Vancouver Public Library Square

The day we were to leave Vancouver, we decided to spend the morning around our hotel, which happened to be in the Downtown area. We had breakfast at the legendary Café Medina and then stumbled into the Public Library. Well, you can’t really ‘stumble’ into this magnificent piece of architecture. It is grand and very noticeable. Shaped like the Roman Colosseum from the outside, this branch of the library is also known as the Library Square. This library houses more than 1.3 million books, is a storehouse of databases and has various services like free eBooks downloading, internet, etc.

Enter the building and walk inside the promenade along shops, coffee shops and café tables and bask in the grandeur of the building.  The construction of this building was completed in 1995. It consists of 9 stories. The ground floor witnesses a lot of pedestrian traffic. A lot of people walk in for coffee or to cross to the other side.

The library was in news recently for its Inspiration Lab. With just a library card in hand, you have access to creating videos, films and podcasts.

Vancouver public library

Vancouver public library 1

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Categories: Canada, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Nrityagram, Hessaraghatta, Bangalore

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‘How does one start when one arrives in the middle of wilderness, armed with dreams’ – Protima Gauri

Nrityagram was established by Odissi dancer and student of Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra, Protima Bedi (aka, Protima Gauri,Gauri Maa, Gauri Amma), in 1990. It is a fully functional residential dance school that holds regular, full day classical dance classes and offers multiple year study courses. It follows a culture similar to ancient gurukul. They focus on holistic living in a self-sufficient, intentional community.

The feel of the place is divine. There is a distinctive calmness and purity hanging around in the air. Everything is beautiful – the architecture, the graceful dancers, the flora, the music, the words that one hears, the décor and the laughter. If you go through their official website and look at various descriptions, you will get carried away by their poetic beauty.

Nrityagram, literally meaning ‘dance village’ was designed by Gerard D’Cunha and is located in Hessaraghatta, 40 km away from Bangalore.

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Nrityagram temple

This temple, which is at the entrance of the dance village, depicts the image of Gauri Maa’s guru, Kelucharan Mohaptra, with a caption that means: Temple at Nrityagram. Fashioned from the raw mud of Nrityagram and fired after it was built, the temple is dedicated to space. It is decorated with panels depicting the elements, dance motifs, mudras and designs from costumes and ghungroos. Inside is a granite rock scooped out to hold water and a flame that stays lit.

It is a wonderful experience if you like art, dance or design. It is worth travelling 45 minutes for. As a dance lover, this was a dreamland for me where you breathe, eat and smell dance the whole day, sweet sounds of ghunghroos and pleasant pitter-patter of feet fill  your days, dance is appreciated an art, a God-send gift, dance is a part of soul.

Visit their Facebook page for wonderful pictures and updates about performances and classes.

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Thank you, M and Ee for the pictures

Categories: India, Photography, South India, Travel | Tags: , , , , , | 8 Comments

St. Philomena Church, Mysore, India

St. Philomena Church is a gorgeous Neo-Gothic church built in 1941 by a French architect named Daly. Its architecture is inspired by the Cologne Cathedral of Germany. This church was built to fulfil the needs of a growing European population at Mysore at that time. The fact that the church became such an important landmark of the city and is such a popular destination today reflects the secular nature of the King. An old description of the church is ‘A priceless French statue of a celebrated Greek saint in a German cathedral located in the heart of India’.

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Philomena Church 2

An interesting part about the church’s architecture is that its length and height is identical at 175 feet. The 2 spires of the church are made to resemble St. Patrick’s church, New York and are visible from miles away. They give a majestic contribution to the city’s skyline. The 12 feet high crosses on the spires make this church one of the tallest in Asia. There are 3 ornamental doors at the front and several doors on the sides that lead to the prayer hall. All pillars are carved with floral patterns and ceilings depict Biblical events like Birth of Christ, The Last Supper, The Crucifixion, the Resurrection and Ascension of Christ in beautiful stained glass. Beneath the altar, there is an underground chapel known as catacomb that houses a priceless statue of St. Philomena in a reclining position. Names of all the donors who helped building this church are engraved on stone tablets on walls of the chapel.

