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Old 02-25-2011, 01:46 AM   #301
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tiggrbaby View Post
Love the reflective pics! Getting a camera is so addictive!
Getting a camera is not just addictive....it's EXPENSIVE!

Quote:
Originally Posted by usnuzuloose View Post
Some times it is nice to sit and do nothing. I love that wide angle shot. I do alot barganing in frisco for our lenses. All the food at least I can enjoy and pretend. Yes this will be a pre pre trip report. By the way where should I post the TR ? It is not any disney one. Keep coming I feel like I am on vacation with you all.
There's a California & the West Trip Report sub-sub-sub forum...might be the spot! I've seen Vegas ones there. http://www.disboards.com/forumdisplay.php?f=132

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Originally Posted by QuirkyButterfly View Post
Camera prices are completely ridiculous in Australia. It makes me so angry

Is it weird that I want to go to the Cheesecake Factory only because Penny in The Big Bang Theory works there?

As always very nice photos taken.
I don't think any reason for going to the Cheesecake Factory is weird.

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Originally Posted by kimmar067 View Post
....I am. ENVIOUS.......of your food porn.
You made it over!! Welcome!

Quote:
Originally Posted by kimmar067 View Post


[....no baloney, no geckos...]
No Kangaroo either.

Quote:
Originally Posted by franandaj View Post
Yay Kimmar made it over to find the bacon!

What I think is funny that you have been to the Cheesecake factory more in the last year than I have been in my lifetime!
I've made it at least twice in the last 10 months...
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Old 02-25-2011, 02:31 AM   #302
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Day 7 - NorCal

Winchester Mystery House

After our first great day in Silicon Valley, I was deep in DreamLand when the alarm rudely went off at 6.40 am.

DH jumped out of bed and quickly turned it off so that he did not wake DS or me. Too late for me….but DS stayed asleep. DH had another 8 am start; so he got ready and headed out.

Unfortunately, the sound of the door closing woke DS; and he wanted to see his dad. So, we got ready and headed out for breakfast. I had hoped to grab a shot of breakfast at some stage; but given that DH and his colleagues were still at the dining area, I again opted to eat breakfast rather than shoot it.

DH was happy to see us and we spent some together time enjoying each other’s company for a bit longer before he headed off for work.

Today, I did not have to face the perplexing conundrum of what to do.

DS and I had a discussion last night and we had agreed to do something that DS had not done before in this part of the world. I had decided to visit the Winchester Mystery House.

WMH is located more in San Jose, off the 280 and near Santana Row and the Valley Fair shopping centers. It took us about 40 minutes to drive there from our location and I was pleased to be heading down the 101 in the opposite direction to the peak hour traffic flow.

When we got there, DS took one look at the place and decided that he did not want to be there. He figured it was going to be spooky….it’s such a mystery to me but I what gave it away?….and was scared about going inside. Still, I dragged him in for the House Tour.

I did have a moments misgiving about the wisdom of this choice when I realized that the cost of this outing was going to be close on $60 for the two of us. (Was I the one complaining about paying $10 for parking yesterday?)

But we had come all this way and despite thinking about spending the morning shopping at Santana Row or at the Valley Fair, in the end I figured we should do something that we wouldn’t be able to do anywhere else. So I paid up.

We had about 30 minutes to kill before our tour started; which meant that we completed walked round the gift shop about 20 times.

There were a number of quaint vintage pieces that I wasn’t sure why they were in the shop….




I also walked into the Antiques Products Museum twice. It must have been incredibly memorable….




…because all I remember is being anxious about DS and hoping that he was going to last the 65 minute tour through the house. As you can clearly tell, he was totally thrilled about our excursion this morning.

Figuring that I was safer keeping him outside in the bright sunlight, we headed out to the courtyard area where we would be starting the tour.




Yup.Much.happier.little.boy.

The time slowly ticked over to our start time….and eventually our tour number came up.




I eagerly got in line and then…..the sky fell!

Turns out I was going to be the one not happy on doing the tour. Photography was NOT allowed inside the house. D’oh!

Sarah Winchester, the widow and heiress of the Winchester Gun fortune, kept construction going on the house for over 38 years, 24 hours, 7 days a week, in response to a psychic’s advise that the spirits of all the people killed by the Winchester Gun would haunt her and she would die. As Sarah had inherited over $20 Million dollars and earned $1000 per day from gun royalties in the 1800’s, she certainly had more than enough money to bankroll the construction indefinitely.

