May 10, 2011

Weekend at Ocean Shores

This week we are celebrating three years of our engagement. Keeping up with our tradition of a weekend trip this time every year, we booked a room at Collin's Inn at Ocean Shores along the Pacific coast of Washington state. This city is about 150 miles from Seattle and almost 2 and a half hours long drive. We set off on Saturday morning after a lazy start to the day. With a long Friday movie night behind us, we were in no hurry to begin our drive early. So after a home-made brunch we left at noon and reached Ocean Shores close to 3 pm.

Before we checked in at Collin's Inn we decided to check out the beach :) The beach strip is unbelievably huge and its one of those where you can actually drive on the beach along the waves hitting the shore. I was fascinated to do this since I have never been to a "drivable" beach before. Collin's Inn is at about a 5 mile drive from this beach and it has another beach at walking distance which is more private and not drivable. We checked into our room and were thrilled with the jacuzzi tub and surround shower equipped room that set the mood for a perfectly relaxing weekend. Very strikingly the room also boasted of a thousand pillows in different sizes and softness. The restaurant at Collin's Inn has a very homely feel to it. It is also very well furnished with a piano and beautiful candles and very striking accents to go with its archaic style furniture. However it is quite pricey and we decided to eat dinner in the city where there were other highly reviewed (on Yelp) options.

In the evening we headed back to the sort of city area and drove along the entire long stretch of the beach. It was too windy and hence chilly to actually spend time outside of the car on the beach. We ate at "Viet Ho", a highly reviewed Chinese & Vietnamese hotel. We loved the food and were impressed by kindness of the lady who served us the food. The next morning began with a complementary brunch at Collin's Inn. They had amazing pastries and chocolate covered strawberry starters. However I was not too impressed with their main course. They had eggs benedict which I didnt try and quieche which I tried for the first time but wasnt impressed by it. I think I am too used to my standard oatmeal, hash brown and pancake based brunch options.

We then went for a long walk along the other beach close to Collin's Inn. I enjoyed collecting patterned shells that were still intact and I managed to collect almost a couple dozen. Later that afternoon we headed back to the main beach. It was another windy day so we choose to fly kites which seemed like a popular activity on that beach. We bought a single threaded kite and enjoyed watching it fly and fall in a cyclic manner :) The beach also had horse riding and tricycle and bike riding options. We then headed for a late lunch meal to a place called La Chica Taqueria. Its a tiny taco shack run by a Swedish woman who knows how to make those Mexican dishes to perfection alongwith engaging her customers in a pretty fancy conversation. We tried her puffy tacos and 1.5 lb burrito and the variety of salsas, horchata and churros and I cannot say enough about how each of these was the best of its kind we have ever had. This is definitely a highlight of our Ocean Shores experience.

So we have now found a great weekend getaway destination at a comfortable driving distance from Seattle that can make a beautiful and relaxing and quiet and serene weekend.

March 17, 2011

My brother as a kid ...

There are some memories from childhood that are permanently imprinted in your head and cherished in your heart! My little brother and I have shared all our childhood times with each other! I always wanted a baby brother to play with.. when I was told at age three that I was gonna get a sibling, I announced to the world that my brother was coming. It was my way of telling "Its a boy". I also picked a name for him (I don't know how I did that at age three). It now feels as if I was always prepared to welcome him to this world and build my budding years with his! Just as typical siblings growing up together, we fought a lot, took the other's side when the other was in trouble, played pranks on each other, planned pranks on others, loved, cared, and yet made life tough for the other one! Reminiscing  some of the days that  I vividly remember from my little brother's cute, mischievous and absolutely adorable toddler years -
  • In his first grade he asked a friend cut his hair with the scissors that he took to school for craft work. His friend cut his hair from either sides of his head around the ear leaving the top of the head intact. He got punished severely by his school teacher and they banned scissors for craft work for primary school after this incident. But he looked so cute in that weird hair cut!!!
  • During our trip to Goa as kids we were watching our older friends play water volleyball in a swimming pool and we were at the edge of the pool. Clapping and cheering every shot, the next moment my brother landed straight into the water and his mini slippers were floating around. An alert lady swimming nearby came to his rescue, got him out of the pool and thumped his back to get the water out! My parents were called for and panic struck everyone! Fortunately my brother was on his feet in no time but gave a good scare to everyone around!
  • At my uncle's place on the second floor my mom suddenly realized that my brother was not in sight. We thought he may have wandered into another room or may be the neighbor's house while playing but that was not the case when we looked for him. He was smarter and more curious than we thought! He climbed down the stairs to the ground floor on his own to play with the cocks and hens wandering in the campus of that building.
  • In another trip to Jabalpur, we reached the house of our hosts at 2am and they had prepared an awesome meal for us! There was a huge HOT pressure cooker in their kitchen just moved from the stove to the ground. My brother loved pressure cookers. He got excited when the cooker whistled and would be ever ready to hug the cooker while it was whistling! The family almost believed he would become a chef in future ... that night my brother missed his cooker hug narrowly when my mom rushed to him and grabbed him out of the cooker's vicinity!
  • He was once asked by his school teacher to pick a bird that he would like to dress up as for the Annual Day at school. While his friends picked peacocks and sparrows and parrots, my brother's choice happened to be "crow". When he came home and told me about his choice, I burst out laughing! His cute defense was - "But no one selected crow so I did"! He did dress up as a crow ...
  • On one hand he loved pressure cooker which was not a toy but on the other hand he was scared of balloons which is almost every kid's favorite! He hated attending birthday parties for the fear of balloons bursting around him! One day our neighbor uncle got a small balloon and put it in my brother's tshirt without his notice. That made him realize how harmless balloons were!
  • My mom, my three year old brother and I were sitting in the principal's office to seek admission to the school for my brother. During those times the principal would ask some basic questions to the little kids and then approve their admission. My mom had spent days teaching my brother how to answer simple questions like "What is your name?" and "How old are you?" and so on... Now on the D-day my brother felt bored in the principal's office and opened the door and ran out of the building onto the main road. Seconds later my mom rushed out to grab him and I was left alone in that room to answer all the questions. I was told later that I had a lot to speak to the principal while my brother enjoyed his silence!

