Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Self Drive Easily with Drivezy!

Who doesn't like road trips!
Road trips are fun, period! And who doesn’t like long drives? But what if you are in a new country where you do not own a car? Yes, I know self-drive cars are a big hit in countries like US, Canada and most of Europe. But India didn’t really have any self-drive car rental options till a few years back. Then came Zoomcar, all set to pave way for car rental services in India. Unfortunately, it was (and even now is) a tad bit out of budget for most. But guess what, now there are plenty of budget options in the market and one of them is!

Why Drivezy?
Drivezy is a peer-to-peer rental car/bike service in India which is currently prominent in Bangalore, Mumabi, Mysore and Pune. Drivezy currently has the lowest security deposit for any rental car service in India. When I said low, I meant zero to 999. Mostly Drivezy does not charge any security deposit and would change the no deposit account to a low security deposit account only in case of accidents or late due fees. 
On top of that they also have reasonable base charges for cars depending on the type of car (SUVs, Hatchbacks etc…), age of the driver and anticipated kilometers of a drive. You can actually enter your car type, hours range and tentative kilometers and check the cost of your booking even before booking the car. And Drivezy's tariff calculator gives you the whole cost breakdown too. If this isn't being transparent, then I don't know what is! Also, they are not just all about cars. Drivezy also has bikes for people who love to rule the roads on powerful two-wheelers!

All the benefits!
You can also customize your rental plan depending on whether you want to include fuel costs or not and the number of hours you need the car for (Basically it is a combination of Hertz and Zipcar). And to make your experience more convenient Drivezy has instant refund on cancellations.
Another interesting feature that Drivezy has is ‘split cost’. If you love taking roadtrips with a bunch of your friends, this feature is a boon! One less expense to remember, one less expense to note on your splitwise balance and one less bulk pay to make.

Add your car to their list!
What got me most interested in Drivezy was their win-win strategy! So not only do people who love long drives benefit from Drivezy, people who have cars but don’t really use much can also benefit from Drivezy. Like I mentioned earlier, Drivezy is a peer-to-peer rental service so people can register their cars on and make their car an earning member of their family, while helping people who need cars; and amidst all this Drivezy monitors the vehicles, protects and covers your vehicle and ofcourse provides assistance during the bookings. Basically, Drivezy follows the same business model as that of AirBnB!

Book Away a Getaway!

What you need to keep in mind right now!
Since, Drivezy is new and not as established as some of its counterparts, in most places you do not have on-demand pick up currently.
For people travelling to remote areas, Drivezy might not be able to reach you for roadside assistance if needed. In that case, you will have to collect the vehicle documents and arrange alternate transport. Drivezy will recover the vehicle themselves and reimburse the costs for your travel. For more information about this click here.
For cars, the minimum duration of booking is 3 hours for 'with fuel' package and 12 hours for 'without fuel' package, while for bikes it is flat 12 hours minimum.
So basically if you guys are in Bangalore, Mumbai or close by cities and you love driving at your own pace and exploring areas like me, you have a new friend who might be of great help –

P.S. Do check the renter’s clause before booking. Also, currently they have plenty of offers on their site. So, people going to Mysore for Dusherra – you guys can save up massively on transport!

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

An Evening in Fort Lauderdale

Hello Florida!
With the party spirit of Miami and the stretch that can give Palm Beach a run for its money, Fort Lauderdale flaunts an amazing view of the Atlantic in a much stylish way!

I ventured for the touristy Fort Lauderdale Beach!
About three weeks back, I had a taste of the sunny south of the USA and Fort Lauderdale beach was my hangout point of choice. Having traveled to offbeat corners for the first half of summer, I was ready for some party vibes, and Fort Lauderdale seemed like the perfect start point. And guess what, even this Party Crazy South Florida beach was ready to surprise me pleasantly.

The green and the blue, mini version - Parkland, Florida
My ride from Parkland to Fort Lauderdale reminded me of how harsh the tropical sun could be. But at the same time the roads surrounded by palm trees and numerous ponds not only calmed me but also got me all excited about getting to the Beach.

