Roaring Camp

August 25, 2016,

Roaring Camp Redwoods

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The one thing I was really looking forward to on this why-did-we-take-this trip, was taking the steam train through the Californian Redwood forest. We have seen and loved the Giant Sequoias, and the Californian Redwoods are supposed to be even bigger than their southern cousins. I’ve seen pictures of my parents driving through one of the tree tunnels, and in my head I see a train chug-chugging through a tree. In that sense, the Roaring Camp train and Redwoods are a disappointment. A gentle fog runs its tendrils through the dense foliage and early morning light dapples through. There is a slight nip in the air. The open wagon of the train is equipped with blankets which we help ourselves too. The conductor cum guide talks about the history of the camp. The train winds through the forest, giving an occasional soft toot and not billowing enough steam to make me happy. The trees tower over us, but are not enormous, not yet atleast. They are still young, and have a long long time to live before they become the giants I was expecting to see. The route is charming, but has no tunnels.  

Given a choice, I think I’d prefer a walk through Muir Woods, where I’d be able to press my left ear to the trunk of a giant tree and listen to secrets from a thousand years ago.

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San Francisco

August 24, 2016,

San Francisco

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It’s a cool morning and San Francisco’s famous fog is all around us. The tour covers the usual suspects – the cable car (aka tram), Golden Gate Bridge park, crooked street, palace of fine arts, soup in a sourdough bread bowl at Boudin’s, Grace Cathedral and City Hall. The bus went up the twin peaks, to give us a panoramic view of the city. It even took us on the mandatory cruise. All must-do’s in SFO.

 At the foot of the crooked street, across the road on the left (if you have your back to it) is a tree and at its base is a memorial for a child called Achoo. I don’t know anything about this child or family, but the name is imprinted in my brain. Every time I go to SFO and the crooked street, I go and look at it. I know it is terrible to say something like this about a child long dead, but I do hope Achoo means something beautiful in whichever language, otherwise it is just mean to name a child after a sneeze. You have to take the left (back to crooked street) at the intersection and it is on the right side, at the very beginning of the road. Sweet child, rest in peace.

Summer 20169.JPGSummer is a great time to get married, and no place says take a picture here like a grand staircase. There’s sometime about grand staircases that just makes you feel like royalty – strong, poised and elegant. Sure enough, there was more than one couple getting their pictures taken on the grand stairs of City Hall. The streets of SFO are full of photo-ops, but the Palace of Fine Arts is another great place to pose.

Solvang

August 23, 2016,

Solvang

Have you heard of Solvang? We hadn’t, till the very terrible West Coast bus tour we took the family on halted very briefly here. After stop just long enough for a bio-break and a view of the gleaming white yachts anchored at Santa Barbara, the bus made its way to SFO. The Pacific Coast Highway, or Calif-1 is one of the most scenic coastal routes, with the sparkling ocean on one hand and the rugged mountains on the other.  Along the way, our guide mentioned, we would pass through the heart of California’s “angry-culture”. Not sure if I had heard him correctly, I shot the husband a quizzical look. The husband simply shrugged.  Right before this, the guide had been talking about Native Americans, Spanish missions and Mexico, but before we could form to any conclusion on this strange culture, he went on to add that 80% of America’s grapes come from here. The husband and I had a field day pointing to vineyards and laughing.

summer-20162We stopped for lunch at Solvang. Solvang, is the dream-come-true of three Danish gentlemen, who wanted to set up a village for Danish immigrants in California.  In 1911, they Danish-American Colony corporation bought almost 10,000 acres of prime land in the Santa Ynez Valley and named the new colony Solvang, meaning sunny fields.  Though originally built in the local style, the town got a Danish facelift in the 1940’s. Today, the Danish heritage is visible everywhere, in the half-timbered architecture and bakeries offering a taste of Denmark. The town even has windmills!

In recent years, Solvang has gained popularity as a wine destination as well.

While we found some pretty good vegetarian food at the only/biggest restaurant in town, we did not have enough time to explore.  We missed out on the replica of the Little Mermaid statue, the bust of Hans Christian Andersen, the wine and pastries but the old world charm hangs thick and we did get a taste of that.

City of Angels

August 22, 2016,

Los Angeles

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As we drive the family from San Diego to Los Angeles, I finally spot the Hollywood sign. The sign was originally made for a local real estate developer and read HOLLYWOODLAND. Somewhere down the years, the land got sold and the LAND from the sign got dropped. While the husband drove the family around Beverly Hills and Rodeo Drive, I went and got me some highlights. If I’m going to get my hair done, what better place than Hollywood land?

Tip – If you need a restroom on Hollywood Boulevard, try LALA Land, the souvenir shop.  

San Diego – Zoo and Sea World

August 2016

Summer 20161.jpgWe are taking the husband’s parents around San Diego. Zoos are a common favourite with both grandparents and grandchildren, so we load the lot into two cars and go to one of the best loved zoos – San Diego Zoo.

After sulking through most of the bus ride, because we could not sit on the upper deck,Akash finally comes around. After lunch, we go on the gondola. It is Lara’s nap time and Raga heads home with her. Akash gets to skip is nap and spend the day at the zoo.

We started with the polar bears, checking out the exhibits on the way. The polar bear swam right up next to the glass, and plonked down in front of us, giving us a very accurate idea of its size. We get icecreams and then  walk over to the panda bears. We wanted to take the bus, but it is going in the wrong direction.   Down the hill from the restrooms, and almost halfway to the next ones, Akash suddenly says he needs to use the toilet – urgently. We hurry on the the next ones which are luckily near the pandas. The panda habitat is undergoing some renovation, so they have been shifted temporarily. The new enclosures do not afford as much privacy and we are able to see both mommy and baby napping.

Next we take the escalators to the orangutans and gorillas. On the way we walk through the aviary. The orangutans are gorillas are also napping close the the glass. The orangutans wake up. One shuffles lazily like a carpet rug being dragged, while the other decides to roll along the perimeter of the enclosure. Our last stop for the day is the reptile house. As we enter, we see a green mamba shedding its skin. It is the most disgusting, yet fascinating thing to see. We hurry around the exhibit so we can come back and see the progress. The husband opts to wait and nap.

Homeward bound- tired and sleepy. What a successful day this has been!