An amateur’s guide: The Iceland Bucketlist

Untouched black sand, humongous mountains, stunning waterfalls, sizzling volcanoes, the magical Aurora Borealis, slow moving glaciers giving birth to gigantic icebergs and every other wonder that Nature can offer, you name it and you will find it in Iceland!

This island country, with places named as tongue-twisters, will never disappoint you whether you spend a month, a week or just a layover!

Before I begin to list the noteworthy stops, a few handy tips:

  • Most of everything you want to explore is on the Ring Road (Highway 1) or on F-tracks (Route 88/Route 910) that are subject to weather conditions. Keep checking http://www.road.is/ for latest on road closures.
  • I would highly recommend a 4×4 vehicle, if you want to enjoy the off-beat path of crossing rivers, driving across volcanic land and over the glaciers too!
  • Car rentals are a few kms away from the Keflavik airport, they provide pick and drop service for customers.
  • Be prepared to witness all seasons when in Iceland, so pack accordingly!
  • You may mostly be the only vehicle on the road for miles, especially on F-tracks, keep refueling ‘each’ time you see a gas station.
  • There is no tipping culture in Iceland. Cards are accepted almost everywhere, carrying local currency is optional
  • Water, soup and bread is self-service and complimentary at most restaurants; as for water, Iceland has the purest water ever, so you can fearlessly drink even out of a running stream along the road!
  • Desserts and Icelandic Yoghurt!! Thumbs up for all my fellow sweet tooths!
  • Iceland is a little on the pricey side expect spending about USD 70 on an average for a meal for two at most family-run restaurants.
  • You may tend to speed up, but there are speed limits and monitored highways, watch out for those! p.s. use the Waze app.
  • Honestly, I suggest planning your itinerary spending most of your time in South Iceland as there is so much to see and do.

Here is the ultimate bucketlist of all the experiences that you cannot miss when in Iceland:

1. Walk behind the breathtaking Seljalandsfoss

Seljalandsfoss
Pic101: Getting drenched behind Seljalandsfoss
Pic102: Front view of the falls

One of the famous tourist stops in South Iceland on Route 1. Get drenched in icy cold water, an easy hike behind the falls. We tried the clockwise route behind the falls, though a little muddy has fewer people photo-bombing your photos! 😛

Tip:Try going to this one early in the morning or closer to sunset to dodge crowds.

Tip:Avoid carrying your DSLR, unless you have humidity protection.

2. Tread on black sand at the Reynisfjara beach

Pic201: Elephant rock at Dyrholaey

Whether you are a GOT fan or not, you will enjoy exploring this spot in South Iceland.  The beach is black because of the well-known volcanic rock found in Iceland – Basalt. The Basalt cave and columns make for stunning pictures!

Pic202: Post sunset at Reynisfjara – evacuated😂

Tip: Be warned of deceptive waves, avoid going in the water. It is not really a surf/swim friendly beach.

Pic203: Basalt Cave opening made of columns

Tip: You cannot miss a few other spots around there- the scenic views from Dyrholaey , Dyrholaey Lighthouse and the lookout at Kirkjufjara beach. The approach road is steep and rough, but as there is ample parking at every spot, avoid hiking from one spot to the other.

Pic204: The GOT fan pose – facing Kirkjufjara

3. Admire the mystic waterfall – Skogafoss

Pic301: Skogafoss by sunset

Another waterfall in South Iceland, that you can climb up to or just enjoy from afar. You can catch a single or double rainbow quite often on sunny days.

Tip: Try planning this one closer to sunset, for pretty pictures and lesser crowds.

4. Meet the largest glacier in Europe-Vatnajokull

Pic401: Glacial tongue – showing the sharp crevasses

Have you ever heard a glacier roar when huge pieces, we call icebergs, crash into the water? If not, go witness the majestic glacier that looks awe inspiring from far, near, above and upon. There are a number of activities you can enjoy based on your comfort level; be it a guided 4×4 drive over the glacier, or the challenging glacier walk or just a boat ride to tour the glacier lagoons up close.

Pic402: The massive Vatnajokull from above

Tip: Vatnajokull National Park that stretches across the 30 outlets of the glacier includes waterfalls like Svartifoss – Black Falls (Skaftafell National Park) and Dettifoss (Europe’s most powerful waterfall)

Pic403: The powerful Dettifoss from the West Bank
Pic404: Dettifoss from East Bank : pose fail 😝

Tip: Hvannadalshnukur (highest peak in Iceland) can be seen on a fairly clear day from Skaftafell. It is a challenging hike, a mountain guide is recommended due to the hidden crevasses.

