Monday, November 6, 2017

The Carbonaro Effect

I recently stumbled upon the magic hidden camera TV show called 'The Carbonaro Effect' on Youtube and loved it. Shortly after, I found out he was performing in San Jose. I showed a few clips to my BIL and SIL and they were interested in going as well. I quickly bought tickets for the show.

It was held in City National Civic (the same place where we saw SPB perform previously). The hall was packed and the show started on time. The opening act was by another comedian-I forget his name-but he was pretty entertaining.

Once Michael came on stage, it truly was magic. He has such a great personality and he is an amazing performer. Every sentence and voice modulation was well prepared and delivered. The magic tricks were outstanding which was expected. What was impressive was the comic element to each of those acts that left us laughing. Every trick was mind blowing and there never was a dull moment in the show. Definitely worth watching.  There was no photography or videos allowed inside the hall so don't have any pictures of Michael.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

San Francisco Opera-La Traviata

Vishnu has been keen on watching an opera for a while now. We didn't get a chance to see one in Prague or Budapest. So when I saw a Facebook ad for La Traviata playing in San Francisco, we decided to go see it before we head back to India.

We booked an airbnb in SF for the night as we also planned to go on a Hitchcock walking tour the next day. We took the Caltrain to the city, checked in to the hotel and then headed to the nearest wine bar. Sipping wine and munching on some yummy empanadas, we read up on the story of La Traviata. It was pretty straightforward.

This was Vishnu's chance of wearing a suit and he made the most of it. All dressed up, we went to the SF Opera house. It was buzzing with people, most of who were dressed very fancy in their ball gowns and tux. I think this may be one of the fanciest events I have been to in the five years I have lived in the US.

We had the cheapest tickets in the balcony so we had to go all the way up. There were a lot of people waiting for the elevator so we decided to walk it. Big mistake! The stairs were steep and I think we had to walk at least 5 floors. Not a good idea when you're in heels. Huffing and puffing, I reached my seat.

The hall was packed. When the curtain was lifted, I was taken aback by the grandeur of the set, costume and lighting. It was so perfect and well done. There were super titles without which there was no way of understanding the Italian songs. There were 3 acts in the show with 2 intervals of 20-25 minutes each. We managed to grab something to eat during the first break.

I loved the music by the live orchestra and the entire presentation. I had prepared myself to get bored and I was proven wrong. I definitely plan to listen to more opera music but without the lyrics and the singing.

After the show we went to an Irish bar and chilled out. The walking tour next day didn't happen due to the fact that we woke up late and also the poor air quality because of the recent forest fires. We returned home the next afternoon. 

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Beer Tasting at Hermitage Brewery

As we get closer to our R2I plan, our friends Anne & Nush have been so particular about ensuring we do as many fun things before we leave. Beer tasting at Hermitage Brewery was one such.

We went there around 6p so that we could go for dinner after the tasting. I am not a beer drinker but I liked the idea of visiting the brewery and just hanging out. There was a giant brewing tank right near the entrance. The area where the brewing takes place can be viewed from outside. I hear there are tours offered with a walk-thru of the facility. We did not take the tour.

The place has a fun and relaxed vibe to it. There was indoor and outdoor seating available. They had a big board which listed the beers available with a brief description. They specialize in barrel aged sours. We decided to buy one tasting and share. A flight of 4 beers costs $10 with $3 extra for the sours. I was intrigued by the Cherry Almond Beer. The others we ordered were Maltopia, Ryetopia and another IPA whose name I forget. As expected I did not like any of the non-sour beers. I loved the Cheery Almond because it did not taste like beer at all-no bitterness whatsoever. It was super sour and had a slight sweetness. It reminded me of some of the fruity ciders/ales I have tried before only this was much more sour. It was very strong though with 7% ABV. I was buzzed after having just one. They were out of pretzels to much on and there is no food available for purchase either.

After a relaxed beer drinking session, we headed to a Chinese restaurant (Sweet Mango) for dinner followed by ice cream at Baskin Robbins. What a fun evening filled with great conversation, exploring new things and of course food!

The Cruicible-Play

A promotional email from Goldstar informed me of a play being performed at Bus Barn Theater in Los Altos. The play was called The Crucible based on a book of the same name by Arthur Miller. The blurb about the play caught my eye and piqued my interest. When I asked Anne and Nush if they'd like to go with us, they agreed.

Before the play, we had some delicious dinner at Opa Greek Restaurant in downtown Los Altos. The theater was within walking distance of the restaurant.

We picked up our tickets from the box office and were surprised to see that we got excellent tickets (2nd row from the front). Once a school bus-barn, the place is now a cosy theater with 99-odd seats.

