Last day of 2016!

31-DEC-2016: Normally we don’t have any special plans for 31st. Typically we just spend some time with family, may be cook something together, watch a movie or so and then take to bed. This time around I was on long leave and we have been thinking about going for a cruise, so booking a cruise for the night of 31st sounded an interesting idea. We booked the cruise in advance as normally the sits fill up quickly. This was from Davy’s Locker called the Boat light parade cruise, which takes off from the Balboa pier of Newport beach. We were on the 8:10 pm slot and it was going to be 2 hours long. The cruise goes around the Newport harbor passing by many houses located on the water front, close enough for you to see their Holiday decoration and lighting’s.

We were going to have home cooked dinner. So G got the dinner packed along with few snack items and juice. We got there bit early, it was around 6:00 pm as we thought we may not get parking later and also we could go around a bit. We had decided to park in the Balboa pier parking lot, same place we had parked when I had been to Catalina island. But as we pulled in, the person on duty informed us that they have closed for the day and so you would have to do street parking. So bit sad we got on the road again, thinking when and where we would get the parking, but luckily just opposite to this parking lot on the other side of the street there was a slot available on the street. We parked there and paid for the parking for next 4 hours.

Now we had long time to kill and though normally there are lot of activities to do on the pier, but due to it being 31st everything was closed. Also it was very cold outside, kind of chilling, so we deiced to stay put in the car only. We even turned on the heater in the car, it was that cold! After a while we got bored and decided to walk the shoreline and explore the place a bit. So we moved along the shore, passing by many houses. It was dark by then, but the lights had lit up the harbor. Many of the houses we saw had some cool Christmas decorations, some having moving decos and were really nice. The reflection of lights in the harbor water was sight to see. We would have walked more, but it was quite chilly and we decided to head back to the comforts of our car.

We were hungry by then and so had our dinner. For dinner we had home made pattice, which though cold by now tasted yummy! Again the actual plan was to have it sitting along the harbor, but it was just not possible in this weather. It was a memorable experience to have dinner in the Car and we had nice songs playing in the background for company. Once done there was still some time in our hand and so we had a quick nap 🙂 Now it was close to 7:30 pm and we decided to head to the cruise office. First off we got in the wrong line, it was for the one slot before us, which we realized just before boarding the ship :). So we got back and stood underneath the shade of the office. It was not as comforting as inside the office itself, but we wanted to be close to the front of the line to get better seats :). Then it started raining, thankfully we had had our umbrellas, but we were worried about this whole plan being washed away. Thankfully the rains stopped in a bit, but made it even more chilling! We weathered on and finally our cruise came and they started boarding.

The cruise was nice and quite big than we had anticipated. There were 2 decks and we straight away headed to the top one to get a better view and experiences, hoping and praying it does not start raining again. The lower deck was enclosed and cozy and though the upper deck also had seating arrangements they were open to sky and it was very cold and became even more when the ship started moving 🙂 . The boarding was done quickly and the ship started and we were on our way. We were now cruising in the harbor and getting some nice views of the bay. There are many houses on the shoreline and many of them have there personal boats or yachts, which were also artistically decorated.

There were not many boats moving in the harbor itself, which is normally the case except for few like us, some of them had a full blow party going on their decks. Ours was more sober, with light music and cruising along slowly.  Many of the houses had nice decos, some which I remember well were showcasing events from Christs life, one who had created a big clock with multiple color lights and then reindeer, snowman, snowing effect etc.

At first we were quite excited to stand on the deck along the railings watching the spectre, but then as the night advanced it became really chilly. Now we would have liked to head to the lower deck, but off course it was all packed :). Somehow we managed to get under some shelter on our deck only, which protected us from the breeze at least. I and Ar got bored eventually and then decided to head to the tail of the Ship. Not only you get good views from here, but the the thrust from the exhaust creates nice waves and shapes in the water. It was so peaceful being on water. Year 2016 was passing us by and we were ushering into the new year, though we were few hours away.

