story

If you haven’t read previous part, it’s right here –  US Diaries Part 2.

Why do we click pictures? To frame moments, walk down memory lanes and reminisce about events that once awestrucked us. This post is a living example of how pictures help you to relive memories that would have otherwise been lost.

Luckily, I was able to get 4 days of vacation to visit California. California is a beautiful city and my main interest was to wander in the streets of Disney Land and Universal Studios. A dream of decade to see Sleeping beauty castle and roam around in Harry Potter Park with a wizard wand in hand was about to be fulfilled.

Spirit Airlines sucks

Having spent a huge chunk of money in shopping and local traveling, I was reluctant to burn another big hole in my pocket. Though I make exceptions if it comes to my family or my hobbies or sometimes my friends too, being raised in middle class,  my brain is hardwired to see value for money. We got our tickets from Seattle to Los Angeles booked at cheaper rates. My plan looked something like:

One day in San Diego, Visit Disney Land and Universal Studios in LA.

Our plan screwed up when Spirit Airlines managed to fly late by 5 hours the same day I was to visit Disney Land. Spirit Airlines allows only 6 kgs cabin luggage, majority of which was occupied with my camera and its equipments. I managed to get one fine picture depicting bad weather of Seattle while roaming around impatiently at the airport.

Wonders of California

The first thing that comes to my mind when someone talks about California is that it is hotter. From Seattle’s chilling winter where you need layered wear to LA’s summer, the change was very noticeable. One fine evening in Seattle, on the pavement outside Cheesecake Factory, I was waiting for my friend and slightly bored as she was running late. That’s when I witnessed the second snow fall in my life. Seattle is said to be depressing in winters. Well, didn’t look like it to me.

One of the best thing in California I observed was all happy faces around. It makes me wonder, “How can so many happy people exist at one place?”.

Day 1: Disney Land, LA

We reached LA at ~4:00 PM. It was 4:55 when we reached Disney Land. We were very grateful to book tickets online. It had already started getting dark.

Dreams do come true

Sleeping beauty castle was always in my To visit list. And people there were as crazy as I was after witnessing this magnificent beauty. Even the huge crowd couldn’t dampen the excitement. Happiness was in the air.

The castle looked even more magnificent when it got dark. As magical and brightening it could be, its starking contrast had the power to stop you from taking your eyes off it.

Picturesque

Every part of the park is quite picturesque. If you love taking pictures, it would be hard to put camera down for a moment. The park was full of families and there were so many kids around. It was funny to know that there was a separate parking for strollers and it was full.

They celebrate Diwali each day

Isn’t it exciting that they celebrate Diwali every day? It was the kind of fireworks we get to see at the start of each of Disney’s movie. It was beautiful and kind of spell bounding.

“Sleeping beauty castle in fireworks”

One of the things I remember very well from my trip to Disney Land, LA is the park being lit up in fireworks for around half an hour. This is probably the best fireworks I’ve witnessed in my life so far. Due to the huge crowd, trying my best to grab the best spot and not owning a wide angle lens back then, this is the best shot I could get. As you might have observed, in the center, lies there the peak of very famous Sleeping Beauty Castle.

Electric Parade

They mark the end of day with an electric parade where you get to see almost every Disney character marching on the narrow roads with awestruck presentation.

The magical music

Disneyland seems particularly fond of Mozart. Being a classic music fanatic, it was pleasant to listen Mozart’s famous Allegro everywhere. It added flavors to the magical feeling. You can listen the music here.

It is really hard to imagine someone returning not happy after spending a day in the park. It was a very nice experience indeed for 100 USD.

Day 2 : Universal Studios Hollywood, LA

It wasn’t a difficult call to decide which one of the Theme Parks I wanted to spend 2 days in. I booked 2 days ticket for Universal Studios for 129 bucksI knew one day was not enough to quench my thirst for Harry Potter.

If you hail from India and happen to visit Ramoji film city in Hyderabad, Universal Studios is like Ramoji, just a thousand times better. It has theme parks and attractions of many famous characters. Minion Mayhem and the girl’s house, Transformers, Simpsons, Shrek, Walking dead, Mummy, Spongebob and the most important The wizarding world of Harry Potter.

The wizarding world of Harry Potter

If you are a No-Maj and are reading this, let me warn you muggle. What you are gonna read next is not everyone’s cup of tea. To feel the magic and connect with this fantabulastic world, it needs an exceptional level of imagination and a deep dive into the story. If not, bear no delusions, it would be just another story and another park for you. Chances are you may not understand Potterheads and their craziness.

Magical feeling

A magical experience is all I would say. Even 2 decades of Harry Potter universe hasn’t lessened the craziness, The crowd was ecstatic and delighted. Their glittering eyes were reflection of dreams coming true. Being a person who has grown up with Harry Potter waiting relentlessly, I felt like going back into childhood.

