D-Mad Travel Adventures!

The world through our lens and our fun(ny) experience!

A Weekend in Big Easy New Orleans!

We made a road trip from Minneapolis to New Orleans, stopping at all the tiny towns and party towns along the way. We were in NOLA during new years and it was crazy but crazy fun as well!

Things to do:

  1. Exploring the city: Just walk around every nook and cranny of the French Quarter with colorful houses and beautiful french architecture.
  2. Whether you party or not, walk the crazy Bourbon street!
  3. Hit the jazz bars on Frenchmen street. Spotted cat was cute, cosy and one of our favorites.
  4. Activity: Go kayaking in the bayous and spot some gators. It is pretty cool!
  5. Cemetery tour is one of the highlights, the architecture, history and stories are well worth the time!

Things to eat:

  1. Early breakfast: Cafe Au Lait and Beignets at Cafe Du Monde!!! Go get them on your early morning walk. It is worth the hype but not worth the time in line, so strategize.
  2. Lunch: The Green Goddess is a great place in a romantic alleyway in the french quarters serving lots of vegetarian friendly foods.
  3. Snacking: You have got eat Po Boys when in nawlins! We found this place tucked inside Erin Rose pub called Killer Poboys and they do have the killer veggie Po Boys! Also trey Frozen Irish coffee there (Non Alcoholic) SO YUMMMM
  4. Dinner: If you are looking for some Vietnamese fix, try Lily’s Cafe in garden district for they serve the best spicy Tofu!
  5. Dessert: For dessert hit up Salon at Sucre for the chocolate overload you need!

The Voodoo experience: Voodoo came to New Orleans in 18th century through slaves brought from African countries. It is fascinating to walk into vodoo stores and learn about the history, origin and its current practice!

Pura Vida, Costa Rica!

By this time, you already know we aren’t planners. And like all our vacations, this one was also a last minute one. We booked our (overpriced) flights three days before we left for a 10-day vacation in a new country.  After all, vacations are all about gathering memories and stories, isn’t it?

Also, most of our photographic memories got stolen when our car was broken into last month and our camera, memory cards and our laptop got stolen (if one more person asks me why we didn’t back-up, I will lose it). So here I am telling you our story through my Instagram stories, which are pretty cool btw!

We landed in San Jose, rented a car and off we went on our road trip taking suggestions from Google and random blogs. Here is the route we traveled –

Costa Rica

Arenal Volcano:

When in Costa Rica, you’ve got to drink some coffee, right?


We read about this hike to a turquoise waterfall, Rio Celeste and decided to drive there in dark, in rain, on roads full of switchbacks and gravel. On the hindsight probably a bad idea.

We stopped at an AirBnB that we booked on our way to there, but this place was so remote that by the time we reached there, we were starving and the hosts at AirBnB were getting ready to go to bed. But, the hostess there took pity on us and cooked up some pretty fancy meal. Also, did we mention they only spoke Spanish and we didn’t. That was interesting!

And for Rio Celeste, the hike was spectacular but due to heavy rains the previous night, the rain water mixed with the sulphur water washed out the turquoise color. Oh well!

Off we went to Monteverde next, to the beautiful cloud forests. Costa Rica is doing an excellent job at maintaining their ecosystems. We were thoroughly impressed by how they segregate their waste and keep the nationals parks, their cities and surroundings clean. Kudos to taking care of your biodiversity and ecosystem, Costa Rica!

After 3 days, our ears got used to listening to the chirping of thousands of birds wherever we went. Next we headed to the west coast to explore the beaches and beach forests!

Manuel Antonio has the best beaches and LOTS of monkeys!!!!



Our next leg was to spend a few days in Corcovado: one of the most bio-diverse places on this planet, home to hundreds of bird species, endangered species of monkeys, anteaters, Tapirs, crocs, Jaguars and more! But first, river crossings!


And Scuba diving!!!

I was reading a blog post and happen to come across Javier’s Facebook page. I decided to give him a call and see if he could take us out to explore Corcovado. He not only agreed but invited us to stay with him, which was the best blind decisions we have made! Javier is an animal whisperer and he was the best guide ever! But before he took us into Corcovado, he took us on a jungle walk at night for warm-ups. And the things we saw!!!

Corcovado is not easy to reach, we were staying with Javier in Drake Bay and from there you can hike along the beach to Corcovado NP but to reach the remote areas, you have to take a boat to the ranger station.


After spending a few nights in Corcovado, we decided to go spot some birds esp the Resplendant Quetzal, in San Gerrardo, by a recommendation from a friend that we ran into in Quepos!

After finding the Quetzal, our trip was complete. There was no other way to end this vacay, so we had to say good bye!

Alaska: Beyond Your Dreams, Within Your Reach!

