K and I set out two Thursdays back, tugging a 50 lb suitcase and two carry on baggage as we looked forward to ten or more days of spending time with friends and family. Reaching San Jose we waited for our host to pick us up. As we stood waiting in the evening glow, it struck up how different the dust colored city was in contrast to the verdant Philly. One level homes, palm trees, wide pavements and a whole lot of people walking. Our ride arrived and we reached home talking of traffic and other general things. Stepping out of the car, I glimpsed Akay and my face broke out into a wide grin. Tight hugs later we stepped into their home. I was meeting her after a good five years. She looked prettier than I remembered her and was effusive in her welcome. After a good meal we sat around as she and her hubby surprised K with a chocolate cherry cake and a gift of books. True to our nature, Akay and I sat up most of the night chatting till I could keep awake no longer. Our vacation had started off on a lovely note. The next couple of days went past in a blur of people and places. We met Maggie who comments occasionally in here and another cousin of mine who is a silent lurker. We met a bunch of friends from K’s under grad class and as the sun set on the lovely waters of the pacific we had a stimulating discussion on rationality and irrationality. To round out the experience, we had dinner at a hip joint in Santa Clara called Jumping Monkey. More on that later.
Sunday we left to Seattle visiting an old friend on the way to the airport stopping at their place for a hearty lunch of ceylon parotas and vegetable chettinad. Stepping out in the Seattle/Tacoma airport, we walked out expecting to catch a shuttle before we could get the keys to our rental car. To our surprise, all we needed to do was to go down one level and in five minutes we were out hitting the roads to my cousin’s place. The difference in scenery and views was amazing. The brown flat land of the Bay area was replaced by winding mountainous roads of the Washington State. Everywhere you turned, the greenery made your eyes hurt. Tall douglas firs filled every bit of the mountainous terrain. Bewitched by the beauty of the place, we reached Bellevue. One of the things that struck us immediately was the huge number of desis walking the sidewalks. Once at my cousin’s place, we exchanged notes and brought each other up-to date on each other’s lives. The highlight of the trip in some sense was the warm hospitality at each of the places we stayed and the amazing food each of our hosts cooked for us.
We started our Seattle tour with a ride up the elevators of the Space Needle for a bird’s eye view of the city and Puget Sound. The shimmering ghost of Mt Rainier caught our eyes and we stopped to take pictures. Spending about an hour there we took in as much of the vistas around as we could and went back down. Tucking in a couple of souvenirs from the gift shop we made our way to the “Ride the Ducks” tour of the city. Tickets in hand with half an hour to spare, we had a hearty lunch of kalanda sadham and okra curry. Stomachs full and the back pack light, we got on board the “Ducky” and set out in a chorus of excited yells assisted ably by the captain of the bus/boat we took in the sights. We drove through the Pioneer Square, Pike’s Place and cruised on the Union Lake before we got back. In all a fun ride and a good way to get a feel for the city. After alighting from the “Duck” we walked to Pike’s Place and got to see the famous “fish catching” ritual at the fish market. Then we got coffee at the first ever Starbucks and walked out to the waterfront to have it.
The next day K and I drove up to Mt Rainier. What made this mountain unique for us was the glittering glaciers at the summit. Catching this shimmering giant looking in majestically on the city was one of those “goose bump” moments for me. As we winded up the mountain and got to the welcome center the summit was covered in clouds. We waited it out while we lunched and then went on a small hike and decided to give up and return. On our drive home at the last look out we caught the mountain in all its glory without a speck of cloud in sight. Thrilled and happy we returned.
We decided to alternate one day of hectic sightseeing with a day of relaxed sitting at home. So, the next day saw us get up late and laze around before we went to Snoqualmie falls. This is a small falls about a 15 minute drive from Bellevue. It was a nice sight as we trekked down to the base of the falls. I was scared of clambering down on the rocks to the actual water and so I stood on the wooden deck and watched my cousin, K and my nephew jump over the rocks and cavort in the water.
Fully rested, we decided to do a day trip to Vacouver across the Canada border. Armed with our “green cards” we drove across without incident. Our itinerary was short. Cappilano Suspension Bridge, Saravanaa Bhavan and the Buddhist Temple at Richmond British Columbia. The suspension bridge made me go all white faced when it shook and swung with the canyon below. We managed to get across and made it back without issues. The place is a typical tourist spot with daredevils jumping up and down and making cowards like me tremble on the bridge. There are plenty of trails and picnic benches for those wanting to spend the whole day there. Done with the bridge we found Saravanaa Bhavan without problems and were treated with Onam Sadya for lunch. It was immensely satisfying and we headed out to the Buddhist Temple from there. This was another unique experience. The towering statues of the golden Boddhisatvas inspired respect. We stood in silence, heads bent taking in the quiet peace. We then went into the actual pagoda type building that housed the Sakyamuni Buddha himself. It was a treat to the eyes. We entered and felt tempted to take off our shoes and fall flat at the feet of the huge idol. We lingered for a long time kneeling at each of the huge idols and praying for a whole lot of things. We left the place reluctantly after I got a tiny laughing buddha as a token of luck.
The following three days we decided to just meet friends and family and had a lovely, lovely time. We got back Monday morning to a home that was feeling lonely without us and workplaces where emails were piling high.
Over the past ten days, other than spending time with people we know and care about, there were many moments that made me stop and think. Hopefully I can express those thoughts in other posts over the week.
Have a lovely day y’all!