Pic405: Svartifoss cutting over the basalt columns

Tip: It gets confusing as to which outlet is best for a glacier tour; highly recommend a guided tour. Try ice.explorers for jeep tours, and ice cave tours (in winters).

Tip: You can alternatively take the helicopter tour from Reykjavik (Avg. USD 700 ) to witness the glacier tongues. Check for the Fire & Ice tour with NordurFlag

5. Tour the glacial lagoon – Jokulsarlon

You literally witness heaven on Earth when you see the floating icebergs on still blue water! You may seldom hear the roar of new icebergs crashing into the lagoon, it is surreal.

Pic501: Icebergs scattered in the lagoon

Tip: There are 2 types of boat tours the Zodiac boat tour that takes you closer to the icebergs and the Amphibian boat tour that takes you around but distant, due to the boat size.

Pic502: Glacial tongue overlooking the lagoon

Tip: The Zodiac tour is worth the time you spend, there are several tours through the day depending on the month you visit. Check TripAdvisor for latest deals, it should cost you ~USD 80 for the tour.

Tip: Just a minute away is the Diamond Beach, where you will find huge sparkling crystals of ice lying on the beach. It is a beautiful sight where the Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon laden with floating icebergs converges into the sea, totally a worth visit.

Pic503: A handful ice crystal – Diamond Beach

6. Visit the volcanic lake – Askja Crater

Are you up for some adventure? Then, drive up your sturdy midsize 4×4 on the rugged route to the most beautiful place in Iceland – the Askja crater. It is basically a cauldron formed by a lava chamber whose roof collapsed during an eruption. It is a 40 min hike from the car park, that you will come to witness the milky blue waters of Viti.

Pic601: Pristine blue water – Viti

Tip: It is accessible during the summer months May-Sept when the F roads re-open. Recommend not using the F88 route which has several deep river crossings that require a special vehicle stronger than a 4×4.

Tip: Be aware that the route requires a 4×4 with the torque to stride over rocky terrain and provide decent clearance to cross rivers. It is easier to approach the spot from Akureyri and Myvatn using Highway 1 (also with easier river crossings). You can then catch the Road 901 turning right into F905 for 21 kms to get you onto F910 for the rest of the journey.

Tip: Google Maps will show you a dash lined path when you seek navigation for destinations on F roads.

7. Witness Iceland’s most visited active geysir – Strokkur

Sourced from the second largest glacier in Iceland – Langjokull, this natural geysir erupts up to a height of 20 metres every 6-8 minutes. Situated in the active Geysir Geothermal Area, there are fuming mudholes and geysirs all around.

Pic701: Strokkur Geysir in action

Tip: It is a famous tourist spot year round, being the key highlights in the Golden Circle tour. You can still dodge crowds with an early morning visit.

8. Get close to the pie shaped waterfall – Gullfoss

Pic801: Pie anyone? 😬

It is an uplifting experience to stand in the mist of this 2-stepped massive waterfall. We also enjoyed the views around as multiple rainbows called for camera clicks.

Tip: Another famous spot on the Golden Circle, carry a raincoat as the mist gets stronger closer to the falls.

9. Relax in the wonder of the world – the Blue Lagoon

After long drives and challenging hikes, your soar muscles yearn for a relaxing, hot water spa. The Blue Lagoon is totally worth the time and price. With a pool bar, silica face pack and hot water therapy, I was totally not ready to leave the lagoon! 😛

Pic901: Enjoying the blue lagoon therapy

Tip: I recommend spending the entire day, you can opt for the premium package which includes dine and drinks to keep you refilled. Should cost you ~USD 80.

Tip: Retreat Spa is an exclusive package if you are interested in treatments and some more pampering, which could roughly cost you around USD 250.

10. When the Arctic Circle is calling – take the ferry to Grimsey 

Did you imagine what it would be to visit the Arctic Circle? Well, the Arctic Circle currently runs through this almost uninhabited island, one of the main attraction for visitors. Expect to keep an entire day for this visit, there are ferries 5 times a week (in summer) and thrice a week (in winter) from mainland Iceland (i.e. Dalvik). It takes about three hours, each-way, to get to the island. You can also plan to load the car, but need to arrive an hour in advance to the ferry terminal.

Pic1001: Puffins enjoying their life on Grimsey island

Tip: While the Arctic Circle line is moving further north each year due to the tilt of the Earth and tidal forces from the Moon, it is expected that by the mid of the 21st Century this line will no more remain in Grimsey. More reasons to visit, I say!

