Scotts Bluff National Monument, Nebraska

Tip:Click on a photo to see the slideshow

Advertisements

Tall Ship

Tall Ship

I must go down to the seas again,
to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship
and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song
and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face
and a grey dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again,
for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call
that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day
with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume,
and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again
to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way
where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn
from a laughing fellow rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream
when the long trick’s over.
― John Masefield, Sea Fever: Selected Poems

A Day Trip To Brussels

 

I had a day trip to Brussels when I was in Cologne, Germany in 2009. I took the early morning Thalys high speed train from Cologne to Brussels. I reached Brussels around 10 AM in the morning and from the train station I decided to walk to the City Center. The first interesting attraction I saw on the road side was a Giant Trumpet. I took a few photos of it and moved ahead to the City.

I reached the Grand Place, the most famous attraction point. It was very crowded as lots of tourists were taking photos there. Grand Place is a UNESCO heritage site located in the heart of the city. After spending sometime there I walked in the city area and just took some photos and then went to the place from where I can take the Hope On Hope Bus.

I boarded a hop on hop off and stopped first at St. Michael Cathedral Church. From there I went directly to the Atomium Building, an iconic building in Brussels originally constructed for Expo ’58, the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair.
There is a Mini Europe, a miniature park located in Bruparck at the foot of the Atomium. The park has reproductions of the most attractive monuments in Europe. It has almost 350 models. I spent quite some time there and then boarded back into a Hop on Hop Off Bus.

Next Stop was the Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and of Military History. Its a huge museum and entry is free. It has an excellent collection of military artifacts and historical references. I spent sometime there then walked in the Cinquantenaire Park taking photos of The triumphal arch(A horseshoe-shaped arcade).

Next I went to the Royal Palace. I did not get chance to go inside as it was already 5 PM and was closed. I took some photos there and further walked to the Church of Our Lady of Laeken. After spending some peaceful moments inside the church,I boarded another Hop On Hop Off Bus.

On the way, I took photos of European Parliament, Place du Petit Sablon Garden and A Church.

It was almost getting dark when I reached the Grand place. I took a few night photos and headed towards the famous attraction, Manneken Pis, a small statue of a little boy peeing. Its very near to Grand place. I just walked to it though it took me sometime to find it as it was located in a non-descript crossing between two small streets. I took few photos of it and I headed back to the train station to go back to Cologne. Overall I had a wonderful time that day.

Tip:Click on a photo to see slide show

Switzerland Trip – A Trip to Mt Jungfrau

Two days trip to Switzerland

TGV Train from Paris to Geneva

After completing Paris site seeing, we took TGV train in the evening from Paris to Geneva. It was around 3 hours journey from Paris to Geneva. We reached Geneva around 10:30 PM and checked-in directly in the hotel.

Next morning we woke up early and boarded an early morning (7:00 AM train to Interlaken (via Bern). As soon as the train came out of Geneva city, the beautiful Lake Geneva, mountains, big green Swiss Farms and Cows came into view. As it was early October, fall colors were visible in a few trees.

After almost 2 hours journey we reached Bern where we needed to change the Train. From Bern we boarded another train for Interlaken. On the way we passed by the beautiful Thun Lake . We enjoyed the trip but were not able to take many good photos as the train was going very fast. There was a highway alongside the train route. I was just thinking it would have been more enjoyable if we would have traveled by car. But anyway all the way it was very beautiful.

We reached Interlaken around 10 AM and as soon as we got down from the train I saw lots of parachutes flying in the sky over Interlaken. I told my wife that we would go for paragliding if we have time after coming back from Mt. Jungfrau. We checked-in into the hotel, kept our luggage in the room and came back to the Train Station to catch the train to Jungfraujoch.

We bought some fast food and boarded in the train to Lauterbrunnen. On the way we needed to change the train at two places, at Lauterbrunnen and at Kleine Scheidegg. From Interlaken to Lauterbrunnen, it was more of a flat route and it was a normal train. After 20 minutes journey we reached Lauterbrunnen. Lauterbrunnen was also beautiful with a beautiful waterfall that could be seen from the train station itself.

From Lauterbrunnen, we boarded another train (yellow mountain train) to Kleine Scheidegg. This train was a mountain train and had few stops on the way. It was around 45 minutes journey to Kleine Scheidegg. As we were about to reach Kleine Scheidegg, we were able to see the Mt. JungFrau peak clearly. Lots of people were also doing paragliding and skydiving there. Many people were doing hiking and going on foot from Kleine Scheidegg to Mt. JungFrau.

