Costa Brava

Costa Brava had been on my travel list for a while. And as soon as we started driving though the Catalonian countryside dotted with ancient castles, and hit the gorgeous coastline in Blanes, I realized why! The area is just stunning, the water crystal clear, the food fantastic, and a way of life I’m definitely envious of! We started off with a hike atop the castle at Blanes which rewarded us with some wonderful views of the coastline below. We then went to the botanical gardens that did not disappoint, with gorgeous coastal trails and plants from the world over. Ariana braved a parrot on her arm for an adorable photo! We then drove over to Lloret de mar where we dined at Sybius Cala Cantelles, enjoying a delicious meal of shellfish paella (dare I say the best I’ve ever had) by the seaside while the kids played on the playground overlooking the ocean. Next, we stopped at Tossa de Mar, and took the rather touristy train up to the castle taking in some breathtaking views. We ended the day in the charming town of Begur where we were staying, and enjoyed a meal of pizza and curry at Pizetta. The kids were thrilled to see an impromptu concert in the square with a large band!

The next morning, we set off for Cadaques. We had a lunch reservation at Compartir, the original restaurant created by the trio of chefs that are now the creators of Disfrutar! The meal was by far the best “casual” meal of the trip, the most memorable part being the oysters that Gaurav (thankfully!) urged me to try. We walked to the house of Salvador Dali, and then spent some time at the beach, before driving back. We also drove through the Cap du Creus national reserve to the lighthouse with stunning views that reminded us of Point Reyes. On our way back, we spotted a go-cart race track and we all (particularly Ayaan) had a blast racing! Ayaan got to go twice and did particularly well, so thankful for the impromptu surprises we’d encountered to far. That evening after dinner, there was a local fair created in the square where the kids enjoyed carousels and bouncy houses – the surprises didn’t stop!

The next morning, Ayaan and I had a two hour kayaking trip booked through stunning caves. It ended up being a private tour with a wonderful guide, Nael who really bonded with Ayaan in their collective love for soccer and skiing. Toward the end of the tour, we snorkeled together and saw some colorful fish! Ariana and Gaurav hung out by the beach, and we joined them after our tour. That evening, after taking in breathtaking views from the castle atop Begur and some delicious ice cream, we dined in the square in Begur. We were pleasantly surprised to see a woman’s guided dance break out in the square half way through our meal, which we all joined briefly after a few glasses of cava. Gaurav met one of his work colleagues who is a local for dinner.

On our last day on the coast, with some coaxing from Ayaan, we decided to rent a boat, and as we’ve become accustomed to realize, it was the best day ever! Ariana and I lazed on the deck while Gaurav and Ayaan navigated, and we stopped in beautiful coves and beaches along the way. A bottle of champagne later, Ariana, Ayaan and I were dancing to Abba while the boat meandered along the calm waters. We all had a blast, and eventually returned the boat that afternoon to make our drive down to Girona. We had a beautiful apartment right in the middle of old town, allowing us to wander through the charming cobblestoned streets. We enjoyed some unique flavors of ice cream at Rocambolesc, and spent the rest of the evening people watching in the Placa d’Independencia while the kids played hide and go seek.

On our last day in Girona, we strolled to the magnificent cathedral, the Arab baths, the walls of the old town, the Basilica de Sant Feliu and marveled at the charming beauty of Girona. We then decided to take our apartment host’s recommendation for lunch at a Basque Country restaurant, and enjoyed some delicious pinxtos, steak and garlic prawns, followed by 7 (pinxto) desserts! After lunch, we took turns getting Aromatherapy massages, while the other parent relaxed in the apartment with the kids. In the evening, we revelled at getting lost around the old town walls and cobblestoned streets (Ayaan in his soccer Manchester United soccer jersey bouncing around his new soccer ball). After dinner comprising pepperoni pizza and brut rose, Ayaan and Ariana helped me dry our clean laundry, and we then settled in for an early night, to prepare for our flight the next morning to Mallorca. Looking forward to seeing Nani, Dhara Masi and Kunal Uncle!

