On the cold morning that had wind and rain as companion, a walk along the Tidal Basin took us to the beautiful sight of hanging petals of Cherry Trees kissing the water when we had expected the petals would blow away. But they stayed. We went last Saturday taking the Greyhound bus from New York and we were in awe of the Union Station first and then the Cherry Trees at Tidal Basin. The upcoming area of District Wharf provided to us much needed respite from all things monumental to something fun and glee. Fireworks concluded the day!

“These trees came back and forth , back and forth from Japan and once upon a time 2000 - 3000 trees where shipped here from the trees that were cut from the ones in Japan and so these are original. Around 80% of them are white Yoshino Cherry Trees here and rest are other variants. The white ones are already in peak bloom whereas the pink ones would bloom a week later. In 1912, they planted two trees and those two trees are still there.. In Japan they worship the trees and celebrate it with sake under the shade ; Here, we do our small little celebration at National Cherry Blossom Festival with events, parade and festivities,” said our docent from the Cherry Tour that happens at Tidal Basin, Washington DC during the National Cherry Blossom Festival.

To know more about Washington, click here
To view my previous posts on Washington, click here 
To know more about National Cherry Blossom Festival, click here

How Cherry Trees got in Washington DC

Long story short, it all started in 1885, when Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore went to Japan and fell in love with the Cherry trees. She came back and got in touch with US Army Superintendent of the Office of Public Building and Grounds and national park service with the idea of planting cherry trees along the reclaimed waterfront of the Potomac River. For about 24 years, nobody paid attention. In 1906, David Fairchild, a botanist imported 1000 cherry trees from the Yokohama Nursery Company in Japan and planted them on his own property in Chevy Chase, Maryland. The Fairchilds were pleased with the results of their planting and in 1907 began promoting Japanese flowering cherry trees as an ideal tree to plant around avenues in the Washington area. In 1908, Fairchild donated cherry saplings to every D.C. school to plant on its school grounds in observance of Arbor Day. At an Arbor Day speech that Eliza Scidmore attended, Fairchild proposed that the "Speedway" (a now non-existing route around the D.C. Tidal Basin) be turned into a "Field of Cherries. “In 1909, Scidmore decided to raise the money to buy cherry trees and donate them to the District. As a matter largely of form, on April 5 she wrote a letter to First Lady Helen Herron Taft, wife of newly elected president Howard Taft, informing her of her plans.

Two days later, the First Lady responded:

Thank you very much for your suggestion about the cherry trees. I have taken the matter up and am promised the trees, but I thought perhaps it would be best to make an avenue of them, extending down to the turn in the road, as the other part is still too rough to do any planting. Of course, they could not reflect in the water, but the effect would be very lovely of the long avenue. Let me know what you think about this.

What is Tidal Basin called Tidal Basin?

It is impossible to believe by just looking at the Whitehouse of today that Whitehouse was once next to the river and one of the president’s even used to go Skinny dipping in it. There’s short story to it. One of the journalist wanted to interview him and she was refused many times. So what she did was, she sat there on the banks when he was in the water and told him “I wouldn’t let you out if you don’t let me interview you!”


Now, I could have never imagined the occurrence of Potomac river next to the Whitehouse. So, what you see today is a landfill. The Potomac river stays partially landfilled today and why? Because the ships would come from Europe to the middle of the United states in Washington DC and in order to get the ships up here and keep the river moving, a significant amount of piled up dirt was removed from the river that led to the landfill. In order to keep the water flowing from the river, bridges were made with gates underneath. When the rides come in, it pulls one of the gate open and other closed. When the tides move out, it opens the other gate and water flows down and it closes the other one. The Tidal Basin is called Tidal Basin because it is Tidal due to the flow of the water in-out of the river.

There used to be a public beach where Jefferson Memorial stands today. There used to also be a diving platform. In those days, they used to check the length of Women’s swimsuit to see if it was long enough. This was a big attraction until Jefferson Memorial was built.

The Washington Monument honours the United States' first President George Washington. There is a clear demarcation in this structure where colours separate the construction eras. The earlier Washington Monument was built till the line that you’d see on the monument and was stopped. They searched for 10-20 years for the same stone, couldn’t find it and so resumed it with a different coloured stone.

Along the basin, one can take a peek onto the Washington Monument, Jefferson Memorial, and other monuments. I always liked how close planes fly by in this area, so view up and around! Photographers would be plenty because as they say, Cherry Blossoms as life is short lived and needs a celebration.

“No dear, Cherries don’t come from Cherry Blossoms. Take these Tulips instead and stick onto the wall”. Oh! We are distributing free groceries from Fresh Direct, would you want one? If yes, grab a basket? After posing at the Visit Japan stall and gorging on the Ben & Jerry ice-cream and watching people swing and singers sing at Petalpalooza, I was convinced each city looks best when it's celebrated.

Even if its Washington DC!

Petalpalooza@District Wharf ->

Columbus Circle@ WashingtonDC ->

Union Square Station, Washington DC ->

Spicy Jalapeno with Blueberry bagel @ Einstein Bros. Bagel at Union Sq 

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“We thought about it all the year and this year we decided Dessert was the thing. Believe it or not it's mostly hairspray.” For many, wearing wacky and creative hats on the Easter Parade has been part of the long flourishing tradition on Easter in the New York City

“We have got a little wind and I am the pirate. This is my 6th year,” says another creative hat wearer. 

“I have always loved butterflies, I don’t know what about them that intrigues me, but I have always loved them  and now they are on our Bamboo hats! The project took us about a month”, says another hatilicious diva. 

“All of this is handmade, if it wasn’t so, I wouldn’t be wearing it throughout the day”, says another. 

“We like to put things on our heads that don’t belong on our heads. Spider was an unusual choice”. When I asked them if that was heavy, quick came the reply “It's not very heavy, it's an upside down Quaker oatmeal jar with an inside of wood drilled and the coat hangers attached, it took us 5 hours to make this stuff but this isn’t our first time. We have been doing it for past 8 years and each year we come up with wacky ideas - once we were wearing an island of Maui on our heads, another year bolted frying pan that weighed a ton!”, says creator of Spider hat. 

After I met Mr. Peacock hat and Mrs. Peahen hat, I was convinced all the elements of Spring found its home in the adornment of our heads this Easter. And why not?

Eggs and Bunnies : Symbolic of new life and how?

In many countries and cultures, Spring celebration is widely known. “Let go of the long winter and get peppy in the Spring extravaganza”. Eggs were symbolic of rebirth and new life, making them apt for the celebration of spring and new life that comes after winter. The symbol of rebirth fit well with Spring of Easter as it is a celebration of Jesus Christ’s resurrection. It was hence common for eggs to be decorated and given as gifts to family and friends. And so, we also saw many egg hats in the parade. The story of the Easter Bunny is thought to have become common in the 19th Century. Rabbits usually give birth to a big litter of babies (called kittens), so they also became a symbol of new life. And there were many bunnies in the parade as well. The Easter bunny is also a folkloric figure and according to German Lutherans, the hare played the role of a judge evaluating whether children were good or disobedient in behaviour at the start of the season. In the legend, the bunny carries colored Easter eggs, his basket, candy and sometimes toys to the homes of children.

The Easter Parade is not a walking parade it is more like a Bonnet festival. It is mainly extravagant Bonnet displays by paraders in front of the St. Patricks Cathedral at the 5th Ave. Visitors and Tourists can also be part of the gathering and if one has got a creative Bonnet, it's easy to garner attention from onlookers. Most of them were kind and sweet enough to pose for a selfie with you! It was my first time at this unusual parade of its kind and I thought, let’s deck up and create some hat for myself :) .

Easter Parade in New York : How it started?

Now I always wondered how did the Easter Parade of hats came about in New York. Easter parades often including a special dress have been part of the Christian Culture since its earliest beginnings. The bible records two processions in the first Holy week. Having new clothes for Easter has deep roots in European customers and as an old Irish adage stated, “For Christmas, food and drink; for Easter, new Clothes. There are many superstition surrounding the Easter “Unless a person has new homespun clothes in Easter, moths and crickets eat the old goods and destructive rooks would nest in large numbers at home. If some part of one’s outfit is not new, one will not enjoy good luck during the year”.

Some say the first Easter parade in New York, USA was after the Civil war when people had been dressed in black mourning the war but that year they wanted to really come about in bright clothes and Easter hat to celebrate the revival of the new breeze of life after the war got over.