Tip: Click on a photo to see slide show

We boarded another mountain train (red train) to Jungfraujoch (Top Of Europe), the highest train station in Europe. On the way there were many beautiful lakes in the mountain valleys, and the view was just awesome. Last part of the journey was through a tunnel and there were two stops in the tunnel. From there we could see the beautiful landscape from the small window of the station. Almost after an hour journey we reached the top of the Jungfraujoch station. We got down and started walking along towards the tunnel that led to the TOP OF EUROPE, Everybody was taking pictures in front of of the signboard and we also took our memorable photo 🙂

Tip: Click on a photo to see slide show

We took the map from the Tourist Info Center and headed on the trail as per the map. First we went to Sphinx Observation Terrace. The view was just amazing, beautiful Swiss Glaciers, Mountains Alps and all around Snow. We clicked lots of photos from there. Lots of people were seeing walking on the snow and there was a Helicopter were dropping people for Mountain Ski as well.

Tip: Click on a photo to see slide show

After that we went to see the Ice Palace. It was more like an Ice cave with colorful lights. Lots of Ice Sculptures were there. There was a narrow Ice Cave to walk through. We took some photos and then came out of it.

Tip: Click on a photo to see slide show

Then we walked further on the trail and it took us to The Plateau. It was an open area of a snow covered mountain. The weather was quite warm outside and the scene was awesome. There was a Swiss flag fluttering, and we took lots of photos there. After spending almost half an hour we came back to the restaurant area. By that time we were very hungry and fortunately for us found an Indian dish which we ate heartily for lunch (though the food was very costly there).

Tip: Click on a photo to see slide show

After lunch, we headed back to Kleine Scheidegg. While returning we were very tired and so slept in the train and only woke up when the train was about to reach Kleine Scheidegg. We took few photos at Kleine Scheidegg and then boarded another train for Lauterbrunnen.

We reached Lauterbrunnen around 6:00 PM. As there was still enough day light and the sky was clear,we planned to take a quick trip to Murren. We took the tram and later a train to reach Murren. We spent some time in Murren and returned to Lauterbrunnen. From there we took the train to Interlaken and reached around 8:00 PM. We had our dinner and headed back to the hotel.

Next morning I Went for Paragliding which I have mentioned in another post.We did a quick of Interlaken and then we boarded the train for Geneva at around 1 pm.

We reached Geneva at 4:00 PM. There we had lunch in an Indian restaurant. The food was good and we ate to our heart’s full. Then we went for a walk along the town by the side of Geneva Lake. After spending sometime in Geneva we came back to the train station and boarded the TGV train back to Paris. Next morning we took the flight back to US.

It was a beautiful journey. If I get chance, I would certainly visit Switzerland again. But this time I would prefer to travel by car as Switzerland is a beautiful country which requires much leisure to enjoy the real beauty.

A visit to Minneopa Falls

Tip: Click on s photo to see slide show

Last summer we had a quick visit to Minneopa State Park. We went on a trail along side the Minneopa Falls and spend sometime there. Later we went to see the Seppman Mill historic site which was located at other side of park. Here are some photos of Minneopa Falls and Seppman Mill.

Paragliding In Interlaken, Switzerland

I always had a wish to do paragliding and experience how it would feel like to fly in the open sky. At first I was scared of thinking of falling from such a height and imagined what if the parachute would not open. But still I had a wish to do paragliding once and my wish was fulfilled during my trip to Switzerland last month.

Lots of Parachute flying over Interlaken

As soon as we got down from the train at Interlaken East station, I saw lots of parachutes flying in the sky and that very moment I decided to try it if there would be enough time. I told my wife about it but since she has height phobia, she suggested I do it alone. That evening we reached our hotel quite late from Jungfrau and the next morning we wanted to go back to Geneva via the Golden Pass Scenic Train.

But in the morning we both were less interested in going via Golden Pass Scenic Train as it would take most of our day and it’s hard to take photos from the train. Then I read reviews on the internet about Golden Pass Scenic Train and there were mixed reviews. Some people said its worth and some said it’s just a much hyped brand and that any train in Switzerland is beautiful as all train routes are scenic. So we decided not to go by the Golden Pass Scenic Train to Geneva and go by a fast train.

 

Heading for Paragliding

Now we had enough time, so I searched the internet where I could do paragliding and found the details of “Skywings Adventures” on tripadviser and found a very good review of that. I called them and booked for Tandem para gliding for around 10:00 o’ clock. Tandem gliding is one in which a trained pilot and you jump together and both are harnessed together to the parachute. On the phone a lady said my wife can come along with me to the top and then I can fly and she can come back to the landing area in their pick up van. The van came to pick up around 10:00 but there was only one seat available . The driver suggested that my wife directly walk to landing area which was just 3-4 minutes walk. I didn’t like that but my wife said she will take the walk and wait for me there. There were 4 other people with me who were going for paragliding. There were 5 pilots one for each person. The Van drove us to the mountain peak from where we needed to jump. On the way one pilot gave us the tips and asked to fill an insurance form. Soon we reached the designated diving area.

