Category Archives: Travel

Promise at 9

When I was told the story of the amazing speech by Swami Vivekananda at Chicago Conference of 1893, I had wanted to visit that hall, feel that moment. I have heard that speech but the wish to visit the hall was buried somewhere deep in my heart. Finally it was time to fulfil that wish. I went to The Art Institute of Chicago. Its a huge museum. I was unable to control my excitement. While booking ticket at the reception, I mentioned the Chicago Conference of 1893. The person at the counter realized my excitement and immediately mentioned Swami Vivekananda. He gave me directions to the hall. It is called the Fullerton hall. The hall was at the opposite end of the museum from the entrance I was at. I walked quickly at the other end. A huge image of Swami Vivekananda is placed there along with the immortal address of ‘Sisters and brothers of America’. One can enter the hall if it is not booked. I requested the museum person to let me enter the hall, as it was not booked that day. She accompanied me inside the hall. Once I entered, I was the 9 year old girl. My heart was beating so fast, I could imagine the sound of the applause in that hall. The museum person understood my condition, smiled and suggested I can walk the steps till the stage.

The Hall

The drive named after Swami Vivekananda

The museum has many beautiful artifacts from different parts of the world. Everyone in the museum knew about that conference. When I came out of the entrance near the hall, the street is named after Swami Vivekananda. It felt so great to see Swamiji has the same admiration here as in India. When we are kids, the heart makes certain wishes, which may not be fulfilled at that time. As we grow up, those wishes get buried somewhere underneath the daily grind. I just came to know, one of the ways to revive the child within is to fulfil those wishes. When one does that, one feels the happiness filled with innocence that the heart of child has. Let us look back into our childhood, find those wishes, fulfill them and revive the child within ourselves.

Chicago Traveler

Buckingham Fountain

There are certain stories which are so motivating that they become promises. The story of Swami Vivekananda addressing the Chicago religious conference of 1893 holds a special position in my heart. I was 9 or 10 years old, going through a stage fright when mother told me this story. That was the first lesson in public speaking. I was so inspired that I made a promise to myself, I would visit that stage one day. Years passed, I completed my education and started working. There were many times I passed through Chicago, once my flight got cancelled and I spent a night in Chicago. I began to wonder why I always have long stop overs in Chicago. It took me a while to realize, it was the promise of that 9 year old me.

Downtown

Garden

Finally last Friday, I visited Chicago. That auditorium is part of The Art Institute of Chicago. By the time I checked in to the Hotel, it was almost time for the Museum to close, so I wandered around. The downtown presents an amazing combination of History as well as modernization. The heat of the summer is cooled by the Buckingham Fountain. It is surrounded by sprawling gardens. One can easily spend hours roaming around it. There are ice cream and juice shops nearby to sit and talk. But I started walking towards the cloud gate. Although it was Friday, the streets were crowded with tourists. I passed through the Art Institute which was about to close. The Cloud Gate was another beautiful sight, everyone wanted to see their reflection. It is very entertaining to see people coming up with unique poses for their photos. A walk in Gardens, Cloud Gate and Buckingham Fountain. That was my first day as Chicago traveler.

Cloud Gate

The Strange Wish

It has started getting cold. People say, there is not much activity to do outdoors once the winter sets in. Last year I decided to explore the city of Pittsburgh in winters. Here is my first discovery. My hometown Baroda(Vadodara) was a princely state in past. So horse carriages are not rare but I never got an opportunity to ride one. I always wondered how would it seem to roam around the downtown in a Horse Carriage with all the modern vehicles around. They say sometimes even strange wishes come true. Last year I saw a long queue at Market Square in Pittsburgh. There were families with small kids who were waiting with bated breath. It was for the Horse Carriage ride. My curiosity made me join the queue. Within few minutes the Carriage came into view. It was a beautiful sight. The lovely carriage and the well decorated horse.