We had already taken the U turn and now were seeing the other side from close quarters. One lesson for us was to get hand gloves and add more layers of clothes. The return trip was bit uneventful except that we were almost frozen! We finally landed and rushed towards the parking lot. After turning the heater on full blast, we became bit normal and then pulled the car and headed south along the pacific coast highway. Its always nice to drive on PCH, nights are even better, but the 31st made it memorable. Earlier we had thought that we could go someplace else after the cruise, but the cold got into us and we decided to just head home. We were back by 11:00 pm and thus ended an eventful year 2016 and welcome to year 2017!

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Jyotiba Temple & Panhala Fort – Day 3

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02-Oct-2017: Woke up early today as there was so much to do. We got ready and did the checkout formalities. We decided to even have tea later on. The hotel was next to railway line and we saw few of them passing by which was a nice sight. We left the hotel at 8:00 am and went straight to Gokul restaurant. We had misal and batate vada sambar. We also had tea. Refreshed we moved towards Jyotiba temple. Jyotiba temple is located around 20 km from here and located on Jyotiba hill. It took us around half an hour to reach there. There are multiple entrances to the temple, one at the top of the hill where you arrive after you ascend the ghat, the actual temple being bit downhill from here. Another entrance is close to the temple and now a days they have a road which descents to the parking spot near it. But on that day due to some reason it was closed and we had to park at the top and descend many steps to the temple which was bit of excursion for Aai.

We had nice darshan at the temple and then after spending some time there and then ascended the steps back to the parking spot. It was around 10:30 am and we were thinking of what next. In the three days of our trip we had not really done some sightseeing or went to see some place and so we wanted to do something to that affect. So we decided to head towards Panhala fort which is around 12 km from here and takes around 20 mins to reach. As we descended the Jyotiba hill and touched the main road, from where we took right turn we could see the majestic fort from a distance on our left hand side. But as we continued on this road, we saw it going away from us. Off-course we were heading towards wrong direction :). So after checking with locals we realized we were headed in opposite side, so we took the u turn and were now on the right path. In some time we started ascending the ghat towards the fort.

The roads here are really nice and well maintained. This fort is the Taluka headquarter and has a living population of 5000+. The ghat section is beautiful and down below we could see lush green valley and fields. We reached at the top in 7-8 mins and were at the chowk there which has statue of Baji Parbhu Deshapande, wielding 2 swords in his each hand reminiscent of the famous battle of Pavan khind. Now we have been to this fort few times in childhood, but this was our visit after long time and so we wanted to explore the fort in detail. There are few guides who offered to show us around, but as our car was full there was no much space to accommodate them.  So we decided to explore it on our own.

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We went around for some time but were not sure if we were heading anywhere. On the way we spotted Tabak udyan, so we parked there and were thinking of exploring it. Luckily at that time a guy came on bike and offered to be our guide to take us around the fort. As he had his own vehicle it was perfect for us and his fees was if I remember correctly Rs 300 was reasonable. We were glad we found him, rather he found us else we wont have been able to see much. So he first gave some info on the fort and then took us to our first spot which was Sajja. This was a palace from the day of Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and this is where the plan to break out of Siddi Johar’s vedha (encirclement) was made and from here only on that historic night Maharaj left in palki with 600 bandals towards Vishalgadh. This was also the place where Maharaj last met with Chatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj.

This palace was of 2 levels and had multiple rooms. We explored the ground floor and then through stairs went to 1st floor. This room had good arches and some nice features. It also had big windows with nice views. It always feel so great being at the places where historic events had taken place. We were also interested to know the place from where on that historic day Maharaj descended the fort and crossed the vedha, which he told is at some distance from here and we would be visiting that too. We then descended and went to see some tatbandi (fortification) around this place. The next stop was one of the buruj which had a steep climb of 25-30 steps, The view from top was breath taking and has a good vantage point. From here on one could also see the bunglows of dyons of marathi film industry, Bhalji pendharkar, V Shantaram and all.

