Saturday, May 24, 2014

A quick peek inside Google Campus

Make an intelligent guess on where we went this week. That's right! Google Headquarters at Mountain View!

What's the big deal? Well, it's the first time we ever went INSIDE the company, thanks to Panda's colleague. Lisa's husband, T, works there so we were given a tour. Woohoo!

Pardon the lack of good photos because I didn't want to appear like a dork by snapping everywhere, although I really wanted to. Did you know they have awesome slides inside their offices, so that employees can just 'whee!' their way down? So sad that visitors aren't allowed to try that.


What we were able to do, however, was to go inside Building 44, the one behind the famous lawn of giant android mascots and statues. That's the tourist spot. You snap photos of these life size desserts. But to go behind those forbidden doors... you need a status higher than a regular tourist. A visitor pass!

So what did I find inside the Android Building? A toilet hidden behind a wall panel (high tide was the reason I entered the building in the first place), a dysfunction android mascot standing in a corner, and Predator guarding the reception area.


During our visit, we saw four topless hunks having a game at the beach volleyball court. We also caught sight of those cute conference bikes, although compared to the omnipresent Google bikes, they were not in use. Pool tables are a given. A pity we didn't get to see the swim-in-place swimming pools or the bowling alley. 

But we did swing by to say hi to Stan, the famous T-Rex skeleton, which had pink flamingos dangling from its mouth.

We had lunch at one of the staff cafeterias. They were serving mussels on the day we visited. Contrary to what some people said, the food actually tasted quite yummy. Or maybe we were just in awe of everything. In any case, free food rocks!

A visit is not a visit without the purchase of Google merchandise at the onsite store! We each bought a Google t-shirt. Panda also got me an infuser water bottle. If we were to stay longer in the States, I would love to have one of those brightly coloured jackets.

It was a short but fruitful two-hour tour, thanks to T! We didn't see all the stuff listed here, but what we saw was sufficient enough for us to add to the cliché:


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Partying with the Fantastic Four

As mentioned, the Fantastic Four took time out of their busy schedules to visit us, and we were thrilled to have them for 1.5 weeks!

You've got to admire their energy level and positive vibes. There was no downtime at all, and everyday was practically a party.

Marin Headlands:

Monterey (I have one photo of Dad dancing but I better not post it!): 


Worthy of mention is our 3D2N trip to Yosemite. I had been there countless times with visitors, but it has got to be the prettiest this time round. The foggy weather on the first day made everything looked surreal. We literally drove through white fluff on some parts of the road, not being able to see beyond fifty feet of us. It was strangely enchanting.

On the second day, we experienced light snow at Glacier Point while having simple homemade salad lunch, cramped in our 7-seater. It was cold, even in May! 

We were finally blessed with good weather on the third day, as we attempted the moderate uphill hike to Vernal Fall footbridge. Trust me, the sign says 0.8 miles from Happy Isles but it took us eternity to get there because of the incline. We were all ready to kiss our knees goodbye after that. 

On my previous visits, I have always stayed at Tenaya Lodge down South. Slightly pricier but very comfortable. This time round, Gugu booked a 2-storey house at Groveland under Hotel Charlotte, which is about half an hour away on the West. 

The house itself is located within the Pine Mountain Lake Golf Course. It came with three bedrooms, two toilets, and a gigantic kitchen. Awesome because we were able to cook dinner, but bad for the neighbours because we made such a din!


The rest of the Fantastic Four's stay included outlet visits, silicon valley tours, and day trips to the city. We even went down to Santana Row to sit in Tesla's trunk, just for the fun of it. Those are proper child seats, but our butts are obviously too big for them!

Yes, the silly things we did!

It's been more than a week since Gugu and Gucheung went back to Hong Kong, and Dad and Mom departed for Toronto. I will be joining them in Edmonton, and then at Yellowstone. I look forward to continuing the fun, because family time is hard to come by when we stay in different countries.

I'd also like to put on record a big thanks to the Fantastic Four for sponsoring our travels for this trip. Grateful for all the treats - accommodation, car rentals, gas, food... I hope I can return the favour one day, when I go back and start working again.

Till then, stay tuned for more family updates in the next few weeks!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Hola, Los Cabos!

View from our room at Hyatt Ziva

One of my dream destinations for our US stay is Mexico. This year, my dream was fulfilled in the form of Los Cabos, located at the southern tip of the Baja California Peninsula.

When I first learned that Panda was going for a work trip at Mexico, I begged to tag along. That is, even though I knew I would only have two nights' stay before the Fantastic Four arrives in SF.

I mean, I could let it go if it's Austin again. But Mexico? Hello! I want to see the giant cactuses and smell the exotic air. It doesn't matter if I would just be staying at the resort while Panda buries himself in meetings. I just hope to go!

Pool + sunny skies = perfect match!

Turns out, it was awesome just chilling around. We stayed at Hyatt Ziva along the resort strip, a pretty decent hotel. In fact, I realised upon my power walk along the beach the next morning with Tony, the resort guide, that it's probably one of the best around in terms of size and facilities. 

An all-inclusive experience means we can eat and drink to our heart's content - and we did! Buffets were served for both breakfast and lunch. You have the option of room service if you wake up late or want to enjoy private time. Dinner-wise, I tried both the steak house and the French restaurant. I wish I had time to try the other three - Italian, Spanish, Japanese. Argh!

My favourite dish has got to be the Mexican-style grilled corn or elote, which we requested for one of our lunches. It wasn't on the buffet spread, but we asked for some after seeing it served to another table. Simplicity can be oh-so-yums!

I spent most of my time hanging out at the pool with Mei, my fellow bubbly tag-along spouse. I think we really stuffed ourselves silly with the unlimited supply of food and drinks. Thanks to her, I was introduced to a variety of alcoholic mixes: piña colada, mudslide, mango/strawberry martini, margarita, sunrise tequila, centenario tequila with sangrita...

Everything tasted so good when paired with great company and an unending supply of prawn tacos and fries. I had a hard time walking straight after that. It was the strange combination of a heavy stomach and a light head.

It was thus with much sadness that I bid Mexico goodbye after two short nights. Los Cabos is by no means a fair representation of the country - it's a tourist area and I didn't even get out of the hotel! Still, I enjoyed myself so much. I played beach volleyball on the third day, and barely had time to shower before scrambling for my airport shuttle.

I also missed the three amigos in white (just like the movies!) who tried to lure me out to the beach to buy stuff. They looked so cute, and God knows how long they stood behind that line under the hot sun. They were there before my morning walk, and still there when we sat by the camp fire at night. I wish I had bought something, anything from them.

So, here ends my short but sweet adventure in Mexico. Never mind that I didn't get to go downtown; never mind that Panda didn't have time to keep me company. I'm just thankful for being able to smell the air and check out the giant cactuses, like what I said I would do. 
One more dream place that I checked off the list.
Till next time, Mexico!