100 Happy Days: Day 81

Here is the last day travelogue of the CA trip and writing this series made me go back ans look at all the pictures which I can count as my happy moment for the day too โ˜บ

Day 8: Napa Valley and back home
The last day, Saturday we had kept free to spend with hubby’s cousin R and his wife D while they planned to take us to Napa Valley. As our flight was at night around 9:30pm and their home was just a 20mins drive to the airport, they said we could easily do the tour.

Cousin R drove us to The Castle for the wine tasting tour. A good tour at the end of which we got to try 6 different types of wines. Since D had to work, we were 3 adults so the tour guide gave us a good idea of choosing different wines in each category so we could all try different wines. Sam, along with other kids was occupied with paper and crayons. The tour was a good 2hrs after which we drove to find lunch. After a quick indian lunch we drove back so we could spend the evening with D too. I also had plans to meet an uncle of mine but unfortunately the time was so short that we had to skip meeting him. He called a couple of times but we were returning late from NAPA after which there was hardly time to go out again anywhere ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Well…next time maybe. We reached home by 6pm, had coffee,ate home cooked meal again (call it gluttony) and chatted and packed and left by 8pm to the airport. We had to return the rental car too. Only after reaching the rental car place hubby realized we had forgotten to fill fuel and we had to do it! It was 8:20 by then and we rushed to find a gas station. Thankfully the Saturday evening had not much traffic so we managed to fill fuel, return rental car and reach the security by 9pm. Phew! We always have some last minute stress like this – without which the trip is incomplete! Again the flight was delayed by nearly an hour so by the time we landed in Chicago it was 5am. A good time to call Uber and reach home in time for breakfast.

A memorable trip which had all the best ingredients – meeting friends, family, home stays, nature, city tours,wine and lots of good food.

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Barrels of wine
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100 Happy Days: Day 79 and CA Trip day 7

Woohooo! Another year of blogathon done! ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘ Good job to everyone who participated.

Though year after year, I fear my posts are loosing the substance and I have been cribbing about it everytime. So, to make it better, maybe I will start putting up drafts here everytime I get a good thought? Hmm…food for thought 

That said, my happy moment of the day is, after thinking, procastinating and cribbing about the lost card, I finally reapplied again today. Like my Dad always says “An attempt can be a failure, but there should never be failure of attempt“. For that reason alone, this step has been taken.

Day 7: San Francisco

It was a Friday and the cousins were quite relaxed about getting to work, so we decided to take it easy too. It was also our anniversary, so my cousin B had got cupcakes for us. We did a small cake cutting and after they left to work at about 8am we got ready and started the hour long drive to SFO. There wasn’t much we wanted to see – husband and I had seen the place before and we wanted to show Sam around. We drove and walked along the ‘crooked’ Lombard street which the boy thoroughly enjoyed – his Dad is the ‘best driver in the world’ ๐Ÿ˜› and then went to the Pier. Cousin D (who just had a baby on the 25th:-D) had told us about this amazing place from crepes. We did not bother to check any other place and went directly there. Stuffed ourselves with yummy crepes, Sam went on the carousel ride and we walked along the SFO market and pier all the way to Ghirardelli Square. I was the kid in the chocolate shop ๐Ÿ˜€ Bought all the new varieties for us and for the cousins too. Sam saw how chocolate is made and then we had the double fudge sundae (ofcourse!) before we called Uber to take us back to the Pier. We wanted to drive on the Golden Gate bridge to the other side as we did not have time to walk on it. Sam enjoyed getting down at the other end to extreme winds ( Catch me, Amma! I am going to fly away otherwise :-D) and then drove back to Land’s End to get a good view of the bridge. We were supposed to meet both the cousin couples at this restaurant in Mountain View for our anniversary treat dinner at 7pm. Unfortunately, cousin D got work and we only met my cousin B and her husband. That night and the next day, Saturday was supposed to be spent with hubby’s cousin R, his wife D at their home in San Jose. We packed dinner for them and reached home by 10pm. They had also ordered cake for our anniversary – 12 years and we got to cut 2 cakes! hehehe. If only life was as easy as cutting cakes! Again a late night chatting session and we were all tired enough to sleep by midnight. Cousin R warned us that we had to get ready and be out of the house by 9:30am if we were to get to the NAPA valley wine tour he had booked for 12pm.

