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Old 25th April 2012, 23:04   #31
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Default Re: Travelogue - Summer in America

Millennium Park

Millennium Park is a public park in Chicago and originally intended to celebrate the millennium. Millennium Park has free admission, and features the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, Cloud Gate, the Crown Fountain, the Lurie Garden, and various other attractions. The park is connected by the BP Pedestrian Bridge and the Nichols Bridgeway to other parts of Grant Park. Because the park sits atop a parking garage and the commuter rail Millennium Station, it is considered the world's largest rooftop garden!

Some pictures of the park

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Jay Pritzker Pavilion

The centrepiece of Millennium Park is the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, a band shell designed by Frank Gehry. The pavilion has 4,000 fixed seats, plus additional lawn seating for 7,000; the stage is framed by curving plates of stainless steel, characteristic of Gehry.

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And guess who I bumped into at the park? Aamir Khan and Michelle Obama!!! Dont believe me? See for yourself

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Alright, I was just kidding!

Cloud Gate

Cloud Gate is a three-story steel sculpture that has been dubbed "The Bean" by Chicagoans, because of its legume-like shape. The sculpture is the first public artwork in the United States by world-renowned artist Anish Kapoor.

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Old 25th April 2012, 23:23   #32
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Default Re: Travelogue - Summer in America

Lake Michigan

The park was originally planned under the name Lakefront Millennium Park, because it overlooks the majestic Lake Michigan. Seriously, it’s really hard to believe that it is a lake; looks more like an ocean, with several beaches and high tides at the shores. Lake Michigan is one of the five Great Lakes of North America and the only one located entirely within the United States. The other four Great Lakes are shared by the US and Canada

Some pics of the lake front

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Oh, and btw, although the weather looks sunny in the pictures it had actually gotten very cold like the previous evening. So much so that I ran to a footlocker store and bought myself a hoodie sweater!

Back to the park, here's some more pictures from around the area. I particularly like how they have separate paths for joggers, skaters, and cyclists!

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Old 25th April 2012, 23:45   #33
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Default Re: Travelogue - Summer in America

The Lurie Garden

The Lurie Garden is a 2.5-acre public garden located at the southern end of Millennium Park. The garden is a combination of perennials, bulbs, grasses, shrubs and trees. It is the featured nature component of the world's largest green roof. I tried my hand at some macro photography using my humble point-&-shoot cam, but was really happy with the output after I saw the pictures on the laptop. Not too bad, right?

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I like this one the most

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Well, it was 3 PM already and I had a 6 PM flight back to catch. So I ran to the station, rushed to the hotel, picked up my bag, and dashed to the airport, reaching there by 5.30 PM! This was already my 4th time at ORD, and by now I had become very familiar with the terminal building. The flight was on time, and I reached Cinci, and eventually my apartment by 10 PM. All I wanted to do was hit the bed; so I did and slept like a baby!

And for now, night night folks! There are more stories to tell and more pictures to share, which I shall do very soon! À bientôt

Last edited by chikkars : 26th April 2012 at 00:12.
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Old 26th April 2012, 00:09   #34
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Default Re: Travelogue - Summer in America

Excellent photos and narration Chikkars, your last statement
"So I ran to the station, rushed to the hotel, picked up my bag, and dashed to the airport, reaching there by 5.30 PM! This was already my 4th time at ORD, and by now I had become very familiar with the terminal building. The flight was on time, and I reached Cinci, and eventually my apartment by 10 PM. All I wanted to do was hit the bed; so I did and slept like baby!"

clearly summed up how tired you are

Keep it going chikkars.
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Old 26th April 2012, 00:16   #35
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Default Re: Travelogue - Summer in America

Quote:
Originally Posted by balajird View Post
Excellent photos and narration Chikkars, your last statement clearly summed up how tired you are

Keep it going chikkars.
Hey, thanks balajird!

I do have a lot more in store; the next series of posts will be about my travel during a long 3 day weekend. Hope you come back to read more of the TL.
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Old 26th April 2012, 01:49   #36
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Default Re: Travelogue - Summer in America

Sure mate, bring it on. I was sharing this TL with my colleague who stayed in Chicago for almost 2 years, he was feeling nostalgic and was all smiles looking at the photos. He worked for UBS and was showing his building in one of the photos. I am sure you had a good time and this is gonna stay in your memory for long.