February 28, 2011

Mysore Mystique

The Mysore Mystique poster has been on my mind today and so I cant help writing a line about it! One of the most amusing posters I saw at a market stall in a fair at Mysore, Karnataka. After Hyderabad, Mysore was the other city that we explored in our India trip in December 2010. We flew to Bangalore and then went to Mysore in the Volvo bus which runs between the two cites hourly. It was a good 3 hour ride and we spent most of the time catching up on much needed sleep! We stayed at the Ginger Hotel which is a pretty decent hotel in terms of rooms and amenities, however I was not impressed with their food. I hoped to find authentic South Indian food but they served the broader category of Indian food which mostly has North Indian dishes.

Mysore Palace by sunset
On the first evening I ate to my heart's content dosas at an authentic South Indian udipi place. I have to mention that I am a big fan of South Indian food. We then went to see the majestic symbol of the city - the Mysore Palace. The palace was closed so we took pictures from outside. Since it was Friday, the palace was not lit up it its most famous way. However the dim lights with colorful sky at sunset offered some amazing snaps of the palace! We then headed to a fair across the street from the palace. It was very crowded and had stalls selling a variety of items ranging from clothes, footwear, domestic appliances and articles to locally made handicraft and decorative pieces and a variety of food of course!

Mysore Palace lit up at night
We booked a cab for the whole of next day to explore the tourist attractions of the city. We started with the Chamundi temple on the Chamundi hills. The temple had amazing sculptures on its entrance. We also visited the huge Nandi (the bullock) statue in the same neighborhood. On our way downhill we stopped at a location that offered a spectacular view of the city and the palace domes standing out from the rest of the buildings. We then went to Karanji Lake. This lake was a pretty usual one, the only attraction there was a bird sanctuary that had a variety of beautiful birds with unusual colors! I cant name most of those except the peacocks and the white peacocks.  We then took a short stop at the Montogomery Church which was well decorated for Christmas festivities. We headed to Vrindavan gardens and on the way we stopped at the scenic KRS dam. The gardens are huge and the layout is perfect and symmetric. The variety of fountains and the effect of colored lights after dusk is fascinating! We then headed back to the palace to witness the palace lit with few thousand bulbs. The sight of the palace was almost like a fairy tale book coming to life.

Mysore Palace by day
The next day was our last day at Mysore and we planned to set off for Bangalore after lunch time. We spent the morning again at our favorite place in the city - Mysore Palace! This time we took a tour of the palace from inside. You have to see it to believe the lavish interiors, abundance of gold and silver architectural structures and precious paintings and carvings and gems adorning the palatial walls. We rented an audio guide and enjoyed every bit of the description of the palatial rooms that took us back in time to the Wodeyar era.

We brought back with us memories for a lifetime and delicately carved wooden frames portraying a famous chariot scene of Arjun and Krishna from Mahabharat! We also bought a delicious sweet Mysore Pak, and the popular South Indian coffee to cherish the Mysore memories even later in its tasty offerings.