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Sunday, January 28, 2007

Calicut Dog Show

28 Jan'07 :
Left the Den early at 5.20 am along with Guhan & Pikcy the Lab with Ramesh at the wheel. The route was Walayar,Palakkad, Mannarkad, Perinthalmana, Malappuram & Calicut. To exit Coimbatore you cross Ukkadam, then the toll gate, into Kuniamuthur & Kovai Pudur, Madukkarai, the ACC Cement Plant(one of the oldest in the country),the military establishment,the Naval Rifle Firing Range and finally enter the National Highway. You cross several large petrol pumps - Indian Oil, BPCL,HPCL & finally Reliance located at KG Chavady. Reliance also has a nice restaurant called A-I. From the road you get a fine view of the Amrita Vishwa Vidyalaya nestled in the foothills of the Western Ghats. After that you get to Navakkarai where you can see an awesome Nandi around 30ft in height- a well informed guess. Definitely one of the biggest Nandis I have seen. The mighty Ghats keep you company till you reach Walayar the entry point into Kerala - a protected forest and the sales tax check post. The Walayar Dam provides water for irrigation and also meets the heavy water needs of Malabar Cements. The check post which is normally a traffic bottleneck was mercifully uncongested.
The Palakkad - Mannarkad drive was sublime- lined with big trees, thick vegetation and plantations on both sides of the road. Plantations included coconut, areca nut, banana, jack fruit, tapioca. After travelling 16 kms one could take a turn to visit Dhoni falls about 10 kms from the highway. After another 5 kms or so you cross Kalladikode and see sign boards for Meenavallam & Attla waterfalls. Next is a turning to Kanchirapuzha Dam 8.5 kms from the highway. A small ghat section and a few hairpin bends later you reach Mannarkad. From there Silent Valley is only 43 Kms to the right - the Valley that provides the delicate ecological balance in this region and enviromentalists have been fighting for many decades to keep this Valley protected. Thereon to Perianthalmanna & Mallapuram. Pattambi falls to your left & Manjeri is located to your right about 20 kms from the highway.Kotakkal the famous Centre for Ayurvedic treatment to the left. Kotakkal offers Ayurvedic oil massages packages to rid you of pains & aches, relax your nerves, rejuvenate your blood & to bring new energy & enthusiasm to both body & mind. You then come to intersections leading to Calicut International Airport, Kadalundi bird sanctuary (9 kms) & Beypore Port (4.5 kms).
After crossing a large river bridge we finally reach Calicut after a 4 hour drive- as we enter we see a massive Toyota showroom & a huge Maruti True Value pre-owned car showroom. We finally take a left turn, drive up a flyover,turn into the beach road and reach the venue of the Malabar Canine Club Dog Show. After checkin and medicals we enter the large enclosure and find 3-rings & huge shamianas specially erected up for the show. We first had breakfast - sumptous sandwiches made with butter,cheese & tomato & generously sprinkled with pepper. Our handler cum trainer - driver Ramesh skilfully managed our labrador bitch through both shows (ring 3 & ring 1) and carried home 2 First Prizes for Best in Class & one CC(Challenge Certificate). Pikcy has now accumulated 2 CC's & 4 RCC's. If she manages to get another CC she becomes a champion dog !
We leave Calicut around 2.00 pm. An hour later later we stop the car in a shaded place for a delicious lunch comprising home made pulihora & curd rice. I tried to read Angels & Devils(Dan Brown) but the aftermath of the heavy lunch made me drowsy & I had long snatches of sleep in between brief reading spells. This is a very rivetting & gripping novel and strongly recommended. In fact I find this even better than Da Vinci Code !We leave the Salem bye pass & enter Coimbatore city limits with Big Hoardings of Kalyan Silks & Jewellery,Jayalakshmi Silks & Alukkas Gold welcoming us. We finally return via Ukkadam, into Oppanakara Street & Raja Street, and then Big Bazaar Street before reaching the Den. Oppanakara & Raja Sts are the commercial nerve centres of Coimbatore - you can visit large wholesalers & big retailers like Big Bazaar, Chennai Silks & Ganapathy Silks & the biggest Diamond Merchant in town - Kirtilal Kalidas.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Mech 71 Wedding

