Long Island in Bloom

Photo by Esha Samajpati. All rights reserved ©

Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park is one of Long Island’s premier arboretums. I was going through some old pics, when I found this from our Planting Fields collection. Kicking off the week with some color and cheer!

Happy Holidays Everyone!

Thought of the Week

Gingerbread Village from the Bake Shop at Foxwoods Casino, Mashantucket, CT. Photo by Pinaki Chakraborty. All rights reserved ©

Every time I see a gingerbread house I think of Hansel and Gretel. Yup, suddenly the drawings and even the staid fonts of my big fat Grimm’s Fairy Tales appear out of nowhere and am drawn into a world of adventure and magic.

I sometimes wonder about the future of books. With the advent of technology, plenty of things are becoming obsolete and that’s good. That’s progress. I love smartphones and geeky gadgets as much as the next person.

But I feel sorry for a child who will only read stories from an iPad or a Kindle. Going by recent reports, very soon we won’t even need a gadget to view stuff. Remember Tom Cruise in ‘Minority Report’? That’s the future and it’s not too far off. Here’s a link to a very interesting video if you don’t believe me.

Can you imagine never picking up a brand new book and sniffing it for a whiff of the crisp pages? Or never having the chance to smile indulgently at the chocolate stains on a tattered childhood favorite? Books are personal and although they cannot hold 500 titles at a time, they can make memories. Happy childhood memories.

African Penguins Join the List

Photo by Pinaki Chakraborty. All rights reserved ©

Mystic Aquarium & Institute for Exploration is located in Mystic just off Exit 90 on Interstate 95 and is one of those places in Connecticut which makes for a perfect day trip any time of the year. We visited the Aquarium on a cold November morning just in time to see 20 or more African Penguins being fed fresh fish. They opened their beaks wide and swallowed them whole with ease, no bites required. In the midst of all the feeding and flapping, a seagull swooped down from nowhere, snatched a fish and flew away! Talk about fending for yourself!

If you are wondering about the colorful bands on the penguins’ arms, those are for identification purposes. These birds  are well-fed and looked after; they get proper medical care and a temperature controlled environment.

Feeding fish one at a time! Photo by Pinaki Chakraborty. All rights reserved ©

But the bad news is that the number of African Penguins have decreased so much that the International Union for the Conservation of Nature have changed their status from “vulnerable species” to an “endangered species.” Makes we wonder what we are doing wrong. Why are so many creatures becoming extinct? It was fun to watch these little fellas waddle, jostle, dive and swim but maybe we should just let them be in their natural habitat. Just saying.

Connecticut’s Foxwoods Casino – A Grand Getaway

Foxwoods Resort Casino and MGM Grand Tower. Photo by Esha Samajpati. All rights reserved ©

Owned and operated by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, Foxwoods Resort and Casino is the largest casino in the Western Hemisphere. No, America’s biggest casino is not on the Las Vegas Strip or Atlantic City Boardwalk, it’s in Mashantucket, Connecticut on Indian reservation. 

According to Tribal Nation websiteThe Mashantucket Pequots are an Eastern Woodland people with its traditional homelands in Southeastern Connecticut having endured centuries of conflict, survival and continuity on and around one of America’s oldest Indian reservations, established in 1666. The fox stands as a vigilant reminder of the turbulent times when the Pequot adopted the name, which remains today, The Fox People.” 

Light and sound exhibit at Foxwoods - The Rainmaker. Photo by Esha Samajpati. All rights reserved ©

Their extraordinary story is exhibited in detail at the tribe’s Museum and Research Center. Watch this space for more on that.

As for Foxwoods itself, its halls have a quaint New England look and feel (although a major renovation is on the cards) and kids are allowed in the halls, hotels, shops and restaurants – just not inside the gaming parlors. If you are not into gaming, there are plenty of other ways you can spend your money. Hip lounges, nightclubs, designer brands and top-notch restaurants along with a championship golf course, a skating rink, a spa and four hotels are some of the combined recreation on offer by Foxwoods and their newly acquired partner MGM Grand. Keeping true to the MGM brand of entertainment, there’s a 4,000-seat theater for concerts, performances, sporting events and off-Broadway shows. The gaming area is restricted to 50,000 square feet, add to it Foxwoods’ impressive 340,000 square feet and you have an evening of excess laid out for you.

We were there on a night when Jerry Seinfeld was performing but obviously, we had no luck with tickets so late in the day. Apart from that, we had a pretty good time.

If you are in the mood for casino-hopping on a wintry weekend, you could also check out Mohegan Sun, which is located in Uncasville, about 20 minutes drive from Foxwoods.

Pic(k) of the Week – Doggy Love

At the Montana Coffee Traders in Whitefish. Photo by Esha Samajpati. All rights reserved ©

This snub-nosed adorable bulldog stole my heart. We had stopped for coffee in downtown Whitefish, Montana on a rainy October morning and this stodgy fella stood outside…looking in through the glass but not stepping in.  

This reminds me of the Puppy Song by Harry Nilsson – here are a few lines:

Dreams are nothing more than wishes
And a wish’s just a dream you wish to come true
If only I could have a puppy
I’d call myself so very lucky
Just to have some company
To share a cup of tea with me
I’d take my puppy everywhere
La la la la I wouldn’t care
Then we’ll stay away from crowds
With signs that say no dogs allowed

Who is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin’ About Him)?

