Exploring New York City in Winter

Central Park, NYC
Central Park NYC

Cold winters are here and people often stay indoors as they feel there is not much to do outside. Contrary to popular belief winters are actually an ideal time for many activities, some indoors and many outdoors.
Here are fifteen things that you can consider to do in NYC city in the coldest winter days.
01. Walk around the city and the Central Park. What better time to explore the city on foot. Walk down the Madison avenue and you will get to see some stunning window displays of some of the high end fashion labels.
02. Explore Ditmas Park in Brooklyn for some of the most beautiful postcard like buildings and Victorian homes.
03. Explore the Greenwood Cemetery and then head towards the Brooklyn Bridge park from where you get to see the iconic Manhattan Skyline. An evening trip is great if you wish to take some stunning night photography.

Manhattan Skyline from Brooklyn
04. Walk down the Brooklyn Bridge towards the Chinatown. At the end of the bridge you will spot the ubiquitous Waffles and Dinges food truck, do not forget to pick some of the best Belgian waffles outside of Europe! Enter into Chinatown for a walk through an entirely different world. If you are tired this is the best place to get a foot massage or a full body massage for some unbelievable prices of $50 an hour and $75 for a 90 minute massage. You can even get some acupuncture therapy from licensed doctors.

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The delicious Waffles at the Wafels & Dinges Food truck

05. After a massage it is a perfect time to shop for trinkets and some knick-knacks, you will find things like scarves, hats, trinkets and lovely jewelry for dirt cheap prices and best thing you can bargain for prices.
06. Once done, head down to Little Italy for some authentic Italian food , lovely desserts and some homemade Grappa.
07. If you are into some winter sports head down to Rockefeller center for some Ice skating. Nearly all the people enjoy this activity immensely. If Rockefeller center skating rink is crowded, Bryant Park skating rink provides an excellent alternative.

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Skating at Bryant Park

08. Once done, head towards the famous Christmas tree and remember to get yourself photographed by a bystander or a professional and if everything fails, this is a perfect time to whip out your smartphone and take a selfie!
09. For people who are not so much into outdoor things, you can always spend many quality hours at The Metropolitan museum of Modern Art or the Guggenheim Museum . Tip :- Remember to travel light when visiting museums, they do not allow outside food and drinks. Only water is allowed and all backpacks & packages must be checked in (if you intend to go shopping do so after the museum trip).

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The Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center

10. You could go check out the latest Broadway Shows. There is always something interesting going on.
11. Check out Radio City hall for the Christmas Spectacular.
12. Walk down the Lower East side neighborhood and you will get to see a mish-mash of Cafes, restaurants, pubs, small boutiques, family owned businesses, you can find some great bargains here. This was incidentally where the largest Jewish population in NYC lived a long time ago. 13. Do remember to explore the Grand Central station. The station is a marvelous display of architecture added to that is fine dining and the ability to buy fresh fish and fresh fruits at the same time!
14. Remember to sample out foods from the food trucks you will find authentic world cuisines at a price that won’t hurt your budget or your health. The healthy juice trucks are a wonderful add to the existing food trucks.

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The Brooklyn Bridge

15. Walk the Chelsea Highline and end your trip in Chelsea market for some excellent cheese and fresh seafood for both cooked served by restaurants and raw. In a group or all by yourself, you will always find plenty of things to do in NYC in the winter time. Happy exploring….