This is by far the most amazing place we have been to. I just cannot put it in words the beauty of this land, hence, I will not even try. I will just tell you the things you can do when visiting Alaska in Summer.


Denali National Park – Reflection Pond at Wonder Lake. This is totally worth it if the sky is clear and you can see the mountain. Try to reserve the early morning shuttle if you are planning to go all the way to wonder lake. Camp at wonder lake and take the first shuttle back the next day. This way you can expect to see maximum wildlife on the way!


Harding Icefield Trail, Exit Glacier: If you love day hikes, Harding Ice Field is not to be missed. We almost didn’t do this hike as we were so exhausted after hiking and traveling for 11 days in Alaska but on the last day we decided to push ourselves to do this. That was the best decision and 8-miles of pure paradise. The expansive ice-fields on top is breathtaking! We kind of started very late on this trail (~3pm) but thanks to the long days of summer, there were fewer people and more bears on our way back (~9pm)!

Kenai Fjords National Park: Take the day trip ferry to see some of the brilliant glaciers, listen to/see the glacial calving and spot some dolphins, puffins, otters, humpbacks and orcas on the way!

Russian River Falls: A short hike to see the Alaskan wild salmon migration. We spent hours here watching salmon leap up to cross the waterfall and a few little bears who were there to hunt. If Katmai is not on your list, this is your cheaper and easier second option.

Bear Glacier: Stand up paddling in Bear Glacier cove was the highlight of our trip. Paddle through the calm water around some magnificent icebergs and  take in the view and feel insignificant! This tour is only offered by Liquid Adventures so make sure you reserve a spot.



Glacier Bay National Park: The best way to see the glaciers up close is by taking the local ferry from Juneau to Gustavus and staying at the Glacier Bay lodge. This way you can take the national park ferry for a day trip to see some of the best and pristine glaciers in the northern hemisphere. An additional advantage to this is you can rent kayaks and paddle out in the bay and get up close and cozy to some of the largest mammals in the world!


Mendenhall Glacier:  Want to see how it is to be in an ice cave? A day trip to Mendenhall glacier will let you experience just that! We took a guided tour to the glacier and once we hit the glacier, we put on our crampons and walked on the glacier a couple of miles to explore the caves and the river system which flows underneath the glacier. It is quite fascinating! The rain forest hiking detour you take on the way back is well worth it!


Alaska is expensive, start saving up so you can take back a life’s worth of memories!

Ideal time to visit  – June – July

Number of Days – 10 full days at the least!

Photography Tip – Be ready with your telephoto as you never know when a bear or whale can prop up in front of your eyes! For more photos visit our FB page.

D of DMad!

Top 10: Sunrises of the World!

1. Tiger Hill, Darjeeling, India

The most spectacular I have seen so far. It is very hard to beat this one! The play of light starts 30 minutes before the actual sunrise where the Himalayan ranges turn different colors with every passing minute finally displaying the golden peaks of Kanchenjunga and Mt Everest!!! I was very young when I saw this but it has been etched in my memory and I cannot wait to go back to click some digital pictures!


2. Cappadocia, Nevşehir, Turkey Hike up the Goreme Panorama point to get a 360degree view of the town and watch the hoodoos light up when the sunrises! The icing on the cake is also watching the mass ascension of hot air balloons – spectacular!812795_603494162999653_1385522546_o

3. Mesa Arch, Utah, USA

This sunrise is surreal. The sun lights up the bottom of the arch only and looks like the arch is being set on fire! It is a very short hike from the trail head. You can walk atop the arch but be very careful because if you misstep and fall, you will die.

4. Grand Teton, Wyoming, USA

The famous reflection picture you can click is at Schwabacher Landing. Go early to secure a VIP spot as you will see many photographers flocking there with their tripods!IMG_7574

5. Kanyakumari, Tamil Nadu, India

I was very little when I went to see the sunrise with my parents here and my mom explained to me that the sun rises when they ring a bell, and my jaw dropped to the floor when a perfectly round ball of light quickly scurried up the ocean into the sky as soon as someone rang a loud bell! That was a magical moment and to this day they follow that tradition of ringing a bell at sunrise and sunset! This is the southern most tip of India where you can see both sunrise and sunset!

6. Bryce Canyon, Utah, USA

The sunrise point in the national park is the best spot to catch this.

7.Smoky Mountains, Tennessee, USA

The best sunrise you can see in the national park is from the parking lot of the clingman’s dome. The sun rises behind the mountains through the clouds.

8. Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico

This is the place to enjoy a very quiet sunrise by the beach with ruins at your back!

