Dec 30, 2012

LAS VEGAS


2012 has been a great year! We've had some very memorable trips in 2012 and look forward to some more in 2013! We thank you for reading and appreciating our pictures on Facebook. We hope to bring you more places, pictures and ideas in 2013! We wish each of you a Happy New Year 2013!

A first visit or your 10th, vacationing in Vegas is always looked forward to. It's probably the most popular destination specially for New Year! It's all about the energy, the lights, the music along the sidewalks, the crowds and the shows, casinos and a chance to win some extra $$. Keeping the best for the last of 2012, am writing about Vegas! Do visit our Facebook Page for photographs!

las vegas sign
Las Vegas Sign

What to see can always be overwhelming. Where do you start, what do you do, how about parking availability, free shows, kids ... From our visits there, we have gathered some tips that would make our future trip better.
  • Parking: I found a great website with detailed information and secrets to parking in Vegas. 
  • Walk.. that's the way to do it. Wear appropriate clothing and comfortable shoes for the day out on the Strip. Don't forget to carry your party shoes for the night.
  • Many of the shows on the Strip are on the hour or every 15-30 mins. Missed a show? wait for the next one and reserve your best spot. Waiting can be as long as an hour from the previous show.
  • Strollers are a blessing for young kids who would tire out easily by walking. 
  • The Mono Rail is convenient if your staying on or off the strip. Its convenient if you want to go from point A to point B without the inconvenience of driving around specially in peak season. One way, day or 3 day passes are available. Check the website for more information regarding interactive maps, stops and latest information on travelling on the Strip.
There are loads of things to do at Vegas. Here are somethings not to miss on an evening walk enjoying the Strip:
  • BELLAGIO HOTEL & CASINO:
Enjoy the colors, the beautiful displays, flower  garden etc. Located behind the Bellagio Lobby. The exhibits change. Click here for the details.  Great photo opportunities. Avoid the crowds and come either early morning or late at night. 
  • FOUNTAINS OF BELLAGIO:
Location: Intersection of S. Las Vegas Blvd & E Flamingo Road, opposite Paris Las Vegas. Schedule may change, please visit the website for latest information. For timings and exhibit details click here.

gondola rides venetian
Gondola Rides
  • THE VENETIAN: ( Rides have to be purchased)
Can't visit Venice, just head over to The Venetian to experience the melodious Gondoliers either outdoors: near the entrance or near the Grand Canal Shops. For prices and hours on rides click here.
  • FLAMINGO HOTEL AND CASINO:
View Live Chilean Flamingos from a close proximity. You may also see lots of turtles, koi, swans and ducks.  Click here for more information. Very peaceful and relaxing place to enjoy the natural surrounding.

Flamingos @ the hotel & casino
  • CAESAR'S PALACE:
Find your destination with this Map of Caesars Palace: Click here.

1.) Forum Mall - Fountain of the Gods

Great place to shop or just window shop. The ceilings resemble a natural sky. Relax near the Fountain of the Gods near the Trevis Restaurant. Click here for the map for an approximate location. 

2.) Fall of Atlantis:

Located near the Cheesecake Factory - inside the Forum Shops. Timings: On the hour every hour. For details click here. The show is very popular and gets quite crowded. If you are with a stroller, you may want to fold it and reserve your spot. 

3.) The Aquarium:

Located just around the entrance of the Cheesecake Factory in the Forum Shops ( where the Fall of Atlantis show takes place.)
  • TREASURE ISLAND:
Sirens of Treasure Island is popular! For more information and timing in summer and winter, click here. The area outside the Treasure Island at Siren's Cove is packed with enthusiasts eager to watch the show. Strollers are not allowed and people gather well in advance to get the best viewing spot. Viewer discretion is advised for certain parts of the show for small children ( frankly just my opinion ). 
  • THE MIRAGE:
Gather near the entrance of The Mirage on The Strip and enjoy a volcanic eruption to the tune of Zakir Hussain & Mickey Hart. The attraction will be closed from January 2nd 2013 to February 15th 2013. For timings and schedule click here



Volcano Eruption @ The Mirage
Vegas has loads of activities to be done. As and when we complete a new activity, this post will be updated too. 