Barcelona and Penedès

We got off to a somewhat rocky start in Barcelona. When we landed, we discovered that they’d left Gaurav’s bag (with all his belongings) and one of our car seats back in Nassau. We spent a while in lines trying to locate the bags (unsuccessfully) before taking a cab to our downtown hotel. When we arrived, we were informed that the maximum occupancy was 3, and we’d need an additional room for Ariana. This is uncommon in the US and had us perturbed but we eventually conceded, and proceeded to wait another hour for our room. Jet lagged, we tried to snag some zzz’s, awakening in the afternoon fairly famished. We strolled over to a restaurant Gaurav and I had visited 10 years ago, Tapas 24 for a perfect meal of sangria, bikini sandwich with truffle and cheese, and the pain de tomat, the best we’d ever had! Not long after we’d devoured this meal, I discovered that my phone had been damaged with water in the Bahamas and wasn’t going to make it. What a day!

The next morning started off better. Gaurav and I had managed to hustle our way into Disfrutar, ranked #5 in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants, created by a trio of chefs that had been trained by none other than El Bulli! The meal, which consisted of 28 courses of molecular gastronomy aimed to surprise and delight, definitely exceeded expectations. At the beginning of the meal (similar to restaurant Gaggan that we’d visited in Bangkok), customers are given a card with a variety of emotions that the meal might invoke, the restaurant keeping the actual menu a secret. Each course seemed to top the next but some of the standouts were the caviar xiao long bao, the “pasta” (made without any), the ribeye, and the foie gras topped with corn. Each desert was fantastic as well, the peppers being the most deceptive in their appearance as they actually had a rich chocolate flavor.

Much of the rest of our time in Barcelona was spent shopping for Gaurav’s clothes to replace his lost bags, getting me a new iPhone and getting over jet lag. The only saving grace was that we’d been to this Catalonian city before, so the FOMO factor was low. We did manage to stroll through the gothic quarter and the cathedral, and Casa Batlo, one of Gaudi’s masterpieces. I was pleased to see that Ayaan still really enjoyed the large bubbles prevalent in most squares in European cities, and he begged to return the next day to play with the “bubble man”!

As soon as we left Barcelona in our rental car, things got a lot better. Less than an hours drive later, we arrived at Mastinell Hotel & Cava, which was a true delight. We lazed by the pool overlooking the vineyards with glasses of cava, followed by a sumptuous meal at their restaurant. That afternoon, we had a cava tour and tasting with a guide, Nico who really did a fantastic job at keeping the kids entertained and engaged. We were joined by a wonderful South African couple whom we quickly befriended while discussing our travel adventures. That evening, Gaurav and I went on a hike up to the mountains behind the hotel, and we all enjoyed another wonderful dinner at their restaurant. Mastinell and the wonderful staff certainly set the right mood for our trip ahead, and we all left thankful for the opportunity to have stayed there, wishing we could’ve lingered on longer.


“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us”. This anonymous quote has been my life’s guiding principle since my father taught me the joy and thrill of travel. And it is this belief that led me to where I am today – ready to embark on another sabbatical covering 5 countries, this time with the hope of inculcating this same joy and love of travel in my children, aged 7 and 5. Our first stop – Nassau, Bahamas. Since my hotel school marketing class back in 2003 when we did a case study on the Atlantis Paradise Island, I’d dreamed of going there. We finally made it happen this summer, and it did not disappoint. From over two dozen water slides to a rapid river to a underwater tunnel from the lobby leading to a large aquarium replete with an impressive diversity in marine life to beaches boasting crystal clear Caribbean agua, it was just what we all needed! Ariana had been excited about the water slides ever since we started thinking about this trip a couple of months ago, and her squeals of delight as she raced down them into pools water were instantly gratifying! At night, the property turns into a pseudo Las Vegas with Michelin-started restaurants, casinos, live entertainment on the harbor and dancing. The kids watched amazed at their first slot machines and couldn’t understand why they were restricted to adults only. We enjoyed a Father’s Day dinner at Fish by Jose Andre and it was superb. We tried the conch salad, which was similar to a ceviche. Ariana and I then shared the steak roasted over an open fire which the kids got to watch in awe and amazement.

