Thursday, July 9, 2015

My Travel Diary: The Best Moments of 2015 - USA!

Continuing from where I left off in the last post:

III) United States (NYC, Connecticut, New Jersey)

This one has been the most grandiose trip of my life so far. Everyone around me was excited, but funnily enough, I didn't feel a thing! I got my passport made, got my 10-year US visa, packed my bags, and even got some of my hard-earned money converted into USD, just so I could at least buy presents for my friends and family with my own money. It's a different kind of feeling, you know, especially when your mom is funding the rest of the trip and your relatives are taking care of your lodging. I haven't written much about my US travels till now, having mainly concentrated on the wedding of my cousin that I attended there. I have a few US posts in mind for the coming days, but for now, here are some of the highlights - the best moments from my US trip.

We were in the states for 13 days, staying at my uncle and aunt's house in Trumbull, Connecticut. They showed us around Trumbull and a few neighbouring towns and also took us to New York thrice. The fourth time, Mom and I took off on our own, taking the inter-state train from Bridgeport to Grand Central Terminal in New York. From there we walked to 51st and Broadway, where we were scheduled to begin our day-long bus tour of NYC for which I had already bought tickets on Groupon. We had no phone reception (international roaming is expensive!) so I looked for wi-fi signals wherever I went. Before I had left Delhi, I was told by many people that "USA has free wi-fi everywhere". But it's funny how I found it at very few places, mostly big departmental stores in Trumbull and Starbucks outlets in NYC. The saying 'no free lunches' seems to have become passe now. Apparently "no free wifi" is the new motto to live by in this world.

On our day-long bus tour of the city, we stopped for a bite and some much-needed rest at Bryant Park. This guy carrying an "Accept Jesus" sign was walking around, grabbing several eyeballs but apparently not many takers. I picked up my camera and was trying to slyly take his picture. I was trying to be discreet but I did want a photo badly. And suddenly, what do you think he decided to do? He stopped right in front of me, hid behind his signboard - understandably for anonymity - and posed for the lens! I took his picture and mouthed a grateful thank you. I don't know why my mother thinks American people are rude and unhelpful; I think they tend to be pretty cool!

Towards the end of an entire day of sightseeing by bus and on foot, we were utterly exhausted and famished. My mom desperately wanted to eat Chinese that day. It was one of those cravings of hers that won't leave until satisfied. Luckily we spotted a Chinese/Thai restaurant across the street from where our bus had left us. We stood outside for a good minute, considering whether to go in or look for better options. We finally decided to eat there, little knowing the surprises that awaited us.

Once inside, it took me only about a minute to realize that the entire staff was Indian. From what I could tell, even a few of the guests occupying the tables were Indian! The music playing in the background was an eclectic mix of Arabic and Mediterranean. We ordered hakka noodles, and guess what? They tasted exactly like that food we call "Chinese" here in India but which is basically our own version of the authentic Chinese cuisine. Absolutely nothing about the place was even remotely Chinese! In many ways, though, I was glad to have come to this restaurant. After a heady day out and about in New York city, a touch of India was all I needed to put a smile on my face. The picture above wasn't taken in one of my finest moments, I admit - it is downright terrible. But the memory of this place and of this moment is good enough to mandate the inclusion of this picture here. Cheers to our Indian Chinese food! What would we do without it? (My sister would literally die a painful death.)

For many people, the Empire State Building is New York City. It is its most charismatic and most enduring symbol indeed. I visited the 86th floor observatory of the building and also crossed paths with it several times. But this remains my personal favourite shot of the tower. Took it on Memorial Day, when the building had been illuminated in the colours of the US flag.
Taken from the top of our tour bus while crossing the iconic Brooklyn Bridge. Traffic is so fast and so relentless on the bridge, you aren't even allowed to stop the bus for a moment and click a decent picture. But the view from the bridge? So gorgeous, it would take your breath away.
The view from the 86th floor of the Empire State Building. One of my first impressions of New York City. And it was love at first sight!

And that, my friends, is the magnificent Grand Central Terminal in its stunning entirety. This station is unbelievably huge and every bit as beautiful as it is described to be. It connects the inter-state trains coming into New York with the subway system within the city. I remember the very first time I read about this place. It was in the "The Third Level", a fantasy fiction story in my class 12th English textbook about a 31-year-old who accidentally discovers a third level at the Grand Central Terminal, while in reality there exist only two. Back then I could never have imagined even in the most far-fetched dreams that I'd one day be standing on one of those very levels inside that very terminal. In that sense, it's often good not to dream too big. Let life surprise you at every turn in the road!

My favourite TV series Gossip Girl is set in NYC. I have probably watched all six seasons at least 4 or 5 times. Roaming around the city, the sights that were completely new to me didn't however feel so unknown. It felt like my favourite show was playing out right in front of my eyes. I was in a state of total bliss! And not just that. So many movies I've watched - from You've Got Mail to Friends with Benefits, all those superhero films and rom-coms, and in fact nearly half of all Hollywood movies ever made - have been shot in and around New York. To say that this trip was in fact a dream (that I never saw, but nevertheless) come true wouldn't be stretching it too far. I'm thankful for this, as I am for all of my other blessings.

BUT! Just as the US trip had to come to a sad if inevitable end, this blog post also has to end if I wish to have any chance at getting some sleep tonight. So here I am, signing off with the promise of writing again super soon. More travelogues in the offing. So stay tuned!

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magiceye said...

Lovely pictures and cool narration!!
Looking forward to more!

Praveen Srivastava said...

The flow of your writing is very good. Since I have been many times to these places , therefore the moment you read this blog. It appears that old memories are coming back.. enjoy travelling..Rgds.Praveen