From the 1880’s through the 1950’s, New York's Easter parade was one of the main cultural expressions of Easter in the United States. The idea of the parade came about from New York's highly ornamented churches—Gothic buildings such as Trinity Episcopal Church, St. Patrick's Cathedral, and St. Thomas' Episcopal Church when in the mid 19th century, these churches began decorating their sanctuaries with Easter Flowers. As the flowers grew more elaborate, they were received and incorporated into values of the dresses people wore at the Churches. By the 1880’s , the Easter parade became a spectacle of fashion and religious observance. It was an after church cultural event to do. By the mid-20th century, the parade's religious aspects had faded, and it was mostly seen as a demonstration of American prosperity. Today, New York's Easter parade is enjoyed both by families in Sunday best and people and pets in outlandish costumes, often paying homage to the parade's former glory by, to cite a typical example, wearing garish hats with live birds in flower-adorned cages.

An Easter bonnet is any new or fancy hat worn as a Christian headcovering on Easter, by tradition.

Not only did we spot many cute Chihuahuas dogs in the festive set, the display of creative hats by Paraders in the festival was glorious. Rockefeller Center also had the Egg hunt game and we spotted the bunny skating with kids.

An egg hunt is a game during which decorated eggs or Easter eggs are hidden for children to find.

After we have got winters that has stayed for far too long, the celebration of Easter hats was a colorful respite in the festival which is one of its own kind.

Here’s my photo-essay from the Easter Parade 2018:

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“A snowfall in NYC transforms Central Park into a magical winter wonderland at the lakes and arches whereas autumn turns it into a foliage spectacle of myriad colours at the mall. As I walked through winding ways of Central Park in the fluffy snow that got kids from their homes onto their snow slides and the trees covered in white before the new leaves give birth and the ducks with their green necks swim and the Bethesda Terrace where street performers sing, I felt blessed in the winter storm of last week! Never could I have had imagined that before we jump into Spring, a burst of pouring snowfall is what we needed to make us escape the hectic life of New York. "

Bow Bridge at Central Park, USA

“When it snows in New York, it looks really pretty till the time the snow is falling. In next 2 hours, it doesn’t look like the fluffy white snow at all. The reason being there are plenty of footfalls in the city. The tall buildings hardly let snow permeate to the ground and the road creating a slushy mess. Central Park, however, is a different story. I wonder if the snow stays, but as long as it was snowing, it felt like an escape. Many of the movies use those snowmaker machines to make snow and spend 1000’s of dollars in making Central Park a white blanket although if you arrive in a Blizzard or a Winter Storm, the nature gifts you that white blanket for real.

I almost lost my sense of direction in the snow and had to ask the already present visitors to where I was heading. Because sometimes snow can be “all there is”.

How Central Park came up?

Central Park was made an escape. In the mid 19th century, the city bought the park and they ended up having a design competition on what Central Park would look like. Two designers won the competition and they designed the park with the general idea that this was supposed to look very natural unlike the park of those days when they were very formal and linear looking. Manhattan earlier had huge rock formations and hence they had to use gunpowder to blast and break the rocks. The topsoil was then taken out and the new topsoil was bought from the neighbouring garden state of New Jersey. 5 million saplings were planted and it took 20 years to complete the park.

“It’s easy to turn around in the winding pathways of Central Park. And if you feel you have lost track, grab the nearest lamppost, look at the digits written on it. The first 2 digits are which street you can on. That can make you kind of orient yourself. The whole idea though was not to create straight strict lines but to make winding paths that can make one truly feel how escaping from New York would feel like.”

The lamppost with 4 digits

Central Park is huge at 843 acres. It goes from 59th street to 110th street and from 5th avenue to 8th avenue on the grid of Manhattan. So, central park is significantly larger than the country of Monaco (500 acres). When the city bought the land, it got it for 5 million dollars then. 10 years later, US bought the state of Alaska for 7.5 million dollars. So you can imagine how crazy the purchase was called back then!

Now my favourite place in New York hasn’t always been Central Park. I despise the barren trees towards the end of winter and I laugh at the ridiculously priced horse carriages but I cannot ignore it for the fact that it is one of New York’s favourite landmarks. As I recently told my social media friend from India, Nivedith, who had come to visit NYC “Central Park is for tourist.” Check out my Facebook page for a couple of lives we did together from NYC.

Central Park - Filmmaker's Favourite

And Central Park is for filmmakers undoubtedly. 100’s of movies are filmed and 1000’s are set in NYC. It is one of the most common settings for many movies. Most of the movie set in NYC are not filmed in NYC because of the primary reason that it is incredibly difficult - it's chaotic, it's crowded, it's noisy, there’s traffic and the weather is very temperamental. Doing outdoorsy scenes can get very difficult especially with the rerouting the traffic in the busiest city of the world. So when you are looking for movies that look filmed in New York, most often you are looking for a studio lot in Los Angeles California, which is designed to look like various parts of the city. Toronto is another common setting for New York City. So, most movies don’t bother.

“I myself have seen and randomly participated in this Bollywood Flick called Half Girlfriend. I spotted Arjun Kapoor at the Bethesda Terrace and stood there in the audience and we were supposed to clap when the would take takes. Then the crew moved to Bow Bridge in Central Park.“

For folks who are crazy enough to try it, you will get something filming in New York city which you will absolutely positively not get anywhere else. Even though sometimes New York kind of fightbacks against you, sometimes it can do the work for you. Some of the many movies shot in Central Park are Elf, Home Alone 2, Serendipity and Miracle on 34th Street.

The filmmaker of Elf chose to imagine the reality of “If an Elf would come to a busy city of New York, what would happen”. He sends the cast and crew home and shot with one cameraman and one sound guy around the city. So the shoeshine guy is a real New Yorker or the person handling flyers on the 34th street is something that was happening there. Elf gave the most attention to details when it comes to locations, a lot of these movies shoot locations based on convenience. Home Alone 2 is shot in Central Park. Serendipity(all though most of it was shot in Canada), the popular Wollman rink from Central Park with the view of Skyscrapers was shot here.

Wollman rink with Nivedith, Macrotraveller

Central Park: What used to be...

The present-day Sheep Meadow in Central Park is where they used to graze sheep in the 1930’s. And Tavern on the green restaurant in Central Park used to be the Sheep Barn. How things change!

There is also a children’s district in Central Park where there is a carousel. When the park had opened up, this was really far from New York City. New York city actually ended down at 23rd Street and the Madison Square area was the north end of the city. A lot of people lived in downtown in the immigrant neighbourhoods of lower Manhattan, so getting here took an hour by the street cart. So the reason for having the carousel was “If you come travelling an hour with 6 kids, you might as well not want to go any further.”

This is not the original carousel. The original was powered by the horse and the mule. They were hitched to the underside of the carousel. When they would hear music, they would start going in circles. There was a conductor who stood on the platform and whenever you thought the ride was over, they would tap their foot twice. That was the signal for the horse to stop.

Macy's Thanksgiving Parade

The Macy’s Thanksgiving parade starts at Central Park a little way up on the 79th street and ends at Macy's during the holiday season. It was featured in Miracle on 34th street (1947) that made it a national thing. Those times the actors used to be a Method actor. And in this movie, the actor actually was the Santa in the parade who was the Santa in the parade indeed and he not only rode the whole parade but also gave a speech in front of Macy's and greeted the children on the coldest Thanksgiving parade. It was so cold that the cameras stopped freezing.

The challenge of filming a parade live was that it was all done in one take and they had every camera person on different places along the route and they were actually said: “Don’t mess up!”. Now, how many movies are made like that today. The original movie Ghostbuster is also shot in the building next to Central Park and it was made much taller double its size than it really is to look more ghostly. The sounds from the apartment are actually real like sounds when you live in apartments in NYC because a lot of them are very old.

Dana's Apartment in Ghostbusters Apartment

Central Park West

I generally take my friends through the entry of Central Park West. That takes you through Strawberry Fields, The Mall, Bethesda Terrace & Bow Bridge. Even though I have gone there twice or thrice, I am yet to travel through the entire north to south-central park in one stretch. Maybe one day I can rent a bike and you can too! There are bike rentals in Central Park which many people seem to enjoy.

