Travel adventures across the World!!!

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A Classic Fairy Tale City, Old Quebec!

Old Quebec is a classic fairy take city surrounded by citadels and forts at every corner. The moment we entered the city through giant dome shaped gateways, I was already in the awe of the city. Every little street we crossed to reach our hotel had horse buggies running along the pavements bustling with tourists. Every nook and corner of the city was filled with street musicians playing guitar, piano, saxophone and all kinds of instruments. The music being soft and mellow was very soothing to hear.

Our first day at Old Quebec, we checked into the Fairmont Le Chateau that is a palace like looking hotel in the heart of the city. Located right by the Lawrence River, the Le Chateau looks no less than a historic mansion. As we walked out of our hotel, we started to make our way to the lower town down the stairs to the Champlain district which is also known as the shopping district of old Quebec. The shopping district was filled with little art and souvenir shops. As we walked, we enjoyed listening to the street musicians and stopped for a little bit to relax by the saxophone musician who had adorable dogs sleeping peacefully by him.

Exploring further we reached the square for lunch. The European style roofs of the square reminded me of Bruges in Belgium which I visited a few years ago. We also did take the funicular uphill to get panoramic views of the city surrounded by the Lawrence River. As we settled down with the day, the beautiful fairy tale night in the city had begun. Old couples dancing out to the musicians by the streets by the Italian restaurant which I still vividly remember. The caricature and art shops had begun to close but the hustle and bustle of the tourists in romantic restaurants was still a sight to remember.

I was very excited to see the horse buggies right in front of our hotel and really wanted to do the city tour in the carriage. Our carriage tour guide not only educated us about the history of the city but also added his own local entertaining stories which made us laugh all the way through the end of the tour. He did teach us a few French phrases and we loved making conversations with him. Our horse Bob was very friendly and did make multiple stops to drink water at the fountains around the city.

As our trip was coming to an end, we started to gather souvenirs such as maple syrup, fridge magnets and handmade soaps before we flew back home. As we stepped out of the dreamy land, the real life started to kick in and it was time to go back home 🙂

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Visit to the Mount Olympic National Park!

Out of all the National Parks that I have visited, my favorite so far has been Mount Olympic National Park in the Pacific North West. Crystal clear lake water surrounded by tall evergreen trees all year round, Olympic peninsula is one of a kind. City of Port Angeles borders the Mount Olympic National Park and is right about 3 hours from Seattle which includes both drive and ferry. There are so many scenic spots in this huge park but we were very limited because our visit was just about two days. Nevertheless we still tried to make the most out of our short trip.

Rain forests have never failed to fascinate me and therefore I was inclined towards visiting the Hoh Rain forest by Forks. As we made our way to the rain forest, we drove past Lake Crescent and enjoyed magnificent views of the rainbow while it rained and shined. We did stop by for a couple of beautiful pictures with the backdrop of mountains, rainbow and lake.  As we got closer to the rain forest, our roads were covered with huge trees and we wondered if the trees talked and shared with each other just like us. It was such a memorable drive which finally led us to the rain forest area. It started raining heavily as we got ready to hike with our rain jackets and hiking boots.

I did read that rain forests are the most beautiful and green while it’s actually raining and I was lucky to experience it as well. The heavy rain did not stop us from exploring the trails of Hoh. The Hall of Mosses was the first loop we hiked and it appeared to be a rain forest right out of a fairy-tale jungle. The giant trees covered with Mosses reminded me of the jungles in the story of Rapunzel when she first stepped out of her castle. I also for a moment felt like stepping into the upside down world of stranger things. It really looked animated and lush. As we made our way through the trails we appreciated the fall colors of the forest. It was a perfectly rainy fall afternoon. As we made our way back getting lost through the trails looking for Salmon fishes in the river, we were ready to go spend a night at out farm house at the Acardia Inn.

We stayed at the Llama room at the Acardia Inn and I was beyond excited to wake up early in the morning to explore the farm house Airbnb. Early in the morning, we enjoyed the fresh organic eggs from the farm for breakfast. Our Airbnb owner Gail had about 70 pets in total in her farmhouse including 2 Llamas, 3 horses, 5 dogs, 10 sheep, 20 goats and 30 hens.  The sheep shelter was right next to our room and we really enjoyed feeding them the pallet food provided to us by Gail. I also did a farm house tour with her in the morning where she showed around the barn where she fed horses, goats and chickens. It was such a lovely sight and it was great to learn so much from Gail about the WOOF program where visitors from all over the world come to help her with her farm and barn work. I wish I could experience that someday too. Gail was so generous that she also gave away 2 dozen of eggs from her farm for us to take home.

