My son went to USA for his higher studies in 2017. This year he invited me to visit his place as he is now capable of accommodating me for sometimes. Visa appointment is a difficult issue after Covid – 19. I got appointment in June 2022 for B1 type visa. As my son and my would be daughter in law sent official invitation to attend their marriage and they sponsored my trip, so I did not face much difficulty to get the visa. Then he bought tickets for me. As it was the beginning of August, there was a huge rush of students and their parents who were going to join in different universities. It was the time for the beginning of new session. So price of the ticket was quite high. I planned to come back after Durga puja because then the price of the ticket was comparatively low. If I would come before Durga Puja the price would be too high again as the emigrants visit India in this festive season.
I went by Emirates’ flight as my son thought it would be comfortable for me as its timing is convenient, though there are several other air services like Qatar Airlines or Air India etc. My flight was from Kolkata to Dubai and from Dubai to Washington. The duration of the journey was divided in 2 segments, 4.5 hours and 16 hours. There was a 2 hours break at Dubai Airport. From Washington airport my son took me to Charlottesville where he stays.
I shall divide this trip into four segments: Charlottesville, North Carolina Outer banks, New York and Shenandoah National park.
Charlottesville is a small university town and a very peaceful and scenic place, surrounded by Blue Ridge mountain, which is the extended part of Appalachian Mountain. After reaching there, for a few days I found myself very drowsy and lazy. Initially my son thought it was jet lag but as it persisted for 4/5 days he became a little worried and found that my blood pressure noticeably low. So I stopped my daily sedative and few other medicines for high blood pressure. Gradually when I got accustomed with their system of life, I started going out in the evening for a walk after early dinner. Evenings are very colorful and picturesque there. The area is sparsely populated with nice houses and lots of greenery. I tasted few new and tasty food like bagels ( kind of steamed bread with different stuffings), Mezza Mediterranean bowl ( combination of salad, rice, pita bread, sauce, meat etc), Japanese food in a restaurant, Sakura.
One day we went to Ivy creek. There were several such creeks. It is nice to walk in a sunny autumn afternoon. One afternoon we went to down town and had Dönar Kebab from a Turkish restaurant, which is a kind of flat bread with various stuffings. That day we also visited the University of Virginia and saw the famous Rotunda Building which is a UNESCO world heritage site. I learnt to go to local market gradually to buy small household requirement and I felt a little pride while doing so.
North Carolina Outer Banks
After their marriage, my son and daughter in law took leave on a week end and arranged a trip to North Carolina Outer Banks. We went there by car. We started after breakfast. We had our lunch on the way in an Italian Restaurant. My Daughter in law booked an accommodation for us through Airbnb. It was an apartment with one master bedroom with Jakuzzi bathtub in the attached bath and another bedroom with two single bed and an attached bath, a decent living room with modular kitchen and two balconies at Kill Devil Hills. It was very near to the beach. We bathed in the sea. Sunrise was spectacular in the Atlantic. There were lots of birds including sea gulls and pelicans.
We visited Wright brother’s memorial from where Orville Wright and Wilbur Wright flew their first aeroplane, Bodie Island light house, Jennette’s Pier etc. The unique thing I experienced there, was to watch baby turtles coming out from their eggs under the supervision of volunteers. Volunteers were there to protect the baby turtles. They would come at the time of sunset and would stay there till late night for the safety of baby turtles. I watched till it got absolutely dark. Any kind of light or electronic device was forbidden there, because that might distract the baby turtles and they could lose their track.
Initially when my son planned for New York trip in a weekend before my return to India I was a little skeptic whether I could be able to enjoy the place as I am a nature lover and don’t like buildings, crowd, hustle bustle of the city. But after reaching New York my opinion changed. It is a huge city, perhaps I should say it is an ultimate city, after visiting it no city may seem more magnificent. Unfortunately during this time one of the deadliest hurricane Ian struck Florida. Due to it’s side effect it rained the whole week end in the Eastern coast of USA.