So let’s take you through “Central Park in 50 Snaps”

The mall

Bethesda Fountain

Loeb Boathouse

                                                                                Bow Bridge

Central Park is so big, it also has traffic lights

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'Love is in the air' is a line that fits the Maldives perfectly. There is something magical and lyrical about this beautiful destination that makes it's an apt honeymoon destination. This is one place that will awaken the poet in you. Walk down the white sand hand-in-hand with your partner, with the sun kissing and nudging the two of you, experience heaven like never before.

Dine by the sea

 The breathtaking beaches at the Maldives replete with azure coloured water with warm breeze offer one of the best intimate settings for 'just married' couples. There is so much to explore - from a dip in the beaches, indulging in water sports or simply enjoying an exotic spa together - this destination will spoil you for sure. And to know exactly what's in store, check out Maldives honeymoon packages to get a complete picture.


Go High on Sea Adventure

Time to get a little adventurous when in the Maldives as there is a whole new world to explore beneath the sea. Go night fishing, reef snorkelling to island hopping or simply plan day trips to various sandbanks. One thing that should not be missed is diving as you must witness the lovely flora and fauna spread across the sea in the Maldives. Night fishing can be done in the Maafushi Island in the Maldives. Some resorts which offer the best reef snorkelling experience include Lily Beach Resort, Reethi Beach Resort, Bathala Island Resort, and Baros Maldives. These experiences will not only refresh you but will enrich your bond too.

Dine by The Sea

For all those who are diehard romantic or look for filmy settings while honeymooning, then the Maldives is the place to be. Set up a lunch or dinner date by the sea, with music playing in the background and the two of you enjoying a glass of wine or champagne. Dine under the sky full of stars with moonlight as the witness of love and togetherness. Or be sun-kissed and spoilt and tanned. The choice is yours, let love be the guiding force mate.

Book a Beach Villa

Imagine getting out of your room and taking a straight dive into the sea. This is what villas offer in the Maldives. Known as water bungalows that offer plunge pool or ladders wherein you can step down the sea along with your partner. Together the two of you can spend quite a time, basking in the sun and sand without any disturbance. Try booking these villas in advance in case you plan to travel during peak season.

Walk Down the Glowing Beach

You cannot miss out on the Vaadhoo Island's glowing beach. This beach is special as the night descends rare glowing tides light up the beach. These glowing tides rise from the shore during nights and make for a wonderful sight to witness.

Cruise Your Way to Love

If resorts, villas and hotels don't interest you, then we suggest booking a live-board cruise. These ships have planned tours to sever inhabited islands as well as beaches that are deserted. While island hopping, you can steal some intimate moments together enveloped in nature's beauty and splendour. Some of the famous cruises present in the Maldives are Costa Cruises, MV Aquamarine, Silversea Cruises, and Seabourn Cruise Line. All these cruises offer multiple routes.

Take a 'Doni' Ride

Wondering what a doni is, well it a coconut palm timber cruise boat seen especially in the Maldives. You can enjoy a ride in the boat, swim in the sea followed by a scrumptious seafood treat. Gaze around, and chances are you might find some exotic birds chirping around. Organized by many hotels, this ride will give you a chance to unravel the secrets of Maldives and become one with nature.

Dine Underwater Too

Yes, you can dine with the fishes swimming right above your head at the Hilton Maldives' underwater restaurant. You can also book a table at Ithaa underwater aquarium restaurant and enjoy the spectacular view from the top. This is one treat that will leave you speechless for sure.

Hitch a Ride in A Seaplane

Take a view from the top with these special seaplanes giving you a panoramic view of the lagoons, fishes and dolphins all in one go. A seaplane is the most fun and spectacular mode of transportation to your hotel or resort. Apart from being quick and practical, it is famous for its breath-taking excursion. It offers an amazing aerial view of Maldivian atolls as well as islands. The three seaplanes currently operating in the Maldives include Trans Maldivian Airways, Maldivian, and Flyme.

Spoil Yourself at Spa

How can you miss out on a special couple spa treatment when in the Maldives? Several hotels and even the Maldives honeymoon packages offer special spa sessions. Here is the time to spoil and come out with a sparkling shine.

The Other Side of Maldives

The capital city of Maldives, Malé is packed with several tourist attraction places. Make sure to steal some time off beaches to explore the by lanes of Malé. Visit the National Museum, Fish Market, Grand Friday Mosque to the Esjehi Art Gallery to know the other side of the beautiful destination.

What are you waiting for folks? If you are still trying to figure out a destination, then there is no better deal than the Maldives. It is here that you can add spice to your love life and write a love story to remember. In fact, you will have plenty of locations to take selfies to crowd your social media handles. Get more likes, shares and comments with every picture you take here. If you don't believe us, then come here to witness the gala unfold.
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Because when we have Stone Crab in our plates and Manatees to Swim with and a chance to be with an Astronaut, we will be left overwhelmed and gasping for more for sure!

“All of Florida is different,” says Nicole from Visit Florida. “People need to get out of their comfort zones and explore the hidden gems”. 

A snorkeler watches a Manatee (Image from Shutterstock)

Don’t get me wrong. My first time to Florida was a touch and go of a total of 72 hours in Miami, Everglades and Key west - we explored what was touristic. But I ain’t planning regular jaunts in Florida anymore. Because now I know, if I truly wish to enjoy Florida, I got to breathe and eat Florida as Nicole , Meagan and Chef Brian from the state tells us at the New York Times Travel Show 2018.

So, here are 7 cool and unique things to do in Florida this year:

1. Swim with Manatees in Crystal River:   “I would highly recommend Crystal River. Crystal River has Manatees and its the only place in North America where you can swim with Manatees”, says Nicole. “Manatees are marine mammals that are sometimes known as sea cows. They live in the water and its their own breed. If one come next to you you can swim with them. Its adorable. Its in their natural habitat and its not a park of any kind. “

I would love to do this on my next visit to Florida. Crystal River is about 1 hour 40 minute drive from Orlando and a couple of travel operators do Snorkeling tours in the area. Crystal river is 5 hours from Miami.

Nearest Airport: Tampa (1 hour 15 min) , Orlando (1 hour 40 min)

I read some great reviews about River Ventures Manatee Tour Center.

Viator also has a tour that combines Crystal River Manatee Snorkeling + Airboat tours of Homosassa River, the link for which is here

Check out the official page of Crystal River for more information.

2. Kennedy Space Center:  “Another cool experience on the Atlantic Side is the Kennedy Space Center. There is an astronaut training program. You actually get to meet an astronaut. Go through the day learning to be an astronaut. How cool is that!” , says Nicole.

Huge rocket standing at the Kennedy space center museum( Image from Shutterstock

Kennedy Space Center is home to many historic and current space exploration vehicles, including the actual space shuttle Atlantis, a Saturn V moon rocket, a SpaceX Dragon capsule, a Boeing CST-100 Starliner test vehicle, the Apollo 14 Kitty Hawk capsule, the Mercury Sigma 7 capsule, the Gemini 9 capsule and the rockets of the Rocket Garden.

Check out how to watch Rocket Launch at Kennedy Space Center: How to watch Rocket Launch

Learn more about Astronaut Training Center here

Nearest Airport: Orlando (45 min)

3. The Food, Seafood and The Catch & Cook Program: “You have to stick with the fresh seafood in Florida. You can’t go wrong. South Florida is for Stone Crab, Key west is for lobster and scallops etc,” says Nicole.

                                         Stone Crab at Joe's Stone Crab, Miami
                          Stone Crab season opens October each year and runs through May.

 “Something very cool about Stone Crab is that they are sustainable, they catch the Stone Crab and they take out one claw and they throw them back and then they regenerate the claw. So that’s something very interesting about Florida Stone Crab a lot of people may not know about,“ says Meagan.

In the Northern part of the state a lot of resorts have “Catch” and “Cook” program where you go out with the fisherman during the day and catch your fish and they’ll cook you what you caught. Pensacola is one of the great spots for that. And they’ll make it anyway you want it whether its blackened, fried, broiled or baked.

Tallahassee as far a culinary goes is amazing. “Food from that area is an influence of southern and a lot of gulf coast Regional Food,” says Chef Brian. As he served us mouthwatering Shrimp escabeche or Pickled Shrimp made from Florida Key West Pink Shrimp, I couldn’t resist making “Culinary Tours” as part of my itinerary next time I am in Florida. “Pink Shrimp are hard to come by, because we don’t let them leave the state,” states Brian.

