Friday, October 2, 2015

West Coast Diary

Attempting to re-construct our family trip to LA-Vegas-Hoover Dam-Grand Canyon from almost 3.5 years back...The notes were lying in some snug corner inside my iPhone and the pictures are still literally strewn all over the place...don't think it'd be too great an effort to put all the pieces of memory back together quickly !

Saturday, 26th May, 2012  -  California, here we come !

All set for the trip - This was a one-of-a-kind vacation that my entire family was looking forward to for a long long time. We left our NJ home slightly after 1 PM ET, and started driving to the parking spot near La Guardia airport. The weather was sunny, and the mood was upbeat. Even our GPS seemed to like the vibes inside the car, and played little games every now and then. After about 1.5 hours of maneuvering, we reached our destination. We secured our car in the Parking Lot, and headed straight to the airport to board the flight to DFW, where we had a stopover. 

We landed at DFW, slightly ahead of the ETA. The flight was enjoyable in general, however, all of us were a bit bugged at the end around the landing time, as we got ear-lock conditions of varying degrees. Our flight to LAX was at 10:30 PM CT, which meant we had plenty of time at hand. So we decided to take naps in rotation and re-fueled ourselves from time to time. Finally, its boarding time, and we settle ourselves in our seats

Sunday, 27th May, 2012 - Cityscaping in style !

Landed at LAX at 12:30 AM PT. The hotel shuttle picked us up and by 1 AM we were in our room. We fell asleep pretty quickly as we had plans to start off with a hop-on-hop-off view of the city as early as we could. Got up early after a few hours of sleep, and we were out of the hotel around 10 AM. We spent the whole day criss-crossing the city (until it got really dark) and returned back to the hotel for dinner. One of the bonuses of this ride was the drive up Mulholland Dr to get a really close view of the "Hollywood" Hills

Monday, 28th May, 2012 - Off to the Sin City !

The people at the reception of the hotel where we were put up were very courteous. They arranged a Limo for us in the morning that took us to LA downtown, from where we boarded the bus to Vegas. We traveled across the Mojave desert, and within a few hours, we had reached our destination. We stopped at the Excalibur. After a brief halt, we headed for our final stop at Bally's. The first sight of the strip was oh so amazing and we were kind of awestruck by the magnificence and opulence of the place. It was definitely something we would have regretted missing.We took a cab from Bally's and went to the Palms Place where we had our reservations. Once again the place was like a giant event place and almost a whole block long. It boasted of several types of accommodations starting with studio bedrooms right through to penthouses.

After a short rest we ventured out to the strip starting our journey at the Caesars Palace. We were awestruck by the design and it really took us a while to realize that the sky we were looking at was actually painted and not real. The statues, the figures and the gargoyles made us believe for a while that we were actually in Rome. 

The forum had an immense spread of branded shops. It was really difficult up leave such a grand place but looking at the time at hand we decided to head towards mirage about which we had heard a lot and. Especially about the volcano show. We did take pictures along a number of backdrops as well including Paris, Bally's, Harrahs, treasure island, Venetian, Palazzio, and others. A curios item we noticed in the hands of many people was a hookah type container from where people were sipping on to drinks using very long straws . That was kinda funny :).., We continued to stay loyal to McDonald's and finished our dinner there. it was time to head back to the hotel and get some sleep. Tomorrow's gonna be a long day. We finally retired at around 12:30 AM PST

Tuesday, 29th May, 2012 - Marvels of the World !

After sleeping very late last night, all of us had to wake up by 5:30 am, not an easy ask. Today was the day of the much awaited Grand Canyon trip. The tour bus arrived around 6:45 in the morning. We were among the very first to board the bus and were taken to Mandalay Bay picking up other tourists along the way - this was the place from where we were supposed to transfer to the bus actually going to Grand Canyon. The expected duration of the round trip was 14 hours. After settling down in the new bus, we first headed towards Hoover dam for a photo stop. Breathtaking !!!

It was also a different type of feeling when we realized that we are actually at the border of two adjoining states, Arizona and Nevada, one of which (AZ) follows MST while the other follows PST. This was also the spot where some part of "Fools Rush In" were shot, a movie I loved to watch.