St. Philomena was born to Greek parents in the 3rd Century after they prayed long to God to bless them with a child. Even in childhood, Philomena showed signs of piety. Emperor Diocletion wanted to marry her but she refused, vowing to hand over herself to God. She was tortured and beheaded by the King as a punishment. People’s devotion to her spread and she was given the title of sainthood. The relic of St. Philomena was bought by the then secretary of Maharaja of Mysore to be kept in the church.

Today, the church is not just a famous tourist destination; it is also a renowned religious place.

I would rate this historic monument as a must visit.

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Philomena Church 9

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Philomena Church 4

Thank you, M, for the pictures.

A few notes:

– Church timings: 5:00 m to 6:00 pm

– Daily holy mass is held in Kannada, Tamil and English every day in morning and evening. (Updated timings should be available at the church entrance). Special masses are held on Sundays and Holidays.

– An Annual fest is held on 11th August every year.

– The church is all lighted up during Christmas. Special songs and sermons are held on and around Christmas.

– Photography is prohibited inside the church.

– There is no signboard to the effect but many people take their shoes off before entering the church. I don’t think it is compulsory to do so.

– A dress code is not specified but the church expects you to dress decently while in the campus. Inappropriate behavior like casual loitering around, sitting on steps and PDA are condemned.

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Categories: India, Photography, South India, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Mysore Palace–India

Mysore is known as the City of Palaces. It houses several palaces and temples that have seen decades of changes in the city. The most well known of all these historic structures is the Mysore Place, also known as Amba Vilas Palace and Main Palace. The palace belonged to the Royal family of Mysore, the Wadiyars. Way back in the 14th century this structure was made of wood and mud. It got damaged by various environmental forces several times later. Subsequently in 1897, the job of rebuilding the whole palace was handed over to the British architect, Henry Irwin.

It took 5 years for this palace to build and it uses different architectural styles – Rajput, Hind, Muslim and Gothic. it is built using fine granite and pink marble. Its tallest tower is 145 meters in height.

The palace has now been converted into a museum housing beautiful antiques and artefacts like lamps, mirrors, furniture and statues. Lot of walls of corridors and halls adorned with wonderful paintings of the royal family and scenes of the Royal family from the olden days. Some magnificent rooms like Diwan-E-Khaas (where the king addressed audiences), Diwane-E-Aam (which was used for public gatherings) and Marriage Pavilion (which is a large octagonal room located on the ground floor). All rooms are grandly decorated with ornamental pillars, stunning stained glass roofs, gigantic chandeliers, and geometrical design mosaic marble tiles. It is very sad that photography is not allowed inside the palace; I missed a great photography experience.

The Royal family gets involved with the people during Dusshera (falls in September or October) celebrations which are considered big in the whole of Karnataka. On the 10th day of the festival, a huge procession, consisting of elephants and other floats, is led from the palace. This festival has been celebrated by the Wadiyars since decades and it still celebrated in an extravagant way. The whole palace is lit up using around 97000 lights. Even today, the king himself travels in a traditional way in a silver palanquin form the palace to the Bhuveshwari temple.

The royal family was in news lately for the sad demise of their last king, Srikanta Datta Narsimharaja Wadiyar. He has not left behind any heirs (which the locals blame on a 400 year old curse).

The palace reflects the grandeur and royalty of the regal lineage. Once you are inside the palace, look at the thrones, large paintings of noble women wearing rich silk sarees, ornate railings and visualize the palace in its functional state, it is a rather extraordinary feeling. It totally captivates you. This destination must not be missed if you are touring Bangalore or Karnataka.

A few notes:

– Palace timings are 10:00 am to 5:30 pm. Entry fee for Indian Adults is Rs. 40 and for Foreigners is Rs. 200.

– The palace is illuminated on Sundays and Public Holidays. Keep in mind, though, that it gets extremely crowded on holidays.

– Sound and Light show is conducted on all days between 7:00 pm to 7:30 pm.

– Photography is strictly prohibited inside the palace. You can take your time to roam around in front and side and take lots of pictures. Camera has to be deposited at the locker room located immediately after the main entrance.

– You are not allowed to wear shoes inside the palace. There are shelves arranged to keep shoes. You will be given a token in return.

