Saturday, February 20, 2010

Austin, TX

  • Trip Destination: Austin TX
  • Location: 3 hr drive south of Dallas, or 1 hr drive from San Antonio, TX
  • Time of the year: Feb 2010
  • Season: Spring
    Duration of the trip: 2 days (weekend)
  • Weather of the day: Sunny on day 1, overcast on day 2

I planned on spending the weekend at Austin simply because it was a town I had not visited before. I did not have any specific things to see / do there or have any expectations about the city. But what it turned out to be was a great surprise and a wonderful experience, bring Austin right into the top 20% of my favorite places to live in the US.

Friday, 10 PM

I reached Austin, and checked into hotel Radisson. It was a decent place but I expected it to be fancier. The good part about my room was that it was facing the river, and on the 8th floor. The hotel was also really crowded with a whole bunch of school kids all over the place. The reason, I discovered the next morning. The place charges $15 per day for parking, and $22 for valet (which I thought was nothing short of robbery). Choose the valet if you have a big car, or if you are not comfortable driving your car on a tight spiral up to the 4th floor of the parking lot.

Saturday 8 AM

I woke up to faint sounds of bugles and trumpets coming from somewhere. Feeling too lazy to get up and investigate, I tried my best to guess what it was about. Curiosity and sleep fought to control my senses. Finally, unable to deal with the conflict, I turned the pillow over, pulled the sheets over my head, and went back to sleep.

Saturday 8:30 AM

I finally decided to investigate the sounds, and walked over to the window. The sight outside was stunning! The whole street was packed with people, kids running around! Seemed like the place turned into a carnival overnight!! I turned the TV on and found out that it was a scouts parade. I got dressed, went downstairs, and took pictures.


After a heavy breakfast at TGIF’s, I met the helpful concierge who took me through the different things to see and do in Austin, including getting a haircut (I asked her that). The haircut itself was in this really cool part of the city, down congress avenue, with little shops selling t-shirts, and jewelry, stalls selling lemonade, and small old fashioned restaurants. It was like an old part of town, untouched by time. Awesome place!

Saturday 2 PM.

After a shower, I got into my car and started off towards Lake Travis taking Hwy 2222. The road itself was beautiful, and I took some pictures at certain vista points.



The area around Lake Travis has a lot of things to do like camping, kayaking, etc. I just drove around the area, checked out a dam nearby, and some other places around the area, and returned to my room at about 6 PM.

Saturday, 8 PM

I was keen to checkout the night life in Austin, specifically 6th street. My concierge had given me information on places worth visiting. I also got a lot of useful information from Harry.

After grabbing a quick bite, I went to 6th street, and walked up and down visiting different bars and restaurants. The whole street was abuzz with people and activity. Its just feel so cool just to be there! I visited about 3-4 places on 6th street itself, the prominent one being Pete’s dueling piano bar. This place was great entertainment with the 4 talented musicians belting out some country classics, and also keeping the crowd entertained with their taunting of each other and the people in the crowd. There is so much of liveliness, live bands, food, and a variety of things to do on 6th street that I felt great being there even though I was alone. IF you are here with a group of friends there is no reason to end the night till it is night no more.

At about 11:30, I went over to another place called Cedar street courtyard, where an 80’s cover band called Suede was playing. They totally rocked!! Check out their website.


The whole town was alive and vibrant even at 2 AM when i left that club. Dint feel like returning, but my legs were sore from standing / walking for the last 5 hrs. I came back to the room, famished, ate the sandwich that I got to-go, and hit the bed.

Sunday 9 AM.

Woke up to a cold and overcast Sunday, and decided to run along the river. It was a great trail. I don’t know how far i ran…but it was pretty far. Far enough that I started getting cramps. I kept walking till I landed at Chuy’s restaurant for lunch. Apart from amazing chips and salsa, their cheese rellenos and enchilada combo was spectacular.

I walked back to the hotel, and took a short nap, and woke up just in time for the super bowl. But Chuy’s was still in my mind. So I went back to the same place for dinner during half time (and hence missed all the ads) and ordered the rellenos again, washing it down with the house margarita while watching the saints had their fantastic win at the superbowl.

Recommended places at Austin:

1. Chuys

2. Petes piano bar

3. Cedar Street Courtyard

4. Pretty much all of 6th st.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Austin, TX

Making a trip to Austin, TX on a weekend shortly. Stay tuned for some photos and reviews. In the meantime, here is some information on state parks around the area…

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Antelope Canyon, AZ

Trip Destination: Page, Arizona
Location: At the northern most of Arizona, at the border of Arizona and Utah.
Time of the year: Feb 2009
Season: Spring
Duration of the trip: 2 days (weekend)
Weather of the day: Sunny, warm

Page, Arizona is a place that you would never get to hear about, unless you go looking for it. I had a brief stint in Arizona for a project and I was keen on checking out the natural wonder that it is. The whole landscape in Arizona is a top destination for photography enthusiasts with beautiful deserts, red rocky mountains and jagged peaks outlining the sky. While grand canyon is its most famous destination, there are many other natural wonders to see. One such place is Page.

The best way to get to Page is to fly to Flagstaff, AZ and then drive to Page. It is about 3 hrs from flagstaff. I, however, had to make a 5.5 hr drive from Phoenix. I reached Page at about 10 PM on Friday, and checked in the Days Inn hotel.