 

100 Happy Days: Day 78/31

My happy moment of the day- Since yesterday I have been having a very bad headache and even though I slept early, I didn’t wake up in a good mood. For the last 1 month, Sam and I have been playing old hindi songs while he gets ready for school and we have both realized that it helps control our morning stress. Meaning lesser arguements. But today, I am feeling the difference. I knew I had a frown on my face but now after listening to some old favourites (wasn’t that luck that the radio played lovely romantic songs?) I am feeling much better. Music definitely is healing! 

Days 5 & 6: Yosemite National Park  

This was a dream of mine for the last 10 years. I always wanted to see this place. I wanted to see if this lives up to the American hype too. I really do not have words to describe the nature here! This country has abundant beautiful nature and they know how to make it accessible to the people too. No matter what adjectives I use, I am sure words fall short for this post.

By the time we drove from San Jose to Yosemite it was nearly 11 am. We first decided to see the far places by car like the Hetch Hetchy reservoir. We got really lucky that we even saw a black bear (which is actually brown) too! It crossed the road right in front of us and hid behind a rock when we stopped to see. It waited until we moved again and then it went on its way. I was too scared to open the car window and take a picture though!

We spent nearly an hour near Hetch Hetchy and then got back to the camp grounds where we had home packed good lunch. We then began our drive around the park on our way to the Majestic Hotel for our 1 night stay. While I did my research, I realized  2 things: We had to stay inside the park to maximize our limited time at the park and I did not want to stay at any camp sites – so we paid the price and told each other that this was our anniversary treat to ourselves. On the way, we saw the Bridal Veil falls which was in full flow. We took a small trek to the bottom of the falls just so we could get wet ๐Ÿ™‚ We stopped at a couple of scenic spots and reached the hotel by 6pm. We had already booked breakfast but we were told that we had to also book for dinner otherwise it will not be available. We took the 8pm dinner time and checked in. The minute Sam saw that there was an outdoor pool he was all excited to go swim. That activity done and a shower later we went for dinner. Sadly, I have to say it was a disaster. I don’t remember what Sam and hubby ordered but I ordered veggie pasta with no mushrooms. Unfortunately it came with mushrooms, so I couldn’t eat it. The very apologetic waitress took it back saying she will get me fresh one which took forever. By that time, I filled my stomach with salad and bread and Sam was so tired that he just put his head on the table and slept. So my food was boxed to take back to the room. Thankfully I did not eat it then.

The next morning, our breakfast was supposed to be at 10am so I decided to heat the boxed pasta so we could all eat a bite before we went to see the Lower Yosemite falls which was very close to the hotel and we knew we could be back before breakfast. As soon as I opened it I saw it had bits of meat in it! What a total waste of food! Only thing is when we showed the bits of bacon, they did not charge for my food ๐Ÿ˜ฆ  The breakfast was good though, hearty and full with coffee giving us enough energy to last the day until we drove back to San Jose. We had finished the Lower Yosemite falls before breakfast, so we drove to Glacier point. Unfortunately we were stopped as no private vehicles could go at that time because of the snow and ice still at the top. We did not realize we were so late as the parking lot was full to even take the park’s vehicle to the top. We decided to drop that and drove to Vernal Falls trek. On the way we saw the tunnel overlook and Half Dome (hard to miss!). We realized we were too late for any major hikes as there was absolutely no parking space anywhere! A good 2miles walk/hike later we reached the footbridge at the base of the  Vernal fall. By this time it was nearly 1.30 pm and we knew we did not have much time. We got back to the base, stopped at the river and then decided to drive to Tuolumne Grove for the gaint Sequoia trees. Unfortunately for us the popular Mariposa grove was closed for restoration. The Tuolumne grove is a much steeper hike and lesser people visit the grove. By the time we reached the grove it was nearly 4pm and it looked like rain. But I did not want to go back without seeing the Sequoia trees. We decided to hike until we found atleast 1 of them. The grove is so thick with tall trees that it felt like it would get dark in no time. So we hurried to the grove from where we could hear some voices. Hubby picked up a thick stick as there was fear of bears too. Only once we saw the size of those trees did we realize why the trees are such a big deal! They are so thick and broad and we look like tiny ants next to their trunks. We trekked back (which was tougher as it was a 1 mile, 500ft elevation climb up) and were back at the car by 5:40pm. We then started the drive back to San Jose with the clouds giving way to beautiful, double rainbows – a fitting way to end this nature adventure. We reached home by 10pm happy and tired.

