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Over Christmas and New Year's I had gone for a short trip to the UK and the United States of America. I can very robustly say that 3 weeks and 3 kgs later I had a fantastic trip, having learnt so much from my travels. Before leaving for any destination, I make it a point to do some in depth heavy research on a variety of different aspects — the underground hotspots that only locals know of, the very popular eating joints that most Indians in India would recommend, the places suggested by travel and food blogs and of course that 'gut feeling' when you're standing outside the porch of a Hispanic packed joint where amidst gales of laughter, rounds of distilled coloured and flavoured tequilas, super spicy beer cocktails laced with chilly powder and pseudo-Mexican bites, you make that step inside and realise that far from being a place  for the light-hearted, 'La -Esquina’ NYC, an other wise seedy looking corner shop with a slightly purposeful crumbly appearance (originally a cabbie-pit stop) spirals down into a heavenly taco destination.


Moving on to the West Coast, my next stop was San Francisco! This city was a revelation of sorts! Staying in two of the most sought after residential areas, Palo Alto and Los Altos, I reconnected with my family who stay two doors away from 'Larry Page' (CEO of Google) and four doors away from the late 'Steve Jobs' house which had just a few apple trees in his front garden (heart warming). Unlike the fantastic show of wealth in the Hollywood hills and Beverly, Palo Alto was a delightful insight into how these men of knowledge and power live in such underplayed, cozy, old-fashioned, quiet homes! Seated in the heart of Silicon Valley with my young aunts and uncles who casually would mention the launch of a new app and an invention of another ground breaking brain clot detection device just made me realise how Indians in the IT hills are respected, welcomed, honoured and are stamped with a badge of being 'The Intelligentsia, scholars, doctors scientists and the brain behind All Things Purposeful and Life Changing! A matter of utmost pride? My young cousin looking to apply to Stanford university just a couple of blocks away was struggling with the pressure of higher expectations by Universities whilst considering Indian children assuming and acknowledging their IQ levels and strengths to be very high just by nature of being Indian!! (Silicon Valley, Palo Alto, Los Altos)


Flashing lights, modified cars, gated mansions, wide roads dotted with palm trees, record studios and stores, music stations—The Hollywood Hills Los Angeles—was our next stop! Having heard rave reviews from a couple of very close friends who had studied film there, it was only a matter of time until we witnessed the greatness of where it all happened! Sipping on a deadly fig and honey concoction at WolfGang Pucks, Spago, I turned around to the sound of a million shutterbugs to see the Fabulous Nicky Hilton walk right in and being ushered to a private table! Rodeo Drive, and its sprawling designer super brands with their show windows which were a teaser of immaculate visual merchandising, right before you enter ‘temptationville' is where I was in absolute creative heaven trying to absorb and learn as much as I could from the swanky showrooms which served as mini-museums stacked with jaw-dropping jewel encrusted, rich jacquards and gowns fit for Royalty!! My favourites were the couture at Dolce and Gabbana and Emilio Pucci! So much to learn and implicate from these creative geniuses who look at fashion as a pure means of serenading and romanticising the entire concept of clothing!


Other Must Do’s


1. Magnolia Bakery NYC — made popular by the fantastic foursome Sarah Jessica Parker and her girls from Sex And The City! The banana pudding and Smoares cake can help you pile the pounds but absolutely worth it!


2. The Freedom Tower NYC that has replaced the twin towers — a very powerful and awe-inspiring structure.


3. A drive on Brooklyn Bridge NYC with its unique feature being that pedestrians walk atop a sea of busy commuters as a pathway has been built above the mainstream of traffic.


4. A ten course meal at Joel Robuchons — a 3 Michelin Star restaurant at 'The MGM Grande’. A luxury for most, one feels as if they are sitting cushioned on the sets of Master Chef being treated to bite size delicacies!! An experience worth saving for!! 'With an open mind and a very experimental 'Parsi Palette' we wined and dined for four hours! The sea urchin, for me, was an eye opener as I had never tried it before!!


5. Hugh Hefners Playboy Mansion, LA


6. Artesia Vineyards, Nappa Valley — must try Merlot Chocolate Fudge, Smoked Chipotle Mustard and of course the tasting menus for the wine!


7. Barbounia NYC — A Mediterranean brunch place! it is a melting pot for all avid brunch goers with mimosas flowing and a marvellous menu to choose from. Best picks for me would be the Crab Benedict and the Chocolate Banana Pancake with maple syrup and clotted cream!


8. Mari Vanna NYC — A Russian restaurant where you can expect rich home cooked meals (beef stroganoff with buckwheat and Medovik (traditional Russian layered honey cake) with the ambience of a typical house in Russia. Sit amid huge urns filled with vodka and flavoured fruits and jalapeños. The walls are christened with porcelain plates, banjos and a huge crystal chandelier under which you find seated an A-list Russian crowd all dressed in The finest minks braving the meagre -15 degree winter of NYC (not cold for Russian standards) to celebrate the onset of Russian Christmas!

Farah Sanjana
Chandelier street lights on Rodeo Drive!
Farah Sanjana
Dolce and Gabanna: what an exquisite show window!
Farah Sanjana
Outside Wolfgang Pucks Spago restaurant
Farah Sanjana
Modified Cars!!
Farah Sanjana
Barbounia: mediterranean brunch!
Farah Sanjana
Mari Vanna: Russian restaurant in New York
Farah Sanjana
Magnolia Bakery popularised by Sex And The City
Farah Sanjana
Nappa Valley: Artesia vineyards
Farah Sanjana
La Esquina New York
Farah Sanjana
Steve Jobs' house in Palo Alto
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