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Our next stop was to see the spot we wanted to see earlier, the place from where Maharaj descended the fort and it passed through thick jungle. If I would have come with our group or would have had more time, would have liked to go and explore it more. For next time, maybe!  We then moved to see a very interesting place, called Andhar Bawdi (Hidden well). It is a three storied structure having two levels located underground. At the base is a hidden step well. This structure would help protect the well from the enemies whose first act would be to poison the water in it.  The upper level is road facing and so as the enemy storms the fort, they don’t see the underground structures nor the guards stationed at the basement, who then could surprise them. This well was the drinking water source for the inhabitants of the Fort. The back side of Andhar Bawdi is also well fortified by two layers of thick stone wall and it also has escape routes in case of emergency.  From the fortification one gets excellent views of the fort and the valley.

Our next stop was Teen Darwaza (Three doors) which are at walk able distance from Andhar Bawdi. It is one of the gateways to the Fort from Konkan side. The doors have been constructed in such a way that the enemy entering from the main door from Konkan side cannot see another two doors until they are fully in by which time the guards stationed there can surprise them. The doors would have been huge and strong to withstand even the charge by the elephant. The doors have beautiful arches having nice carvings.

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Our next visit was to visit the Bale Killa (Citadel), which also houses the Ambarkhana (Warehouse) and is located at the center of the Fort. There are three granaries in this structure, having names Ganga, Jamuna and Saraswati to store rice, varai and nachni and are huge, having capacity of around 25OOO quintals of rice. The rice collected from country would be poured from holes on the top of the high ceiling. The structure itself has huge pillars and they connected by arches which look imposing and beautiful.The Ambarkhana used to be fortified by 15 meter deep trenches to prevent attacks. This whole area is encircled by fortification and was part of the Citadel.

There were few more places to visit like Tararani’s palace, Shiva Kashid’s statue and memorial, but due to that day being election day some parts were closed and we could not visit them. So we were at the end of our tour and decided to have lunch on the fort itself. We were thirsty as well and chaas just outside the fortification of Bale Killa was perfect drink! From there we saw a hotel just opposite to it. We decided to try it out. They had freshly prepared bhakari, zhunka with thecha and chaas as menu. The food was really nice and the ambiance of we sitting in front of Bale Killa of Panhala was just perfect! We relaxed there for some time and would have liked to spend the whole day on the fort itself. But home was also calling and with our tummies filled, we decide to head back. We didn’t had to go back to Kolhapur as there was bypass connecting to the highway at some distance from Panahala and in some time we were on our way.

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The weather was just perfect, cloudy with cool breeze. I think most of us took some nap and we didn’t stop until just before the Khambatki ghat at Aaram hotel. This is a new hotel and last time we had missed coming here. Its very large and has many sections for different cuisines. We had some south indian snacks, batata vada and tea. Just as we were having our snacks it started raining heavily, really heavily and I got one more chance of enjoying the monsoon after many years. We had to wait for more than an hour for the rains to stop and then we headed home. As we entered Pune from Katraj we got some traffic till we reached home at around 6:00 pm. Thus came to conclusion a nice, spiritual and relaxing trip.

PS: With Panhala fort covered (though had been here few times in childhood) and my earlier coverage of Vishalgadh fort and Pavankhind the historic circuit was complete.

Kolhapur Trip – Day 2

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01-Oct-2017:  Woke up in the morning feeling fresh. One of the things I enjoy being here at Satara is the great views we get from our house of Ajinkyatara fort and Yevteshwar hill. We had our tea and then M also dropped by so we had a nice chat. We then got ready and packed our stuff. We were leaving Satara today and going to Kolhapur. We first headed out to have breakfast at one of our fav eating joint; Supnekar. We had their famous pattice, dahi misal and then tea. Before leaving we also had to drop in at few of our acquaintance places, where we filled our tummies even more :).

We were not really hungry, but decided to have some light food before leaving. So we headed onto the Yevteshwar hill to one of our regular hotel Prakruti ayurvdedic restaurant. Our plan was also to see if we can go to valley of flowers if possible which was not far from this place and would be in full boom this time of the year. But as we reached closer to the tunnel, we saw some chaos and vehicles turning around. We learned that there had been a landslide on the Yevteshwar hill and authorities had closed down the road, which was quite sad ;(. Not good start to the day!

