Saturday, February 17, 2007


  • Whine, plead, beg and whine again to get four weeks of vacation instead of the usual three weeks - check.
  • Annoy everyone around me with countdown from the day the tickets are booked - double check.
  • Check current profligate eating to some extent to save space for imminent bingeing - partial check.
  • Politely smile 'NO' to all nosey parker questions about whether I am going to get married - check.
  • Stuff all shopping into two big suitcases - check.
  • Delegate work at work to other people and get the office laptop (sigh) anyways - check.
  • Last minute goodbyes - check.
Yes people, I am all set! I am flying out to India tonight for a whole month of vacation. Yaaay :-D! Await my 7 * (30/4) ~= 53 posts (seven posts for each set of four days) about the trip when I get back :-D. Hey, stop running, come back, come back - I was only kidding :-P!

Home Sweet Home, here I come :-D!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Hello there pretty lady!

Recent conversation between me and a female colleague at work:

N: We need to discuss this at the meeting and... hey, have you worn make-up today?

Me: (surprised that someone actually notices on the rare occasions I wear make-up to work) Yeah, I used mascara - thought I should try to use it at least once in a while.

N: Oh really? But you already have long and curly eye-lashes! Why do you need mascara?

Me: (feeling all flattered and happily rocketing towards cloud 9) :-)!

N: That's why I can't even see the difference you know. I can't tell you have used mascara.

Me: (puzzled) Oh! But didn't you just now ask me if I have worn make-up?

N: Oh, I was referring to your purple eyeshadow!

Me: Huh!?! What purple eyeshadow? (realization dawning and rapidly falling from cloud 9 to core of the earth -9) Oh no - that's not make-up. Those are the dark circles I got due to lack of sufficient sleep.

N: (sounding embarrassed) Oh! (brightening up) But you know what, you should be happy! It looks like make-up and you did not even have to spend time on it!

Me: Yeah right, whatever!

*Sigh* and so life goes on!

Monday, February 12, 2007

The return of the three musketeers

The day you never thought would arrive has finally arrived. This is abso-last-lutely the last part of the Florida trip. I thought I should complete what I started. Besides, on a more evil note, at least one of my readers has complained about being sick of this series and you know how much I hate cheating people of further annoyance X-).

Continued from these parts [1], [2], [3], [4], [5] and [6]. Okay, before you start really ruing the day I decided to make this trip to Florida, let me start!

Despite our best intentions, we were not too early in vacating the room the next morning. However, at long last, everything was packed and a final adieu to the room was bade. The checkout formalities were completed. We bought breakfast for the last time at the hotel cafe. D and me were feeling quite sad about the end of the vacation - both of us would be returning to work the next day. S though was more cheerful - she had something very nice to look forward to (which she will probably write about if she ever revives her blog) in a few days.

The plan that day was to do some kind of water-sports at the beach and then drop S off at the airport around 4.00p for her 6.00p flight. Well, that day turned out to be another one of those days where anything that could go wrong did.

We were supposed to go to Miami Beach (why Miami Beach and not South Beach? Search me - we just thought we should visit Miami Beach. Period.) We got directions from the hotel guide and he told us that we could go on Collins Ave (non-freeway route) all the way upto Fort Lauderdale. Well, we drove right past South Beach. Then we kept waiting for Miami Beach to show up and it never did (rather, we missed it).

The haphazard traffic on Collins Ave had a negative effect on driver me. Finally, as the clock ticked towards noon we were began to realize that there was no way we could do our water sports and get S back to the airport on time. So instead, we decided to focus on finding a quite beach to relax in. After a brief stop at a grocery store to buy snacks (once bitten, twice shy), we finally located parking in a strip mall (we would eat lunch there was our justification :-P) and walked to the beach.

