Friday, June 27, 2014

Mystery Spot, Santa Cruz

Summer is here and what better way to spend a day than visit Santa Cruz with friends. We started from Sunnyvale at 11am and reached 'The Crepe Place' restaurant in Santa Cruz at 12.15. It is a very cosy restaurant with an old world charm. We chose the outdoor seating in the garden and had a relaxed lunch for over an hour. I was impressed by the vegetarian options. Post lunch, we headed to the Mystery Spot.

History of Mystery Spot

Mystery Spot is a circular region of around 150 feet in which there are anomalies to the normal laws of physics especially gravity. A lot of demonstrations by the guide show these anomalies at work. It was pretty amazing and the actual experience is fun. However, when I got back home and googled about the place, I read that it is merely an optical illusion generated by clever engineering. This does not make the place any less exciting or take away from its fun.

Our Guide Moe-appears slanted even when he is standing straight

We had already booked the 3.36pm tour of the Mystery Spot and bought the tickets online. The entrance had this impressive graffiti.

Mystery Spot Graffiti

On the way to the Mystery Spot house
Inside the Mystery Spot house

There is a small gift store, snack stalls and restrooms near the ticket counter. At 3.36pm, our tour number was announced and we were greeted by our tour guide, Moe. His demonstrations included a ball sliding up a wooden plank against gravity, people standing in slanting position, lead pendulum swings only on one side, height changes in people and others. They were peppered with very clever jokes which made it very entertaining. I absolutely loved the guide's narration. I don't have very good pictures or video that show the phenomenon inside the tilted house which is the epicenter of the Mystery Spot. At the end of the tour, we were given the Mystery Spot bumper stickers that we see on so many cars.

Mystery Spot Bumper Stickers

I highly recommend this place as it is a fun experience on your way to Santa Cruz beach. We did go to the beach, walked around the wharf and had an early dinner before returning home. A day well-spent!

At Santa Cruz Wharf

Santa Cruz beach

Sand Sculpture at Santa Cruz Beach

What: Mystery Spot
Where: 465 Mystery Spot Road, Santa Cruz CA 95065
When: Mon-Fr: 10am-6pm; Sat-Sun: 10am-8pm
Fees: $6

Monday, June 23, 2014

San Jose Flea Market

I haven't been up and about exploring new places after my hectic New York trip. So this Saturday, I decided to check out the San Jose Flea Market. I had heard a lot about it from my neighbors but never really got around to visiting it.

San Jose Flea Market

The San Jose Flea Market is the largest open-air market in the US, spanning 120 acres of land and has around 2000 vendors. Furniture, clothes, vegetables, electronics, household goods-you name it and this market has it all. There are some stalls that sell second hand things too-used machines, music systems and even used cars! There are some fun rides and attractions like mechanical bull, pony rides, petting farm etc for children to enjoy. Live music by bands and lots of food stalls makes the market a perfect entertainment spot. Note that most vendors only accept cash. ATMs and restrooms are available in different areas of the market. 

Live Music performance

Petting Farm

This market reminded me of the exhibitions that we have back in India. The main difference being that the Flea market is better organized, less crowded and the price of goods is cheaper compared to regular stores. 

Judging by the style of clothing and the type of fresh produce being sold, I got the impression that the market caters largely to the Hispanic population. 

Fresh produce stand
The market operates on Wednesdays, Fridays and weekends rain or shine throughout the year. The vendors arrive between 5-6am the market closes at dusk. However, I saw most food stalls and a good number of regular stalls fold up by 5pm on Saturday.

What: San Jose Flea Market
Where: 1590 Berryessa Road, San Jose CA 95133
When: Wed, Fr, Sat and Sun: dawn to dusk
Fee: $3 parking fee on weekdays and $7 on weekends.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Trip To The Big Apple!

6 amazing days in New York city! Loads to explore and experience. After the stunning Niagara falls, we headed to 'The City that never sleeps.' Since there was so much to see and do, we were on the move constantly. This was one of the longest trips I have ever planned and I'm so thrilled that everything went smoothly. I absolutely loved the subways which gave me the freedom to travel to any place without the hassle of worrying about transport.