This is why I chose Fort Lauderdale Beach!
I had the choice of heading over to Deerfield Beach - quieter and cleaner sea-front of the city, supposedly similar to Venice beach of Los Angeles, or to Fort Lauderdale Beach – which was a pilgrimage of College Kids for spring breaks, back in the days. I had had a glimpse of Fort Lauderdale Beach and the close-by area from my flight the previous day and hence I just had to choose it over Deerfield.

The first sight
With the city canals dotted with white boats and yachts, my drive to the beach told me why Fort Lauderdale is called the Venice of America. An old-fashioned town did appear but you could see it being engulfed by a modern, ostentatious shopping gala. As I approached the beach and hunted for a parking spot, high risers overshadowed what was left the quaint shopping district and the beautiful old restaurants of Las Olas Boulevard and Sunrise Boulevard and there it was – the beautiful stretch of blue that we know as Atlantic Ocean!

Just enjoy the sunny evening...
The white sand ran for miles and everywhere I could see people, lot of people. It surely was a crowded beach but for a reason! The waters were sun kissed and shimmery blue, music and the crack of waves drowned the cacophony of vehicles and people around. And my excitement of touching nine states in the US and Atlantic Ocean made me forget all about my fears of the tropical sun.

I had heard a lot about South Florida beaches being hubs for young binge drinking crowd, but Fort Lauderdale Beach is a calmer version of its famous sister beaches. I spend hours looking at kids frolicking in the water on that hot summer day, sandcastles being made all around, some people (including me) busy in capturing every moment possible with a camera and most just languidly waiting for the sun to set.

The colours of  Atlantic!!!
I don’t even remember when I stopped clicking pictures and just soaked in the moment. My trance was broken by some teenagers (I guessed) who seemed to be replaying some 80’s spring scene in front of me. I headed back, all ready to leave, but not without having dinner in one of the shacks right on the promenade.

Burrito, loud music in sync with the constant cracking of waves, a chilled glass of twisted pink lemonade, and a beautiful mangata seen from the dim-lit, palm fringed promenade. It finally seemed like Florida done right! (Or at least Fort Lauderdale.)

Dim Lit, Palm Fringed Promenade
Best Time to Visit:
Fort Lauderdale can be visited at any time of the year with 95% surety that your visit won’t be ruined by rainfall. However, given it is in Florida, it is best to avoid the place during the tropical storm season (August-October)

Where to Stay:
Fort Lauderdale Beach, being a chic South Florida hub, has plenty of reasonable stay options around the beach itself. Though I stayed with my cousin in Parkland, my cousin suggested Westin (Luxury) and The Aqua (budget) for a good comfortable stay near the beach.

Where to Eat:
The Drunken Tacos and H2O Cafe for outdoor dine and drink experience and Casablanca for the old and the new experience.

What else to do, other than the Beach:
I just did the beach because I literally had one day in Fort Lauderdale. But if you are there for a longer period, head over to Deerfield and Hollywood Beach, explore the history of the place and shop your heart’s fill in Las Olas Boulevard, Take a water Taxi ride in the canals of the city and explore Everglades!
That is it for now!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Offbeat New York - The Frick Collection

An industrialist and patron of art bought a doomed library in the heart of New York to build an adobe where he can live in peace surrounded by classic ageless art that froze time around them.

Fast forward to 2017
I wandered around the ornate rooms of a small museum, which was once a mansion, listening to facts about a prized collection of an industrialist!

I am talking about one of the lesser known museums of New York – The Frick’s Collection. Located on the Fifth Ave, Upper East Side, right next to central park, stands this beautiful house of Henry Clay Frick which has been a public library since 1930! Overshadowed by fame of the Met, which is close by, people don’t really know much about the Frick Collection but it sure is a paradise for any art lover for so many reasons.

Henry Clay Frick was a pioneer of art and often collected art pieces from a specific collection or era to build his own collection. Back in the time, Frick moved into this mansion knowing that he wanted to inculcate the love for art, that he had, in people. Hence, he wanted to build his house in a way that not only will he be able to freeze time in some sense while walking in the corridors of his mansion, but also engage people in conversation with art when they see his collection. And thus, in his will he had made his house a public library, that is run till date!