As I have said before, the Atlantic has a lovely, lovely, lovely blue-green color to it. And, though the day was cloudy, the water was NOT cold. Now, this is a huge change from the Pacific near my place - which is always cold irrespective of weather (as far as I know, only the bay near Santa Cruz had even tolerably chilly water in summer). We were all so excited and jumped right in. We had to strive not to get too wet. Nevertheless, we had a wonderful time, walking, running and splashing in the water.

We could also see all these huge condos nearby. It would be super awesome to own one right by the beach. Anyone of you owning one has an open invitation to become my best friend :-P!

After an hour and a half, we had to get going because of our tight schedule. We reluctantly left the beach, making promises to ourselves to make a trip to Florida just to relax in the beach. Then it was lunch time. This time we went to a Peruvian restaurant called Pachamama (pacha+mama=green+earth - which is surprisingly close to the meaning of the word in Indian languages). The food was quite decent and we had a relaxing lunch.

Then it was time to get to the airport. We reached the airport quite early. So D and me dumped our initial plans of just whiling away time at the airport till our 8.00p and thereabouts flights. Instead we dropped S off and decided to go to Dana Beach, which was the beach nearest to the airport as far as we could see.

As we got off at Dana Beach, a really chilly wind had begun to blow. Finally I could feel what M had been trying to tell me about chilly weather! Finally we also found use for our jackets and snuggled comfily into it. Of course, in the beach, D and me were the only two souls doing any kind of comfily snuggling into jacket. Everybody else was still in swim-wear *sigh*. Anyways, we just sat on the sand by the water, watched the waves and enjoyed the serene scene.

About half an hour later, the cloudy day turned into a torrent of showers. D and me hurried under a thatched roof gazebo nearby. There we watched the rain and talked and talked. D is one of those friends with whom you can talk about anything at all - so I had a nice time yacking.

Finally it was time to bid adieu to Dana Beach too. The rain had stopped by then so we just spent some more time taking pictures and then proceeded back to the airport.

Afters some more minor adventures with the horrible traffic (phew - I think I have chopped at least six months off my life by driving in Miami), we were back at the airport for the final farewell - D and me were boarding at different terminals.

From then on, it was just a long blur of dinner, cat-naps, lots of flying time, a connection, a boarding-pass getting adventure in Las Vegas which almost resulted in me missing my flight and finally reaching a (oh, the irony) rainy Bay Area.

As me gushing about it for seven whole posts should have given you some clue, it was a lovely vacation and I had a super wonderful time :-)! Beaches of Miami, await my return :-D!

And yes, seriously yes! With this post, the Florida travelogue goes finis :-D!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Miami Traffic Rules

This post is based on the driving experiences we had in Miami during our visit there as described in [1], [2], [3], [4], [5], [6] and [7] (yes, impossible as it may be to believe, there is a part [7] and it is not published yet.)

Statutory Warning: These rules are simply basic guidelines and should not be taken as a complete reference.

If you are a pedestrian:

1. You can cross the road at any place you like. Don't worry about a ton of metal hurtling towards you at very high-speed - those metal boxes have drivers with eyes, dont they? So what if the driver in question almost expires with a heart-attack when s/he see you suddenly darting across the street when they are driving at 40 mph (such faint-hearted drivers are most probably tourists anyways).

2. Traffic lights are for wimps. If you are waiting for the light anyway, during the green signal for you, continue to stand on the starting side and talk on your cell phone or converse with your walking companions or stare at the sky or do other such urgent activities. The moment the light turns red for you is the cue for you to start crossing the road. Pedestrians are God, you know!

3. If you feel like it, dart from side to side on the middle of the road while making up your mind about which side you want to ultimately get to. It sure relieves the monotony of vehicle-filled roads for drivers.

If you are driving a vehicle:

1. Traffic lights changing from yellow to red is mostly just a suggestion for you to think about stopping. You can continue proceeding on red till cross traffic absolutely prevents you from doing so.

2. Blocking intersections is the done thing. After all, you did have a green light when you moved to the middle of the intersection and it is not your fault that the two vehicles ahead of you were unable to move up further.