Babe and the Carriage

I was quite behind in the queue. The carriage soon got filled. I was just wondering my chance would come after two or three rounds of the carriage when someone shouted “Has anyone come in a group of 2, there are 2 seats left”. Advantages of being a solo traveler, I raised my hand and was able to board the carriage well ahead of my chance. Once we boarded, we were introduced to the horse whose name was ‘Babe’. We went around the downtown with all the modern cars and buildings around us. The reality was far more exciting than what I had wondered. All through the ride, we were entertained by stories of the Horse by the carriage driver who called himself a knight. We were waved by kids who passed by us. Another enthralling sight was to see our reflection in the glass walls of downtown. All in all it was an experience one should definitely have in life.

Once in a while strange wishes come to our minds and we shove them aside. When they come true, precious memories are created which makes our lives beautiful. This year when winter comes, don’t just sit at home but venture out, you never know which strange wish would come true.

Heart winning Event

This years shopping

There are so many questions in mind when one is moving to a new city. ‘Will I be able to adjust here?’, ‘Will the city accept me?’, etc., are just a few of them. These questions make a person nervous, which was my condition when I moved to Pittsburgh. Three weeks after I came here, a book fair was organized by Half Price books at a nearby hall. The streets were lined by small boards mentioning the sale. The moment I saw the boards, I felt so glad. The sight of a book fair always fills my heart with joy. It reminded me of the bookstalls at my hometown and cleared all the uncertainty and nervousness immediately.

The fair also consists of records and dvds in addition to books. The hall was extremely crowded when I entered. My excitement was boundless at the sight of rows and rows of books. There were books on fiction, cooking, photography, science, self help, etc. The collection had classics like works of R.L Stevenson, Jane Austen as well as new age authors like Danielle Steele. I discovered so many new authors here. It felt so nice to see so many people who enjoy reading. People had their shopping carts full of books. You can speak to any person and get knowledge on authors. People had come with their toddlers. The excitement of the children at the site of books was marvelous. I was moved to see parents encourage their kids for reading even in this age of gadgets. This event connected me to the city in such a way that I never felt I was new here. It just became my heart winning event.

This fair happens only once a year and I make it a point to attend it. These days people have to move to new places for job. When that happens, one should not crib about missing the old place but look out for events in the new place. These are the windows to the culture of the city. They are an opportunity to relate to the city. In fact they give us a chance to find new things about ourselves. So the next you face a transfer, remember to check the events that take place in the new city. You never know, the city you are going to may just be the one, most suitable to you.

A cluster of Museums

Its not often we come across places with historical significance. Today was a beautiful day. A nice breeze blew which urged everyone to move out of their homes. It was an opportunity to explore parks. While looking for a park, I discovered the Frick Art and Historical Center. It is a cluster of museums spread over 6 acres. One feels like travelling through time as the neighborhood around it has an old world charm. A warm smile greeted me as soon as I entered.

The paintings of Madonna and Christ in the Art gallery filled my heart and mind with positivity. There is a beautiful lane through the garden to The Car and Carriage museum.

One is immediately transported to the era of black and white movies. The carriages remind you of aristocracy. Each vintage car has unique identity making it an owner’s pride.

What really amazed me was that there were cars that were used to spread awareness about voting rights for women. It reminds us of the struggles that women went through to get the voting rights. They also showed how the evolution of Cars brought changes in women’s fashion. I next passed through the playhouse where soothing music was being played.

The greenhouse has an amazing collection of flowers and plants. There is also a Café, library and gift center. I did not have a ticket for the Mansion so that left me with a reason to visit again. A colorful garden surrounds all the buildings. Helen Clay Frick (1888—1984) was the driving force to preserve the Frick estate and allow it to open to the public after her death. One can feel her presence everywhere through the exhibits displayed around the area.

An exploration is successful when it leaves one with a purified heart and an enhanced mind. It also helped me do my daily walk as the garden was simply mesmerizing. So the next time, its a beautiful day and you feel like an explorer, make sure Frick Art and Historical Center is on your list.