No doubt I loved the palace and found it very impressive. But there are 2 things that upset me. For one, I found the staff pretty rude and rough. It was very crowded the day I went there and maybe they got aggressive trying to control the crowd. But, it completely spoiled the experience. They were almost treating people like cattle. Secondly, you remove your shoes at the entrance and exit the palace towards the back. You then need to take a complete round to reach the front again to collect your shoes. That path is made of cobblestone; so it is very hot. Kids will find this task very difficult. Camel and elephant rides happen on the same path and so, it is dirty too. Walking barefoot on this path was such a downer. It is a better idea to carry your shoes in your bag and wear them immediately after exiting the palace.

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Categories: India, Photography, South India, Travel | Tags: , , , , , | 8 Comments

Two Harbors, Catalina

I visited Two Harbors 2 years back, in December of 2012. We took a ferry (Catalina Express, if I remember correctly) from LA. It is a 45 minutes ride from the shore. Beware, if you suffer from motion sickness!

Two Harbors is actually a small village located on Catalina Island. The biggest town there is Avalon, which is 18 miles before Two Harbors. Your ferry will first stop at Avalon and then more on to Two Harbors. Avalon is the more popular destination of the two. We went in for Two Harbors for a more serene weekend.

Avalon island

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Because we went there in December, it was obviously cold. Nights were unbearably cold (at least for me because I was new to USA that time and I was too used to the Indian tropical climate). Most of the people who were there during that time were looking at relaxing and we didn’t see a lot of activity around. Otherwise, you can involve yourself in activities like fishing, cruise, glass bottom boat rides, night walks and camping. There are lots of camping facilities available.

catalina island

Evening views

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This side of the island is pretty small and walkable. There are hiking trails which will be your best way to explore the area and look at the entire shoreline. I unfortunately do not remember the name of the trail we took but it was fairly flat. It had a very low incline. It was pretty long and endless – I won’t be surprised if it went all the way to Avalon. The views were brilliant, the trail was flat and wide and quite a pleasurable experience.

two harbors hiking trail

The trail

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First views from the trail

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The shoreline

On the other side is the Isthmus Cove. There wasn’t much to do there except walk around, have picnic in any of the open areas and take in the beauty of the place. This area contains some private properties like cottages and boat houses. It was relatively empty and we could just wander around anywhere.

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View of the Isthmus Cove from The Banning House

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Way to Isthmus Cove

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These pretty things were the only company on that serene weekend

There is one General Store and just a couple of restaurants. The restaurant we had food at was pretty cosy and food was delicious. No regrets about scanty choice there!

Of all the lodges, I would recommend The Banning House. It is a historic place converted into a B&B place. It deserves a post of its own!

If you go there during summer, there is lots you can do. You can even explore Avalon while staying at Two Harbors. I will definitely like to visit Two Harbors again in a warmer season and explore it well.

More information:

two harbors flora

The typical flora

Categories: Photography, Travel, USA, California | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

{From the archives} Budapest

The moment we enter Budapest, I know why it is known as one of the most beautiful cities of Europe. This place IS beautiful. Nice roads, beautiful stone buildings, statues and castles and bridges. The normal buildings around the city area also look like historic buildings. The weather is pleasant – not nippy and cold.

In the morning, we have left at around 8 am from Prague by bus. The view isn’t very scenic; its just lots of fields and land. I pass my time by listening to music and chatting with A. We stop for lunch at a boat restaurant (a botel) in Bratislava, Slovakia. The food is greasy but the view and the weather is amazing. We walk along the river watching cyclists, joggers and people sitting at cafes enjoying beer (do these people ever drink water?). We cross over the Futuristic bridge and touch the highway again.


We have to take ‘comfort stops’ in between because it is compulsory for driver to take rest after every 4 hours. There’s a tacometer fitted in all buses which keeps track of the time the bus has been continuously driven and how many breaks have been taken. Breaks in between are a must; so is the 11 hours rest per day.

We reach Budapest at 4.15 pm. Our hotel is located on Buda side of the city. I have a nice view of houses and churches, which are slightly uphill, from my room. We have half an hour before we go for a cruise over Danube.