So we decided to go to our good old Ajinkya hotel. We had quick lunch their and then were on en route to Kolhapur. Kolhapur is around 125 kms and 2 hours away. The highway from Satara to Kolhapur narrows down a bit here to 4 lanes but as traffic is light and the roads really nice its pleasant to drive/pass on this section. We did not stop on the way and reached the city around 5:00 pm. After some deliberations we booked a hotel which was bit farther from the city center, but was nice.  We unloaded our stuff there, freshened up and took some rest. We then left to take darshan at Shree Mahalakshmi temple around 6:15 pm.

Kolhapur is city which I really like. It has an old world charm and also has a unique culture and identity. The famous misal, the chappal, dialect, Shree Mahalakshmi temple, rankala lake etc makes you come back to this city again and again. I have so many memories of this wonderful city from my childhood day, when we used to visit this place every other year. In those days we used to have few relatives staying here and we spent some nice time with them, eating at many nice hotels here and calling the day at Rankala lake. In those days Shree Mahalakshmi temple used to have less crowd and you could get darshan immediately.

As these thoughts were running in my head, we reached the temple and we parked in the near by parking lot and entered the complex through the big gate. This complex is really nice and one is awestruck after seeing the architecture of the temple. The temple stands on many big pillars, which have been elaborately sculpted with many motifs and scenes. The temple is very old and you are transported back in time. The crowd was thin that day and so we had a quick and nice darshan. After taking the prasad laddu, we were to go for dinner, but before that we deiced to shop around a bit.

Baba wanted to buy some books at an exhibition center which was just outside the gate from where we had entered and we wanted to buy the famous Kolhapuri chappal and all which was at other end of the temple, just opposite the Vidyapeeth school. There were many small shops around there and I found a nice pair of chappal for Ar. As we were about to leave it started raining. So we decided to remain there under the shade of the shop for it to clear. But then in 5 mins it stared raining cats and dogs and we were really stuck. The distance from where we were was not very far from where Baba was, but we would have got completely drenched if we would have venture outside, such was the heavy pounding. We tried contacting Baba, to check if he can ask the driver to pick him up and then do a the outer loop of the complex and come pick us up. The road in front of us was quite wide and there was enough parking space as well. We waited with anticipation, but time passed by, they were nowhere to be seen. They finally arrived after more than 40 -45 mins, clearing the maze of one way roads and the heavy pounding of water. We quickly got in and headed out.

We were not sure where to go for dinner. Baba had seen this ad of Khavayya Dinning hall somewhere, so we decided to at least check out the place. This place was in a residential section of the city and so when we reached there we were not sure what to make of it, though it looked quite nice from outside. The restaurant has a nice ambiance and the food was also quite good. It has Gujrati/Rajesthani type of thali and the chaas was really nice. It was fairly crowded and we had some nice time there. We would have been one of the last customers to leave, it was quite late and we headed back to our hotel. It was still raining, though it was more of a drizzle now. We were back at the hotel room at around 10:30 pm. I was quite tired, but had to do one more thing, which was to book my tickets back to US. Once done, I had some TV time and went to bed.

 

India Trip – Satara & our village – Day 1

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30-Sep-2017: I was in India for few weeks and was quite busy with some personal stuff. But we wanted to go for a couple of days of outing. Earlier plan was to go out for 2 days, i.e. 30th September and 1st October, but at the last moment we added Kolhapur to make it 3 day outing. Baba booked the car for 3 days and as we were travelling light, the bags were packed in no time. On 30th morning we started at 7:30 am, which was within the time range we had decided. Today’s plan was to first go to Satara, drop Aai at M’s place and then head towards our village, then go to Gondavale, be back to Satara, pick Aai and head towards Kolhapur for layover. It was an ambitious plan, which was workable though, but things took turns and we flowed with it.

