Picture Tour of our US trip – Part 1

A picture, they say, is worth a thousand words. So, without much ado, here is the promised photo guide of our recent US trip. In this post, we will take you through our escapades in Chicago and Arizona. Our adventures at the Zion National Park, Las Vegas and San Francisco will follow soon.

First up is the aerial view of the icy Tundra terrain in the Arctic Circle which was captured as we flew over Greenland and Northern Canada. We consider ourselves quite brave to have chosen to fly Air India, which flies non-stop from Delhi to Chicago in 16 hours!

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CHICAGO 

Our day of arrival in Chicago coincided with the onset of sunny days of the summer of 2017 and we got to witness the general euphoria that this season infuses into every aspect of this vibrant city. Everyone steps outdoors wearing an amiable smile on their face. We attended a street music festival which was flooded with happy-go-lucky people dancing or humming (or both!) to the tunes being played, queuing up to fetch drinks, or just hanging out doing nothing but enjoying themselves.

Our time in Chicago was spent at leisure and in the comfort of our cousins’, Prerna and Vikas’, home. We had not planned the daily itinerary and we took each day as it came – allowing the city to surprise us with all that it had to offer.

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Here’s the entire gang! 

And the city indeed lived up to our expectations. If Chicago were a character from the Game of Thrones, it would have a long list of titles to flaunt after its name. Also known as the Windy City (which, we learnt, alludes not only to its breezy weather but is also a metaphorical jibe at its supposedly boastful and haughty politicians from back in the day!), Chicago is the birthplace of skyscrapers and the Ferris Wheel.

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A quick Did-You-Know fact – The first ever Ferris Wheel was made by George Washington Ferris Jr. and displayed in Chicago at the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, which was held to celebrate 400th year of Christopher Columbus’ discovery of the Americas. The Ferris Wheel seen in the picture above is located at the Navy Pier.
Home of the Chicago Cubs. For the uninitiated, its like visiting the Lords when in London or Eden Gardens when in Kolkata 🙂

So, what do you do in a city which is famous for its architecture and a lake? You take its famed architecture boat tour – which is exactly what we did. The tour was worth the hype – we not only saw some wonderful sights but also received an insight into the history of this city, which was rebuilt almost entirely from rubble after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Endowed with a rich historical background and bedecked with world-class buildings, Chicago served as an apt destination for first time US visitors like us.

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You can see the Sears (now Willis) Tower (black building) in the background here. Built in 1973, it held the title for being the tallest building for nearly 25 years.
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Look how these beauties love to pose for a picture! 

In the picture below is the modern skyline of Chicago as seen from across the calm waters of one of the Great Lakes (Lake Michigan). The lake is as vast as a sea – don’t be surprised if you can’t see the shore on the other side of the lake!

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Downtown Chicago is said to be one of the most beautiful downtown areas in the US, and is called the Magnificent Mile. A stroll down this road is a treat for both, architecture lovers and shopaholics. The majesty of the original skyscrapers built in the first half of the nineteenth century on this stretch can put to shame the designs of some of the modern era buildings posing as skyscrapers.

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The Chicago Tribune Building.

 

On our last day in Chicago, we paid a visit to the Millennium Park and the Art Institute, which is one of the oldest and largest art museums in the United States. The Art Institute has a prolific collection of the great works of painters such as Van Gogh, Picasso, Monet, Warhol, etc.

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Quiz time – In which movie was the Whistler’s Mother stolen? Hint is in the picture below – see the shiny object behind us?

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After spending an amazing four days in Chicago, we left for the next leg of our trip with a mixed bag of emotions in our heart – sad to be leaving the company of P, V and little Arin but at the same time we were excited about seeing some of the mystical natural beauties on planet earth.

ARIZONA

We flew down to Phoenix, Arizona along with our cousins Kanika and Dan. We rented a car from the airport to begin a road trip which (we had no idea it would turn out to be so when it began) was legendary! We traversed across the picturesque states of Arizona and onwards towards Las Vegas in Nevada through Utah. We even got to “get our kicks on Route 66” as we drove along this historic highway towards the Grand Canyon National Park.

The change in the terrain and temperature in comparison to that of Chicago was drastic. We imagined the entire route would be through a dry and arid zone (Is that where Arizona gets its name – Arid Zone?) but, boy, were we in for a surprise! Go figure from the pictures that follow.

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The giant Cacti – looking like portly aldermen amidst the rather emaciated shrubs.
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Enroute Grand Canyon National Park, the sky was suddenly overcast and the rain Gods smiled on us. We realised that Arizona is surprisingly green.
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Any Breaking Bad fans out there? Turn Left!

After a quick stop for lunch in the Noddy-esque town of Flagstaff, we proceeded towards our next destination.

The Canyon Grand!

As soon as we reached our lodge in Yavapai, we dumped our luggage in the room and headed out for a hike on the Kaibab Trail to…

…test our physical fitness…

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…be rewarded with astonishing views along the way and…

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…be reminded how small and insignificant we are in front of nature in its full glory!

