Wanderlust

A documentary of travel adventures by Padma Koutha

Wicked.

The bustling city that never sleeps. The lights, the people, the smells and the fashion.  And the food; oh the food. New York has many charms and has captivated several hearts including mine.

A 7 course meal at Tulsi including delectable dessert (http://www.tulsiny.com/); followed by a wonderful rendition of the Broadway show ‘Wicked’ with a great story, poignantly heartwarming  performances and glamorous photographs from the night; this day was just perfect.

 
 
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 Outfit Details:
 
 Top: Ann Taylor
Earrings: Baublebar

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Weary after a long week of work and a bad cold; the first sight of the ocean at Myrtle Beach was an instant mood-changer. In the off-season in September, the 15 mile beach had few tourists and locals gazing at the blue skies and feeling the ocean waves against their feet.

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Lying on little beach chairs all day, feeling the warm sand under my feet, watching magical sun-sets every evening, rushing back into our hotel’s hot-tub when the temperatures dropped at night and making both silly and serious conversations with strangers; this birthday weekend was just what the doctor ordered. Great food with a touch of Southern Hospitality was just icing on the cake (look for restaurant recommendations below!)

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PK recommends:

1. Aspen Grille (http://www.aspen-grille.com/) : Perfect for special occasions! The fresh Carolina cuisine reflected in the menu, extensive cocktail selections (skinny cocktails with agave nectar too!) and the impeccable service makes this place a winner. The ambiance of the restaurant is fancy but not pretentious;  have a fun evening and make sure you save room for dessert!

2. JimmyZ Original Hibachi (http://www.jimmyzhibachi.com/): You know you have a winner when the place is swarming with locals and tourists as well!  JimmyZ  is a small place with a few indoor tables and cheery yellow chairs set-up outside. While I had misgivings about this little place; the high reviews were justified when we got our food. Extremely flavorful and delicious, this place has a drive-by as well to order and pick up food.

3. Wet Whistle Bar at The Hilton Myrtle Beach resort (http://www3.hilton.com/en/hotels/south-carolina/hilton-myrtle-beach-resort-MYRBHHH/dining/index.html): If you are a guest at the Hilton Myrtle Beach resort or not; this is a great place to grab a drink with unbelievable ocean views! Also recommend the Cafe Amalfi at the Hilton, while the lunch menu didn’t have us impressed; the dinner selections are delicious and the panoramic views of the ocean through large glass windows is a definite plus!

Twenty travel-facts

Greetings from sunny California! Here are few lesser-known travel related facts about me.

1. I sleep really well on airplanes.
2. I am a pretty efficient packer; I can fit three pairs of shoes in my carry-on bag.
3. I have been asked if I had a make-over after security looked at my passport photo in an airport. I wouldn’t share that picture with anyone else.
4. I prefer aisle seats over window seats for unlimited access to the restroom.
5. Dubai International airport is my favorite international airport (duty-free shopping!). Amsterdam airport Schiphol is a close second.
6. My husband and I never took a flight together for close to 5 years after we got married.
7. My house-keys are on a key-chain I bought in Costa Rica saying Pura Vida which stands for ‘ Pure Life’.
8. Hyderabad is my favorite city in the whole world. Home is where the heart is.
9. If the real-estate prices were lower, I would move to California in a heart-beat.
10. Tripadvisor is God for travel reviews. I spend an average of 10 days planning stay, restaurants and off-beat things to do on a vacation.
11. Bloomington was a town I was surprised with how much I enjoyed visiting. I still remain a loyal Boilermaker; Purdue > IU always.
12. I love driving; just not in new cities.
13. In relation to point 12, I miss being chauffeured from place to place like back home in India.
14. I prefer to read books versus a kindle during travel(or really anytime).
15. My favorite vacation was my third year anniversary trip to Puerto Rico.
16. I want Anthony Bourdain’s job.
17. Greasy Asian food is my go-to at airports.
18. I have been stuck at Miami with no bags wearing my PJs.
19. I most often tend to travel in high-heels.
20. When I was first entering the United States, the immigration official asked me to study hard and not party too much. (Too late!)

Universal Studios,Orlando: Day 3

Nostalgia: a wistful or excessively sentimental yearning for return to or of some past period or irrecoverable condition

Walking through Universal Studios on our third day in Orlando , I was enveloped with a sense of nostalgia. The last time I had visited Universal Studios, I was a graduate student at Purdue University and had saved up money for the trip through a summer internship. The first time I was on the Simpson’s ride and Shrek 4-D was indeed special.

Expecting to be just as enthralled this time, I was surprised I was a little disappointed with the experience. While the rides were still enjoyable, they felt one-note as there were no additions or updates to the actual rides, characters or story-line since my last visit.

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Read the rest of this entry »

Universal Studios, Orlando: Day 2

My favorite part of the trip: roller-coaster rides! Attracting over 10 million people an year between the two theme parks, Universal Studios are only second to Disney parks in popularity. I love roller- coasters and I am a huge movie buff; so I was in paradise in Universal Studios.

