Account of travels across the world. This blog provides descriptions of travels in different parts of the world. Pictures related to many of the blogs can be found at http://www.flickr.com/photos/7330879@N05/ and for more information I can be e-mailed at ananda@wfu.edu

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

San Diego November 2008

Friday November 21, 2008

Srijoy and I left from home at about 8:30 am for the drive to Charlotte.
It was an eventless drive and we got there in good time. It took a
little bit of time at the airport to get the bus from the parking lot to
the terminal. The check in was relatively painless, but we did not get
the anticipated upgrade. After security we spent some time at the
Starbucks coffee shop and we got a sandwich for the flight. The first
leg of the flight was up to Las Vegas. They had put us on an exit row
seat and so they had to move us to a normal seat because at 13 years
Srijoy was not allowed to sit in the exit row. We spent time chatting
on the plane and bought one of the packed lunches to supplement the
sandwich. The flight was a little delayed and we were worried about
missing the next leg from Vegas to Orange County John Wayne Airport.
But thankfully, the flight from Vegas was delayed as well. The airport
in Vegas has a series of slot machines and I tried my luck and came out
ahead. Srijoy noted that the airport was relatively bereft of children,
and he felt that the place was rather child-unfriendly. This was
especially true for the restaurant where Srijoy was not allowed in
because it also had a bar and no one under 18 was allowed in. He was
not very pleased with Vegas airport. The next leg was relatively short
and we arrived into the LA area when it was still light outside. One
could see the pollution that engulfs the entire coastline as a brown
haze hung over the area very reminiscent of other cities like Lima,
Delhi and Bogota. One sees such a haze over New York as well but it is
certainly more pronounced over the LA area. We landed through the smog
and the airport was relatively friendly and easy to negotiate. The
rental car agency was with the airport and we walked down to the garage
to pick up the car. There Srijoy noticed that a red Ford Mustang was
also available for rental and we quickly changed the vehicle and the two
of us left the airport in a red Mustang. This was really a great
feeling to be driving a "muscle" car and Srijoy was totally thrilled.
We used the GPS system to find our way to the ocean-side drive. Both
Srijoy and I realized that the West coast is remarkably different from
all of the USA. He felt it was certainly richer and it showed. The
highway cuts through the numerous coast towns between LA and San Diego
with the innumerable boutiques and other stores. We stopped at a
Starbucks for tea as both of us were a little jet lagged already.
Eventually, we got on to rather crowded highway 5 South and headed into
San Diego. Our hotel was a Residence Inn by the Marina. After checking
in, I went downstairs and ran into Allan; we chatted for a while as
Srijoy took a shower and we eventually ordered a spaghetti dinner and
called it a day.