On way to the cruise, we cross a tunnel, beautiful buildings and the grand Chain Bridge. Chain Bridge and many other bridges over the river Danube connect Buda with Pest. Chain bridge is a lovely piece of art. The walls of the bridge are mesmerizing and lion pillars greet on-comers on both sides of the bridge. We immediately decide to come back here to have a better look.

Its nice and sunny when we board the top most deck of our small cruise ship. On the Pest side of the river bank, are huge buildings of Intercontinental hotel and Mariott hotel and some other office buildings and educational institutions. As we begin the audio tour on the cruise, the temperature dips suddenly and I am shivering soon. The cruise takes us till the equally beautiful Elizabeth bridge, crossing many other pretty bridges. We go under them and wave out to pedestrians walking by. I can’t concentrate on the commentary because I am so busy looking at all the beautiful structures and clicking snaps.





After clicking each other’s snaps, trying to handle our bags and stuff and the headphones and after the waiter accidently drops lots of beer/champagne/wine on me, I think I’ve had enough confusion to last for the coming 2 days and I ditch the audio commentary and sit back to enjoy the view and get lost in my thoughts. My 12 mp point-and-shoot camera can in no way do justice to the amazing scenery and I drop clicking snaps too. We cross the spectacular parliament building and it takes my breath away. It can easily be mistaken to be a king’s palace. We are later told that the expenditure that goes in maintaining the parliament is enough to build up an entire new city!


I’ve had a glass of red wine (I don’t drink but thought I should try it out) and I feel dizzy and sleepy. Or I THINK that I feel dizzy. It was just a glass after all and it tasted horrible!

We have dinner in an Indian restaurant called Salaam Bombay. I feel really tired and cold but I still agree to walk back to the hotel with A and S instead of taking the bus. I don’t know what most of these buildings are but all of them are a piece of art. Each one out does the other. All of them have grey or beige stone walls, carved wrought iron balconies, doors and windows and statues put up on the top corners.




The Chain Bridge and the river side looks dreamy at night with all the lighting. We click whatever photos our simple cameras will permit and cross several Japanese tourists to reach Buda. By the time we reach the tunnel, I’m half frozen by the cold. My nose is blocked and hands are ice cold. I’m dying to run into the warm blankets of the hotel. Roads in Buda are almost totally deserted barring a cafe-cum-bar with red lighting which has a couple of occupied tables. The church opposite it, which had looked so pretty in the morning, looks eerie during this time.

Its good that we have free Wi-Fi in rooms; gives me chance to connect with my friends in free time. Not that we have much free time, anyway, because we use up all the free time loitering in the streets, wherever we are!

I wonder how Budapest will look like during the day. Excited about touring the city tomorrow!

To sum up, I’ve had breakfast in Czech, lunch in Slovakia and dinner in Hungary. Not bad. Not bad at all!

(Written in Sept 2011)

Categories: Europe, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Granville Island Public Market, Vancouver

Did you know that the city of Vancouver was once known as Granville?

Later, when the city was renamed, the name Granville Island was given to an industrial area that spanned across a small inlet. It used to house lots of sawmills, factories and plants. After the Great Depression, Pear Harbor bombing and other events of the Forties, businesses started closing down. Government then decided to look at rehabilitation of the area and then converted it into a ‘people friendly’ place.

Granville Island is now a major family entertainment district and a popular tourist destination. It houses colleges, hotels, theatres, shops and restaurants. I had the opportunity of visiting there when I was in Canada two months back. Except for the rain, it was a wonderful experience. Rains prevented us from walking around outside. So we ended up spending a couple of hours inside the public market.

Not a bad idea at all!

We looked wide-eyed at all the food items and wonderful variety of fresh farm foods. The interiors are very industrial – high wooden ceiling, metal chains and pulleys, chunky lights are some typical elements. The place was swarming with tourists and regulars stuffing bags with fresh produce. Seafood, fruits, spices, cheese, flowers, coffee, meat, honey, breads – you name it and it was there.

Sigh, I wish I was a local and could shop my heart out there!

For now, I just look at the million pictures I took there and feel the delight inside my heart.

Here are some for you.