As we checked out of our extraordinary Airbnb, we made our way to the lake trail of the Olympic Peninsula. As the roads were closed due to floods from heavy rainfall, we just hiked a short trail with gorgeous water views alongside the lust green forests. Running out of time we returned back from half way along the trail towards the lake, nevertheless I really enjoyed the precarious trails while it started to drizzle. It felt great to be so close to Mother Nature and I really cherished my short visit to the Olympic National Park. It was much more beautiful that what I had imagined and it caught me by surprise. I will definitely return back to enjoy the parts of the park that I missed this time.

Which is your favorite National Park? Please share, I would love to read!


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Our stay at the Cliff House, Maine!

Fond memories of our stay at the Cliff House resort in Maine brings me to write about our pleasant experience there. Nestled between the Atlantic ocean and the city of Cape Neddick stood the Cliff House Maine in the midst of wild waves and rugged rocks. Encompassed by glass doors and windows on each side, the resort provided significantly beautiful views of the glistening Atlantic ocean. Just the sight of the resort made us fall in love with it and we were all ready to enjoy our stay there.

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Pickled Vegetables and Quinoa Bowl at the resort restaurant!

We reached the resort right at lunch time and enjoyed our order of pickled vegetables and quinoa bowl which was filling and delicious at the same time.  The cherry on the top of it was the gorgeous views from the resort restaurant. After our meal, we started to walk on the cliff side exploring the shore side where I picked different kinds of mussel and crab shells to add to my sea treasures. As I walked by the shore making my way through the rugged rocks close to sunset, the level of water was starting to rise with high tides. So it was safer to just get out from the shore and head back towards the resort.

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Shore bordering the resort!

Our room was just perfect with a beautiful ocean view. We were amazed to see the phenomenal sunrise early morning next day right from the double glass doors from our balcony. I could clearly hear the waves crashing into the shore. During breakfast I was so so excited to spot some whale humps in the ocean. Also for the first time in my life I experienced swimming in an infinity pool. It really looked like the pool was infinite and merged into the ocean. We also enjoyed the hot tub right next to the pool both during the night and day time gazing at the stars and the infinite stretch of the ocean. I remember trying to be as present in the moment as I could to make the most out of it. Both good and bad moments are momentary and we must capture the best ones while we can.


 

After checking out of the hotel, we made our way to the little town of Ogunquit, where I  really enjoyed shopping cute tea cups, sea shells, candies and handmade crafts. I loved the whole experience of it and enjoyed being all touristy. We also stopped by to check out the Nubble light house which was a historical little light house in the end of the city. Overall I loved the experience of being so close to nature at all times and would love to return to New England sometime soon again. What’s your favorite resort experience. Do share. I would love to read.


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Fall in the Village of Stowe, Vermont!

I have always wanted to visit the New England region during fall season and this year round I got an opportunity to do so. Vermont is one of the six states in the New England region located north of Boston at a distance of about 200 miles which is about 4 hours of drive. Surrounded by hilly mountains and abundant forests, Vermont is a beautiful place to visit during the foliage. As we reached closer to the hills of Vermont we could spot horses, cows and little picturesque barns along the way.

We reached Vermont later during the day as the sun was setting. Our Stowe Mountain Lodge seemed just right to soak the cozy vibes of the little village of Stowe. Our first day was pretty much low key. We spent time walking around for a bit exploring the resort property. We then returned to the resort restaurant Solstice for dinner where we really enjoyed creamy tomato soup and cheese raviolis. The restaurant overlooked strings of lights outdoor in a back drop of wonderful fall décor. All I remember is it seemed to be a perfect fall night.

Next day we were all set to explore the Village of Stowe. Our hotel concierge was very helpful and suggested us the Gondola and bike rides. We started our day hoping into one of the Gondolas right next to our resort. The Gondola ride was up to the Mount Mansfield which is the highest peak in Vermont at about 4395 feet. As we went up in the Gondola, we could clearly see the spectacular foliage along the way. All we could see was vast stretches of crimson orange forests. From the top the view was beautiful and the other visitors also chose to have lunch in the Cliff House Restaurant.