The Frick collection is a collection of some of the well-known paintings by major European Artists, as well as numerous sculpture, astronomical clocks and porcelain. Some rooms also have exquisite 18th century French furniture and rugs on display that tell you of the taste of luxury and appreciation of unique carpentry Frick had After Frick's death. The Frick Collection also has contributions from Frick’s his daughter, Helen Clay Frick, expanded the collection majorly with paintings and made the place what it is today.

For me however, the paintings were not the focus. I was spellbound by the mechanism behind every clock that was present in the last 4 rooms and by a small French writing table that was meant for Frick’s wife. Wondering if I read all the information like a nerd? Wrong! You get a very efficient audio guide in Frick’s museum to tell you about every small piece in the collection.

Apart from the art collection, the architecture of the building itself is pretty stunning. The library building that Frick bought (which stood where the museum is today) was built in Neo-Greek style, which was torn down to make way for Thomas Hastings’ Beaux-Arts architecture vision for the Frick’s residence. But even the new structure incorporated some elements of the old building like the façade and the central courtyard (the only place you can click photos in) thus keeping both the old and the new together.

Today, the place not only keeps the old-school art collection but also promotes new musicians and writers by giving out the place for small concerts and book reading sessions. After all, they are a form of art too right. I know, the place might sound very bookish, but you need to be there, explore the house, feel the vibe and get lost in the paintings to understand the spell this place can cast on anyone. And given that the place is small, doable, not noisy at all, usually has music or talk sessions and is super close to Central park is reason to visit, right?

This was my forth time in a museum that was previously someone's residence, and I thoroughly enjoyed my visit. Have you ever visited a similar museum? How was your experience? Let me know in the comments below!

P.S. How and when to get there:
Frick’s museum is about 1.5 miles away from the Grand Central Terminal and the best way to get there is by taking a bus. The place is open from 10 AM to 6 PM on all days except Mondays. It is closed on Mondays and on most Fridays the place is open till 9 PM. However, the best day of the week to visit Frick’s is Wednesdays, from 2-6 PM when you can pay as you wish. Apart from that any event at Frick’s is worth visiting.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Offbeat New York - PepsiCo Sculpture Gardens

Pepsico Headquarters, Purchase 
About thirty miles north of the busy concrete jungle of Manhattan, in a quiet upstate area, is the headquarters of one of the most famous food and beverages companies of the world. Tucked away in a arboraceous area called Purchase is the headquarters of Pepsico and this very place has become one of my favourite offbeat places in New York! Pepsico headquarters is not one of those corporate spaces where you gape at shiny high-rises, but it is a space where you feel close to nature and art at the same time – courtesy their world class sculpture gardens.

The very first look!

When I moved to New York for my internship, one of my professors suggested Donald Kendall Sculpture garden to me and said that it was her favourite place to visit for tranquil hours, back when she used to stay in New York. Till then, I didn’t even know of this place but once I started researching about this place, I just could wait to visit it.

I still don't know what they were but it sure fascinated me.

This unique 160-acre garden space houses a collection of 45 modern sculptures promoting 20th century structure art which is known for being a fusion of quirky abstract thoughts, earthly elements and cultural features. If you really love art you would be lost in searching these hidden treasures in the vast space. 

The red collection with that classic reflection!

And in case you do not understand art much, you would still lose track of time while enjoying the perfect harmony of Nature’s beauty and Human imagination.

Welcome to my kingdom

The place is called sculpture gardens and not garden for a reason. Apart from the 45 sculptures the area also has a number of distinct lawns, groves, ponds, and fountains, as well as landscaped gardens in the southern side. Every sculpture blends perfectly in the natural setting that is set around it and I just loved spending time at almost all of them.

The subtle play of metal and light

My personal favourite spaces were the mini forest near the totem poles, the pond near the grizzly bear and the harp pond where nature had its own way of displaying its love for music!

And some classic fusion are too!

The best part about this space is that it is offbeat and not well-known like the rest of the visit worthy places of NYC, even though it is just 30 mins by train from Grand Central. Also, I feel this place sure is unique since even after being house of world class structures and being so well maintained, there is absolutely no entry fees.

Totem trio.