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Categories: Canada, Photography, Restaurant Reviews, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Big Sur Food

I do not expect exceptional food when I go to a place merely 2 hours away from SJ. I mean, how different can things be?

Boy, I was so wrong!

We drove down to Big Sur during the 4th July extended weekend. As usual, the trip was about lot of hiking. But unlike typical touristy spots, where food options are limited and expensive, Big Sur had a lot to offer. Big Sur has wonderful restaurants offering all kinds of cuisines along PCH 1. It is a tourist place that has some worthwhile stuff to offer to tourists. Restaurants are done up thoughtfully, interiors are artistic and food is top of the line. Along with restaurants, you will see art galleries. Sometimes, art galleries and restaurants are combined. Imagine the combination?

We tried 4 restaurants in our 3 day stay and were completely blown away by what we got. Here is an account of my experiences and my recommendations.

Big Sur Coast Gallery & Cafe

You cannot miss it. It is strategically located right on the coast on a curve of the road. Ample parking and brilliant views of the ocean, not to mention the pleasure of looking at artsy stuff, makes this a must-stop place. We were tired after a tough hike (Ewoldsen) and wanted something to cheer us up. Coffee and a turkey sandwich, each exceeding our expectations, did the trick. Yummiest cafe-stop in recent times. We managed to get a place with a good view on the deck and then, we were in no hurry to get up!

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The exterior

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The view!

coast cafe big sur

Turkey Sandwich

Big Sur Roadhouse

Another place where art and food come together. Tastefully done in wood, abstract art and greenery, the mid-priced restaurant is also located right on Highway 1. We went there for dinner and it was a good thing we reached early because soon this place was packed with couples, families and groups. Roadhouse offers local Californian cuisine with some Cajun flavours and Louisiana / Traditional Southern American dishes thrown in to create an interesting mix. Everything about this place was delightful – the servers, the interiors, the food, its presentation. Here are some appetizing pictures. Apart from all this, we also ordered a bowl of Gumbo, which was near perfection. My sweet white wine was a great accompaniment.

I wonder how their coffee must be.

big sur roadhouse restaurant

Southern Chicken Drumsticks

blackened catch big sur

Blackened Catch of the Day

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They don’t have this on the menu anymore but it was chocolate cake, chocolate and vanilla icre-cream with custard. Interestingly, their dessert menus keep changing according to the season.

Big Sur Lodge Dining

I usually do not eat at the place where I stay. Stay and food are two different things. Never ever have I had great food at the very place I stayed – until the breakfast at Big Sur Lodge. Amazing ambience (patio surrounded by trees and slight sound of water flowing in the stream below) and fantastic food. We went for Eggs Florentine and French Toast. The eggs were one of the best I have ever had. Breakfast is highly recommended here!

mountain lodge breakfast

Eggs Florentine

big sur birds

Steller’s Jays regularly haunt the patio and they don’t seem to be afraid of humans.


I do not have to sing praises about Nepenthe. It is one of the oldest and probably the best restaurant in Big Sur. Might be a little pricey, but you pay for the view here. So, it is best to come here during day time or in the evening to watch the sun set. We did not have a complete meal here; just a cocktail (which was wonderful, by the way). Being a busy long weekend, the place was packed. Servers scurrying around, barely managing to answer questions, people sitting inches away from each other and a never ending stream of waiting crowd. I wouldn’t want to dine in this situation but otherwise, when crowds are low, this would be a delightful choice.

Do you have any other recommendations for Big Sur food? It is close to SJ, so I may end up visiting again and food is always a highlight for me during travels!

Categories: Bay Area, California, Photography, Restaurant Reviews, Travel, USA | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Henry Miller Memorial Library, Big Sur CA

I had a chance to visit Henry Miller Memorial Library when we visited Big Sur during the 4th July long weekend. Big Sur is a beautiful place with lovely restaurants, excellent food and breath-taking views. It also houses some art galleries and this quaint library dedicated to the American writer, Henry Miller.

Miller lived in Big Sur from 1944 to 1962. He wrote his memoir on life in Big Sur here where he described the joys and hardships of escaping ‘the air-conditioned nightmare’ of modern life. His writings were unconventional and often controversial with topics ranging from character study, social criticism and philosophical observations. His language was often explicit and several of his works have been banned over various time periods.