Am I satisfied with Yosemite – No! I really want to go again and spend more time at the park and visit the places we missed. But I am happy that we managed to see the key places and attractions of the place however.

One really good advantage for us was that it was spring and all the waterfalls were full from the ice melts. Every one of them was a beauty and worth every hike we did. Just getting wet under that cool mist felt wonderful.

I have tried hard to choose only 10 pictures ๐Ÿ™‚

Blogathon 2018: Day 29

CA Trip Day 3: Pacific Scenic Highway – 17 mile drive

We were told not to start early on Monday morning to avoid the LA traffic. We chose to wake up early, spend sometime with the kids before they left and then had a good breakfast. We decided to start by 10am. I had been checking this route and there had been land slides along this route and the route was closed near the cliffs – the Pfeiffer national park, beach, Big Sur were all sadly closed. Husband still wanted to see the Long Branch beach and Santa Barbara beaches so there we went. We stopped in Santa Barbara at the Promenade and had sandwiches for lunch. On the way I got a call from the whale watching company with whom I had booked the tour to say that our tour was cancelled for 1pm and our only alternative was the 9am tour. We did not want to miss the opportunity so we said yes and then decided to finish the 17mile drive that evening itself. One thing about California is – don’t believe the weather – at all! Even at 12 noon there was fog on the Santa Barbara beach. In San Diego we got rain and humidity and in the mornings and evenings after sunset, it does get cold enough for a jacket even in June. Since the highway was closed after that, we chose to get back to I-5 to get to Monterrey sooner. A good decision since we did reach Monterrey by 5pm. Sam wanted to eat in an Indian restaurant – he wanted his paneer fix! The nearest Indian was in Carmel and we chose to see the sunset along the 17 mile drive. Best decision we made. It was b.e.a.u.t.i.f.u.l. to say the least. We thought the water of the pacific ocean will be warm but oh my God! It was freezing! I have no idea how the surfers brave that cold water! brrrr. We watched the sunset on the Carmel beach and then headed to the Indian restaurant for dinner. Back in the hotel by 8:30pm and decided to sleep as we had to go Whale Watching at 9am the next day.

Blogathon 2018: Day 28-CA tripย 

Days 1 and 2: San Diego

Let me get back to putting the details of the California trip that we did in June 2017. Though I’m not sure if I remember all the details (good for you readers ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) I do want it here for posterity.

We took a flight on a friday evening from Chicago to LA. Like I have mentioned before, all our trips need to have small hiccups else they will not be completed. On this one, the flight got delayed by an hour and by the time we landed in LA it was past 10:30pm. From the airport we took a bus to the car rental which looked like all of LA was waiting for cars! It took us a good hour and half in the queue to get our car and then we drove another hour to our friends’ home in Irvine. We reached home only past midnight and though the kids had slept (ofcourse!) the couple were awake to make sure we had a good dinner before we hit the bed.

The next morning after a nice breakfast we left for San Diego Sea World. I thought this place was just like a big aquarium and had no idea that it had rides as well. (Which is why I always prefer to do my research in advance) We saw the famous Orka shows and the dolphin shows after which Sam was only interested in doing the rides. Hubby and I were very interested to see the travellator that takes us inside the tunnel to see the sharks but after going there we realized that its just a small aquarium and it hardly takes a minute to see it. In one word-disappointing, did not live up to the hype. We got everything done by the time the place closed at 5pm. We then went to La Jolla (pronounced La hoya) where we had booked a room for 1 night. A hearty dinner later we had a good night’s sleep and were all set for Lego Land on Day 2.