We were introduced to the pilots and were asked to choose our pilots. I choose one of them (sorry, forgot the name) but all pilots were excellent professionals. Each Pilot arranged their parachute and helped us to put on the harness and then attached himself to the harness. The first thing we did was run down a gently sloping downhill, accelerated a bit and then jumped right at the edge of the cliff. I was 4th in the order. I took the photos of other gliders and then it was my turn. The first step was quite hard as the chute tries to pull us back as it goes up. As we kept on running, the parachute opened and it was time to jump.  Initially I felt a bit afraid while running but as soon as my legs were in the air I enjoyed a lot. I was finally flying in the sky. The whole Interlaken was looking so beautiful from the sky and we were above the mountains. The Pilot took our photos from different angles. He was carrying a camera with a Mono Pod.  It was such a good experience I was just feeling like floating in the air in the open Sky. I was very comfortable with the parachute and the Pilot. Interlaken is one of the best place for paragliding. The view was breathe taking with the snow covered mountains, under flowing green river and colorful trees. I also took few photos with my camera. Before landing the pilot recorded a quick video. It was almost 15 minutes flight and I enjoyed it very much.  After 15 minutes, we landed at Central Park where my wife was waiting for me. She took my landing pictures. The Central park is in middle of Interlaken City and its a beautiful park in front of the Grand Hotel.

Click on a photo to view slide show

After landing the pilot copied the photos and video in a flash drive and handed over to me. I paid the charges over their counter and we headed to go for a walk in Interlaken. It was a great experience and I would love to do it again.

Snow Tubing At Buck Hill

 

Though there was not much of snow in Minnesota last winter, it was good enough for some Winter fun. It was a full sunny day with a clear blue sky that week end. I had done Tube sliding at Water Parks several times but never got the chance to do snow tubing earlier. Buck Hill is just a few miles away from my home and we decided to enjoy the full sunny day. After reaching Buck Hill, I bought the the Snow Tubing Ticket($10 for 2 hours) and we headed to the Snow Tubing area. I was quite impressed to see there was a separate lane for each tube and it was so well arranged. We did the snow tubing for full two hours and enjoyed it fully. Here are a few pictures to share with you.

Minnehaha Falls In Winter

Tip:Click on a thumbnail to see slideshow

As winter is approaching, I am posting few Frozen Minnehaha Falls photos from last year . Frozen water falls are equally beautiful(may be more) as we see them in summer.

Lake Michigan Circle Tour

with Misadventure    Tip:Click on a thumbnail to see photo gallery

Sunny & Bright Weather at Chicago

It was in 2011 on Presidents Day Long Weekend, Chicago weather forecast showed pretty good over the week end. We decided to tour Lake Michigan Circle and on the way enjoy some of the winter activities. Though I had my own car I often took a rented car whenever I went on a long trip. The Enterprise car rental office was just in front of my apartment which made it easy for me.

Day 1

Jeep Wrangler

Horse Cart on the way

As we wanted to leave early, I worked from home on Friday and planned to leave at around 3 O’ Clock in the afternoon. I went to the enterprise office to rent the car. I had booked a mid-size car but the rental guy told me that none was available at that time except for a Jeep Wrangler. He suggested either I take it or wait for one hour for another mid-size car. He said that I could take the Jeep Wrangler on a trial drive and if I didn’t like it come back and exchange it with a mid-size car. I decided to take the trial drive (as I am big fan of SUV) and took my wife on a short drive along the Lake Shore Drive. We took some photos alongside Lake Michigan on the Jeep Wrangler. The Jeep did not have the Cruise Control and as I was about to drive 1000+ miles I decided to return it. We went back to Enterprise and exchanged it for a Dodge Caliber. We started our trip at around 4 PM from Chicago. I booked a Hotel in Grand Rapids, MI for that night as I did not want to drive at night and Grand Rapids was just around 3 hours from Chicago.

Day 2

On the way to Tree Top Ski Resort

Next day, we started our trip towards Mackinaw City and on the way we wanted to do Ski at Tree Top Ski Resort. My wife was quite excited for Ski as this was her first time. The weather was quite nice and sunny. On the way we bought a Pizza from Pizza hut for lunch (as we usually do). After enjoying a nice drive we reached Tree Top Ski Resort around 1 O’Clock.