Cuban food is also very popular in Florida. Meagaan says “You get best Cuban Sandwich in St. Pete. In fact, great cuban food is available everywhere in the state”. Since a lot of produce comes from the state of Florida including greens , the citrus fruits and the seafood, there has been a lot of farm to table movement in recent years. We tried Gator Nuggets and the Lion Fish and the Stone Crab in Miami & Keywest and one word I’ll say “The Stone Crab is wow!”

When in Florida, Check out Miami Culinary Tours(book in advance online) for Little Havana and South Beach. We did not had so much time so we did these places on our own.

4. Everglades National Park: “ I would also recommend Naples in Everglades. Everglades spans from the gulf side all the Atlantic side. At Naples, you can see alligators, crocodiles, birds of all kind. Get out there into the wild”, says Nicole.

 Although we did not venture as far as Naples, we did go to Everglades National Park and had a rendezvous with the Alligators from the Airboat ride which was super fun too!

Everglades is 2 hours from Miami and there are many tour operators who does one day tour to Everglades.

5. The Festivals: “We have the largest Strawberry festival and thats something unique. We have some other unique festivals out here. Art Basel is another huge event everybody raves about and thats where everyone comes together. There are also festivals that highlights food choices we have in Florida, “ says Nicole.

“This year is the 2nd year of the 7th seafood and wine festival at Seaworld. I would suggest doing the rides first and thereafter you can punch card and do a taste around the world around the regions that are laid out. They have beers and wines and cocktail to pair with food from region. I am very southern and my favorite is bacon and cheddar hush puppies with honey butter. Its amazing!We have tons of festivals from pensacola all the way to Key west where you get sampling of the food. We even have a Stone Crab Festival.” , says Meagan.

There are many food and wine festivals in Florida, do have a look at them here

I would advise you on checking out the Festival calendar before planning a trip to Florida. We missed the Wynnwood Art Walk in Miami that happens every second Saturday. And we were in Miami on a second Saturday..

6. The Beaches: “Outside of Tampa, Art and Food scene at St. Pete Beach is amazing. You’ll just love it! . Another beach that I would recommend is Pensacola Beach, the sand there is just sugar. Its picturesque and gorgeous. I have been spending a lot of time in West Palm Beach it Ft Laureldale lately,” says Nicole from Visit Florida.

Bahia Honda is gorgeous!

I loved the crashing waves of the South Beach , Miami. I was also hoping that the Atlantic side of Bahia Honda State Park near Marathon(20min) in Florida Keys opens soon(estimated May end) that was damaged due to hurricane Irma because that was one gorgeous beach I saw from the fences. A friend of mine suggested going to Haul Over Beach in Miami , may be next time! A few locals we met in Keywest suggested North Florida for beaches.

Check out Florida Beach Finder by Visit Florida
Also Check out Florida Beach Camping by Visit Florida

7. Dry Tortugas National Park: Almost 70 miles (113 km) west of Key West lies the remote Dry Tortugas National Park. It’s only accessible by boat and seaplane from Keywest. It comprises 7 islands, plus protected coral reefs. On nearby Loggerhead Reef, the Windjammer Wreck, the remains of an 1875 ship, is a popular dive site. The most popular way of getting to Dry Tortugas is the National Parks Service's ferry, the Yankee Freedom III on a 2.5 hour ferry ride. One can also camp in Dry Tortugas (on advanced reservations). You also have to book the ferry ride in advance (online) as the tickets gets sold out fast.

The crystal clear water of the gulf of Mexico from Fort Jefferson, Dry Tortugas NP (Image from Shutterstock)

For more information on Dry Tortugas camping, click here

For more information on Dry Tortugas check here

I know I haven’t talked about the Keys and the Keywest - the famous road trip of a lifetime. I will in my next post on “Miami in 72 hours” where we uncover the touristy spots as a tourist wanting to be laid back but trying to tick off from the checklist everything we could. ;)
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Bobsledding at Olympic Sports Complex, Lake Placid!
Lake Placid is 5 hours drive from New York City.

Ever wondered what happens to Olympic Sites after the games are over? Lake Placid, a small mountain town in the Adirondacks hosted the Olympics twice in 1932 and in 1980 . A visit to this place is nothing short of a celebration of euphoria the people from the region proudly contain within and hence welcome you with open arms to bring forward that legacy of sports you may want to know and learn from. It is often said that Lake Placid is where “Miracles are made”. Miracle on Ice refers to a medal round game during the men’s ice hockey tournament played between US and 6 times gold medal winner Soviet Union and this is where US won. The victory became one of the most iconic moments of the Games and in U.S. sports. This is where 16-year old figure skater Sonja Henie won an Olympic Gold Medal in 1932 and local Olympian Jack Shea and Irving Jaffee won two Gold Medals in Speed Skating.

I can imagine the whole city being involved like a family in the Winter Olympics when it happened. It actually takes more than a village to organize one. When Olympic games happened in Lake Placid in 1980 , a village of 3000 residents , they knew they needed additional help. There were 6700 volunteers at the event.

Roni Raccoon was a mascot at Lake Placid Winter Olympics in the 1980.
The name Roni, chosen by Lake Placid School Children, comes from the word raccoon in Iroquoian, the language of the native people from the region.
The raccoon is a familiar animal from the mountainous region of the Adirondacks.
For my previous posts on Adirondacks and Journey to Lake Placid , click here 

1980 Ice Hockey Goal

After visiting the US, Sonja heard about the American custom of carrying a rabbit's foot for good luck and began carrying her oneself. That was her lucky charm to continue her winning streak in Figure Skating.

People love the way the cold keeps everything frozen in the winters and they have an attitude that “Lets have fun in all seasons!”. The region has sent athletes to every Winter Olympics since they began and the spirit of Olympics follows everywhere in the city. Whether it's a resort that you stay or shops that you enter or restaurants that you plan to binge in, you would see a hint of Olympics in the form of flags, pictures, sports equipments, old newspapers clippings everywhere.

Tip 1: The Olympic Sites Passport is perfect for someone planning a visit the Lake Placid Olympic Sites giving you access to every one of Olympic Sites! It costs $35 when you purchase a one - time admission passport and $79 for multiple entry unlimited passport. You can either purchase it online or purchase it at ORDA sites. For more details, click here

1. The Olympic Center and The Olympic Museum

“Lake Placid Olympic Museum is an interesting place that feeds your inquisitiveness about Olympics in good ways. Make sure to visit the Olympic Museum to know about Olympics and to have a look at Memorabilia and Moments from the Winter Olympics.”

Did you know how Ice Skating was discovered? 

Dutch were the earliest pioneer of Skating. Villagers used the canals as a way to keep in touch during winters. Skaters with messages could go faster on ice than traveling by horse or by foot.

This skate is from 1889 from when the Netherlands hosted the first speed skating World Championship.

Did you know where did the Olympic Games start? 

The first recorded Olympic Games was held in Olympia , Greece in 776 BC. The games coincided with religious festival to honor Zeus, King of the Gods.

Did you know the story behind Olympic Torch Relay? 

In ancient Greece, fire was considered to be a divine element and the Greeks maintained fire in front of their temples. At the sanctuary of Olympia where the ancient games took place, fire was lit with sun rays to enjoy its purity. Today, the flame symbolizes Olympic Spirit and is guaranteed pure by the way it is lit by Sun Rays.

This 2018, the Winter Olympics is scheduled to take place at Pyeongchang County, South Korea from the 9-25th Feb. And if going to South Korea during Winter Olympics seems like a far fetched dream for you, the local events at Lake Placid will be exciting enough to fill in that gap.

 The Olympic Museum isn’t those gigantic museums that will take hours and hours of your time but a very compact and informative museum that tells you the story of Olympics with exhibits, artifacts, videos of previous Winter Olympics, athletes uniform, sports equipments, quotes from the athletes and their struggles and stories and the changes Olympics has seen over time. I’ll share some more Cool Facts about Olympics in the next post.

Museum is open year around from 10-5. Closed on Christmas and Thanksgiving.

The Herb Brooks Arena where the iconic win happened

The Herb Brooks Arena, one of the three ice surfaces at the Olympic Center, is a 7700 seated multi-purpose arena in Lake Placid. Herb Brooks Arena hosted various events during 1980 Winter Olympics, most famously the ice hockey tournament ; figure skating event and the closing ceremony. You never know when a legend like Scott Hamilton (Olympic Gold Medalist) or Jim Craig(The goaltender from Miracle on ice team) might pop in for a day. Ice shows, competitions or championships are held very frequently here. You can also take an Olympic Center guided tour (available at 10:00,11:30 and 1:00pm) for $10.

