Tuesday, December 05, 2006

La Jolla Coves

Somehow each time I have ended up on La Jolla coves, I have managed to not carry my camera with me. And the pattern repeated itself when I visited the place recently with my cousin. She was in town for a couple of days and we decided to walk the beach along the coves. Only when we reached the place, did we both realize that we were missing our cameras.

However, as luck would have it, I was carrying my cellphone. Not the best of pictures, but they should give you an idea of what a clear day it was and what a glorious sunset I failed to capture on my camera.

Here are the pics.

Thats the sun setting on one side...

And the moon rising on the other side...

Monday, November 20, 2006

Sunny San Diego

View of the Coronado bridge from Coronado Island

They say the grass is always greener on the other side of the river. Probably that is why I keep travelling out of San Diego. But come winter, I am reminded each year what a bright and sunny place I live in.

Coronado Beach

We have loads of friends visiting us in winter, mostly from colder regions. And maybe for that reason it is generally quite easy to lure them to San Diego :-) The following pictures were taken by one of our friends when they visited us earlier in the year.

Golden sunset at Coronado

I was going through these pictures after a long time and realized what I would miss if I were to ever move out of this place. I have been here close to 6 years now, but this place still does not fail to amaze me every time I go out.

Kite flying is a favorite sport in San Diego

P.S. Coronado is a small "island" off San Diego. Its not really an island, since its connected to the mainland by a small stretch of land at one end and to San Diego by the Coronado Bridge. But I guess it provides such a different rhythm of life and culture than the city across the bay, that its considered an island.

And a small one at that, it is barely 8 square miles in area. It is the home to the famous Hotel Del Coronado, and some beautiful white sand beaches. What Sunit and I enjoy most, however, is walking along the waterfront marketplace right across the bay in Coronado since it provides spectacular views of the San Diego skyline. I will have to dig out some pictures of the same, but thats for a later post.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Sights and Smells of Pike Place Market

Trust Mridula to always wake me up from my slumber. :-)

Things have been hectic lately...or so is my excuse for not posting. In any case, let me finish up my Seattle account with a write-up on Pike Place market. On our last day in Seattle we visited this Farmer's market located in downtown Seattle. Our friends told us we could spend hours there, so unique is it. It has been open for almost 100 years now and is an open public market where local vendors sell their wares.

There is food and flowers, knicks and knacks, clothes, spices and jams, paintings and jewelry - you think about it and its there.

From these red-hot chilli peppers,

To the coffee shops (BTW Seattle is known as the coffee capital of US, being home to Starbucks)

To colorful flowers

To equally wonderful paintings

There was a lot to look at and explore at the Pike Place Market. We spent a good 3-4 hours here just looking around.

And as luck would have it we even ran into one of our college friends whom we met after almost 7 years. A perfect end to a wonderful trip to Seattle.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Finally the post on Butchart Gardens

I will skip all the excuses as to why it took me so long to post this and cut straight to the story since it is pretty long. It all started about 4 years ago. My roommate then, Anju, went to Victoria and came back with a souvenir gift for me - a calendar with pictures of the Butchart Gardens. It hung on my wall the next year and each month I got to see what the various sections of the garden looked like. Often I kept turning back to the picture of the sunken garden.

The Sunken Garden

So whenever Sunit asked me my dream destinations ( he regularly checks my list, since it is everchanging), the one place that re-appeared again and again (besides the English countryside) was the Butchart Gardens at Victoria.

All of my trip to Seattle, while I enjoyed all the National Parks, I kept looking forward - imagining what the gardens would be like at this time of the year. As luck would have it, our bus driver told us that the tulips were in full bloom and most of the garden was looking amazing. I was excited.

As we approached the gardens on the bus I saw a beautiful lawn with tulips in full bloom. Our driver announced as I went click - click on the camera - "This is just the experimental garden, the main garden is further up". We stepped down from the bus and eagerly walked in.