On Friday, once Gaurav had wrapped up work, we took a boat trip out to Rose Island. It was beautiful – our day started out snorkeling (we saw some stunning, unique fish) although Ayaan and Ariana are still getting used to the snorkel masks and preferred to use their googles instead. Next we relaxed on the beach with Bahamian cocktails and saw the pigs swimming in the waters, something unique to the Bahamas. Ariana loved this experience and the pigs seemed to display a liking for her as well. Lunch consisted of delicious bar be cued chicken, salads and hot dogs. Ayaan and I then went kayaking while Ariana continued to play with the pigs, peacocks and some human friends too 😊. We returned to the hotel for a last few splashes in the water slides.

The kids really enjoyed the cultural shows at the hotel, especially the fire ones and the dances in which Ariana participated. Overall, the Atlantis was a perfect place to kick off the trip, and gave us all a dose of relaxation mixed in with some excitement and activities!


After 2+ years of the pandemic and the entire family being fully vaccinated, we decided to take a bucket list trip to Peru! We landed into Cusco on April 2nd, and after checking into the beautiful Palacio del Inka (a Luxury Collection property with a rich heritage), we strolled down the cobble stoned streets to the main square. We enjoyed a sumptuous dinner at Ceviche Seafood Kitchen which was recommended by one of my friends, and called it a night. The next morning, Ayaan arose to a broken tooth and was pleased to see that the tooth fairy visits in Peru as well. After a hearty breakfast, our first stop was the Cusco Cathedral, followed by a taxi ride to the ruins of Sacsayhuaman. We rented a guide and were so pleased to see Ayaan really enjoying the history, culture and beauty of these amazing ruins. Our guide customized the tour for the kids, pointing out hidden stone formations of lamas, and the kids got to meet real lamas too. We then strolled back to Cusco, stopping at the San Cristobal church where we enjoyed amazing views of Cusco from the top of the tower. We enjoyed a Nikkei lunch of Tiradito and then retreated to our hotel for a tour of the rich heritage of our hotel and an Inkan performance. Gaurav and I then joined a Pisco Sour class while the kids played nearby in the bar. The next morning at breakfast, the kids got to pet a baby alpaca. We then went to the choco museum for a chocolate making class which we all thoroughly enjoyed and Ayaan bravely volunteered himself for a sacrificial ritual. Replete with bags of wonderful treats which we dropped off at our hotel, our next stop was Qurikancha or the Sun Temple. That afternoon, Ayaan and I had booked a cooking class at the hotel, where we prepared ceviche followed by lomo saltado. The art of cooking the meat over a large flaming wok was thrilling and gave us both a sense of pride. We then enjoyed the meal which I accompanied by a glass of Bordeaux.

The next morning, we ventured to the market enjoying some fresh mango milkshake. Our driver Richard then picked us up to stop at the Cochahuasi Animal Sanctuary where we interacted with several rescued animals including lamas, condors and alpacas. Next, we went to the awe-inspiring Pisac ruins where a guide explained the 4 different townships. The drive was beautiful and the kids were in great spirits. Our next stop was the Maras salt mines followed by the agricultural terraces of Moray where the kids did really well climbing the steep terraces. Richard finally dropped us off at Tambo del Inka in the beautiful Sacred Valley where we enjoyed a special dinner by the fireplace. The next morning, we boarded the 360 Inka Rail train to Machu Picchu with incredible views of the valley, waterfalls, mountains and river. Ariana in particular really enjoyed going into the standing open cabin to take in the sweeping views. We then met our guide and travel companions and boarded a bus to Machu Picchu. Words cant describe the beauty of this seventh wonder (Gaurav’s final one and my 6th) and it was really gratifying to see how much the kids were in awe as well. At dinner that night, Gaurav and I decided to try the guinea pig which was cooked to perfection with a crisp skin, and we washed it down with a bottle of red. The kids enjoyed multiple courses of pasta.

