Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The panoramic view of snow covered mountains found in every directions makes Colorado one of the most charming state in US. Unique landscape gives opportunity for many adventurous activities like mountain biking, river rafting, skiing and snowboarding. All these make Colorado a perfect destination for a vacation. Public transport do not connect to all the tourist places of Colorado so it is not possible to reach most of the places without your own vehicle. Cabs are expensive for long distance travel and are more if you don't have anyone along to share expenses. Rent a car can be a bad idea especially when you are coming from a country with left hand traffic. I was lucky and thankful to have my colleagues who took me to different places in Colorado.
I will list some of the places that I've visited and recommend you to visit on your trip to Colorado.

Red Rocks Amphitheatre

An amphitheater carved out between two huge vertical rocks is a must visit in Colorado. Transforming the natural formation of rock to an amphitheater is a clever idea and makes this place unique in the world. Red rocks has also hosted live concert of many famous music bands like The Beatles, U2 and more. I wish to see a live music concert in this fascinating amphitheater, however it can be sometime challenging due to the extreme cold climate of Colorado.

Dinosaur Ridge, Colorado

Dinosaur Ridge is said to be one of the world's most famous dinosaur fossil localities. We will experience a Jurassic ambiance when we walk through the trail having 150 million year old dinosaur bones, encased in sandstone. We can touch, feel, and experience these remnants. Road to Dinosaur Ridge is closed for private vehicles so be prepared to walk one mile in each direction to find the Dinosaur foot prints on the road sides.

Lookout Mountains and Buffalo Bill museum in Golden, Colorado

Golden is a historic downtown of Colorado. All the buildings here maintain a historical flavor. A massive arc saying "Welcome to Golden" across the road enhance the beauty and historic feel of this town. The downtown has many restaurants, souvenir and gift shops. It is an ideal place to take back some souvenirs. On my visit I had lunch in one of the old style restaurant in Golden Downtown.
Lookout Mountain and the Buffalo Bill museum near to it, are the main attractions in Golden. We can find scenic panoramic view of mountains here. The high rise buildings in Download Denver can be also viewed from here. The place also has a number of telescopes to get a closer look of mountains. Adjacent to this is the Buffalo Bill museum and grave. The museum showcase the life of Buffalo Bill, Native Americans, their costumes, weapons and more.

Pike National Forest

Colorado Springs has a wonderful tourist attraction called Pike National Forest. Pikes Peak, the highest peak of the southern Front Range of the Rocky Mountains and Rampart Reservoir are located in Pike National Forest. On my visit to Pike Peak, the road was closed at a height of 11,000 feet, just above the tree level due to snow storm. Snow covered mountains and pine trees make this a perfect vacation spot. Pike National forest give us a nice driving experience and a perfect location for photography enthusiasts. Nobody leaves this place without capturing the panoramic mountain ranges. Beware of Bigfoot (Yeti), the road to Pikes Peak has many sign board saying “BIG FOOT XING”. So be prepared to meet Bigfoot on your trip to Pike National forest.

Downtown Denver

Downtown Denver is the main commercial, entertainment and business center of Denver. Downtown aquarium, 16th street pedestrian mall, Denver Art museum and Elitch Garden amusement park are some of the main attractions here.

Rocky Mountain National Park and Coors Brewery Tour(the largest single brewery facility in the world) are few among never miss attractions of Colorado that I didn’t get a chance to visit but recommend you to visit.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

When we think about hill stations in South India - Munnar, Kodaikanal and Ooty comes to our mind first. Yercaud is seldom mentioned in the list. Over popularity of above mentioned hill stations make them over crowded by tourists. This is where Yercaud triumph, a scenic hill station and its charm is not lost by tourist crowd. It is 30km away from Salem, the nearest town. Yercaud has a small lake, several view points, parks, botanical garden, temples and more, all these contributes to the full essence of a hill station. The climate is not cold compared to other hill stations but night can be little chilly.

