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Old 20th April 2012, 23:08   #1
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Default Travelogue - Summer in America

This is my second attempt at writing a travelogue after the one from last week, which was about my trip to Coonoor.
http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/travel...ent-bliss.html (Weekend spent in Bliss)

Hopefully, this one will be better engaging in that it is about my first trip abroad, spanning little more than a month and needless to say with lot and lots of pictures. I am sure you may have guessed the country by the title of the TL, but if you haven’t, it’s the US of A.
Although the travel happened during the summer of 09, the memories of the trio are still very fresh in my mind. I wanted to make a log of these memories before they start to diminish, and hence the attempt at writing the travelogue here.

Background: April 19 one of the senior executives calls me to his chamber and starts talking; conversation goes somewhat like this:

He – Congrats on clearing getting the new position which you applied for. Well, the project Offshoring has to be happen ASAP!
Me thinking inside - “wow, I know where this going…” but trying to maintain my composure.
He – I’d want you to travel ASAP, talk to my EA and he’ll get you started with all the formalities.
Me (can’t stop grinning) – Thank you!!


Formalities: There was a huge list of things to be done, all ASAP – apply for Visa, attend the pre visa session in the office, get the invitation letter from the US colleagues, travel to Chennai for interview, flight bookings, hotel bookings, apply for FOREX, apply for AMEX charge card, and most important of all transition my current work to another person so I can get relieved from the project. Phew!!

The visa interview date was fixed for 23rd at Chennai; everything went smooth and was given a 10 yr multiple entry B1. Tickets were booked on Lufthansa for the night of 1st May. Tickets for the first 3 days stay were booked at Westin; the plan was to move to an apartment after this (generally arranged by the host country team). However, in my case since everything happened so fast the apartment thing was not taken care of; that’s another story which will discuss later!

Pre travel: My last day with the current project was the 30th of the month, which meant that I had only 1 day to do all the packing!! Needless to say, the day before travel was crazy. Made a checklist of things to be taken care of, so I don’t miss anything. Spoke to a colleague who had travelled to the US recently, to understand about challenges he’d faced and also get some tips. Most of the shopping was for ready to eat food. I remember standing at the Big Bazaar billing counter with almost 50 packs of MTR heat n eat; the guy behind me goes “is there some offer going on”? We had a good laugh when I told him the reason behind the purchase.

Just when I thought I was all set, came the shocker. While trying check if my Sony digi cam was OK, I noticed that the LED displayed was not working!! It was fine just a few days ago when I’d used it. Darn!! Realized after a quick visit to the Sony service center, that it would cost almost half the camera price for the repair, apart from taking a couple of days (which I dint have). My friend offered his pentax digi cam which had an internal memory of 32 MB, and that was it. No memory card of anything! Well, something’s better than nothing right. In the list of things I had to do when I reach US, buying a camera was the first.


The journey: I was going to be in the US for little over a month, and thanks to the generous baggage allowance from the airlines, I had package a LOT of luggage. A huge samsonite suitcase, a huge trolley bag (full for MTR packs), a smaller trolley bag, and the laptop bag.

The flight was – Lufthansa from BIAL to Frankfurt (8.5 Hrs). 4.5 hrs of layover. United airlines from Frankfurt to Chicago (8 Hrs). 2 hours of layover. 2 hours of layover. United airlines from Chicago to my final destination (2 Hrs).
With all the running around the whole day, I had no energy left in me. Immigration and other formalities we done. Baggage was checked until Chicago, as it was the port of entry. Which I meant I had to collect the baggage, wait in the long immigration counters at Chicago, change terminals, check my baggage again into new flight – all this within 2 hours (if the flight was on time).

The Lufthansa flight from BIAL to Frankfurt was sad, food was OK and drinks were served free, but the entertainment system was almost nonexistent. They had the mounted TVs for each section which made me feel like I was travelling in a bus, but with not so comfortable seats! The entertainment systems were better on the United airlines flight from Frankfurt to Chicago; but the beverages were charged at $6 for each serving!! At Chicago, was relieved to find that the baggage had arrived fine; but the standing in the long queues at the Immigration was very tiring after almost 22 hours of travel.
Checked luggage back into the United airlines plane which would take me to my destination. It was small plane with hardly any passengers. Based on the boarding pass, the travel time was going to be 2 hours. However, I was surprised to notice that we were going to land within 45 mins after takeoff. This is when I realized my destination was in Easter time zone where as Chicago was in Central!