We were told that there were over 160 rooms in the house and the number 13 featured everywhere in the house (13 bathrooms, 13 window panes, 13 steps in every flight of stairs etc). It is Victorian/Queen Anne architecture and despite being gutted out, you can tell how beautiful it would have been if construction had been completely finished. There were Tiffany leadlight glass everywhere and the lead light in the house is currently valued at over $250K! Yes, that’s just for glass!

Sarah suffered from arthritis and as a consequence the rise on the steps are only a couple of inches off the ground. So, there are plenty of steps in groups of 13 that just zig and zag to get between floors. Given that the house belonged to someone who suffered so badly from arthritis; I’m sure it must have tickled her sense of humour no end to make the house completely inaccessible for wheelchairs or strollers.

The Winchester Mystery House is the result of what happens when you don’t have an architect, have too much money and believe in ghosts. It is intriguing beyond belief and I am not sure if I’m so glad or so sorry that we spent the hour of walking through countless rooms, strange corridors, seeing staircases that go no where and a door that open out to a 20 foot drop. The main thing for me was that DS totally loved the experience and had a fantastic time.

We came out totally bemused by the whole experience. The rooms were all there and in parts completely finished; but there are huge amounts of the house stripped to the wooden wall frames. But then there are rooms completely furnished and exquisitely detailed!

We then took a turn around the garden and I had to satisfy myself with shots from the outside.

This is an outside door handle…and gives you an idea of the intricate details that you can potentially find inside….in some of the rooms.




These only give a glimpse of the incredible leadlight to be found inside the house….



….and the famous spider web design that Sarah was reputed to have had Tiffany specially designed for herself.



The Victorian architecture details were just lovely.



We walked round the property.





There were a number of additional buildings that provided support facilities for the main house.

The house at the back is the one that the foreman lived in.



This is the tank house, which held 10,000 gallons of water for the house.




We saw Sarah’s Car in the garage…




…which was driven into the covered entry that Sarah used so she would never get wet.




We walked around the house admiring the turrets and finials everwhere.





We looked at the Door to Nowhere from the outside and the drop to the ground.




We walked to the front of the house. Check out the wide-angle view from the new lens…




By this stage, DS had lost his ‘deer in headlights’ look…




…and he was starting to feel hungry again. We stopped in at the café where I bought the most expensive Ice Slushie in history. It was $7 for a medium cup….completely exorbitant!


So, between the entry price, the slushie and no pictures allowed inside, I will NOT be coming back here again. I certainly felt as ripped off at the WMH as I did about WMD! But I’m glad that DS and I spent the morning here to learn that the WMH will NOT become a favourite come-back to spot for us.

I did however, get this shot from the gift shop for my photography hunt – presidential related.




(Continued in Next Post)
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Old 02-25-2011, 02:33 AM   #303
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(Continued from Previous Post)


Driving Rings around the Parkway!


After Winchester, I somehow decided that we should make a stop at the Great Mall in Milpitas. It’s been a couple of years since I’d driving to the Great Mall and I normally approach it off the 237. So, I headed down back down the 101 and detoured off the 237, which was 30 minutes away.

For some inexplicable reason, I seem to think that the Great Mall was only a little bit off the 237….well, I was w.w.w.w.w.rong.

We drove around in circles around the Great America Parkway, even passing the 6 Flags park a number of times. I finally decided to stop and ask for directions.
You see – I had found a group of shops that had interesting restaurants. There was a Vietnamese Pho shop, a Mongolian BBQ, a Rotisserie Chicken shop…..and I had visions of a delicious lunch of the multicultural sort.

A rare beef Pho or a bowl of Mongolian BBQ noodles was just the trick for today!

Sadly, it was not to be…

Whilst I had noticed the interesting restaurants, there was one in the group that escaped by notice; but not DS.

He had seen…..







Yup! I sadly walked past the Pho and the Mongolian BBQ (both shops smelt delicious and completely full of people!!) and we had Subway for lunch.

And to add insult to injury? Completely frustrated with NOT finding my way to the Great Mall, I asked for directions.

Turns out the Great Mall was only 10 minutes up the road on the 280 from the Winchester Mystery House. It would take me another 25 minutes to get back to the Great Mall, and pretty much back to where I had started from!

