Thursday, 10 September 2009

A real vacation! Take II - The experience

I'm not quite one for first impressions. Unlike some people I know, I don't think they are most often correct, or at all particularly insightful. However, one can't avoid forming them. My first impression of the new country was, over everything else, of a surprising familiarity.I'd been warned (read scared) by some regarding the troublesome nature of US immigration. Thankfully, I managed to breeze through. The only eyebrow that got raised was when I was asked about my bags at customs and I pointed to my one backpack. The guy was surprised, probably understandably, that that was all I had for a three week trip :). He wasn't the last.
My first look at New York City was from the cab on the way into Manhattan. And I regret not having clicked a couple of photographs of it. As it turned out, I never got another chance. The next few days at New Haven were probably the most laid back I've been allowed to be in a while :). And while I did indulge myself a fair bit being lazy and just plonking on my butt, that isn't all I did :P.The Yale campus, unlike some (probably a lot, but I wouldn't really know) others, is spread out all across the town, more or less. So it's quite natural to turn a corner of mostly ordinary looking houses and being faced with some hall or some other part of the university. I'm not a particularly museum kind of person, unfortunately (with one exception). Otherwise I'd probably have gone into the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.As it turns out, I didn't. But I did manage to walk up to East Rock. And tag along for an attempted meteor shower viewing :). It went well, I thought, with the moon as bright as it was and the lights. I saw almost a half dozen, and at least one of those was about the brightest one I've ever seen!! All those nights staring up from the Trident's helideck notwithstanding :).The second and proper foray into New York City was pretty heavy on the sight-seeing :). Times Square at night, breakfast at Tom's Restaurant, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, Battery Park and sunset over Ellis and Liberty Islands, and Brooklyn Bridge at night more or less covers all the major bases I think. And of course a look in and around Central park and down Museum Mile.An attempted meeting up with a few friends got somewhat affected by sleep (not on my part). As did the planned participation in the New York Half Marathon (this time on my part) :|. No, unlike Bolli, I didn't sleep through when I was supposed to run (that of course is another story, and one which others might be better placed to narrate :D), I was merely supposed to be cheering contingent. Who would have thought that would prove to be such a tough task... tsk tsk, yes. But hey! My alarm was otherwise engaged :P. I know, I know, but I really don't have a better excuse :).Thereafter the holiday relocated further south, to Asheville. No, I didn't spell it wrong, and it's neither Nashville nor Knoxville! And I thought New Haven had the small town feel :). My aunt was pretty excited, seeing how she'd been hoping to see me in the US a good four years earlier (when they'd hoped I'd be a good boy and go do further studies :P), or at least two years ago, when I'd finally managed to get the visa after months of 'I just haven't got the time to do it!' :)
Between getting to know my now 6 year old cousin all over again, and realising that babysitting is a completely different ballgame once the 'baby' isn't quite as much a baby any more, it got pretty exciting :). On top of that I spent one of my days looking around America's largest home at Biltmore and went off on a couple of trips. Asheville is nestled between some pretty extraordinary landscape, located as it is with the Blue Ridge Mountains on one side and the Smoky Mountains on the other.Then it was time to head over to the Pacific coast! I don't think I've ever had to deal with three flights for a trip that wasn't at least inter-continental :). But that's what you get for visiting the smaller places. The planes are so small, they actually stow away your 'carry-on' baggage if it's beyond a certain size! Needless to say, my Zoomiverse XL was beyond that certain size :D. I think I got a peek at the Grand Canyon on the flight into Phoenix, but I can't be sure, and surprisingly, I didn't have a cam handy :(.
Now I've seen the Pacific before, from widely varying angles, in the North Pacific while skirting Sakhalin, what barely qualifies as the South Pacific while hiding out from the squalls off New Zealand, and what should probably qualify better as the South Pacific from Sydney's Manly Beach, but it's an altogether different view from the coasts of California. Santa Barbara, or Goleta, rather, offers some really spectacular views. I suppose the backdrop of the mountains being this close adds something to it.I spent the better part of the day I was supposed to look around town just perched on an outcrop above the part of the coast where people go surfing. Unfortunately, there wasn't a whole lot by way of surf :). The next day we rented a car, and took off for Los Angeles :D. Now I really wanted to get the Mustang parked in the lot, but turned out it didn't have a GPS, and neither did we :-<. So I had to settle for the Camry automatic, but one look at the LA traffic, and I wasn't altogether too unhappy with the auto shift :). One of the most exhilarating memories of the whole trip for me, would have to be the drive down the Pacific Cast Highway, CA - 01 :). We stopped often, took in the wild and windy, oh so blue ocean, as we went by Malibu and Santa Monica. I originally didn't have any particular plan for visiting places in the city. But having been issued orders, I started looking, and got rather carried away, I think :P. In the end though, the only thing we missed that gave me any grief was the Petersen Automotive Museum. (Yup, that would be the exception to the museum rule :).) What we did though, was stroll about on Hollywood Boulevard, and on the Santa Monica Pier, along with a lot of driving around in the heart of the city. It was all we had time for, and it was time well spent :). The drive back, with the cities spread out in their twinkling glory as we came over the hills was a nice final touch. And I suppose I could call that the last bit of travelling I did. Barring dinner and a walk around the rather quaint town centre of Santa Barbara. Then it was back to long haul flights. I don't recall the last time I had this hard a time trying to switch back into 'seasoned long distance flyer' mode :-<. But as they say, all good things come to an end. And sometime during that transit in Los Angeles' Bradley International, my vacation was finally over.
Currently: wondering if I should have looked for the corner of First and Amistad in Manhattan :)
Listening to: The Fray - You found me / The Shins - Caring is creepy


Hemamalini said...

hey, this post reminds me, try On the Road by Jack Kerouac , it's a crazy road trip book set in the beat generation!

kray said...

hey! I recognize that name... Kerouac. from a Waifs' song I think. will look out for the book.