Jan'17, 2007
Guruvayoor is a temple town in Kerala located 150 kms from Coimbatore. The temple of Lord Krishna gets its name from Guru ( Brihaspathy) & Vayu (wind) who, in search of a holy place to instal Narayana, came to Rudratheertha in Kerala where Siva was doing penance.Siva came out of penance & told Guru & Vayu that this place had been identified long ago for installation of the divine idol of Narayana. Thus the idol was installed there in the presence of Parasurama and from then on got the name of Guruvayoor.
We reached the Radhe Madhavam Hall in Krishna Inn at 10 am on 17th morning. We were greeted by Puj dressed in a sleek dark suit and beaming smile. Puj, a Dy.Director in Al Mulla Group, has largely remained unchanged since IIT days except for the addition of a few pounds around the middle and slight greying of the otherwise fairly intact jet black hair. We were introduced to the rest of the charming Pujari family - wife Rashmi, daughters Shivani (married & based in DC), Nupur (works for Cisco in San Hose), Naina (soon to join Carnegie Melon) and sons Raghav ( in a markeing job in US) & the youngest Gaurav.
Soon Shuroma (the bride) and Arun made their appearance and the Barat moved on foot from Krishna Inn to the Temple Kalyana Mandap (a distance of 100 yds) where a quick Kerala style wedding ceremony was conducted - a 10 minute affair which included exchange of garlands & tying of thali (mangalsutra.) After the wedding the couple offered prayers to Guruvayoorappan(the deity) and then the Barat returned to Krishna Inn.
Shuroma and Arun were married again in a more elaborate ceremony by an ISKCON priest from Mayapur. The priest ( from New Zealand) had come to India as a young boy and got initiated by ISKCON into the Hindu way of life. The bride took saat pheras around the bridegroom. The couple then took saat pheras around Agni followed by exchange of garlands and offering of grains to Agni expertly supported by chanting of mantras by the priest. Puj and Rashmi gave away the beautiful & radiant bride to the smart & handsome groom Arun. The bridegrooms parents offered clothes & jewellery to the bride in acceptance into their family and agreeing to offer her protection and love. Also present was an African priest (from Ghana) who played the harmonium and melodiously sang Hare Rama Hare Krishna.
Shuroma & Arun are now part of the Iskcon movement and plan to settle down in Mayapur to do service. By qualification Shuroma is a doctor and Arun an Astro Physicist.
The elaborate wedding concluded around 2.30 pm after which the couple received blessings from all elders in the family. This was followed by a delicious lunch comprising Chinese, N.Indian & Kerala cuisines.
Krishna Inn is strongly recommended for any one planning to visit Guruvayoor.

Cheers !
Ramu

Sunday, January 14, 2007

San Bruno Park

Hiking is the most popular activity in the park. The main starting points are from the park's entrance or from radio road at the mountain's summit. Various neighborhood access points including Crocker Road and Charter Street also provide good starting points.The park is home to a wide variety of birds and animals as well as several endangered plant and butterfly species. The park has family picnic sites near the park entrance. Tables, barbecue pits, drinking water and a restroom are also available. All facilities are accessible to people of all abilities. Eight trails make up the trail system in San Bruno Mountain Park: Eucalyptus Loop (1.08 miles), Bog Trail (.77 miles), Old Guadalupe Trail (.8 miles), Summit Loop Trail (3.13 miles), Saddle Loop Trail (2.1 miles), Dairy Ravine Trail (.43 miles), Ridge Trail (2.43 miles), and Old Ranch Road Trail (.71 miles). Some trails are restricted to hikers only.
After entering through Crocker Road,I spent around 3 hours walking in the park- Bog Trail & Old Gaudulupe Trail. I had my newly acquired Can Powershot camera with me and several exotic pictures of flora in the park. Being a working day the park was largely deserted barring a few Senior Citizens.
Eucalyptus trees(imported) & a large overgrowth of ivy were posing a major threat to growth of native plants & wild life. I was cautioned to look out for mountain lions but fortunately did not encounter one.