Inside individual Casino's off-course there are tonnes of things to do from hitting the Casino's to catching shows from famous performers. Check the individual Casino sites for the shows/timings and tickets!

Nov 30, 2012

Morro Rock


The most prominent vista point in Morro Bay is Morro Rock. Surrounded with an estuary and miles of undisturbed beaches, it is a volcanic plug standing at a height of 576. You can drive right up to the end of the causeway, where you will hear a lot of chatter.. Just look up and see the number of sea gulls and other birds nesting on the rock above.

Morro Rock
Morro Rock


Another spot to view the rock is from the beach located near Azure St, Morro Bay. There is a parking lot available with restrooms close by. A short walk from the lot to the beach will give you some beautiful views a few hours before sundown.. Silhouettes of people walking with their surfboards make some dramatic pictures.

WINTER BIRD FESTIVAL:

If you are an avid bird lover, you should visit this place in winter. The Winter Bird Festival usually held in January makes it a great place to photograph winter birds visiting the area. In 2013, the festival will be held on January 18,19th and 20th. Family Day is on the 19th. Please check this website for more information as reservation is required.

Bird Festival Morro Rock




Nov 28, 2012

CA-1 Central Coast

CA-1, California's scenic coastal highway begins from Leggett in Mendocino County and goes down to Ventura in Santa Barbara. The drive is beautiful along the rugged coastline with breath taking views. The single lane (and at times two) windy highway passes through many small towns along the coastal route from Mendocino county to Ventura. It runs concurrently with US 101 along the Golden Gate Bridge. On a clear day, you will enjoy some pretty views of the Pacific and California's coast drive. Our favorite  part of CA-1 is the drive along California's central coast from Monterey to Cambria.

Travelling to Los Angeles from the Bay Area via CA-1 is a great option. However with its winding turns and the frequent stops you will make to take in the views and pictures it can take more than 8 hours. Hence plan accordingly.

Coastline view
CA 1 looking north 

Tips:
  • The weather along the coast is mostly cold and windy. Have some warm jackets available.
  • Keep your camera ready. The best scenery may just be round the corner. Have extra batteries + memory card and a video handy.
  • Be prepared for motion sickness (if you are prone to it). A good option is to let that person drive. Carry paper bags.
  • Carry snacks specially when travelling with kids as there are not many options except in the town areas along the route.
  • Make use of restrooms whenever possible. You may not find one for miles together.
  • Since this route is along the coast, the distance between towns can be far. It is always a good idea to fill gas when half at the first available gas station to avoid running out of gas.
  • If you are travelling from US 101 ( North or South ) from Laytonville, CA to CA-1, the route is long windy and you may be the only one of the road ( just like it happened to us ). You will find very few people travelling along this route. When we were in the area, a local told us that the best and safest route is Highway 20 ( Willitts \ Fort Bragg road ). 
  • Do not always rely on your GPS if you are going off the road, carrying maps can come in handy.
  • The GPS may not work in certain hot spots along the coast.
  • There are many state beaches along the way. For a day fee, you can picnic and have a fun family day.
  • Check for contruction. That can sometimes delay your travel.
Ca1 route
Single lane road on CA 1 driving south
Driving along CA 1 is always refreshing and a great stress buster. The crashing waves on the rocks, sea gulls hovering above and the beautiful landscape make a great day out for the family. CA-1 is also great for spotting the whale migration. Have a good pair of binoculars handy. Below are listed the scenic places and stops that can be covered  in a day on this drive.