After Disney, one lesson learnt is that if we reach these places by their opening time, the crowds are lesser and we get enough time to do most rides. So, we were there by 9am. I thought that Sam would be bored of rides (what was I thinking?! duh!) but he refused to let go of ANY ride! He loved that he could drive the cars himself and even got a ‘license’ there. THAT was when we realized that hubby didn’t have his wallet with him. We thought and we thought and didn’t know where it could have fallen. It was terrifying. He ran back to the car while I stayed with Sam. Thankfully after a frantic 30mins and searching he found it fallen between the seat and the door. After that the day went pretty fast. It was not too sunny or hot, a good weather to walk around and we managed to do most rides. Sam chose not to do some ‘kiddy rides’ so we could wrap up by 5.00pm. We wanted to drive back to Irvine and spend a few hours with our friends who have been friends for the past 10years. Since our days in Columbus,OH. Thankfully there was not much traffic and we could be home by 7pm giving Sam and their son an hour to play. Their cutie 4yr old daughter who I call Gombe (doll) chose to sit with us and entertain us with her conversation. We were meeting after nearly 3 years but the charm of old time friends is that there is no dearth of conversation or awkwardness – we just pick up where we left off. The kids were made to sleep as it was a school night for them but we chatted until midnight before we forced ourselves to sleep.

The next morning was our most important drive – the pacific coastal highway.

 

 

Blogathon 2018: Day 30

CA Trip Day 4: Whale Watching and Carmel

The next morning after a light breakfast we drove to the Monterrey Bay Wharf from where our whale watching tour started. I little flash back here ๐Ÿ™‚ I had decided to wear a down jacket on this trip and keep a good jacket for Sam too. But husband teased me and said people will laugh at us with the jackets in June in CA so he made me drop the jackets.

Now, at 9am in the morning, at the wharf where there was so much fog the temperature was in single digits! We HAD to buy new warm jackets despite wearing sweaters. Duh! Now you know what happens when I listen to my husband (hehehe). We ran and bought new fleece jackets and then onward to the boat. Since it was so foggy, we were taken quite a distance before we could spot 2 Orka whales together hunting for fish. A little further inside and after about an hour we saw a HUGE blue whale. Its size! and the water it spouts goes higher than the boat itself! We never realized when it went from under us but 10 mins later we saw it on the other side! It was definitely an experience. Unfortunately, since the weather was foggy the water was choppy and the husband got sea sick. Though Sam and I also felt uneasy we didn’t throw up atleast. But on the way back I urged Sam to sleep and take a nap so it will help settle his stomach. While he slept on the way back to land, we also saw a group of Dolphins to end a good tour. By 12 we were back on land and hungry. I checked for good restaurants near us and figured that the best ones were in Carmel-by-the-sea. A 15mins drive and we reached this little town with 1 main street filled with tourists, artists, antique shops, plenty of galleries – just a lot of life. We found a good Greek restaurant with live music and indulged ourselves to delicious food. One good practice we have is that Sam eats whatever we eat – no kiddy meals for him. So, we generally order and share everything and that meal – we cleaned the plates! We then did another drive along the pacific coastal highway to see the Bisby bridge until the road closure started. Back to Carmel and a cup of Starbucks coffee later (we needed the rest room, see) we started by 4pm on a 2 hr drive to my cousin’s home in San Jose. Sam wanted some comfort food – uppu thuppa anna! (rice with  bit of salt and ghee) which was gobbled up and he slept early giving us adults some time to catch up. While they had work the next day we had to leave sooner for the 4hr drive to Yosemite (the whole reason for this trip).

Blogathon Day 25: The California Trip

Looks like every blogathon of mine has to have a travelogue of where we had been the previous year. Sticking to that tradition ๐Ÿ˜› and the fact that I have not put the memories here is prompting me to put up the details now.

June is our anniversary and we always try and get away on a vacation as much as possible. Since December 2016 saw us on a week long Disney trip, I had not given much thought about the June trip. However, I had the Arches national park and Yellowstone on my mind. As always, its me who plans the vacations and I began to look for places to stay and flight tickets first to these places only in May. Which, I realized later, was foolish. People book these accommodations an year in advance and here I was looking when there was less than 30days. Also the flight tickets were way beyondย  budget. We were getting cheaper flights to California instead. Also, the lure of California was family ๐Ÿ™‚ Both husband and I have cousins living near San Jose so, we could take advantage of their hospitality ๐Ÿ˜› We decided, if we get a night stay inside the Yosemite National Park we will go. If not Yellowstone, Yosemite it is! I was not getting any availability online, so I asked hubby to just call the call centre once. We were lucky! We got a 1 night at a cottage at the resort for a wednesday night. Apparently someone had just cancelled. Yippee! We paid a hefty fee but it was worth it – we hadn’t thought we would get it.

