Friday, March 25, 2011

A Walk on New York Streets

After staying for ten days in Albany, it was time to go out for a break. So on last Saturday I planned for a visit to New York City. Early morning I had taxi from my hotel Extended Stay to reach the Greyhound bus station in downtown Albany. It was easy to book a ticket but surprising to know that there is no allotted seat and you have no other choice than to stand in the queue and wait for the bus. Any way I got a good seat near the window and so was enjoying the outside view . It was a comfortable three hours bus drive to New York City. In between I had a sleep for one hour otherwise I was looking outside for the beautiful houses, architecture, roads, infrastructure and people around. After reaching to the Port terminal in the city, I had to wait for my friend Gautam, who live in Bethlehem and promised to come to city to give me a company in roaming around. Bus station was really big. Though we both had phones it took half an hour to locate each other. Finally we met and came outside of the bus terminal.

Times Square was on a walkable distance so first we went there. Huge tall beautiful buildings, busy streets but smooth traffic, no chaos, cleanliness and enthusiast tourists were few things that impressed me the most. Tourist buses were roaming around but we decided to have metro or so called subway there, to go to other places. Best thing was that all the point of attractions of New York City were in nearby locations only. This is the busiest part of the city called as Manhattan. We went to Subway station to take the metro train to go to the Statue of Liberty. If I compare metros of New York and Delhi; believe me Delhi metros are better. But there was another surprise for me. I was shocked to see a bunch of beggars there. They were in good attires, singing on the platforms and expecting some money. Even a lady came to me and asked a dollar for food. I always thought it would be in India or in developing countries only but  I was so untrue till now. Any way we reached to the nearest station and than walked up to ferry station to have a ferry to go to Liberty Island. We got a first view of the great Statue of Liberty from here.

It was a long queue and after half an hour we could get the tickets but crown ticket for going inside the statue were limited and sold out. By ferry we went to the island and had couple of pictures there. I could see the unique Liberty bike and a great view of New York City from island, which is spectacular. This is what I saw in a number of movies and American sitcoms. Statue is giant and located on a beautiful location. You really need a very good camera to capture its beauty. After spending an hour we came back by ferry and had subway to reach the Wall Street. It was chilly roaming out there. We reached to the big Bronze Bull statue and New York Stock Exchange building. From there we went to the Ground Zero. Some construction was going on that point where few years back the great twin towers of World Trade Centre were located. It was saddened to see this. From there we came back to the Port terminal and had bus to Bethlehem city. We reached there late in night at around nine and had dinner in a restaurant. The restaurant was crowded as it was weekend and so we were late in reaching home. As this was the day of Holi so I called my family members and relatives back in India before going for a good sleep.

I woke up late in morning and had a good tea after a long time. Gautam took me to the city. He also took me to the campus of University of Lehigh, research labs and his office there. From the top of the university building, there was a magnificent view of Bethlehem city. Then we went to a nearby shopping mall before going to an Indian family for having parathas on the occasion of Holi. From there we went to a casino. It was the first time I ever went to a casino. It was nice to see the colorful lights and ambience there. It was two in afternoon now and so he dropped me at the nearby bus station to get the bus for New York and take a connecting bus for Albany.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A Beautiful Week in Europe

It was the last week of February of last year. This week was really a very long for me. Seven towns in Europe, six flights, six airports, five hotels and fourteen thousand miles of journey took me to Austria and Italy from Bangalore and finally plunged me in United States for next four weeks. I never ever travelled so much in my whole life but it was also an exciting moment in time of mine. From Bangalore, I started my journey for Austria and first landed in Paris airport. I believe this airport is as big as Paris itself. It has train connectivity to go from one terminal to another one. My next flight for Vienna was after four hours. I had the Schengen visa stamped there but due to a lot of confusion on immigration I could not thought of going out to get a glimpse of Paris. In stead I waited at Paris airport for four hours. Next flight took two more hours to reach to Vienna.