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The beautiful Windowscapes of the Madison Avenue, NYC
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Day trips In Iowa – Lake Macbride

We moved recently to Iowa and have been exploring all the places. One Saturday we drove to Lake Macbride, a place that everyone was going ga, ga about. We bought a couple of sandwiches on the way to the lake. We parked near the beach and then had our sandwiches and went for a short hike. The lake is surrounded by beautiful panoramic views. I have to agree, the lake lived up to its reputation. Once we were back we went to book a kayak for half an hour, but is was sold out. We then decided to take the pontoon boat trip once we were at the counter we were told there would be an hour’s wait which we were okay with, so we booked for a pontoon boat and then went for another walk. After a while we came back to the ramp and then got into the boat and my hubby started the pontoon and off we went to explore the lake. We were able traverse the lake in ease, we went and saw some of the hotels, then went towards the dam. I got to take a lot of photos while my hubby was driving. After a while he asked me to drive it and I was very reluctant, but after a lot of encouraging words from my other half I decided to give it a try. It was not bad in fact I had a lot of fun driving the boat, a second only to paddling! Anyway after an hour we came back and docked the boat, got off , tipped and thanked the young lads who helped us dock.

We got to see the dam and hike a little bit if the trail, There is public beach open to all. There is a concession stand that is open during summer season. The season starts from Memorial day and lasts till Labor Day.

We got to go back again to this lake and this time we went for a long hike, we got to see the lake from a different angle.

We intend to go back during peak fall season to see the leaf colors turn.

The best time to visit is between May and October. The Concession stand and boat rentals are available only during the season which starts from memorial day and end at labor day.

Wear long pants if you decide to go hiking, deer ticks are common.

 

 

COLD START

MAJOR GAURAV ARYA (VETERAN)

It was an unusually warm afternoon in the autumn of 1935. Adolf Hitler sat under a tent, faithful Guderian seated next to him, reviewing maneuvers of tanks and armored vehicles, on the plains of Kummersdorf. Every now and then, he would glance at Heinz Wilhelm Guderian’s classic “Achtung Panzer”, the tank man’s Bible.

It was early evening when Hitler suddenly rose from his chair. Guderian got up, unsure of what was going on inside Hitler’s mind. Hitler could be extremely temperamental. He looked at Guderian and keeping his hand on his shoulder in an unusually familiar gesture, he said looking at the rolling tanks, “That is what I want – and that is what I will have.”

German strategic thinking had evolved from the writings of Carl Von Clausewitz, Helmuth von Moltke the Elder and Alfred von Schlieffen. But it was the defeat in the First World War and the…

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My coffee drinking adventures

