You might find this as more of a personal travel account throughout the read but be sure to finish it till the end as you might find some interesting tips and some recommendations to the places you would want to visit here. And of course about food. This is the first part of a 14 day trip encompassing 7 initial days. The latter 7 days will be detailed in the second part of the trip.
Touching down on US soil
*Mumbai- Munich- Lufthansa airlines *Munich- Chicago- United airlines
Healthy doses of red wine, some movies and some good food later landed at Chicago O'Hare international airport... The emigration process was took hell of a lot of time but we finally finished it.
First day was rest day and had a nice home cooked dinner at my cousin's place (Brookfield located one and half hours from Chicago) and slept through the jet lag.
The first thing that shocked me... Total wine liquor store. Huge as a mall (like big bazar in India) and house to all varieties of liquor in all brands... Mind-blown already.
*Mode of transport-car *Places visited- Milwaukee, McKinley marina, Hindu temple Wisconsin *Food- The Collectivo, Chili's
If you are in US you realise that there are actually a real lot of cars around and that people don't seem to walk at all in the neighborhood like the usual sight in many countries. All shops are located at convenient distances and are seperate from spaces meant for housing. So that's just the thing, the most important thing- you can't get around in the US if you don't have a car with you, especially when you are in the suburbs, though there's always Uber or Lyft, but no other kind of public transport.
So the day was spent lazing around and evening spent in some sightseeing in Milwaukee.
McKinley marina and it's park is a nice quiet place offering views of lake Michigan and the cityscape of Milwaukee. But the month was April, the beginning of summer, and still pretty cold and windy.
The Collectivo is a coffee place next to the marina which looks like a European building from the outside. Just as it's warm and cosy on the outside. Nice coffees and hot chocolate.
The Hindu temple of Wisconsin, located on the outskirts of Brookfield, is a one of kind place built by the Indians residing in Wisconsin and the home to almost all the Indian deities. It is so clean and so unlike the temples you usually visit in India. Of course I had to visit a temple coz I was traveling with my parents.
Next stop was dinner at Chili's, Brookfield. Chose from baby ribs in honey chipotle sauce, fried chicken, chicken wings and enchiladas. The blue moon beer, crisp with an orangy taste, tried it for the first time and I am a fan already.
Today was the day of the roadtrip, from Brookfield to Ann Arbor, Michigan. Across states and time zones, 350 miles, 7-8 hours of driving, wading through some pretty heavy chicago traffic, passing through some torrential rains on the way for almost a hundred miles, we finally made it to Ann Arbor close to midnight.
*mode of transport - car *Places visited- Ann Arbor, Michigan University, the Big house stadium. *Food- Washetaw milk dairy, Zingerman's Roadhouse
It was the big day for all of us as we headed to my brother's convocation, who completed his MS from Michigan University, to the University stadium.
The Michigan university stadium, popularly known as 'The Big House', is the largest in the US and the home ground of the Michigan wolverines. The main common convocation ceremony was conducted here with a packed stadium (of course Michigan University gives out almost 45,000 students every year). The convocation ceremony was a once in a lifetime kind of experience for me given the fact it was so ambitious and monumental. The temperatures had dropped drastically that day and were on the edge of snowing but we bared it all. Post this the actual departmental convocation was conducted indoor in the basketball stadium.
Following all the ceremonies we spent a good deal driving around Ann Arbor and seeing the Michigan university all scattered about. A culmination of historical buildings and newer structures scattered through Ann Arbor makes this a haven for students.
Doughnuts from Washtenaw milk dairy were scrumptious. Dinner was at Zingerman's roadhouse, a branch of Zingerman's famous in Ann Arbor. Dinner was ribs again with chicken sandwich, buttermilk fried chicken and peppered fries, with a selection of beers to down it with. Food was tasty and the beer soft parade was too, more on the sweeter side but definitely worth a try.
*Mode of transport- rental car (enterprise) *Places visited- Sleeping bear dunes national Lakeshore, Empire bluff trail, Sand dunes climb, Glenn Arbor, Traverse city *Food- Biggby coffee, Empire village inn, Driftwood motel *Stay- Breakers resort, St Ignace
Ann Arbor to sleeping bear dunes is almost a 6 hour drive. The road cuts through the Michigan forested areas as we had further no North. Being the end of winter it still looked pretty barren but pretty nonetheless.