Thanks for sharing your experience.
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Old 30th April 2012, 14:02   #37
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Default Re: Travelogue - Summer in America

The week after returning from Chicago went by doing the mundane; work, evening strolls around the lake, fountain square and a few trips to the malls. For the next weekend, my friend planned to go to the Wright-Patterson air force base at Dayton, Ohio; I decided to pass. That weekend I visited the aquarium and some other local attractions. I also spend a lot of time planning a trip for the Memorial Day 3-day long weekend that was coming up. My friend was returning to India the same weekend, which meant that I was going to travel alone.

I had to decide the destination, and had 3 places in my mind; the Niagara Falls, D.C. & New York City. I decided to go with NYC, as this was one city I had always wanted to visit! Now that the place was decided, I had to plan the travel, accommodation, etc. I had only 5 days before the long weekend started, which meant that all the prices would be skyrocketing already. Since I had already travelled by flight to Chicago, I wanted to see if could take a train to NYC. I decided otherwise after a quick search for the routes, availability & ticket fares on the Amtrak website. First, the rail route was too long going via D.C. to NYC with a travel time of more than 14 hours!! Second, the prices were exorbitant, which is quite expected of train travels in US, unlike India where it is much cheaper than flying.

Moved on to checking the bus options, but decided against it due to the long travel time. Now that I had a no other option but to fly, I started looking for flights and the air fare. Obviously, the flights were all either booked fully or were extremely expensive, given that the long holiday was just a few days away. Then came the saviour in the form of expedia. I did some research on this website, and found a combo package that was pretty good and priced reasonably too. The air travel was going to be with United airlines (again) from Cinci to Newark (New Jersey), with a stopover at Chicago (ORD, again!). Looked acceptable to me. Now, I still had the accommodation part to take care of. Staying in a hotel was out of question, and so I started looking for good hostels on the same website. After reading several reviews and comparing prices and other facilities (proximity to subway, etc), selected a hostel on the upper west side of Manhattan.

The combo package came with the return air tickets + 1 Adult NEW YORK CityPASS (worth $60) + 2 days stay at the hostel, for $390 inclusive of taxes and all other charges. The deal was quite good considering all flights were already running full and there was no way I could get tickets for this price. I still had some smaller things to take care of, such as planning the sequence of sight seeing, printing route maps, commute from Newark airport to Manhattan, subway route details, etc. But these things could be done during the week, so it wasn't really a big concern. It was now a big relief that all the major bookings had been done, and I couldn’t wait for the next weekend!!
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Old 30th April 2012, 14:37   #38
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Default The Big Apple

The Big Apple

The weekend finally arrived, and I was all excited about going to the Big Apple!! Packed my bag real quick, made sure the camera battery was fully charged, took all the print outs, and was all set! I had really several pages of print outs of all kinds. Route map from Newark Airport to the city, directions to the subway stations, and then to the hostel, directions from the hostel to each attraction I had decided to see, etc. Google maps really came in handy as it gave me the directions using all possible modes of transport, the subway, buses, taxi, as well as walking; very cool I say!

The flight till Chicago ORD was uneventful; this was already my 4th time at this airport within a span of 3 weeks. But the next flight from ORD to Newark was not quite the same. It was a United express plane, so there was no concept of checking in baggage; everything had to be a carry on. Like me, most of the travellers carried only 1 bag or 2 at the most. But to my horror, the passenger next to me had decided to bring 2 huge bags; and top of that he was also a heavily built man. Also, one of his bags wouldn’t fit in the baggage compartment and he kept it at his foot. As soon as I saw this scene the dialogue from Seinfeld hit my my mind, “what are you? Diana Ross???” The flight was going to be a little more than 2 hours, and because of his bag there was no way I would be able to move, even to the rest room.

Anyways, I decided not to beat my head over it, and fastened by seat belt; the plane took off in a few minutes. Just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse, they did. I noticed that my seat was broken, in that it wouldn’t move back at all. I’d had enough for the day already, and decided to do something about it. I spoke to the flight attendant and explained my problem to her; she said she would check what can be done. She came back after a few minutes and had some good news for me; she had a seat in the economy plus section, and I could move there. I couldn’t be any happier!