I found the food at the Olympic center also to be great so happily order that Quesadilla next to the Herb Brooks Arena, you wouldn’t be disappointed.

2. Olympic Bobsled Experience at Olympic Sports Complex

One of the original sports of the Olympic Winter Games since 1924, Bobsleigh (or Bobsled in USA) was born in Switzerland in 1897, when the steering mechanism was attached to the Toboggan sled. Today, the sport is known for explosive running push at the start followed by acrobat on the sled before settling into a seating position. The team includes the pilot and the brakeman and two extra people to increase the speed. Sleds today reach 90 mph before the finish line.

The bobsled ride is for $95 but you also get 20% off  on it with your Olympic Passport

If you ever want to feel what it feels like to be a comet, the Olympic Sports Complex is a great place to start. The track is concrete and sits on a refrigeration system. Workers pour and spray water on the concrete, creating a layer of ice average 1.5 to 2 inches thick. It starts and finishes within 55 seconds and zoom it goes. So hop aboard the bobsled and ride on the famous 1980 Olympic track with a professional driver and brakeman.

After filling up the form and the waiver, you are good to either walk till the starting point or a vehicle would drop you by the starting point. There is also a viewing area for the visitors to see. I tried this and it was super fun! Ask for a helmet with a Gopro attachment if you wish to film your adventure. At the end of the ride , a photo is taken for you which you can select from the store and you also get a T-shirt and a label pin. More details here

3. Olympic Skeleton & Luge Experience at Olympic Sports Complex

Skeleton, Luge, Bobsled (Left to Right)

Skeleton is a single person , head first, stomach down sliding sport developed to a Swiss Alps. Skeleton was an early Olympic Sport (1928 and 1948 in St. Moritz) that rejoined the games full time in 2002. Luge is traditionally referred to the fastest sport on ice and is identified by feet first, head back sliding position of the athlete. Go it alone with the Lake Placid Skeleton Experience and slide into Olympic tradition or be in awe at the silent speed of a luge athlete racing by at over 90 miles per hour!

4. Be a Biathlete

Practiced as a training exercise by Norwegian soldiers centuries ago, combine aerobic Nordic free-style skiing with a target focus using a competition style .22 caliber rifle at Olympic Sports Complex. To know more, click here

Mt Van Hoevenberg is home to cross country Skiing and Biathlon. There are many groomed trails here as they also host many international and national skiing events. During weekends and special events, delicious food and hot drinks are served in the Josie's Cabin on the trails of Mt Hoevenberg. Adjacent to cabin are bonfires and s'mores. To know more, click here

5. Cloudsplitter Gandola

I liked the fact that this 8-person Gondola is a smooth ride. It takes 15 minutes to go from the Base to the Little Whiteface Summit. In Winter months, the Gondola ride takes skiers to the summit. “Today is not a good day, said one of the skiers, otherwise the view from the summit is amazing!” . Although I missed the birds eye of the wilderness of Adirondacks from the observation deck, throughout my journey up the gondola the view of mountain ranges and forests were spectacular.

I saw in the eyes of Skiers there, a determination that was unstoppable. With almost no visibility due to snow storm, they were still disappearing into the cloudy mist of white fog. If the weather is good, you can see an awe-inspiring panorama of the Adirondacks including White Mountains of New Hampshire and the Green Mountains of Vermont, all High Peaks and the Lakes of Adirondacks. A Cloudsplitter gondola ride is included in your Olympic Passport so avail the gorgeous views up at the top :)

6. The Olympic Jumping Complex

At the Olympic Jumping Complex you can ride to the top of the 26-story Olympic Ski Jump is a glass elevator to the observation deck. At the top you will see 360 degree views of the Adirondacks High Peaks as you stroll through the jumpers preparation room. Then get the birds eye view of what the jumpers see when they start the Ski Jump. Built in 1980 for the Winter Olympics, it is the site of year around international Ski Jumping and ariel freestyle Skiing Competitions.  You can also avail the guided tour available with your Olympic passport. During Summers, it becomes the site for extreme tubing and wet and wild jumping series. To know more, click here

During the holidays of last year, they also had New Year's Ski Jump with Fireworks (29th Dec 2017). 

7. Skating at Olympic Center

Two rinks (one Indoor Public Skating and one outdoor Skating on the Oval) both with a direct link to Olympic history is open for public. In the center of the Speed Skating Oval , one of the few outdoor rinks of its kind left in the country, get cozy and warm up around the fire pit. You can bring your own skate or rent it there.

8. XC Mountain Biking Center 

The XC Ski trails at Mt. Van Hoevenberg offer great mountain bike riding for all ages and experience during summers / fall. There are lessons available. You can either rent a bike at center or bring your own bike. To know more , click here

9. U.S Olympic Training Center

U.S Athletes gather at this facility to prepare for international competitions and games in both summer and winter. A 15-minute guided tour includes video highlights of the U.S Olympic Committee.

10. Events

Here's a list of some of the upcoming events of 2018:

Jan 19-20 World Cup Freestyle

Feb 1-4 Empire State Winter Games

Feb 2-11 Saranac Lake Winter Carnival

Feb 3 Northern Challenge Fishing Derby

Feb 24 USOC PyeongChang Olympic Winter Fest

Mar 4-11 USCSA Ski & Snowboard championship

Mar 18 Lake Placid Nordic Festival and Loppet

Mar 16-17 ECAC Hockey Men’s D1 Championship

Mar 25-26 Miracle on ice fantasy camp

Thanks to Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism, Lake Placid for supporting my visit.
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“Our 5 hour journey turned into 8, but we weren’t fretting. To break our journey from NYC to Lake Placid, in between we stopped at Lake George which was a gorgeous lone lake when we had arrived, thanks to the winter storm people may have caved in their homes in the warmth of their blankets. The beauty of roads covered in fresh snow made us go slow and as soon we reached Keene Valley we thought to ourselves, are we the only souls traveling in this direction? Are we lost? The trees parted and came in the mountains. All along thereafter, we had a companion in our journey - The Adirondacks. ”

Mirror Lake, Lake Placid

  • A day in Lake Placid can be skiing at one of the 5 downhill ski centers or riding on the dogsled on Mirror Lake while soaking up the views of the nearby High Peaks.

As a result of hosting 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics, Lake Placid is home to many sports venues that you can experience for yourself today.
To read my previous posts on USA, click here

On the frozen Mirror Lake

  • You are welcome to INVENT YOUR OWN PERFECT DAY in Lake Placid. For some, it's a walk around Mirror Lake in the morning, an afternoon spent reading on a porch followed by a Sinfonietta concert in the park. For others, the day begins with a hike, paddling a kayak, shopping on Main Street, then dinner at the pub. Lake Placid invites all to select from a limitless menu of experiences to invent their own perfect day.

The word “vacation” was invented in the Adirondacks. In the early 1900’s people in the cities were beginning to realize that summer heat and deadly fevers went hand in hand. The upper class did not spend the summer in the city waiting for a fever; they vacated the city for the fresh clean air of the Adirondacks. The term “vacating” or evacuating is the reason Americans take “vacations” instead of a British “holiday. Winter in the Adirondacks in one of the most festive and beautiful times of the year.”

Because the Pickled Pig is taking a snow bath!

Some of the interesting facts about Adirondacks

1. The Adirondack Park is a part of New York's Forest Preserve in northeastern New York, United States.

2. The Adirondacks park (6.1 million acres) has no gate. There is no forest ranger who opens and closes the gate entrance.

Instead, an imaginary blue line surrounds a vast region that includes wilderness and human communities.

3.  The Adirondack Park is larger than Yellowstone, Everglades, Glacier and Grand Canyon National Parks combined.

4 . The Adirondack Park contains 85% of all wilderness in the eastern United States

5.  The Adirondack Park has over 2,000 miles of hiking trails; these trails comprise the largest trail system in the nation. The western and southern Adirondack area is a gentle landscape of hills, lakes, ponds and streams, along with the highest mountains in the state. The 46 High Peaks (over 4,000 feet) include Mount Marcy, the highest point in New York at 5,344’. One of the park’s most unique features is the nonstop juxtaposition of mountains and water. Within the park are 3,000 lakes and ponds and more than 1,200 miles of rivers fed by an estimated 30,000 miles of brooks and streams.

