This is a guest post by Ruchi Undevia, a Transformational Yoga Teacher and a budding filmmaker currently living in Dubai.
Having worked for a few years in the safe zone, I lost the reason why I was doing it all. I continued to work because this was the only world I knew. Until an identity crisis struck and it struck hard! That’s when I gifted myself some time off from the “real world” and resigned from my job. Since then I have travelled to Vadodara, Udaipur, Pondicherry, Delhi, Bhutan, Sikkim and United States West Coast (San Jose, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Oregon, and Los Angeles). In my travels this year, I have met some amazing people and visited many breathtaking locales.
My most recent trip was a six week holiday to the United States West Coast. What made it special was that I got to explore like a tourist but also live like a local - driving, joining fitness classes and walking my nephew to school. I have hiked in nature, shopped, partied and celebrated Navratri (an Indian festival) as well as my birthday there with family.
Yosemite National Park
Our first stop while exploring the gems of United States West Coast was hiking and biking in the Yosemite National Park where we saw rivers, waterfalls, open fields and mountains. The open fields made us feel like we were in a Bollywood song sequence! There are many hiking options with different levels of difficulty where the paths are well marked and easy to follow. We stayed there for 2 nights in a camp which was a novel experience. The tents we rented accommodated 5 of us with fitted beds. We stored our scented belongings and foodstuff in a metal container outside the tent to keep away bears!
In the heart of United States West Coast lies Los Angeles, where we went to Universal Studios, the Hollywood Sign and the Walk of Fame. TheUniversal Tour was really memorable showcasing the famous film artefacts like cars of ‘Back to the Future’, ‘2 Fast 2 Furious’ and TVsets like ‘Will & Grace’. They also showed how the disasters like floods and earthquakes are created for the big screen. Some of the memorable rides were Harry Potter, Jurassic World, and Transformers. The mummy ride was a bit scary. The best part for a true Harry Potter Fan was the light and sound show on the Hogwarts Castle. It really created a magical atmosphere and brought the books alive momentarily!
Half Moon Bay
A beautiful gem in the United States West Coast is Half Moon Bay, scenic locale hardly an hour away from our location in Fremont. It is a crescent-shaped beach with a restaurant on a clifftop with fantastic views and fireplaces to keep warm.It was a nice drive to the place too.
Went to the wine country, Napa Valley where I, who is not too fond of alcohol, sampled 7 different wines and bought 3 wine bottles! I chose the Sterling Winery where there was a tour to see how wine is made. We also saw the winery from a bird's eye view sitting in a cable car. We also went to the Culinary Institute of America nearby which is famous for its food.
Being in California, of course, we went to San Francisco. We travelled by Bart, the public transportation. We got off at Powell Square which is really lively with a huge shopping arena and a happening Union Square nearby. Walked for nearly an hour absorbed by the vibrant city. Saw the iconic crooked street laden with flowerbeds. Reached the Ghiradelli Square in the Fishermen’s Wharf area, the chocolate paradise that was buzzing with people and activity. We walked ahead to Pier 39 which has the view of the infamous Alcatraz Prison. Even saw many many seals on a nearby dock.There was a small skate area, mirror maze, games and eateries around.
On another visit there I went to the Golden Gate Park which is really huge and needs a complete day to cover. This time I took the Mini Bus to get to the park from the Powell station. In the park, there is the California Academy of Sciences where I was mesmerized by the planetarium experience. I went for 2 shows – ‘Earthquakes’ and ‘Dark Matter’ - overwhelming visuals with music and a live presenter who adds the recently related facts. Besides that, there is the coral reef inside, dinosaur world, aquariums, live shows, documentaries, nature photography, physics experiments to play with, a rainforest and more.
Haight Ashbury is another very different area near the park. It has a very distinct Hip-Hop vibe, colourful artsy graphics on buildings with young crowds zooming past on skateboards. Saw a cute bookshop called the Booksmith, farmers market, record label shops and vintage clothing stores.
We couldn’t afford to miss the brightest place in US and the shiniest gem of the United States West Coast, Las Vegas. I think this is the city that never sleeps! To be honest, Dubai, where I come from, is always very bright with beautiful architecture as well so this for me, was a one-time experience. The hotel we stayed at in the Paris section was just wow with huge ceilings and majestic statues. The highlight of this place was the colourful La Reve Show.The story flowed seamlessly with the incredible acrobatic stunts and the stage looked dazzlingly different in each act.
Yet another place that deserves a visit on the United States West Coast, we drove to the Grand Canyon. The magnificent view there created a feeling of limitlessness. Huge natural structures stretched across without boundaries. We rented bikes and rode from the village centre to the top viewpoint and back- about 6 hours ride with stops. Biking on the windy and sometimes steep roads was great as it was too hot to enjoy the view otherwise. The breeze downhill made it all worthwhile. There are many hikes leading down the canyon but to reach below is mostly meant to be a 2-3 day trek while carrying all the overnight arrangements (a definite plan for the next trip!). At night we went to the darkest corner of the canyon and gazed at the Milky Way and a sky flooded with lights from the stars.
Oregon Redwood Forest, Burney Falls & Crater Lake
In Oregon, I visited the amazing redwood forest. I have never before witnessed such tall and majestic trees. There was even a tree with a gap in a trunk so wide that cars could literally drive through! The sky was dotted with tree heads and the redwoods around looked positively radiant. The Burney Falls was striking too. But the ultimate was the snowy jaw-dropping Crater Lake. We reached when the first snow of the season had just fallen. On route, we crossed many snow-capped trees and houses. The snow glittered as the sunlight fell on it and the water was a deep dark blue shade whose beauty I cannot describe in words.
Lake Tahoe is a popular destination on the United States West Coast and for good reason. It looks beautiful from every viewpoint and is really vast. I had the best view while parasailing across the lake. We hiked across nearby lakes stopping more often than not just to drink in the tranquillity and the beauty of the surroundings.
It’s been an overwhelming six weeks on the United States West Coast and still, there is so much to see and explore. For one who loves nature, this is paradise!