Bridge of feelings

There are very few rare places in the world which signify commitment towards relationships. One such place is the Schenley bridge in Pittsburgh. The yellow bridge is filled with colorful locks on both sides. Its a beautiful sight. These are love locks put up by couples. There is lush greenery around the bridge. While walking over the bridge, one is reminded of those hundreds of couples who put up the locks as a mark of their commitment. Seems like it is a bridge connecting their feelings which would stay forever. This is a complete contrast to all the noise around broken relationships. As I looked on, the bridge seemed to be saying, no matter how bad the times are and how far the people are, true feelings would always remain immortal. This filled my heart with an amazing sense of positivity. A poet would have captured those words in a poem. I was able to capture the bridge in my cellphone camera.

The next time you are in Pittsburgh or when you are feeling low, just take a walk over Schenley bridge. It would fill your heart with optimism.

The Ultimate reason

They say a motivated person can meet any challenge. Also when you are focused on something, circumstances will complicate. This turned out to be absolutely true for me this weekend. I had qualified for the Toastmasters division contest for motivational speaking which was scheduled on 18th March 2017. The only problem was that the venue was 80 miles from my home. I had always had someone guide me while driving whenever I went for long drives. But this time, there was no one. If it were something else I would have cancelled, but it was public speaking my passion. Hence my only friend was google maps. A day before, it snowed heavily. Below is the status of the road.

A day before

My mother suggested me to go ahead and trust Almighty. I kept practicing my speech but all the while the drive was a big tension. A day before leaving I requested my manager to be available on phone incase I get lost. He replied, I would be able to make this drive if I have driven atleast 10 miles alone. This was very encouraging. Also everyone in my Monroeville Toastmasters club motivated me. My friends Ravi and Saritha also supported me. So on 18th morning at 7:00 am, I set out with google maps indicating the direction. After driving for 2 miles, the map holder slipped. I had to park at a nearby mall and fix it. Then I started driving. The snow on the road had been cleared but it was raining. At some places, the fog was so dense that one could barely see few steps ahead. Luckily there was less traffic and often it seemed, I was the only person on the road. At times I wished there was someone to take pictures of the road. There were postcard views with clouds shadowing the trees. I made it to the venue before time. I gave my speech at the International speech contest for Division C. Once I heard the speeches, it was worth the drive. Once done, I drove back home again 80 miles. This time there were many cars on the road. Although I could not make it to top 3 speeches, this trip will still be memorable to me as it was the first time when I drove all on my own. Challenges are difficult but all you need is the Ultimate reason to meet it. For me it was public speaking. I thank, Monroeville Toastmasters Club, my mother and to everyone who supported me. Without you all I would not have made this trip.

Cruising through City

One day while returning from grocery store, me and my friends decided to explore Pittsburgh downtown. We checked various options and finally decided on the Gateway Clipper Fleet ride. Its a cruise ride which covers the entire downtown. We had booked the 7:30 pm ride but got stuck in the traffic and were late by few minutes. So we went for the 8:30 pm ride. We spent the next 40 minutes exploring station square.

Boarding the Cruise

Boarding the Cruise

At 8:30 pm we boarded our cruise. It was a marvelous cruise. We sat at the open deck. The guide gave us details about various landmarks of the city.

Approaching a Bridge

Approaching a Bridge

It was only on this ride we realized the city has so many bridges, each having its own story. It was twilight when we started but it grew dark in a few minutes. With darkness, the lights of each landmark came up.

Night view of Pittsburgh

Night view of Pittsburgh

Night view

Night view

Distant view of Mount Washington

Distant view of Mount Washington

We were mesmerized by the night view of the city. On the way the Point State Park fountain looked amazing with lights all around it. The shining fountain water and the darkness just seemed to complement each other. The rivers continued to flow in their simple rhythm in spite of this change of time.

Point State Park Fountain at night

Point State Park Fountain at night

We also came to know about the history of the Duquesne Incline. It was 9:30 pm when we got down from the cruise.