And if you are still wondering why the place is called a world class collection of outdoor sculptures, guess what, famous artists like Richard Erdman, Henry Moore, Arnaldo Pomodoro and Alexander Calder (Knew his form of art from Seattle Olympic Sculpture Garden!) So, art lovers for sure you need to visit this place, and nature lovers like me – I think I have given you enough reasons to visit in this post, right?

And they soar...

How to get there?
The best way to reach Pepsico Sculpture Gardens is via train from Grand Central to – Port Chester Station or White plains. By road you can take the NY9A North from Manhattan to reach Purchase.

Unfortunately, now you can only visit the gardens on weekends from 10:00 AM TO 4:00 PM.


Things to remember:
Playing sports and taking pets in the garden is not permitted.
It is a no smoking zone.
The park is huge and you have to walk all the way, so carry water! Bicycles, skateboards, rollerskates are prohibited.

Bye for now!


Saturday, July 1, 2017

Postcards from Poughkeepsie

Where is Poughkeepsie?

The only constant in Poughkeepsie - The Hudson
After coming to USA, I think this is the first time I am staying in a small ‘town’ (not considering Grand Canyon Village). For most, the word Poughkeepsie only rings a bell if they have seen Friends and to be frank, I was also one of those till last year. And then Hidden Figures, the movie came out! I googled a bit around IBM Fortran and found out that IBM Poughkeepsie was its birthplace. Hence, I started thinking Poughkeepsie might be a type of Hi-Tech city with tall building – since it was a part of New York. But Poughkeepsie, to my surprise turned out to be a quaint little urban town, that seems to have crawled out of the cocoon of a village in the recent past.

Sunset over the Walkway over Hudson and Our Lady of Mount Carmel's Church
Poughkeepsie, is a small town in upstate New York, that is totally untouched by the Skyscraper craze you think of the minute New York is mentioned. A small old church and close by a bright white church – both talking about the time passed by in their own way, a small station that connects this sleepy town to the ever-busy city of New York, the constant company of the Hudson, spaced out historical sites like Franklin Roosevelt’s house - now turned into a library and museum, Samuel Morse’s house (scientist who invented Morse Code) – now turned into a wedding and exhibition centre, and some hiking trails – this was the Poughkeepsie I read about.

Where once Samuel Morse lived (Source)
At first, I thought it would be just the perfect way to spend a slow summer exploring, discovering and falling in love with nature, history and the quiet. But unfortunately, l am extremely disappointed with Poughkeepsie – probably I had some high expectations or probably because I had not been exposed to remote areas of USA, but sure I have struggled to settle down in Poughkeepsie. All the above-mentioned facts were not false but travelling in the town is a task if you do not own a car, and so is exploring history, because it isn’t as extensive as I expected or maybe not that well preserved.

One of the many old dying building of Poughkeepsie
But like every place, Poughkeepsie does have one highlight – the Hudson. Walkway over the Hudson turned out to be my silver lining and my area of peace in Poughkeepsie, or rather the park overlooking the walkway. Just off the town’s train station, one you hear a faint gurgle of a flowing stream. As you approach the sound, it gets louder and you reach a small waterfall and then there is the quiet – quiet of the expansive Hudson. 

The small stream that joins the Hudson from Poughkeepsie
Here, on the Hudson, one can see the old Cantilever bridge that still stands tall and has been a landmark of this town since 1889! Initially built as a double track railway track, this bridge was once the only fixed Hudson River crossing between Albany and New York City, but in the late 1900 it went out of function due to a fire accident. After a lot of legal and functional issues, the bridge was eventually converted to a pedestrian ‘walkway’ and has been the most visited place of Poughkeepsie ever since.

The Walkway over the Hudson!
I love spending my evenings in Upper Landing Park, the park from where you get the lift to this historic bridge and the park from I am sending out all these postcards from on my blog today.

The part of Poughkeepsie I loved
Despite my disappointment with the town, Upper Landing Park and Walkway over the Hudson are places where I feel close to history, nature and the quiet, I was expecting!

There always in a silver lining right?
Have you ever traveled to a place with a lot of expectations and met with only disappointment? How was your experience? Do let me know in the comments below!