Path laden with daffodils

After I had my fill of clicking pictures of the tulips outside, we took this path laden with daffodils and found our way to the sunken garden. And our jaw dropped. To think that Jenny Butchart had started off this garden to beautify a barren limestone quarry...about 50 or so odd feet below us, it had creepers of different kinds growing on the sides, a path to the side with a couple of trees on each side and different areas where tulips were in full bloom. We took in the view and walked further.

The Ross Fountain

Most of our time was spent here, but we finally made our way to the Ross Fountain. The water rose pretty high providing a great display. We then turned around and after passing the weeping willows and a cherry blossom tree, made our way to the rose garden. The roses, however, were not in bloom, leaving us something to look forward to when we visit next.

The Weeping Willows

And the cherry blossom tree

The Japanese and Italian garden were next on our list. But on our way to the Japanese garden, we came upon a hole in the bush which provided this magnificent view of the Butchart cove, straight out of some painting.

The Butchart Cove

The tulips in the italian garden were more strong colored and seemed to go well with the flowers in the window boxes.

The Italian Garden

We spent about 4-5 hours at the gardens taking in all the many splendored sights and colourful flowers. We left only when we started to feel hungry. I looked back at the gardens as our bus left, I knew I would come back again someday.

Friday, July 21, 2006

The best is yet to come

Here's a sneak peak at my next post. Its about the Butchart Gardens we visited when in Victoria and since the place was so beautiful that atleast 2 posts be devoted to it, I thought it best to start off with a trailer.

Here are some pictures to get you interested.

The Butchart Gardens

The experimental garden - where they experiment before they plant the real garden

I have not seen more perfect tulips

Or more perfect english daisies...

But as the heading says the best is yet to be.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Mumbai Blasts and the gory images on Zee News

I generally just stick to travel accounts, but I had to write about this. I guess I got motivated when Mridula wrote about it on her blog.

The Indian Media seriously needs to reconsiders what they show - the other night when I switched to Zee News to see how things were in Mumbai (Sitting in US, that is my one source of information on India besides reading news online), I was stunned. They were actually showing dead bodies lying on the track and injured people being dragged to rescue. Even sitting this far from my country, I could not help but feel for everyone back home who were probably seeing these images continuously and how disturbing they must be for everyone. I mean I understand the gravity of the situation and how shocking it is for everyone, how painful it is for everyone, but to rub it in like this - it is just not warranted.

I urge, please stop this sort of callous reporting of the incident. And what is up with the media adding a punch line to everything - "7-11 Mumbai" they called it !!

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Rain, rain go away ! Come again another day !

Our trip to the Olympic Peninsula did not quite turn out the way we expected it to go. It was raining - we were lucky our first 4 days in Seattle but the 5th day we were not so lucky. As we made our way up the hurricane ridge, we were driving among clouds. From where we were to see as far as Canada, this is what we saw.

But as luck would have it, it seemed even the deer were lost in the clouds. We spotted them at each and every turn, probably about 30-40 in all - the deer were all around. We had to drive carefully because they just seemed to be everywhere. It was a slow ascent and descent for that reason but it gave us a lot of opportunity to photograph them at close quarters. We didn't even have to leave the comfort of our car.

It was, however, pleasanter once we drove down the hurricane ridge. As if the rain was just waiting for us to descend. It was bright and sunny once we came down.

We happened to stop at some small towns on our way back to catch the ferry back to Seattle. There was this lovely lake (I forget the name) we stopped at with these beautiful yellow trees. Vijay, Pragya, Sunit and I spent some considerable time just walking around this place near the lake.

And one of our last stops on the Olympic Peninsula was this Indian Art market with some boutiques selling Indian Art. The entrance was marked by these classic totem poles. By the way, by Indian Art I mean the native Indian art of America.

As I said, the drive to hurricane ridge was not at all what we wanted it to be, but it was good nonetheless with all the wildlife around. What we really enjoyed were the small stops on our way back at different lakeside and seaside places.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Mountains and mountains all around

When Sunit and I were planning the summer vacation and chose Seattle over Yellowstone, I was a bit disappointed. I was afraid that the place would not have as much scenic beauty as Yellowstone. But once we reached Seattle, and travelled to the mountains, I never wanted to leave the place and totally fell in love with it.