1.) POINT LOBOS STATE RESERVE:

Located 3 miles south of Carmel by the sea on the Cabrillo Highway, this is a perfect spot for photography, watching seals , sea lions, tide pooling and short hikes. This preserve is rich in flora and fauna and has a multitude of colors on land and sea. Stroller accessible, this is a nice hike for young kids too. You could spend a lot more time here as there are a number of scenic trails in this reserve. However we have included this point on this trip list in-case you want to start-off your drive with a great short hike.

Views from Point Lobos
View from Point Lobos

2.) HISTORIC ROCKY CREEK BRIDGE:

Stop for pictures and views of CA-1 looking North.

3.) BIXBY BRIDGE:

It is located about 13 miles south of Carmel and has been the most photographed due to its location and scenery surrounding it.

Bixby bridge
Bixby Bridge

4.) JULIA PFEIFFER BURNS STATE PARK:

This is my favorite spot on Cabrillo Highway. This is a must see location. It has featured in most magazines and is the most photographed scenic spot in California. Within the park, lies McWay Falls. An 80 foot waterfall that flows into the ocean year round! There is a short hike which starts within the park which is stroller accessible and very easy to the end of the walkway. Parking is available within the park for a day fee.  Cash only and self paid.

The views are fantastic from the end of the boardwalk.  With azure, green waters surrounding the cute cove and a waterfall flowing into the ocean, it is the most romantic spot for pictures. The beach access is difficult and has been preserved to retain its natural beauty.
McWay Falls
McWay Falls on a beautiful summer day

McWay Falls
McWay Falls ( pic taken in spring )
4.) ELEPHANT SEAL COLONY ON CA-1:

For more information on these seals are available here. This vista point is around 4.4 miles on CA1 from Hearst Castle.

seals on ca1
Seals on Ca 1

5.) HEARST CASTLE:

Click here for more information. You may need at least half a day here, unless you are staying close by. It is a good 3 hours or more drive from the Bay Area, so time yourself if you have a reserved time slot to visit the castle.

6.) MORRO BAY \ MORRO ROCK:

The most prominent spot in Morro Bay is Morro Rock. Surrounded with an estuary and miles of undisturbed beaches, it stands tall at a height of 576 foot volcanic plug. You can drive right up to the end of the causeway  to hear the chirping of hundreds of birds nesting above and enjoy the surrounding views, watch for birds or just photograph the surroundings.

Morro Rock
Morro Rock


Another spot to see Morro Rock is from the beach near Azure St, Morro Bay. There is a parking lot available with restrooms close by.

If you are a ardent bird lover and a photographer, then Morro Bay is a must in winter. The Winter Bird Festival is usually held in January and makes it a great place to photograph winter birds visiting the area. In 2013, the festival will be held on January 18, 19th and 20th. Family Day is on the 19th. Please check this website for more information as reservation is required for some tours.

CA-1 from Morro bay joins US 101 South, from where we continued to L.A \ San Diego.

Nov 8, 2012

Sand & Art Festival, Goa - India

Sand art goa
2011 Goa Sand Art Festival Entrance
GOA..a tiny but beautiful state in India. It was ruled by the Portuguese for more than 400 years. People around the world know Goa for its friendly people, beautiful beaches, Portuguese architecture, impressive churches and temples, delicious mangoes, cashew nuts, feni ( a local liquor made from cashew and coconut) and the famous pork sausages amongst other things.



View Goa -- India in a larger map

For the last 3 years, Sand Cult - a Sand Sculpting Company in association with Goa Tourism, have been organizing the Annual Sand Art Festival on one of Goa's popular beaches. This year (2012), the event will be held on the Miramar Beach (near Panjim the capital city of Goa). It is a stupendous work of art! It is amazing to see the finished product from a huge mound of sand.

If you are visiting Goa this December anytime after the 13th, you don't want to miss out on this event. Entrance is free. Enjoy a picnic with the family or just have fun watching the artists sculpt. Miramar is situated about 3 kms from Panaji, on the way to Dona Paula along the "Marine Drive".