His writing style was a mix of memoirs and fiction that gave a surreal impression.

The library is a non-profit organization showcasing Henry Miller’s writings and some of his possessions. It has converted into an art centre where some or the other culture event is always happening – be it book signing, music shows or local artisan displays. It is indeed a very interesting place.

The interior of the library is eccentric, quirky and has a very artsy vibe. Books, posters and vintage records are available on sale. While most books are by Henry Miller and on Big Sur, you will find popular bestsellers too.

We almost missed the place but I am glad we dropped in. it is a beautiful place. One can wind up their Big Sur trip with a trip here.

Information sources:,,

Location: Highway One

Landmark: Opposite Nepenthe Cafe

Verdict: Must Visit!

Big Sur Art Culture

Big Sur Art Culture

Big Sur Art Culture

Can you spot a cow head skull on the top?

Big Sur Art Culture

Preparing for a book reading event in evening

Big Sur Art Culture

Big Sur Art Culture

Don’t forget to peek into the bathroom

Big Sur Art Culture

The housecat. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

Big Sur Art Culture

Magical, surreal world

Big Sur Art Culture

Big Sur Art Culture

One can spend hours looking at the wall posters, paintings and slogans.

Big Sur Art Culture

Vintage records on sale. A collector’s paradise.

Categories: Bay Area, California, Travel, USA | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Gilroy Garlic Festival–Interesting sights

After missing it last year, I was able to attend the Gilroy Garlic Festival this time. And I can safely say that it was a good experience.

Gilroy is known for its garlic farms and garlic flavoured food. If you pass Gilroy on 101, you will see lots of garlic farms and restaurants. This festival, held in July last week every year, brings all food creators together under one roof. On one ground, actually. The festival is held on a huge barren land. There is dry grass and dust as far as the eye can see. More on that in a little while.

This festival has attributes of a typical summer fest – music, food, shopping, kid stuff and fun sights. It can be a family outing or a chill out excursion with friends.

Of course, the highlight is food. All foods have one thing in common – an obvious tinge of garlic. Garlic egg rolls, garlic mussels, garlic pasta pesto, garlic veggie wrap, garlic popcorn, garlic pistachios – garlic is an intrinsic part (and not in a bad way) in everything. If you are allergic to or have a dislike for garlic, there is not much you can eat there.

I delved into some stuffed garlic mushrooms and garlic bread, both of which were heavenly. Must try for everyone. But mind you, the garlic bread was super heavy. I was done with just these.

I tasted samples of garlic pistachios and popcorn. Both were really good. Worth buying and stocking in your house.

Now for the tricky parts.

There is an entry fee of $20. I think that’s a bit too much.

The parking lots and the main festival area are far away. You need to park your car in the parking lot and take shuttle buses to the ticket counter. And if it is as hot and dusty as yesterday, that experience won’t be pleasant.

Some exits from the freeway may be choked up. I took the Monterey exit on 101S and experienced slow moving bumper to bumper traffic. Do not follow your GPS. As the website recommends, many roads will be blocked. Only some main exits are allowed. Cop cars and signs will lead the way to the parking lot. I suggest taking the Masten Ave exit on 101S. It was deserted (I took it on the way back and sailed through).

If it is going to be hot like yesterday, be prepared. Hats, bottles, tissues and if possible, your own mats, chairs and umbrella to put up under shade. There were 2 free water service counters. Keep an eye for them; they will not be easily discernible.

I would love to visit this festival again next year and try more food items.


I said interesting fun sights, right?


Garden sticks being sold at a stall. This place was swarming with parents and kids. I did pick 2 for my balcony garden.


Strawberry+Banana+Peach smoothie from Fruit Fritz. Without this, I would have been dehydrated. This was yummy. $9 for this big glass; $4 for refill. Worth it.


Sauteed mushrooms, shrimp and garlic bread (uh-uh, that’s not my plate!)


Flat bottle trays. To be used to serve cheese, sushi, starters, etc. Some interesting labels on these.

Categories: Bay Area, California, Photography, San Jose, Travel, USA | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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