May 16, 2011

Fresno Blossom Trail

2015 TRAIL UPDATE: 

Feb 17, 2015 –Blooms spotted near Sanger along the Blossom Trail. Blooms should be plentiful this weekend, with full bloom by next weekend - if the weather holds.


California is so rich in its natural beauty. I think it has the best climate in the US with pleasant winters and comfortable summers. As soon as Day light saving starts, the days start becoming longer and the sunlight peeks through my window till around 7.30.. I know its time to check out places to visit on weekends.We love taking family time offs away from the bustle and bustle of daily work, laundry, cooking, etc etc..There are so many places for day trips ranging from 1 hour to 4 hrs or weekend getaways for relaxation or just plain sightseeing. Now that's California and I just love it here.
Apple Blossoms

Our recent day trip was to Fresno located in Central California's San Joaquin valley. This trip was on hold for more than a year. After waiting patiently for 365 days or more, we decided to drive here one Saturday morning on a crisp, cool spring morning. From San Jose it is about a 3 hour drive that passes through the famous town of Gilroy known for its famous Gilroy Garlic Festival, over the scenic San Luis Reservoir and Los Banos, 152 E to 99 S. It was a beautiful sight to see red, orange and yellow wild flowers growing along the median and over the side walls of the freeway.. a reminder that Spring is in the air! It had rained the previous day and the weather was just perfect. The surrounding mountains were snow clad and was a pretty sight to see as we neared them.

Plum Blossom

 It was a bit surprising that not many people in the bay area are aware of this place. Now that you do, do save a date sometime in February/March 2012 for a date with the blossoms, the constant hum of bees, the citrus aroma and some lovely lasting photographic memories.
 
 The Fresno Blossom Trail is a self guided trail. The trail map is available for download and print here. The official start is at Simonian Farms. You will see Almond, Peach, Apple blossom, Nectarine, Plum, Apricot and Citrus blossoms. Simultaneously, if you are interested in Wild flowers do visit this website for more information. They too have a wildflower trail.

BEST TIME TO GO:
Apricot blossom
From the few websites that I have read, it is  recommended to visit the trail between the last week of February and the mid of March depending on the weather. Regular updates about when the blossoms are in bloom, is available on the Fresno County Office Tourism website. The latest updates are available around the end of February on Twitter. The website includes a detailed explanation recognizing the blossoms. The view is breath taking. Look for signs like the one below to help you stay on track. There are chances where you may miss the trail and go on another side road like we did!

My thoughts about this place:
1. ) You can make a day trip to Fresno. Pack a lunch, some juice and some snacks for the way, sunhat, sunscreen and water and you are good to go.
2.) It will take you around 4-5 hours, if you wish to complete the entire trail with stopping at every scenic spot for pics.You are in control of how much you want to see and for how long.
3.) Do check the weather for the day before packing up. A cloudy day is a Photographer's best friend. Take pictures either early morning or late afternoon. Don't forget your tripod. You will encounter lots of photographers on the trails.
4.) Sign up on Twitter to get the latest news.

Wild flowers growing in abundance along the road.

May 14, 2011

Chandigarh, Manali, Shimla

It was the start of a new beginning, beginning with our first vacation together. The most exciting part of this vacation was that we had not planned anything apart from booking our flight tickets from Goa to Delhi and back. Little did we know that there was something else in store for us. Our initial destination was Shimla, Kulu and Manali.  This trip took us to Chandigarh, Parwanoo with an unforgettable road trip to Kulu, Manali.
@ The Qatab Minar

We landed in Delhi late afternoon. We had two choices to reach Shimla - either take a volvo bus that evening from Delhi and reach Shimla early next morning or take a train to Kalka and then take the toy train to Shimla. We decided on the latter since the train ride was romanticized in many a movie. It was an enjoyable ride passing through the green corn fields and yellow mustard flowers in the Punjab/Haryana belt.  We reached Kalka after a 3 hour train journey from Delhi and it was already rather dark. Kalka is a small town situated at the foothills of the Himalayas and is the gateway to the neighboring and beautiful state of Himachal Pradesh. We were advised to stay that night at a small town in Himachal called Parwanoo since it had good tourist accommodations. We took the advice. The rooms of the cottage were nice, the pleasant dinner, hot bath and the heated rooms was just perfect. The breakfast the next morning was fabulous. In all, the stay was excellent but the best part was when we stepped out, the view that greeted us was simply amazing.
Shimla Toy Train
We set-off to Kalka from Parwanoo for the toy train only to realize that being a national holiday the train was full except for a couple of hard wooden seats which wouldn't have made our touche very happy. So we decided against it, booked the tickets for the next day early ride and decided to spend the day and night in Chandigarh. Chandigarh is the capitol city of Punjab and Haryana and has the distinction of being the first planned city of India. Indeed it was. Broad and clean roads, clean air and nice gardens was a pleasant sight. We spent the day touring the hotspots of the city like the rose garden, the rock garden, paddle boating in the lake, shopping and night life.

It was a beautiful ride the next day all the way up from Kalka to Shimla in the toy train.. 96 kms \ 60 miles of winding uphill at a snails pace. This was the most memorable experience. It was a slow journey that included the windiest and sharpest curves I've ever had in a train. Passing through a multitude of tunnels, the view of the slopes below and the neighboring mountain ranges was just amazing. The best part of all was having hot chai on the platform at one of its stopovers station. It was so delicious since it was pretty cold and I was just not used to the different temperature. The total train ride was around 5 hrs. If ever some told you to take this train ride, take it, there is no other way to experience this. Its simply awesome.    

Shimla and Manali are just awesome places and the Himalayas are majestic. This was the first time we ever saw snow and that too..... lots of it. Coming from a state where we see just sunshine, beaches and  rain, it was a sight to see. We were in awe looking at the snow capped mountains and the adventure sports around us. We tried skiing. it was a great experience. Skiing is a sport that is learnt. Our legs ached after 10 mins of putting on our gear ! I would love to learn it some day.

I love the National Geographic website.. Incidentally, on one of the regular newsletters that I receive, I found Shimla to be on the Top 20 Best Travel Ideas for 2011.  We are glad and excited that we were able to carry lovely memories from here. And when your here don't forget to hit the bakeries on Mall Road!

This was a nice start to visiting new places. It has since been a learning experience for us traveling as a couple and as a family. We hope you find our experiences useful in planning your forthcoming vacations. Happy roadtrippin'.

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