Once we returned from the mountain top, we made our way to rent bike and explore the Stowe recreation path which is a 5.5 mile preserved pathway for over 80 years and is known as one of the Vermont’s heritage. As we started our bike ride at Mountain ops sports gear, we rode along winding pathways into the unbelievably beautifully woods painted yellow and orange. We crossed 9 arched wooden bridges over the south branch river to make our way to the community church in the village of Stowe. We biked along long stretches of corn meadows. There was a huge sense of fulfillment biking in the paved pathways with colorful trees on both sides and making way to our destination. It was the best thing we did in Vermont. Almost all the pictures I have posted here is from the Stowe Recreation path.

Visiting Vermont during this time of the year was like a dream come true to me. I would really recommend this trip to anyone who wants to experience the true colors of fall. Which is your favorite fall city. Do share, I would love to read!


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Hiking Rattle Snake Ridge with Family!

Every time I go to Seattle to visit my Aunt, it seems like a new adventure each time. This time round the reason for the visit was my mom and aunt’s reunion. Our trip was short but yet such a fulfilling family reunion. All we did was enjoy homemade delicacies, chit chat and shop. Although I was born and brought up in India, Seattle has been my home away from home because of my lovely aunt and adorable uncle. Their love is unconditional and I am lucky to have them in my life.

One of the days of our visit, we decided to go hike the rattle snake ridge which is about 45 mins away from where my Aunt lives. Weather being nice, there were lots of people around the lake kayaking along the shores, camping by the water and swimming in the lake. As we sat down by the lake, clicked a few pictures and enjoyed the fresh fruits and nuts by the lake. We started to get ready for our uphill hike to the Rattle Snake ledge which was a 2 mile uphill hike with an elevation gain of 1000 feet.

At first I was a little nervous as I started to get short of breath walking uphill. But walking at my own pace and taking stops where ever I needed to rebound, helped me get up to the top. As we walked through the hill cut sides surrounded by tall trees, the path seemed more and more challenging. Our motivation for the hike was the glorious view of the turquoise blue Rattle Snake Lake from the top of the ledge. As we kept going up and up, we would ask the other hikers who made their way down about how much more we had to climb and at last I was very happy to hear that we were almost there.

After reaching the top, I really forgot all about how tired I was and got immersed into the crystal blue color of the lake surrounded by the gorgeous mountains. The boats in the river appeared really tiny from far above the sea level. We sat by the edge of the rocks for quite some time and enjoyed our picture break from all the hiking uphill. After enjoying to the fullest, we walked back down which was relatively very easy compared to climbing up. It took as about 2 hours both ways, probably just half hour downhill and the rest of it up hill.

As we reached down by the lake, we bundled up together for family pictures and absolutely loved the day. We tried to capture each and every moment of us all being together. I did learn a lesson contemplating how at times the path might get tedious but the results make it all worthwhile. So instead of giving up, we should just keep going at our own pace working hard, one day we will definitely be able to reach to our destination and it will be all worth it that day. Sometimes travel teaches us surprise lessons!


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Napa and Sonoma Wine County in Spring!

After reading from several resources about Napa and Sonoma being the most beautiful in the month of April, I so wanted to visit the wine country in the spring. With purple wisteria in bloom across the Sonoma streets and the lush green vineyards all across the valley, spring turned out to be just perfect time to visit the wine country with friends. The highlight of our trip was the super fresh food served in the farm to table style restaurants. Everything including salads, juices and soups were freshly made from the vegetables and fruits harvested from their own farms. My two recommendation of these kind of restaurants would be Farmstead and Harvest Table. The dishes served were very flavorful and very well blended together with impeccable service. All we did was eat, eat and eat!

My most awaited part of the trip was the Tuscan style castle and winery Castello Di Amorosa. The winery was built in the 13th century and is located on a hill surrounded by valleys covered with grape vines. The inside of the castle is beautiful and there are dark cave like entrances with wine tastings in every corner of the castle. We really enjoyed the different kinds of wine tasting. My personal favorites were the smooth sweet wines Sympatica and Moscato. The other winery that we really enjoyed was the Mumm Napa which had a beautiful patio serving wine with snacks overlooking the huge vineyards.