Biggby coffee is a chain of coffee shops all over the US who do have some pretty good coffee. Especially their dark hot chocolate- mouth watering. After a quick stop for coffee we continued on our journey.
It was noon by the time we reached sleeping bear dunes national lakeshore park. After some quick info we started on the first thing that was open- the empire bluff trail.
The empire bluff trail goes through the forest and opens up to the mesmerizing blue waters of lake Michigan, as vast as any sea. The trail reminded me of all the horror/slasher movies I have watched, but it was broad day light so nothing to worry. The trail was snow laden in bits and is very easy to navigate and takes 20 to 25 mins to reach the lakeview.
After the trail we headed to Empire village inn for lunch. A quaint rustic place which dishes out some amazing sandwiches and chicken wings in buffalo hot sauce to die for.
Next stop were the sand dunes- quite literally a desert in the north. The dunes rise up with the cold sand and it's almost like an uphill hike to cross them and reach the lakeview and shore again. But the views as you head up are something that stay in your memory.
Last stop was the Glenn Arbor town- looked to be a ghost town except for a police station nearby. It is right adjacent to the lake so we had to chance to dip our feet in the cold waters and click some photos.
Post this it was time to head for makinaw city for the night. On the way we passed traverse city, built on the traverse bay, with loads of hip restaurants and drinking places. Nothing more here.
It was nightfall when we reached the Breakers resort in St Ignace. The hotel is a comfy place, neat and well maintained, decently priced and right adjacent to the lakeshore.
Dinner was from Mc Donald's as that was the only place open for food. Followed by a beer drinking session at the Driftwood motel. Modelo and Stella Artois for company.
*Rental car- 150 USD for 2 days- sedan car fuel expenses extra *Hotel- 180 USD for 4 people with breakfast
Lake Michigan, sleeping bear dunes, empire bluff trail
Empire bluff trail
Sleeping bear dunes, lake Michigan
*mode of transport- rental car (enterprise) *Places visited- Makinac island *Food- Joann's fudge, Sanders, B.C pizza
They day started with a heavy breakfast at Breakers resort. Their breakfast spread included pancakes, waffles, omelettes, sausages, bagels, cinnamon roll, diced fruits, frozen yoghurts, corn flakes, chocos, tea, coffee and a variety of fruit juices. Sounds just as delicious and filling as it actually was.
The ferry to go to Mackinac island starts from 2 places- Makinaw city and St Ignace. We caught it from St Ignace and had to sit inside due to the chill outside. It takes roughly 20 mins to reach the island by ferry and during some seasons they also ride you from under the Makinaw city bridge.
Makinac island looks like a brightly painted west world village with small buildings dotting the road and devoid of any means of transport other than horses and carriages. So you walk the whole place or rent out a bicycle. So the island itself is partly residential subject to the season and had houses, churches, hotels and shops throughout. Places to visit on the island are fort makinac and the numerous walking trails.
Arch rock is a limestone rock formation on the island through which you can gaze at the shimmering waters of lake Huron. And also there's a platform to climb which offers unending views of the whole lake. The most picturesque location on the whole island, a must visit.
The island is famous for fudge, a type of candy of sugar, butter, milk and chocolate made on a cold marble slab. There are numerous shops here for the same and we brought us a selection from Joann's fudge. There are numerous varieties- chocochips, dark mint, dark chocolate, chocolate pecan, raspberry truffle, cherry and so on. Raspberry truffle... Yummilicious. You can buy a pack of 6 for 30 USD.
Sanders is also a fudge and coffee shop close to the dock where the fudge flavoured coffee was out of this world. We also caught up on the actual fudge making process here.
The ride back was just as scenic as the rest of the trip. A quick stop on the way for some lunch at B.C. pizza and we had ourselves full stomachs. Try the pizza sub and meatball sub, very tasty and very filling.
*mode of transport- flight, cab, subway *Places visited- Battery park, Liberty island, statue of Liberty, Ellis island, Wall Street, broadway Street, charging bull, federal hall, Trinity Church, central park, Times square, Chinatown *Food- Casa Bella, food station *Stay- Hotel mulberry, Chinatown
We had the very early morning flight from Detroit to NYC which takes about one and half hours to reach new york. Operated by united airlines the check-in procedure is no nonsense and very fast. Reaching early in the city is good so you can avoid the heavy Manhattan traffic for the travel.