Pic1002: The temporary indicator of the Arctic Circle line

11. Lady Luck in my favor you be – the Northern Lights dancing I want to see!

Pic1101: No caption needed😬

What you chase, is not meant to be chased – this is exactly true for the Northern Lights. The season begins in Sept and continues all winter. But sometimes even on clear skies you may not end up seeing the Aurora Borealis activity. It is a natural phenomenon and cannot be guaranteed, but all you can do is be positive, patient and expect nothing. You wouldn’t realize but on the most unexpected night when your camera is in the trunk, the dancing lights will grace your path!

Tip: There are many Northern Lights’ tours that you could go on, and come back with some star gazing because they just take you to spots away from the city light pollution but this phenomenon happens only when it has to! You can keep an eye on http://en.vedur.is/weather/forecasts/aurora/  for aurora forecasts.

Tip: Try driving away from the city on a clear sky night, and you have more chances of witnessing the most beautiful show ever. But don’t plan your trip focusing on this phenomenon as you may end up disappointed.

By far, the above bucketlist is just the key highlights of a trip to Iceland. Nevertheless, there is so much more that you can explore.

If you are planning for a trip, message me and I would be happy to help you with a detailed itinerary including viable stay options, dining and some other useful tips! 🙂

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An amateur’s guide: San Francisco (Part 2)

Here I am, as promised, back with another chapter from the San Francisco guide. In the first leg, we walked through most of the touristy city sights and star highlights; let me now take you to relaxing weekend spots, colorful streets and more!

In case you missed my last post- An amateur’s guide: San Francisco (Part 1)

pic201: Mission Dolores Park
  1. Mission District: Of the many neighborhoods, Mission is my favorite (there is so much color and creativity through the streets, on the walls and all around)
  • Mission Dolores Park: Pack for a fun picnic on a warm, sunny day. This is not just another public park, it is a park with the entire city for a view (refer pic201), a basketball court, a tennis court and a soccer field! Don’t forget your sunscreen!
pic202: Clarion Alley Art
pic203: Clarion Alley Mural
  • Clarion Alley: If you are a fan of street art, this is the place. Even if you don’t, this could be where your best Instagram pictures could come to exist! (refer pic202 & pic203)

Tip: every October (sometimes in between) most of the street art is refreshed, so walk through these blocks and appreciate over 50 street art pieces brought to life by the Clarion Alley Mural project.

2. Muir Woods National Monument: This place makes you feel amazed and minuscule at the same time! Stepping into the shade of the canopies with dense, ~100 m tall trees, makes you feel like a tiny creature in this big beautiful world!

pic204: Muir Woods

The visitor center will provide you with a detailed map of the various trails you can choose from; I would recommend carrying water, a snack and a jacket (it gets a little chilly in the forest) and of course wear shoes suitable for a long rugged walk (even if you are not planning to hike).

pic205: Muir woods trail

Tip: Starting January 2018, you need to register to reserve parking before arriving at the park.

Tip: If you are looking for a breezy hike, I recommend the Bridge 2 loop for a simple yet exploratory trail. For hiking enthusiasts, many of the trails here further link up with longer trails on Mount Tamalpais.

3. Napa Valley: This makes for a perfect long weekend getaway, as there is so much to do if you are the food, fun and wine person or not. I am listing my star highlights whether you love wine or you don’t, there is something for everyone!

  • Food: Although Napa is a wine lover’s delight, the restaurants here offer a wide palette to tingle your taste buds.

I recommend the following:

Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch: A farm to table restaurant; deviled eggs, brick-cooked chicken and Meyer lemon meringue pie

Heritage Eats: A casual line-style restaurant with a customizable global menu; popular items: pita stuffed with Jamaican jerk chicken and choice of veggies, Banh Mi Dutch Crunch (specialty for pork lovers), Dutch crust grilled cheese, Vietnamese iced tea

The Grill at Meadowood: A fine restaurant, part of the luxurious Meadowood resort and spa. Try the cold-pressed juices (especially #2 on the menu), Mary’s organic chicken breast, Wagyu burgers, chocolate mousse with Valrhona butter.

Bouchon bakery: Stop here for coffee and a quick bite. Try Tko- homemade Oreo cookies (refer pic206) and also the freshly baked baguette.

pic206: Tko – handmade oreo cookies

Oxbow public market: It is truly heaven for gourmet lovers. I recommend trying the pizza from Kitchen door, clam chowder from Hog island oyster bar and hand-breaded buttermilk chicken from Gott’s roadside

  • Fun & Wine: There are a number of wineries to explore and many activities to enjoy alongside.