Below are some of the pictures I managed to capture during the 2011 event. With just a couple of tools, water, gifted hands and their amazing talent, they did a fantastic job that had the young and the old, all making their way to enjoy the sand sculptures. The 2011 theme was " Marine Life: Unseen Treasures under water ".

sand art goa
One of the artists sculpting

sand art goa
An octopus? underwater sea creature

sand art goa
Sand Art

sand art goa
Sea creature maybe a walrus

sand art goa
The silhouette of castle spires at sunset.

sand art goa
Sand Art

sand art goa
Sand Art

sand art goa
Sand Art

sand art goa
The curious crowd viewing the scuptures

sand art goa
Mermaid Sand Art Goa

goa sand art festival
The Castle

Sand art goa
Sand Art

Sand Art
Sand Art


Sand art goa
The complete picture!

sand art
Beautiful Sand scupture

Miramar beach
Enjoy a gorgeous sunset at Miramar Beach
For more information on Goa visit : http://goatourism.gov.in/

Find Sand Cult on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sandcult

Goa Sand Art Festival Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/goasandartfestival?fref=ts

For more sand sculpting events around the world: http://sandsculptingevents.com/
UK: http://www.sandworld.co.uk/visit.html
Florida 2013: http://www.artofsand.org/
Florida: http://www.sandbash.com/
India: http://www.sandindia.com/home.html
Australia: http://www.visitmelbourne.com/regions/Mornington-Peninsula/Events/Art-and-culture/Sand-Sculpting-Australia-Frankston-Waterfront.aspx
North America: http://www.neptunefestival.com/events/north-american-sandsculpting-championship/14

Any questions? Just email me at savsmichblog@gmail.com and I would be more than happy to reply to you.









Nov 6, 2012

Arches National Park

When we think of Arches NP, what comes to mind are the 2000 + rock formations and the spectacular night sky. A trip to Southern Utah? Make sure you include Arches NP on your itinerary.  It is a 5 1\2 drive from Bryce Canyon NP. Nearby places to include are the Canyonlands NP.  For ideas on how to plan your drive, here is a map that you can refer to.

If you have two days in Arches, here is what we recommend:

We spent 1 1\2 days here and decided to spend the first evening/night out at the park to take in the sunset and view the spectacular night sky (yes you can see the Milky Way on a dark and clear night!).

Many photographers and National park enthusiasts, hike to Delicate Arch earlier in the evening to photograph the sunset and stay on to photograph the night sky. The picture below was taken around 11.30 -12:00 midnight. The best time to get milky way pictures is recommended around 2-3 AM. You would get the milky way center vertically aligned with the earth as governed by the earths rotation. But note it can be eerie, and lonely out there especially if you are by yourself. The Milky Way is one of the greatest things to see in nature. Its spectacular and our amateur attempt to capture it (below) doesn't do sufficient  justice to it. Imagine being able to see millions of stars in the galaxy and the galactic center with your naked eyes (something you can only wish for from our cities)!

Night Sky @ Arches
The Milky way in the backdrop of Balanced Rock ( Do not miss the shooting star !)

Arches is a photographer's favorite place. Some beautiful and common places to photograph are mentioned on the National park service website. Here are some of the not to miss points as well as easily accessible if you are travelling with small children:

1. Courthouse Towers Viewpoint
2. The Three Gossips
3. Balanced Rock
4. The Windows Section: North & South Windows, Turret Arch:

Parking is usually difficult in summer. It is recommended to complete this early in the morning or late in the evening as it gets very hot. There is no shade and taking water is recommended. Restrooms are available. 
5. Delicate Arch
A 3 mile round trip hike up is recommended. If you are travelling with smaller kids, this hike up is not stroller accessible. There is an alternative viewpoint near the parking lot of Delicate Arch which is also stroller inaccessible. It has some steep steps to climb. Early morning or late evening hike up here is recommended. 

For details on more hikes check out this link. 