Here are some more pictures of the Grand Canyon taken from various spots along the Kaibab Trail.

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One of our first views of the South Rim from the top of the trail. Who would have thought that a destructive geological phenomenon like erosion could create such magnificent and jaw-dropping sights!  There is definitely an order in Nature’s chaos.  
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Now, isn’t that majestic! Standing quietly through the ages, watching the restless river down below and an equally restless race of men on their relentless quest to fathom the secrets that these brown old rocks so dearly hold in its bosom.
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Cheese Alert: This is us at the “Ooh Aah Point”.

After getting some much needed rest at night, we started the next day early to catch a glimpse of the sunrise from the Mather Point. Numerous early-risers had gathered around to watch that glorious moment when the sun paints the vast canvas of the canyon with its early morning hues.

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As we drove around the next day, we were treated to different views of the Grand Canyon, with each sight drubbing the previous one as if it were a contest.

We made an unplanned stop at the Desert View Watch Tower and were completely mind-blown by the view that greeted us there. View of the canyon from this point is undoubtedly the best place to see the south rim from.

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Notice the faintly visible blue of the Colorado river below? The river which carved the Grand Canyon by erosion over a million years. The result is right before you!
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Our companions: Dan, Kanika. We were the League of the Loafing Lawyers; the Clan of the Cavalcading Counsels; the Sorority of the Sailing Suits 😀 Well, we weren’t really sailing, but don’t you just love a good alliteration? Of course, words denoting one gender includes the other 😛  

Grand Canyon to Page

Our next stop was the city of Page, about 3 hours drive away from the south rim. The route from Grand Canyon to Page easily made it to the top of our list of the best road trips we had ever taken. See for yourselves – the vast expanse of barren land with unobstructed view of the abundance of nature till as far as the eyes could see. Please be forewarned that these pictures do not do any justice to reality!

Antelope Canyon

As if the sights at the Grand Canyon weren’t enough in terms of sheer beauty, we had no inkling of the jewel that lay hidden in the apparent barren Navajo lands in Page. We had booked a tour of the lower Antelope Canyon, a place not too many people were aware of until recently when it featured on the cover of the National Geographic. It is a ‘slot canyon’, which in simple terms can be described as a ‘crack’ in the ground, caused by erosion of sandstone rocks due to flash floods in the region.

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Try to trace the crack on the ground. You wouldn’t know it was there unless you were looking for it.
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Now you see it. This served as our exit from the canyon. The exit was well timed because we could see ready-to-burst clouds up in the heavens. Our guide informed us that the canyon is immediately evacuated in the event of rainfall anywhere upstream from the canyons as rainwater anywhere can easily find its way in and cause flash floods with little prior notice.
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This is the wider crack which served as our entrance. The stairway gets steeper as you go down and photography while on the stairs is strictly prohibited.

Once we were inside, the sights we saw left us speechless. Witnessing the unearthly, exquisite charm of the Antelope Canyon is an overwhelming experience. It is simple, pristine, ethereal and probably one of the most beautiful spots on this planet.

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Spelunking in the realm of the unknown, the unseen, the untainted and the one with unmatched sublimity!
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A narrow pathway slithers through the bottom of the rocks allowing tourists with gaping mouths to admire its sheer beauty.
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The Navajo term for the lower Antelope Canyon means spiral rock arches. Notice the spiral rocks formed mainly during flash floods. The rain water apparently creates a whirlpool inside eroding the sandstones to create this marvellous structure.
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Our guide informed us that the Navajo people like to spot faces of people or animals on the walls of the canyon. This one resembles the shark from “Finding Nemo”.
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A lady with the wind in her hair, like she just don’t care! Notice that beam of sunlight gladly descending from the sky adding a blush on the Lady’s cheeks.
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Other-wordly, isn’t it? Looks like we went on a trip to Mars!
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Here we are surrounded by the red-orange sandstone rocks of the Lower Antelope Canyon, as the sun-rays try hard to find their way through this portion of the slot.
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Peekaboo!
If you didn’t know better, you’d think these are sand dunes.

We thought we had seen a lot of crazy sights for one day. But wait, one has to travel only 5 km from Antelope Canyon to see the other wonder of Page and the more famous cousin of Antelope Canyon, the Horseshoe Bend – named after the shape which the Colorado river takes at this spot to circumvent the rock.

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To quote Mehmet Murat ildan – “In the empire of desert, water is the king and shadow is the queen.” We managed to see with our naked eyes this royal troika at the Horse-shoe Bend.  

William Wordsworth, one of the greatest poets of Nature, truly considered Nature as a living personality with a divine spirit that connects and permeates into all objects of Nature. He believed that Nature’s touch can heal the worst of bruised human hearts. Above all, he emphasised Nature’s role as the ultimate teacher. Well, we couldn’t agree more. When we left Page, our hearts were content and peaceful.

 

 

4 thoughts on “Picture Tour of our US trip – Part 1

Add yours

  1. Loved your pictures and writing! We are going to Arizona in October and I’m bookmarking your tour so I can read it again!!

    Like

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