The route was our familiar and dear Satara super highway. But the road condition is pretty bad especially from Pune till start of Khambatki ghat section. The expansion of this highway has been going on for long time and so the roads keep winding from wide to narrow to wide again. Also some flyovers are under construction and so there are many diversions en route. In short the driving or passing through this section is no longer a pleasant experience. Due to road conditions we were making slow progress and our first stop over was Sri Ram vadewale to have our favorite vada. But as we parked and got in, the place was overflowing with people and there was no place to sit or even stand. There was a long queue at the token counter. Looking at all this I suggested to skip this and to go to someplace else. Another eating joint which we try sometimes on this route is a misal joint, just after old Khambatki toll naka (I keep forgetting the name), so we headed there.

As we pulled up near the entrance, observed that this was also fairly crowded (should be avoiding the weekends 😦 ), but we were able to get a seat and so we decided to have breakfast here only. We had nice misal, I and Aai trying the dahi one. We had tea also which was OK and with our tummies full we headed out. One thing I remember from our stopover there was seeing some kittens playing by the roadside just outside the joint and  Arya coming to my thoughts immediately, how she would have liked being there. I think I sent here couple of pics or videos of those young feline playing 🙂

Next we started ascending the Khambatki ghat section which has become 3 lane now and the roads are also nice. I remember getting holed up here many times due to narrow roads and limited turning space causing traffic snarls. The expansion seems to have eased that a bit. From here on the our journey was nice and fast. We reached our first stop over at 9:30 am, which was Udtar. We straightway went to the Shankar temple and took darshan and then left for Satara City. We reached Satara by around 10:00 am and went to M’s place. We dropped Aai there, had only water and left immediately. Our next stop was our village.

Our village is on Pandharpur road, around 10-12 kms from Satara city. Its a nice place and I have many sweet memories of it since my childhood days. I always consider it to be one of the ideal village to spend some time in as it is quite close to town/city still removed from it and which in its expanse has a river, hills, train station and tracks not to forget farms and nice houses. Also the approach road to the village, especially the last few kms are really beautiful, with road lined with old big Banyan trees! We reached our village at around 11:00 am and took darshan and then went to visit few of our acquaintance, who drowned us in Sarbat 😉 .

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River Vasana passes through our village and over eternity it has created a small beda ghat like section at our village. Basically the river water over lakhs of years has been cutting through the hills/rocks and has created a impressive gorge, which is a sight to behold. We spent some time there and also went to the other side of the river which has a hillock and on its top there’s a temple. We used to visit this place once in a while during our childhood vacations though in those days there was no bridge to reach there and you had to spiral up the small slippery pathway holding on to cliff end and other side being the valley and the river, all the time holding on to our breath. It was an adventure in itself!

It was almost 1:00 pm when we left and we were running bit late were bit tired as well. But as we had so much more to do for today we kept going. We decided to have lunch at our next stop Gondavale which around 50- 60 kms from here and would take us around 1.5 hour to reach. Meanwhile we decided to postpone going to Kolhapur for next day as it was getting quite hectic and we were literally running behind time.

I had been to place long long time ago that I hardly have any memory of it. The roads are nice and as you go further away from urban jungle to country side it is really refreshing. We reached Gondavale around 2:15 pm and took darshan. The place is really nice and serene. After spending some time inside the complex, we decided to scout for Hotel to have lunch. We were highly recommended to go to Hotel V, so we headed there which was near by only. We ordered meduvada and dosa. First the dosa came which was half burnt and then the meduvada which looked at least 2 days old. When we told the waiter about the dosa he said that’s the way it needs to be 😡 . We were so angry and left without eating much. There was no other place to have lunch and so we decided to go to hotel once we reach Satara. We were quite hungry, but didn’t had much option.

We reached Satara around 5:00 pm and had lunch 😉 at one of our commonly visited place of Ajinkayatara Hotel. We had some south Indian fare and some refreshments. We were fairly tired by the time we reached home around 6:00 pm. Aai had already arrived there and had it setup. We just decided to take rest. Finally after couple of hours somehow we managed to move and went out for dinner at one of our other regular joint Amrapali. This is a nice place near moti chowk. We had soup, paneer and one mix veg which was nice. Once back we were too tired and just picked the bed and went to sleep.

