Software professional Vishy Ramaiyer, 42, his wife Jayshree and their children Prithika, 8, and Ankitha, 6, travelled back to the US, where the couple had lived for 15 years, to reconnect with old friends and familiar places, and to introduce the children to the land where they were born
Did the one-month break in the US take much planning?
The planning did take a month, but it wasn’t that hard as we had already shortlisted some of the places we wanted to visit. It helped that we knew the place well. Some Internet sites came in handy in searching for flights and hotels. We had a good travel agent who did our bookings.
Your first stop was the Bay Area, California, right?
The Ramaiyers— Jayshree, Ankitha, Prithika and Vishy—at the Niagara Falls
Yes. Between my wife and me, we have spent 33 years in the US. We returned to India five years ago, and the May holiday was our first trip back. It felt very good to go back and see our old home, the hospital where the girls were born, the parks where they played and, best of all, all our friends and cousins. In fact, we found that we had more relatives living there now than we’d had during our time there: My wife counted 15 cousins in the Bay Area!
After the picnics and the potlucks, we took the kids to places such as the Mystery Spot, where the rules of gravity don’t seem to work—balls roll uphill and dropped objects fall at an angle, instead of straight down—and the Exploratorium, the kind of children’s science museum we sorely miss in India.
From San Francisco you flew to Vancouver, Canada. Why Vancouver?
Jayshree’s cousin Sundar has been living there for the past 20 years, but somehow we’d never managed a visit in all the time we were in the US. This time, we made it a point to visit this beautiful city with the sea and snow-covered mountains. Once we had settled in, we went to the famous Stanley Park, spread across 400ha and full of spring flowers, and the Capilano suspension bridge, which stretches 450ft across and 230ft above a coastal rainforest. The kids enjoyed it thoroughly. We also went to Victoria Island by a steamer—the island is just so beautiful, especially the Butchart Gardens, which is landscaped so that there’s a medley of variously coloured flowers every time you turn your head.
The Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Florida
Vancouver will be hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics and one of the sites for the events is the Whistler mountain. Although skiing season was over, we could use the ski lift to go up the mountain in -3 degrees Celsius. The kids got to play in the snow and ride on a sledge and enjoyed themselves thoroughly.
You opted to see the Niagara Falls from the Canadian side, didn’t you?
Yes, we stayed in the City of Niagara Falls, in Ontario. We had a wonderful view of the falls from the hotel room, we could even hear it all around. We went on a ride on a ferry called The Maid of the Mist, which takes you very close to the falls. It’s really a mind-blowing experience to see that volume of water so up-close. The Canadian side of the falls is shaped like a horseshoe. At night, when the lights are turned on, it looks magical.
You also stopped at New York City…
...Where we have another cousin, yes, but we didn’t enjoy New York very much: The rush, the queues for the Statue of Liberty, all got to us. The one thing that really struck us was an absence: The last time we’d visited NYC, we’d seen the World Trade Center. The gap was really heartbreaking.
And then, there was Disney World.
The famous Stanley Park, Vancouver
We spent seven days in Orlando. Disney World comprises six parks—Magic Kingdom, Epcot Center, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon. A week wasn’t enough to cover these attractions. We enjoyed Spectra Magic, an electrical parade with all floats illuminated by lights, and Fantasmic at Hollywood Studios—it hasn’t changed in the 15 years since we last saw it. The kids were thrilled when they saw their favourite characters, Mickey, Minnie, and all the princesses.
We also visited the Universal Studios, but realized that the one in Orlando doesn’t have a tram ride, which is what we wanted to see: In Disneyland, California, we’d gone around in a tram to see how a Hollywood movie is made. So, that was a bit disappointing. We also spent a day at the Sea World and it was super, especially the Shamu Show where killer whales perform amazing acrobatic acts.
And Washington, DC: What was it like, in election year?
We were in Washington, DC, for only a day and the museums were the chief attraction—the ones in India can’t compare. We got to see the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum and the Natural History Museum, and it was definitely worth it. We got to show the kids the early aeroplanes, the Apollo capsule that Armstrong travelled in, huge dinosaur skeletons, and some fantastic Imax shows.
In retrospect, what was your biggest takeaway from the trip?
It was a somewhat hectic trip and we were surprised at how well the kids were able to cope. But most of all, it reinforced our decision to move back to India when we did. The life that they get here with friends and family is something that you just don’t get in the US.
Fly Jet Airways to San Francisco from Bangalore (economy return fare from Rs62,000, inclusive of taxes), New Delhi (from Rs69,000 onward) and Mumbai (from Rs61,000 onward).
As told to Sumana Mukherjee. Share your last holiday with us at email@example.com