Wednesday, November 28, 2012

San Diego-Day 3: Visit to the Zoo

Zoo Entrance
The 100 acres San Diego Zoo is one the most famous attractions in San Diego. It has 400 endangered animals and 800 different species. It also has a wide range of flora. It is located inside the Balboa park campus.

It is divided into several different sections: Africa Rocks, Asian Passage, Elephant Odyssey, Lost Forest, Northern Frontier, Panda Canyon. As the names suggest, each zone has its unique theme and special attractions.

Like the other attractions in Balboa park, one needs to plan ahead and identify the areas one wants to explore as the zoo is huge and cannot be covered in one day. We saw the Polar bears, pandas, apes, african lions, elephants and a whole bunch of deer-like animals whose names I forgot.


Panda-The star attraction
Polar Bear

The zoo has a skyfari which takes you from one end of the zoo to the other giving you a bird's eye view of the entire zoo. As expected it was crowded but we managed to get 2 rides in it. A wonderful view from up above.

We also saw a 4-D movie 'Ice Age and Christmas.' It was fun and kids love it. We also took the 35-minute bus safari that takes you on a trip around the zoo and gives very interesting info about the animals. Plenty of shopping and dining options available throughout the zoo.

Bus Safari

What: San Diego Zoo
Where: 2920 Zoo Drive, San Diego, CA 92101
When: 9 am-5 pm (changes during winter/fall months)
Fee: $42

San Diego-Day 2: Balboa Park

Balboa Park is easily one of the best attractions in San Diego. It has a little something for everybody. 14 museums, parks, 19 gardens, gigantic zoo, tennis courts, gym, theatre, shows, restaurants and more. Since V and I are both museum lovers, I decided to allocate an entire day to explore the park. It was a tough call to choose from so many museums. We finally picked 5 and armed with a map of the park in hand, we began our journey. 

It being a Friday, gave us some more time as some museums operate longer on Fridays. The five museums we visited were:
Museum of Man

Mayan Statue
Mummy coffins
A beautiful display of exhibits that trace the journey of man. Right from replica of fossils of the early man to the Maya statues and modern photographs. My favorite part was the Anthropology section that showed the evolution of man. The changes in the brain, bones, teeth etc over time from monkeys and apes to modern man. It was amazing to see all the stuff that we learnt in history. Only this time, instead of text books, it was more of visual learning. I also saw mummies-real Egyptian mummies. They are truly fascinating. 

I would have loved to spend more time here but we had other museums to cover so had to limit ourselves to only an hour at each place. 

Evolution of Man Exhibits

2. San Diego Air and Space museum:

Aircraft used during World War II
The receptionist at the previous museum recommended that we check out this one. Although, neither of us was too keen on visiting it, we decided to go as she made it sound very exciting. This museum houses all the planes that were used during the world wars. It also has flags, clothes etc used by the astronauts who went to the moon. To some one who is interested in this subject, this would be a wonderful place but to me it was quite boring. The only fun part of this one was the 4-D theatre.  Three five-minute movies were played and the 4-D effect was mind-blowing. I would visit this museum again only for the 4-D show.

I have no words to express what I felt at this museum. I was stunned to see the collection by Ruud Van Empel. Each work was a result of stitching together several different photographs together. I was surprised to find out that every individual represented in the pictures was put together using features from many different people. There was a haunting quality in each of his works-almost surreal yet piercing. Fabricated reality-that was the term used to describe his works. Photography was not allowed inside the museum so could not click any.

An interactive science center that has numerous exhibits that allows one to learn the different science phenomenon. Interesting, educative and fun. I'm sure my relationship with physics wouldn't have been so bad had I got a chance to learn it in an interactive way like the science center. All the models were thought provoking and had detailed info about the phenomenon it described. However, the place was crowded with children who were more interested in playing with the models rather than learning anything. It was quite sad that most parents too didn't try to use the exhibits as a learning tool and let the children use them as toys. The best part about this museum is the dome shaped IMAX theatre. We opted to watch the movie 'To The Artic'. The theatre is like a planetarium-the screen stretches from the ceiling all the way down to the floor. The movie depicted the sad state of the polar bear due to the melting of the arctic snow caps as a result of global warming. It was an irony that it was both touching and beautiful at the same time. 