They say whatever happens, happens for good. We were upset on missing the 7:30 pm ride but had we not missed it, we would not have seen the Magnificient night view of the city. So the next time you miss a schedule on a tour, don’t be disheartened, remember there might be something better in store for you.

Remembering the Forests

A Fairy tale entrance

A Fairy tale entrance

I came across an interesting site(http://www.visitpittsburgh.com/events-festivals/pgh200/events/) while browsing through the internet. I realized 2016 is an important year for Pittsburgh as its the 200th year of the city. One of the events on this occasion was the Butterfly Forest at the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. It seemed so unique that I called up my friends and we planned to go there next Sunday. It was a hot day, still we managed to start by 11:30 am. As it was a Sunday, traffic was comparatively less.

We reached within 40 minutes. As soon as we entered we were mesmerized by the decoration of flowers and trees in different sections of the Gardens. The royal gardens made us feel regal, the tropical gardens made us sweat, the sunken garden soothed us with its fountains and hanging flowers, the Japanese courtyard garden filled us with awe by its beautiful bonsai, the desert garden reminded us of the harshness of life with its cactus and the list goes on. I had never seen so many colors in my life. We were enchanted by the flowers in the Orchid gardens. Each flower was unique but its beauty became even more prominent when it was placed with all other elements of the garden, namely the leaves, branches and trees.
image

Harshness of Life

Harshness of Life

A Chair of flowers

A Chair of flowers

Beautiful Mediterranean garden

Beautiful Mediterranean garden

As if this was not enough, we came across the Butterfly Forest. As soon as we entered, I felt as if I was in some magic land. There were so many butterflies. Each had its unique identity. One of them even opened its wings while I was taking pictures. We had to keep looking on all sides as every time a differently patterned butterfly rose from somewhere or other.

A butterfly posing for my camera

A butterfly posing for my camera

This whole trip just emphasized how important it is to maintain the forest. All this beauty will perish if we do not conserve forests. I was glad we visited the gardens in 2016. We even visited the souvenir shop which had eco friendly things for visitors. So the next time you are in Pittsburgh, make sure you visit the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens.

Lamp in the middle of garden

Lamp in the middle of garden

The Seven Confusion

digit7

Recently I came accross the number seven for a number of things. This reminded of an incident. I was travelling from Baroda to Mumbai in Shatabdi. I still remember my seat number was C1,40. My ticket was checked and approved a few minutes after I boarded the train. The train stops for 10 minutes in Surat which comes two hours after baroda. The snacks at Surat station are so popular that everyone gets down at the station. As surat came everyone sitting around me got down to serve their tastebuds. I returned to the seat quickly and was sitting almost alone in the bogie. At that time a mother-daughter pair came and started looking for their seat. I was a little confused at this action as the bogie (railway carriage) was full when I had boarded and everyone’s ticket was also checked. Suddently the daughter came upto me and said,

daughter: Can you get up from my seat.

I was shocked at this order and replied: I have a confirmed ticket for this seat.

daughter: I just now saw in the sheet outside. My seat has been confirmed from waiting list and its this seat.

Me: Well yours was waiting list, mine has been a confirmed one since the last 2 months.

daughter: Check your ticket, I have just verified from the list outside.

This annoyed me and I replied, “My ticket has been checked and approved by the TTE an hour ago”.

This argument continued for sometime where both of us didn’t move from our grounds. Ultimately the girl decided to verify again from outside. She asked her mother to sit on the neighboring seat. The guy on that seat had a confirmed ticket which too was verified by the TTE(Ticket Examiner).

After few minutes the guy returned and the same argument occured between the mother and the guy. Finally the TTE was called who checked the list and replied,

“I checked all the tickets here. Your seat is in C7 not C1”.

To which the girl replied “Oh is it seven? I thought it was one”. At this, the entire bogie started smilling.

The whole confusion occured because the girl had read seven as one. I don’t know about the girl but whenever I get anything with digit 7 or 1, I always doublecheck the digit. People try to avoid the seven star but I try to avoid the seven confusion.