Honestly, there is just too much to write about each place. For the lack of time and patience, I'm restricting myself to a few lines and pictures for each place.

1. Rockefeller Center:

I highly recommend the one hour guided tour where the guide talks about the art, architecture and history of the place which was pretty fascinating.

Sculpture in Rockefeller Center

Art Work in Rockefeller Center building

2. Top Of The Rock:

A beautiful view of Manhattan from the top of Rockefeller Center.

View from Top of the Rock

3. Grand Central Terminal:

I never knew a train station can look so exquisite. We were late for the audio tour so missed it but it is an excellent spot to marvel at the art work and also sit in a corner and people-watch. Trust me, you will be amazed.

Outside Grand Central Terminal

Grand Central Terminal

4. Statue of Liberty

A ferry from Battery Park took us to the Statue. We only went up to the pedestal but I did not find it fascinating at all. What I really enjoyed was the museum below it which had quite a lot of interesting facts about the statue, replicas of various parts, history and engineering details.

Replica of Statue of Liberty's foot

Statue of Liberty

5. Wall Street, Times Square, Central Park, Brooklyn Bridge:

All these places required us to walk leisurely at our own pace soaking in the beauty and energy that is so unique to this city.

Brooklyn Bridge

The Charging Bull at Bowling Green
At Times Square

Central Park

6. Empire State Building:

Since we went to Top of the Rock during the day, I planned this visit in the evening so we could get a view of Manhattan at night. I was not disappointed at all. It was a dazzling view. It was freezing so most of the time I stood instead the glass door. They also have an audio tour which I found interesting.

The Empire State Building

View from The Empire State Building

7. Museums:

Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art and American Natural History Museum were the three we visited. They are very big museums each with several large galleries. My favorite was the Metropolitan Museum of Art especially the 16-17th Century painting and sculptures. There is no way you can cover everything in any of these museums in one day. It is best to choose a few exhibits that you're interested in beforehand and focus on those.

8. Broadway:

We did manage to catch one Broadway show called 'The Cripple of Innishman' starring Daniel Radcliffe. It was quite an engaging play.

Outside Cort Theater

Inside Cort Theater

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Spectacular Niagara Falls

Two days in Niagara and my mind is blown away by the sheer beauty of the falls. All the time, effort, money and hardships (yes, loads of them but don't want to dwell on those for now) we endured to reach the place were absolutely justified.

I booked a tour on Viator that took us to all the important places. It picked us up at 1.30 pm from our hotel on Rainbow Blvd and took us to Goat Island. This is a small island in the Niagara River between the Horseshoe falls and the Bridal Veil falls. Our first stop was Cave of the Winds behind the Bridal Veil Falls. We were given sandals to change into and made to stand in line waiting for our turn. After a 45 minute wait, we got into the elevator that took us down the cave which had access to the Bridal Veil and American Falls. Ponchos were handed out to us as protection from the water. I will not be able to do justice in describing the magnificence of the falls. Take a look at the pictures to see for yourself.

We then walked over to see the Horseshoe falls photographed below. Again not much to describe but to visualize and soak in the sight.

Our tour guide then led us to the Maid of the Mist falls. It being a Memorial Day weekend, there was almost an hour and a half wait time. After a tiring wait and what seemed like eternity, our turn finally came. The elevators took us down towards the boats. 600 people on board at a time! The moment we started getting close to the falls, I was speechless. The stunning view, double rainbow and the cool water spraying on my face made for a moment that I will forever cherish. I was so grateful to have been given a chance to be at that scene made me incredibly happy.

Our last stop was the whirlpool located in the Niagara Gorge. This whirlpools flows anti clockwise during normal flow but during the winter months changes direction.

This was one of the most tiring but truly satisfying trips I have ever taken. If you do not care much about the history and can manage transportation on your own, then you don't really need to take the tour. It is much cheaper if you go on your own.