Fort Funston

As we descended down the hill from Village in the Park we had a clear view of San Francisco & the Pacific Ocean - a clear & sunny day with no signs of fog. From Mission St. we turned into John Daly Boulevard past BART terminus & West Lake Mall right into the coast line. Within a few minutes we were in Fort Funston and into the large parking area at the main entrance. Fort Funston area has developed a huge tradition for dog walking. Dogs are posted on-leash here, but in reality this is not enforced and dogs are off leash everywhere. The beach area is paradise for dogs. On this bright & warm day the beach was swarming with dogs of various breeds (pure & mixed) along with owners to supervise. Battery Davis constructed 1938 is a concrete monstrosity recessed into the dunes to camouflage it against incoming warships which were predicted likely to attack the U.S. mainland from Japan.There are other things that Fort Funston is quite distinct and special for. The handgliders and hang gliders (where one sits under a parachute with arm controls) are a unique culture that has sprung up here. The staging area for the central launch point is at the main parking lot where a plot has been set aside for assembly and disassembly.Handgliders in flight are like prehistoric birds floating luxuriously on the breeze up and down the strip about 200'-400' overhead. We witnessed several jet fighter planes overhead streaking across the sky leaving long smoky trails behind,probably flying training sorties.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

China Town & Lombard Street

After a hearty brunch at Squat & Gobble we drove into downtown San Francisco. afetr driving through the busy commercial district. We drove slowly through the vibrant,bustling and colourful China Town the largest Chinatown outside Asia.The Chinatown gate can be found at the intersection of Bush St. and Grant Avenue. It has three beautifully ornated arches and is guarded by two lions. Among the exotic live markets, dim sum dinners and herb shops, are the nearly 10,000 residents of Asian descent that call CHINATOWN "home".
Our next stop was Lombard Street. Lombard Street is San Francisco-- and America's crookedest street. It is famous for having a steep, one-block section that consists of tight hairpin turns.The switchback design was instituted in 1922 out of necessity to reduce the hill's natural 27° slope which was too steep for most vehicles to climb and a serious hazard to pedestrians used to a more reasonable sixteen-degree incline. The speed limit is a mere 5 mph (10 km/h) on the crooked section, which is about 1/4 mile (400 m) long.The crooked section of the street is reserved for one-way traffic traveling east (downhill), and is paved with bricks

Twin Peaks & The Haight

Twin Peaks, stands at an elevation of about 922 feet, second highest in San Francisco. The drive up to the peaks is stunning.Being almost at the geographical center of San Francisco there is no finer place to see the city than atop Twin Peaks. With it’s panoramic views, Twin Peaks should be a must-stop on every tourist’s list.The top of the hill has installation of two tall transmission towers distinctly visible from far away, but once you’re up on the summits, you will barely notice they are there. Twin Peaks also houses the Summit Reservoir, a 14 million gallon water hold. The reservoir was built in 1954, and provides drinking water to residents, water for local fire departments, and is a necessary water source to the birdlife in the area.
We next drove through Castro & Market Place to arrive at Haight Ashbury another prominent district in SF.The Haight Ashbury's elaborately detailed 19th-century multi-story wooden houses became a haven for hippies during the 1960s, due to the availability of cheap rooms and vacant properties for housing in the district. The subculture that subsequently flourished there took root, and to a great extent, has remained to this day.The Haight-Ashbury is named after the intersection of Haight Street and Ashbury Street, commonly known as The Haight.The Haight still evokes images of the long-gone '60s hippie culture. Fragments of that flower-power, incense-burning, acid-dropping, tie-dye-wearing, peace-and-love-vibing era can be purchased at smoke shops and Eastern-influenced outlets bearing names like Dreams of Kathmandu, Pipe Dreams and The Love of Ganesha. But save for a few hippie relics, the Haight today is a whole new scene. Exclusive boutiques, high-end vintage-clothing shops, second-hand stores, Internet cafés and hip restaurants have all settled in, making the Haight one of San Francisco's commercial centres.
Squat 'N' Gobble: Warm and homey, this café serves excellent coffee drinks and satisfying food. Their huge omelletes and sandwiches are filled amply, and nearly everything on the menu comes with a heap of home potatoes. You'll always leave this joint fully gratified. We certainly did.