Once that date was fixed, I planned the rest of the week – We had to do the Pacific Coastal scenic driveย which is supposed to be the No.1 scenic routes in America. I also wanted to take Sam to San Diego water world and while talking to cousin D she said there was also a Lego Land there. Which worked out for us. We started on a friday evening, reached LA late night and stayed with friends. The next 2 days was all for Sam – water world and Lego Land. All day monday was driving from San Diego to Monterrey – 8hrs on scenic highway. Whale watching the next day and the 17mile drive to Carmel-by-the-sea and night at my cousin’s place in San Jose. Next 2 days in Yosemite and then 1 day for SFO –ย  Ghirardelli mostly ๐Ÿ˜€ We had booked tickets for Saturday night and hubby’s cousin said we had time for the NAPA valley wine tasting tour which was an added bonus.

It looks like we were running all the time, but to be honest, we had plenty of time to rest and relax too. Spending time with friends and cousins was an additional incentive to do all that driving. Sam did get a bit bored, but the boy doesn’t crib much during vacations. He is now used to taking these long drives in his stride. Daily details in upcoming posts – so be warned! You might want to miss the next few posts ๐Ÿ™‚

 

 

100 Happy Days: Day 53

Any day is always good when its a holiday and if its spent in good company it gets even better. The converstions never end, but we also managed to go to the ski area so the boys and S akka could do tubing while 3 ladies sipped on hot chocolate anx chatted away for nearly 3hrs. I was so bisy getting my fingers and toes frozen in sub-zero temperatures that I did not even take out my phone to click pictures. 

Now, while everyone is watching Ms. Marple I decided to come to bed with Sam and am feeling sleepy myself. 

Last day of the year tomorrow and I hope it will be equally fun filled day. 

100 Happy Days: Day 49

This is what happened today…

Rockefeller centre Christmas tree and skating rink

Bryant Park skating rink

Saks 5th Avenue decorations. They also have a snow white themed window displays and a lights show every hour

Bryant Park Christmas Village

Finally another โœ” on the never ending list. But this was on the list for as long as I remember. We just decided to brave the -3/-5deg C temperature in NYC today. Been a long, freezing,tiring day but worth it. Good night.

Day 24 – Disney trip in retrospect

Some thoughts and points on the Disney trip in retrospect. After all those lengthy posts, I am going to make this a bullet post.