Lake Forest Resort, Yercaud

Lake forest resort is old restored colonial bungalows built in a coffee plantation. I stayed in this resort during my visit to Yercaud. This resort might be one among the reason why I feel Yercaud worth revisiting. The resort incorporates many sky-high teaks and all of which is girdled by pepper plantation. Variety of flowers, ferns, trees and mosses along with sound of beetles and birds give us a real forest feel. Sidewalks through the lush green resort is the best place for a morning or evening walk. The resort lacks some amenities like swimming pool and air conditioners but offers some indoor - outdoor activities including table tennis, badminton, board games, foosball and some fun games. It also has a spa, restaurant and outdoor fireplace. However, the food in restaurant is little expensive.

Yercaud Lake

Small but beautiful lake surrounded by panoramic views of hill. The lake has a boat house that offers pedal and motor boat service at a reasonable price.

Pogoda point, Lady's seat and Gent's seat.

These are some of the popular view points in Yercaud that I have visited. All shows us different picturesque views of hills and valley. Strong wind in these view points make them more attractive.

The Botanical garden and Servaroyan Temple are also worth visiting. Due to my tight itinerary I couldn't go to 32km Loop road and Bears cave. If time permits, they can be nice addition to your trip.

If you are in Trivandrum(the capital city of Kerala, India) and looking for a weekend trip then Brimore is a beautiful place to add in your choice list. Brimore is a small hill station and is said to be the base station of the famous peak, Agasthyarkoodam in the Agasthya hills. It is hardly 45km from Trivandrum central. The places in Brimore are limited but worth a visit.

The main attraction of Brimore is Mankayam Waterfalls. It is less than a km walk from the parking space. The people near by say that the Mankayam falls will have enough water all throughout the year. The place is picturesque and untouched with very less tourists. The crystal clear water from the falls make it a perfect place to swim, but it is always safe to take extra caution as the danger beneath is unknown.
There is a 4-5km trail between Brimore and Ponmudi for trekking enthusiasts. The road going uphill from waterfalls is closed. The security guard explained that the area upward is restricted and Makayam Waterfalls is the only attraction in Brimore. Remember not to discard any plastics here as Brimore is a plastic-free zone. Google Maps will be your best friend to navigate to this "Best Kept Secret" in God's own country.

Friday, January 20, 2017

The Old Colorado City(in Colorado Springs) is a alluring city that maintains a historical flavor. It has a hidden treasure build by a great sculptor Michael Garman called 'Magic Town'. The 3,000 square-foot miniature city which many people pass unnoticed is the main attraction here and worth a visit.

While walking through the street of Old Colorado city, my colleague stopped me and said "wait a minute you got to see this". We entered a sculpture shop and my colleague went to the counter to buy tickets. I wondered why do we need tickets to enter a sculpture shop. Later he explained me that this is a miniature city that includes many detailed sculptures and cityscapes. A small entrance lead us to Magic town, everything here is scaled to one sixth of the original size. There are lot of handcrafted buildings, alleyways, sidewalks including all kinds shops, galleries, theaters and everything that you can find in a city. It is a marvelous experience to find each and every details in the sculptures. There are hotels, pubs, barbershops, tattoo parlor, dental clinic, apartments, movie theater, gym and more. The details of these sculptures are extraordinary and everything is portrayed here - from the tattoo in human sculpture skin to details of garbage in the trash. Apart from these details, we can find the scenes in sidewalks and alleyways change and that makes this town "magical". Using wonderful techniques of mirror, lights and hologram the scenes through windows and alleyways switches giving us frequent surprises.

There is a scene in which person waiting in the dental clinic changes to dentist doing procedure for a person in dental chair, this is one among many scenes that changes in magic town. My colleague is a native of Colorado Springs and frequent visitor to Magic town. He said 'every time I visit this place I find something new and interesting '.

It took almost a decade for Michael Garman to build his magic town. His extraordinary talent with keen observation is portrayed in each and every sculpture here. Several hundreds of sculptures are kept for sale in the shop. Most of them are human sculptures that honor American heroes from all walks of life. Military men, Early Americans, Western and Firefighters are few among them.