The next day, we made our way to Ollantaytambo and hiked through the various terrain. After a quick stop at Chinceros, we boarded our flight to Lima. We managed to snag last minute reservations at Maido, which quickly became one of the best meals of my life! The fatty tuna or toro prepared tableside will be etched into my memory forever! After a short break strolling through the Cathedral of Lima, the main square and grabbing dinner for the kids, Gaurav and I made our way to Central, another unforgettable meal where we also had a chance to meet and interact with the chef, Virgilio Martínez Véliz. Peru, you were a true delight and I’m so glad to have enjoyed this experience with the family!


Survived 2020!

Phew what a year! It started off as a normal year with new year celebrations in Mumbai with the family, before we took a flight back on January 4th through Beijing – not knowing that we were spending 6 hours close to the origins of the pandemic! We spent the first couple of months of the year house hunting while we stayed in Sausalito. Ayaan and I celebrated a special day on his 5th Birthday as we took the ferry to the city and rented a Go car – Ayaan loved it and was my navigator. That same day we found the house of our dreams and put an offer. Things got a bit crazy and wild starting early March as the Coronavirus epidemic became a pandemic, my work trip to Spain got cancelled, we were suddenly working from home and preschool closed down. None of us knew what was happening until everyone was placed under shelter in place on March 16th when we realized the gravity of the situation. Amid this chaos and with the markets swinging wildly we closed on our new home in Tiburon on March 24th!

The 2.5 months we were locked in until June 1st felt a little bit like our sabbatical – we spent a lot of quality time with the kids and once again they adapted seamlessly to the new situation. We made the most of simple pleasures like going on a walk, watching pictures from our sabbatical, Zoom calls with the family, playing games and doing activity books. The major difference was we were stuck at home instead of traveling the world. Anjali was figuring out how to re-open AutoCamp properties with a new operating model while I was trying to scale up our video business at Twilio with major tailwinds. We moved into our new place amid the lockdown and instantly fell in love with the home with Blackies pasture and Ring Mountain steps away.

June 1st brought a new phase with outdoor dining and hotels reopening. The next 6 months were a mix of road trips, trying to balance hectic work with balancing kids schedules that changed every single day, and trying to make the most of living close to wine country. Ayaan started Kindergarten at Reed in August and we are so proud of him adapting to a mix of Zoom and in person classes. Ariana loved Ross Academy preschool singing songs all the time. This time was stressful and full of anxiety with cancelled trips, wildfires, orange skies, elections, virus scares and COVID tests. Our travel highlights during this time included a week long trip to Santa Barbara, Monterey and Tahoe: another drive up the coast to Oregon and the beautiful town of Bend with its amazing parks; and a trip to Yosemite and Tahoe where the kids enjoyed in the snow and Ayaan took his first ski lessons! We also sprinkled in weekend trips to Carmel Valley Ranch, Autocamp and Napa. Without these we might not have gotten through the year.

As we end the year we are locked down again forcing us to have our first ever staycation over the holidays. The kids loved it decorating the house with lights and truly enjoying the holiday season. Ariana and Ayaan have become best friends with playtime ending with the occasional fight. We are grateful that through this difficult year our family has remained healthy and safe and we’ve been able to create memories and find a home we love. We’re lucky to have work that is relevant and growing in these times and that the kids have been getting a good education, albeit partially remote. We look forward to getting on a plane again in 2021 and seeing our extended family in India and abroad. 2020 will go down in memory forever and we’re glad we survived!

2019 travels & memories

After settling back in Sausalito and the Bay Area in the beginning of the year after our amazing sabbatical, 2019 turned out to be a year of a lot of rediscovering California and family trips. What surprised me through the year was how much Ayaan and Ariana remembered our sabbatical and wanted to talk about all the places and memories we created. It was also very clear that their time in India was their favorite – immersing in the culture, learning Hindi, eating yummy food, spending time with grandparents and getting spoilt.

