights of the park with colors that captivate you. Unfortunately Yellowstone geysers and springs are not for soaking because they are super-heated above boiling point to nearly 200 °F and more. They are continuously hissing and bubbling which is why there are boardwalks around these thermal features and there are signs warning us to not walk off of the boardwalk. This is because the area is unstable and a new thermal feature can erupt at any time. Our third stop was Black Sand Basin. The most important sights to watch here are the Cliff Geyser where we were able to see the different stages of eruption, the Emerald Pool and the Opalescent Pool.

Emerald Pool

Emerald Pool

Opalescent Pool

Opalescent Pool

A good stop for lunch is at the Old Faithful. You can call at 307/344-2751 and press 1 for continually update of eruption forecasts to see this active geyser. Old Faithful is a popular spot but actually it is quite boring when compared to other thermal areas. The geyser just erupts quite high, lasts about 2-3 minutes and stops. Post lunch, we drove to the West Thumb GB which is about 17 miles. The juxtaposition of the vast frozen Lake Yellowstone against the boiling hot springs was a visual marvel.

Frozen Yellowstone Lake at West Thumb

Frozen Yellowstone Lake

Abyss Pool at West Thumb

Abyss Pool

 

After having covered a lot on this day, we decided to go towards the South entrance and drive through Grand Teton for a while before heading back. The landscape completely changes to snow as we go higher in altitude. The peaceful Lake Jackson against the backdrop of the Rockies was quite relaxing. If you have time, there is lots to explore in Grand Teton but it was already 6 pm so we headed back to West Yellowstone. As I had mentioned earlier, we stumbled upon Lower Geyser Basin on our way back which we had missed earlier. The main attraction there that was unique to see was the White Dome Geyser.

Day 3: We woke up early again and started our drive back to Madison Junction and thankfully there were no Bison to stop us that day. We went left at the Madison Junction and turned into the Grand Loop Road. We stopped at the Gibbon Falls which is an 84 feet falls in the Northwestern Yellowstone Park on the Grand Loop Road.

The weather was beautiful and even felt chilly at times. In fact, it even started raining at the Canyon. So, you know why one has to dress in layers. Our next stop was at the Artists Paint Pot where you can see the mud pots, fumaroles, and vents. This is less crowded and offers spectacular views.

Artists Paint Pot

Artists Paint Pot

We finally reached Canyon Village and our first stop was to go see the Lower Falls. Lower Falls is the biggest waterfall in Yellowstone at 308 ft. The trail to the top of the Falls is definitely a must as it offers breathtaking view of the Yellow Falls and the beautiful Yellow Canyon. The trail is ¾ mile roundtrip bit is steep. The color is because of the hot water acting on volcanic rock, Yellowstone Caldera. This is the largest and active supervolcano in the US. After working up a good appetite, we went to the Canyon Village for lunch spot and then headed to Lookout Point and Artists Point to enjoy the view of the Upper Falls, Lower Falls, the Canyon and the North Rim.

Yellowstone Canyon

Yellowstone Canyon

Lower Falls - Yellowstone

Lower Falls – Yellowstone

 

We then drove towards East Yellowstone entrance to see the Mud Volcano Area famous for the sulfuric acid ponds. Some attractions here include Mud Caldron, Dragon’s Mouth Spring, and Sulphur Caldron.

 

Sulphur Caldron

Sulphur Caldron

Mud Volcano - Yellowstone

Mud Volcano

Dragon's Mouth Spring

Dragon’s Mouth Spring

We then turned around and drove for about 26 miles towards Gardiner MT, exiting Yellowstone via the North entrance. It was a beautiful drive and we did it at around 5:30 pm and we saw some wildlife on the way. First was a bear dining on some twigs. We parked our car and joined the people standing. It was safe as the forest ranger was around making sure that everyone keeps a safe distance from the bear. We spent about 30 minutes looking at the bear until it finished its dinner and went into the forest, quite satiated. I really wanted to see a grizzly and I was so happy to have seen one. As we continued on, we were stopped by elks and a family of bison crossing the road. After a long day, it was blissful to come to a nice, clean bed.