Hogwarts, Hogmeade, Platform 9 3/4, Hogwarts Express, Diagon Alley, Three Broomsticks minus Madame Rosemerta, Ollivanders, Hagrid’s hut, Honeydukes, Zonko’s joke shop, Hog’s Head, Butterbeer cart, Post office. The park has got everything in attention to detail. I couldn’t have imagined it any better. People rushing in the narrow streets of Diagon Alley was as if it came from book alive.

Hogwarts Express

The school of magic

I oftentimes wonder, how different life would be, how full of magic and fantastical beauty, if my Hogwarts letter would have arrived.

Ollivanders, makers of fine wand

Ollivanders, makers of fine wand since 382 BC, helping eleven years old getting their first wand. He very well portrayed the scene from the first movie where Harry gets his wand. It was as if I was teleported into the movie and watched it happen. As a matter of fact, wand chooses its master. When spell was read with wrong wand in hand, the shacks broke. The setting couldn’t have been more perfect.

I got The Elder Wand, magnificent and powerful.

Hogwarts Express

Hogwarts Express about to leave from platform number 9 3/4.

Gringotts: The wizards’ bank

Enter, stranger, but take heed
Of what awaits the sin of greed
For those who take, but do not earn,
Must pay most dearly in their turn.
So if you seek beneath our floors
A treasure that was never yours,
Thief, you have been warned, beware
Of finding more than treasure there.

Gringotts. Wizards’ bank, run by Goblins. Gringotts is the safest place in the world for
anything you want to keep safe — ‘cept maybe Hogwarts.

A quick note on Hogwarts and Hogsmeade. Hogwarts is a magic school where you learn magic and how to control it for greater good. Hogsmeade is a village near Hogwarts where Harry and his friends used to go to chillax after tiring and exhausting exams.

The three broomsticks and Butterbeer

Three broomsticks is a well known pub in Hogsmeade, particularly famous of its delicious signature drink Butterbeer and its beautiful owner Madam Rosmerta.

The three broomsticks – The great feast
Time for some magical food in the Hogsmeade village. It was probably one of the best days of my life so far. Being a huge Harry Potter fan, how could I miss “The three broomsticks”? The famous tavern in Hogsmeade had its own charm. The magnificent dark ambience was perfect for talking in plain sight. It is no surprise why wizards and witches choose this place to hear gossips. Even the place being full of muggles that day couldn’t suppress my goosebumps.

A pint of Butterbeer at Three Broomsticks.
As a fan of wizarding world of Harry Potter since my very childhood, I fantasized about having a taste of Butterbeer. I always thought it would be like magic flowing in my veins. As I grew up and got a chance to have it, I must say it tasted something like Butterscotch. The Butterbeer lived up to its expectations. I could literally find myself diving into the magical world and remembered one of the greatest friendship I have ever known, the friendship of Harry, Ronald and Hermione. Sad part was I had to drink this alone.
I hope someday I will visit there again with my Ronald and Hermione.

Do you remember the roasted chicken Harry used to crave for when he stayed at his Uncle’s place during summers? Or when he used to eat like a hungry beast after long Quidditch practice?
Well, I tried the “Lemon herb roast chicken platter” at Three broomsticks and it was worth all the rumor.

Hagrid’s hut

The second home of Harry, Ronald and Hermione where they used to spend their free evenings when not worrying about Quidditch practices and studies. This is where Norbert was born. The lantern hanging across the wooden door was often used by them in Forbidden forest.

Magic was in the air

A kid practicing trying to rotate cauldron using Wingardium Leviosa spell in Hogwarts. Two kinds of wands they were selling in Ollivanders – Interactive and non-interactive. Interactive ones were real magic and could be used to turn lights on/off, float objects, turn on the water in a fountain, make birds sing and many more such stuffs.

Butterbeer cart

To be continued… In the next post, I will talk more about Universal Studios and San Diego story.

Copyright © 2017, Aashish Barnwal,  All rights reserved.

 

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If you haven’t read previous part, it’s right here –  US Diaries Part 1

US is a country of dreams. I could see it shining right through everyone’s eyes. I met one person in taxi who played piano and released his own music album. The other guy Chad writes pilots for TV series and is a good photographer. There was another guy who had done some coding. He knew what python and C++ is. He wanted to work at Amazon or Microsoft. Another guy was a lead manager in an MNC and drove Uber just for fun. They don’t care much about the social status. They do what they love to do.

A really nice country where people greet you and don’t expect anything in return. Everyone you meet is so much open to talk without holding any grudge. Believe me, I had some of the best conversations in just a span of 30 minutes or so.

Redmond = Microsoft

I had heard that Microsoft has humongous office in its headquarters, Redmond. Well, it was true. I was amazed by seeing the area in which it was spread. If I say Redmond is Microsoft, it won’t be wrong. 135 buildings.