Local California travels highlights included driving trips to Tahoe for Memorial Day where we experienced snowfall at the start of summer. A trip down to Santa Barbara and central coast in the summer. And a few weekend trips to Carmel, Napa and Lake Shasta (with our friends Karishma and Anshul). But perhaps the biggest local highlight was staying at Anjali’s new glamping AutoCamp sites at Yosemite and Russian River. We also had a fantastic Thanksgiving in Big Island, which was a first for all of us except Anjali. The kids loved the beach and pool time, the live music and the fire lanterns everywhere. Ayaan learned to swim in the fall and he practiced everyday in the warm pool at the Marriott. But their favorite was running around at lawns of the Four Seasons where they made many friends.

Internationally, we made 3 big trips for the year. The first was an urgent trip to India since Anjali’s dad passed away. The kids were very sad but took it incredibly well. It was a tough trip and few months for us, but we were so glad that we spent a lot of time with FIL during our sabbatical. On a more happy note, in the summer we all did a big trip to Europe with my entire family of 14 representing all decades from 0 to 70 to celebrate my parents’ 50th Anniversary! We all gathered in Copenhagen where we once again (after our visit last year) explored Nyhavn and the sites together. We then caught a 7 day Holland America cruise together to the Norway towns of Bergen, Kristiansand, Oslo, Stavanger and Eidfjord. Ayaan and Ariana loved spending time with the entire family including their cousins and to this day remember it in detail. They got really fond of Morgane, Loui and Neela, in addition to everyone else they had spent more time with during the sabbatical in 2018. We ended the trip in Amsterdam where highlights included day trips to Zaans Schaans and Gouda. Overall a wonderful trip.

Ayaan and Ariana also really enjoyed family visits from Dhara, Anjali’s mom and Sonil. Ayaan says his favorite thing is when family visits his home. Finally, to end the year we made another trip to India – the kids loved spending time with their grandparents, at CCI, and with the Christmas festivities. Anjali and I also got the chance to escape for 5 days to Myanmar which was truly fantastic. Highlights included Bagan, Shwedagon in Yangon, the 1 night Paukan river cruise from Mandalay to Bagan and the incredible food. Thanks to the grandparents for entertaining the kids.

2019 was a challenging year with settling back, getting adjusted back to our life after our sabbatical and the death in the family, but we still managed to make the most of it. As we reflect back on the decade, it was very busy and we are so glad we had the opportunity to take 7 months off and spend time with people we love the most exploring our planet. Ayaan ended the decade with 32 countries and Ariana at 28 countries. To many more as a family in the next decade!

Arizona getaway

Before Anjali started her new job full time, we decided to getaway for a few days to sunny Arizona, away from rainy and cold Sausalito. We knew this is likely our last flight together as a family until the summer when we go celebrate Dada-Dadi’s 50th Anniversary in Europe with the entire family. The kids were very excited to be on a plane again. We had the most amazing luck during our journey across 4 continents that all our flights were on time, no lost baggage etc. It came to an end when our flight was a couple of hours late and slightly messed up our plans since we were driving straight to Sedona that day. The kids did well on the short plane ride and had a nice nap. We rented a Jeep and drove 2 hours to Sedona that evening arriving to our hotel at night, a little past their bed time (Arizona is 1 hour ahead). Ayaan has gotten to the age where every few minutes he’ll ask “how much time left to reach?” It makes us wonder how we ever did our 10000+ miles of driving! (Luckily he only started on this trip). We stayed at the Sedona Pine Ridge resort that turned out to be super kid friendly and had a nice small cottage for us.

Kids didn’t sleep great though and Ayaan woke us up in the wee hours (he’s awake at sunrise). We ate some yummy Mexican breakfast and started our day hiking in Sedona. Weather was wonderful in the mid 60s and sunny, and we all enjoyed hiking the red rock Cathedral trail. I took the carrier, but I was very proud that both Ariana and Ayaan wanted and were able to hike themselves with little help. Ariana on the way back told me “I am having a lot of fun doing this with you daddy”. They are so attuned to the outdoors and travel at this point. We did another short trail to the bell, before grabbing some Tamales for lunch. The kids were quite tired so we headed back to the resort for a dip in the heated pool and hot tub. That got Ariana exhausted and she had a nice nap. I had to do some project work, so Anjali took Ayaan to the park and to play mini golf in the resort. They also went and bought some groceries so we could BBQ outside the room (inspired by our neighboring cottage who helped us set up) and have a chill night. Our last morning in Sedona, it was overcast and started pouring before lunch so we drove around, went to the Chapel of the holy cross and had some chai and listened to live music at the arts and crafts market.