Bear - Yellowstone

Bear – Yellowstone

Bison family - Yellowstone

Bison family

Bull Elk - Yellowstone

Bull Elk

Day 4: This was our last day at the Park and since we had covered a great deal of the Park already, we took it easy on Sunday. After a leisurely breakfast, we started at around noon to the Park and our first stop was Mammoth Hot Springs and the famous travertine terraces. This is a unique geothermal attraction with limestone formations.

Palette Spring - Mammoth Hot Spring

Palette Spring

Mound Terrace - Mammoth Hot Spring

Mound Terrace

 

Mammoth Springs area is great for accommodation and food so you can definitely plan on staying here if you book in advance. Be sure to indulge in some amazing huckleberry ice cream!

Our second stop on the way back to the Madison Junction was the Norris Geyser Basin. This is the most fascinating and hottest Geyser Basin with lots of geothermal activity. But be prepared for a long hike and a strong pungent rotten egg smell. I really thought I will not be able to eat eggs in my life again but trust me, you will survive. Attractions here are the Steamboat Geyser that produces world’s highest eruptions. Then there is Echinus Geyser, Vixen Geyser which was amazing to watch the different stages of the eruption and so many more.

Vixen Geyser - Norris GB

Vixen Geyser

Vixen Geyser - Norris Geyser Basin

Vixen Geyser

 

We covered both the Black Basin and the Porcelain Basin. This is it. We basically covered all that we wanted to see in the last 3 days and our plan was to say goodbye to Yellowstone and drive to Idaho Falls for the night. This was to cut short or drive the next day back to Salt Lake City for our flight back home. It was a great choice as we could unwind ourselves here in this quaint city. We stayed by the Snake River Belt. Ou room had a balcony with the view of the River. We got some food and just relaxed our tired feet gazing at the river and people walking/jogging. It felt great to be back into civilization.

Day 5: Well, we requested a late check-out as our flight was later that night so we had a scrumptious breakfast (I actually had a French Toast in spite of being some what sick of the rotten egg smell!) and took a leisurely stroll along the Snake River and the Idaho Falls created by a hydroelectric power project. Well, we then checked out of our hotel and drove back to Salt Lake City and flew back home. All good things come to an end and it’s always awesome to come back home.

Hope this will help you to create your itinerary to Yellowstone some day.

C’est la vie! No worries, Mate! Om!

February 22, 2011

I just finished reading “Eat, Pray, Love” and it was not a book that I really enjoyed. Call it a respect for books or call it obsessive compulsive but I usually don’t leave a book mid-way.

No, this blog is not about my analysis or criticism of the book I usually don’t read memoirs but I picked this up because of all the media attention that it received and also because a movie was made from it with my favorite, Julia Roberts.

In order to understand the blog, I have to give a gist of this book for those of you who have neither read nor seen the movie yet. The book is about the author’s divorce, a marriage that she decides to end because she didn’t want to have a child and settle down but then goes into a guilt trip looking for answers to justify her divorce and her actions. She re-energizes herself and gets her husband’s forgiveness through meditation and thus releases herself from the past.

How does she do this? She takes a year off of her life to follow her dreams. She travels first to Italy to learn her favorite language and to indulge in some authentic Italian food. I love Italian food and I must admit her writing was amazing because it made me feel so hungry even after a full meal. After 4 months she goes to India and lives in her Guru’s ashram to meditate and frees herself of all the guilt and past. Her last stop is Indonesia where she falls in love again. Eat, Pray, Love, get it?

What inspired me to write was the year long vacation to re-energize, rediscover her priorities and to enjoy life. How many of us would love to do this? She took this huge step at the darkest hour of her life. But do we have to wait until we lose grip of our life and ourselves? Life is unpredictable and sometimes does not turn out the way you would have imagined or even planned. To top this we all lead a busy life day in and day out carrying out the same mundane functions like a machine. Even our vacations are pre-planned with times etched out on when we should eat and when we should sleep and when it should end. We are always running to catch up with time or are so stressed about being late.

