Nature In All Its Glory – Colors, Cold and Corona Virus

The Last Place in the US Travel Diaries

When I was asked to come onsite for client workshops during the month of Sept 2019, I was warned about landing in the middle of nowhere, with the only respite being Chicago that’s a 40 min train ride away. I still was quite enthusiastic about this trip to Naperville, for it could be my last trip to the US, given the chances of my Visa getting renewed after Nov 2019 was close to nil. I guess, for once I took myself seriously and did make the most of my stay in Naperville right from the day I landed. Sharing an excerpt of the conversation that I had with my Manager when I met him for the first time;

My Manager: I hope your travel was good and you had a relaxing weekend.

Me: Oh yes, I did. The day after I landed, which was a Sunday, I went to the Naperville Downtown Riverwalk in the morning, where I went up the Millennium Carillon. You know it’s as tall as the Empire State and has over 70 bells inside, connected to form one big piano which can be rung in sync to play piano tunes. I even checked out the beach facing the Million $ mansions from up top of Millennium Carillon. While on the walk by the river, I caught sight of a hummingbird which graced that spot for a whole minute… This place is so beautiful, thank you for calling me here.

As I ended with a grateful note, my Manager looked at me open mouthed. “This place has a river walk? A tall building? And it’s beautiful?”, he evidently couldn’t hide his shocked expression.

Nodding my head, I went on to show the pictures I shot that weekend, as my colleagues huddled around me looking awestruck, amazed that I did in one day, what they did not in the last 2 months in this beautiful place.

Millennium Carillon And The Bells Inside Strung Together To Form Piano (like) Keys

Piano Note Played from the Bells on Millennium Carillon

Some Shots from my River Walk

Hummingbird Spotted At The Riverwalk

As Consultants, it’s nothing new to be asked (on the very first day onsite) to walk from pillar to post to apply for a new badge at the client site, that would allow us access to the inside premises of client offices. While I was in the middle of this mundane activity, walking to the other building to collect my badge, a huge bush of purple that was growing on the edge of one of the buildings caught my attention. As I approached closer, my guess was absolutely right, to my pleasant surprise it was indeed Lavender herbs, in all their glory, growing with complete abandon. I went back to my desk with not just a shiny new badge, but also a fistful of lavender flowers that I still secretly guard in between the leaves of my notebook.

Lavenders in Naperville

Later, I figured that Lavenders grow in Naperville like grass elsewhere and it is not uncommon to find abundance of them on sides of roads or restaurants. Yet, I was always excited with every encounter with a lavender bush, and even when it seemed like I was making a fool of myself, I still stopped to take in the beautiful fragrance every single time.

Having Chicago just around the corner is yet another amazing thing about Naperville and I hopped on to the train bound to Chicago the first chance I got. If there is one city in the world I can never get bored of, it would be Chicago! There is always something new to discover in this beautiful windy city and for me this time, it was the bar called Signature Room at the 95th, located at the top of the Hancock building, at it’s 95th floor to be precise which offered an unhindered view of the beautiful Chicago downtown.

Chicago from Up Top (Hancock Building 95th floor)

Coming back to Naperville, unexpectedly, my cab rides to office started to seem different little by little and one day suddenly all I could see outside were yellows, oranges and reds! “It’s Autumn baby”, the colors seemed to scream at me as I looked outside flabbergasted! Every spot suddenly became touristy – the lake in the neighborhood, the hill that is a stone throw away from work, and for that matter even our office parking spot!

One month in Naperville / Chicago was completed before I could even realize it and then it was time to go back! I had a fitting end to my stay in Naperville as the Indians (and others) in the office celebrated Diwali on the day I was leaving and we Consultants were gracefully invited to join in the celebrations.

Diwali Celebrations in Client Office Complete with Lamp Decorations and Loads of Food

Guess what, the story doesn’t end here, for I managed to renew my coveted visa! Yes!!!! To my huge relief no Goodbye to the US yet 🙂

A few months later, I was back again to Naperville. But this time to a colder, whiter place, much different from what it was the first time I was there. I managed to capture the contrasts of the beauty of Nature through some collages and here are some of them;

View from The Restaurant in My Hotel Room Captured During Two Different Seasons
Lush Greenery vs Ice Lake as Seen Against the Backdrop of Millennium Carillon
Fall vs Winter Clearly Displayed

No travel story is complete without the mention of food – The food options for vegetarians in Naperville is just so amazing! I will let the pictures do the talking!

To all those people in my childhood and early adulthood who vehemently excluded me from their lunch groups, a BIG thank you for preparing me to be comfortable while eating alone. It helped me develop the mindset that it’s not just okay to eat alone, but it’s sometimes the best way to enjoy some really good food. It’s in Naperville I have enjoyed taking myself out the most, thanks to all the amazing food options I was exposed to in every nook and corner!

While I was eagerly looking forward to spending the beautiful Spring and Summer days in Naperville, COVID happened! When the visa constraint was lifted, a bigger constraint set in, not just for me, but for everyone in the world! I had to cut short my trip and come back home within a month. In the larger scheme of things, I guess I got lucky to be able to come back home in time before the travel ban set in and I am grateful for that, even when at that time it seemed like we were over-reacting.

So what if I cannot travel for some time, nothing stops me from reliving my travel days and sharing the best memories of them through my pictures and here I am proudly doing just that. For all I know, Naperville, as I originally believed, could indeed be the last place in my US travel diaries for some time (just for sometime? who am I kidding???). I am glad though that I made most of my trips to what clearly is one of the most beautiful places in the world!

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