The North Cascades Range Upclose

On our third day, we drove from Randle to Seattle. We were to meet up with our friends (Vijay and Pragya) who were our hosts and planners for the rest of the trip. When VJ said we would be spending the day driving along North Cascades Scenic Highway (Route 20) I was thrilled. I had read about this scenic drive but had thought that because of a packed trip we would not be able to do it. So off we went to mountains.

The Diablo Lake

As we drove along, the sheer beauty and grandeur of the mountain range amazed me. Unlike Rainier and Helens which were lone mountains, this was a complete range of mountain after mountain. We were surrounded by these very steep mountains, beautiful lakes, numerous waterfalls (since the snow was just beginning to melt) and deep valleys. We drove (actually VJ drove) on and on, as we just looked around. We made occassional stops to look around, rest, hike a bit, but mostly to breathe in the scenery.

Another view of the mountains

We finally decided to turn back after we knew that it would take us the better part of rest of the day to drive back. We stopped at Diablo lake overlook and the Gorge Creek Waterfall. We took one of the short hikes with VJ telling us stories about bears and scaring us. And finally we drove out of the National Park with a final look at the mountains.

The jagged peaks

I am sure Yellowstone National Park is good ( it is still on my list of places to visit) but I was beginning to like the decision of travelling to Seattle and the surrounding National Parks instead.

Gorge Creek Falls

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Tulips Galore

Before I continue to post on the other 2 national parks we visited during our Seattle trip, I decided to add some color to my blog - who does not like color and on top of that if its flowers, then everyone loves it. So here goes.

On our way to St. Helen from Randle where we had stayed overnight, Sunit and I chanced upon this Tulip field visible from the freeway. We decided to take the exit and see if we could make a short stop and if possible walk through the field. To our pleasant surprise the owner of the field had put up a board saying "Visitors are welcome. Please don't step on the flowers".

I simply loved walking through the fields. We spent some time taking pictures and breathing in the view. Felt like those scenes I had only seen in pictures of tulip fields in Switzerland or Netherland. Except that this was not a picture - it was picture perfect.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The mountain that once was - Mount St. Helens

Our second day in Seattle, we headed to Mount St. Helens or as the Native Indians call it, Loowit - Lady of Fire.

Riffe Lake - on way to St. Helens

Sunit and I were both excited. We had first heard about St. Helens in October 2004 when it was all over the news - apparently the mountain was spewing up gas and debri again after a span of almost 25 years. People from all over the country were travelling to see if St. Helens would erupt again. The last time it had erupted in 1980, the whole north side of the mountain had disintegrated and flown down, burning the surrounding forests, killing about 1.5 million animals and 57 people in an already evacuated area.

We were glad we had planned to visit the mountain on the day the Johnston Ridge Observatory (closest to the mountain) was due to open for the season. The Observatory is but 5.5 miles from the mountain.

We drove on towards the mountain. At the lower reaches, we could see forests with fairly young trees and occasional signboards indicating when they were planted after the 1980 eruption. At the higher reaches though, as we got closer to the top of the mountain, there was not much in terms of vegetation. At a distance, we could still see the path of the lava flow during the 1980 eruption.

Path of Lava flow

Johnston Ridge Observatory provided some spectacular views of the mountain at close quarters. There were also lots of Ranger and other educational sessions educating the visitors about the history and the state of the current eruption. Did I mention, the mountain is still throwing up smoke and rock at the rate of 1 sq. yard/second and if it continues to throw up at this rate, it would regain its original height before the 1980 eruption in another 100 years.

Loowit - Lady of Fire - still smoking

At the observatory, we saw a theatre presentation on the history of the 1980 eruption. The Obervatory apparently is named after "David Johnston", a volcanologist, who was on duty and was killed during the eruption. His last words relayed to the USGS base in Vancouver were "Vancouver! Vancouver! This is it!". Shivers ran down my spine as they showed the eruption through his camera, how the eruption reached him within seconds and I thought about the last moments of this man. The finale of the presentation was a curtain raiser with a spectacular view of the mountain.