Let me hypothesize that I have the courage to get away from everything and everyone (those of you who know me will laugh at me ‘coz I have no such courage) for a year. What would I do with so much time? Here are the things that I have always wanted to do and I’ll tell you why.

1st Stop: Paris – Estimated Time: 6 months

Paris France

I have immense love for this city, almost like a crazy passion ever since my visit in 1998. I have always dreamt of living here and want to be able to speak the language like the locals. There is something about the French language that is so romantic. In fact it is included as one of the “Romance Languages”. Everything about this place is so beautiful, romantic and fashionable from Renaissance architecture to the art collection in the museums, the fountains and the way people dress. I want to savor every bit of the Parisian lifestyle visiting the cafes, indulging in some fine wine and cheese. I wouldn’t mind becoming an apprentice at a fashion house just to feel the pulse of how fashion unfolds in this country. I want to travel by train in and around France and tour the neighboring countries of Italy, Switzerland and Austria. Last but not the least I want to stay in the French countryside for a while and spend long blissful evenings sipping wine and savoring Camembert and Brie cheese.

2nd Stop: Australia – Estimated Time: 3 months

Australia

Now that I have relived the romance and beauty and re-energized myself I am left with 6 more months. The next thing that I will do is to travel down under. This is one country that I really want to go see at a leisurely pace and enjoy the coast from Cairns to Melbourne. I specifically want to see the Twelve Apostles (only 11 now), Great Barrier Reef, Uluru and wait for it… a koala bear.

3rd Stop: India – Estimated Time: 3 months

The last stop will be my home country with my parents. I want to just live there for the rest of my 3 months and reconnect with my parents, friends and my culture. I want to learn Yoga and Vipassana meditation and hopefully acquire the eternal peace of mind.

But seriously I have to win a lottery or get a surprise inheritance from a long, lost relative (where are you?) to manage this year long vacation. Well, you never know!

For now I am thinking of taking ten minutes in the day to do extra something that can give me a smile. For example read a book before going to bed which is my way of unwinding but there are so many things that can be done like taking a beauty bath or read to your baby before tucking them in or catch a TV show with your partner etc. As for weekends, I want to take 2-3 hours for myself to either go shopping or hiking or write a blog whatever that can give all of us the peace of mind. Let’s not let family, work or society dictate our lives.

Lastly, take an annual vacation and actually go away from home or let me warn you my friends that if we don’t we all will end up washing dishes. Getting away does not mean expensive vacations or a year long vacation. But it is a matter of switching off the blackberries and reconnecting with family and most importantly SELF. Think about it and plan a fantastic summer vacation filled with love and peace and don’t forget to pamper yourself.

C’est la vie! No worries, Mate! Om!

Best of Both Worlds!

January 8, 2010

This is in continuation to my previous post. So, I finally reached Bangalore, India. I always strive to blend into the local life although sometimes it is tough and I can’t help feeling out of touch. Things keep changing so fast from clothing styles to one-ways on roads and even the general landscape that it is hard to keep up. This blog of mine is devoted to showcase these new changes in India which may tempt a lot of us to actually go back which seems to be the trend these days anyway.

10 – 20 years ago when I was living in India, there were a lot of things that I craved for but could not get my hands on them easily. A simplest of examples would be Coca Cola. It was not allowed to be sold in India until 1993. Computer and Internet at home was unheard of. It started to show up in a few affluent homes only by 1999-2000. But internet was through the telephone line and the downloading speed was so slow that you could easily have a nap. Yawn!

Despite growing up in a conservative South Indian family steeped in Carnatic classical music, I was hooked on to western music ranging from Pop to Classic Rock to some Hard Rock and Country. Music of this kind was not easily accessible then. I remember hunting down music stores who had a good collection of this music and paying through my nose to have them record it for me in metallic audio cassettes. Same with movies! We would get Hollywood movies only after 3-6 months of its release in the US and not all the movies made it.

Western clothes and shoes for women were hard to get even in the metros where it was mainly worn. All we had were small exports shops. I am sure a lot of my friends in Bangalore just like me have shopped at VT (Victoria Terminus) and La Bamba on Brigade Road. (FYI -the latter still exists). Once I started to work, I would eagerly wait for an opportunity to go abroad to shop. Singapore and Dubai were the nearest cities for our shopping needs. How excited we used to be for the Dubai Shopping Festival and I recall how busy the travel agencies and airlines were during those times.

