Thursday, July 24, 2014

The call of nature

By now, it's pretty obvious that I love gardens and nature!

We visited UC Berkeley Botanical Garden last Saturday because the Queen of Andes is flowering at 24 years old, an extraordinary phenomenon because they normally don't flower until 80-100 years old. I had expected that we would spend much time admiring the giant plant, taking loads of photos of it before heading off.

So wrong.

Turns out, we only took a brief look at the Queen, which really resembles an enormous asparagus (pardon my lack of respect to Her Majesty!), then started snapping away at all the other much more beautiful flowers in the garden.

Red Angels' Trumpet, Hybrid Tea Rose, Purple Coneflower, Purple Crown, Bulbine Latifolia, cactuses that look like my feet, festuca that's blue... the garden is so fascinating.

It's a pity that we couldn't enter the redwood groves because a wedding was taking place. It would have been lovely walking under the canopy.

We also made a beeline for the bees, pun intended. Recently, Panda has taken an interest in photographing bees and I wanted to give him a run for his money. Poor Kevin had to wait for us while we squatted at the bushes for the longest time, trying to get the best bee photos.

I think I did pretty well!

The UC Berkeley Botanical Garden is definitely a gem. If Filoli is an elegant lady, this garden is your sweet girl-next-door. 

Equally lovely, equally pretty.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

San Diego: Shamu! Shamu!

"Huhhhh? What's there to do in San Diego?" 

That was the blank look I gave Panda when he said he has booked a 4D3N trip to San Diego. I love mountains and national parks. Theme parks and beaches? So-so. 

But since it is again a $10 airfare trip on Southwest, I am not complaining. And thanks to Jo, we found an awesome deal on Costco for a 4-Day Go San Diego Card, which includes SeaWorld, LegoLand, Safari and more. 

We can hit so many places with just one pass. So the budget housewife in me says, off to the south we go!

And no prize for guessing my favorite attraction in San Diego.... It's SHAMU at SeaWorld! 

We drove to SeaWorld as soon as we landed on Day 1, armed with a list of their show times so that we can maximise our time there. One Ocean was the first show we saw and we were completely blown away by the intelligence of the giant orcas. They flipped, they jumped, they splashed.

Awesome beyond words! 

A close second would be the dolphin cutie pies. They have this perpetual smile on their faces and were absolutely adorable even when begging for food!

I wished they could swim near enough for me to pet them. Too bad I can't jump right in and swim with them - they are probably the only underwater creatures that I dare to swim with. Oh, I also found out that although they look small, they are much taller than us!

Love these cutie pies!

Since it was the 4th of July, we also stayed for the evening fireworks. Had a pretty cosy spot at the Sea Lion and Otter Stadium to watch the spectacular firework display.  

Was ready to collapse on the bed by the time we got back to the hotel after midnight. 

We visited LegoLand and San Diego Zoo Safari on Day 2 and 3. But unlike most people who planned a full day at the parks, we only spent half a day there so that we could enjoy more of San Diego. 

A good thing too, because after we've been to the SeaWorld, LegoLand and the Safari were a little underwhelming. Maybe because we are not kids anymore?

Or maybe because the only thing I get to pet is the goat? I mean, I was not hoping to get into the lion's den, but if only we could go up to the giraffes. Sigh. 

On Day 2, before hitting LegoLand, we joined a bicycle tour at Coronado Island. The 90-min tour was included in the pass, and the guide took us to several spots: We had beautiful views of downtown San Diego from cross the bay; we also stopped by the award-winning Coronado Bridge. 

My favourite spot has got to be the state beach, where Hotel Del Coronado is located. It would be perfect to just laze around and enjoy a drink or two under that awesome weather. Never mind the sunburn.

We also did something I have been wanting to do: GoCar! Again, it was included in the pass and we paid just a little more to extend the rental.

It wasn't as scary as I thought, being on the road with bigger cars and trucks. The scooter car needed some getting used to, because you must turn the handles to accelerate and squeeze the brakes really hard to stop. But that was the fun part; I've never driven a scooter car until now! 

We followed the audio GPS, which is like an audio tour guide, and went from the harbor all the way through Little Italy and the Gaslamp Quarter. 

And it was the coolest hour of my life. Everyone was staring this little yellow car on the road and I had so much fun waving back at the pedestrians. 

Before leaving for the airport, we swung by the famous Balboa Park. I regretted not setting aside time for this beautiful park. The architecture reminded me of Europe, and I would have loved to check out one of the many lovely museums around the park. (For information, the Museum of Man was having an exhibition on Instruments of Torture. Nasty.)

Once again, there are still so many places to explore, and so little time. We only have about four more months left. Can the sun not set so soon on our US stay?

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Moveable Feast at FC!

We finally went to FC's Moveable Feast today! Panda has been wanting to go but the timing always clashes with my French Club gatherings. Today, I decided to skip French and have a food truck dinner with the FC folks.

I have never been a big fan of food trucks because I find them overpriced and messy to eat at times. I mean, how do you hold your drink and eat your food at the same time? But when in US, do as the Americans do. Food trucks and music in summer it is!

No regrets, too. I was pleasantly surprised to see how well-organised the feast is. There are proper benches to put your food and plenty of red pails to sit on. The lines weren't long when we reached at 6pm, so I was able to get my pulled pork fries and hari cari chicken rice from MoBowl pretty fast. Yums! Panda bought some pretty awesome chicken from Seoulful Korean Fried Chicken, but I was hoping they would be more spicy.

There's also a live music segment, and mini goal posts for kids to play soccer. I find it cute that they put up a sign to say 'Please come out and play!' You probably won't get that in Singapore!

We brought our own chairs, of course, since we bought them especially for summer. They couldn't withstand the strong wind though; we had a couple flipping over. And we would have loved to stay longer if not for the chilly weather! 

Panda was saying that next time, we would bring our own hot flask to make coffee and tea, because that would have completed the evening in the park. Praying for even better weather for the rest of the summer!


[P/S: More photos from 6 Aug! The curly fries and shrimps with chipotle sauce from 3 Brothers' Kitchen was amazing. And the Hongry Kong Truck actually had non-flaky crust egg tarts which I love! Awww!]

Beautiful weather (although it was still quite windy)! And someone made a costume out of cardboards. Too cute!