Finally, we are ready with part deux of the picture tour. It has taken a long time; mainly because we were at our wit’s end trying to sift through the pictures and collate the apt ones.
In this part, we will be taking you through another set of scenic views sighted at the Zion National Park, the din and bustle of Las Vegas and the quaint, effervescent streets of San Francisco.
Zion National Park, Utah
As we left Page for Vegas, we decided to stop by at Zion National Park, which lies mid-way on the same route. The plan was to halt there for a couple of hours and if possible, to hike a short trail before we headed further to Las Vegas.
The change in scenery, although not very drastic, was quite notable. All thoughts of our previous sightings were flushed out of our minds as we eagerly peered outside our car windows to be greeted by a series of tall, distinctly coloured cliffs (alternating between red and white) with sides so steep, it appeared to have been sliced off with a knife! The rocky sentinels surrounding three sides of the topography of Zion are accompanied by swift flowing streams, deep canyons and vividly green vegetation; and, just like the Colorado river, the architect of this piece of marvel is another river, called the Virgin.
Enough said, take a look yourself.
Despite its beauty, some parts of Zion (like in the pictures above and below) look a lot like the mythical Mordor, minus the orcs of course! We wondered, if it was so because of the dryness of the rocks or the solitude.
Simply driving through Zion would have been a great experience in itself, but it would have been foolish of us to be there and not take a walk around. Zion is supposed to be famous for hiking, with trails of varying difficulty and length. We decided to do the moderately difficult Emerald Pools trail, a 2.5 mile hike.
The trail is divided into three landings, where the river collects in a series of ‘pools’, called the Lower, Middle and the Upper Emerald Pools.
After the Middle Pool, the climb up was more rocky and testing of our agility. Finally when we made it to the top, the view was worth it. The Upper Pool is a collection of water at the foot of a giant rock with a private beach of its own.
We quickly descended from the Upper Pool and resumed our sojourn towards Las Vegas.
Las Vegas, Nevada
Vegas needs no introduction. We cruised through the highway to reach Las Vegas strip in approximately 2 hours after our departure from Zion. Nikhil successfully managed to drive almost 200 km on this stretch, the first time he has ever driven outside India, and was pretty kicked about being able to master the right-hand drive.
We did the customary walk down the strip, aimlessly loitered in various casinos and tried our luck at gambling, checked out the fountain show at the Bellagio, attended a day pool party, went to a night club, ate a hearty buffet, et al. Phew, that was hectic!
Vegas was definitely everything that we had watched in the movies, heard about from friends and family, read about in the travel websites, yet somehow it failed to bedazzle us. Blasphemous as it may sound, Las Vegas, with all its incandescence and intoxication, was definitely a lot of fun but not as awe-inspiring or therapeutic as Mother Nature that we had encountered before.
After a frenzied stay in Las Vegas, we headed towards our ultimate destination, San Francisco.
San Francisco, California
All avid readers will agree with this theory that most experiences magically reminds us about something that was read in a book and stored in, as Sherlock calls it, the Mind Palace. One of the first descriptions of San Francisco etched in our minds is from Oscar Wilde’s Picture of Dorian Gray – “It is an odd thing, but every one who disappears is said to be seen at San Francisco. It must be a delightful city, and possess all the attractions of the next world.”
‘Frisco is indeed a delightful city backed by a rich history that adds substance to its lavish exuberance. The vibe in this city is pregnant with the force of life. You will find everyone, from locals to tourists, walking around with a sense of purpose; not the kind that makes you a grumpy person, but the kind of purpose that adds music to every step you take.
The only downside that we encountered (at the risk of seeming too bourgeoise) was the huge number of homeless people we saw on the streets whose plight transcended beyond poverty and homelessness. We found it queer that a city so full of joie de vivre, a city that prides itself for being large hearted and liberal, for being the epitome of the American dream, seemed to be struggling with an issue so basic as the rehabilitation and care for its homeless.
Be that as it may, our 4 day stay in San Francisco was all about new experiences, more reunion with extended family and, of course, treating our taste buds.
On Day 1, we took a quick walking tour of the downtown, followed by a sumptuous lunch at Pier 39, visit to the Alcatraz island and a relaxed, enjoyable evening spent in the fabulous company of the Mehras.
We feel compelled to write about the historical significance of both, statue of Lady de Bretteville and Lotta’s fountain as narrated to us by our guide from the walking tour. After a devastating earthquake in 1906, everything that the people of San Francisco had built crumbled down like a pack of cards. Everything except the statue of Lady Alma and Lotta’s fountain. Standing tall and resolute, the statue inspired the citizens to re-build their lives and rise like the proverbial phoenix from ashes. Lotta’s fountain not only served as the only source of drinking water but also a symbol of hope as countless people gathered there everyday hoping to be reunited with their lost loved ones. What a heart-wrenching sight it must have been! We were told that every year on April 18, people gather around Lotta’s Fountain at 5.12 am to commemorate the victims of the earthquake.
The island of Alcatraz in the San Francisco Bay area has played many roles – it was used as a military fort, served as a federal prison site till 1963 housing infamous criminals like Al Capone, and later became the site of protest for greater rights by native American in the ’70s.
In the evening, we met our aunt, Bulbul bua, who showed us around the famous ‘hoods of San Francisco like Haight-Ashbury, Castro district, etc. All of us then drove down to Los Altos, which is outside SFO, to meet Bablu chachu and Sonia chachi. After a really long day (we had been up since 4 am to take the flight from Vegas to SFO!), the company of warm family members, nostalgic discussions of childhood, photography and current affairs over refreshing margaritas and piping hot, delicious Indian food were all we needed to rejuvenate ourselves.
No trip to SFO is complete without a cycle ride across the Golden Gate Bridge. We set out a whole day to explore the Golden Gate Bridge and nearby areas at leisure.
After we had crossed the bridge we rode ahead towards the quaint, sleepy little town of Sausalito.
On our last day, we decided to take a tour of the famed California State Highway 1. The drive along the pacific coastline is known for its scenic views.
We reached SFO and, with a heavy heart, prepared ourselves to bid adieu to Uncle Sam the next day.
But before we end this post, we want to leave you with one last picture, taken along the Pacific coastline, which is one of our personal favourites.