Monday, October 29, 2007

Countdown to sparks and sparklers ...

Fast approaching is a day that is bound to be filled with bundles of joy, lights galore, colorful sights, sounds of firecrackers, aroma of sweets and savories, lot of exuberance and excitement in the air and new bonds and friendships. This day is celebrated as Diwali aka. Deepavali (Also called the Festival of Lights) around the world every year by Hindus with great splendor and enthusiasm. This glittering festival that symbolizes the victory of good over evil falls on November 9th this year. Adults and children alike rejoice Diwali and greatly look forward to the festivities.

The preparation for Diwali starts many days ahead; The elders in the family work on their traditional recipes to dish out some delicious specialities and invites are sent out to family and friends to participate in the celebration. Shopping for the festival of lights is always a great experience as cheerful crowd throng the firework and sweet stalls. It is a carnival atmosphere on the streets as people look to buy new clothes to wear on the festival day. The consumer mood is upbeat and great seasonal deals are announced on house-hold appliances and consumer electronics. Temples around the area are spruced up to join the celebration of the devotees.

In most cases, the day of festival dawns very early in the morning as enthusiastic kids get ready to taste festive goodies and light their fire-crackers. Some communities start the celebrations at twilight. The whole town is lit with decorated earthen oil lamps and is definitely a sight to behold. Prayers are performed with various offerings to God. This festival provides a great opportunity for kids to showcase their creativity and mingle with other kids in a fun setting. Gifts are exchanged between family, friends and neighbors as new friendships are formed. People are more tolerant and polite on this day and are willing to help more than a bit to ones that cannot afford the celebrations. There is a sense of well-being, increased energy levels and a bit of adventure and thrill in the nerves. It is a very special day for the Hindus and rightly provides positive vibes and goodwill.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Art and architecture on a hill

Perched on top of a hill in the Santa Monica Mountains near Los Angeles, The famous Getty Center houses an art and architecture research institute, research libraries and museum galleries. Visitors all over come to visit the popular J. Paul Getty Museum for its huge collection of European paintings, sculptures, artwork, manuscripts, drawings and photographs in neatly laid out gallery pavilions. Automated trams take the visitors from the street-level parking spots to the central arrival plaza on top of the hill.

At the top of the hill, the various buildings of the Getty center blend very well with the innovative landscaping consisting of water bodies, tress, fountains and a large central garden. The complete campus design focuses on elements of space and natural lighting with a contemporary feel to it. The natural lighting within the galleries are adjusted automatically based on computer-assisted systems. The buildings are intuitively placed and provide easy access from one hall to an other. The Los Angeles city views from the Getty center are to die for.

Numerous events round the year in the form of lectures, conferences, performances, demonstrations and gallery talks further enrich the visitor experience. For a more serious visitor, GettyGuide stations provide a way to explore the art collection in depth. The audio player available for $5 at the pick-up desk in the museum entrance hall is a valuable tool to take during the pavilion visits. A number of cafes/restaurants and picnic areas provide good dining options during the visit. Avid shoppers can be seen at the Museum Store or the many Satellite shops. Entry to the Getty center is free and no reservations are needed.

The Getty Center
1200 Getty Center Drive
Los Angeles, CA-90049
(310) 440-7300

Open ...
Tuesday-Thursday (10 am - 6 pm)
Friday-Saturday (10 am - 9 pm)
Closed on Mondays and certain holidays

Monday, October 22, 2007

Trip to the gardens

A 30 minute drive from San Diego downtown takes you to Flinn Springs, the location of Summers Past Farms, an enchanting garden nestled in its foothills. Summers Past Farms is a owned by the Lozier family who have had a rich tradition in farming. This farm spreads over a decent sized area with specific portions marked for a herbal garden, a vegetable garden, a children's garden, Shakespeare garden, a secret garden, special event area, lavender fields and various shops.

The herbal garden is a delight as fragrances of basil, mint, dill, rosemary, thyme, sage and lavender fill the air. Kids have a great time playing in the children's garden or with the friendly cats, Yarrow being the friendliest. The natural lounge by the Green Bean Coffee Bar is a nice place to relax and enjoy the gardens while sipping hot coffee or savoring mango flavored iced tea with flower petals.