Both Sonoma and Napa downtown seemed to be laid back and relaxing with soft country side music that fabulously complimented the wine. We spend our evenings strolling by the outdoor bars and restaurants and would sit down to hear the music which was absolutely soothing for the mind. It helped us unwind from the day to day hustle and bustle of the city. The other restaurants that I really enjoyed was the rustic bistro “Girl and the Fig” as well as the Spanish eatery “Bravas Bar de Tapas”. Our hotel Double Tree By Hilton near the Sonoma valley also offered a free wine and cheese hour every evening accompanied with live piano music in the background. It was a great way to sit back and relax after a day of exploring the valley. I also enjoyed driving along the rolling meadows and hills covered with roses and grape vines and it was difficult to leave such a beautiful place, but our next destination Sausalito was waiting for us 🙂


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Back in California, The Pacific coast!

Undoubtedly California is one of those States of America you can go back to as many times you want and there will be plenty new options to explore and enjoy. Last month I was in California with my friends to explore a few unexplored cities and return back to one of my favorite ones. San Diego, Carlsbad and Rancho Palos Verdes are the three cities we explored in and out during our four day trip to California. All four days were surreal and just writing about those brings in me this indescribable ecstatic feeling.  Little things such as picking sea shells from the Carlsbard Shore, gazing at the sea lions roar in Lajolla beach, walking by the surreal wildflowers all over by the pacific coast and watching wild whales right from our resort room were things I enjoyed the most.

We landed in Los Angeles and drove to San Diego which was about a few hours away from LA. As soon as we reached San Diego, I wanted to go back to the place I loved the most there, Lajolla Cove. Last time I visited there was three years ago and it seemed liked nothing has changed since then. Just watching the sea lions swim, bask and laze under the sun is a joy of its own. Some would bite each other and others would snuggle just representing how we all naturally resemble each other. I gazed them for a long time loving the whole experience of relating their behavior to humans. A few other tourists were being chased by the sea lions which was very fun to watch. This time we did explore the downtown LaJolla which was a colorful little neighborhood. We enjoyed delicious vegan tacos and margarita pitchers at a Mexican restaurant called Puesto which I would definitely recommend.

Our second day in San Diego, we wanted to visit the world famous Safari zoo. I always get excited when the animals get to enjoy their freedom instead of being tied up in the zoos. The safari park itself was very huge and scenic with back drop of giant palm trees and the tram that took us around was a fun little ride. The sight of the Giraffes enjoying the huge park surrounded by mountains reminded me of the primitive times when animals freely enjoyed in the jungle. After our short trip to the safari park, we drove to Coronado island to catch the view of the beautiful sunset by the Hotel Del Coronado. As the sun slowly set, we admired the amber colored sky that just lit up both the water in the ocean and sand in the beach. As we made our way to Carlsbad from San Diego, our hearts were filled with lots of lovely memories.

The highlight of our trip was our stay at the Terranea resort by the Pacific ocean in Rancho Palos Verdes. It was by far and without any doubt the best resort I have ever stayed at. The resort has its own private beach area which was full of wildflowers by the pacific coast. The turquoise blue water of the ocean looked gorgeous. While we all sat and talked by the beach, the waves crashed wildly on the shore by the cave. We could clearly notice the nature’s phenomenon of high and low tides during the night and day respectively. The restaurants of this resort overlooked the pacific ocean and we enjoyed our breakfast with a beautiful ocean view. The most amazing experience was to watch the wild whales right from the balcony of our room. I still remember my excitement to see those whales as I was the one who spot them and show my friends. My heart sunk to check out from this hotel and infact to just leave that room was a heavy feeling itself. But I was carrying a bag of shells and memories with me which made it easier 🙂 I would go back to this place in a blink of an eye!

Both good and bad times are momentary, capture the best while you can!


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Mind and Body Nourishment, Life away from Travel!

We all know that life is not all about just travel tales to tell and listen. Even if we all would want our life to be full of adventures, constraints such as time, money, body and lifestyle curbs us from leading a nomadic life. We all have a routine life we must follow and find time to appreciate and take care of our body which helps us do celebrate life. It is our responsibility to thank our body and mind by providing it with nourishment both physical and spiritual.