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Quirky Seattle - Fremont

The very first view of Fremont that caught my eyes.
A 20 minutes’ bus ride from Downtown Seattle, and the bus would drop you off near a café next to a bridge declaring the place to be Fremont. At first sight, it would be just like any other neighbourhood of Seattle, but look closely and you would be able to notice a colourful funky but informative direction post. Lo behold! You are at the Centre of the Universe. Now notice people around you. At any time of a bright day you would notice people with kids walking or people of bikes moving in a particular direction. Follow them, out of curiosity (not stalking level) and there below the bridge you will meet the famous troll of Seattle!


Welcome to a super interesting and quirky neighbourhood - Fremont!
For many people, who frequently travel to western countries – Graffiti and random statues at middle of some random street might not be an interesting encounter. But being from India, at least the statues and structures at seemingly insignificant corners of Seattle fascinated me a lot. Recently, a blogger friend of mine decided to do a series on street art across the globe and it was that series that prompted me to write this post because Fremont in Seattle is a must visit for its quirkiness!

Do you see the centre of the universe? 
Fremont, Seattle is known to be a treasure house of creativity! From the centre of the universe to life size statue of Lenin, from a troll under the bridge to Patches & Gertrude dancing away to glory – you can see it all during a languid stroll in the neighbourhood! Here are the five things to see when in Fremont Seattle:

Say Hello to the Troll!

1.   Troll under the bridge – I have already mentioned it so many times, that I am sure you knew this was a must in my list. In 1989, Fremont Arts Council decided to give some life to the folklore of troll under the Aurora Bridge and thus this troll was born. But unlike Scandinavian folklore where trolls were feared this troll is a friendly non-living being loved by kids and adults alike and is one of the most frequented sites in Fremont.
A handshake with Lenin?

2.  Statue of Lenin – This life size cast bronze sculpture of Vladimir Lenin was created by Emil Venkov and installed in Slovenia in 1988. Wondering then how it got to Seattle? In 1989, An American veteran - Lewis Carpenter found statue lying in ruin after the 1989 Revolution. As an appreciation and recognition of skill and craftsmanship of Venkov, Carpenter was determined to save the statue. Carpenter mortgaged his house to get the sculpture and got it to Issaquah. After he died the statue was owned by his family and they installed it temporarily in Fremont for viewing and sale. The reason this statue is worth seeing is because apparently, it is the only representation portraying Lenin surrounded by guns and flames instead of holding a book or waving his hat – symbolizing his violet ways of revolution.
When we made the people wear colours of University of Washington

3.  People Waiting for the Interurban – The electric trolleys don’t run from Seattle to Everett anymore, but still some people wait at Fremont to board one. Not real people, but aluminium statues with a dog at Fremont Interurban stop, installed in 1979, are the funkiest of the lot of statues in the area. You can dress them the way you want and make them as real as you want and that makes this buck really special!
Dancing away to glory!

4.  Patches & Gertrude – I didn’t know this, but Patches and Gertrude were titular characters of a famous live kids show that ran for about two decades and had a huge fan following in the Puget Sound region. In 2008, a life size statue of ‘Patches and Gertrude forever in Dance’ was installed, courtesy fan contributions. Interestingly, this installation has a place to leave buttons on Patches’ famously multi button jacket and a bronze TV box in form of a donation box. Donations left with patches makes its way to the Seattle Children’s Hospital – hence making kids happy even after all this time!
I was aiming for the moon and imaging night, in case you are wondering why my eyes are closed.

5.  The Centre of the Universe – Do you want to know exactly how far is moon from where you are standing? Do you know how much distance you need to cover to travel to Antarctica? Do you know where Paris is exactly – distance, direction, any idea? Well the answer is at the Centre of the Universe if the a colourful post right at the start of Fremont Neighbourhood. And if you like geography or are inquisitive about random distances and places – you must spend some time at the Centre of the Universe!

Apart from theses – you should also see the rocket, have some local cider, and be part of some Neighbourhood parade like the Oktober Fest or Solstice parade!
Have you been to any place that is equally fun and quirky? Do let me know in the comments below!

In case you just want to spend a peaceful evening - Fremont has that option too!