 

Bay Area Trip – Day 4

20-Mar-2016:  Today we were heading back home. We had some morning engagements and also were planning to reach before sunset to LA, so we woke up early. Had quick break fast and decided to move. We had already packed out luggage yesterday night and so we loaded the car and were ready to go to our next stop which was in bay area only, but before that we had someplace to go. Where else, but to Apple’s office :).

Coming to Cupertino and not visiting the iconic place would be a shame! P was kind enough to take us there, which was close to her place. In no time we were on the iconic Infinity loop road and I was so excited to be here. There were hardly anyone around so early on Sunday morning. We parked and had a walk around. The place was closed and so we did not get much to see, but we were just as happy being next to the iconic Apple logo and being able to drive and be on the Infinity loop!

As there was nothing much to do, we left in some time. We dropped P at her home, bade here good bye and were on our way to Pr’s place, which was in some new neighborhood up north. We reached in 20- 25 mins and were pleased to meet Pr and his family. One thing which caught our attention and we liked was this new apartment complex which had a different design with lot of colors, basically it had a character of its own. Otherwise most places here have quite monotonous designs. We spent some time, had another round of breakfast 😉 which was more of a brunch and went around the community. Ar had some nice time playing with their little one. We also went on the terrace, which had some nice views. We were running bit late and decided to leave. It was already close to 11:00 am.

As we were about to leave the GPS developed a snag and my phone was also not working properly, so basically we were stuck. You get so used to GPS here that you loose the knack of finding your way out on your own. Also as the traffic rules are strict and due to minimum speed limits and all it is quite easy to loose your way without help. But thankfully the GPS cranked up again, asked us where to go, Home being our response, we were on our way.

The weather was nice, traffic light and we were cruising along. Then GPS took us on a detour, which was a a single lane road and so we were kind of cursing it for having brought us here, but later we were glad it did. We were moving through the country side and it was so nice; with rolling hills, nice farms and quite and slow life. This place in a way reminded us of Indian country side. On the way there were many farms having setup counters selling fresh farm produce and eventually we couldn’t resists and took a stop over. We bought some strawberries and other stuff. We were getting late now and we decided to not take any more stop overs for few hours at least. In some time we finally hit the I-5 freeway and this was the road which was going to be with us till our home.

It was a long drive home and I-5 can be boringly long as the drive down this freeway is quite monotonous. Ar was already asleep and G was dozing once a while. Till we were in bay area we had nice time listening to couple of Hindi radio stations, but as we moved ahead, those were not available and we were back listening to same repeat songs on USB or the English hits on the radio which by this time of the trip we had grown bored off.

But no worries, we were cruising along, traffic being thin, even though the I-5 section here is narrow, with only 4 lanes. We would have driven for 2-3 hours and then decided to take a break at a Taco Bell joint. We and car both needed rest! We still had enough gas so that was not a priority for now. We refreshed, had our lunch and strolled a bit. It was bit hot here and so we moved back into the car and were again on our way. We hoped to go all the way now or max take one stop for gas. We were on the same old road, with same old songs, Ar and G dozing, but I still enjoying the drive.

We were making nice progress. But as we closed on LA, the traffic began to increase. The gas level looked fine, but I had not wanted to take a chance, so before LA got it filled. Then as we were close to Santa Ana, hoping we would be back home safe and fine in half an hour, we were hit by a car from behind. Thankfully everyone were fine, but there were some damage to the car. Still can’t come up to remember and describe the event more, but we reached home late than expected and a nice and eventful trip came to an end, but not as we would have liked!

Bay Area Trip – Day 3

19-Mar-2016: Today was going to be a slow day. Woke up late and did the daily chores. Then had a hearty breakfast. First time had the oats upma, which was surprisingly nice. Yash was going back today as she had some pre planned work. We were asking her to wait a day and leave with us tomorrow as we would have dropped her to the university campus on our way home, but she wanted to leave early. So P went to drop her to their friend’s place who were car pooling and meanwhile we just passed time watching some TV.