Microsoft, US culture

Unlike India where people tend to stay late in offices, Redmond is just the opposite. People come early and leave early. You would hardly find anyone staring at work monitor after 6. People are punctual and highly efficient. Well, I could see where that efficiency comes from. They don’t talk much and confine their conversation to mainly professional stuffs. The hours they put in work are really productive. The culture is so well defined that if you stay late, you would have a feeling that you are working in a zombie village. I, personally liked this culture and I easily embraced it. I had free evenings where I could catch some friends over dinner in classy sounding restaurants.

The world is small

It really is a small world we live in. It is not very unusual that while dining or taking a walk in busy streets, I stumble upon someone who happens to know me. Well, it has happened many times in India. But when you face the same in US, you start thinking that the world is really small. I met an old friend while crossing a street in Redmond, stumbled upon another known face in Seattle while dining with a college friend and had a short chit chat with a guy on shuttle, I used to see in dance classes in Hyderabad.

Seattle diaries

One of the exciting thing about Seattle is incessant rains. Rainy season is something people either love or hate. You will hardly find anyone being neutral on it.

Space Needle

If you’re a Windows user, you must have noticed the tall tower with a big circular head on lock screen. What if I tell you, it is much more beautiful when you look it closely? Well, it is a marvelous piece of human architecture. Standing tall at a height of 184 meters, you can see the whole Seattle view from the top. I could manage to get some pics from my DSLR even though it was freezing cold. My finger nails had turned bluish.

The head of tower

The Seattle view point

Standing on the top of Space Needle and experiencing this view was a treat to eyes.

I always wanted to dine at Skycity Space Needle restaurant. Well, who won’t? After all, dining at such a height has a unique magical feeling. You are sitting and eating exquisite food while the restaurant rotates to show you every angle of the city. Sadly, I couldn’t get a booking. It had 2 weeks waiting time.

Chihuly garden and glass

You can’t miss Chihuly garden and glass if you love art while being in Seattle. This place is mainly famous for its exceptional glass arch, mostly attracted by photographers. I met many photographers there and got a chance to flaunt my skills. Visiting Chihuly wasn’t easy due to shortage of time. The place opens at 11 in the morning and I had return flight on the same day at 5. On the top of that, it was raining like crazy. Well then it’s Seattle. Rains are not supposed to crash the fun. Thanks to Hotel Marriott for making special arrangements.

This picture has its own story. Chihuly Garden and Glass attracts a lot of tourists due to its marvelous, eye popping glass arch. I had a chance to interact with many photographers there and it was fun discussing about various aspects of photography. I wanted to capture whole 25 feet long arch in one frame and for this, I had to wait 30 minutes to capture this due to the huge crowd. Funny to say, due to my corporate ID hanging out of my pocket, few of the tourists asked me if I worked there.

1/50s at f/5.6, 18mm, ISO 1000

North-Bend

Situated at a distance of 30 miles from Redmond, North-Bend is a bliss to eyes. No matter if you are a nature and mountains lover or love long driving on beautiful roads or a shopping spree, North-Bend has got a charm in its own. Built near mountains which are covered with snow in winter, there are many shops where you can enjoy buying stuffs.

The cheese mountain.
I clicked this amazing shot in North Bend, US. Seattle is a beautiful city. Incessant rains, chilly wind, snowy mountain and golden sunshine. A serene heaven for photographers.
It was a sudden plan. The moment I arrived there, the sun was about to set and its dusky golden rays falling on the snow over the top of mountain was giving a perception of molten golden cheese all around.

I am quite fond of keeping a collection of perfumes. When I saw Perfumania shop at the North-Bend, I got a chance to try out all the perfumes I had been researching for years. At the end, I got one of my favorites, one what everyone in US uses, and one which was the choice of the woman who sold me all this.

Heroes of my wardrobe  Recently I have got an urge to keep a collection of perfumes.

From left to right:
Caroline, Armani Gio, Invictus, Playboy, Calvin Klein

Chocolates

A trip to US is not complete until you get chocolates for your loved ones.

To be continued…

In the next part, I would be writing about my trip to Los Angeles and San Diego. Please stay tuned.

Copyright © 2017, Aashish Barnwal,  All rights reserved.
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March 28, 2012

Raining was incessant that day. Clouds were roaring as if whole sky were to fall down. Amidst the shine of lightning and sound of raindrops striking the window, Mary was laughing insanely on a joke told by her boyfriend Peter on phone. “And you know what, that poor guy kept waiting for her forever while she was enjoying the romantic weather of Paris.”, they cracked again.
Another lightning flashed and the electricity was gone. Intensity of rain increased. It was as if cloud and lightning were competing with each other on who could scare the people more by its power. If there was anything in world Mary was afraid of, it was the darkness. Her mind started filling with all the dark thoughts. Had it not been Peter on the phone comforting her the whole time, she would have gone crazy. Even though she was living in that place for years, she still had nightmares in some of dark nights. Her hometown was known for witnessing extreme weather conditions and electricity was kind of boon. Her parents were divorsed and her dad used to be away most of the nights due to some business work. All she had got was Peter, who used to add relief to her crazy nights.