We checked into hotel Mulberry located in Chinatown, lower Manhattan. The hotel might look small on the outside but it's got some pretty decent rooms, competitive prices and the location is a killer with loads of restuarants nearby.
A thing to note is that if you are gonna be doing touristy things in New York its always better to pick a hotel in Manhattan. They aren't the usual cheap but you can always find some decent deal. Given the traffic that goes on here usually you might actually end up spending more if you stay somewhere far off as most of the sightseeing places are located in Manhattan itself.
First up with the statue of Liberty and Liberty island. The location is battery park to get onto the ferry and the queue for the same is just as huge. Took us almost 2 hours to reach the get the tickets and get on the ferry. The ferry takes you around the island and gives for some breathtaking views of New York skyline. On the island the statue of Liberty stands tall unfazed and makes way for more photos. After some souvenir shopping we headed back on the ferry via Ellis island.
After getting off battery we walked to the charging bull and Wall Street. Now forget about clicking a photo at the charging bull, it's just too crowded and right in the middle of a busy street. Walk around Wall Street, admire the tall buildings, let your eyes pop out at Trinity church and head to Broadway Street if you want a small snack from the food trucks. Just like we did.
Next up was central park. We took a subway to get there. Word of caution- the NYC subway system is very very very confusing (atleast for a first-timer to the city) so be careful. Having a citymapper app on your phone helps. Central park is the biggest patch of green in the midst of the bustling high-rises of Manhattan. It's huge and definitely must visit for some relaxing walk around. Visit the Bethesda terrace and fountain but it's always gonna be crowded with tourists, photographers and painters.
Times square is a 15 mins walk from central park. Pick up an icecream from 'the real deal' icecream truck right outside central park and start walking. As you get closer you realise there are tons of souvenir shops and all kinds of electronic shops and some restuarants along the way. Times square itself is a brightly lit up place with the numerous ads and the flash boards. And it's crowded throughout the day, but try visiting by evening and night when it's the most dazzling thing in the city.
Dinner back in Chinatown was as Casa Bella, an Italian restuarant, which did have some yummy pasta and carrozza. With the company of Brooklyn lager and Peroni, you might even find some musicians playing soulful tunes into the night here.
*Hotel stay- 250 USD for 3 people with breakfast *Liberty island ferry- 20 USD per head *NYC Subway- buy day tickets for 15 USD. Each trip per person costs 2.75 USD *Flights- 180 USD per person return flights, just check the baggage policies before hand.
The long and the short of it...... 1. Plan your trip well in advance and make the necessary bookings in advance too if possible. 2. Visa process takes time for the appointments and due checking, so don't rush into it in a hurry. Be patient. Once you get the visa you get it for 10 years. So that's a win. 3. Booking flight tickets atleast 3 months prior is beneficial cost wise. Try choosing flights through Germany or Paris as they don't require transit visa (UK and Canada requires the same). 4. Once in the US always consider car rentals or flights if you plan to visit places which are away from the major cities. The public transport connecting the distant places may not be great. USA is a vast country but given the excellent condition of the roadways driving around isn't hectic at all. 5. Make a choice between the calm and the crowded. Some lesser known places provide for great visits with relaxation. So research on these prior to going along with best time to visit as some places might be closed in certain seasons. 6. Visiting the east coast and the northern parts is good in the beginning of summer when the temperature have started rising but not too much and the days are pretty longer with sunlight till almost 8.30pm. More time to go around sightseeing. 7. Most of the places in suburbs and towns close by 9. So keep a check. Plus the alcohol vending times vary from state to state. 9. When travelling in major cities use some app like citymapper. Helps with the buses and the subways. Uber and Lyft are the other cab apps you can use. 10. On an average a meal per person will cost you 10-15 USD at most fast food joints. Drop in another 10 USD if you want to chug down two beers with it. At bigger restaurants you might end up spending an average of 35-45 USD per person for a similar meal and booze. So try sticking to restaurant chains for a cheap and stomach full meal. 11. Even if you are short of time you can still visit a lot of places. But be sure to enjoy what you visit.
I'll be publishing the part 2 very soon and it will deal with some more touristy places and commercial aspects. Be sure to catch up on it too.
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