November Blues

Narragansett Towers
Photo by Esha Samajpati. All rights reserved ©

A couple of years back, for some reason not exactly clear to either of us, my husband and I had taken a trip down to Rhode Island’s Narragansett in the middle of November. It was windy and well, cold. This  is a picture of  the Narragansett Towers on Ocean Road, once called the gateway to the world. Designed by the New York firm of McKim, Mead and White, it is the last remaining portion of the Narragansett Casino. Back in the 19th Century, it was hailed as one of America’s most prestigious resorts. After surviving decades of fire and hurricanes, The Towers still hold their own with pride and grandeur reminiscent of a past era.

But the Narragansett Towers  have got me thinking of casinos. So here I am, googling Connecticut’s Mohegan Sun which is supposedly the second largest casino in the United States. Their website has an option for viewing the pages in “chinese” – whoa! First of all, there is no language called chinese, it should be mandarin or any one of the numerous languages spoken in China. And second of all, why in Chinese? Hmm…I think I have to go there and find out for myself!

Snapshots from Montana

Last week started on an adventurous note. I hopped on a plane to Minneapolis and from there to Kalispell Airport in Flathead County, Montana. Tia Troy, Public Relations Manager of Glacier Country Tourism greeted me and my fellow journos as we picked up our assorted luggage and embraced the cold Montana air. Tia doesn’t believe in wasting precious time, especially when the itinerary includes horseback riding. Well, as they say, no trip to the west is complete without a ranch visit.

For the next seven days, we touched upon the cities of Whitefish, Essex, Havre, Chinook, Malta, Glasgow, Fort Peck and Great Falls. Traveling from western to eastern Montana, I could feel the change in landscape and a variation in the cultural fabric. In a state as massive as Montana, where it takes from sunrise to sundown to go from one end to another, the differences are expected and welcome. Refreshing even.

For seven nights, I stayed in seven different hotels but the ones that stood out are the Good Medicine Lodge in Whitefish (excellent decor, food, hospitality and amenities) and of course, the Izaak Walton Inn (there’s something very charming about it).

Gayle Fisher, Executive Director of Russell Country Tourism and Carla Hunsley, Executive Director of Missouri River Country Tourism took over from Tia as we toured their respective regions. Cheryl-Anne Millsap from the The Spokesman-Review and Tonya & Ian from World Footprints  made up the rest of our tour group.

Great company, good food and plenty of travel. Ideas were tossed around and opinions were formed, pictures were clicked, memories were made and best of all, friendships were forged.

Photos by Esha Samajpati. All rights reserved ©

A River Runs Through It

Photo by Esha Samajpati. All rights reserved ©

The state of Montana is home to the widely popular Glacier National Park. Scores of activities and plenty of wildlife are the main draws. Second day of my week long Montana trip was spent hiking the gorgeous Glacier National Park. Intermittent showers did not deter us from exploring the park which as you can see from the pic above is every bit worth the extra effort.  

Tiny Tidbit: A particular type of algae is responsible for the green color of the water.

It’s Raining Huckleberries

Wild Huckleberry Lager, courtesy
Huckleberry – Orange Chicken. Photo by Esha Samajpati. All rights reserved ©
Huckleberry Cobbler with a Single Scoop of Huckleberry Ice-cream. Photo by Esha Samajpati. All rights reserved ©

During dinner at the Izaak Walton Inn in Essex last night, we found the menu dotted with tiny purple-green images of huckleberries, a kind of wild mountain berry native to the Pacific Northwest. Apart from being a favorite among the area’s bear population, these fleshy berries find their way into menus all over the region.

Each of us ordered something or the other with the berry in it. The beer was from Great Northern Brewing Co. in Whitefish, a pale brew with just the slightest hint of huckleberry. The six ounce boneless grilled chicken was deliciously tender with a generous drizzle of huckleberry orange sauce. And well, even dessert had the purple tinge of the local berry.

You just cannot avoid this berry in  Montana, and when not in food, it is found in lotions, candles and soaps!


Bar W Guest Ranch. Photo by Esha Samajpati. All rights reserved ©

Big Sky Country, as Montana is often known as is home to cowboys (and cowgirls), fly fishermen, bears, mountain lions and very friendly people. I have been here for just two days and already I am beginning to understand why people from all over the country are always moving to Montana or planning a vacation here.

My first taste of the wild wild west began with me riding a cute li’l pony called Cash in the Bar W Guest Ranch. We were assigned horses based on our riding experience, height and weight.

That was yesterday. Today we hiked the Glacier National Park, which borders the Canadian provinces of Alberta and British Columbia. Pics coming up.

Horseback Riding in Montana

Dave, Andrew and Ashley at the Bar W Guest Ranch in Montana, photo by Esha Samajpati. All rights reserved ©

I arrived in Kalispell, Montana yesterday all set to spend an entire week exploring America’s fourth largest state.

Tia Troy (Public Relations Manager at Glacier Country Tourism) and Ian & Tonya Fitzpatrick from World Footprints – all three of us drove straight from the airport to Bar W Guest Ranch, located on Spencer Lake in Whitefish. With over 3,000 acres dedicated to horseback riding, this ranch was the perfect way to kickstart my western adventure!