As we had more time to kill, we decided to go around the community. It’s difficult to describe but bay area has it charm and its so closely associated with the industry we are part of and in a way you relate to this area more due to the stories and books we have heard and read about on the legends of the computer industry who grew up and went on to do fascinating things used to/do stay here. The community was bit old but nice and first time we saw small kids playing outside with so many of their friends which is not a common site in US.

When P was back we had our lunch and decided to head out. There were no specific plans, we were first going to visit a temple in the afternoon and then go to bay shore area in the evening. The temple was Shiva temple situated in an area called Livermore and was located on the East shore,  we being at South shore of bay area. So we had a nice drive around the shoreline. The shoreline itself is average as at many places it is more of a creek, but we got a good opportunity to see the Silicon valley. Campus after campus passed us by of the famous IT companies, whose products we had grown up using and admiring. I had been in this area before, but today got the opportunity to see it with lot of time in our hand.

So the place we were going was around 1.5 hrs drive away. After skirting the shoreline , we took an exit to I -580. The drive from here to the temple is pure bliss. The whole country side is dotted with beautiful rolling hills, some lush green, and CA currently passing through a long phase of drought, it was not in full bloom. We could imagine how it would be during spring and all, but it is one of the best places I have ever been too.  There were some nice farms on the way and some hills had solitary house on the top. A picturesque view. We reached the temple and took darshan. Then on the way we stopped at a lake, which was quite nice, surrounded by a nice little garden. We had some snacks, went round the lake and also spotted many ducks in it. Ar had nice time running behind some who used to once in often come in the park area. What a nice place, I would love to come here for walk everyday.

From there we headed back. One stopover which I had in my mind was Google campus. I had been here, but wanted G and Ar to see it. P who had been leaving here since long time had never been here which we couldn’t believe. So we arrived at their Mountain view office, parked and went inside. At the gate itself you are greeted by the Android mascot. Then as you venture in you see the famous Google building, their visit area and canteen. They also have a cycle stand, with good options and you can pick your choice and go around the campus. So we picked one, I and G got on one after ages and we had nice time riding it. Ar was given the ride by P and she had a good one. The time was running so slow and we could have been there for a long long time :).

After a while we decided to head to the shoreline. The traffic had started building now and at some places it was bumper to bumper. The shoreline is place where the freshwater lake meets the shore and there is a nice park maintained around it which is close to the Googles office. We strolled a while in the park and along the shore. Ar was more interested in playing in sand. This was quite a busy place, with many families on stroll or playing etc. Then we all sat on the bench along the shore and saw the sun going down the horizon.  Today was the laid-back day of the whole trip and we still enjoyed it a lot. We headed home from there and were bit disappointed as a wonderful trip was coming to an end. We had our dinner at P’s home only and then saw TV for some time, chatted a while and went to bed. Tomorrow was again going to be a hectic and eventful day.

Bay Area Trip – Day 2

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18-Mar-2016: We woke early today. Many of the houses here are old with wooden structure and so they make lot of noise even when some one walks toe tipped on the floor 🙂 We were woken by such a screeching sounds. Today we were on our own for most of the day as the other guys were going to office. They made oats upma for breakfast and then left for the office. We also got ready and left the house at 10:00 am. We were planning to see some silicon valley companies and go for SFO sightseeing. So first we went to Facebook headquarters. We thought they would have visitors area, but were told that only the traffic island with the big like sign is accessible for visitors. So we liked the real Like sign ! and moved on.

Our next stop was San Francisco city. The route is you take I-280 up north and then head towards I-101, which eventually crosses the bay through the iconic Golden gate bridge. The weather was nice and clear though bit cold. We faced some traffic on I-280. To get onto I-101 we took the wrong exit and had to do lot of roundabout in one area. Somehow we got on the right track. On the way, you cruise along the San Francisco bay with nice views. As we entered the city limits the road narrowed and there was some traffic. In some time there it was in front of us the Golden Gate bridge. Now, I have been here, but not when I was behind the wheels. So it was a nice and memorable experience to drive on this iconic structure. This area is always windy and air chilly. On the other side of the bridge is the Golden Gate Park, with a vista point. We parked there and had a good look of the GG with the sun sparkled golden water in the background.