After a light lunch at Panera Bread, we headed to the Universal Islands of Adventure, one of the two theme parks at Universal Orlando. While the crowds were lean, some of the popular rides still had a wait-time of 45 minutes. Since we were in Orlando for a couple of days, we bought the express passes to enjoy multiple rides and reduce wait time.

My husband (Ravi) isn’t an adrenaline junkie like me when it comes to roller-coaster rides and we decided to start small with the virtual simulator rides first. The express passes served us well and we cruised through to the front of lines for most rides. After a few rides, Ravi decided he would sit out the Incredible Hulk ride and the Dragon Challenge.

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Here is a list of my favorite rides at Island of Adventure

1. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey

From the tour of the Hogwarts castle, talking portraits, Quidditch matches, dragons and of course Harry, Ron and Hermoine, the ride involves everything you love about Harry Potter.

I was also impressed with how well the wizarding world of Harry Potter was conceptualized.  Just buy a butter beer (cold and absolutely delicious, see supposed recipe here), approved by JK Rowling herself and walk through Hogsmeade for sights of the Hogwarts Express, Owl Post and magical wands.

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2. The Incredible Hulk

Sheer adrenaline rush! The train you are seated in accelerates to 40 mph in two seconds and continues through a series of loops ( more on the ride here). I went on this solo, screamed as loudly as I could and came back with a huge smile on my face.

3. Dragon Challenge:

Also set in the wizarding world of Harry Potter, it is a fast and exciting ride. Though not as thrilling as the Incredible Hulk personally, definitely a must-try!

4. Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls:

Entertaining ride with a great climax where you drop 75 feet through a ‘dynamite’ shack and are sprayed with water when you descend into a splash pool (more here). I had bought myself a poncho to keep dry but was thoroughly drenched nevertheless!

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After the theme park shut at 7 P.M, we walked back to CityWalk and ate dinner at Emeril’s again ( more on Emeril’s in future post). We decided to watch another movie at the AMC theatre ;  tonight we watched Django Unchained. Starring Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz and Leonardo Dicaprio in lead roles, it was a typical Quentin Tarantino movie- bloody, gory but entertaining nevertheless. Christoph Waltz was my favorite character in the movie; engaging and charming.

More on the final day at Universal Studios in the next blog post!

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Universal Studios, Orlando: Day 1

When I was a little kid, my cousins who lived in the United States visited us in India on vacation. My cousin had just been on a trip to Disney world and she refused to part with and wore a Mickey Mouse t-shirt which she had bought in Disney for most of the 3 week trip.

I remember this detail even years later and distinctly remember how much I wanted to visit the magical world of Disney myself.  I dreamed of visiting Mickey and Minnie and my favorite Donald Duck and Goofy. When I finally did go to Disney for the first time; I was 22 years old but it was just as magical. It’s a make believe world where you can be silly, goofy and act like a kid and not worry about being an adult for a while. Read the rest of this entry »

Nawalgarh: The Havelis

As promised, here is a post on the havelis of Nawalgarh. PS: This a photo-heavy post.

After an excellent breakfast, we went to explore the havelis in Nawalgarh. The havelis in Nawalgarh are characterized by beautiful fresco paintings. Fresco painting is a method of using water-based pigments on wall surfaces. Since the havelis are several hundred years old, the pigments used were natural vegetable colors. It was a pretty impressive sight to view the intricate paintings adorning each wall surface and appreciate the artistry of the painters.

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Nawalgarh: Koolwal Kothi

In December 2012, we headed to Nawalgarh, Rajasthan for a 2 day vacation. Rajasthan is a popular tourist destination; both among locals and foreign tourists. The rich history of the state; beautiful palaces, distinct and colorful culture and the flavorful food makes it a great choice for a vacation. The popular cities in Rajasthan including Jaipur, Udaipur and Jodhpur are visited by several hundred tourists each month and have a lot to offer in terms of ‘manufactured’ fun; guided tours into the city’s sights, a night of singing and dancing with local costumes, puppet shows and traditional Rajasthani dinners.

Nawalgarh is a different experience from what you would expect from Rajasthan. Located about 141 k.m away from the city of Jaipur; the drive from Jaipur international airport took us much longer than the anticipated 2 and half hours. Read the rest of this entry »

The beginning.

The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page – St. Augustine

I have always thought about blogging and briefly dabbled with a couple of different subjects. I love reading and writing and a blog is a platform to share my thoughts on subjects I am passionate about.

On a recent vacation, as I sat down with my family to discuss our dreams about the future, we discussed what we would like to do if we didn’t have the constraints of money and time. My little brother (who is growing up too fast) wanted to be a chef. My sister is fantastic at organizing and planning events and she wanted to be an event organizer. My mom loves to garden and wanted to spend time sourcing exotic plants and maintaining a quality garden space.

I then thought about what I would like to do and while the idea of buying a couple of Chanel bags did cross my mind; I realized that I wanted to travel the world. I wanted to experience the world; different countries, cuisines and culture. I have been fortunate to grow-up and live in 3 different countries and visit several more.

This blog is a documentary of my travel adventures; some touristy cities and a few off-beat, little explored places.