You know, I sometimes wondered why we had so many local brands starting with a B – Bata (for shoes), BPL (for home electronics), Britannia (snacks), Bombay Dyeing (textiles)! Sumeet blender and Ambassador Car were either an aberration or a relief from this alphabet! 🙂

By 2003, we started to see a few American brands in major metros. But it was only in 2006 the Indian government took a monumental step ushering in a huge change. It started allowing single-brand retailers to own 51% of their business operations in India. That paved the way for a lot of American brands to enter the market like Subway, Lacoste, Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Tommy Hilfiger, Subway and so many more on the way like Starbucks, Gap etc. My 5 year old nephew and I were so excited to see our favorite brand Crocs easily available in India this time.

Fast forward to 2009 and you will see that India has done a complete turnaround. With the economy booming despite the crisis in the western world, people have more money to spend and more people are getting hooked to urban way of life. But you can’t help notice that the old world charm existing side by side –

* There are malls everywhere housing not only American brands but also “desi” stuff.

* Cars have become a necessity now and almost all the brands that we see here are being driven there along with some unique ones designed for Indian roads.

* High-rise buildings and apartments are coloring the landscape everywhere. But can you really ignore the slums?

* The simple chai and coffee “addas” of my times co-exist with Coffee Day and Barista Coffee parlors.

* You have retail chain giants like Food World and Reliance but the small time vendors like Subamma angadi are also doing just fine.

* The wine industry is booming now and what a range of red wines and some of them as good and crisp in flavor as the Californian wines! Best part is they are from local vineyards that have mushroomed in the last 2 years.

* There is organic food now in India. There are not just stores selling organic vegetables that are locally grown but you also get jeans and tops made of organic cotton.

One of the main reasons a lot of us came here to the US was to enjoy the best of both worlds. As you can see the Indians in India are doing the same. On one hand they can be sporting foreign brands from head to toe and eat at Subway and love pizza but they can never divorce the masala dosa, Ayurveda or Yoga! They might watch all the Hollywood movies and be up to date with gossip but the ring tone in their cell phone would be the latest Bollywood song. Women who would never dream of wearing anything but the noble salwar kameez are comfortable wearing long tunics on jeans or leggings.

All this has happened in spite of the government. If the government had played hand in hand with this incredible change at every step, we would not be seeing a pathetic infrastructure barely supporting this progress.

This change is not only intrinsic but also global. The US companies are now doing a global launch of their new products as opposed to launching just in the US first. I can now go watch Avatar and so also my friend in India on the same day and we can talk about it in Facebook! I love it!

India today is a beautiful blend of the east and the west, the old and the new creating a unique identity for itself and I salute this new brand India!

 Jai Ho!

Traveling for 20 hours or more by air!

December 21, 2009

Most of you know by now that I recently flew to India to spend some time with family. It’s always great to meet up with relatives and friends and even greater to shop and to gorge on some mouth-watering food which we miss so much here.

But the thing that I really hate about going back home is the long air travel. By virtue of my location, it becomes even harder as I only have one airline option to fly directly to Bangalore, India. But being from the travel industry, I am not too keen to fly that airline as they are notorious for poor baggage handling and lately their crew goes on strike often.

Once during our previous trip, our baggage didn’t come and the airline staff was right outside our gate waiting for us. Before we could react, they handed us cash for necessities and told us that the bags would come in the next flight. Cash is good, really good. It makes you even smile at them. Then the form makes its appearance where we have to list all the valuables and the net worth in each baggage. It hits you then, “what if I don’t get the bags…oh, my favorite pair of jeans, my expensive sweater and all the gifts I got for family. I know the money they give will cover everything but do they really understand how much time and effort I have spent shopping for those best-fit jeans?

Psst! I didn’t lose those jeans. 🙂

So, my only other option was to fly out from major airports like Denver, Chicago, LA etc depending on the airline. I took my friend’s suggestion and tried Singapore Airlines, loved it and have been flying with them since 2006.