6 .There are over 100 villages and towns within the park but no cities. It is the largest area without a city in the state.

7 . The Adirondacks welcome an estimated 7-10 million visitors the region annually.

The Route from NY to Lake Placid, NY

We were on a vacation in the Adirondacks during our Christmas Holidays (22nd - 27th Dec). The drive that we took was :

We drove from West New York, NJ to Lake Placid. The route takes you through Paramus (we have a good outlet mall in Paramus), Harriman State Park (For camping and trails), Woodbury Outlet Mall (an outlet mall of premium brands), Catskills region (are mountains), Albany, Saratoga Springs, Lake George, Pharaoh Lake and Wilderness area, Keene Valley and Lake Placid.

Have you ever driven in the snow, if not here are my 17 tips on how to drive in the snow

The drive from Keene Valley to Lake Placid is beautiful.

The route is such you get many places to explore in between if you wish to. Confining ourself to just google maps may be a good idea although keeping your eyes wide open in the entire journey keeps you aware and if you feel like you can even indulge in a little detour or pitstop here and there. Because sometimes the journey itself is the destination.

Many lakes in the region :)

"Many know New York as New York City(NYC). New York is a state whereas NYC is a city in that state. The capital of New York state is Albany and not NYC"

Lake Placid - The Gators Lake from the movie?

Remember the movie ‘Lake Placid’ that was released in 1999 on a gigantic crocodile that terrifies residents? While in Lake Placid these super crocodiles may not be around (I wonder if they are or ever were) but you still sometimes wonder if the movie was based on fiction or is the lake different than this one? According to “NewYorkHistoryBlog” that I read, the gator of the Mirror Lake existed in the village of Lake Placid, it scared the tourists and in 1903 they ran a story called “Alligator in Lake Placid”. It so happened that a friend gave the famed Stevens House a gift from the tropics - and that was a Crocodile. Initially it was housed in hotel bathtub and then when summers came in , they released the gator to the Mirror Lake. Once it was found catching some rays on the beach and because it was small then, it became newest attraction for the curious newcomers and they termed it as Stevens Pet. There are a few tales of Alligators kept as pets.Its quite an interesting story, you may want to read the whole story at New York history blog.

The Lake "Lake Placid" from Whiteface Culb and Resort.

"Lake Placid is a village. The lake Lake Placid is on the north of the village of Lake Placid. Mirror Lake seems to be the lake around which the village of Lake Placid is primarily based. When you say you are going to Lake Placid, its mostly you are going to the village of Lake Placid and that's how it is! We expected it to be just a lake but there's this whole village with the name of it"

Enjoy European Style in Upstate NY

The intermixing of cultures specially European is what makes the Upstate of any state appealing. When we were driving in Lake George we saw Canada Street ( non - european name but still Canada? ) and when we were driving in Lake Placid we saw Interlaken Ave street and Interlaken Inn. The choice is yours. Would you still want to crave for that European holiday overseas or would you rather drive and stay at a place that is no less than being in one and more.

"Its amazing how some villages in Upstate are deeply inspired by Europe yet manages to be so distinctively different"

Entering Lake Placid

As soon as we entered Lake Placid, we saw the board - Site of the 1932 and 1980's Winter Olympic Games. There I also saw an expansive land with lots of snow with tracks. It was the Lake Placid Horse Show Venue.

I can imagine the horse galloping in these gigantic tracks during Summers. I wish I could come here again when season changes !

Winters are also great time to come here. When the snow falls the foundation is created for outdoor recreation and winter inspired events.

Jan 19-20 World Cup Freestyle
Feb 1-4 Empire State Winter Games
Feb 2-11 Saranac Lake Winter Carnival
Feb 3 Northern Challenge Fishing Derby
Feb 24 USOC PyeongChang Olympic Winter Fest
Mar 4-11 USCSA Ski & Snowboard championship
Mar 18 Lake Placid Nordic Festival and Loppet
Mar 16-17 ECAC Hockey Men’s D1 Championship
Mar 25-26 Miracle on ice fantasy camp

The adventure did not stop here - we saw the Olympic Ski Jump towers and we saw the Golf courses. We saw these cute motels and hotels making us go awww. We saw Winery, Adirondack Chairs and Brewery. Of course snow, makes everything looks magical.

“We instantly knew had come into a land of adventure. The Main Street is the lifeline of Lake Placid.”

Main Street, Lake Placid

Lake Placid Sinfonietta, the orchestra in the Adirondacks

Holiday Skating Party anyone?

Why we stayed at Hampton Inn and Suites (3 nights)

Hampton inn was just next to Lake Placid Pub and Brewery and the Mirror Lake. Who wouldn’t want to stay here?

There is also a shortcut (watch for the pedestrian walk with the Mirror Lake) to the main street from the hotel. The hotel was very accommodating. We had requested earlier check-in and our rooms were ready. The receptionist even gave me a hand - made map of Lake Placid. She’s like “Today, you can take a round hike of the Mirror lake and go to Wise Guys for food if you are late, its open till 2”. The rooms were clean and nice - we got a room with the view of the Mirror Lake. The breakfast was inclusive and basic.

View from our room at Hampton Inn & suites

That evening, we hiked half of the Mirror Lake from our hotel and a little bit on the Main Street. To everyplace that you go to, I recommend doing so. No matter how cold or hot is, go out and walk a little. It allows your soul to feel the place!

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2 years back, it was our first time we were traveling in upper midwest at a place called Door County. It was October end, so extra cold was unanticipated and so was accumulation of ice on our wind-shield. But then ice kissed our car that last night. And as we woke up, got ready and got into our cars, we saw this film of ice on our windshield. So, we thought we were wise and we started our windshield wiper. The ice became slushy and messy and the new ice formed immediately. Because why not! The temperatures were below 0 that morning. We got wiser and we got this bottle of warm water from inside and splashed it on the windshield because we were supposed to enjoy the scenery than waste time in figuring this out! And we started with confidence again. As soon as we started, within minutes ice formed and there was nothing we could see in front of us. So we parked our car aside, and waited for the sun to arrive so that temperatures get high and then drove slow enough and saw the ice melting.

And it did. We were elated. And we applauded our innocence with “Now we know how it works” but there must be a better way, right? 

We swore to us we wouldn’t drive in winters because as unknown terrifies, so the idea of driving in snow was terrifying.

We aren’t pros at this yet, but we are at least better than how we were. It so happened that next winters, I told my hubby we need to go to a friends place in Pennsylvania. He had invited us and we had just shifted to New York. Its just a 2 hours drive but there was a winter storm warning that day and my hubby kept persisting on how upset his stomach is for the fear of snow and he cannot go. He had visualized it to be a horrible idea taking that risk. But I was persistent and stubborn - for me friendships matter. And I said no, we are going and you are driving.

Even though later that day, my friend told me “Oh its such bad weather, I would have told you guys to not come. But we thanked god that we did. We faced our fear and it wasn’t a scary monster”.

So that day was a day full of snowfall. I remember it started snowing even hours before it was predicted. And there we were with our rented car and terrified and confused, this time its not gonna be ice, its going to be snow and wobbling snow and messy slippery snow. And even though I have these at the back of my mind, I am very good at this thing called “whatever happens, happens” so I convinced my hubby that we’ll see. He prepared for the worst case scenarios as he always does taking emergency numbers , knowing where to stop etc etc.

“The best part about the drive was the drive. We learned a lot. We learnt that in the journey of 2 hours, it was just once or twice that our car wobbled and why because we unknowingly drove on ice / fresh snow on road. That feeling of “out of control” my hubby faced once and he kept on saying “did you see that, I had no control on my car”.

 Thankfully in USA, they have these gigantic or even small snow clearing machines that removes snow out of busy highways or travel areas. They are very consistent with how they do it, so even though it was snowing and there was snow on road there wasn’t piles of snow on road.

Tips For Safe Winter Driving - YouTube

The lesson we learnt was “Always drive slow. Also, always drive on the path someone has driven on unless you own a super fancy vehicle or are experienced with the snow. 

 Specially on highways, when so many cars go in one direction, follow them. You may not be able to see road markings (here in US we sometimes have 3 lanes - slowest, slower, fastest) with lines on road, you may not be able to see that due to snow. We also learnt how to use defrost mode on our cars”.

This year, we thought we’d drive to Lake Placid during Christmas and we happened to talk to our friend , that its a 5 hours drive, the snowstorm is predicted and we can’t rely solely on the defrost mode. So he said, “Oh its easy, get a De-icer from Walmart or Amazon”.