Airports in the New York City area

New York has three main airports through which millions of people pass each year. JFK, in Queens primarily handles international flights. LaGuardia, also in Queens (on the Grand Central Parkway), mainly handles domestic flights. Newark, in Newark, New Jersey, handles both domestic and international flights. It's a bit further from the city than the other two airports, but it is generally less crowded and has more modern facilities. If you remember, this is the same airport where SRK was detained for a few hours during his visit to US to promote MINK.

Getting to the city from Newark by public transport takes a little more than 30 mins. You’ve got to take the monorail from the terminal to the Newark rail station; from here you take one of the interstate trains to NYC union station. From here on, you have to use either the subway trains or buses to get to other parts of the city. I reached the hostel located on 95th street by 2 PM where another surprise awaited me. The lady at the reception told me that they did not have the shared hostel rooms which I had booked, so they would give me a separate room without me having to pay extra!!
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Old 30th April 2012, 14:54   #39
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Default The Big Apple

New York CityPASS - CityPASS gives you admission to 6 must-see New York attractions:
  1. Empire State Building
  2. American Museum of Natural History
  3. The Metropolitan Museum of Art
  4. MoMA (The Museum of Modern Art)
  5. Guggenheim Museum OR Top of the Rock
  6. Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island OR Circle Line Cruise

The pass is valid for 9 days, and also saves you a lot of time standing at the queues to buy tickets at all these places. Highly recommended for any one planning to do sight seeing in NYC!

After settling into my room and taking a quick shower, I was ready to see the city! The plan was to visit the places for the day in this order - MoMA, Guggenheim Museum, Empire State Building. Walked up to the subway station, which btw was just a block away and hopped on the train towards downtown. Within a few minutes, I was at my first stop for the day - MoMA (The Museum of Modern Art). Some trivia about the museum from Wikipedia:

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is an art museum in Midtown Manhattan in New York City, on 53rd Street, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. It has been important in developing and collecting modernist art, and is often identified as the most influential museum of modern art in the world.[1] The museum's collection offers an unparalleled overview of modern and contemporary art,[2] including works of architecture and design, drawings, painting, sculpture, photography, prints, illustrated books and artist's books, film, and electronic media.

MoMA's library and archives hold over 300,000 books, artist books, and periodicals, as well as individual files on more than 70,000 artists. The archives contain primary source material related to the history of modern and contemporary art. It also houses a restaurant, The Modern, run by Alsace-born chef Gabriel Kreuther.


Here's some pictures from the museum:
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Old 30th April 2012, 15:04   #40
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Default The Big Apple

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) contd.... Here's some more pictures form the museum.
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Old 1st May 2012, 15:15   #41
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Default The Big Apple

My next stop was at the Guggenheim Museum. On the way, I passed through the American Museum of Natural History which was on my calender for the next day.

Here's some pictures of the Madison Avenue.

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A Hop-on Hop-off bus

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The Natural history museum

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Some trivia about the Guggenheim museum (Wikipedia)

Quote:
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (often referred to as "The Guggenheim") is a well-known art museum located on the Upper East Side of Manhattan in New York City. It is the permanent home of a renowned and continuously expanding collection of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, early Modern and contemporary art and also features special exhibitions throughout the year.

The building's unique ramp gallery extends from just under the skylight in the ceiling in a long, continuous spiral along the outer edges of the building until it reaches the ground level. The building was "the first permanent museum to be built (rather than converted from a private house) in the United States."From the street, the building looks like a white ribbon curled into a cylindrical stack, wider at the top than the bottom. Its appearance is in sharp contrast to typically rectangular Manhattan buildings that surround it.
Here's some pictures of the museum building, and the inside area.
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Old 1st May 2012, 15:39   #42
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Default The Big Apple

After spending some time at the Museum, I headed towards the next attraction - The Empire State Building. Well, I had already visited the Sears towers observation deck Chicago, but wanted to see this one as well as I had the tickets anyway. When I reached the place, I saw very long serpentine lines with several hundred visitors. I could not get a sense of how long the lines were, as the view allowed me to see only people that were standing in the entrance area. I decided to take a chance, and go ahead with it.

