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US Trip Day 10 & 11 New Year Celebration!

We wrapped up our activities and day 10 and started getting prepared to the best New Year celebration of our lives. The Strip is closed for automobile traffic and only human traffic (sic) is allowed! As the midnight approaches, it becomes crazier and night slowly becomes raucous with alcohol in the blood stream of the crowd slowly rising. Chinese-made plastic caps, devil’s horns, hats sell for several times their value, convenience stores alcohol sales is rising. Strangers hugging strangers, even slightly unsavoury  acts with strangers also happening, pretty girls looking sloshed, the guys on the top of their voices… it is a crazy experience!

As the countdown to the new year begans,identical fireworks show comes up simultaneously in three places on the strip and no matter where you are standing, you are able to watch it well.

It was the best New Year Celebration ever!

It became a mess when people starting going out of the Strip after the events. Buses were plying for free and it the festivities continued right into the bus ride. Incidentally, Mr. Murphy had to get into the bus and our bus got out of service on the way. We hailed a cab back to the room. We had an early morning flight back home and with the excitement we could not sleep. We slept blissfully as the flight crossed the Pacific!

One helluva trip!

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US Trip – Day 9 & 10 : Just before the New Year Eve in Vegas

As the New Year Eve approached, the Strip hotels delivered the bad news – non-availability! We ‘unstripped’ ourselves and dragged our bags to the old charm – downtown Vegas! We checked-in to The Plaza. Okay, it was not the greatest hotel in Vegas but it had seen its heydays. They had refurbished the whole place and it was a pretty choice – who was going to be in the Hotel anyways!

Must try : Buffet Breakfast at MGM. For just under $20, I have seen the finest collection of items. Vegetarians have a whole row for themselves.

Once we left the strip and wandered into downtown, the dirty underbelly of gambling  –  the pawn brokers, legal services, bail-providers – was visible & vulgarly advertising their services with neon lights as if they were the new entertainers on the block. It is very interesting to contrast the downtown hotels – still using the incandescent bulbs to decorate the hotel contrasting the flash LED and plasma displays on the strip. It had its own charm. Walking down the Fremont street, reminded you of the 70s-80s Hollywood movies depicting casinos. There were several shows, strip bars, restaurants, convenience stores along the Fremont street. I highly recommend you visit the Fremont street for complete Vegas experience. We hopped onto the bus and got to the strip.

We attended the Mac King comedy magic show which was a light and entertaining. Then headed off to the Blue Brothers show.. which was er.. interesting. It was different and kind of whacky. The last (paid) show we saw was La Reve – The Dream – it was simply fantastic! Words cannot describe the experience – it will blow you away! On a lighter note, we should not have seen the show as it has set such an expectation in our minds, I wonder if we can see something better than that. It is based on a dream of a girl who is confused about love. DONOT MISS IT!

The other shows (free for public) we saw were

  1. The Sirens at Treasure Island
  2. Ballagio’s Fountain
  3. Volcanos at Mirage

Not-to-miss visits

  1. Caeser’s Palace
  2. Eiffel Tower
  3. Fremont Street
  4. The Venetian
  5. Treasure Island
  6. Mirage

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US Trip – Day 8 : Getting to Las Vegas

Each day started off with an American Culinary experience. We started from LA and stopped at IHOP Ontario. I just wonder how average Americans can finish off a ‘portion’. We ended up sharing a portion among two all the time. We had the big pancakes, Yum!, apparently a quintessential IHOP experience. We drove through the desert while I wondered, how on earth would someone gotten an idea of creating a paradise in the desert. Hey, its holiday, I better switch off my wondering part!

We checked in at MGM, changed and quickly rushed to get to the mood called LAS VEGAS! Yes, its not a place, it is not a destination, it is a MOOD! (Caution: The mood can come only in that place called LAS VEGAS). Vegas was all that I had thought off and more! Celebrities, garish parties, loud music, class, limos – it was like a trance!

Thanks to our friends we had planned our itinerary in LV very well. I think we did not miss a single open show and could do three paid shows! If you dont plan well, you could be going all over the place – and then, thats why you go to Vegas right?

We got onto the strip, did Cosmopolitan, Ballagio, Caeser’s that night. My eyes were going crazy awash with all those colour, light and glamour! We called it a day and got back to our Hotel!

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US Trip – Day 7 Universal Studios

We started early and hit the road! We were in LA for 24 hours and still not seen the ‘Hollywood’. We quickly got to the Kodak Theatre and frantically searching for it! And there! The sun shone brightly on her

We had fully loaded Phillipe Crepe at French Crepe for yummy start for the day.

We headed to Universal Studios. {Lesson: Buy your tickets online} The long serpentine queue welcomed us on that nice sunny December morning. We did get over the lament that we had not bought the tickets online but waited on the line nevertheless. It was funny, they had an year’s pass almost at the price of one-day ticket. Wondering if they dont expect people to come back at all? Or, if they do come back how do they make their money?

The first ‘wonder’ was out of question as soon as we entered. If I were in LA, I would come back not once again but many a time. The whole place was a treat for all your senses and if you were a movie buff, you will go crazy. The learning part of the experience is that I know which all movies were made by Universal. They have a nice feed of information at regular intervals placed at all the places you line up waiting for your turn of the attraction.