My coffee adventures started at a very young age, at an age when kids drink milk! My tolerance for milk was too low even at a very young age, I hated it vehemently. Fortunately for me I went to live with my grandparents for a year when I was four and that was the time I discovered coffee. I am also very blessed that I come from a state which is famous for its kaapi as it is affectionately called. So my introduction to coffee the first time ever was to a type of mix of ground coffee + instant variety. I think this was my grandma’s own version, it was sweetened naturally by raw palm sugar. Somehow she made the best coffee that I can ever care to remember. I have over years gone from instant coffee to filter/ brewed/ drip coffee. I now appreciate nearly every form of coffee. In India as I was growing up my milk was flavored with coffee so that the smell would be done away with and ofcourse the most important role of flavoring the milk. In pre 70’s India, coffee was the cheapest way of flavoring milk and the silly bottled variety instant coffee had no caffeine factor of any sort at all. So I got to drink coffee before I went to sleep!
I then traveled north to Delhi and all of that coffee drinking days were over as North Indians do not drink coffee as a choice but only tea, even the bottled variety coffee was hard to find and would be available only in the speciality stores with an unaffordable price tag, hence drinking coffee became beyond the reach of a common man, it suddenly became a luxury. My parents found a way around this coffee shortage, they would just get some coffee beans from the Udipi bhavan then roast the beans on the stove and have it ground in a special shop. The aroma of roasting coffee was so heady that the smell stayed for days making our home a coffee heaven. The first time when the ground coffee came home in a steel box the enticing smell wafted all the way to our bedroom. Mom put some water to boil and set up the coffee filter set (see below ) and then poured hot water over the grounds and then we waited for it to drip, mom quickly made coffee with the dripped brew and it was awesome. I asked my mom the next day for coffee in the evening and she said no , I asked her why not as there was a whole box of coffee right there and that is when she went on to lecture me about the economics of drinking a cuppa daily, so I returned to our room disheartened, coffee now became a novelty only when my parents friends came over and that too if they insisted on south Indian coffee. I would still not get any as mom would make only the amount needed leaving me with a few drops to lick off of the filter set. Obviously my milk drinking also came to total standstill as milk tasted horrible without the coffee. Situation had come to such a head that now I waited for my summer holidays to visit my grandparents, the joy of meeting my grandparents was doubled by the fact that I could drink copious amounts of coffee all day with no one restricting me on how much I had. Which was fun and every time I went to meet my aunts, cousins etc more coffee came out in little tumbler-bowl combination of utensils. In Tamilnadu no home is complete without a set of kaapi tumbler-bowl set, the coffee is served super hot in the tumblers and the bowls underneath them are for people who would like to cool the coffee before you sipped it.
So I grew up traveling between states and state-lines drinking coffee in between. I learnt that there was a super cool way to make even the instant coffee yummy, the process though a little long and taxing is very gratifying if you have the luxury of time and patience . People in North India love serving up this coffee in their homes, as most of them do not have a filter set. The process is to add coffee granules to sugar granules, add just 2 drops of milk and then beat till the sugar has melted completely and cup is nearly half full with the beaten foam. Now you add a mix of hot milk-water to this foam and mix very gently so that the foam does not disappear and you get to have some of this frothy stuff in every sip.
After a few years I traveled to America where the drip coffee is very famous and nearly every home has atleast a small coffee machine. I found out that the coffee was not just as tasty as the one I was used to, when I was younger, I discovered by accident that American coffee had no Chicory added to it making it pure coffee and so a little less flavorful for me who appreciated the coffee bean- chicory mix. Over years I have found bold, neutral, mild, medium, flavored coffee and I have learnt to appreciate nearly all kinds except for the bold ones. The bold ones served in USA are too bitter and coffee in my opinion should not be bitter. The bitterness also masked any other subtle flavor that coffee has acquired naturally while growing. Coffee drinking in US now is at par with wine drinking. I also found to my delight the Vietnamese, Turkish coffee and the delightful French press. The Vietnamese coffee is dripped directly into your cup which has some sweetened condensed milk in it, this combination makes it a strong and sweet coffee.Turkish coffee is not filtered but the ground coffee and water are heated (not boiled), then gently stewed and then ladled into cups , you can add sugar and milk if you want but you drink the coffee after that grounds have settled to the bottom.
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Coffee making machine at Bali
I then had the opportunity to visit Bali the land of coffee haven where the ultimate Kopi Luwak the elixir of the coffee world is served. I was very apprehensive about having this coffee as the coffee is prepared from the beans that the Civet cat has excreted, as we were driving to the coffee farm I told my husband that I was not going to drink anything that came out of another living being much less a shitty coffee. I was enthralled by the amount of adulation that this coffee has gained all over the coffee world. So we went into the farm and then we were taken on a tour where we got to meet the civet cat that was fed nothing but the picked coffee berries for food. The poop is then collected, washed, dried, the outer husk is removed and then again let to dry more so that another layer can be removed. After this is done the beans are dried for more days in the sun and then the third layer of cover is removed by hand one by one, there is no machine to do this and is extremely labor intensive thing to do. After this is done small batches of coffee beans are roasted and then ground on a stone mortar little by little. Then the coffee is dripped slowly in a special contraption that looked like it came out of a chemistry lab. We were seated and our hostess gave us a sampler of 6 different types of coffee to drink. We sipped them one by one and then came to world’s best coffee, this was awesome coffee , it was sweet even without a sweetener and it did not need milk. I enjoyed it immensely and that is when the hostess put the Kopi luwak in front of us and then said “now try our Kopi Luwak”. One sip of that coffee and I kid you not there really is no comparison that exists, it truly is the elixir of the coffee world , there was nothing better to experience in terms of coffee if you try Kopi Luwak, it truly is a dream of a coffee lover like me. I have had coffee before (Indian, Javan, Sumatran, Hawaiian, Costa Rican, Belizean, Guatemalan) and after Kopi Luwak, but nothing compares to Kopi Luwak my coffee adventures have nearly come to an end. I do look forward to drinking the Ethiopian and Yemeni variety from where it all began but in my mind I have reached my destination. Coffee from the coffee houses of Damascus has made inroads into nearly kitchen in a few centuries, now that is a travel worth its weight in gold. Coffee in its travels has many, many stories to tell those stories in another blog.
Note:-
South Indian Coffee filter set – It is a set of steel tubular/ tumbler like thing that is stacked one on top of other the top one has perforated base through which the water can drip into the bottom tumbler. So what one does is puts a few tablespoons of coffee grounds on the top mug then puts a perforated stopper like thing on top of the grounds, then set the tumbler over the bottom one and then pour hot water over the grounds. The coffee brews and drips into the tumbler below. Once all of the water has brewed and dripped to the bottom tumbler, the coffee is ready to be made. People will add hot milk and sugar before they serve