Done with the rain, we drove to warm Scottsdale while the kids had a nice long nap for the entire time. We checked into the Westin Kierland resort and spent the afternoon in the lazy river and pool. Ayaan made a friend who had a water gun and Ariana befriended a couple of older girls that kept her smiling. The resort was kid friendly once again as we sat outdoors to grab dinner while listening to bagpipes first and then a live singer. A huge surprise was awaiting Ayaan, as they had S’mores – his absolute favorite! Anjali and I spent some together on the balcony of our 11th floor hotel room overlooking the Sedona area and the golf course, while enjoying the live music downstairs and discussing career decisions for me. I’ve been a bit stressed this trip as I decide amongst a few options. Our final full day in Scottsdale started with story time for kids at the resort. We then took them to Macdonalds ranch nearby. It was a super unique experience for us visiting a traditional western ranch with a petting zoo, pony rides and western games. The kids loved every bit of it. We ate Vietnamese for lunch and Ayaan was so happy to get Vietnamese crepes – his favorite from the entire journey over the last few months. After a nap, we spent more time doing the same as yesterday – pool time and live music.

It was a great short getaway and family time before we truly end our full time travel and start full time work.

Transitioning back to normalcy

We’ve now been back to the Bay Area for a month and everyone asks us how it feels to be back to the real world. It’s honestly been wonderful to be back in the Bay Area – we’ve traveled all over the world to 20 countries during our journey, but the Bay Area holds its own in terms of beauty, weather (even though it’s been cold and rainy), food and drive. If anything, we appreciate it even more than we did before. It’s been nice to not have to rush back to work that was waiting for us, and slowly transition back to normalcy. Anjali did a fantastic job in taking the lead to make sure our transition was smooth by getting us a very nice, home-like serviced condo in Corte Madera on a creek overlooking Mt. Tamalpais. It feels like so much space even though it’s small, since we’ve either been in hotel rooms or at our parents’ place. We put the kids back in the same school as earlier in Sausalito, and they were excited to be reunited (Ariana never did go to school before our sabbatical but she went to drop off and pick up Ayaan that made her very familiar). We drove Ayaan through our old home and he burst out laughing as memories rushed to him. With the kids in school, Anjali and I got some “us time” to have a romantic lunch, hike the headlands or do an adult-trip to wine country. It’s been fantastic to reconnect with good friends who’ve helped us out by keeping our car or storing our stuff. For the kids, reconnecting with memories at the BADM museum and local parks has been amazing to watch.

Most importantly, Anjali was able to secure a job she feels extremely passionate about in SF at a company called Autocamp that focuses on outdoor luxury camping. With that we are super excited that we’ll be staying in the bay area and in fact ironically will land back in Sausalito at a similar home to the one he had earlier. I love Sausalito and couldn’t be happier than to spend another year in this amazing quaint town. Things are coming together well and I can now focus my search on finding something I feel passionate about.

Even though our international travels came to an end when we arrived in the bay, we’ve continued to sneak in short getaways to enjoy what Northern California has to offer. We spent MLK at the Westin in Napa on a rainy day as we visited our favorite Duckhorn and Paraduxx wineries with good friends and ate at my beloved Bottega. Honig was new for us but the kid friendliness made the experience fantastic. Since our travels were optimized so it was summer the entire time, we drove up to Tahoe for a night and stayed at the amazing Ritz Carlton to have the kids experience snow for the first time. They absolutely loved it making snowmen, snow angels, throwing snow balls, ice skating and taking the gondola (another unusual word added to Ariana’s vocabulary). The heated pool was very relaxing and even though we forgot their floats, the kids really enjoyed it and even made a new friend called Tessa. For Presidents’ Day, we drove up to Anderson Valley to our all-time favorite Goldeneye and enjoyed some indoor pool and hot tub time with the kids. California is just so fantastic!