I finally landed at my destination, 28 hours after I had started from Bangalore. I was totally sleep deprived and was just waiting to collect the baggage and rush to my hotel downtown. While waiting at the baggage claim, I notice my huge trolley bag first. I am happy, and then the waiting just goes on and on. The airport is almost empty with hardly any people around, and I am still waiting for my suitcase!! I was not prepared for what was going to happen next. I now come to realize that my suitcase has perhaps not reached!!

To be continued… for now I’ll leave you guys with some pics. Wanna try guessing what was my destination?

PS: The other posts won’t be this long, I promise

Pics from inside the plane, O'hare terminal etc.
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Last edited by chikkars : 21st April 2012 at 11:15.
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Old 20th April 2012, 23:37   #2
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The agony continues...

My worst fear turns out to be true, baggage loss!!

I continue to wait at the baggage claim area still hoping that my suitcase would come out of nowhere, but no luck! I now walk up to something that looked like a baggage helpdesk. I tell the lady at the counter that my suitcase is missing. She asks few a few questions to understand the shape, size etc which will help identify the piece. By now, the lack of sleep, tiredness & the frustration of the missing luggage was taking its toll on me, which was pretty visible. The lady confirmed that the suitcase has indeed not arrived and that it should have been misplaced at Chicago! Here I was with my bag full for MTR food, laptop, and a bag with some duty free stuff, but with a missing suitcase which has most of the stuff I needed. Like clothes!

The lady offered me a pouch with toiletries, collected details such as hotel room # etc, and told me they would try to trace the suitcase ASAP, and deliver it to my hotel. And if they did not do that within 12 hours, I could claim compensation. I dint want no compensation, I wanted my suitcase, and my clothes, and all my other stuff! Well, what could I do, other than keep my fingers crossed and hope for the best.

Took a cab and reached the hotel Westin in a few mins. The hotel is located downtown 2 blocks away from my workplace. It was 10.30 pm local time on Saturday night. Soon as I reached the hotel, the bell boy reached out to take the luggage. He picks my huge bag (stuffed with MTR) and his first reaction is "lotsa books, huh"; and I go, yea yea!

I walk up to the front desk, give my information and tell them I have a reservation. The guy checks and checks for 15 mins. He then makes an apologetic face, and I go NO!!! I cant handle another shock, not now seriously! He says, although a booking was made, they have a situation, which is that all the rooms are occupied already. "However... However, what we can do is this. We have a river facing presidential suit on the top floor"... I am like... OK? "we can offer you that suite, until a room of your category is available for you to move in". The room I'd booked was $160 a night, and the I really dint want to know how much the suite cost. I ask them if I have to pay for extra for the suite, and am told in fact I get a $50 discount and have to pay only $110 even for the suite! Doesn't sound bad, no? Sometimes, when things seem too good to be true, they indeed are! You'll agree when you look at these pictures of the suite!


Please bear with the poor quality of pictures as these are from the pentax.
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Last edited by chikkars : 21st April 2012 at 11:14.
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Old 20th April 2012, 23:54   #3
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When I woke up the next day it was 1 PM, and finally felt like I'd gotten the much needed sleep! I check with the front desk about my suitcase only to learn there no call from the airport yet! I pickup the acknowledgement receipt given by the airport staff, and try to call the toll free customer service no. As soon as the agent answered the call, I knew it had landed in India. And after a little probing I was told it was a call center in Noida. I tried to explain the situation and the agent was confirmed that the suitcase had been found already and would reach my hotel anytime. However, since they had taken longer than 12 hours to deliver the misplaced baggage, I was eligible for compensation. He said he'd email me a catalog and I that could choose from one of the gift coupons. Sounded good to me!

The suitcase arrived a few hours later with all its contents intact, and I couldn't be happier. I decided to take a stroll outside the hotel so see if I could grab some lunch. But I had no idea the whole downtown area would be deserted during weekends. There was not a soul to be seen on the roads, all the restaurants were closed, all the stores were closed, everything was closed. I finally found a cafe where I was able to finally eat my lunch - Pizza and coke. Welcome to America!
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Old 21st April 2012, 00:12   #4
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Day 3, Monday - Today was going to be my first day at the office, which btw was just 2 blocks away. After a quick breakfast of Fajitas & got cuppa at Roly Poly, I was at work. Other than work, there was of course another pressing issue that had to be taken care of first.

Remember I mentioned in the first post, about the accommodation after the initial 3 days at the hotel was to be taken care of by my hosts. Well, it wasn't taken care of due to the short notice travel! I took the situation in my hands, and started searching for apartments in the vicinity. Being downtown, there were very few apartments available, and most of these were booked. Several calls to real estate agencies across the country, I finally got some positive news. Got a call back from an agent about an apartment available just 3 blocks away from my workplace. It would cost me $2k for the month with an addition $500 deposit. I offered the choice to my manager - I could continue staying at Westin (which of course I did not prefer) paying $160 a night or I could rent this apt for $2k. No prizes for guessing what option was approved

Several faxes were exchanged, and payment was made using my AMEX charge card. One major hurdle was taken care, and I could sigh of relief finally!