Meet New England’s Beluga Whales

Beluga Whale at the Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut. Photo by Pinaki Chakraborty. All rights reserved ©

Mystic Aquarium in Mystic, Connecticut  packs in quite a punch. It has a one-acre outdoor habitat which consists of three interconnected pools holding more than 750,000 gallons of water­, making it one of the largest outdoor beluga whale exhibits in the United States.

I visited the aquarium during a time of the year when the temperature was way down and the mountain peaks of New England were dusted with powdery snow. Not exactly hike-friendly if you are not into snowshoeing or ice-climbing. And that’s one of the reason why we decided to go say hello to our fellow creatures from the sea-world. But after spending a day there I realized how educational and fun the place is and why it makes sense to go there in any season.  

Feeding Time. Photo by Pinaki Chakraborty. All rights reserved ©

My second favorite exhibit in the Aquarium happened to be the African Penguins which have now become an endangered species. More on them in my next post.

The Summer That Was

West Rattlesnake Mtn, New Hampshire. Photo by Pinaki Chakraborty. All rights reserved ©

The days are growing shorter, boots of various colors and sizes are again becoming fashionable (and necessary) while the supermarkets are busy stacking brightly packaged tins of peppermint cocoa and gingerbread houses – yes, summer’s officially over and so is autumn. There’s nothing I enjoy more than the four seasons of New England. But as I get ready to welcome winter, I look back on the seasons gone by.

West Rattlesnake Mtn, New Hampshire. Photo by Pinaki Chakraborty. All rights reserved ©

Here’s a couple of photos from our summer hike to West Rattlesnake Mountain in Holderness, New Hampshire. In the first picture, you see a storm-cloud forming in the distance. Not long after, it started pouring and we had to run back to the trailhead as fast as we could. The second picture is  from a look-out point on the same mountain. The heavenly combination of blue skies and bluer lakes, tall trees and bare mountain tops is a common sight in  northeast America where every hike is rewarded by a stunning view and not just from the top!

Steel City’s Point of View

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Photo by Pinaki Chakraborty. All rights reserved ©

James West’s “Point of View” is a larger than life bronze sculpture depicting George Washington negotiating with the Seneca leader Guyasuta atop Mount Washington in Pittsburgh.

Since today is Thanksgiving Day I thought of posting something in keeping with the origin of this holiday. On second thoughts, I could have doodled a turkey and blogged about baked brussel sprouts but the Barefoot Contessa beat me to it.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Connecticut’s Castle Craig

Castle Craig, Meriden, CT. Photo by Pinaki Chakraborty. All rights reserved ©

Every now and then I want to write about an offbeat destination in Connecticut, which doesn’t get the attention it deserves when it comes to tourism.

If you want expansive views of New England and a touch of Scotland, you should consider paying a visit to Connecticut’s Silver City, Meriden. The city was the hub of manufacturing in the 1800’s and among other things, silver was one of the key products, which explains the nickname.

Hubbard Park, the largest municipal park in New England is located here. Designed by none other than Frederick Law Olmsted of the famed Central Park in Manhattan,the main attraction of the park is Castle Craig which has a stone slab dedication that dates back to 29th October 1900 and reads as follows: “Castle Craig Tower stands 32 feet high on 976 foot east peak in Meriden’s Olmsted designed Hubbard Park. It has the distinction of being the highest point within 25 miles of the coast from Maine to Florida. Its design origins are clouded. Some say its native trap rock construction resembles Norman watchtowers on Europe’s Rhine River while others claim it was modeled and named after an ancient castle in Scotland.”

The castle is the ultimate lookout point, especially in autumn. For miles beyond, all you can see is the scattering of red, gold and orange against the clear blue sky. Apart from a road which is open from May through October from 10 A.M. to 5:00 P.M., there are quite a few hiking trails in the park, one of which lead up to the castle. Entry is free and pets are welcome.

With or without the vibrant colors of fall foliage, the place is well worth a visit.   

For more details visit City of Meriden and for the trail map click here.

Train, Plane or Car?

Photo by Pinaki Chakraborty. All rights reserved ©

If you ask me, the best thing about traveling by train is that you can wear your shoes and keep them on for the entire journey. Nope, not the free Wi-Fi or the scenery or even the dining and wining. For me, it’s all about the shoes. I can ignore the delays and the added travel time. At least I don’t have to take off my shoes and put them in a bin. I don’t care if I am standing behind somebody like George Clooney from ‘Up in the Air’. No matter how efficiently you do it, there is no graceful way of taking off your shoes and walking around in your socks in public.

But my favorite mode of travel remains the never-out-of-style road trip. You stop when you want, there’s no limit to the number of things you can carry, you can pack five different types of sunscreen and all your boots. Just dump them in the trunk and you are good to go! It helps that I love driving and USA has an amazing network of well-maintained interstate highways, one of the best in the world.

It’s not always about traveling from point A to point B (unless it’s for business or something urgent); when it comes to vacation travel, what also matters is how you get there.