Saturday, February 28, 2009

Boston Apartment (Feb 28, 2009)

I was on the phone with Sarah, and she got me started on this idea about the concepts which I employ on these travels. This was brought about by an ideology called as NR (New Rich).

This is a concept I read about in a book titled: ‘The 4 Hour Work Week’, which Ben had given me a few days back. The concept states that you don’t have to be rich to enjoy your life (It just makes it wayyy more easier!). Instead of spending your life making money to spend on a final great vacation, why not have something called as mini-vacations. This gets you refreshed often, and also you get to see a lot more and enjoy a lot more in your daily life, as compared to waiting for it.

Ok…so you might be asking me – You still need to be rich to take these mini–vacations. My answer is no, you need not. To put it in a nutshell, as one of the greatest movie roles played by any actor would say: “It’s all part of the plan” (Heath Ledger deserved the Oscars, and I am so glad he won it).

I will elaborate on this concept in my future blogs about the NRT (New Rich Traveler).

To get this topic started one of the main concepts is – Plan Early.

There are many types of travel, one is the unplanned travel. This according to me is the best sort, where you and your friends just decided to go somewhere on a whim, and end up doing it. But, for a backpacker or a lone traveler like myself, or even for a family, this is tough. You need to plan, if not everything atleast the dates, the places you want to visit, and so on. Here is my way, which may not be right, but this is my blog!

Take for example 2009. I plan of visiting UK. I see that I need atleast a week of vacation. First step, apply for it. I have found it very helpful to inform your company or project about your plans way in advance. It gets your dates confirmed, and makes it harder to reject as you have given advance information. There is no harm in applying say for April. If you ultimately don’t end up going, you can just cancel the vacation.

Also, what this makes you do is take action. Now you have applied for leave in April. You have a milestone set, which believe it or not helps a lot.

More of this boring lecture in future posts.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Boston Apartment (Feb 14, 2009)

This post is again late, the reason being I was sick all through this week. I landed in Boston Monday night and from then on have had a bad cold which still is with me. Memories from this Texas trip, I suppose.

Also, what better day to write than on Valentine’s Day, which shows how single I am :D. But no worries, I am enjoying this life and my blog I hope - reflects this.

Okay, rewind back to Monday morning where I woke up early in my Austin hotel bed, had breakfast and set off at 8 in the morning to San Antonio. I fuelled my car, and I couldn’t believe it was so cheap. I paid around 11 USD to fill from something less than half tank to a full tank. The same - one year ago would have cost me 40 USD. (I should know…I paid that much on my Florida trip).

The drive was uneventful except for pockets of traffic in Downtown Austin and San Antonio, which was expected as it was a Monday morning. I saw a bit of Texas country on the drive, and I have heard it is good to go on a long drive with nothing but the long country roads in front of you.

My first stop was the Alamo, which I totally missed as the directions were wrong, but I didn’t mind too much as I had seen it Saturday. So I headed off to my next stop: Mission Concepcion. This is called as the Mission Drive, which covers five Missions set up by the Spanish to teach the Indians the Catholic culture. It starts from Mission San Antonio de Valero, also called the Alamo to the final Mission - Mission Espada with Mission Concepcion, Mission San Jose and Mission San Juan in the middle.

This is a must do in San Antonio irrespective of whether you are religious or not as it is a very peaceful drive and you can see some of the most beautiful Spanish architecture with Indian and other influences. It took me approximately 4 hours to do this with me doing four missions. San Jose is the biggest and pretty much intact, but I loved Mission Concepcion.

Once this was done, I drove back to downtown, and came to my final stop – The Spanish Governor’s Palace. This is right opposite the Town Hall of San Antonio, and a very mall place with a nominal 2 USD fee, but worth a look.

Finally I decided to have lunch at a place close by called Market Street or Market Place or something along those lines. When I went back to my car I had a parking ticket. To top my trip – my first US parking ticket, Nice!

I drove back to the Dollar rental to return the car and headed back to the airport to catch my NorthWest flight back to Boston.

I enjoyed my stay in Texas, and it was a beautiful and fun filled stay. I would love to do this again sometime, and I would recommend these two cities to anyone as you could find a lot to do.

This finishes my trips for February.

March opens up new horizons as I land up in UK to visit my sister in Cardiff, Wales. I am planning this now, and hopefully you would be reading my posts in March to see how I fare.

Till then have a Happy V day, and remember: love is not only for one day, it is forever (Hope this makes sense).


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

San Antonio Airport (Feb 9, 2009)

I am running way behind in writing this, but I barely have had time to update on the hour. So this blog for now is lagging behind a couple of days J

I reached Austin Saturday night, and checked into the Fairfield on Renili St. It was a nice place to sleep, but I knew I wouldn’t be spending too much time in it anyway.

Immediately got ready and decided to go to 6th St, which is supposed to be the happening spot for the nightlife in Austin. The lady at the desk advised me to not take my car as parking could be a problem, but instead to take a cab. Being the cheapass that I am, I decided one better – Let’s catch the bus (I never learn!). And luckily there was a stop half a mile from my place. The bus was the 10 to red river street, which is perpendicular to 6th, and it was a good bus – On time, and one of the few buses were the crowd seemed not to have poor people who had just come in from the streets.