We rented Ski Equipments and lift tickets and headed to the Ski Area. Initially I gave a few tips to my wife for skiing but she said she will try in the lower slopes rather than go to the top. I went to the higher slopes a couple of times on my own. I left my wife at the beginners’ area so she could try at her own pace. First time she fell from the Ski Rope but later she mastered it. Afraid of heights, she enjoyed at the lower slopes only while I started to feel more confident and used the ski lift to go to the higher slopes. It was fun. At around 5 P.M we decided to head to Mackinaw City as it was already getting a bit dark. We reached Mackinaw City around 7 PM and directly checked-in to hotel Our Hotel which was just near to Mackinaw Bridge which could be seen from the Hotel. After taking some rest, we went for drive in Mackinaw City and while returning we enjoyed a custom made vegetarian Pizza which was very tasty.

Day 3

Next morning, we went around the Mackinaw City. The Street had a deserted look as it was very cold that day, temperature around 10 Degree Fahrenheit but still looked beautiful. We wanted to go to the Mackinac Island but as Ferry Service had stopped for the winter, we just took some photos of the Ferry Boarding area. There was a beautiful frozen fountain. Then we walked along the frozen beach and took some photos of the Mackinaw Bridge and Mackinac Point Lighthouse.

After spending around one hour we headed towards Tahquamenon Falls. We drove through Mackinac Bridge. At the end of the bridge there was a Toll booth. Unfortunately we did not have any cash. I told the booth guy and he told us to pay the toll in the office near the bridge where they accepted credit cards. I paid the toll and we headed further.

We wanted to do Snowmobiling on the way in Paradise. We stopped at a Snowmobile Rental Company but unluckily there was no Snowmobile available until Sunday. We decided to do it some other time and headed to Tahquamenon Falls.

As Lower Tahquamenon Falls came first on the way, we headed for it but the road was full of ice. I slowly drove near to the water fall area but as nobody was there and the drive was also a bit risky, we returned without seeing the Falls. After that we went to the Upper Tahquamenon Falls, where the visitor center was located. There were lots of people to see the Upper Tahquamenon Falls. The State Park was very beautiful and all the trees were covered in snow. The walking trail was full of snow. There were Lanterns hanging along the way of the trail and we came to know that there were night tours to the Waterfall as well. It was breathtaking view of the Water Fall. The complete river was frozen and it was a complete white snowy walk way. Some part of the river water was flowing under the ice. After spending a few minutes we headed back.

At the Visitor Center we found there was an open fire place. We spent some time warming our self sitting in front of the fireplace. On entering the visitor center we found a restaurant and brewery inside. For the first time we saw how beer was made there. We went to the restaurant and had vegetarian burgers for lunch. We also bought some souvenirs.

It was almost 2 PM when we headed towards Escanaba, which is around three hours away from Tahquamenon Falls State Park. On the way we took a quick halt at NewBerry and headed further. We reached Escanaba at around 7 PM. After checking in the hotel, we went for dinner in a Chinese Restaurant. We just did carry out and had dinner in the hotel room. I turned on the TV and came to know that there was a big snowstorm in the Green Bay area. I was a bit worried for the next day drive as Green Bay was on the way.

Day 4

Next morning we started driving towards Chicago. It was snowing. This was my first drive in the snow and I was completely unaware about driving tips in snow.

After reaching the Highway 41, I switched the car into cruise mode at 55 speed. There was not much traffic on the road maybe due to the big snow storm the previous day. Surprisingly, the highway was completely cleared from snow and the weather was almost getting sunny as we were about to reach Green Bay. We were almost 5 miles away from Green Bay when suddenly my car skidded off the road. There was black ice on the road which I was not aware of. The car was on cruise mode, and I pressed the brake and the disaster happened. Our Car completely turned 90 degrees. The worse thing was that my leg was still on the brakes hoping the car would stop. The Car slowed down surely but it was too late. It completely overturned  into a  ditch beside the road. We both were hanging on our seat belts. I remember my wife’s first sentence was “Arre hum to latak gaye“. I asked her, ‘Are you safe?’, ‘Did you get hurt?’ and she asked me the same. Thankfully, we were safe and to our surprise neither of us got a single scratch.  I tried to open the car door but it was jammed. But in a few minutes there were people rushing in to help us . They quickly opened the door and rushed us away from the car. I am thankful to them that they came so fast to help us. One person allowed us to sit in his vehicle until the police arrived (as it was freezing outside). In a few minutes’ an ambulance and the police arrived. The Policeman prepared the accident report and dropped us at a nearby gas station. Our car was completely crushed and it was towed away by the Police towing vehicle. That day we stayed at a Hotel in Green Bay as there was no other car available for rent and all the flights were cancelled because of the snowstorm. Next morning we took a Greyhound Bus and reached Chicago by evening.

After the Accident

I am really thankful to god that we were safe that day. We completed the Lake Michigan Circle Tour but with a disastrous end. After that I read all about how to drive in snow. Now, I always avoid driving in snow and never use Cruise Control in winter.