Castro - The Gay District

As per Bhavana's guidelines got into bus no.24 from Daly City, got down between Mission & 30th Street, transferred to bus no.24 towards Divisadero, went through Noe St & got down at Castro & 17th. Spend about an hour walking along Castro,Market Street, Church Street, into 16th then Dolores & finally back to Castro through Chula & 16th St. A bright & sunny afternoon with a cool accompanying breeze. The "Castro" is a term broadly used to describe the area of San Francisco formerly known as Eureka Valley, and is bordered by Diamond Heights, Noe Valley, the Mission, the Fillmore, and the Haight districts. It has also come to mean more than a locale. Much of the gay and lesbian community of San Francisco lives and works in the Castro. It is known world-wide as the "gay mecca." Home to an ever-changing neighborhood of shops, restaurants, street fairs, and residents, the Castro has continued in its evolution. It is a community and a people rich with history, diversity, tears, and laughter. Castro & Market streets renovated by its affluent, primarily gay residents, is a collection of clothing, gift, and specialty stores interspersed with colorful Victorians, restaurants, and pubs. The Castro Theater, 429 Castro Street, is a great old movie palace that screens classic and art films. The Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans -gender Center is located at 1800 Market Street.The Castro is bustling all day long, but at night it really comes alive, as the bars from the Mint to the Midnight Sun fill up and the Castro Theatre's neon marquee lights shine brightly.Though the Castro's nightlife doesn't have as much to offer women as many dykes would like, it remains a fairly safe neighborhood after hours, and there are plenty of places where women, queer or not, can feel at home.

Adventure to Mission

Mission District :
Bhavana suggested that I take a public transport & travel to Mission District of SFO. Accordingly she did some research,and mailed me directions to reach, bus timings, and a map of the Mission. Armed with this valuable info I took off from Village in the Park, walked the steep slope down hill, got into Mission Street & boarded a 3.00 pm "muni" bus - an electric trolley zero emission bus. It has a driver & no conductor. The fares are fixed : $.1.50 for adults, $.0.50 for students & Sen.Citizens. You insert the money into the cash box near the driver & he hands you a ticket.The ticket is transferable for any route in the muni system if you travel within the validity time indicated in the ticket.The doors are hydraulically operated & open & close automatically. Seats in the front rows are reserved for Sen. Citizens & the physically challenged. An electronic sign board inside the bus continuously indicates the approaching stop.There is also a electronic voice announcement. Some stops are automatic while others are request stops - you can pull a wire rope which rings a bell located near the driver. The front portion of the bus can be hydraulically lowered to pavement level to allow physically challenged persons with wheel chairs to board.It took roughly 40 minutes to reach Mission. An alternative transport to travel is to take the BART( Bay Area Rapid Transport) which reaches you in quick time.
San Francisco's very first neighborhood—the sprawling, gritty, and sunny Mission District—is all but unknown to visitors. It was here, in 1776, that Spanish padres founded a mission, and it is here, today, that you will find the city's most exciting and surprising cultural mix. The Mission has always been relatively affordable, and it's become a magnet for young people, actors, painters, dancers, and restaurateurs. They've brought with them great food and chic bistros. They've opened tiny, gorgeous boutiques, quirky political bookstores, and sizzling nightspots. They've founded cutting-edge theaters. Completed in 1791, Mission Dolores is now the city's oldest building.
It is one of the poorer districts in SFO and the population is largely Latin American immigrants or Hispanics - a mix of Mexicans, San Salvadoreans, Nicaraguans, African Americans. There is also a smattering of Asians - Chinese,Filipinos etc.
Some popular eateries are :Can-Cun, El Castillito, La Taqueria, El Toro, Pancho Villa, to get your fill of tortilla-wrapped packages filled with rice, beans, salsa, meat, and, if they're "supers," cheese, guacamole, and sour cream.