So, my first leg of travel was to fly to LA and it takes about an hour and a half. There was a short layover of 3 hours in LA. But by the time you go to the international airport, stand in line to get your boarding pass and go through security, trust me, you will have no time to kill. Because, LAX airport is worse than an airport even in a developing country

Okay, the next leg in my journey was from LA to Tokyo which is about 12 hours. Since it took off at noon, you really can’t fall asleep. That’s why I am glad to be on Singapore Airlines as they have the best in-flight entertainment. They not only have the latest movies but also some episodes of popular TV shows, non-stop music, games etc.

I watched 3 movies back to back on my own personal monitor. The first one was “Julie and Julia”, loved it. The next one was “The Ugly Truth” with the dashing Gerard Butler. You know, I just love his Irish accent and the way his mouth gets so crooked when he speaks. No wonder my husband hates him. 🙂

At this point, they served us lunch. Their vegetarian Indian meal is pretty average. I really don’t know why they gave me a bag of Sun Maid raisins at every meal. It’s not like we Indians keep snacking on raisins or maybe they want us to. Go Figure!

I still wasn’t sleepy so I went back to browsing for more movies and decided to watch “My Sister’s Keeper”. It had some great performances and tear-jerking moments! I recommend watching such movies to keep your eyes from getting dry in that frigid air. Then came dinner with another bag of raisins! LOL!

By then it was 11 pm (LA time) and I finally fell asleep but an hour later the flight landed in Tokyo. Aarghh!

Here, we get an hour’s break before we embark the same plane to sit for 7 more hours to reach Singapore. At this point you are pretty much dead beat and despite all entertainment, all you want to do is sleep.

We finally reached the magical Singapore Changi Airport, a Mecca for the tired traveler. I fly Singapore Airlines mainly because of my love for this airport. It is not a mere airport people, but it is a mini-city. It has everything that you can possibly imagine from a full-fledged state-of-the art gym to transit lounges. It also has a hotel called Ambassador Transit hotel where you can rent rooms on a 4-hr basis.

 

Apart from numerous restaurants serving different kinds of cuisines, there is also a fantastic range of shopping from travel necessities to apparel, make-up, perfumes, electronics, souvenirs etc with brands ranging from Burberrys, Tiffany’s, Gucci and so on. There is free internet browsing stations, Wi-Fi areas, a movie theatre, children’s play area, an orchid garden and now more recently a butterfly garden. They even have a huge swimming pool. Phew! You can live here for 2 days and not get bored, really!

  My last leg was a mere 4 hours flight and I was in Bangalore. Touch down! Of course, you now deal with jet lag until your disoriented body gets used to the time zone.

 Best part for me is I travel either ways and I still come home!

 Bon Voyage!

A Vegetarian in a Steakhouse!

September 23, 2009

What happens when a vegetarian finds herself in a steakhouse?

Her choices are probably going to be one of the following –       

a) She starves

b) She eats just the salad

c) She succumbs to her hunger and eats meat (Impossible, right?)

d) She doesn’t go in the first place (spoilt sport!)

You probably might have guessed by now that I am a vegetarian. Before I go any further, I just want to clarify one thing because I get this all the time (eyes rolling!). I am only a vegetarian, not a vegan. A Vegan eats neither the meat nor dairy while vegetarians do eat dairy, just not the meat, although, I sneak in eggs in my diet much to the chagrin of my fellow vegetarians.

Couple of weeks ago, I had to attend a business dinner at a steakhouse, not just any steakhouse but a Brazilian steakhouse, Fogo de Chao.

Fogo de Chao

One of my colleagues who had been to this restaurant before, gave me a heads up saying that they don’t just serve steak but they carry it around on skewers and they go around continuously bringing 15 different kinds of meats or until you are done and flip a sign card at your table to show red. My colleague is not a vegetarian but she warned that the sight is a bit overwhelming and that the restaurant reeks of meat.

