Monterey Bay

August 25, 2016,

Monterey Bay

summer-20166While we did not go whale watching in Monterey Bay, the when-will-this-end bus tour took us to the aquarium.  We were given instructions on which exhibits to check out, in what order and how to get there.  The best part of this excursion was the feeding. Unlike Seaworld, you don’t get to feed the animals, you instead get to watch them feed. The big guys first, then the little ones. If you are wondering why the big fish don’t just eat the little fish, after all this is no Zootopia – the aquarium throws in lots of feed and fed food is easier to get than chasing after prey. The small fry stays out of the way till the big fry is done eating. Then comes the sardine tornado.   Hundreds of sardine swarm towards the food, like a mini silver tornado moving under water. This is the coolest part of this exhibit.

summer-20165The tour then took us along the scenic 17 mile drive, much of which hugs the gorgeous Pacific coastline.  It’s incredible, when you contrast this with the man-made and manicured beauty of the fabulous houses that line it. The bus took us to Bird Rock and allowed us savour its wild beauty for a few moments.

Should we make that desperate bid for freedom?  Before you know it, it’s too late and we are again trapped in the metal cage and shunted away.

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2 little boys and LegoLand

6th Aug, 2015

“Akash, are sure you want to go on the big rollercoster?”

“Yes, but are you sure you want to go on it Chitti?”

DSC_1723We were at Legoland today – Tarun (Tannu, aka T), Akash, Meera, Mahesh (Bro), Chitra (S-I-L aka C) and me. The day was not going exactly as expected, but it was still great fun. For starters, Legoland is not a place to build super legos. It’s an amusement park like Disneyland.

DSC01322There is a witch of a store at the entry, and like the witch’s house from Hansel and Gretel was covered with all things nice to eat, the store windows were plastered with displays and posters of all kinds of things to build.  For Tannu, it was love at first site. He had his heart set on buying a Ninjago. He spent the whole day going disconsolately from ride to ride, waiting for the promised moment when the “fun” would end and we would go to the store. The lines were surprisingly long for a weekday.Afraid that we would spend all our time in lines, Bro dearest went and got us a fast track pass which promised to cut our wait time by half.

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hanging out at the park

Our first ride was the coastersaurus – a baby rollercoaster. The boys picked driving for their next ride. Dropping off C and the baby in play area, we proceeded to the driving arena.  Once they got their licenses, we put our heads together to pick the next ride – the kid power tower. This ride involves hauling yourself up a tower and the free sliding down the side.Since Akash was keen on doing the pedal ride, we stood in line for around 20 minutes and then agreed that everyone likes this ride so everybody wants to do it; we should go do some other ride that people don’t like as much.

The big brothers take their baby sister on a train ride

The big brothers take their baby sister on a train ride

We took our lunch at a pizza parlor all the way across the park. It was while scouting for lunch that Bro spotted the Lego Technic rollercoaster. He was thrilled and it all it took to get the little boys pumped was ” Who wants to go on the B-I-G rollercoaster?”  Thankfully, we could use our pass to reserve a spot on this one.I reason, how scary can a ride meant for 48″ minimum be, and get into the little car. Once strapped in, I give Akash my best advice for all rides – close your eyes and yell your lungs out! At the end of the ride, he steped out shaking his head “Bad!”, and then out jumped T shouting, “AWESOME!!!” Akash’s opinion of the ride suddenly changed to “BEST RIDE EVER!!” Talk about peer pressure!

DSC_1694Ice-creams and a few rides later we walk down to Skipper School. Bro decides the boys are tall enough to go by themselves. The boys are very excited by the prospect. Akash jumps into a boat and sets off. On his insistence, I follow in the next boat. Just as T steps forward, the guy who waves people by looks and says,” He can’t go by himself. He’s not tall enough.” “He went!”, the not tall enough T pointed indignantly to his cousin. The man is flabbergasted. All the same, Bro got into the boat with T. Akash struggled to man his boat. Since his foot didn’t reach the gas sitting, he valiantly stood on the peddle, amid shouts of  “Sit down! Sit!!”. He managed a little on his own, I butted and pushed a bit, and then a worker at the ride jumped in to help. When they reached the finish line the little man’s face was shining like a new penny.

Speaking of pennies, the Skipper School water was littered with coins. “People throw coins in thinking it’s good luck, but it’s not” intones Akash. “Why? Why is it not lucky?”, quizzes Tannu. Akash thinks for a moment and replies,” Because you’re losing money. It is not good luck to lose money. It’s bad luck to lose money.” I am stumped.

of stingrays and mantarays..

of stingrays and mantarays..

After Skipper School, T at long last got to go to the store, while Akash and I headed off to the Aquarium. Bro and Tannu caught up with us there. C and baby Meera had gone home much earlier. We spent the last bit of our day listening to the little boys chatter on about the characteristics of different fish as they spotted and identified them.

Thanksgiving 2014, Toronto

I have a lot to give thanks for – good health, access  electricity and clean drinking water, the internet, but what tops my list is family..and friends who are like family.  Keeping with our idea to travel to meet people, we picked Toronto as our destination this Thanksgiving. What better way to give thanks for friend who cares and has been there, than to go see her?