We went New York by train from Charlottesville. We boarded the train in the evening at 6 o’clock as the train was late and reached New York at 11 PM. My daughter-in law Annie informed that New York city does not sleep. We got down at Pennsylvania Station. From there we took a cab, the name of the Uber driver was Gurpreet who talked to us in American English and did not seem to know Hindi or Punjabi. We stayed in a small Japanese run hotel named Hotel Madison. It had a very small room with two tokonoma double bed. Normally American double beds are too huge with lots pillows and thick mattress. But in New York city everything is costly so we had to compromise with the situation.
Next day we went out in the morning with a plan for breakfast and then to roam around Time Square. It started raining heavily as we came out. I was disappointed. After waiting for an hour, when rain subsided a little we went to the nearby metro station( they call it Subway) to reach Time Square. After reaching there, my daughter in law stood in the long queue to buy tickets for Broadway Theater and by that time my son and I roamed around the nearby areas. During lunch time we went to a restaurant at the Rockefeller building. We had New York’s famous and tasty pizza. In the afternoon, we went to the Central Park. Its a huge park with lots of amusement items. Though it was not raining heavily but it was cloudy and some times drizzling.
We had early dinner at a Korean Restaurant. Then we walked towards the Broadway theater. The name of the hall was New Amsterdam Theatre where Aladdin was being played . I went there willy-nilly only because my daughter in law insisted, but I must admit that I felt flabbergasted when the show started. It was an extraordinarily amazing experience to watch such a show which was a mixture of live song, dance, magic, acting and what not, a complete entertainment, I could dare to blink my eyes so that anything I might miss. I shall advise not to miss it if one can afford to visit New York.
Next day I had branch with delicious blue berry cream cheese bagel. As my son was busy with his work, he stayed at hotel and my daughter in law escorted me to visit Grand Central Station, Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty. On our way to visit them we come to know that there was a road show on the occasion of Polish Day. We watched it for sometime at 5th Avenue. I came across an Indian boy Deepak in the sub way who was also going to take the ferry to watch Statue of Liberty. I came to know that he had come to visit New York alone as his visa was going to expire.
My son was interested to eat Pecking duck so we went to an authentic Chinese restaurant for dinner. Probably it was not according to my Indian taste buds so, I did not like it. There were other few items too like shrimp fried rice,, shrimp curry, salad, meat etc. I filled my stomach with them because I was very hungry after the day’s long walk. Their tea was really good.
As I was too tired I decided to take rest while my son and daughter in law went for a evening walk. Next morning after breakfast we went to the famous Brooklyn Bridge. As it was near our hotel, so we went by walking. It is a suspension bridge on East river and surroundings are beautiful. This long and high bridge was made in the beginning of 19th century. It connects New York and Brooklyn cities.
After coming back we got ready to depart packing our bags. We reached Moynihan Hall Amtrack Lounge to catch the train for Charlottesville. My son got some food for lunch. Train was on time, we reached Charlottesville at 8 o’clock at night. An Uber Cab was called. It’s driver was Mr Muhammad Rafi, who was an Afghanistani and lives in our neighborhood at Charlottesville. He informed he could understand Hindi and speak to some extent, he learnt it watching Hindi movies.
Shenandoah National Park
Before my return home to Kolkata there was a full moon day, so I planned to go to Shenandoah National Park to take photographs of sunset, moon rise, fall colors etc. As per our plan my son and I went to the park in the afternoon. On the way we came across few deer that were standing beside the road fearlessly. People stopped their cars to take their photos, so did I. Then we went into the center of the forest.
Trees were looking beautiful with the yellow hue of afternoon sun rays. There was a restaurant where I wanted to have a blueberry ice cream but due to the long queue I abandoned the idea and went to the sunset point. The sun gradually went down behind the Blue Ridge Mountain keeping the sky crimson colored. Then we rushed to the moon rise point but moon rose by that time above the horizon. I hurriedly clicked few photographs of the full moon. Then we come back home through the moonlit forest.
After two days I left USA and come back home. This trip not only enriched my experience but also increased my confidence. Probably I should start planning another trip to abroad by my own, may be a solo one.