San Diego Adventure

I started September in the USA starting out from San Francisco to San Diego to Las Vegas to San Jose and finishing off again at San Francisco. Although I’ve been to California numerous times, this was my first venture into San Diego. Most resorts in San Diego are thankfully located on the world’s finest beaches (over seventy miles in fact stretching from Harbour Beach to the State Park in San Ysidro).

Personally, I had a wonderful experience and content at just being at the Paradise Point Resort sitting at breakfast looking at people getting off yachts, returning from deep sea fishing, kayaking and surfing, enjoying the sound of the waterfall next to my table and the sound of birds. The best part is that the resort is less than 5 minutes drive from the famous Sea World (check http://www.seaworld.com). I’m told that Knott’s Soak City and Belmont park are just as much fun as the Sea World.

I recall a few years ago we took my daughter and nephew to Disneyland in Los Angeles after a long drive from San Francisco….we contemplated going further to San Diego but there was way too much on the schedule to make it happen. I’m glad we didn’t because I feel to do justice to San Diego, you need a special trip focused only on this city to fully enjoy and appreciate all that it has to offer. My Californian sister said I should spend some time with my cousins in San Diego but I told her there was no way I was going to give up my adventure to get stuffed on home cooked Fijian food as I normally do. I had far more interesting company to make the journey exciting.

I am amazed at the number of academic centres and research institutions in San Diego….unbelievable. I hope my daughter decides to do her university there….what an amazing experience that would be with a world of opportunities at the doorstep for her to delve in…hopefully that will give me a chance to stay somewhere like Hillcrest (Hint!)

My most memorable time in San Diego has to be spending the day at Old Town, which is California’s birth place when in 1769, Father Junipeo Serra established 21 missions that became the cornerstone of California’s colonisation. On the nearby hill is the Heritage Park where Victorian looking houses have been authentically restored to its full splendour.

I thoroughly enjoyed the Mexican fiesta De Reyes with more nachos and salsa I’ve ever had while looking at traditional dancers entertaining the crowd plus a photo session that transports me back to the old times in a saloon, with guns and a dress that will particularly rock the senses out of my Y-chomosome friends .(Hence it will remain under lock and key until its cropped enough to make it safe for public consumption).

Driving along the city port in San Diego is an experience in itself. Looking at the USS Midway Museum with its collection of restored aircrafts is overwhelming….an equally adventurous friend took me to his favourite waterside restaurant to try calamari which was fine but we adored the dish at Paradise Point and San Clemente Pier a lot more on the drive to places like Laguna Beach, Newport and Balbao Island etc. I have the most beautiful art image from Laguna Beach – love it.

The coastal drive on historic Highway 101 was an unforgettable experience – from San Diego to La Jolla to Laguna Beach to Newport and finally to Balboa Park that is home to more than 15 museums. La Jolla was as breathtaking as I imagined and at Balboa, it was fun driving the car onto the ferry, getting across to the other side and sitting by the beach, watching people (I was chilly so we left quickly).

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am a Spa junkie….and most Spas in California (Paradise Point, Aria at Las Vegas etc) carry the Pure Fiji line products so I was in heaven. Still have warm memories of my bath with rose petals and bath oil by Pure Fiji and how smooth my skin was for 3 days after…..like a baby according to my therapist at The Spa at the Fairmont!

I never made it to the San Diego Zoo, the Children’s Museums, Ultrazone for laser tag, the Palomar Observatory and Legoland cos of Vegas calling but have left it as something I would do with my charismatic daughter one day. She would love the Discovery, Air & Space, Surf and maritime Museum as well as the science centre while I cant wait to see the Auto museum, being the car junkie that I am.

Till then I have to work on convincing Tash that San Diego is the perfect place for her to do her higher studies and the fact that we can drive to LA …wish me luck – this kid has probably picked out her choice of university, course and apartment already being the diva that she is!

The Onam experience

Last week I went through memory lane as I saw signs of the Onam celebrations around me in Dubai Supermarkets, jewellery stores etc. Living in Fiji I never came across this festival and had no clue of its significance until I came to Malaysia to study. My parents, being anxious about me in a country where I didn’t know a single soul at the age of 19 arranged with family friends that I should spend some weekends at their sisters house in Subang Jaya.
The family, who I still love and adore happened to be Malayali or Keralite, a community known to be highly literate, cultural and very warm. I thought at first all Indians were the same, spoke the same language etc but instead was introduced to a whole new world of cuisine, dance, theatre and met specialists in English literature that would leave some of the Harvard Professors gaping in awe.
As a Fijian I am used to being hospitable and having an open house policy to guests but my family friends went way beyond that to the point of making my favourite dishes on weekends, taking me to visit the extended family on trips and dropping me off to University (30 minutes away) when I had early morning classes.
Going back to Onam which is a ten day festival…..one of the things I remember in the nine years I spent in Kuala Lumpur was that every September, we ate a dozen or so dishes off a banana leaf in various family gatherings also known as sadya. My favourite sadya dish was payasam of course which is a dessert cooked in milk.
The community organises dances, numerous theatrical productions during this period and famous singers are called on for performances etc. I can almost smell the string of jasmine flowers in my hair when we set off for a dinner performance or a sadya outstation. Women buy gold during this 10 day period and many wear the traditional cream sari with a gold border (known as the kasavu yarn) that looks so awesome on them. I’m told that historically kasavu sari’s appeared in ancient Jain and Buddhist literature and over the years the material may have changed to suit the fashion trends but the colour and look remains the same.
Onam is over but the memories of yesteryears and my time with the Venugopal family, their extended families and friends in Malaysia still linger. I learnt so much from them that I feel I gained knowledge of an entirely new community from their perspective. Another thing I have to thank my parents for – they certainly guided me into situations that helped me learn and understand what the world is all about outside my comfort circle.