Some of the best attractions was King Kong 3D, especially when King Kong ‘steps’ on the tram you are in;  the earthquake in a train station was simply awesome. Real educative experiences were the ‘Flood Scene’ where they show how a simple flow of water can recreate a flood scene on camera – juxtaposing the real scene and the camera-shot scene; then the Tokyo Drift ‘drag’ was not a drag at all – Thanks taking off all the adrenaline the next time I watch the movie.

Vegetarian options for lunch were few and the good old pizza came to rescue.

One must-see attraction is the Theatre of Special Effects. The Terminator Show was okay but failed to generate the ‘wow’ experience. Do pick up the mementos on your way out.

We closed the Universal Studio trip by watching Mission Impossible : Ghost Protocol in Universal Cineplex Studio!

That was one heck of a movie day!

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US Trip Day 6 – Reaching Los Angeles

Pismo Lighthouse hotel was supposed to be a convenience stop but we were pleasantly surprised by the experience. The entrance to the hotel was very plain and it was late when we reached. Morning had a surprise in store for us. The oceanview was simply breathtaking. We finished a quick early-morning walk on the beach chasing the beach birds which seemed to be chasing the waves.

We started quickly after the breakfast, we had a 4-5 hour drive ahead to LA. We did stop at a few places on the way to soak into the beauty of the scenery around the highway. The average distance from the ocean was a little more in this stretch. We sped up so that we get a late lunch in LA. For lunch we had the best one can get in LA – Mexican food. The portion sizes were undoubtedly very huge, the cream very rich, the entire food cheesed up a bit! Hell, this is a holiday, why bother! The food was delicious and we dived into it like hungry wolves.

We roamed around in the streets of Hollywood experiencing the neighbourhoods of the rich-and-the-famous. We figured that one doesnt need to search too much for the places of the celebrities, they are all over the place!

We checked-in into the Biltmore Hotel and seeing the hotel, we really thanked our friends for such a planning- getting a stay in Biltmore Hotel during the holiday season!

Biltmore Hotel was where the first Oscar ceremonies were held before the Kodak theatre was built. Some of the famous movies like 'The Sting', 'China Town', 'Ghost Busters', 'The Beverly Hill Cop' and not to mention Hitchcock's 'Vertigo' were shot here.

That evening, we took a taxi ride to the famed Kodak Theatre. Lot of photographs were taken with various stars er… their names.. on the Walk of Fame. That was a fantastic festive atmosphere. We went to a place on the top floor of Kodak theatre and had dinner at (forgot the name) – typical 80s American diner. Another one on our checklist gone.

 

 

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US Trip Day 5 – Scenic Route – California State Highway 1

It took us a few miles off San Francisco to realise that the already lovely trip was just getting better. We began our journey towards Los Angeles on the California State Highway. As we zipped on the Highway #1 South, we came to this tiny little gem called Carmel-by-the-Sea! It is town endowed by such beautiful scenery and white sand beach matched equally by the colorful well-maintained homes. The place is such a balanced palate of colours both by mother nature and by the builders. We knew of its reputation as the place of Clint Eastwood, who is one of the famous people who live there and was also a Mayor of the town. Only later someone told us that if you are in Carmel on Sunday, you could enjoy a great brunch at Clint Eastwood’s Mission Ranch . If you are lucky, Clint Eastwood would casually walk into the restaurant and you could shake hands. It was a sunny Winter day and we had a lovely lunch outdoors in Portabella

Post-lunch we continued our journey down south zipping on the Highway 1. The only few times I was on this highway was during my childhood on some Roadrash-type video game! To see the place in real was a dream-come-true.

We stopped at the famed Bixby Creek Bridge near Bigsur  for photos. We were blessed with bright a day even though it was chilly winter. We stopped again at Piedras Blancas rookery to watch the Elephant Seals.

When you are on Highway#1, you are in no hurry to go anywhere! We decided to halt for the night in Pismo Beach at Pismo Light House Hotel

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US Trip Day 4 – San Francisco Downtown

We did the Piers on day we drove to SFO. There were still lot left to be done in the town and we reserved our third day there to go around the downtown. It was Christmas and the city had sprung to life a little early. We finished our breakfast quickly in the hotel and started our visit of the day with the famed SFO Trams. We first got off at the stop close to Crooked Street. That was BEAUTIFUL! It is interesting why someone would construct a street like that except for the fancy having something unique. I am sure that this thought never crossed anyone – neither the car-drivers who repeatedly came down the crooked street zig-zaging and not nicking their cars nor the bystanders who had climbed up the pavement next to crooked street.

    

The houses nearby were picture-perfect and the view of the piers from the top was breathtaking. We took the tram down to the piers and got off near Ghiradelli. Frankly I had not heard of them before I visited and later read about them. I have known Hershey’s for a long time now but not Giradelli’s. I later learnt that it was the ‘Hershey’ of San Francisco. The complex is nearly a century old but upgraded every now and then. The flagship chocolate store stacks some of the finest chocolates of Ghiradelli. There is a restaurant which has a variety of chocolate products! Hot Chocolate with Biscotti was a killer. Frankly, it was too much of chocolate. 4 days in the US, i started getting a bulging feeling around my tummy and Ghiradelli also took the blame!

We took a bus, after a lot of asking around, to the SFO bridge. We walked over the bridge. The timing was not so conducive  for taking photos. We then returned after a long tiring day! We ate at Amber  – an Indian restaurant in downtown SFO. The food was surprisingly good! We retired for the day! That was the last night in SFO

 

 

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