9. Denali, Alaska, USA

Though Denali National Park is famous for its sunset views of the peak, I had to mention this for a reason. In summer the sun almost never sets, it gets dark around 1am and then the sun is back up by 3 am! It is very cool to just stay up all night to see the sunset to sunrise transition!

10. The one sunrise I know to be super spectacular is atop Haleakala, Hawaii, USA. I cannot wait to go there to experience this but this article could not be complete without a mention of this. I am basing this off of some incredible pictures my friends have clicked!


Las Vegas – Inside and Out!

This is a special feature where a friend and I talk about Las Vegas!

Kendra’s take  –
I love Las Vegas. I’ve been traveling there for years. Today, I enjoy taking my family here too. Whether I’m traveling on business or bringing the kids for family vacation, I never find myself lacking something to do or see.

1. Las Vegas from the Air
Kids of all ages will never forget the sight of the strip from a helicopter. Tours with Maverick Helicopters are always on the agenda when my family visits Las Vegas. The pilots give every guest VIP treatment. Each person gets to interact with the pilot during the guided tour through use of high-tech headsets. The photo taken at the end of the tour might end up being your favorite souvenir.

2. Showtime on the Strip
You simply can’t visit Las Vegas and not catch a show. Cirque du Soleil has been putting on stunning performances here for years. Their current show, O, is an absolute must-see. It features a 1.5-million-gallon pool and talented synchronized swimmers. You might find yourself wondering where to look next. You’ll definitely be happy you took in this visual feast.

3. Bumming on the Beach
Where else could you find a beach and plenty of waves in the middle of the desert? One of my favorite places to relax while in Las Vegas is Mandalay Bay. They have several swimming pools as well as a sandy beach. I grab a cocktail and relax in an inner tube while the kids ride the waves in the wave pool. The lazy river is another highlight of any visit here. This place is all the reason I need to visit the strip.

4. Dolphin Training
If you love dolphins, you need to visit Siegfried and Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat. You can become a dolphin trainer for a day through the program here. Guests are allowed to work alongside professional trainers while interacting with magnificent Atlantic bottlenose dolphins. If you’ve ever dreamed of being a marine biologist, this is a great way to try it on for size.

Family fun can be found in many vacation destinations. Las Vegas happens to be one of my personal favorites. My family always has a good time, and we never have the same experience twice. Las Vegas is truly unique and hosts a number of beautiful hotels that cater to any traveler or family. Sites like Gogobot make it easy to sort the huge number of hotels to the one that fits you the best. There’s so much to do, most tourists are eager to return again.

D-Mad’s double take
I have always shared a love-hate relationship with Vegas. I do like the glitz, glamour, lights and colors of this place, but this place can only be enjoyed mostly after the sun goes down and even better after a couple of shots. If you love getting dressed up, catching some shows, laying by the pool, during the day, in one of the many pompous hotels and partying up by the night, Vegas is the place to be.
I am also in awe of how they have replicated and recreated many of the amazing things from all over the world. It is superficial yet stunning!

While Kendra talked about what you can do while in Las Vegas. I am going to tell you about why else Vegas is awesome. This is very centrally located to few of my favorite spots in the US and the airfare is very cheap to Vegas from most big cities.
During the day when you cannot do much in the city, here are some amazing options –

  1. Drive to West Rim of the Grand Canyon NP and experience the sky-walk over the canyons or take a helicopter tour.
  2. Drive to Death Valley NP and Red Rock Canyons to see some spectacular landscapes.
  3. Drive to Zion and Bryce Canyon NP (Read about Utah) for some amazing hikes.
  4. Drive to Hoover Dam and take a tour of the massive structure.
  5. Drive to Lake Mead National Recreation Area for a dip in the beautiful lake. The Venetian

Las Vegas is definitely an experience inside and out!

[ A collaborative post by Kendra Thornton and D-Mad]

Kendra is a travel enthusiast and a fellow blogger. You can follow her @KendraThornton.

Glacier National Park – In 30 seconds!

HOW TO: enjoy winters in the Twin Cities?

Step 1:

First and foremost, WEAR WARM CLOTHES – Do yourself a favor and invest in good winter gear, even though they are expensive and dress in layers. You will not regret it. But if you are the kind who will not do that but sit indoors and crib about the weather, you are not yet ready to advance to Step 2.

Step 2:

In Step 3 I will tell you about the activities you can do outdoors. But before that let us chat a little bit about your driving skills. You do not need any great skills to drive in the winter, so make sure you drive sensibly and slowly. Traffic is going to be slow when it is snowing, that is because no one enjoys skidding off the freeway and waiting in a ditch (being cold). Don’t be freaked about driving in the winter, it is not as bad as people make it seem!

Step 3:

Get outdoors and fill your lungs with cold air. It is an incredible feeling! Here is a list of things you can do in the Twin Cities.