A De-icer? What is that! So we went to Walmart and got this Spray called De-icer. And it was easier than last time.

And here are my few tips for Amateurs who are terrified like us but still have the heart to try it, because locals do drive in the winters so why can’t we:

1. Always check weather.com or any weather app for temperatures and alerts. Specially in US, where weather changes can be sporadic. Here in NY, one day it can be 8 degrees, another day -14. You get the point.

The temperatures in Lake Placid, NY (5 hours from New York)!

2. If the temperatures are low outside, put your heater on in the car. You wouldn’t want to shiver inside, do you?

Drive slow.

3. If its snowy please drive slow. Also yield to speed limits.  Fog do sometimes form in areas where they have waterbodies, so if its foggy, please do drive slow. If you can’t see anything, drive on the side and stop on the side parking area until you see it better.

The Snow Clearing Machine (in this kind of road you cannot make out road markings)

And parkings.

4. If you have driven in the snow, you’d know that ice can accumulate on your windshield and window panes and merely removing it by wiper does not work.

                                    Can you clean this with just a wiper, hell no! You'll create a slush.

5. To remove ice or snow out of window panes and windshield, get a plastic scrapper / brush. Most often you get it with the rental cars during winters. Remove extra snow from the pane, then either use defrost mode from inside or use de-icer direct on the pane and then run a windshield wiper. De-icer worked best for us, because it made the windshield clear for the longest time even though it was snowing all the time.

6. In places where they have hills or places of scenic importance, here in US they also have vista points or areas where you can park and view scenary. If there is heavy snow accumulated on such parking lots and you don’t see a sign of any tyres on that lot and you feel that the parking lot is a little down (i.e not on the same straight angle as road), do not be adventurous. We saw a car getting stuck and we felt sorry for them. Getting a car out can be a pain. You may have to call assistance in that case..

7. Drive slowly and drive behind other cars when you see cars in front of you. Because their tires might have cleared the snow making some sort of a clear track for you.

All lights on :)

8. We even drove when we saw no soul ahead of us. Its safe as long as its slow. Winters can also mean fewer people on road sometimes and even fewer cars at some stretches.

Let empty roads not terrify you :)

9. Do not make sharp turns, cuts etc. The place where we wobbled was, when I saw a vista point and I liked it and my hubby saw that and he turned and tried to stop but the car wouldn’t, it was skidding, the whole “out of control” feeling that we talked about. Because brakes don’t work as efficiently it works a little late sometimes specially in snow, and you gotta keep that margin in mind. Something that one of our friend also talked about to us was when he was driving and experienced the same thing that the car would take longer to stop and he had a truck in front of him. So keep enough space and margin and drive slow.

Make careful turns or stops

10. Make sure you have enough fuel. Because when defrosts run and your wiper runs and its cold, the fuel eats it up. So refuel your car in between. You wouldn’t want to get stuck in a place like that!

                                Look out for gas station when the fuel is half.

11. If you don’t want to drive, don’t. Take a bus or a train to that destination. Lake Placid fortunately had free shuttles so even if we would have had just arrived by bus or train, we would have still managed.

12. Don’t go by time on google maps on such days. 5 hours can be 8 hours or 2 hours can be 4-6 hours etc.

13. Take your food during the duration with you. Sometimes when its heavily snowed out, shops or restaurants may be closed. You can either pick it up from Service stations or fuel stations, but we prefer to keep some food with us.

14. Take cold medicines if you are prone to falling sick. I don’t keep much but headache medicines are advised. Getting out in cold temperatures can cause headache. Someone even suggested ginger, I really don’t know! Also keep your warm clothes, warm gloves and warm cap with you.

15. Take a good car specially an SUV for the snow drive. We saw smaller cars on road (they may be locals) but you may not want to take that risk. There was never that we had to chain our car probably because the drive wasn’t difficult - we didn’t face very steep mountains or extreme terrains or massive snow pile up.

If you are not experienced or if you don't own big cars, please do not drive on the road thats not clear.
Here car A (on the left) was literally racing on a not so clear road, though I wouldn't recommend that for a newcomer. Please follow cars on clear roads. Cars might otherwise skid or wobble.

16. Please take insurance and GPS because Google Maps may not work everywhere and snow can be a little dicey so insurance is highly recommended. 

17. And last but not the least, prefer driving during daylight hours. Start early and try to finish before it gets dark. During winters, the sunrises (7ish) are late and the sunsets(4:30ish) are early. You can start before sunrise(5:30ish or 6ish) when it just starts to get brighter and finish it before dark.  You may have to be a little more careful with Night Driving specially on snow and we have never explored that lethal combination yet :P but I assume it may be okay in highways and plain areas where there are sufficient light , if you have done so, please share your story.

These tips are based out of our own personal experience. I don’t drive a car here in US yet to get my driving license, ,my hubby does and I travel with him for the most part and these are the things that I saw. I hope that’s helpful to you and you enjoy your drive in places you wouldn’t go otherwise. I found this video also to be very helpful.

How to Remove Snow from Your Car - YouTube

Trust me, driving in winters is beautiful specially with snow on trees and snow laced mountains, you’d love it as long as you are not in hurry and you are careful enough to drive :)

And if you think you still aren't comfortable, stay in the cosy comfort of your home and start the next day :)
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Melbourne garbs one of the most unique cultures around the world, as an unpretentious and welcoming city, with a rich history and an emphasis on multiculturalism. This way of living allows the city and its guests to celebrate a huge variety of sporting and cultural events. There’s always something happening in Melbourne, even if you seek something a little more low-key. Here are a few tips to live like the locals do and must see experiences to make the most of your time in Melbourne.

- Getting around Melbourne
Melbourne has a distinctive public transport system. I wouldn’t recommend trying to drive through the city if you aren’t from the area, as the trams make it rather difficult to understand road direction. If you plan on travelling in and out of the city quite a bit or if you’re heading into regional Melbourne, be sure to pick up a Myki to get around, with an average fare costing $6 a trip. There are however free trams around the CBD, check out the zones to plan your trip in advance!

- Staying in Melbourne
Where you stay depends on what sort of experience you’re after. If you’re going to spend a lot of time in the CBD, despite the price, it is worthwhile staying here as you’re a stone’s throw away from the whole hubbub, and you can take advantage of the free trams. Book a hotel or check out any AirBnBs. If you plan on a more relaxed holiday but still want a taste of the action, stay in St Kilda or the South Yarra region. You’ll get to experience the pristine Port Phillip Bay and can still join in on the action. If you’re planning on a one day trip to Melbourne in your holiday, take advantage of the breathtaking Mornington Peninsular on a beachfront campsite.

                                                                    St. Kilda Beach

- Partying in Melbourne
Unlike Sydney or many other cities in NSW, Melbourne has NO lock-out. So you can dance all night no matter how old you are! Start your night with a delicious meal along the bustling Bridge Road and delve into a variety of cuisines. Then catch the tram to one of Melbourne’s famous rooftop bars… Naked in the Sky is one of my favourites. Then, if you’re prepared to experience the full Melbourne nightlife experience, it’s time to hit the dancefloor and relish in the music genre, Melbourne Bounce. Hit the nightclub and dance all night, no recommendations, as anywhere and everywhere is always a good time.

                                                     Melbourne City Scape at Night

- Getting artsy in Melbourne
One of the more engrained aspects of being a Melbourne local is found within the artistic institutions around the city. From theatres to museums, international and local talent, Melbourne quite literally has you covered if your heart seeks the art. Check out the famous Melbourne Comedy Theatre or the ACCI for an entertaining night, or meander the galleries, notably the ACCA or the NGV. If you have the kids with you, see a musical or enjoy a wholesome family day out at the Melbourne Museum or make the trek to Sovereign Hill and be transported to 1850’s the Gold Rush.

                                                        Flinders Street Station

- Take some time out
Melbourne has such a unique character. It’s a convergence of trendy contemporaries and an historic metropolis which you cannot appreciate unless you sit still and watch. The clichés are true as you stroll through the streets of the CBD - the laneway art, the coffee shops, everyone’s wearing black... And there’s more to Melbourne than being trendy. It is well worth while to take a look through its buildings and relish in the architecture and stories told of these heritage sites. Notable places to check out include Flinders Street Station, The Royal Exhibition Building and the MPavilion.