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So despite the snow swirling outside and storm warnings, we packed our bags and valiantly set out for the Great White North. Lesson no.1 – Always check if you GPS device has maps for a different country. As we pulled out of the apartment complex we realized that ours did not know where Canada was. We figured we could drive down to the Niagara Falls on the American side and then switch over to Google maps on our phones. Lesson 2 would be always check cellular rates before leaving the country, but more on that later. The weather and Thanksgiving kept most people home, so we had the roads mostly to ourselves. We left home at around 4:30 pm on the day before Thanksgiving and reached the border  close to  1:30 am the next morning. We had been warned of long immigration queues, but at that hour it was just us and the officials, who let us pass after a few cursory questions. There is a currency exchange facility at the border, use it and make sure you have sufficient local currency. Soon that would be Lesson 3.

Time flies..We try to follow suit

Time flies..We try to follow suit

The bestie stays at Mississauga. Mississauga was developed as a suburb of Toronto and is a 50 min drive away. A word of caution, the speed limits in Canada are lower than those in the United States, and there is a $10,000 fine for going  50 km* over speed limit. Buckle up – it’s the law! For those on the back seat too, and the fine for not doing so is, I believe, $240. New Yorkers visiting should remember that in Toronto pedestrians wait for their signal. American Thanksgiving is not a holiday in Canada, so the bestie and family were not going to be around during the day on Thursday and Friday. The husband and I decided we would do the city tours on those days. We had 3 options – the hop on/hop off which would take us around to 20 attractions, the city pass which provided discounted entry to the 5 main attractions or to take the hop on/ hop off to travel to the 5 main attractions and use the citypass to see them.

The best way to experience a city is by foot

The best way to experience a city is by foot

We were keen on option 3, but by the time we woke up, got to the city, parked and found the hop on/hop off office, the last bus had departed. Winter schedule! We walked down to the nearest main attraction – the Canada National Tower  or the CN Tower. Here we bought the citypass. A few enquiries and some quick math proved that the pass is only economical if you do a minimum of 3 out of the 5 attractions it covers. We decided to wait until dark to go up the tower. There is something very romantic about seeing city lights twinkle below you. Perhaps dreamy would be a better word.

At the aquarium Photos courtesy Ganesh Sankaran aka the husband

At the aquarium
Photos courtesy Ganesh Sankaran aka the husband

We had an hour or so till darkness enveloped the city, and with nothing better to do we went to the aquarium next door. My cousin gifted me a fish tank when I was an undergrad student. Aquariums always remind me of those days when we spent hours staring at our fish,  and researching on the internet about home aquariums. We’ve had guppie fish, gold fish, angel fish, tetras and little suckers. We’ve fed them green peas  with our hands when they wouldn’t eat fish food, because the internet said so! We even tried having a few water plants in our tank. The bestie had a fish tank too. When we got ours, she was inspired to restart hers.

The CN Tower

The CN Tower

The best way to experience the CN Tower would be to book a table at 360 – The Restaurant at the CN Tower. For the price of around $65 per person, you get a 3 course meal in the revolving restaurant, as well as access to the Lookout and the Glass Floor. Access to the Lookout and Glass Floor otherwise costs $32 per person.

The City of Toronto

The City of Toronto

*they use the metric system in Canada

** All $ amounts are in Canadian Dollars

Baltimore Aquarium

As it was World Oceans Day this weekend, we decided to make a trip to the National Aquarium  in Baltimore.

One of the good things about Delaware is that a lot of places are quite easily accessible. Baltimore is about an hour’s drive from where we are.

The National Aquarium  turned out to be a 5 story building with some very interesting exhibits.In a very thoughtful gesture, in place of escalators, the aquarium has inclined moving walkways for most parts. I wonder why this was not uniformly implemented throughout the building.

Inside we were given a little scavenger hunt to do.

  1. Look for the stripped burr fish – Found it,but in a different tank from the clueDSC_1161
  2. Find the elusive electric eel – Found it hiding in front of a rock right next to the glass
  3. Take a close look at the puffins sharp beak – Also noted how fast the swim!
  4. Feel the water in the air in the rain forest exhibit – This was by far the best exhibit, as it had an open section, with birds flying
  5.  over head and a sloth moving among the trees
  6. Can you find atleast 3 poison dart frogs? – Found them all
  7. Find a sand tiger shark – Did you know they have 3,000 teeth? Impressive huh?
  8. Take a look at our jellies – A TV programme, and some reading material at the exhibit told me that the jellies are taking over our oceans.
  9. Check out our dolphins – We saw the dolphins being filmed as a part of an experiment. I know it’s mean, but we were disappointed that they wouldn’t be jumping through hoops for us.
  10. Spot the Archerfish -Spotted, even though we didn’t see them spitballing flies out of action.

The exhibit that seemed to have caught everyone’s fancy though, was the octopus. Did you know, a hungry adult octopus may eat young octopi?