This proved to be very bad decision, as it took me almost 2 hours to even get to one of the elevators and reach the observation deck; by then the sun had completely set and the sky was dark. I collected one of the audio tour guides, which came free with my tickets and tried to get some views from the top. But it was so crowded that it was getting very difficult to even find some place to stand. I somehow managed to listen to the complete commentary on the audio guide and was able to spot most of the buildings and places mentioned in it.

Some trivia about the building

Quote:
The Empire State Building is a 102-story landmark skyscraper and American cultural icon in New York City. It stood as the world's tallest building for 40 years, from its completion in 1931 until construction of the World Trade Center's North Tower was completed in 1972. Following the September 11 attacks in 2001, the Empire State Building was again the tallest building in New York (although it was no longer the tallest in the world). The Empire State Building was once again demoted to second tallest building in New York on April 30, 2012, when the new One World Trade Center reached a greater height.

The Empire State Building is designed in the distinctive Art Deco style, and has been named by the American Society of Civil Engineers as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World.

Observation decks

The Empire State Building has one of the most popular outdoor observatories in the world, having been visited by over 110 million people. The 86th-floor observation deck offers impressive 360-degree views of the city. There is a second observation deck on the 102nd floor that is open to the public.
And here's some pictures; the quality as you can see is really bad

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The famous Chrysler Building (remember CSI NY?)

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Old 1st May 2012, 16:55   #43
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Default Re: Travelogue - Summer in America

Its May 1st today, a date in history when significantly more seems to have happened than on other dates, such as . One of things was - 1 May, 1931, saw the inauguration of the Empire State Building. We Indians should be hanging our heads in shame. Why? It’s because the building took only one year and 45 days to build.

What a nice coincidence that I uploaded the pictures of the building today
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Old 2nd May 2012, 23:15   #44
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Default The Big Apple

By the time I finished the Empire State Building, it was already 9'ish. Walking the streets of New York on a fairly hot summer day had made me really tired, so I decided to head back to the hostel.

Felt fresh and regained some energy post shower and some dinner. Looked at the watch, it was 11 PM. Here I was in New York with only a weekend to spend, and I wanted to make the best possible use of that by not sleeping at 11 Quickly went downstairs and checked at the reception if it was OK for me to go out towards downtown at this time. I was told it was fine, so long as I dint look like a typical traveler, because muggers/pick pockets always target them first.

So there I was, in a jiffy, riding the subway towards Times Square downtown. Once I reached the place, I was really surprised to see how bustling the streets were with people. I really felt like I was finally in New York City, the one I had imagined, the one I had heard about, the one I'd seen in the movies. There is this great energy that you can feel around in this city, akin to Mumbai in India. New York is also the most populous city in the United States and so ethnically diverse; no wonder it is described as the cultural capital of the world.

Well, here's some pictures around Times Square area. I finally returned to the hostel at around 2 am (thanks to the 24/7 subway system!), as I had to catch some sleep before starting early the next day for some major sight seeing!
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Old 3rd May 2012, 23:03   #45
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Default The Big Apple - Day 2

Day 2 in NY

This morning, I was up really early after just a few hours of sleep, and feeling really upbeat about seeing more of the wonderful city. This day I’d planned to visit the Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island, American Museum of Natural History & spend some time at the Central Park in the evening. CityPASS includes one ferry ride to and from Battery Park in NY or Liberty Park in NJ, with stops at Liberty Island and Ellis Island. Based on my research, it was advised to allow at least 5 hours to visit both islands; further, expect to pass though airport level security prior to boarding the ferry. I was at the Battery Park by 8.30 am, and looking at the huge queues at the ticket counters, I am glad I’d made the right decision buying the pass. After passing through high level security checks, I was finally aboard the ferry.

Some trivia about the Statue of Liberty before looking at the pictures

Quote:
The Statue of Liberty (Liberty Enlightening the World) is a colossal neoclassical sculpture on Liberty Island in New York Harbor, designed by Frédéric Bartholdi and dedicated on October 28, 1886. The statue a gift to the United States from the people of France, is of a robed female figure representing Libertas, the Roman goddess of freedom, who bears a torch and a tabula ansata (a tablet evoking the law) upon which is inscribed the date of the American Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776. A broken chain lies at her feet. The statue has become an icon of freedom and of the United States.
And here are some pictures of the ferry station, the ride, Manhattan and Jersey city skylines, and of course the lady herself!
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