                                                          Melbourne Street Art: Hosier Lane

- Cheer like a Melburnian
Aussie Rules in Melbourne isn’t a hobby, it’s an obsession. The grand final is even a public holiday for the state! If you want to experience the spirit, enthusiasm and unity of a team’s colours, this is a truly unique experience genuinely worthwhile in Melbourne. Just be sure to pick the right team

- Treat Yourself
Melbourne’s surrounding districts are teeming with natural mineral springs and ancient geothermal pools. The water flows from underground, collecting minerals to energise and cleanse spa-goers. Venture to the natural Peninsular Hot Springs, or the Hepburn Bathhouse and Spa, about 1-2 hours from the city. But you don’t have to travel too far to revel in this blissful experience. Onsen Ma, is a Japanese style bath house located in the CBD.

Peninsular Hot Springs

About the author

Alex is a 23 year old lover of life, brunch & adventure. After moving to Sydney when finishing a journalism degree, he began his blog Inspire A Better Life to positively influence others to get out there and see all life has to offer. Join Alex as he discovers this life one day at a time, documenting his thoughts and other along the way!
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“Both Pasta and Ice-cream was invented in China, “ says Alicia, the food blogger with Free Tours By Foot NYC whereas Pasta ( a descendant of Asian Noodles) was bought to Italy from China by Marco Polo during the 13th century. Ice-cream whereas was invented some 2000 years ago and used to be a non-diary product similar to our current day Sorbet and was frozen on huge blocks of ice because at that time there was no refrigerator. 

Dumpling with a broth inside it! at Shanghai Dim Sum

Chinatown in New York is the largest Chinatown in USA - there are about 110,000 - 150,000 Chinese who live here. But it is not the only Chinatown in New York - we have another one in Queens where they have about 40,000 Chinese; we have one in Brooklyn where have about 30,000 Chinese and even few blocks of Spanish Harlem is turning into a little Chinatown.

For those, who are new to New York or haven’t been ever here, New York is foodies paradise - we have Chinatown , Korea Town , Japan Town and other food outlets , food tours and food festivals that makes New York such a melting pot for variety of cuisines from around the world.

The Columbus Park of Chinatown

This neighborhood was originally called the five points neighborhood which is also shown in the movie “Gangs of New York”. It was a very dangerous neighborhood to live in and there were poor Irish, poor Italians, poor Germans etc who lived there. They considered this neighborhood to be a stepping stone neighborhood where people from different countries would live here long enough to make some money and get out of the neighborhood. So when you look around Chinatown you would see many cultural neighborhoods around. For example, Little Italy is close because that's where poor Italians lived. In 1897, the neighborhood was tore down because it was a dangerous neighborhood and they felt the easiest way to deal with that problem was to create a park.

When you walk in this park, you feel a sense of close knit community there. You would see Old-Chinese dudes gambling or you can listen to some Chinese Music players playing in the park.

I love walking around the streets in Chinatown.. There are many K-beauty shops also here!

What bought Chinese to New York

In 1850’s we had very small Chinatown originally. In 1900, only about 7000 people lived in Chinatown and the number stayed pretty low until 1970’s when the California Gold Rush happened. If you read my post on San Francisco, I have mentioned that San Francisco was once wilderness until California Gold Rush happened. So many Chinese then came from China for the gold rush. The Chinese thought they could strike very big in the Gold Rush. The truth was money was mainly made by people who lived in the mining towns.

And so, the Chinese had no choice.

“You give up your whole life trying to get to California and you are not finding any Gold, so you can’t go home even if you wanted to. That time it costed about $25 to get back home which is in today’s currency $5000 which for many was their entire life savings.” And so they were forced to work to make money. All of a sudden there was about 10,000 people entering the workforce . People who were living here wanted to move out to better neighborhoods when they earn enough, because there was a whole new set of people willing to take their place at a lesser cost. The Chinese decided to move to East Coast because they did not wanted to be discriminated and they felt the Americans wouldn’t feel threatened here.

How did food come to Chinatown?

So you had all these men coming to work and that created a Bachelors society in New York where you had to create a surrogate family and one way to do that was to go out and eat.. So, these inexpensive restaurants started popping up where the Chinese would go for meal and sit down with someone from China and create a sense of Community. Those restaurants still exists in the form of Dumpling Shops.

Have you ever tried Bubble Tea or Boba Tea?

Bubble tea was a gimmick or a happy accident that was created in the 1980’s by a women in Taiwan. She owned a tea shop and wanted people to get excited about drinking tea again. So to do this, she thought - she has been to Japan and have seen people using milk in tea and that could get people excited. To make it more exciting, she had tapioca pearls (the stuff with which you make tapioca pudding with), she dumped them into the milk tea and that's how Bubble tea was born.

Mango Bubble Tea at TenRen's Tea Time

How was Dumplings invented?

Dumplings were invented about 1800 years ago as a form of medicine. Parts of China was going through a really hard winter one year and as a way to cure people from sickness who were crossing those areas - people picked up dough and filled it with herbs and spices and three of these dumplings with a bit of broth was served to them. This helped people cope up with the winters.

This also helped Chinese immigrants cope up with the winters of New York as they are really inexpensive, handy, compact and had a lot of energy. They also say during New Year if you have dumplings at 11 pm, you will have prosperity for the entire New York..

Today’s Dumplings do not have healing herbs and spices but ground pork or veggies. We tried dumplings at Tasty Dumplings. They are from Beijing.

- Dumplings (5 for $1.25)

Dumplings at Tasty Dumplings

The Soup Dumplings - Broth inside the Dumplings!

So, this had to be only made with Pork. Pork because it helps to solidify the broth a little bit as it has gelatin in it and then it is put in the flour wrapper and made! So how do you eat them - by making a whole with your teeth on any side and sucking the liquid in.. The liquid is very tasty.. :)

Whats in the name?

99% of the time, the name of the restaurant has the name of the place from China. For example, we had dumplings in Tasty Dumpling. ‘Tasty’ then translated in Mandarin is similar to an area in Beijing.

Why was Chinese immigration stalled and then reopened?

During the phase where there was California Gold Rush and lot of Chinese arrived and started working here, a lot of Americans would think that Chinese would take their job. And so California actually made a law for anyone of Chinese descent entering California. That did not happen until 1882, when the president of US passed a law targeting laborers that stated unless you are dignitary, missionary or a merchant you cannot stay here. You could leave but you wouldn’t be allowed here. So a lot of Chinese stayed. They had more rules on they cannot become US citizen, they cannot use services such as police etc, and so they had to create their own police force and with changes, Chinatown became an inartistic community because they had to provide a lot of these services to themselves.

During the involvement of US in world war 2, it realized that if it has to beat Japan, they have to be humble enough to the Chinese that they have made a mistake. And so the doors for immigration were opened for 104 Chinese every year. There were more than that numbers already coming as Dignitaries and Merchants. So the boat would come in every 1st of the month and there was this race to get in in that boat. Because once the quota was full that was it. In 1940’s, US experienced inflow of Chinese refugees. In 1949, China became a communist country and US had a very complicated relationship with Communism. It was not until the civil rights movement, the immigration opened up once again in 1960’s and people from China, Middle East and Dominic Republic started pouring in!

Originally it was Cantonese food for the most part and then came Shanghai, Hunan, Schezwan etc. Today it is a melting pot of Chinese Food here with food from different regions of China.

Someone recently was telling me this

“We are experiencing this yet again - the discrimination against immigrants which used to be once”

Best Roasted Pork Bun in Chinatown

These tender and juice fluffy pork buns are to die for! Bursting with flavor and made out of seemingly fresh ingredients this is something not to be missed. For vegetarians we have Lotus Seed Steamed Bun and Cocktain Bun. In fact the variety at this place is huge!

Roasted Pork Bun or Lotus Seed Bun at Mei Lai Wah

Best Ice Cream in Chinatown

It has become a latest fad to catch up on the rolled ice cream that you get in many places in NYC. What they do there is they take liquid ice-cream and put it on a cold platter and roll it. You can find the list of Rolled ice cream here, 10 below is in Chinatown

The Original Chinatown Ice cream factory serves great ice-cream (not the rolled one though) but they come in many flavors such as Mango, Ginger, Egg Cream, Black Sesame, Durian etc)

That’s it about Chinatown. All in all, the places that I have been too was really inexpensive and I loved it!

Love food and in NYC: Check my posts on New York
Traveling to US? Check my posts on USA
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