Central America – part 2, Guatemala and Belize

I forgot to mention in part 1, Belize is Anjali’s 50th country and Ariana’s 25th!!! The drive to the Camino Real hotel in Guatemala was just 1.5 hours and the immigration out of Belize and into Guatemala was annoying (since you had to do paperwork twice 100m from each other) but generally seamless. We had gotten papers for the car at the time of rental which made things easy. We arrived at our resort just in time for lunch, and were delighted to see the beautiful green-blue lake adjoining the resort. After some local Guatemalan shrimp and rice, we all jumped into the pool and hot tub. We also took a stroll to the Peten lake waterfront where the water was crystal clear and warm. The sunset was absolutely stunning over the lake. The kids were tired and had a late nap, and we had an overall relaxing evening ending with some time for me to read a book and drink some wine on the balcony.

Next morning we headed out to Tikal, the world famous 2000 year old Mayan ruins and the primary purpose of our trip to Guatemala. A quick 45 mins drive north from the resort, we arrived at the entrance of Tikal. It’s a massive area in the middle of the rainforest scattered with Mayan temples, and it reminded us a lot of our recent experience at the magnificent Angkor Wat. We walked what felt like a really long time through the forest to the first pyramid and ruins. A few 100m later, we reached the Gran Plaza – a breathtaking site with the most famous ruins and temples on each side. On one side stood the super famous Temple I or the Jaguar temple. Opposite stood Temple II that Ayaan and I climbed to get an amazing view of the on plaza. And the north and central Acropolis on the other sides, that all of us enjoyed climbing and exploring. Tikal is not super kid friendly with its climbs and long walks, but it worked out well for us since we didn’t have FOMO to see every single temple. Also luckily we got a ride back to the entrance. Tikal was a great experience, much like visiting Angkor Wat or Petra, though not as magical.

That evening we went down to the lake to feed the fish and turtles. Kids loved it as the fish jumped to get the food and a turtle came by to fill his tummy. We ventured to the island town of Flores, 45 mins away for dinner. Flores is a quaint, colorful, tiny island town in the middle of the lake. We really enjoyed our dinner overlooking the decorated boats on the lake and capped it off with ice cream for the kids.

Next morning was a travel day as we drove across the border back to Belize (crossing was just 15 mins), returned the car at Belize City, took the Belize express ferry to San Pedro (made famous by Madonna’s La Isla Bonita) and finally a smaller boat to our hotel called Portofino. We learned that Belize had just 340,000 people, a former British Colony 37 years old and is facing a referendum to remain independent or join Guatemala. What is super unique about Belize is that it’s a mix between being in Central America and the Caribbean. Portofino at Ambergris Caye is a boutique hotel with just 17 rooms and a private beach. It was a very different experience than our other beach stays, very relaxing with the pool, bar and beach right outside our room. On a different note, I find it amazing how the kids adapt to not having toys. For example Ayaan is obsessed with how they clean and fill the pool with a pipe at this resort.

We spent our last 3 days of our travels in our sabbatical relaxing at the beach (slightly disappointing with weeds although water is warm and a lovely color), the pool and spending our time with the kids. Ayaan and Ariana were fascinated that they cut the coconut from the tree, cut them and served them absolutely fresh. The food and cocktails were fantastic with freshly caught seafood and local rum. We ventured out to the town of San Pedro one of the evenings, walked around the tiny town and had some ceviche with local rum. We we’re so lucky to catch a double rainbow with Ariana wearing her “Chasing Rainbows” tee. The weather got really nice (“only perfect” as Ariana says), sunny and warm with a slight breeze. On our last day we went out to snorkel at Mexico Rock, a part of the Holchan preserve. Belize has the 2nd biggest barrier reef in the world after Australia. The snorkeling was one of the best we’ve done anywhere comparable to the Red Sea and Zanzibar. Our guide was fantastic and we saw eagle rays, barracudas, lobsters, sting rays, pink conch, rainbow fish, puffer fish etc. The kids were well behaved and enjoyed seeing the fish come up to the boat as we fed them. Overall an amazing way to end our travels in our sabbatical as we head back to SF via Houston tomorrow! Again super thankful for Ayaan and Ariana and grateful that we got to spend all this time with them.