Long Meadow ranch: The Farmstead restaurant listed above is part of this winery. It is famous for its pre-booked wine tour.

Schramsberg: One of the oldest wineries that offers award winning sparkling wine. Their tour includes wine caves that were dug years ago. Register for a spot.

Castello di Amorosa: The tour is fun as the building is a replicated Tuscany castle. They accept drop-ins.

pic207: Castello di Amorosa

V.Sattui: Over and above the vineyards, they offer really good bbq lunch in spring,summer and fall. Try their Wood-Fired pizzas.

Sterling Vineyard: Always imagined stamping grapes in a barrel? This is the place. Preferably visiting in fall (closer to the harvest season) would be a good idea, you can also take the aerial tram for a lovely view of the colors.

Tip: Napa would need prior booking, if you plan for a fall weekend in September and October. Especially stay, wineries and sometimes even popular restaurants may require booking before time.

pic208: Hot air balloon ride

Tip: Hot air balloon rides are as famous as the wines here. Napa Aloft takes you up in the skies to enjoy spectacular views.

Tip: Napa Valley Wine train, is more than just a wine train. It is a vintage world on wheels that takes you through the wine regions from downtown Napa to St.Helen and back. You can also enjoy glimpses of the charming towns – Yountville and Oakville.

pic209: Napa Valley Wine train

4. Pacific coast highway (PCH): You may be wondering, why is a highway featuring on this list?! Well, this is the scenic highway (California State Route 1) that runs along the stunning west coast from Northern California along San Francisco all the way to San Diego in Southern California.

I would only be covering the PCH route closer to San Francisco in this post. Lets begin:

pic210: Mori Point

Further more, there are the Cypress tree tunnels (I recommend just around sunset, to see the colors filter through) at Moss beach and the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve with tide pools as home to a variety of marine life.

pic211: Cypress tree tunnels
pic212: The view from The Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay
  • Pescadero: May get a little busy on weekends, tight on parking but a picturesque spot to watch the waves crash along the rocks. My personal favorite and last on the list is Davenport with the iconic shark fin rock (check the cover picture of this post), I love the beach lookout (quite windy but extremely beautiful) and there is a cove with a secret approach road.
pic213: Davenport Beach cove (with the Shark Fin rock)

Woah! This was indeed a long post, hope my experience helps make yours even better. Do like, share and comment!

I shall be back with another exciting leg of the west coast, stay tuned! 🙂

An amateur’s guide: San Francisco (Part 1)

Each city has its own charm. But, I totally feel at home when I see people, busy streets, glitzy skylines, bustling wee hours and more (yes of course, it reminds me of Mumbai!). You have all of that and a lot to explore when in San Francisco.

With the 4th of July around the corner, make your checklist with the top places that you must visit in this city!

(click on the subtitles for directions, tickets, reviews & more)

  1.  The Golden Gate bridge: This wonder made of 83,000 tons of steel, is the signature attraction in the city. The bridge can be viewed from various spots – for all your picturesque Instagram posts below are my best suggested spots that you can add to your bucket list:
  • Golden Gate welcome center: This brings you right over the suspension bridge up and close; you can drive, walk or bike across the mile long bridge, enjoy the city view and the cool breeze from the Pacific Ocean. Check for weather, winds and fog before you make a trip.
pic102: City view from the Golden Gate bridge (look for the Bay Bridge at a distance)

Tip: Make sure to navigate towards the Golden Gate Welcome Center (landmark Presidio, drive on Route 101) and not the Golden Gate Park (it has no GG view from any angle!)

  • Battery Spencer: Across the bridge, technically in Sausalito (Marin headlands) . If you would want an angular view (refer pic101), this is the place to be. Parking is tight on weekends, an early weekday morning can give you a bonus ‘wow’ sunrise view from this spot.
pic103: GG bridge lookout- Marine headlands

Tip: Keep driving/riding along the Marin headlands for various other spots (refer pic103) from where you can get complete views of GG bridge (though not up close!). Check out a cool spot with the secret swing (refer pic104), a short hike down the Kirby cove road.

pic104: Kirby Cove swing
  • Baker Beach:  To the west of the GG bridge, this gives an infinite view of the South bay. Typically a picnic spot during the summers, this beach extends into the rocky shoreline of Marshall’s beach (best for GG bridge photography: refer pic105) grazing through the Sand Ladder.