Next day I checked out of the hotel, and moved into the apartment. And oh boy, did I love it! Absolutely. A 16th floor fully furnished apartment all for myself, which was way way much better that the one my colleague was staying at!

Here's some pictures of the apartment, terrace area and some views.

Any guesses about the city, yet?
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Last edited by chikkars : 21st April 2012 at 00:15.
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Old 21st April 2012, 17:01   #5
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Default Re: Travelogue - Summer in America

Thread moved from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to the Travelogues Section. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 21st April 2012, 22:37   #6
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Now that the apartment thing was taken care of, the next thing on the list was buying a digicam. Looked up on the internet for the closest Best Buy store, found one a few miles away. Also checked and made sure the Sony digicam I was looking for was indeed available in this store. Was glad to learn that there was Metro bus service available I can take to get to the store. So after work that evening, went to Best Buy and bought the cam!

Here's some more pics for you to help guess the name of the city Some clicked on the way to work, some while taking the daily evening stroll, and some clicked from the office.
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Old 22nd April 2012, 11:29   #7
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Default Re: Travelogue - Summer in America

Interesting logue,
is it Cincinnati?
Got clue from Convergys.

Waiting for more.
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Old 22nd April 2012, 11:47   #8
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Default Re: Travelogue - Summer in America

Quote:
Originally Posted by ASHISHPALLOD View Post
Interesting logue,
is it Cincinnati?
Got clue from Convergys.

Waiting for more.
Yup it's Cincinnati - Macy's, P&G Twin Tower (If I may say that ).


@chikkars - you have made me nostalgic. I may end up driving there just to relive some of the memories...

By the way why were those ready to eat decked into the fridge?

Last edited by akbaree : 22nd April 2012 at 11:54.
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Old 22nd April 2012, 19:02   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ASHISHPALLOD View Post
Interesting logue,
is it Cincinnati?
Got clue from Convergys.

Waiting for more.
you bet! my office was on the 16th floor of the Convergys bldg. And yeah, there's a lot more come!

Quote:
Originally Posted by akbaree View Post
Yup it's Cincinnati - Macy's, P&G Twin Tower (If I may say that ).


@chikkars - you have made me nostalgic. I may end up driving there just to relive some of the memories...

By the way why were those ready to eat decked into the fridge?
yeah mate, P&G is what I hoped would be the biggest clue! Whenever I looked at these pictures, it made me very nostalgic; hence the decision to write this log!

reg the ready to eat stuff, just because there was enough space inside the fridge I guess.

Anyways I could care less where it was stored, because I ended up giving it all away to some Indian folks who lived in the same apartment complex. I wanted to only eat American food while I was there.

Last edited by chikkars : 22nd April 2012 at 19:03.
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Old 22nd April 2012, 19:33   #10
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Alrighty, now that we’ve established the place to be Cincinnati let me share some trivia about this nice city.

The city is located north of the Ohio River at the Ohio-Kentucky border, near Indiana. The majestic Ohio River separates downtown Cinci (and the state of Ohio) with Kentucky. Cincinnati's core metro area spans parts of southern Ohio and northern Kentucky. So while you have downtown Cinci on one side of the river, you have Kentucky on the other side.

A walking bridge connecting downtown to a mall on the other (Kentucky) side

Travelogue - Summer in America-walking-bridge.jpg

Cincinnati is home to two major sports teams, the Cincinnati Reds and the Cincinnati Bengals, a major tennis tournament, the Cincinnati Masters. And I had the privileged of watching a Reds evening game from the VIP arena; how cool is that!

Travelogue - Summer in America-usa2520085.jpg

Downtown Cincinnati is focused around Fountain Square, a popular public square and event location. This is my favourite place in the city, where I spent several evenings doing, well, just nothing!

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Cincinnati is home to many major and diverse corporations such as Procter & Gamble, The Kroger Company, Macy's, Inc, Convergys, etc. Altogether, nine Fortune 500 companies and fifteen Fortune 1000 companies are headquartered in the Cincinnati area.

That's the P&G (HQ) twin towers for you

Travelogue - Summer in America-pg.jpg

The Cincinnati Club

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Old 22nd April 2012, 20:29   #11
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Days in Cinci…

Now that I’d gotten hooked to eating all meals outside every day, I dint know what to do with the entire ready to eat food. A couple of days later I got to know that there were a few Indian guys living in the same complex. On my way to work, I left a note at the reception that I had some Indian food that I was planning to give way. That evening I had someone come over to my apartment to collect the packs. The very next day, after returning from a visit to Myer store, the fridge was filled with several packs of Hershey’s almond nuggets!