We were still deliberating on the best way to see SFO city. I was not much enthused to go into the city and park there as I knew from earlier experience the roads and traffic of the city. Not only many of the roads are narrow, but as the city is situated on a hill, its a roller coaster ride :). Some of the roads have gradient of 70º. Right then we spotted a tourist bus which was parked on the vista point. We could not see any sales counter for it on the pavement, but decided to check with the bus driver, if there are any city tours which we can catch from where we were. He said no tours start from here and he is in the middle of his tour, but if you guys want, you can hop on my bus and I will charge you less. After some bargaining, we agreed upon a price and we hopped on our lucky break.

The bus was open air double decker bus and we were lucky to find a place on the top deck. The bus went through the hill loop and tunnel on its way to cross over the Golden gate. The air was very chilly and we were rethinking our decision to sit on the top deck :). The Golden Gate bridge, the harbor and the experience of crossing it is surreal. We were now in the city and the bus guide was showing us some important landmarks like the Alcatraz island (yeah, The Rock movie one !) etc. Then the bus was back at its starting point which is at the fisherman’s wharf. The driver asked us to un-board and be back in an 1 hour when he would be back from his next tour, so that he can show us the remaining spots and drop us back to vista point. We pushed our luck and asked about his last tour which we can take, allowing us more time to explore the city. He reluctantly agreed, to pick us on his last tour, but instructed us to only board his bus.

Now there are many places to explore, but we didn’t had much time as we had some other things lined up back at our place. One thing we did not wanted to miss was the cable train ride. This is an iconic ride which one has to do. I had done this before and G and Ar were also excited to go for it. So we first inquired about it and learnt that there was some time for next ride, so we decided to have some lunch. Unfortunately we could not find any good veg options around, so ended up having some stuff we had carried with us.

Then we decided to head towards the starting station of the cable train, which was couple of blocks away. We got the tickets, but there was a long queue to board it and we were worried we may miss this as we had a hard stop at 3:00 pm, when we had to board our last bus back to our parking spot. This cable train is mechanical and runs completely on leavers. The junction is also quite unique, in which the arriving car has to be manually reversed for the next journey. Finally our wait was over and luckily we got into it, but we had to stand, which was sad as we did not get a clear view. But the ride was fun nevertheless, the train shares the track with road traffic and due to its mechanical levers and the SFO roads which have huge slops and sharp turns its like a roller coaster ride. We got off before our stop as we were not sure if we would be back in time and went to the other side to catch the return train. Few trains passed us but they were all full and they didn’t stop. We had to take a cab back to our bus stop as it was getting very late. So we could not enjoy the cable train completely.

So we were back in time to catch the bus back to parking. We saw few places en-route and after crossing the Golden gate bridge were back to vista point. Thanks to this tour driver we could explore the city a bit and we were back on our way to I-101 again crossing the bridge,  which Ar had started liking and even remembers it now also. The traffic was building up and by the time we hit I-280, the Friday silicon valley traffic made our progress really slow. We reached Sunnyvale around 5:00 pm and were quite hungry, so we decided to have some pizza. We were thinking of Pizza Hut or Dominoes, but couldn’t find any in the locality and so had to settle for some local pizza chain. We ordered a veg pizza and some sides and the food was average at the best. Just then we got the call that our friends have arrived back home and so headed there. After having tea and freshening up we were on the move again.

Tai and Yash had come early. After they refreshed we went for the drive. We went over San Hose downtown which was nice. We then went to Santana Row, which is one of the upmarket areas there. We parked and had a stroll in the area. The area has a nice vibe to it and we soaked it in. We went to Tesla showroom and had a look into their latest models and even sat in one, which was my first time. What a car , what an engineering!  There are many community activity areas there and one of them has a big chess board and has kind of life size pieces. Ar went straight for the king ;).

Then we drove back to Sunnyvale and had dinner at a south Indian place. The place had nice ambiance and we had dosa and idli vada which was quite nice. We spent time chatting as we were meeting after a long time. It was almost 9:30 pm and were quite tired. After reaching home we retired to bed immediately.