Tip: It would be a good idea to wear hiking shoes in order to climb up the rocky terrain on Marshall’s beach. You can also take the Battery to Bluffs trail, to enjoy a short hike if walking along the beach is not your thing.

pic105: Marshall’s beach GG bridge view

2. Fisherman’s Wharf Having had enough of the GG bridge views, digressing towards another tourist attraction. The place offers serene views of the ocean and islands like the Alcatraz; there are fishing boats docked at the rear end. You will experience the typical American street feel, with artists portraying magic tricks and circus acts. There are plenty of seafood stalls/vendors that sell off the street. When in San Francisco you cannot miss clam chowder, walk straight into the best place Boudin at the Wharf where your clam chowder is served in a sourdough bread bowl.

Tip: Watch out for the “World Famous Bushman” on the streets before he scares the shit out of you!

  • Pier 39 You can catch the sea lions especially in the summer months that mark their breeding season. Overall the pier is mostly a commercial touristy spot, with street artists, shops, restaurants, sweets, aquarium and 3D rides.

Tip:  Just sniff around to reach the San Francisco salt company store, a little deeper into pier 39. They have a huge variety of scented handmade bath salts that you can fill in artistic bottles to use or gift (and trust me the scents don’t mix with one another!) .

Tip: An ice-cream treat is always welcome, try Dreyer’s Waffle cones for huge scoops of creamy ice-cream (I recommend flavors: birthday cake and macadamia nut). Totally worth it!

  • Ghirardelli square:  It is another touristy place known for shops and restaurants. I went there just and only for the famous Ghirardelli chocolate company; my must-have-can’t-miss desert recommendations: Sea salt caramel sundae (absolute yes!) and Lands end sundae!

Tip: Parking garages are tight and far; if you get tired walking, ride on the historic trolley/street car (refer pic106). Take my word, it is a moving museum, notice the driving controls!

pic106: Vintage Street Car

3. Lombard Street: San Francisco has crazy steep roads, it is basically a city on hills. But Lombard street is the crookedest street of them all. You can either try the challenging drive down the street or walk uphill stalking the luxurious houses on either side.

Tip: Catching a fun ride on the iconic Powell-Hyde cable car will take you to the top block that overlooks the Lombard street and a lovely city view too (see below).

4. Ocean beach: Take a breather and relax at this not-so-touristy white beach, I love this spot for the calm waves and sunsets. You can drive upto the Sutro Heights park that overlooks the beach. Amidst the subtle sound of waves watch the sun set into the ocean.

pic107: Sunset from Sutro Heights Park

Tip: For all segway enthusiasts, you can take a segway tour along the beach.

pic108: Ocean beach lookout
  • Lands End: A rear extension of the Baker beach, this point also brings back the view of the GG bridge. You can hike a bit to see the secret Labyrinth and the Sutro Baths which are historical structures, the wind and waves are strong here but a delight to witness.

Tip: If you wish to enjoy the ocean view as well as satiate your taste buds with good sea food, walk into the Cliff house. It is preferable to have a reservation if you want a table by the window with a view.

5. Alcatraz island: You may think why visit a prison of all things to do, but trust me you will not regret the trip! It is an exquisite prison on an isolated island in the frigid Pacific ocean, from where no prisoner could escape. The jail held some very dangerous criminals like the “Birdman of Alcatraz”. The audio tour takes you through every section of the prison narrating the plot behind the Battle of Alcatraz.

pic109: Alcatraz island

Tip: Tickets are mostly sold out, hence you would need a prior reservation about 2 months before the trip.  You can book through Viator, we got tickets as early as 2 weeks prior to the trip!

pic110: Solitary confinement – Birdman of Alcatraz

Tip: For those who are not motivated to make the trip, I would recommend the island for the best views. You can capture the bay bridge, SF city and the GG bridge all in one unobstructed panoramic frame. Don’t miss it!

6. Twin Peaks: A perfect attraction in the day or at night (I prefer the night view), you  can admire the glitzy SF town and the bay bridge at a distance. It is an uphill drive to the Twin Peaks lookout i.e. Christmas tree point (don’t know why?!). This area is police patrolled so make sure you park right and lock your vehicle (beware of car break-ins) before getting attracted to the view.

pic111: Twin Peaks view

Tip: It gets chilly in the evenings, carrying a jacket would be a good idea!

There is so much more to explore in San Francisco, but these were the ‘Star’ points of interest that I found worth visiting and of course, clicking!

I shall be back with a part 2 covering more ‘things to do’. If you found this post informative, please do comment, like and share. 

 

10 songs that will make you smile!