When I came out of the Vienna airport it was a frightening chilling weather. I started shivering due to ice-cold wind. Temperature was merely four Celsius. Here I had bus to go to the nearest railway station for getting train for the town St Polten. In Vienna city, there was no traffic like Bangalore, no chaos, and it was an easy drive. At station I found that all the information was in German only and ticket counter clerk can not understand English. After a confused look, I saw a Chinese there and checked if he knows English. Luckily he could help me in getting the ticket and directing me to correct platform. It was a local train which looks better then our best luxury trains. During the bus and train journey I got a feel of Austria. In simple words, it was simply beautiful. Train journey was very smooth. I could see the beautiful villages and pretty landscape from the train window. In next forty minutes I was in St Polten, had a taxi and reached hotel Metropol. After having a small rest, I came downstairs to the restaurant for dinner and met my colleagues Mr. Andrew and Mr. Bart who came from Schenectady and were my companions for next four days. Here I got a flavor of completely different food, but a fortunate surprise was to see the Basmati rice in their menu.

Next morning was freezing cold. It was minus four Celsius and massive for me. I realized that the jacket I had, was not good enough for this weather. The good thing is that all the offices, cars or buildings are warm enough to take care of you. We went to Traisen for our work. After a long meeting we went to a restaurant for lunch. I adopted the western food very quickly so it was trouble-free for me. Mostly lunch or dinner includes some meat but without any bread or rice items, which is very unusual for Indians. Also their salads are green and raw vegetables, a difficult for me. In evening we moved to Linz an hour-long drive from there. We stayed in Courtyard Marriot, which is a splurge and very comfortable. Next day was full of meetings again. Lunch was again very good and I was surprised to see that wine is part of lunch menu. In late evening we moved to the railway station to have a train to Vienna. From station we had a taxi to reach NH hotel in airport. The driver charged us forty-five Euros whereas bill was thirty Euros only and even he asked me if I need a bill of fifty. I was thinking if we should have bargained with him, something like India.

Next day we had a flight to Venice. At airport our host was there to receive us. We had a two-hour drive to reach Cividale. This was a very small town but very beautiful. It was the lunchtime when we reached and went to a restaurant in downtown. We walked through narrow streets, which were mostly void. Our host was a very funny person and a very good host too. He guided us in selecting the food for us. I had the best pasta ever in my life there. Waitresses were very friendly and it was a very delicious fish lunch served with white wine. After a heavy lunch, we had the similar meetings and visits before we moved to another town Maniago. I could see the snow peaked mountains range from car and can imagine deep and far ended Himalyan. I still had a picturesque drive of this in my mind. We reached to Euro Hotel after one and half hour but an untiring drive. This evening, we came out of hotel and had a walk on the streets. It was very cold but I was getting habituated of it. We had pizzas there in a European style Pizzeria before we went back to our room to retire for rest of the day.

Now it was the last day of my Europe trip. We were busy with our business but got free early and moved to Venice by car. It was two and half when we checked in to Courtyard Marriot in Venice and so had a time to go out for the first time in the week. We went to the great canal by the bus. A number of glimpses from Hollywood and Bollywood movies refloated when we got down from bus and saw it in front of us. It was an amazing and breathtaking beautiful moment. One of my best evenings I ever spent. We could roam around the streets of old Venice. It was very cold out there but the enthusiasm inside us kept us warm. Hot wine was on sell in every corner, which kept us warm too. The churches, the St Mark’s square, San Giorgo and number of important architecture; we could see the marvelous heritage and palpable culture of Venice in this old part of city. We had a glimpse of the great canal from Rialto Bridge. I had a picture on Rialto Bridge to capture this moment. An amazing experience I have for my lifetime and this made my Europe trip a truly beautiful in all sense. Next morning I took the flight to Atlanta but vowed to comeback very soon to see some more colors of the beautiful Europe.