The play was very entertaining as well as eye opening. It made me shudder to think that the events portrayed in the play were based on true inc
idents (the Salem witch trials). The actors were terrific, the sound and lighting were impressive. I was completely engrossed in the story and felt the lead characters' pain. There was a brief ten minute intermission and the play ended in about 3 hours.

I really enjoyed the experience and I look forward to watching a few more documentaries/films based on the topic.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Shreya Ghoshal Live in Concert

This was my first Hindi music concert in the US. I had seen ads about the concert on Facebook as well as heard about it on the radio. My BIL being a huge fan of Shreya Ghoshal was super excited about seeing her perform live. He booked their tickets in the rows right in front of the stage. Since I didn't want to spend a lot on the tickets, I picked the cheapest seats in the balcony.

The concert was held at Oracle Area in Oakland-almost an hour's drive from home. Parking was easy but expensive ($40)! There were no signs or volunteers to guide us where to queue up or which way the entry was for the different ticket types. It was poorly organized. At around 7p, the doors opened and we took our seats in the balcony. Since the area is huge and has multiple entrances, the organizers could have very easily printed the best parking lot and entrance for easy access to the seats.

Our seats were facing the right side of the stage. Since it was a singing concert and there was no dancing involved, it did not matter that we could not get the front view of the stage. The auditorium was packed with around 8,000 people in attendance. The concert started with a fashion show from PNG Jewellers who were the sponsors.

There was a grand symphony accompanying Shreya. She only had one other singer with her (winner of a Bengali talent show). Once she started singing, it was magical. She sang non stop for almost 3 hours with a single ten minute break. There was so much passion, emotion and enthusiasm in her singing. It was a pleasure to listen to her croon a lot of her popular songs as well as some older Lata Mangeshkar numbers. A lot of the audience members seemed unhappy that there were a lot more older songs than they expected. Turns out that the concert was originally supposed to be a tribute to Lata Mangeshkar but over time, that message was dropped from the marketing campaigns. So people didn't expect that so much time will be spent on songs that were not originally sung by Shreya.

Although I would have loved for her to sing a few more of her own songs, I was very satisfied with the concert. On our way back, we stopped for dinner at Shan Restaurant which was crowded with a lot of people from the same concert!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Shakespeare in the Park: Hamlet

Watching Shakespeare In The Park each year has become a tradition for us. So far, we've watched Taming of the Shrew, Romeo & Juliet, Winter's Tale and now Hamlet.

Based on all the experience from the previous years, we managed to be fully prepared to have a good time. We carried lawn chairs, a tarp to sit on, a picnic dinner, snacks, drinks and lots of warm clothing. In addition, we reached there well ahead of time to score parking as well as good seats. We reached there almost an hour and a half before the show began. This time we had company. SIL, BIL and Ritwik joined us.

Sandhya and Gaurav were supposed to come too but that was a comedy of errors in itself.

They ended up going to Saratoga where another theater group was putting on a production of Hamlet. What are the chances of that!

Like every year, the show was fabulous, great actors, costume and direction. The only problem was the sound and could have been resolved if we had picked a spot near the loudspeakers. Luckily, the weather was good too so had a fantastic evening.  

Monday, July 24, 2017

Curious Incident Of the Dog In the Nighttime

I had read this book a while ago. So when I saw tickets for the play on Goldstar, I was interested. Sandhya and Gaurav were also keen so we booked tickets.

We saw the play at the SHN Golden Gate theater in San Francisco. We quickly grabbed dinner at a restaurant across the street. Since we had discount tickets, we got the balcony seats which weren't all that bad.

The story of the play was quite simple and straightforward. What stood out the most was the special effects and the use of technology to powerfully convey emotions, setting and move the story forward. The effects were brilliant and nothing that we ever seen on stage. The acting was decent but the production, lighting and effects over powered everything including the performance, dialogue and sometimes the story.

We had recently returned from our trip to Europe so both Vishnu and I were very jet lagged. It was an effort to keep our eyes open. Vishnu slept through a good part of the first half. Post the interval coffee, he was much better.

Overall, I'd definitely recommend the play for its mind blowing effects. I only wish we weren't this jet lagged and could have enjoyed it more.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Gilroy Wine Tasting

One Friday evening, Anne called me to ask if I was up for wine tasting in Gilroy the next day and I agreed.

It was a hot day and after an hour's drive reached our first winery 'Satori.' It was very brightly colored and well decorated. It had live music playing and was buzzing with people. I especially loved the colorful umbrellas. They offer Sangrias on Saturday and we were so thankful for the chilled drink on the hot afternoon. The Sangria tasted delicious with pieces of mangoes and raspberries. We hung out for a while and left when there were too many dogs surrounding our table.