To my surprise and delight, I was accidentally struck by a playlist of old pop songs over the last weekend riding along beautiful roads by the ocean; almost making me emotional (temporarily!) in happiness (sob). Here I am sharing my top list, that shall trigger some memories of an era almost over a decade ago. Just click and listen..relive those days:

10. “Livin’ La Vida Loca”, Ricky Martin:

Honestly, I did not pay much attention to the lyrics of this one, back then as a kid; it was just a fun birthday party dance number! but nevertheless Ricky Martin was so ‘LIT’ and that lady he is singing for, must be freaking awesome!

9. “Break your heart” ft. Ludacris, Taio Cruz:

Bet, this one can crack you up any day! The lyrics and the video both make no sense but the song was still a rage!

8. “I want it that way”, Backstreet Boys:

You are my fire, the one desire… BSB and Westlife were my companions when I was comprehending infatuation and building my EQ (ignore!). But, BSB was always on repeat back then!

7. “My Love”, Westlife:

And Westlife follows!

6. “Hey there Delilah”, Plain White T’s:

For all long distance lovers, a mushy number shall drift you back to the first love age. A simple, subtle number.

4. “Viva la vida”, Coldplay:

A hit album from this Brit band, added me to the fan list then to this day, few of the bands that are hitting high on consistency!

5. “Say what you need to say”, John Mayer:

This one reminded me of one of my favorite movies -Karate kid. Anyone already humming “Your body is a wonderland”? That one too.

3. “She will be loved”, Maroon 5:

From crushing on Adam Levine to still singing along with their songs, Maroon 5 has been a special favorite. This track is still as good as new.

2. “Whenever, Wherever”, Shakira:

Once a Shakira fan, always a Shakira fan! This track was a breakthrough track in her career. She defined sexy and carried it along all the way to ‘Chantaje’ now!

1. “Umbrella”, Rihanna:

Under my umbrella ella ella eh eh eh..a chart buster and an evergreen track from a timeless artist!

So, did you enjoy the post? Please do leave your vote in the poll below:

Happy 65!

blog
I am 65 years old. My maybe-grandchildren walk upto me, and ask me in varied accents, “Granny tell us stories of all the fun things you did when you were young”, and I glare at them from above my thick black glasses (not sure of myopia/hyperopia!) and sulk to begin, “I had fun until I was 22, then life became serious. Life is a race, you will have to…”, I look around to find nobody in my audience; seems my maybe-grandchildren disowned me!

*Re-wind*

I am 65 years old. My maybe-grandchildren walk upto me,and ask me in varied accents, “Granny tell us stories of all the fun things you did when you were young”, and I smile at them from above my jazzy sunglasses to begin, “I have many stories of all the fun I had, to the places I travelled, people I met,the many moments that made me laugh, the few that made me cry; times with friends you still see me chilling with, and then how I found your grandpa after trials of dates, love, romance…there are so many stories but better for bed time; lets go play for now!” and I hear a cheer, “We love granny!”

*Dramatic music*

65 is way too many years, but then who knows! It is a tough imagination, but maybe, could be for real. At the pace today, we sacrifice so much for a career, for ambitions; ’cause round the clock we ought to be better than the last better, or better to impress or better to prove I am who ‘you’ think I am.

But what if I want be me, and be the rational me and also be the “its-okay-to-be-me”.

Well, that’s not my line. I stole it from a wise man I met over a flight recently! Digressing, I like listening to stories, it gets the mind thinking of simple things you never really felt important. Just like my important maybe a different important than your important.

Not that I am religiously following a philosophy, but a passing thought, spontaneous judgement makes most of the many things complicated. We judge even before we interact or even ask; and act with that judgement, live with that judgement not even bothered to know what the truth is after all! From ‘she is loud’, ‘he is a snob’ to ‘we don’t like her’, ‘he is not good’; the story just ends without a beginning! I wonder how simple life would become if we took a while to absorb before we judged and slammed doors. But then all said and done, we are programmed to believe that, “Life is a race, and you have to..”; Happy 65!

3 romantic flicks that you cannot miss!

I am an ardent fan of old-school romance, even in this universe overloaded with ‘feminism’, flattery comes to me easy-peasy when holding doors, pulling chairs, lending a hand, and tinges of chivalry that say ‘I care’ sparkle the everyday life! *drools*

<back on point>

Hasn’t the romance bug bit you yet? Never mind. Try these classic assorted flicks on a binge or at ease and you won’t regret it!

P.S. you’ll need a tissue box handy or a bucket of chunky monkey would be just perfect!