Saturday November 22, 2008

I had to be at a conference panel early, so I had to get up and get
ready while I let Srijoy sleep. I got some breakfast for him and I
headed out to the conference hotel. Being a Saturday it was not too
difficult finding parking. I finished my work and returned to the hotel
as Srijoy was getting up. We had decided that we would do a trip to
Tijuana in Mexico for the day. We tied up with Scott and Kevin Heston
who also decided to go to Mexico that day. We left the hotel at about
11:00 am and drove south along highway 5. On the way Srijoy and I
realized that he did not have any ID with him; so we stopped at a strip
mall and got a copy of his passport. This is usually a good idea since
I would have the passport with me, and if he were to get separated from
me, then at least he would have a copy. We then drove further south
until we saw the "last exit in USA" sign and pulled off the highway.
There are a series of parking lots in this area and we picked one and
after parking the car, we walked across the bridge and into Mexico. The
entry was rather undramatic - just going across a turnstile - and we
were in a different country. The entire atmosphere changed immediately,
and as Srijoy noted, it was like entering India or some other developing
country. The cars honked, there were vendors on the street, small shops
and a general sense of activity all around. The place was a little less
clean than USA and Srijoy enjoyed it immensely. We walked through the
markets and the pharmacies and reached the famous arch of Tijuana which
stands at one end of Avenue Revolution. This is the high street of
Tijuana with the gift stores and the numerous restaurants, not to
mention the strip bars and the general one-dollar beer joints that never
ask for an ID. Actually, Srijoy could have had a drink here if he
wanted! We did some souvenir shopping and then found a restaurant for
lunch. The beer was cheap and good, and the Mariachi band kept the
place very lively. We ate a relaxed lunch and then decided to continue
to stroll down the avenue. We had spotted a huge flag that dominates
the Tijuana skyline and we decided to see the flag up close. So, Srijoy
and I went off the beaten tourist path and we were soon in authentic
Mexican neighborhoods. Our slight resemblance to the local population
made us less conspicuous and we strolled along the streets walking
through an area that was clearly the car repair place of Tijuana. These
are not dealerships that sell swanky car parts, but these are
hole-in-the-wall stores that are run by people who have learn their
trade tinkering with technology! We had to walk up hill a bit until we
reached the park adjoining the massive park which was all opposite some
kind of a military area. Now we were far from the beaten track. We
hung around the park for some time and then took a different route back
towards the arch. We were soon back in the tourist area and were again
accosted by the vendors. One thing we have learnt is to highlight our
Indian-ness in places like Mexico. The vendors quickly distinguish
between the richer Western tourists and the poorer Indian tourists. I
think we got better deals because of that. It was also clear that
Indian tourists go to Tijuana because many of the vendors knew enough to
say things like, "Namaste," "Salaam Alekum," "Shasta" and one called
Srijoy "Gandhi" and another offered a sale price by reducing the price
of the item by "ek rupee!" Typically, when we are in situations such as
this, we do not speak in English with each other, and Srijoy now knows
not to use his standard American accent, but revert to the Indian
English or stick entirely to Bengali. Interesting how people make
attributions based on nationality and ethnicity! We finally walked back
to the border crossing area and had to wait in line for about 45 minutes
before re-entering USA. We walked back to the car and then drove back
to the hotel to set down for a little before heading out to the
Department party. The party was in the Gas Lamp district of San Diego
and it went really well. It was at a jazz place and Srijoy enjoyed the
music. After the dinner (with Jason and Parul) Srijoy wanted to check
out any heavy metal music bar. We chatted with a rickshaw driver and he
suggested a place, we walked up there but it was not much good. We
eventually got back to the car and headed back to the hotel and to bed.

Sunday November 23, 2008

Again, we were up early and we decided to make the most of the day.
After the breakfast, we drove to Sea World. We got there just as it was
opening and we spent the entire day there taking in almost all the
shows, eating lunch at the Budweiser cafe and watched the Shamu show
twice. We actually left from there just as it was closing which meant
we had spent about 8 hours there! After that we got back to the hotel
and connected up with Allan. The three of us then drove over to the
conference hotel and connected up with Jason. It was a nice night, very
pleasant, and we walked along the marina and found a sea food place.
Srijoy enjoyed his scallops and we had a relaxed dinner, eventually
getting back to the hotel about 10:00 pm and called it a day after
sitting and watching TV for some time.

Monday November 24, 2008

I had most of my work in the morning on Monday. Srijoy decided that it
would be best to leave the hotel and come out with me. So we checked
out of the hotel, put our bags in the car and we headed to the
conference hotel. Srijoy sat through the two panels and then had coffee
with Greg and we headed out of San Diego. It was bit of a cloudy day
and we drove at a leisurely pace north towards LA. Our aim was to get
to Venice beach. On the way we stopped at a restaurant and had a nice
fish and chips lunch and as we headed back up north the traffic was
getting thicker and we decided that going to Venice beach would be
difficult. So we pulled into a city called Newport Beach and drove all
the way to the beachside. We spent the evening at the beach. Srijoy
chased the sea gulls and pelicans and it was really nice to be at an
un-crowded beach like that. We were rewarded with an excellent sunset
that was so pretty that many people came to simply watch that. We hung
out there for a bit and then headed to the hotel. The Residence Inn had
some free snacks and Srijoy made a dinner out of that. We were both
tired, so we lit a fire in the room and sat around it for a while.
Srijoy and I chatted a lot that night talking about many different
things until it was time to call it a day.

Tuesday November 25, 2008

We left early to return the car and fly back. The first leg of the
flight was to Phoenix. It was relatively uneventful and we had some
time to grab a bite to eat in Phoenix and then got the flight back to
Charlotte. We got upgraded to first class for that segment of the
flight and it was quite pleasant. We reached Charlotte on time and were
home by about 11:00 pm.

posted by Ananda  # 5:05 PM


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