“Mary, look through the window”, Peter’s tone was loud and clear.

There was a long flashing light coming from the uphill. “Is it really what I’m seeing, a comet?”, Mary asked. Her voice was mixed with shock and surprise.

“Yes, and you know what does that mean?”. Although she couldn’t see him, but she could clearly picture his smiling face.

“Do you really believe in all these stuffs?”. “My dad says it is a superstition”, she further added.

“You never know until you try”.

“I just made a wish”, he was beaming with joy. “Make yours quickly before it’s gone”.

She closed her eyes and whispered something.

“What did you ask for?”. Peter was jumping with joy.

“We shouldn’t reveal our wishes, else they are not fulfilled”, she chirped.

“But promise me that you would tell me when it becomes true”.

“Is there anything that I haven’t told you about?”. “I can’t even imagine my life without you”, her tone was serious and filled with love.

“Hey Mary! I got to tell you something”.

“What?”, she was puzzled.

“Not now, sometime later when the time will be right”. “Now go to sleep. It’s late”.

The clock striked 12. It was her birthday. She usually didn’t get many wishes. But one birthday wish was enough for her.

“It’s been 5 minutes. Still no call from him. Stupid, forgot my birthday again”, her heart was racing.

Then she heard the doorbell. Her mobile screen lit up and read the message, “Open the door”.

He was outside, standing completely drenched in rain. He smiled, screamed “Happy birthday, girl!” and asked, “Won’t you welcome me in?”.

Oh! She was so shocked and surprised that she couldn’t think a bit about him being waiting outside in the rain.

“Yes, yes, please come inside”.

“I will bring towel and something hot to …”

Before she could complete her sentence, he put his lips on hers and kissed like a warrior thirsty of blood since centuries. She had never experienced something like this before. It was hot, wet and full of love.

He continued. “Mary, this is the only gift I got for you. I just want to tell you that my love for has no boundaries. It is as pure as the morning dew, as bold as a mountain, as innocent as a cocoon and as selfless as moon”, he was going poetic.

Rain drops were dripping his chin. “You will get cold. Wait here. I will bring the towel and something hot to drink”, she commanded, left him in the hallway and moved quickly upstairs.

While she was in her living room, she could hear him singing something. Oh! This was a song from Romeo and Juliet.

Can you tell me, softly
How you’ll always haunt me
Can you help me
Hold me

She was humming with him when her landline rang.

“Hello Maya! I am Pe.. Peter’s mom here. He met an accident while he was going to meet you. His motor bike skidded and.. and he…”

She couldn’t hear the whole conversation. Her hands were shivering. The phone slipped from her fingers.
She started thinking backwards. Although she got a message, there was no mobile with him. She couldn’t see his motor bike outside the house. And his his face was white and fingers cold. Had her wish come true?

Fast forward 5 years, the clock striked 12:05 again and she heard the door bell. But she is too scared to open the door. Seems like his love for her draws him to her home on her every birthday. The boy who used to comfort her in crazy nights has given her the worst nightmare. Perhaps, she won’t be able to sleep on her birthday night ever.

Copyright © 2017, Aashish Barnwal,  All rights reserved.

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July 13, 2012

Dear Mary,

I won’t ask how are you, because I know you would be gleaming with happiness living in your beautiful world. And I wish you to be always the same. I won’t ask you about your whereabouts either, because it will tempt me to follow you no matter how far you are.

Do you remember the first day we met and I had almost evinced that I like you until you told me something that stopped me right there? Since that moment, I never stopped loving you. Day after day after day, it just kept on growing stronger. My love for you is like sleep. It started slowly and I fell all at once. People say there is no magic in this world. They just don’t look for it in the right place.

Days bled into years. There are things in life which are hard to change. Yes, “The fault in our stars” is still my favorite and no matter how many times I watch it, my heart takes control over my brain and I think of nothing but you. I dated many gorgeous girls, yet my heart longs for you. I traveled places to look for someone like you, yet when I see pictures of us, my breathes skip.

While I am composing this, that song is playing in the background and I feel so much connected with it:

So many people all around the world,
Tell me where do I find, someone like you girl,
Take me to your heart, take me to your soul,
Hold my hand before I’m old,

Just wanted to let you know, you are the only love of my life. Hope someday you will understand my feelings and that day would be the second happiest day of my life.
Yours,
Peter

Copyright © 2017, Aashish Barnwal,  All rights reserved.
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