  1. No Reservations (2007): 

No reservations

“The moment I met you, I knew. The truth is you can’t trust anyone”- Nick 

Trust is such a big word, unlike how small it spells. Often pitfalls in the past make you  build thick walls around yourself that nobody can break, nothing can penetrate- it is a self-defense mechanism, a consolation that the problem is external not internal and seclusion will protect you from everything. In psychology, it is called ‘denial’. All it takes is some event, emotion or person to make you feel secure and protected to trust, to love. And then the denial fades steadily.

Kate (Catherine Zeta- Jones) is a meticulous lead chef in trendy Manhattan, with impeccable culinary skills, she focuses on perfection to the brim and lives in denial that she is perfect and is doing everything right. A sudden family tragedy turns the leaf of her mechanical life to another chapter where she has to deal with emotions and she is clueless what needs to be done. Until, she meets Nick (Aaron Eckhart), the new Italian hand in her kitchen. From an ‘un’welcomed colleague, to change of equations, Kate deals with emotions up-close and bends rules. Will she trust Nick and let go for once?

A not-so-over-the-top yet subtle romance, a nice cozy watch that will leave you smiling.

2. Someone Like You (2001):

Somebody like you

“Of all the things you said to me that night, the thing that scared me the most was that I would find it again” – Jane

Heart break is one bad feeling that everybody fears and decides to dodge in every possible way. But, sometimes only acceptance will help cross the bridge back to realty.

Jane (Ashley Judd), a producer in a popular talk show is oh-much-in-love with the executive producer of the show, Ray (Greg Kinnear). When love goes from sunny to stormy, she begins to study the male animal as well as her womanizer colleague Eddie (Hugh Jackman). She reaches pseudo conclusions somehow justifying all the bad that happened to her. Heart- broken, she becomes a pretentious column writer that gains popularity on the ‘old cow-new cow’ theory. How will Jane survive her adventurous ride through emotions, theories and realizations?

It is a rom-com with emotional sprints that really touches your heart, a predictable storyline but an enjoyable watch.

3. Made of Honor(2008):

Made of honor

“I think about you all the time. And I want to spend the rest of my life with you.”- Tom

Commitment-phobia can often make you conveniently neglect people who mean the world to you; but the fear of losing them to somebody else may trigger a flood of emotions and wake you up to what you really really want!

Chasing women was routine life for Tom (Patrick Dempsey) from high school all the way into his 30s. Bells of realization rang when his long best friend, Hannah (Michelle Monaghan), finds her Mr.Right and is all set to get married. He then makes every plan to win the bride while playing the maid of honor.

A delightful watch, makes you laugh, awwww and drool all through till the end. I can watch it multiple times, any day!

There is something about a few movies, they may not be Oscar material, but are definitely like freshly baked plain chocolate brownies, not very fancy nevertheless comfort food – simply irresistible!

 

 

 

An amateur’s guide: Colorado

 

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Mount Elbert Summit

Laziness comes complimentary with me. But, nevertheless my “eagle’s eye” (like a friend of mine pokes!) in observing “minutely” all that surrounds me, supplies the food for my blog. Enough vanity!

As we migrate from place to place, it is human nature, to adapt to almost any lifestyle. Experiences of a kind, that is what Colorado is all about. Mountains are just not leaving my side, ever since I said “hello” last December (remember..the Rockies!). Even while I am expressing this, I am glaring into the front range standing far and tall in admiration.

When I arrived in this state, dry weather flushed me red. Yes, as far back my “lost-touch” knowledge of high school geography takes me, I shaded ocher on the World Map, marking Colorado as a desert. Overwriting the same, all I have seen this summer is no where close to my high school topography stints, just the dry air got onto me. Oh, though I miss my high school. Back on point!

The valetudinarian in me felt like old age has arrived and I am in the last few spells of my life (I think I hail from the Elizabethan Era reciting the monologue from Cymbeline!).  Precisely, it is called “mountain sickness”, hence Denver rightfully called the “mile-high city” – almost a mile high from sea level. Hints of fatigue, dehydration, dizziness and nose-bleeding are some of the symptoms. They all fade away with adequate hydration and eventual adaptation.

This place, especially Denver, has a very friendly appeal, unlike most places I have seen. And by friendly I meant, “the safe friendly” appeal. From strangers who cross paths, to bus drivers, cab drivers, cashiers, almost everyone loves talking here. I know that the cashier at Walmart is revamping his garden this weekend. Practically, I was never two minds wandering around, being a newbie, all over the city.

