Monday, September 16, 2013

Yellowstone with Family

In 2010 we visited Yellowstone National Park with my parents. My dad was staying only for about 3 weeks as he had to get back to work. We had booked our flights for the day after they arrived.

We stayed in the Yellowstone Basin Inn in Montana, just a couple of miles from the north entrance. One morning my parents and me woke up early, and went to grab some coffee at the hotel lobby. We started chatting with this elderly couple, and they told us a lot about their two week road trip. I was sharing our travel plans for the next three months. The lady was very surprised that we brought my parents all the way from California to Yellowstone, and that they had seen so much of the US in a couple of trips. She could feel the excitement in my parent’s voices and said “You are a good daughter, and your parents are very lucky”. It might be true, I am not sure; but one thing I am sure of is – K is a wonderful Son in Law and my parents are the luckiest to have him. He was the one who booked the tickets and planned the trip as soon as  we knew they were coming. The only reason being that when we visited Yellowstone in 2007, I was so mesmerized by the place; I had said that I wanted to come back with my parents and sister. He remembered that, and made sure that my wish was fulfilled. He has planned many wonderful experiences for my parents, the memories of which will last forever. Here’s to many more to come!

Yellowstone always feels out of this world to me. The hot springs, fumaroles, canyonlands, lush open fields, the mountains, and the animals are the perfect setting for a nature enthusiast. Yellowstone is a huge park, and covers Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming. The best way to reach is to fly in to Salt Lake City, and drive from there. It is about a 5 hour drive. You could also fly into Bozeman,MT.

We stayed at the Yellowstone Basin Inn when we visited in 2007, and had loved it. This time we experienced different weather patterns each day during our 5 day stay. From snow, to rain, to sun; each day was different. The first day when we were driving into the park, there were tons of people stopped on the road and that in Yellowstone means an animal spotting. We got down, gathered our binoculars and headed towards the crowd. Down the mountains we could see a mother grizzly playing with 3 of her cubs, and what a sight that was. A perfect way to start our perfect vacation. We went on to see thousands of bisons, more grizzly bears, a black bear, elks, moose, deer, a big horn sheep, all in their natural habitat.

One of the days we drove to the Yellowstone Canyon - beautiful steep canyons, yellow and red in color. That is where Yellowstone gets its name. There are two waterfalls -the Upper and Lower falls and you can hike to the mouth of the falls. We hiked down Tower Falls as well. We also drove to the Hayden Valley and Lamar valley, which with their vast open plains, are perfect for animal spotting. The best time to go is May - July to see the animals. They move higher up in the mountains as temperatures increase later during the year.

You cannot miss the Old faithful when in Yellowstone. It erupts almost every 20 minutes, and shoots over 5000 gallons of boiling water to a height of over hundred feet. There are tons of trails near the Old Faithful, and we had a scary incident on one of them. There was a group of 20+ bisons heading our way. All other hikers stayed put till the bisons crossed the trails. K and my dad just keep walking as though its no big deal. These are huge 1000lbs animals, and have been known to attack humans on trails. I was terrified, and later embarrassed with the way I screamed. Anyways, we laughed about it later.

One of the days,we went to the Norris Geyser Basin. It has many trails with hot springs and mud pots all around. You feel as if you are walking on the surface of the moon. The only signs of life are the thermoacidophiles, that live in extremely acidic, high temperature, sulphur rich environments. They also give the area different shades of colors like blue, green and orange.

The last day we hiked around the Mammoth Springs area. It is a large hill of travertine that has been created over thousands of years. Hot water cools and gets deposited as calcium carbonate on the terrace.

Everyday we would leave at around noon from the hotel, and pick up a picnic lunch at Tumbleweed Bookstore and Cafe. They had great sandwiches and wraps. We would find a nice spot to enjoy our picnic along the way. The nights would be spent playing board games, UNO, cards, and pulling each others legs. Hearing my stories some friends went to Yellowstone after we got back, and had a wonderful time. Plan your trip to Yellowstone, if you have not been there yet!

As we did not have a SLR at that time, the pics are not the best quality. Check some of these online pictures that I liked:
- Yam

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Italy Part 2- Venezia

How I wish we stayed a little longer to take in the splendor of Venice! Two days were just not enough. This historical city built on 118 small islands seems to float on the waters of the lagoon. It is decaying but its charm remains intact. Again, as with other cities in Italy it was very very crowded in July. The main attractions were packed. Not that it took away too much from the experience for me! 

One morning I was so excited I could not sleep. It was 5am, and the husband was fast asleep like most normal people. I took my map and camera and headed out by myself. Venice looked most gorgeous in those couple of hours. There was hardly anyone outside and the sun was just rising. I walked to Rialto bridge and to St Marks square. I took the ferry back to the hotel. I am known to have bad direction sense and the husband was surprised that I made it back in time to catch our train to Rome:)

We stayed at San Polo. It it just a 10 minute walk from the very touristy San Marco area. It was much quieter and we liked that. I suggest getting the Vaporetto ( water taxi) pass. They sell it for a few hours or days as well. It lets you hop on and off, and you will need it as there is no other means of transportation in Venice. We stayed at Palazzetto Madonna. It is a boutique hotel that just opened a couple of months ago. We were a little apprehensive about booking a place that had less than 10 reviews on TripAdvisorHowever, all reviewers raved about the hotel and the pictures on the website were incredible. We just loved the place when we got there. It had all the modern amenities with the tradition touch of a Venetian palace. The hotel staff was incredibly helpful and had great recommendations that helped plan out our day.

We went to Murano one afternoon. The hotel manager called a glass factory that sent a boat to the hotel to pick us up. The glass factories do not let people walk in, so if interested ask your hotel to call them and make a reservation. It was really nice to see how they make the beautiful Murano glass decorations. We got tons of souvenirs from here. It was really nice to walk around Murano as it was less crowded than Venice. We went to a church on the island.

From Murano we headed to a nearby island of Burano. This island is famous for its lacework and brightly colored homes. Our hotel manager suggested that we have lunch in Burano as it has some amazing seafood restaurants. We had lunch at Al Vecio Pipa and it is the best meal we had around Venice. The fish was really fresh and I finished my risotto in 10 minutes flat! 

Venice looks beautiful just before sunset and we walked around a bit. St Marks square was completely lit at night. We had dinner at Ristorante Carpaccio with some friends who happened to be vising Venice at the same time. The food was nice but we did not like the service too much. It was almost closing time and we felt a little rushed. All other restaurants we went to in Italy had impeccable service. 

Another restaurant that deserves a mention is Osteria Del Cason just next to our hotel. The appetizers - Caprese salad and Eggplant Parmesan were delicious. We both had spaghetti pasta - I had it  with seafood and pesto and the husband had it with marinara sauce. It was great!


Osteria del Cason:

Venice is truly a very unique and amazing city, and does deserve a visit. Happy travelling everyone!