Weekdays were spent doing similar stuff – breakfast at Roly Poly, lunch at Subway, Wendy’s, Burrito Joes, the Punjabi buffet place, or Skyline Chilli (just loved this place!). No prizes if you’ve already figured out that I am a BIG foodie. Normally I would finish work by 4PM and spend the entire evening roaming around. And because it was summer, the sunlight would stay almost till 9.30 PM; so it feels like night only after that. I would spend several evenings at the Fountain square, it is such a nice place to read a book, watch the movie/game playing on the huge LED video board, grab an ice cream from Greaters, or just sit and do nothing!

Travelogue - Summer in America-cop.jpg

You can also spend the evening taking a walk across one of the several parks beside the River, or cross over using the walking bridge to a lifestyle centre located on the other side. You can also take the shuttle bus, but crossing the river by foot is any day a better choice, especially to burn off all the calories. The place is called Newport on the Levee, which apart from having a food court, usual stores, a 20-screen AMC Theatres multiplex (watched Angels and Demons), and the Newport aquarium, has my favourite ice cream store Cold Stone. I also visited the Aquarium one of the weekends, and paid $25 entry fee; it was a total rip off, there was nothing much to see really.

Some pictures of the river and the walking bridge

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The parks

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Newport

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AMC

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Aquarium

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Last edited by chikkars : 22nd April 2012 at 20:45.
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Old 22nd April 2012, 21:01   #12
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Days in Cinci continued…

The huge stores, such as Walmart, Myer, Best Buy and large malls are all outside the city. Since I did not have a car, I had to rely on the public transport, which btw isn’t as good as in Europe. Ride to any mall by bus, would take at least an hour 1 way. Well, I had nothing much to do, so I dint mind the travel time really.

Here are some pictures of the Florence mall

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Americans love their flag, you see then everywhere, from malls to houses.

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The Kenwood Towne Center


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The Red’s game!

My American colleagues were really nice hosts, and took me out to lunch couple of times. However, one busy afternoon at work, I received an email from one of the senior execs inviting me and my Indian colleague to join him for an evening Reds game (baseball, for those who aren’t aware of the team). I was really excited and looking forward to the experience of watching it from the Cincinnati Bell arena; it’s a VIP area and our company got the seats because Cincinnati Bell (local telecom company) is one of our big vendors.
The game was between Cincinnati Reds and Philadelphia Phillies, both major league baseball teams.

Outside the stadium

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Our host for the evening was a man who travels the world almost 300 days a year, heads the whole of NA business for our unit, and yet is so down to earth. He tried to explain to us the rules of the game, and we tried hard to look very keen and interested; we had no clue what was going on really. He then spoke about how much he likes cricket, and promised to play with us the next time he would be in Bangalore.

We were the joined by another female senior exec, who was also as down to earth as him. She and started chatting, and soon enough the topic moved to Slumdog Millionaire movie, which was the hot topic for any discussion those days. Overall, a very nice evening!

The commentators

Travelogue - Summer in America-brdcast.jpg

They had a special dog arena

Travelogue - Summer in America-dog-arena.jpg

And the game, which btw the Phillies won

Travelogue - Summer in America-stadium.jpg

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Old 23rd April 2012, 11:26   #13
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Chikkars
Incidently I also traveled to US on the same date last year from Delhi - 1st May.


What a lovely way to spend the summer in Cincinnati!! I landed at a place which was hotter than Delhi in the summers - Phoenix, AZ. But later, I spent some part of winter in gloomy Seattle and realised how blessed the sunny summer in Phoenix was.

Must say, your experience over this short period of time was very rich. Did you undertake any road trip while there?
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Old 23rd April 2012, 11:58   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lsp View Post
Chikkars
Incidently I also traveled to US on the same date last year from Delhi - 1st May.

What a lovely way to spend the summer in Cincinnati!! I landed at a place which was hotter than Delhi in the summers - Phoenix, AZ. But later, I spent some part of winter in gloomy Seattle and realised how blessed the sunny summer in Phoenix was.

Must say, your experience over this short period of time was very rich. Did you undertake any road trip while there?
Hey lsp, that's a coincidence although the years were different. I did travel quite a bit (not road trips though), my next posts will be about the weekend travels I undertook.
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Old 23rd April 2012, 14:13   #15
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Awesome second attempt I should say!! Truly mesmerizing pics and similarly good write up to boot. You are on a roll man! T-Log roll i should say! Let the other pics flow soon.
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