This is probably the second place after Dubai, where I have seen SUVs revamped to look like military tanks. Not literally. There is a craze for elevating even small body vehicles with wide, huge tires giving them a rough appeal. Hummer H2 is seen all over Colorado in plenty, could be the veterans as much! (I know, irrelevant FYI)

Adventure bleeds in the people here, weekend stories on Monday mornings are all about  biking to the mountains, camping, hiking and you name it! More of a vacation spot, summers are pouring with enthusiasts eager to scale up to the scenic peaks. The Rocky mountains are divided into layers of ranges, that each have a unique appeal associated with them. The Sawatch Range with the highlight being Mount Elbert at an elevation of 14,440 feet above sea level; the famous Front Range (shadowing Denver), Mount Evans (14,271 ft) within the Chicago peaks is one competitive highlight for most tourists. Standing tall, west of Denver, it can also be reached routing Idaho Springs. Another delight from the Northern Front range would be the Longs Peak (14,259 ft), it is the star in the Rocky Mountain National Park, as the only “fourteener”. It is 15+ miles of a not-so-easy climb upwards, and almost half the people who try to reach the summit are unable to. So, start in the wee hours if you are aiming for the summit! And lastly, my personal favorite, the Pikes peak from the Southern Front Range.

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The Southern Front Range

The Pikes peak (14,115 ft) is one of the three famous “fourteeners”, offering an alternate means to reach the summit and spectacular views. The trail up is called the Barr trail, a mean 11-mile long climb and not to forget a gain in elevation of 7500 feet. You can aid your hike, by taking a quarter route up using the Cog railway train to begin on the Barr trail there on. The Pikes peak Cog railway train is the best bet to reach the summit in about an hour and a half, in case you are not the hiker kind or the risk bearer for the spiral drive up. The views upwards are breathtakingly spectacular, it gets chilly as you gain altitude, so be sure to be equipped with a jacket or two.

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Pikes peak summit

There are various spots to hold onto, all the way up to the summit. Looking over the Manitou springs, Pikes peak offers a dense population of Aspen trees (look out for the white thin trunks!). The clear water Ruxton Creek keeps you company all the way up and huge rocks perfectly aligned, just waiting for a push, to roll down and kill you! Nevertheless, enjoy the views in all directions, aiming for the summit that awaits you. Once at the summit, strictly enjoy the views from far in case of  acrophobia! Else stride, jump, hop, skip across rocks into the clouds (enthusiasts even to do yoga on elevated rocks, all of 0.2 square meters, 14,115 ft up!) to experience heaven on earth.

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Another view of the Pikes peak summit 

Manitou Springs houses many other attractions, depending on your expectations/definitions of thrill. The much hyped Garden of the Gods, is a pleasant trail for a good weather hike and exploring humongous, differently shaped red rocks that  provide a wonderful view until you drive to them. Then, again it depends based on interests. A worth visit with children and a low-key trail stroll.

The seven falls, now a privately owned attraction, are the cascading falls sourced by the South Cheyenne Creek. These are seven distinct falls that flow from the steep canyon. The views of the different falls are truly a delight. It is advisable to walk along to each of the falls, than using the park shuttle service. Be it the lift to the Eagle’s nest for a top view of the cascade or all the way up 224 steep steps to catch two different trails. Hikers step ahead into the dense Aspen forests to explore the Midnight falls (a 20 min round-trip trail) or the astounding canyon view from the Inspiration point (a 40 min round-trip trail).  The walk has various spots to just sit a while and enjoy the beauty of the flowing water with the canyon in the background. If you are a literary maniac, you may want to get in the flow!

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One of the cascades of the Seven falls

If zip-line and white water river rafting, get you going, head to the Royal Gorge. An amusement park with various means to get your heart pumping. Experience a pleasant walk across the world’s highest suspension bridge. I bet, you will love every bit of it! The view of the Sangre de Cristo Mountain range, staring over the Royal Gorge, is known for its mesmerizing sunsets. The famous zip-line, right over the deep gorge, is one-of-a-kind experience. If you cannot gather the courage to be floating on a thin cable in nothingness right above the crazy rapids of the Arkansas river, then you could cross the gorge using the gondola service as well.

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The Royal Gorge Bridge

The Arkansas river caters to river rafting for all levels of rapids. The river shaves through the gorge. Aggressive paddling and a fitness is a must to live through the rafting stretch, enjoying every drop in the rapids! So get ready for the water rush while you sneak through the very gorge (a 10-mile section) you were glaring down from.

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Royal Gorge Route Railroad along the Arkansas river

There is so much to explore in this state, each place leaves me with memories more than words could express. I shall be back with another pocket full of amateur tales, until then keep digging!