  1. Skiing/Snowboarding – Pick up a new skill. Skiing is a lot of fun once you get past the falling phase. Do not give up. Snowboarding is more fun. Give them a try! Afton Alps is my favorite area to ski.
  2. Ice Skating – There are many lakes on which they clear the snow to skate which makes skating an inexpensive winter activity. Centennial lakes has a beautiful skating area!
  3. Snow Kiting – Take some lessons here and see if you like it.
  4. Watch out for winter festivals which happen in the twin Cities. My favorite is the luminary loppet at the TrLoppet Ski Festival. There is a Winter Carnival in St Paul where you can see beautiful snow sculptures and drink beer and cider at the ice bar (how cool!).
  5. BIKE – Get winter tires and bike on the Midtown greenway. Yes they are plowed and are safe.
  6. Ice Climbing – Rent crampons from UoM Rec Center and try walking behind the frozen Minnehaha falls. It is magical! Image
  7. There are many many miles of snow shoeing and cross country trails in the city. Arboretum, Theodre Wirth park and Elm creek park have some really great ones.
  8. Enjoy a sunset walk on a lake – There is a lake in every nook and corner in this city. Just get out and you will see beautiful colors of reflection at sunset on the frozen lakes!
  9. There are tons of fun events like Polar PlungeCupid’s Undie Run and other winter marathons! Most of them are for a good cause so you will not mind getting a little cold for it. And you will be celebrated on FB too for these 😉
  10. Photography – Everything looks so beautiful on a snowy day. And colors pop out due to the brilliant contrasting landscapes. Wear mittens which has a flap/zipper to expose your fingers to click when necessary 🙂

Every snowfall is different as is every snow flake which falls from the sky. Jump around and listen to the music your feet makes on the snow. Make snow angels, go sledding, throw snowballs and take videos of hot water evaporating in sub-zero temperatures. They are all fun activities with loved ones which make you smile and create memories 🙂

If none of these made sense to you, you should reflect back on your thoughts to see what exactly you are cribbing about. Nothing stops life being led a normal way in the twin cities, not even the worst of winters. Start living your own today!

– D of DMad

Scotland – Where everything is in green-scale!

I have to start this post with the wordings of R.L.Stevenson to describe this poetic land of beauty – Scotland and the Isle of Skye –

Sing me a song of a lad that is gone,
      Say, could that lad be I?
Merry of soul he sailed on a day
      Over the sea to Skye.

I had always fantasized about this magical place and when we got the chance to travel the UK, I wanted Scotland to be in the itinerary even if it meant that we would have only 4 days to take in most of what this place had to offer.

Since we had very few days to explore we flew into Edinburgh and flew out of Inverness. We spent a day in Edinburgh and the youth hostel we stayed at was right behind the castle. While in Edinburgh, walk the city! I cannot describe in words how beautiful this city is. Hence, I will refrain from writing about this city and you will understand. Oh except if you are frantically searching for the statue of the terrier in Greyfriars cemetery, (spoiler alert) it is outside the cemetery not inside 😛

Raod trip begins –

This is the route we took during our road trip in Scotland. We drove during the day everywhere and stopped at small towns and scenic overlooks. We saw large fields of yellow (canola fields), castles, small towns and beautiful scenery. We took the longer scenic route to Mallaig and entered Skye via the Mallaig – Armsdale ferry. The scenic beauty which unfolds as you drive from Fort William to Mallaig is worth the decision you made to take the longer route; do this!

Quiraing, Isle of Skye

Things not to miss in Isle of Skye- Continue reading “Scotland – Where everything is in green-scale!”


From my travel musings of Garhwal Himalayas –

I traveled for hours and miles,
Braving the woods and gaping at the skies
Just a glimpse or little more maybe
Would satiate my eyes’ urge to see

I trekked along valleys, climbed many hills
Waded across brooks and through water stills..
Even with so much beauty around to relish
I wanted something more to be

Tired I was, panted like a famished pup
Rode a mule when my legs gave up
With not much energy and a few more paces
I was sure I would reach my snowy mountain ranges

A giant white cloud sped past me
Challenging me for a race
He played cheap tricks by frosting my feet
And dampening my pace

As I reached the top,
I could’nt believe what was there..
Thousand scoops of Himalayas
Stood gallantly for me to stare

I stopped; fell on my knees
To admire my dream destination
My rival, my competitor mockingly sneered
And moved ahead in elation

Up he went and marred my vision
Making sight hazy and blur
Though jealous I was of that cloud
I yelled, “You win, please stay back here.”

Deaf ear he turned as he floated above
And embraced my dear mountains
When he turned back for a second to show off his victory
Just one scoop of Himalayas was what I could manage to see 😦

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