The very reasonable entry fees also includes complimentary popcorn and a scavenger hunt. The place is open seven days a week. The great sculptor Michael Garman often visits his magic town and if you are lucky you can meet him in person here.

During my first visit to United States I stayed in Greenwood Village a beautiful city near Denver, Colorado. A less populous and calm city that has everything you needed. Residence Inn Marriott – that’s the hotel I stayed for a month. It is one of the best hotel in Greenwood village for an extended stay. It is spread in number of cottages having a typical American Style. I stayed in building no 4, the suites were very spacious attached with a kitchen. Kitchen had everything from cooking utensils to dishwasher. However, I didn't have any plans for cooking during my stay. Maple trees and cute little bunnies running outside my cottage adds to the overall ambiance of the place. I couldn’t even take a proper picture of the bunnies, I guess they are too afraid of humans. The whole hotel is separated using a white wooden fence giving more traditional look. They conduct something called ‘Residence Inn Mix’ three days a week (Mon-Wed) which gives us a chance to the socialize with people staying there. There will be complimentary snacks and beverages along with ambient lights and music.

I came to US for attending a training from my company which is located in Englewood (2.2 miles away from hotel). The hotel has a shuttle service which offers free rides to and from office or any location within 5 miles. Free shuttle service is not something that every hotels offer and the shuttle drive Joe is someone I will never forget in my life. Joe is very dedicated and a caring person. He always refrain me from walking in dangerous street (where there is some work in progress) and offers a ride instead. I was able explore many places alone with his guidance.

Arapahoe at village center is the nearest RTD light rail station to the hotel. I used this station to fetch train to County Line, 18th California, Broadway etc. Park meadows is one of the largest mall in Denver and County Line is nearest station to it. 18th California station leads us to 16th Mall Street, a massive shopping street in the heart of Denver Downtown.

Greenwood Village has many restaurants including popular McDonalds, Subway, Chipotle, Taco bell etc. No matter what time or what day, whenever I go to most of the restaurants in Greenwood Village I will be the lone customer there. I always wonder how these restaurants profits with their very less number of customers. This is the similar situation in all shops here. I often used to take evening walk along the corridor of these shops and most of them would be empty.

Target, Sprouts and 7th Heaven are some of major grocery stores that I found in Greenwood Village. Sprout is quite famous here as it offers organic and farm fresh groceries which is located in Arapahoe Marketplace Shopping Center very closer to my hotel. Target is a mile away but worth a visit. You can find some cool stuffs in target for an attractive price. Jimmy John's, Chipotle, Arby’s are some of the restaurant closer to my hotel.  Arapahoe Marketplace Shopping Center, which is very near to my hotel has restaurants like Subway, Five Guys, Papa Murphy’s and Teriyaki Madness. Five Guys and Taco bell are my favorite restaurants in the area. There is something special about the cheeseburger in Five Guys and I recommend you to try it.
Roads and traffic system is US is tremendous, which is same in Greenwood Village. We can find meadows is both sides of the wide roads. Buildings are few and are widely spaced. One thing I noted is that all the buildings are painted in brown shades, my colleague explained this was to give more of natural look, too keep the charm of the place. I should say ‘greenwood village’ is the apt name for this place considering all the beautiful meadows found here.

Colorado is famous for its cool climate. My colleagues said, there is a saying “If you don’t like the climate in Colorado, wait five minutes it will change”. This is true, you can find a tremendous change in temperature as well as climate here. I visited Colorado on november and it is not the coldest month, though it was chilly when sun goes down. The lowest temperature I observed during my stay is 16 F (-8 deg Celsius). One day on the second week of my stay, a sunny morning turned into a snowy evening. Everything changed from green to white within few hours. Snow enhanced the beauty of the hotel. Snow covered up everything in hotel including all the pine trees, green bushes and roof, it looked like a place in winter fairy tales. The sun shines bright during day time and snow melts very quickly here. The snow disappeared after one day.
Denver Tech Centre in Greenwood village is the place where my office is located. It is a business and economic trading center having many IT companies.

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