Here are some pictures of the above view-points we took at Arches:

Arches Courthouse
Courthouse Viewpoint

Arches road
Arches road once on the top

Baanced Rock
Balanced Rock
Arches Windows
Windows Section

Windows entrance @ Arches
Entrance to the Windows!
Arches NP

The Windows @ Arches

Delicate Arch ( from viewpoint )
View of Delicate Arch from the viewpoint
What do you think of Arches? Would this location be your next visit?

Oct 5, 2012

Crater Lake, Oregon

It is a caldera ( a crater formed by volcanic explosion or by collapse of a volcanic cone.) With a diameter of 6.1 miles East to West and 4.7 miles North to South, an area of 20.42 sq miles, it is one of the deepest in the United States with a height of 1943 feet and holding 4.9 trillion gallons of water. Crater Lake was formed when a massive eruption of Mount Mazama 7700 years ago caused the mountain to collapse, leaving a steaming caldera. Centuries of rain and snow filled the caldera creating Crater Lake.

Crater lake
Overlooking Crater Lake

The views of Crater Lake are beautiful. A dormant volcano with water in its prettiest intense blue shade. The blue of Crater Lake is due to its great depth and clarity. Sunlight is able to penetrate deep into the water. The depth absorbs many of the longer rays and reflecting the shorter rays of the white light spectrum. Violet and blue light are the shortest wavelengths, thus get scattered and reflected back to us, causing the lake to be its famous color Blue!. 

Crater Lake
With very heavy snowfall, the seasonal roads to Crater Lake can close very early in the year since they get about 44 feet  \ 533 inches of snow. Checking current conditions will help you plan your weekend getaway. This is what we saw in July on our way out towards north entrance within the park. 

snow accumulated near crater lake
Height of the snow on the road

looking east crater lake
Crater Lake looking east


Crater Lake was a pit stop on our way to Portland,OR. From the Bay area ( San Francisco ) it is about a  7 1\2 hour drive to Crater Lake. Here is how we planned it. 2 1\2 days should be sufficient if you just have Crater Lake to explore. The Rim drive is recommended. Boating and hiking too can be done. Click here for more information on the trails.

Day 1: Stay in Medford. Small town yet close enough to the lake if your leaving the bay area on a friday night. 
Day 2: Drive to Crater lake about 1 1\2 hours from Medford.
Day 3. Return home.

Below are some pictures we took at various stops on the Rim Trail. 

Blue waters of Crater Lake
Blue water in Crater Lakee
The below picture with the arrow is very unique. Do you see the small island near the arrow? Do you know how large or small and how tall it can be? The answer will surprise you..

Phantom Island
Phantom Island
It is larger than a football field, and as tall as a 16 storeyed building. See other ways to enjoy Crater Lake click here to access the link.

A visit here is relaxing and the soothing calm blue waters do have a relaxing effect on you! On the 17th of June, 2012, many people around the world were lucky to view and photograph the Northern Lights.  Crater Lake was one are where you could see it. Click here to see GoldPaint Photography of the lake and Northern Lights. Its spectacular!

Enjoy your visit here. 

Sep 29, 2012

San Francisco Fleet Week

It's October and the Blue Angels will be in town next week ( October 4-8th ). See them in San Francisco along the Marina Green Waterfront Centre, Crissy Field, Pier 39 or Golden Gate bridge ( north ) vista point. Thousands head towards the waterfront to enjoy the amazing show put up by them.

Links: The links below have indepth information from the official site regarding timing, dates and details.

Ship Tours and Protocol ( Minimum Age is 8 )

The pictures below are from 2009 Fleet Week at San Francisco.

Blue Angels in San Francisco
Blue Angels


Flyover low over the bay
Flying low over the bay

Demonstrations mid air
Amazing performance mid air

Here they come again


Freaky!


Boats, cruises on the bay enjoying the show
the crowd on land and sea
Crowd on land and sea watching the Blue Angels
For more Blue Angel Facts click here.

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