Next, we hit Solis winery which was quite opposite to Satori. It was very quite and peaceful. Vishnu did a tasting. There was a perfect breeze blowing which instantly put us in a very relaxed state. We abandoned the idea of going to any other winery and hung out there chatting until we felt hungry.

We headed to Morgan Hills downtown and ate some tasty Mediterranean food and headed back home. This was a very fun impromptu outing.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Bollywood Dance: Part 2

After my last Bollywood dance show I continued practicing with Mona Khan Dance company for the non performance as well as the next performance quarter. I managed to drag Vishnu for the non performance class and I'd like to think he enjoyed himself.

The most recent session, I switched from the Cupertino class to the one in Santa Clara. Dhanashri was the instructor and Divya was coleading the class. The studio in Santa Clara is much smaller and the  number of people per class is way higher. We had almost 15 people in all which made the studio very crammed. Unlike last time, there were no weekend practices and general hangout which I missed badly.  In addition, there was some issue with my costume which was a little stressful. But it was fixed by the rehearsals. All these factors took away some of the fun from the class.

On the brighter side, I found the choreography much more easy to pick up than the previous sessions. Also, most of the others in class were decent dancers so our final performance looks in synch.


Here's the video of the performance. Since there were so many people on stage, it is quite zoomed out and difficult to see anyone's face.


Thursday, March 23, 2017

SPB Concert

This was my first concert here in the US. We booked tickets and were so eager to go but the day before the show we heard about the legal issues that organizers were facing due to which they could not sing certain songs. That was a bummer. Since the tickets were non refundable we went anyway.

The show was in downtown San Jose in the convention center. The venue was spacious, clean and with good acoustics. The performers were beyond amazing. It was a pleasure to listen to SPB and Chitra live.

I was annoyed by the yelling kids and the adults who kept walking in and out to grab food. Other than that it was a pleasant show despite me not knowing half the songs.

Don't have anything more to add but just wanted a record of going to the event so wanted to put this up.


When Prisha and Sri asked me if I wanted to go on a three day trip to Portland, I was excited because I've been wanting to do a girls trip for a while.

The weather forecast was for rains on all three days and the flight was delayed. So we already had very low expectations from the trip. We reached around noon and were pleasantly surprised by the airbnb that we'd booked. Leaving our bags, we headed straight for lunch. Our room was conveniently located only one block away from Hawthorne Blvd which is lined with restaurants. We picked Harlow's and didn't regret it at all. This place serves the most delicious meals which are vegetarian and organic.

It was a rainy day but that didn't stop us. We visited Powell's city of books-the worlds largest independent bookstore. Then we got some donuts, tried hot chocolate at Cacao, walked around some more, visited a legal marijuana store only to be amazed at the hundreds of different types of edibles available. We ended the day by having sumptuous dinner at a Cuban restaurant. On the way back we stopped at a bar called Church which had church themed decor.

We got really lucky the next day as the sun was out and it was a beautiful day. In fact, we were told that it was the first sunny day in many months. We had booked a walking tour in the downtown. It took us through many areas of the downtown, the waterfront and finally to an underground tunnel. The guide gave us a very good summary of the history of Portland and how it transformed itself from smelly, dirty city to a hippy tourist attraction. He also talked about some notorious figures from Portland and the crimes they committed.

Next we took the light rail and headed to the zoo. I wasn't too thrilled about the zoo to begin with but after reaching there I was impressed. We walked around for a couple hours watching the animals and then headed back to downtown, bar hopped and then took the aerial tram. By then it was dark and the view of the city lights from the tram was amazing. Finally we wrapped up the day with dinner in Pearl District.

On the last day, I started the day with a delicious savory waffle. We then went to the Pittock Mansion-a rich guy's house converted into a museum. Although the house isn't as big as Hearst Castle, the one hour tour was pretty great. The guide walked us through every room and gave some good information about the architecture of the house and the family that lived there.

We then headed to the Saturday Market which essentially is like the Art and Wine Festival that happens in the Bay Area. The only difference is that it happens every week on the weekends. It had the usual stuff of food, jewelry, handicraft etc. After stopping for a quick bite in downtown, we headed back to the room to pick up our bags as well as pack up dinner from Harlows (yes, we liked it that much!).

Portland is a very colorful city with its hippie culture, street art, amazing food (we rarely had a bad meal), tons of food carts and friendly people. It was a fun trip and the highlight most definitely was the great food that I had.