Fogo de Chao Brazilian Steakhouse

Hmm! Trepidation and anxiety almost set in but at the same time I consoled myself with the thought that an upscale restaurant in Scottsdale Arizona, cannot smell like a fish market. You don’t want to ruin your favorite Prada jacket!

I am not a faint-hearted vegetarian and I love to try the different cuisines of the world as long as the dishes have no meat in them. It may be difficult to fathom for some but I really have discovered some great tasting food wherever I have gone. In fact, I could easily host a vegetarian food sojourn on Travel Channel.

Another fact is I am married to a wonderful man who loves to eat meat. But this was never a moot point as long as I don’t have to eat it or cook it. No, wait, sorry, sometimes it is when I get a whiff of seafood.

Okay, so I arrived at Fogo de Chao. I did get a faint barbecue smoke smell but it was not intense and suffocating. In fact, you don’t even realize it after a while. And, dinner was awesome and enough for me! They have a huge salad spread with not just greens and vegetables but also different kinds of cheese including fresh mozzarella, polenta, breads and garlic mashed potato. I know it’s not a lot of variety but I had room to eat dessert for once without feeling full. Their Crème Brule is to die for and so also their molten chocolate cake.

Chocolate Molten Cake

 

So, if you are a vegetarian and are fine with the sights and smells of meat, try out the steakhouses too. You never know the treat that might await you!

Trip with my parents

September 7, 2009

My parents visited us last summer from India. This was their second trip to Phoenix and they usually stay for 3 months. On their first visit, we took them to see the Grand Canyon. Of course! So, this time I was debating between Los Angeles, San Diego and Las Vegas.  All these cities are within 6 hours from Phoenix by road which is a decent drive given their age and diet. We unanimously decided on Las Vegas.

Although my parents were okay with it initially, our relatives in India were a bit taken aback with this choice because after all Las Vegas is marketed as a “Sin City”. People in there seventies go on pilgrimages to absolve their sins in India and here I am, taking my parents to the Sin City! Go figure!

The thing that is most striking about Las Vegas to us is not so much about gambling. My husband and I do not gamble even though we are generations apart from my parents. Somehow I cannot envision myself losing my hard earned money in such a frivolous way (maybe 10 bucks, LOL!). But I love the Strip for its nightlong gaiety and have been awestruck with the resorts built on a theme. If the Strip had just skyscrapers like Manhattan, I don’t think it would be as intriguing. So, off we went to Las Vegas. We started off with New York New York Resort and ended with The Venetian.

Las Vegas Strip

Reactions:

  • My mom has arthritis but she kept up with our zest and forgot her pain!
  • My father can never keep his eyes open past 10pm and he was awake both the nights that we were there until midnight. It could have been the neon lights or tStatue of Liberty at New York New York - Las Vegashe swarm of people all around us!luxor  

 

Being a civil engineer by profession with a passion for buildings and architecture, he was impressed with each of the themed resorts. From the pyramid shaped Luxor to the recreated Statue of Liberty. From the Eiffel Tower to the interiors of the resorts like the Venetian and Caesar’s Palace that captured the flavor of that country or the city.

Eiffel Tower at Paris Paris - Las Vegas 

My dad marveled at the great minds that planned and executed all this right from concept to commissioning. Wish the same concept had continued even today because there are still so many more wonderful places in the world that they can replicate and resurrect on the Strip. But the need for fast turnover and a quick ROI, all the new construction is nothing but a modern concrete mass making it an eye sore on the Strip.

Did you know that 19 of the world’s 25 largest hotels by room count are on the Las Vegas strip.

On the way back from Las Vegas, we made a short stop at the Hoover Dam. My father’s initial work after getting his engineering degree was with the Bhakra Nangal Dam project in India. This Dam was built on similar lines as Hoover Dam (highest gravity dam) with expertise from USA. It made it more special for him to see the Hoover Dam.

To sum it up, there was no “sin” involved in seeing this man-made attraction. I guess it’s the perception created for Las Vegas that makes people jump into conclusions that this city is only for gamblers and partygoers. Of course it is, but it offers much more too.

Sorry friends, “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” did not apply here. But I have gone many times to Vegas and trust me, I don’t remember a thing about those trips! 🙂