  • When we planned the trip, it was a one-time affair and I wondered who would want to take a membership and take all vacations in Disney. After spending 6 days there, I now understand the lure of the place. The ‘happy, happy’ place it makes even the most grumpiest person (including the husband,he he, ;-P) smile. While I waited for the Very Merry Christmas party, I saw families around me who were visiting for the 4th time or the 5th time. I met a teenage daughter and mother from London who make an annual visit but the mom said that they had never been there at Christmas before so they planned to be there for Christmas and New Years that year before the daughter went away to college the next year
  • Like I said before, we had taken a quick meal plan which gave us 2 meals per person per day and a snack. The quantity of food that came for a meal used to be huge – more often than not we would be waddling after a meal and not ย feel hungry upto 5-6hrs. This, considering we went in search of veggie options. For those who are non-vegetarian,I guess the portion sizes are larger. So, unless your family has growing teenagers who can really eat well, or if you are vegetarians, I think it makes sense to buy food individually instead of the meal plan
  • On the positive side, what worked for us with the meal plan was that we experimented. Instead of sticking to Starbucks sandwiches or McDs or same old pizza, we went in search of veggie food options because of the meal plan. However, by the 6th day we realized we still had quite a few snack credits remaining. ย So, for that last day, I picked up chocolate chip cookies and water bottles and carried with us to the airport hence ensuring that we did not leave any credit unused
  • It helped to read up Disney related blogs -I read this one extensively: http://www.disneytouristblog.com/ ย It gave me an idea of the rides, best times for the rides, must dos, what we can skip, food options, transportation, crowds, weather and clothes too!
  • Based on the weather suggestions on this blog and checking the weather until the last day before packing, I packed hoodie for Sam and a jeans jacket for me that came in handy most evenings. Though we had to carry it with us all day long which hubby kept grumbling about but on 3 out of 6 days we did wear them. I regretted not carrying it on Day1 for Sam – because he was cold in the morning at 7am until the sun came out and after that I packed it every day. And a 50% hit rate is good according to me! Who knew it would rain and the weather would get muggy? What if it had rained and got windy? huh?
  • Having a boy has its advantages. One thing for sure that helped us get through most shows and rides – we did not have to use our fast pass or our time standing in line waiting to meet and greet the princesses. Though, I loved seeing all those pretty girls from age 3 to age 23 wearing tiaras and dressed as princesses standing in mile long queues to meet their favorite princess/fairy
  • As predicted, the camera bag became a burden at times. I have written here before how hubby and I are not too much into pictures and taking pictures on my phone is sufficient for me as memory. Just because we bought it, there were times when hubby experimented for a few minutes and then left it saying, “let me enjoy the atmosphere and take in the live show than taking all these pictures. You take what you want on the phone”. Or for some of those roller coasters, I was left holding both the heavy backpack AND the camera bag
  • I mentioned on Sam’s birthday post that I was quite disappointed with the cast members for not wishing him despite it showing up on their screens. We also had experience of some cast members who turned away their faces and continued walking, much like our Bengaluru autos, even when we said ‘excuse me’ and wanted some help
  • In contrast, I really give kudos to these characters who have to wear those suits all day long and stand and pose and act as if they are happy meeting thousands of people everyday. I wonder how hard it would be for them in peak summer! Every character we met greeted us so well, Minnie noted my Minnie Tshirt and did a little jig, Goofy and Pluto played with Sam. Donald saw Sam’s birthday Tshirt and asked if it was his birthday and made some fun of him. Chip and Dale were acting naughty.It was a joy to meet these characters
  • About the families we saw. So many teenage siblings taking care of the younger ones – both boys and girls. Feeding them, pushing their prams, helping with their princess dresses, teenage boys going on small rides for the younger sibling – it was so good to watch the families interact
  • Last but not the least – Sam enjoyed. That is the bottom line. We worried that he might not be able to relate to the rides or characters but it never bothered him. I think it was the right age – he matched all height requirements for the thrill rides, did the scary ones,dark ones and the rides meant for younger kids. He loved the anticipation of standing in line before the ride. He enjoyed the fantasy ones as much as he enjoyed the roller coasters. Every day was “the funnest day ever” and he even thanked us for taking him there. His grouse – he did not want to stop for food, he was not interested in any of the fireworks
  • I shamelessly told many cast members that it was his birthday making sure they wished him and that made him feel special. Hubby was “why are you acting like this? you never do such things” but for me, this was a milestone trip and I wanted Sam to have good memories of it, and as his mother I gave up on my ‘sharam’ and ‘haya’ and told as many people as I could so he could be wished ๐Ÿ™‚
  • Finally, a couple of tips:
    • Go with a like minded group. Kids have more fun when they have company. We tried. Asked 3-4 families but everyone had their own reasons for not making it. It worked out for us because we planned the day as we liked it but there were times when we thought that even if there was 1 more kid Sam’s age, he could’ve had maybe a little more fun. He might not have gone on every ride with his Dad – which he did this time – there are some roller coaster pics where he is almost hiding – sticking to hubby and he only once mentioned that he wished at least his friends from the apartment could be there with him.
    • Do not shop in Disney – it is true that all prices are hiked up andย you can get them all for much lesser on the Disney online site or even on Amazon
    • Finally, fastpass – make sure of what rides you want to do in advance and book them in quick succession preferably in the morning slot. Once you are done with all 3, you can block 3 more for the afternoon and so on. If you block something for much later in the night – the App will not allow you to select any more Fast passes.
    • No point in taking fastpass for any fireworks or night time spectaculars or shows. Seats are plenty so the line moves pretty quick. Only the Lion King was an exception to that rule for us-so do your research on the crowds as well.
    • Fastpass is a must if you enjoy thrill rides – more the thrill, longer the lines (Crazy people I say!).

Phew! Done. And I thought this would be a short, bullet post. Duh!