3. If anyone ahead of you disobeys rule 2, honk at them and make angry faces.

4. It is perfectly okay to start new "lanes" of traffic. Isn't it kinda neat when there are four lines of vehicles on a road which has only two lanes? When used in conjunction with rule 2, you can choke an entire intersection with a row of vehicles. Cool, huh?

5. The right lane of any road though technically a part of the road is actually a convenient place for parking. Use it for parking (emergency flashers are not necessary) when you want to a) talk on your cell phone b) go shopping c) run any errand or d) simply sit in your vehicle and watch the traffic go by. This is especially funny when vehicles behind you actually wait patiently thinking that you are going to move on (naive tourists sure are a funny lot).

6. Signalling while changing lanes is an unnecessary use of vehicle energy. Come on, a big vehicle moving onto the next lane should be indication enough of the event!

7. On unprotected turns make your turn irrespective of right of way. The driver with the right of way will most probably not hit you if s/he applies the brakes hard enough as soon as you suddenly turn your vehicle into their oncoming path.

Given all these rules (which we were mostly unaware of till we put our feet or rather wheels there) you can imagine just how much "fun" D and me had while navigating the roads of Miami in the rental car. Oh well, we can now proudly say that we are now Miami-certifed drivers :-) (If you have been reading my blog for some time, you probably know that I am also a New York certified driver - ah, its comforting to know that I can always fall back on the alternate job of a cab-driver :-P.)

At this point, I am sure any person who has visited India is dying to point out: "Get off your high-horse missy, this is exactly how traffic usually is in India". You are absolutely right - but I have not driven much in India so have never had first hand experience before. So there!

Complaints about the chaotic traffic apart, all of us did enjoy the city itself immensely. The beautiful beaches by themselves will give Miami a five-star rating in any vacation guide. Next vacation in Florida will be exclusively spent on the beach :-D.

p.s. Dave Barry has an extremely funny piece about visiting Miami here.

p.s.1. I think Floridans are really nice people basically and hence if any Floridan is reading this, please to change any orders for beating me up to orders for stuffed toys/music/flowers *angelic smile*.

Monday, February 05, 2007

South Beach or something like it

Continued from parts [1], [2], [3], [4] and [5]. (And you thought I had forgotten all about it - hehehehe.)

Using the guide maps, we charted a course to South Beach. Till we got to Miami Downtown, everything went as per plan - we weren't making fabulous time but we were at least moving. However, once we got to downtown, we got stuck in the biggest traffic jam ever. Downtowns of any big city are well-known for traffic snarls. But Miami's absolutely unruly drivers made it much worse.

We barely moved. The tangles of lines of cars seemed like a gigantic immobile snake. Some construction on the right-most lane just added to the confusion and made it worse. Driver D had a tough time keeping her cool as she tried to adjust to the traffic rules according to Miami (next post on that).

Meanwhile, the first pangs of hunger began to assail us. When we had left Everglades around 4.00p, S had enquired about food. Smarty-pants me had scoffed at her - "Already?" little noting that it was actually some 5 hours since we had had breakfast and of course, nothing else after that. We had been thinking of a sumptuous dinner at South Beach and we should be there around 6.00p at the maximum, right?

Well at 6.00p we had move about 10 feet from the place we had been at 5.30p viz. middle of downtown Miami. By now the hunger pangs had burgeoned into "I cannot think of anything but food" pangs. I started to torture myself (and others) by listing all the food items I wanted to eat at that point in time. S and D were too famished to beat me up and just asked me to shut up (did not work). There was nothing to eat in the car. Thoughts of abandoning the car right there on the road and going in search of food were beginning to form in our heads.

Finally we had inched forward to an intersection where we could turn right (we were stuck on the rightmost but one lane). We realized that Gloria Estefan's Cuban restaurant Bongos was somewhere along that road and took the turn. Yup, we soon reached the driveway to the restaurant and happily parked the car in the parking lot. The suspiciously empty parking lot lodged some doubts but we pushed them away and walked up to the huge restaurant.