6th street is a very popular place – it was crowded by 9.45 when I reached, and by 11 they had stopped traffic and people were running all over. A sight for sore eyes ;)

Yelp had given a dance club called Plush, a high rating and I landed up at this place. There was no cover, and the rum and coke cost me a whole 2USD (I hate Boston – 6 USD!!!). Sadly, it didn’t pick up at all and so I made my exit at 11. Roamed around staring at the sights, and went into a lounge called Hi-Lo. It was a so-so place – White Russian for 5, still affordable, but again less to no crowd. By midnight I was desperate to dance, and made my way to Vice, which was a proper dance club, with a pretty young crowd. It was fun, and I could dance a bit. My night was done by 2+, and I returned back to the hotel in a cab which again was quite inexpensive.

I was tired, and I suppose after covering 3 cities in a day, you have a right to immediately fall on the bed.

Sunday morning I set off around 10, and landed up again around 6th street. The places I saw were the State Capitol, a huge building with brilliant architecture, and quite prominent in Downtown Austin. It is supposed to be bigger than even the Washington Capitol. The highlight of the tour – A framed photo of Governor George Bush on the wall: D

Before this I walked up to the Renaissance Market, a place for budding local artists close to the University Of Texas, but there was no crowd, and few shops. Either I was too early, or Sunday is not the day to be here.

After the capitol, I drove to a place called Barton Springs which is not too far from downtown. These springs are in a huge park called Zilker Park which forms part of Town Lake Park. It has a beautiful view of downtown Austin with the Frost Tower at the background, and if you can walk a few miles, the photo op is good. Also, if you are here for more than a day, and love the outdoors you can do some canoeing, swimming, picknicking, et al.

Spent some good time there and then headed off to Mt Bonnell, which is a few miles drive from Austin. A short hike to the summit gives you a good view of Austin and also the lake. It’s a lovely place to sit and contemplate.

These were my main spots to cover and I headed down to downtown again to get some time on 6th and maybe a couple more photos. The lady at the hotel desk was wrong about parking though – Parking is much easier in Austin, than say Miami or Boston. A little searching off the main roads will get you some parking spot or other during nights and weekends. So it is not much of a hassle.

I walked up 6th and then Congress where the Frost building is located. Also, the bridge on Congress supposedly has bats under it, which fly out between April and August, and are supposed to be an awesome sight. I couldn’t get a glimpse of them, but I did walk under the bridge.

The walk on congress has a couple of statues of guitars, painted in all weird colors. Again a snap clicked!

I headed back home after this as I was so tired I could barely walk. Slept from 5 to 7pm, and then headed back again to…you guessed right...6th street, but this time in my rental.

Sunday is much quieter than Saturday, and the walk was peaceful. I ended up at a club called Elysium, which was playing 80s-90s tracks. This must be the first time I danced in the US waving my hands and trying to do the Moonwalk, and it was so much fun, when compared to the grind and bump of most dance clubs.

Left early but happy at 2 am, as I had more driving to do, and visit Churches in San Antonio early the same day. If I didn’t get some sleep I am sure I would fall asleep while driving there.

Austin Fairfield Marriott (Feb 8, 2009)

I know…I know...I have not updated my previous travels with what happens, but I have decided to do something of a Quentin Tarentino, and publish those posts later. A bit of suspense J

Anyway, this trip was supposed to be my Texas adventure, but my flights got rescheduled giving me a few hours in Memphis, which is also a supposedly must-visit city. So my trip started at 6am, and the first stop on Northwest was Memphis – The Land Of The King : Elvis A Presley.

As I had not rented a car, I decided to try out the public transportation. Also, my first stop – Graceland, Elvis’ home was quite close to the airport, and so I though I will try the MATA. That was a mistake – there is no pedestrian way to walk to the bus stop from the terminal, I had to do it the Indian way – run across roads and walk through grass. Definitely not my idea of fun!

Also, the buses were usually delayed by 5+ minutes, and this is the first bus system which I have seen in the US that is so late. But they did arrive and I went to Elvis’ house. As I was crunched for time I couldn’t take the tour, which could easily have taken 3-4 hours. I jumped into one more bus and landed up at Sun Studios, which is where Elvis, Johnny Cash, etc got their initial breaks and also recorded stuff. Again a few more photos and then I walked up to Beale Street, which is a historic district. Lots of music stuff around, but now I really was crunched for time, and caught a bus back to the airport.

I don’t know why I did it, but trudged back again to the airport.

Overall, it was a nice trip- I got a glimpse of Elvis’ land, and it was worth a look. I may go there again, but I think it will not be too very high on the agenda.

Landed up in San Antonio in the evening and rented a car. The temperature was 76F there, which was such a huge difference from Boston. I was roaming in my tee shirt – awesome!!! I drove to the RiverWalk, which is a quite nice and pleasant place with a sort of walkway on a small lake or something. It was nice there, but before that finding parking was a pain. Had to park a bit away for 3USD, and then walk. Luckily the Alamo was on the way and I stopped there to see it. This is supposed to be the most popular attraction of San Antonio and it is a sort of church which the Spanish built long ago. It is a must see, and though it is small, it is worth the visit.

Once this was done, I went to the RiverWalk, walked along it with a Ben and Jerry’s and oh yeah…got myself a Harley Davidson Tee for 15USD. All in all, a good deal.

Finally it was becoming darker around 6pm, and I had to drive to Austin. So I left here, but vowing to be back Monday morning to do another round of the San Antonio missions.