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Sundar Narayanan's Travelog

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Entries in local (63)


Happy New Year 2018

2017 is done and we are moving on.  The last 8 days saw us visit local places with the BIL's family. My two nieces made photography fun again for me! 

They would randomly come ask me to take pictures in the studio and make funny face poses!

Our plan was to go to the Golden Gate Bridge vista point. However we were not allowed to enter. It was buses only. So we decided to see the bridge from the other side. There also parking was impossible. So we ended up getting flagged to go further and further away from the bridge and next thing we know, we are at a visitor center and there is a beautiful lagoon and a beach with was within eye sight. It said 0.8 miles one way and a mild hike, so off we went. There was a distinct possibility that the little ones might ask to be "lifted" and carried on the way back, but that did not happen. They walked the entire trail and back.

We spent a good 2 hours there and took pictures!

I should have dressed better though. Caught some virus. The rest of 30th and 31st has been spent drinking cough syrup and sleeping. Finally managed to edit the pictures now.. 

We also had the studio set up in the house.. that meant pictures and pictures and more pictures anytime the kids wanted..

we even switched to a black background to test out some shots..

2018 is going to be a busy year for us. My hope is that we all be in better health next year. 

I had the best year health wise for 2017 but managed to mess it up in the last two days! While it is easy to bias an entire year based on the last few days, I did thoroughly enjoy 2017. 

Thankful to my BIL and family for visiting us over the break. When you have little kids running around the house, it lights up the place! 


Hakone Gardens

We have lived in the bay area for almost 20 years and have known of the existence of Hakone Gardens the entire time. Somehow the motivation to visit this place was not there before. Maybe it was folks telling us it is too small or the ticket price doesn't jusitfy it compared to Filoli etc.. Whatever it be, this is one of those places we simply forgot to visit. (Winchester Mystery house and Hearst castle are two other places we still have not visited).

Given this was a quiet thanksgiving weekend to be spent locally, we decided to visit. We actually had a great time. The weather was perfect and the fall colors made for great photos! 

We did not do a "tea ceremony" but spent 3 hours there and were smiling through and through cracking jokes with family. 

The place is small but amazingly beautiful. Every stone is placed perfectly. 

Here is a slideshow of the pictures in vertical format..

and one in horizontal format..

Strongly recommend this place for timepass if you are in the bay area and have only a few hours. Nice and quiet with some beautiful views of the entire bay area as you walk around the hill on the garden!


Good times in Chennai

The Chennai visit also got us a chance to go visit the great grand parents for the kids, go visit temples, feed the crows before eating every morning.. little things that define Chennai life for the rest of the family that we enjoy when we go there.. 

First stop as usual was Kabali temple... 

We did the usual veggie shopping, goli soda drinking, and walking around the Mylapore area thing that puts some memory markers in their respective places.. 

A single photo that captures that evening..

Then there was a miracle. My mother and Jr. went to the local temple and overheard the local priest tell a bunch of folks that given the solar eclipse coming this year on the same day we change our threads, a section of folks who follow the Yajur Veda should change their threads in July. While the oldies in the family were debating the technicalities of doing "aavani avittam" outside the month of Aavani, I jumped at it. Have not been able to do this with my dad or brother in 25 years! So this was a sun moon and earth given chance. 

The changing of thread was followed by some yummy food and the rest of the afternoon was spent taking a nice nap! To me this ceremony is about renewing a commitment to learning and keeping an open mind. Have learned a lot of new things last year about myself, folks around me and the world in general and have continued to realize that there is more to learn and all this learning still wont help you because something is always going to come way out of left field and knock all this learning meaningless. 

We did the usual rounds visiting friends and family and also did some shopping for the kids. The great grand parents are all managing their health issues and pushing onwards in their late eighties or early nineties.

We wrapped the trip up with a visit to Kaleidozone, a place where kids and adults can do Virtual reality games. Basically they have a nice set up with VR goggles and some interesting games.

The rates were reasonable and we spent more than an hour there followed by a nice dinner at a Delhi food restaurant and before you could say "I miss Chennai"... I had to fly back!

Don't know when the next time would be to visit Chennai, alone or with family. Here is to hoping it is sooner than later...


Camping 2016- Sugarloaf Ridge State Park

We started the once a year Camping trip with the cousins four years ago?! Even the blog comes up with a sketchy timeline. 

The last camping trip to SugarLoaf was in 2013,  and in 2014 we went to Big Sur. Last year don't remember camping and this year we made it again to SugarLoaf. By now we knew the drill.. What to expect and how to prepare better. 

Given this is our first trip without the Sienna, we packed the Prius..

squeezed in everything we need and pitched the tents..

went for a great hike, but took a wrong turn with the two folks leading the hike (me and Anu) supporting each other's hypothesis that we were on the right track only to find out 2 miles later that we were going to end up on the other side of the freeway. Note to self : Always trust the sun, better than trusting your self! 

we got some beautiful views on the hike 

with the setting sun casting nice shadows

the waterfall had no water in it given it was almost fall when we went there.. 

we saw lizards, deer and one snake and that pretty much summed up the fauna sightings


we thoroughly enjoyed the camp fire in the cold September night

The kids had Sunday morning classes and we did a rush job of wrapping up the tents before the sun was out and were on our way back nice and early. Next year might bring us a two day camping trip.. who knows?!

We had been camping inside our own house for a good two months in summer, with nothing but plastic sheets to separate us from the elements. That was like training for the real camping trip.  Given the new routine with the kids growing up to practically adult sizes, we are definitely investing in some decent camping gear starting next year!

Until then... 


Falling water

On our second day of the Pittisburg trip over summer, we raced from Laurel caverns to Falling water. The reason for the race was that we had tickets for a fixed tour appointment. 
First, about Falling water. This is the house that made Frank Lloyd Wright, famous. The Kaufmann family commissioned him to build this house over a waterfall, with money that in today's equivelent if ~50M $. 
It is an architectural marvel that was nominated to be on the 8 modern wonders of the world. You have to see it to believe it. The whole thing is a layer of cantilevers hanging over a vertical concrete structure, above a waterfall. 
HDR processing has some advantages!
There was one problem. No cameras allowed on the trip. You could take pictures outside the house. We were asked to switch all cell phone camera's off as well. Given we had not heard about this place before, they could use the publicity is what I thought.... 
All the pictures were taken with the iPhone 6 and processed in Photoshop! 
The tour guide hyped the cost of repair and how badly the place was crumbling. The little one did not like the guide. She said "we have eyes, we can see how beautiful this is without him having to tell us".
The place speaks for itself. It is a true marvel. The attention to detail in every door, every window, every corner and how the furniture is built into the house, the views, the privacy and open ness where it matters, I could go on and on about this place.. 
Frank Lloyd Wright was way ahead of his time! Wish he was alive now... we would be seeing a totally different class of buildings! It was a good thing my sister-in-law picked this place for a vist. We thoroughly enjoyed it.
If you happen to go to Pittsburgh area, this is a must see! 
If you are an architecture buff or into engineering, you will love this place.