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I have been an ardent yogi for more than a year now. My journey started with practice of asanas which serves my body. With time, I have learnt that the our mind needs as much as yoga as the body does. I have learnt to value and respect both my mind and body. Practice of meditation for the mind is as essential as asana for the body. Recently I have started to incorporate meditation and deep breathing into my practice. Every morning I set aside 30-40 mins to practice deep breathing, sun salutions and inversion. It has been 4 months since I started it and I am now addicted to it. Every morning I look forward to it. It is my reason to wake up and my body calls me for it. All our hard working bodies deserve this time and sense of peace as a gift from us.

Here is what my 40 mins sequence looks likes:

For the first 10 minutes, I just try to breath deeply. Say I inhale for count of 5 and exhale for count of 5, I start to slowly exagerrate my breath count and increase it to 8, slowly to 10. Depending on each person’s capacity the number might differ but the goal is to take deep inhales and exhales.

For the next 10 minutes, I practice pursed lip breathing. I inhale through the nose, however I purse my lips and breath out through the lips. This helps me exhale more air out so my breathing becomes even more exagerrated. The count eventually increases and it surprises me how different techniques can actually get more air flowing in and out

In the next 10 minutes, I practice alternate nostril breathing(Anulom Vilom) and few rounds of forced paused exhalations(Kapal Bharti). It helps me clear my nostrils and breath even deeper.

Last 10 minutes I get the body flowing through 10 sun salutations well cordinated with breath. Moving with breath is what is most important. After my 10 sun salutations , I practice one inversion. These days I am trying to get into headstand without support, so that is what I practice. I end my practice with a child’s pose to grace my body and move through out the day.

To be honest , I have already started seeing a difference already in the past four months and here are a few listed below:

Mindfulness: The first and foremost change I observe in me is becoming more mindful. Careless and forgetful person that I am, this change was easily noticeable by me. I don’t rush, panic or move quickly anymore which is a huge change in itself. I have cultivated the art of remembering essential things, art of moving slowly and mindfully very aware of the my surroundings.

Improved Breathing: I often struggle with my breathing which tends to get very choppy when it comes to exercising. My breathing has definitely improved and I have learnt to inhale and exhale more as I breath after my regular practice.

Positivity: I am already a very positive person reflecting on positive aspects of life rather than dreading on the negativeness. My meditation practice has helped me climb one step further into the light of positivity.

I can only write and describe my experience. But this gift is for you to actually experience. If you begin to incorporate parts of my practice into yours , I would love to know how it affected your mind and body. Thank you very much for reading, this post is very dear to my heart!

 


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Year 2016 – Travel and Yoga!

2016 has been a great year for me in terms of travel and yoga. I am so proud to say that I have practiced yoga almost every day throughout the year. I always set some time apart to return to my mat and grace my practice. I also traveled to so many different places through out the year for which I am very grateful. Travel and Yoga are the two things I have been in love with lately and I hope our bond only grows stronger in 2017. Here are a few trips where I tried to make both meet each other.

Santa Barbara, California

I made my first road trip of 2016 in California driving through Pacific Coast Highway from San Fransisco to Los Angeles. Here is a picture of me in Wheel Pose (Chakrasana). The pose is very good for strengthening of the both upper and lower body. It is also a great chest opener.

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Wheel Pose( Chakrasana)

Washington, DC

I was in Washington for the Cherry Blossoms in April. Here is a picture of me in Tree pose(Vikrasana) at the Library of Congress. The tree pose is a balancing pose good for both mind and body. Its practice strengthens the body and calms the mind.

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Tree Pose(Vikrasana)

Florence, Italy

I traveled to Italy with my family over the summer. On international yoga day I was in Florence. Here is a picture of me trying to do Camel pose (Ustrasana). I am so terrible at it and I hope to improve. This pose is a huge chest and heart opener. It also strengthens the thigh muscles.

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Camel Pose(Utkarasana)

Devil’s Lake, Wisconsin

Late summer, I and my friends made a fun road trip to the Devil’s Lake State Park in Wisconsin. Below is a picture of me doing the Reverse Warrior(Viparita Virabhadrasana). The pose strengthens the lower body at the same time stretches the upper body. It is also a very good balancing pose.

