Friday, July 09, 2010

USA, Russia Trip

Narita, Los Angles, Las Vegas , Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton, Venice, Miami, South Beach, Islamorada, Key Largo, Key West, Lion Safari, Everglade, Orlando, Disneyworld, Downtown Disney, Kennedy Space Center, St Augustine, Jacksonville, Tallahassee, Ocala National Forest, Lake Charles, Mobil, Pensacola, New Orleans, French Quarter, Baton Rouge, Houston, Galleria., Domodedovo Airport, Lenin Prospect, Moscow, Kremlin, St Basil Church.

In Australia, it was southern most point 'Wilson Promontory in Victoria'. This time, in USA it was turn to visit Key West. Why Are they called Keys ? A question was answered once I came back. The word "key" actually comes from the Spanish word cayo, meaning "little island". This is not one island but they are a chain-like cluster of about 1700 islands . They begin as we we past Everglade National Park - South of Miami , dividing the Atlantic Ocean to the east from the Gulf of Mexico to the west. Seeing the home of Earnest Hemingway was great albeit from the tram car - Conch tour . We had no time as the tour to his museum would get over by 5pm and it was few blocks away from Tram station that would close by 4pm. We decided to hop into a tram and say hello to his home from outside. The historic district in Key West is the largest collection of charming wood frame houses from Victorian Era. What is unique about them that they conform to same theme yet are different in color and style. U.S. President, Harry S Truman made 11 presidential visits to Key West totaling 175 days of his Presidency. Harry S Truman Little White House is the Museum. The conch tour begins at the Front Street Depot and ends it in Mallory Square. A 90-minute journey makes loop both ways through Old Town Key West thereby giving equal opportunity to people on either side of the tram. Key West is all about Cuba, her culture and how wonderfully US has marketed that. Cuba is an enigma to many and Key West is a closest one can get to feel about Cuba without being there. All visitors relish cuban cuisine browse through art work of Cuban creativity and as evening sets in party with cuban drink, music . Visiting Key West is an expereience.

I met two Pakistani in Florida. One at Car rental and other at the luggage showroom. Normally, seeing anyone from the asian subcontinent, they would be warm, extra hospitable and would definitely converse in Hindi or Urdu. Here both stuck to English and only business talk. There was no smile or warmth , a sense of being extra guarded. With luggage salesman, there was no interaction despite my Japanese colleague buying his bag. I too didn't want to make him uncomfortable. At the car rental, I had to give him my passport so felt it would be natural to talk to him. He said he is from Karachi Pakistan and said would love to visit Mumbai to my responese ' Karachi is nice and similar to Mumbai '. He stuck to English and was quick to wrap the business transaction. I could feel their vulnerability in identifying themselves as Pakistani and felt sad about them.
It's wonderful to be back to New Orleans after almost 20 years. Last time, It was just the River walk. This time, it is French Quarter, Charles Streetcar, Walk and ride past Business District, District, and Loyola Universities.

Chima Brazilian Restaurant introduced me to ' Caipirinha' , a national cocktail of Brazil, made up of cachaça, crushed fresh fruits and crushed ice. The most popular fresh fruits used to create Caipifrutas are tangerine, lime, kiwi fruit, passion fruit, pineapple, lemon, grapes, mango, cajá, and caju (cashew fruit). Churrasco a grilled meat delicay from Latin American countries. I stuck to chicken served in a manner that reminded me of Greek Sword. Tee Jay Thai Sushi restaurant in Fort Lauderdale was an interesting combination of Japanese and Thai dishes . Casablanca Restaurant.
St Augustine is a lovely pristine town that froze in medieval time frame. Walking visitors, bay with boats, decorated map posts, the place looked similar to combination of Old Goa and Panjim next to Mandovi river . Driving past St Augustine ,we reached Lake city at 11 pm, a sleepy town that didn't show much except silhouettes of tall trees on either side. Stayed at Days inn - first hotel sign that we saw. Was delighted to see sign board of Noodle House but realized soon that it was Hoodle House. Tried to take a drive on desolate road flanked on one side by Target trucks and other side old gray colored houses that came straight from American movies in 60's. No sign of any restaurant and we decide to take u turn. We were tailed by another car that followed us to a small right lane but as we took u turn, it vanished. At green ' ishara', we were flanked by the opposite van and one from the behind by another car. Both being driven by young blacks. They started honking with apparent intention of ' get out of my way'. We head back towards hotel and see ' sheriff car' parked on the right side with headlight on. Seeing our car, it swerves and follows at a distance. As we give indicator to turn towards our hotel, it zooms past us and parks at petrol pump opposite our hotel, parallel to the road with lights on. It's comforting that this road is patrolled and guarded by police.

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