The menu outside featured lots of veggie items. Yaay! Now, if only they would let in people dressed as super-casually as us (with me leading the "Yaay, I look like a homeless person" list). Our hunger guards had come down by now and we were ready to plead to be let inside if necessary!

The restaurant door was open - we pushed our way in. There were a total of some 5 people inside the restaurant - all of them behind the bar. Apparently the restaurant was actually closed due to it being christmas :-(! Oh no!

There was nothing to do but curse our bad luck and trudge back to the car. We were back into the never-moving traffic. After fifteen more minutes of crawling we hit the A1A expressway which took us to the beaches.

The travelling was okay till we got close to Ocean Dr, our destination. There we got stuck in another huge traffic jam. Another 20 minutes of crawling and we were finally reached Ocean Drive. Once we hit it, we turned right instead of left as we had originally wanted to. We just wanted to get out of the car ASAP! By some miracle we found a parking spot. We dug out all the coins we had to put inside the parking meter and then set off towards Ocean Drive.

There were lots and lots of open-air restaurants lining the left side of the road. We grinned smugly at the cars still caught in the traffic jam. At the same time we were almost fainting with hunger - it was now close to eight hours since we had last seen food. At the first restaurant where we could find more than one veggie dish, we decided to eat.

First came the bread. Ah, never has bread tasted so good in my life. We literally gobbled it down. The Bruschetta appetizer lasted lesser than the time it takes to blink. The main course then arrived. We had just begun eating forkfuls of pasta when the most fitting end to our excellent evening happened. It started to rain!

In two nimble hops I leaped away from my open-air seat to under the awning on the other side. The usher (whose spot was right behind our table) jokingly held the menu open over D and S heads and urged them to stay put. But they too were contemplating following my lead. Now what?

Of course, the open-air restaurants were very well prepared for the unpredictable Miami weather. In a matter of few minutes, they had rolled out canvas roofs over our heads and we continued our dinner in peace :-)! Outside it poured without a break - we were thankful that we had made it to the restaurant before the skies opened up!

We had an extremely leisurely dinner complete with dessert and coffee. But the rain decided to not stop ever. After seeing that it showed no signs of letting up, we decided to run back to our car in the rain - after all, sleeping in the restaurant was not a viable option!

We borrowed some plastic bags from the waiter. I stuffed my handbag into one of the covers and S stuffed her bag into another. We all took a deep breath and off we were, running in the rain.

Florida rain is much nicer to get drenched in than California rain. It was warm and fun :-). We ran, giggling, to our car. All of a sudden, I could only hear the patter of my feet and no sound of S and D. I stopped, puzzled and turned around - to see S and D stopped someway behind me. S was clutching her knees and laughing and D was grinning at me. S gasped, "Oh Archu, you so look like a homeless person running like that in your shorts clutching your belongings in a plastic bag". Hmph X-(! Thanks girls!

Anyways, we finally reached the car, not completely drenched but pretty wet nevertheless. All our plans of walking up and down Collins Ave had to be dumped unceremoniously. Instead we just decided to drive down the street. We saw a couple of designer stores. But the rain and the resulting even worse traffic was making it difficult to enjoy it too much. So we just decided to get back to the hotel.

As usual, we got lost a bit and finally made it back. For the second night in a row, we trudged back to the hotel, wet and dishevelled, looking like something even a cat wouldn't bother with.

The night was still young - so we got down to doing what girls do best. Talk :-)! We talked and we talked - what we thought of excessive PDA (eeeew - ugh, Ugh, UGH!), why most guys drool sooooooo much over Salma Hayek (no conclusion) and other such topics of international significance :-P! By the time our eyes began to actually close by themselves, it was some unearthly hour.

The dawn of the next day would bring us to the last day of vacation ...