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Reverse Warrior( Viparita Virabhadrasana)

Palm Springs, California

I spent my birthday at Palm Springs doing an amazing yoga hike by the Santa Rosa mountains.The sun shined through my sun salutations at the top of the hill. Sun Salutation(Surya Namaskar) offers body a complete rejuvenation and gets the blood flowing from head to toe. Below is a picture of me in Cobra pose(Bhujangasana) as a part of sun salutations which is again a great chest opener and arm strengthener.

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Cobra Pose(Bhujangasana)

St Pete’s Beach, Florida

My last trip of the year to Florida over Christmas, we stayed at this really nice resort in St Petes Beach. The Don Ceaser resort offered yoga classes in the morning at their private beach and I loved practicing yoga at the beach by the waves. Below is a picture of me doing Boat pose(Navasana). It helps in strengthening of core muscles.

Boat Pose(Navasana)

As the new year begins, new resolutions and opportunities await. Let us all welcome the year and promise each other positivity and gratefulness. No matter what we all should promise ourselves to return to things that we love to do. Blessings and good wishes to you all. Happy 2017 🙂

What are your passions? Please post your comments. I would love to read.


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Los Angeles with my girls!

I have always wanted to take a trip just with my girlfriends and finally after a long wait this did happen on our recent trip to LA. We all studied together from high school in India and never imaged we would plan a trip after twelve long years, now that we all are in US. All four of us traveled to LA from different parts of US. All we did was eat, shop, walk and talk. Los Angeles is such a huge city and we spent all four days exploring the different neighborhoods. I particularly fell in love with the food and the people in LA. Every restaurant we ate was both healthy and delicious at the same time. People seemed to be very carefree and easy-going. Here are bits and pieces of our trip broken down day wise!

Day 1 – We spent our first day exploring the Venice beach neighborhood of LA. The locale that I adored the most in LA was the Venice beach Ocean front. The boardwalk filled with artists, musicians and fortune tellers was very pleasant to walk by. Every other person there was skateboarding and it was quite a relaxed atmosphere around. Almost every restaurant had outdoor seating and served delicious food. We enjoyed the delicious taco salad bowl and burgers with coconut water. After our brunch we enjoyed biking along the oceanfront trail which ran parallel to the ocean. With ocean on one side and little shops and market on the other, we all enjoyed our bikes that we rented right at the Venice beach.  As soon as we returned our bikes we were ready to explore the little shops by the beach. The best part about going with my besties in the trip was shopping. We spent so much time in the shops looking for cute little things and most importantly all of us loved it.

Universal Studios Hollywood is where we all headed the next day and it was definitely much more thrilling than what I had expected. Although the wait times of a few rides was long, it was totally worth it and one of a kind experience. The ride that I enjoyed the most was Harry Potter. It was more like a 4 D experience and we all absolutely loved it. We also loved posing by Shrek and the Minions. The little houses by minions were adorable, it felt like we could sit there forever by the colorful neighborhood. One thing we missed during our visit was the studio tour which was long and did not quite fit into our schedule. No wonder early arrival is recommended for all the theme parks.

Our third day in LA was kind of touristy for us. We walked through the Walk of Fame trying to pose with the stars in different creative ways. We enjoyed open bus tours which drove through Beverly Hills, Rodeo Drive and Hollywood sign showing us different celebrity homes. I loved Brad Pitt and Angeline Jolie’s house the most, it looked like a fairy tale home.

The most captivating part of our trip was visiting the Warner Brother’s studio. It was where the sitcom F.R.I.E.N.D.S was filmed. It is one of my favorite shows and I was so very excited to get to visit the studio. On top of that, the best part was I got to visit it with my besties. We all enjoyed the whole interactive experience in the studio where each one of us got to be a part of the show and enacted a scene from the show. Some of the other studios that we got to see were the Ellen’s show, Gillmore Girls and Big Bang Theory. It was very interesting to see all these places in real. It is something that everyone who enjoys watching television will really appreciate.

Day 4- Our last day in LA we were all heartbroken that such an amazing trip was coming to an end. We wandered by the rodeo drive and also stopped by the Santa Monica Pier to catch a last sight of the beautiful city. We enjoyed our spicy and savory Indian lunch at Spice Affair in Beverly hills. The day went by pretty quickly and we were all set to make our way to the airport. Goodbyes are hard and we did promise each other another fun trip soon 🙂