6:00 AM
The most prominent landmark in Page is Lake Powell dam that stands on the Colorado river flowing from the north. The whole town is not more that a couple of miles wide. And everything worth seeing is around the vicinity, making it very easy. The bridge over the dam offers a spectacular view of the dam, and the river beneath. Saturday morning, I was up early to catch the sunrise from a vista point from a hill above the lake. It was slightly cloudy around the horizon, so it was not the best sunrise. Nevertheless, I clicked away. I then stopped at a few other vista point where you get a great view of the dam, and the river, before heading back to the hotel.

8:00 AM
I had definite objectives in this trip. I drove 300 miles from Phoenix to Page to see exactly 2 places. The first was the Antelope Canyon. The second was horse shoe bend. And it was worth every mile. My first stop was Horse shoe bend.

8:30 AM, Horse shoe bend.
Horse shoe bend is located very close to Page, about 5 miles away. You would almost miss the sign on the highway if you aren't looking. A short hike (about a mile) from the parking area would lead you to this..!

Simply awesome. The view is breathtaking. Though it doesn't seem like much on the photograph, the vertical cliffs are many hundred meters deep. There are no safety harnesses or secure view point at this location. So you can stand right on the edge of the cliff to get a view. The experience is exhilarating.

10:30 AM
There are more than one tours companies that offer tours to the Antelope canyon. Roger Ekis is the popular one. I promptly went and signed up for it. They are quite easy to locate, and their phone number can be obtained from your hotel. The tour costs $35 during off season, and about $45 during the season. Since I went off-season, I paid just 35.

Antelope canyon is located about 10 miles from Page. There is an upper and lower canyon. I only got to visit the upper canyon. The canyon is a cavern like formation due to water erosion of the sandstone rocks. It is a slot in between two mountains, and the width is about a few feet. The width varies through the slot. In some places its narrow about 2 feet, and in other places its almost as large as a living room. Light enters this slot from above, and bounces off these eroded rock formations, giving the whole canyon an ethereal aura. Because of the erosion, the rocks have all been smoothed out, with wavelike formations on the rocks. The combination of the smoothed surface, and light entering the slot at certain angles, is what makes antelope canyon what it is. During the prime season, which is in summer, light beams form from the ceiling to the floor and offer a spectacular view. In the off season, the beams are rare, and only happen at certain times of the day, and they dint often hit the floor of the canyon. The place would certainly take your breath away. If you plan to take pictures take a tripod, since its a bit dark. The tours rent them too.

Sunday 9 AM.
With my main trip objectives already met, I had time to check out some nearby locations. One of them was a scenic drive into Utah, and catch a glimpse of the sandstone buttes that stand majestically all over. The monument valley in Utah is the destination that offers a beautiful view of these buttes.

Page, a photographers paradise.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Point Reyes, CA

Trip Destination: Point Reyes National Seashore
Location: Northern California, about 40 miles from the Golden Gate Bridge, CA
Time of the year: Dec 2008
Season: Autumn
Duration of the trip: 1 day
Weather of the day: Sunny, Windy
Point Reyes is a national seashore close to the SFO bay area. Its a small piece of land that juts out into the pacific. At the tip of this land is a magnificent lighthouse that was built sometime in the 1800s.
We reached the visitor center at about 1 PM. Were late because we stopped at the golden gate bridge view point. What a sight..!

You get there after a 30 min ride on CA 1 highway, once u take the exit off CA101. The road twists and turns beautifully through the hills, with the sea following you on the left.

After getting the maps and directions at the visitor center, we left for the Lighthouse, which is a 17 mile ride, and a 1/2 mile trek. This drive was beautiful, with rolling green hills on either side. The place feels so isolated, with no trees, no barns or anything. Just hills everywhere you see, and the calm pacific beyond them, put all of us to silence. The day was bright and sunny, added to the beauty of the place.

The lighthouse was a beauty. Can you believe that that the lighthouse's mechanical gear system had to be wound every 2 hrs for it to keep rotating?? That meant that there had to be a person at the light house 24/7. Loneliness, Silence, Fog all the time. Thats a perfect recipe for madness.!! Hats off to the people who sat there keeping the light burning.
Here is another snippet: The speed of rotation of the light on the lighthouse is unique to every lighthouse. This one would complete 1 rotation in about 6 seconds. Sailors would note the interval between the flashes to determine which lighthouse it was...! Amazing isnt it?

From there, we went to Chimney rock, which is about 5 miles from the lighthouse, where you have a lookout to see some seals. Checkout this fat guy..!

There are also about 6-7 trails that we couldn't go to, because of lack of time. There is also another place called Tamales bay, where you can get to see some Elks, seals, and maybe some great white sharks.

A trip definitely worth it for the nature lover.
Rating: 5/5

Friday, October 31, 2008


Calling an SLR camera, an SLR camera is a misnomer. Because, it gives undue importance to the SLR feature, while not mentioning the rest. The SLR part of an SLR camera only adds about 10% of the value to a real professional camera.

I mean, lets face it. What does the SLR functionality really do? It makes your optical view finder look through the camera's lens. When the shutter button is clicked, the lens flips, and lets the image fall on the film (or sensor matrix, in the case of a digital camera). And we have our picture. The SLR capability eliminates the user and the camera looking through 2 separate view finders. Thats it.

But there are a lot other things that sets a professional camera apart from a point and shoot, apart from the SLR function. A professional camera lets you adjust a lot of parameters that would be set automatically in a point and shoot. Features such as lens zoom and focus, aperture and shutter speed, exposure locking, exposure bracketing, depth of field, metering, etc. And its all these manipulations that allows space for our creativity and brings out those awesome snaps. The SLR function alone cannot do that. So there is more to an SLR camera than just SLR. Thats all I'm sayin'.