The last museum for the day. We only had 40 minutes to explore this one before it was closing time. There are several galleries for Asian, African, American, European and Modern Art. Since we were pressed for time, we chose the European section. We walked through the Renaissance, Impressionist, Post-impressionism paintings from Italy, France and Germany. V explained to me how the themes and art evolved during each of the periods. It was quite overwhelming to see paintings that were so old yet were magnificent.

Overall, the visit was very informative and fun at the same time. I would definitely recommend keeping an entire day for this activity. A day well-spent!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

San Diego-Day 1: Cabrillo National Park

I had read a lot of interesting things about the Cabrillo National Park and had put that on our itinerary for two reasons. One, it would give V a chance for photography and two, it was supposed to be one of the most scenic places in San Diego.

Cabrillo Monument

We were in for a surprise when the cab driver said he had never heard of such a place. He had to ask at the hotel front desk for directions. I was prepared to be disappointed because cab drivers told me that he lived here for 25 years and had never heard of this place. But the drive to the top of the hill where the park was located was totally worth it. We could see the bay and the city skyline from there. A breathtaking view. I even learnt that the harbor view is considered one of the best in the world!

The two most famous things about the par were the Cabrillo monument and the old light house. We learnt a little bit about the history of the place as well. Cabrillo was a Spanish adventurer who along with his team entered California through the harbor at San Diego. He came on the famous ship 'San Salvador' which is currently being reconstructed by the San Diego Maritime Museum. There is a museum near the visitor center that has a collection of tools, instruments, clothing and other artifacts about the Spanish conquistadors.

The old lighthouse at Point Loma is also another attraction. Visitors can climb up the lighthouse and take a peak at the house of the keeper. The rooms are furnished in the old fashioned way and gives you an idea of what life was back in the day.

Point Loma Light House

Also, there is an area for tide pooling. During low tides, one can see a variety of sea life in the rocky intertidal zones. We weren't able to see that as it wasn't the right time of the day for it. For those who are interested in hiking, there is a beautiful hiking trail that starts from the lighthouse. Since I was already tired with all the walking, we walked for 10 minutes and returned. 

Harbor View

What: Cabrillo National Park
When: 364 days (except Christmas) 9 am-5 pm
Where1800 Cabrillo Memorial Drive San Diego, CA 92106
Entry Fee: $5 for vehicles, $3 for walk-ins and bicycle

Sunny San Diego

All set for the trip

It was our first Thanksgiving in the US and so we were very excited about the long weekend. It was a very special vacation because right from choosing the destination, booking flights, making hotel reservation to chalking out the itinerary was my responsibility. Even the packing of bags was done by me!

 After a lot of deliberation and thinking, I zeroed in on San Diego as the destination. Until the night before we left, I was reading reviews and travel recommendations to make sure that it was a memorable trip. Now let me jump right into the details of the vacation. 4 days of absolute fun and entertainment. I wouldn't call it relaxing as there was a LOT of walking around to do but then it wasn't hectic so neither of us complained.

Hotel where we stayed
We started from San Francisco on Wednesday evening. After a yummy dinner of Broccoli and cream cheese soup and bread at the airport, we boarded the flight, all set to embark on our adventure. It was a very short flight-although the ticket said an hour and a half, we reached San Diego in an hour. The hotel (Humphrey's Half Moon Inn) sent a courtesy shuttle to pick us up and we reached the hotel in 10 minutes.

Since we had to begin our day early, we crashed in as soon as we reached. Instead of cramming everything into a single post, I figured it would be best if I broke down each tourist attraction into a separate post. That way, I will be able to do complete justice to the place. So keep reading!

View from the hotel

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


My first diwali in the US. Since we don't know a lot of people, I knew it was going to be a low key affair.

The fun and exciting part of my diwali was that I prepared a few of the traditional snacks and sweets at home all by myself. I went grocery shopping and got all the required things and tried out 5 different things-4 of them turned out well. But hey for a first timer, that is a pretty good number.

Take a look-this is what I made.

That is chivda, shankarpali, namakpare and maladu for you. Doesn't it look yummy?
Since I'm all about healthy eating these days, I baked the shankarpali and namakpare.

On diwali morning, I got all dressed up and then distributed the sweets to my neighbours and got some sweets in return. And that was my simple diwali celebration.