Central America – part 1, Belize

After a long, long flight from Mumbai to Houston via Toronto, we spent a week getting over jet lag and spending time with Anjali’s sister Dhara. They were great hosts and it worked out well as we got to acclimatize back to America and celebrate the holidays together including New Years, Dhara’s Birthday and a quick trip to Austin to visit the Art of Ice Cream Experience. Reenergized we took off for our last international trip as part of our sabbatical – to Central America for 10 days. Belize was a short 2 hour flight from Houston and it was great to get back to warm tropical weather. We rented an SUV for the first 6 days as we discovered the rainforest, ruins and Tikal in Guatemala. As we drove to the Cahal Pech Resort in San Ignacio, a 1.5 hour drive, we knew we were in for an adventure with bumpy roads and horses “parked” on the side of the road instead of cars.

The resort was rustic and local right by the Cahal Pech ruins and perched on a hill overlooking the city and the rainforests. We got a nice little hut to ourselves with a view and a hammock, that the kids loved. Belize was surprisingly not super kid friendly as the resort didn’t have a kids menu or a crib. It’s a relatively new country and is still building the tourism infrastructure. Our adventure began the next morning as we drove to Mountain Pine Ridge forest reserve. I was glad we rented an SUV as the road was non-existent for a majority of the drive and not for the faint hearted. 1.5 hours later we made it to Rio on Pools, a collection of pools formed from the waterfall and rivers. We had the entire place to ourselves which was amazing (and a pattern for this trip) and Ayaan and I enjoyed wading through the pools and to the waterfall. Our next stop was the Rio Frio Cave a short drive away that was a unique experience with a river and beach within a cave that also featured stalactites. We were pretty tired and had lunch at the Gaia resort which had a stunning view over the river and waterfalls. Our last stop for the day after lunch was the Big Rock waterfall, which were nice but honestly too steep a climb with kids. Exhausted from the hikes and the drive, we chilled at the pool and hot tub with an early dinner and bedtime.

Next day, not deterred by the roads, we set off in the same direction again to visit the famous Caracol Mayan ruins. A very bumpy 2.5 hour drive later we got to the ruins and were delighted to only see a couple more cars. We were told that we’d need a military escort on the drive since it’s on the border, but it works out just fine without one. Caracol was luscious green and the ruins were there for us to explore on our own – pretty incredible for the fact it’s Belize’s most famous site. The kids really enjoyed running from temple to temple hearing Tucans and howler monkeys and occasionally climbing the almost 1500 year old “pyramids”. Definitely worth the drive. On our drive back, after the kids napped, we stopped at the Green Hills Butterfly farm. This was a wonderful experience as the kids got to see different butterflies, and learn about its journey from egg to caterpillar to pupa to a beautiful butterfly. The evening again was uneventful as we relaxed in the pool and had an early local dinner comprising of fish and chicken curry.

On our 3rd full day we decided to take the kids to the Belize zoo an hour away. It was an awesome morning as the kids got to watch animals and birds they’ve never seems before such as the tapir, tucan, jaguars, macaws, coatemundis, howler monkeys and several other. Ayaan’s favorite part though was pushing the baby cart we had rented. That afternoon the kids didn’t nap much so we visited an iguana hatchery at the San Ignacio Hotel. Ironically on our way to the hatchery, we saw a hug iguana trying to breakdown the bathroom window in the hut next door! The hatchery was an incredible experience as we got to hold the huge male iguanas and the kids got to pet and feed them. We all had a great time being one with the animals and birds all day.

Our last day in the area began with a quick visit to the Cahal Pech ruins next door. It was a pleasant surprise since it was compact but really nice and once again deserted. The kids were able to climb up the temples on their own and we got some great pictures. After a busy 4 days in Sa Ignacio, we set off for the drive across the border to Guatemala …