The curtain raiser

On our way back, we also visited the Coldwater Observatory - another observatory for St. Helens. This is where Johnston was during the 1980 eruption and was overtaken by the avalanche of debri flow. Today there is a beautiful lake here and marine life is beginning to come back. Nature sure has a way of mending itself.

Coldwater Lake

Sunday, May 14, 2006

The tallest of them all - Mt. Rainier

View of the drive to Mount Rainier

On our first morning in Seattle, a clear sunny day, we set off for THE mountain in the area - Mount Rainier.

Alder Lake - Comes on way to Rainier

Mount Rainier is the 5th oldest Natinal Park in United States. It is classified as one of the most seismically active volcano in the Cascade Range, second to only Mount St. Helens I guess.

National Park Entrance

It was easy to catch glimpses of the mountain from far off. Its height (14400 ft approx) is not much compared to Mount Everest (29000 ft approx). The reason it stands out is because the surrounding peaks and areas are not comparable in height. So it looks like this gargantuan presence standing above everything else in the skyline of Western Washington.

First glimpse of the mountain

Plus it is spanked by glaciers on all sides, actually about 36 miles of glaciers cover the mountain. These glacial valleys further cause the mountain to look even grander.

One good thing is that Mt. Rainier has not been converted to a ski resort and so it has not been commercialized. People can do cross-country skiing or snow-shoeing etc. on their own or some walks with the Rangers, but there are no lifts or marked slopes.

We approached the mountain from the Nisqually Entrance, from Longmire to Paradise. There was still lots of snow en route to Paradise, the snow falls being much more than usual this season. A lot of the trails were still closed but the visitor information centre at Paradise, where one actually gets magnificent views of the mountain, provided interesting information. There was a small documentary on the mountain also being shown.

As seen from Paradise

On way to Paradise, there were numerous lookouts where one could pull over to gaze at the mountain. There were a couple of short-distance trails also that were open and took to some beautiful viewpoints.

View of the opposite side from Paradise

An interesting fact is that the mountain was named so by an explorer Captain George Vancouver after his friend in the navy, Admiral Peter Rainier, but Rainier never visited this mountain named after him.

Another view of Rainier from one of the lookouts

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Alive in Seattle

Sunit and I just got back from a week long trip to Seattle. And what a trip it was. We were lucky to experience sunny weather for the most part of the trip. Days were just beginning to warm up and there were practically no summer crowds yet. Everything was green and the snow was just beginning to melt in the mountains so there were a lot of snow capped peaks to see, and numerous waterfalls had appeared and were really full.

We got to visit 4 National Parks around Seattle and a day trip to Victoria to see the Butchart gardens. And the last day we saw some of the downtown areas of Seattle.

The Seattle skyline on a cloudy day

The city itself has a fairly small downtown - few blocks and you can walk it all on foot. And there is always this towering presence of mountains all around, especially Mt Rainier which is a permanent fixture of the skyline on any clear day.

The Space Needle

The Space Needle stands tall and elegant, a little apart from the downtown and provides wonderful views of the city and the area from the observation deck. Though I did find the entry fee to the observation deck a bit too steep, but the views from the top were fairly good.

Close-up of the observation deck from down below

There was just so much to do and visit in and around Seattle that we really found that a week was not enough for the area. The city seemed alive with art and culture, and it was an invigorating experience just walking the streets of downtown or around the Seattle Centre, the Pike Marketplace or for that matter the University District.

And I am sure the mountains are even more beautiful once all the snow has melted and there are wildflowers all around. I kept telling Sunit on our way back that Seattle seemed to be like a really nice place to stay. He kept reminding me that it rains for more than 6 months in Seattle and hence the beauty of it all.

My next few posts are all going to be on Seattle. I just can't stop thinking about the place.