Saturday, January 6, 2007

Universal Studios

25 Nov'06 :
We passed through LA downtown, then drove through Sunset Boulevard & Hollywood boulevard to reach Universal Studios. We could distinctly sight the prominent "HOLLYWOOD" banner atop Hollywood Hill. We went on a studio tour in a trolley bus with a driver cum commentator. It took us through the sets where many famous Hollywood movies & TV shows were made eg. War of the Worlds, Jurassic Park, Spider Man,The Mummy & Psycho. King Kong, Frankenstein, Godzilla, Shark etc accosted & shocked us at different points in the tour. We saw the sets of many famous Western Movies made here. We experienced the effects of an earthquake while travelling in a New York subway. We experienced rains & floods and horrendous car & airplane crashes. Overall an awesome experience.
Universal also offers several rides & shows eg.Revenge of the Mummy, Shrek-4D, Jurassic Park, Fear Factor, Terminator, Waterworld, Back to the Future ride & Special effects. You could also witness performances like Blue Brothers & Lucy a Tribute.
We were back at Viswageethas for the evening coffee & hot phalaphal vadais - delicious stuff. There was a debate on where to go out for dinner-choice was between Mexican,Chinese, Thai, S.Indian & Punjabi cuisines. We finally decided on Vasantha Bhavan for a dinner spread of Idiappam, adirasam, variety of dosas, oothappam, parathas,chapathis, variety of curries(chettinad,thanjavur), range of rice preparations - bisibela bath, sambar bath,curd rice, several types of pickles, & sweet dishes. The choice of venue was based on Geethas rave recommendation. It turned out to be a memorable dinner - the occasion happened to be the birthday of yours truly. A befitting treat indeed.
Early next day we left Orange County for Daly city. Before that we had a photography session. We stopped enroute for lunch at a mid way point & then stopped at Sunnyvale to pick up mouth watering parathas - paneer, alu, gobi & methi. Mira was quite uncomfortable during the return journey and each one of us took turns to sing her favourite song " Old Mac Donald had a Farm"

Friday, January 5, 2007

Sea World

24 Nov'07 :
We checked out of Holiday Inn early & went to Denny's for B.Fast. Dennys is a large restaurant chain in the US. The place was crowded & we had to wait a while to get a table. We could spot several families of Indian origin. They serve huge breakfasts for reasonable rates. After hungrily tucking into huge stuffed omelletes, pancakes & hash browns and washing these down with orange & pineapple juice we departed towards Marine World.
Being a Black Friday the day after thanksgiving there were huge crowds at Sea World & several queues & long lines of cars. it took us several minutes to get to our parking lot & from there a long walk for entry. One of the first things that we saw was the magnificent Sky Tower which normally offers a 265 ft ride up to get a panoramic view & gorgeous view. Unfortunately the tower was under repair that day. Other rides on offer included Journey to Atlantis, Shipwreck Rapids and Sea World Sky Ride. We saw Beluga whales, walruses,sealions & polar bears in an Arctic simulated underground enclosure.
Shows : Shamu Show - This inspirational new show reflects the close relationship SeaWorld trainers have with the killer whales, as well as amazes guests with a series of exciting new behaviors. Dolphin Discovery showcases bottlenose dolphins in a splashy, high-energy show with some surprise comic moments. It's a fast-paced show featuring tail-walks, spinning jumps and back-flips. Guests seated in the first 10 rows of Dolphin Stadium are cautioned they may get wet from the 55-degree seawater. Next was Pets Rule - Dogs dance, cats cavort and birds flock. Even a potbellied pig gets into the act. The pet's backyard paradise features trees to climb, a fence to balance on, a pool to cool off in, a dog house & fire hydrants.
Shark Encounter - face-to-face with sharks of all shapes and sizes at the Shark Encounter. This 280,000-gallon attraction features a 57-foot, walk-through acrylic tube running the length of the sharks' habitat. As you travel through the sharks' amazing world, you can view hundreds of fascinating sand tiger, bonnethead, blacktip and whitetip sharks.
It certainly was an exciting day at Sea World.
We left Sea World around 6.00 pm & returned to Orange County for a delicious dinner of Idlis,Rice, Rasam,Melaku Kozhambu at VishwaGeethas.