The farm has a couple of charming shops; The gift shop in the timber barn is a 3500 square foot garden and retail store stocked with gardening paraphernalia, cook books, aroma candles, fairy items, organic spices, jams and jellies, soaps and more. The herbal shoppe and factory is an instant hit among visitors as they are immersed in the aromatherapy of handmade herbal soaps, fragrance and massage oils and natural skin care products. Spa accessories and soap-making kits are some of the other items found in the store.

Summer and Fall days are filled with events ranging from antique and craft fairs to pumpkin patches. Visiting the farm's website or browsing the newsletters is a great way to keep informed about the numerous special events. The annual soap making week attracts large number of visitors who gather to learn the art of making herbal soaps; a nice holiday gift. Summers Past Farms is open Wednesdays through Saturdays from 9 am to 5 pm and on Sundays from 10 am to 5 pm.

Summers Past Farms
15602 Old Highway 80
Flinn Springs, CA - 92021

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Aerial route

San Diego residents turned their eyes skyward on October 12th, 13th and 14th as military and civilian performers blazed the Miramar skies with some astounding maneuvers and complex formations in their aircrafts. Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Miramar plays host to supposedly the largest air show in the country every year.

This 3 day mega event boasts a number of exhibits, a consumer fair, marine air-ground task force demonstration, twilight demonstrations with pyrotechnics and fireworks, jet fueled trucks, Guinness recorded 'wall of fire' and various civilian and military demonstrations.

Flight enthusiasts are enthralled by some of the coolest flying machines like U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, F-117 Nighthawk Stealth fighters, USN F-18 Super Hornet, AV-8B Harrier, MiG 17-F and F-16 Falcon in action here. The list doesn't end without mention of special effects hang glider, radio-controlled aircrafts, aircraft carriers and sail planes as well. Miramar Air Show returns again in October 2008 for more action and excitement.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

A historic landmark in the heart of San Diego

San Diego considered as America's finest city is known for its beaches, golfing and abundant sunshine. However, it may come as a real surprise to imagine that a San Diego neighborhood could have actually been the birthplace of California. 'Old Town', a San Diego landmark is shrouded in rich history and culture and is believed to be the spot where it all began.

Today, 'Old Town' stands as one of the premier tourist destinations in San Diego with its 3 historic parks (Presidio Park, Heritage Park and Old Town San Diego Historic Park), numerous other historic sites, over 2 dozen ethnic restaurants, 100+ specialty shops, art galleries and boutique hotels. A walk in the Old Town transports you to charming Spanish ambiance with a cosmopolitan San Diego flavor; Aroma of fresh Tortillas fill the air as curious onlookers appreciate a local artist's masterpiece. Colorful old town trolleys criss-cross the lively streets even as the announcer educate and entertain the guests with interesting facts and Old Town folklore.

Old Town with a historic backdrop plays host to several weddings. Saturdays come alive as musicians dish out some exciting live numbers and artisans display jewelery, clothing, photographs, pottery, hand-painted glass and more in the popular 'Harney Street Old Town Saturday Market'. Ghostly haunts welcome visitors to the world-renowned 'Whaley House', a great example of mid-nineteenth century Greek Revival architecture. This historic museum is also an officially designated haunted house with a footfall of over 100,000 visitors every year.

The exciting Old Town trip doesn't end without sampling spicy Mexican food, wine tasting, creating candle art, visit to the candy shop and gawking at fossilized gems and road-side scrap-metal insects and robot creations.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Style and sophistication in a street

Imagine a palm-tree lined avenue flanked by rows of stylish shops on either side and paraded by limousines and fancy cars. It's the high street of glitz, glamor and fashion in Beverly hills, California. "Rodeo Drive", about a 3-block stretch is often considered as one of the most expensive and exclusive shopping districts in the world.

The rich and the famous of Hollywood are often found shopping here on some of the foremost international designer labels like Armani, Christian Dior, Chanel, Cartier, Prada, Bang & Olufsen, Dolce and Gabbana, Fendi, Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Escada to name a few.

Rodeo Drive is not just visited by the celebrity shoppers; it also plays a good host to the tourists from all over the world who come here to experience the glitzy lifestyle. Visitors often park at 'Two Rodeo', a European style shopping enclave housing its own share of designer names such as Versace, Tiffany & Co and James Elliot and providing eclectic dining options.

Rodeo Drive wears a particularly chic and bright look in the evenings around Christmas time when festive lights and decorations adorn the street. It is recommended that Sundays be avoided because most stores are closed on that day.