social entrepreneurship – an innovative approach to social hassles

PESIT E-Cell

We come across various social problems associated with people. There is poverty, unemployment, health issues, discrimination on grounds of race, caste, religion and sex, sexual and physical abuse, women rights and the list seems to never end. In this world of social chaos and pandemonium we live in, it has turned extremely essential to create organizations and committees for the welfare of people. Government, the law and NGO’s exist to eradicate the anti-social elements but they are often rendered insufficient to thither to the needs of every citizen of the country. Entrepreneurship is growing drastically, paving the way for revolutionary changes in the economy of our country. Youngsters have opened up their minds, taken up challenges, voiced out their ideas, fulfilled their dreams and have come out of their closet with flying colours. The talent hidden in the youth of the country can be invested in entrepreneurship but is entrepreneurship…

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Kuldhara – An abandoned village, a ghost town

Kuldhara a village abandoned overnight

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A view of the deserted village from Kaba Fort

 

Settled in 1291 AD Kuldhara was the largest of the 84 villages established by the Paliwal Brahmins. It is believed that the Paliwal brahmins were actually from Garh Nanuna and were known as the Nanuana Brahmins. The Paliwal Brahmins were business savvy and were famed for their know how of agricultural practises, which led to good crop turnover year after year even in the desert. The whole clan living in the 84 villages disappeared overnight in 1825, leaving a ghost town. No one saw them leave and till date the historians have no idea how such a large number of people disappeared in a single night, together at one go. There are no data available as to where they vanished to, but it is believed they settled in Jodhpur

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The legend of this disappearance goes thus; one day the Diwan, Salim Singh (the same Salum Singh/ Salim Singh of the famous Salim Singh ki Haveli in Jaisalmer) to the King happened to see the beautiful young daughter of the village chief. He fell for her beauty and wanted to marry her. But the chief being a Brahmin refused to give her hand in marriage to a non – Brahmin. The Diwan gave the chief a deadline , by which time if they did not accept his hand in marriage, he would forcefully enter the village and take the  Chief’s daughter with or without their consent and marry her. The chiefs of the 84 villages met one night and decided that they will leave the villages in the dark of the night, which they did so as they did not want to compromise with their honor. They left their homes as is, taking just the bare minimum necessities.

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It is also believed that they cursed the village to be barren forever, devoid of human habitat. The village till date stands mute testimony to this curse, uninhabited. The homes have taken the toll of time quite gracefully , giving it an eerie look. There are still some homes intact till date, that time has not been able to touch. Going through these homes gives you an idea how the people must have lived here so long ago. Curse or not the unavailability of potable water in any form makes it uninhabitable even today.

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Kuldhara is well worth a visit even if you do not believe in the other world of ghosts etc. You can combine Kuldhara and Kaba Fort as a single day trip outside of Jaisalmer.

 

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