Stay tuned for more….

What a Bummer! The Lion’s Asleep!

Photograph by Pinaki Chakraborty. All rights reserved © 
Photograph by Pinaki Chakraborty. All rights reserved © 

“Mommy, look…the lion’s dead!” squealed a kid as the king of beasts lolled lazily in the sun. Another one was a tad worried “He’s been shot!” “No honey, he is fine,” assured Mommy. One kid had the final word. “Lions are boring,” she declared. We were at the Pittsburgh Zoo where the main attraction had decided to take an untimely nap.

The lioness hovered over the lion…she licked him and pawed him for a while. Maybe she was trying to tell him to wake up and do his bit for the visitors. I read somewhere that lions sleep for almost 20 hours a day.

There was this woman beside me who made a kind of tch tch noise in an attempt to wake up the sleeping animal. I turned my head and looked at her, a tad surprised. My disapproval must have been apparent because she promptly apologized.

Couple of things I liked about Pittsburgh zoo. The animals are kept in their natural habitat (well, as much as possible) and they looked well cared for.

Apart from the animals and birds and fishes, I like watching people react to our fellow creatures. The kids provide me with the best entertainment with their uncanny observations. Grown-ups are fun too. Our  curiosity and bravado is directly proportional to our distance from the wild beasts.

The zoo animals may live longer than their wild counterparts but I am still not sure I understand the concept. As far as I am concerned, captivity in any form sucks.

Dutch Diners near Pennsylvania

Glass Jars at the Dutch Pantry off I-80

On our road trip to Pittsburgh, we stopped at a couple of Dutch diners for a taste of American roadside food. Whenever my husband and I hit the road, we try and check out atleast one diner. If we don’t get the time or don’t like what we see, there’s always the golden arch of a Mc Donald’s drive-in.

Off Interstate 81 we found the Dutch Kitchen Restaurant. The food and service were good and the dining-car like interior was pretty cool. The placemats had red and white checks while the barstools had bright red tops. To top it all, every table had a juke box. Very American. Very charming.

On our way back we stopped by at the Dutch Pantry Family Restaurant off Interstate 80. Food and service was again good while the interior was packed with items for sale. We were served drinks in cute glass jars with handles. “We used to sell these earlier,” explained our waitress with a smile. I thought I spied “french fries” in my salad description and thought of giving it a shot. Sure enough, my salad had fries in it.  I for one am not complaining!

Pedal Pushing in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

On my way to the Hot Metal Bridge. This was a particularly nice stretch before the detours began. Photo by Pinaki Chakraborty. All rights reserved © 
On my way to the Hot Metal Bridge. This was a particularly nice stretch before the detours began. Photo by Pinaki Chakraborty. All rights reserved © 

The long drive and the lack of fall foliage did not deter us from visiting Pittsburgh, which many claim to be the ultimate bike-friendly city. Renting a bike each from Golden Triangle Bike Rental, my husband and I set out to explore the city on two wheels. Due to some construction work, part of our trail had detours. This of course took away the pleasures of a non-motorized environment, especially for me as it was my first attempt at urban biking. The surfaces varied and so did my speed. We ran into rollerbladers, joggers, dog-walkers and plenty of people.

We locked our bikes at the base to ride the Duquesne Incline (cable car) which took us high above the city. From the observation deck, we got a great view of America’s steel city with its intersecting rivers, bridges and tall buildings. From our vantage point, the buildings looked like they are made from LEGO bricks. If you ask me, the huge yellow stadium stole the show. The famous Heinz stadium. Home to the Pittsburgh Steelers (members of NFL, America’s National Football League), it is hallowed ground for football fans. The residents of Pittsburgh take their football seriously. One in ten people wore the the black and yellow Pittsburgh Steelers jersey. Even toddlers in strollers wore the team colors!

Around sunset, we returned our loaners and headed back to the hotel. The car parking is close by the rental shop which is great when you are all sore and achy from a day of pedal pushing.

Back to Blogging

On the Mount Pisgah Trail in Northeast Kingdom, Vermont. Photo by Pinaki Chakraborty. All rights reserved ©
On the Mount Pisgah Trail in Northeast Kingdom, Vermont. Photo by Pinaki Chakraborty. All rights reserved ©

This is my second post since my first in August and I apologize for the gap. Meanwhile, I have been to Providence, hiked a few trails in New Hampshire and Vermont, learnt to use chopsticks, tried my hand at go-karting and made some new friends. But like Paul Theroux said, “Travel is glamorous only in retrospect.” It was not all fun and games. I have left out parts where we got lost, felt tired and fought over silly things.

Now that summer’s over, flavors like pumpkin latte is showing up in cafes and boots are making a comeback on the streets. It’s officially fall in New England.

Being from India, I look forward to the four seasons and enjoy the variations in colors and flavors. The change is subtle at first and then suddenly, the new season takes over. Each has its own distinct personality. Summer is like a young kid playing hooky and spring is a couple very much in love. Winter could be a Grandfather with silver white hair and autumn is the Grandma who invites the entire family over for a hearty dinner.

On the travel front, I have a ‘Ride the Rails’ trip coming up and if everything works out as planned, I will be blogging as I travel throught Montana and the northern Rockies!