After the brief halt at the dam, we headed towards the Grand Canyon. one of the spectacular creations of nature that no one ever travelling to this side of the world should ever miss. The sheer expanse and vastness of the canyon left us literally speechless. I was thinking to myself what it would be like to drive down and get an up, close and personal view of the hundreds of crevices that make up the entire structure !!! By the time we finished capturing the glory of Grand Canyon from different view points, dusk was almost settling in. It was time to head back to Vegas once again, and a perfect opportunity to sit back, relax and relive the memory of the day. Lots of pleasant memories to take back from the canyon and the dam !

9:30 pm - we have started entering the fringes of Las Vegas and are about concluding the tour. Now is the time to start on with the next plan of the day. Our first night in Vegas was very short from an exploration point of view and we are mentally prepared to stretch it a bit if we have to, in order to cover the majority, if not the entire strip on foot. This is our last chance in a long time to come  !!!! We got off the bus somewhere near Bally's, mustered enough courage to start walking, and promised ourselves not to return back to the hotel until our mission is complete. We were tired, but we gingerly chugged along taking occasional stops, clicking away pictures, supported by aching legs and armed with rock-solid determination. We walked approximately 1.5 miles between Bally's and Luxor, got into several of the casinos (general sections) just to have an inside-view and met our goal of the day !!! Took a cab to head back to the hotel around midnight. 

Wednesday, 30th May, 2012 - Time Out !

We are heading back to LA this afternoon. We decided to rest our bones during the first half of the day, and enjoy a bit of the lavish hotel room we had been offered for a very very reasonable price. I had a one-of-a-kind experience at the reception when I was asked about how many square-feet I'll like:) I settled for somewhere between 1100 - 1200 square-feet if my memory serves me right. The suite was absolutely fabulous, with two TV screens side-by-side in the bedroom along with a lot of other goodies.  

Thursday, 31st May, 2012 - Beaches Beckoning !

Back to LA again, for the last leg of our trip. We will catch the flight back home from here the day after tomorrow. But wait, all is not over yet ! We still have two full power-packed days to here we are, in a bit of an adventure mode, taking a public bus (I don't recall taking one in many years now....) and heading for the beaches. Malibu beach was just awesome !!! Two different shades of blue - one from the sky and one from the sea was adding an extra dimension to the already fabulous beachscape. The weather was windy, the sun was in its full glory, the houses along the beachfront were beautiful and the entire scene was magical. We roamed around the place for quite some time, and then treated ourselves with delicious sea-food in one of the joints offering a mesmerizing sea-view. The waitress that served us kept us engaged with inputs on the celebrities who often visit the beach. She also mentioned that she was an actor, and had acted in some episodes of a famous TV show. After spending a good portion of the day at Malibu beach, we headed towards Santa Monica beach, one of my favorite spots in the entire world ! In addition to having a beautiful walkway lined with a perfectly manicured garden at the entrance, this spot is also the end-point of the legendary Route 66. We roamed around the place, ate, enjoyed the rides, and took some brilliant pictures of the sunset. The funny part is that the whole setting is so beautiful, that you don't even need to be an educated photographer to capture some glorious pictures !!!

Friday, 1st June, 2012 - Universal Studios !

We are heading to Universal Studios today. Just a day trip, and I bet its gonna be whirlwind ! So much to see, so little time. Got to catch hold of a tour planner near the entrance to take his guidance - we have to make the most of what we have of the day. I had been to Universal before, but this was the 1st time for my wife & son, and are they thrilled !!! 

It was a bit different this time along. In addition to the usual stuff I have done in amusement parks in the past, this time I really got into some roller-coasters and really enjoyed the rides ! My eight year old was instrumental in this whole thing when he started to act cranky in the middle of the studio ground stating that he won't budge an inch until he is taken to the "Mummy". My wife and I, both being great bravehearts, tried to reason with him, but this one time, he was single minded. So I finally said, OK lets do it (and asked my wife and son to shut their eyes tight, the moment they start to feel scared). The journey started with a huge drop in the backward direction, and for one moment my spleen was in my mouth...I applied the eyes-tight-shut method for the next minute or so, by which time my body had already decided to "go with the flow". After a while, the ride came to a stop and all of us were happy to be out alive, in one-piece and with enough courage to do the next ride, "The Transformers". This was pretty enjoyable, now that we had some experience in situation handling. 

Saturday, 2nd June, 2012 - Time to head back home

The dream-come-true trip comes to an end, and we enjoyed every bit of it. We got ourselves ready, and headed to the airport to catch the flight back home. The memories of this particular trip will remain etched in our hearts for a long long time.