So, I decided not to push it and changed my mind for the afternoon activity.






[Up Next – More animals]
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Old 02-25-2011, 11:36 AM   #304
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Shoot I did not know they dont allow pics in WMH. I have never been then there. At least you got some on the outside. I guess I wont be touring anytime soon. I hate when you cant find something. I usually just end giving up and moving on. Sounds like you guys are relaxing doing all of this. Keep it coming. Look forward to your next post.
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Old 02-25-2011, 02:32 PM   #305
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It's funny, I grew up less than 15 minutes from that attraction, and I never went there until I was almost 30! My parents often take us to restaurants at Santana Row when we visit. I've never been to the Great Mall, but I have spent my fair share at Valley Fair, especially the Macy's there!
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Old 02-26-2011, 05:39 AM   #306
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Quote:
Originally Posted by usnuzuloose View Post
Shoot I did not know they dont allow pics in WMH. I have never been then there. At least you got some on the outside. I guess I wont be touring anytime soon. I hate when you cant find something. I usually just end giving up and moving on. Sounds like you guys are relaxing doing all of this. Keep it coming. Look forward to your next post.
Yes. I was a more than a little unhappy about the no photography bit and given the $$ it cost to enter; but I'm glad we stayed to see the house. You know, it costs less to spend a day at WDW, if you buy a 7+ day ticket there...than it did for WMH.

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It's funny, I grew up less than 15 minutes from that attraction, and I never went there until I was almost 30! My parents often take us to restaurants at Santana Row when we visit. I've never been to the Great Mall, but I have spent my fair share at Valley Fair, especially the Macy's there!
I've looked at the shops at Santana Row; but never eaten there. Do you have a recommendation for any of the restaurants?
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Old 02-26-2011, 06:11 AM   #307
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It's annoying that they overcharge and don't allow pictures, but I'd still love to go to the Winchester Mystery House one day
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Old 02-26-2011, 02:28 PM   #308
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It's annoying that they overcharge and don't allow pictures, but I'd still love to go to the Winchester Mystery House one day
I was annoyed at the time too...but now that I'm back home and going through the pictures, I'm really glad that we went too.
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Old 02-26-2011, 02:31 PM   #309
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Coyote Point – CuriOdyssey

For anyone flying into San Francisco International Airport and looking out the window, you might notice a bit of land, a point, that is filled with Eucalyptus trees. That bit of land is Coyote Point and there is about 600 acres of land that has been turned into a park. Aside from the golf course, the walking and biking trails and the marina, there is the CuriOdyssey.

The CuriOdyssey used to be the Coyote Point Museum for Environmental Education and when DS was a lot younger, it was on my must-do list.

Its been quite a few years since I’ve been here and given my directionally challenged failure of the morning, I decided to come here with DS instead of shopping.

I was intrigued by the name change and it turns out that they ran into some financial difficulties in 2006, new sponsors and public pledges for money and the name change occurred on Jan 2011. We were visiting some one-week into the name change.

Which turned out to be a good thing. I had picked up a brochure from the hotel lobby, with a significant discount off the entry price. The lady at the counter told me the discount no longer applied; but gave it to me anyway. So, my afternoon at the CO ended up costing me a whopping $6 entry for both of us.

The museum now consists of two main areas.

The hands-on exhibit in the main complex….





….that allows kids (and bigger kids) to experience natural phenomena close up. We hit the main complex first.

DS was overjoyed to find this rolling ball sculpture.




He kept playing with it over and over and over again. There is a wheel that you turn and it sets the balls going on the circuit. Gravity and motion takes over the rest until the balls end up back at the base of where they start. The kind lady at the counter must have been regretting her decision to give us a discount. It sure made a great deal of clanking and tinkering noise! She eventually gave me that “look” and I moved DS along.

The next station was intriguing. Anyone care to work out what this is?




This station shows you what a wave would look like on the inside. I was completely fascinated by the circular patterns that the coloured water made.

This was one of our favourites. Illuminart!




He got to play….and I got to play!








We moved on….




….and learnt a bit about flight.




DS and I were both very taken with this display.




The lady behind the counter was a lot happier when we moved on to here, it is a very quiet hands-on station….at least it was…..until we started to use the top of the tube as a hoop and seeing if we could score 3-pointers with the polystyrene/foam thingies. Sadly, we encouraged a few of the other people there that day to do the same thing and I saw some very enthusiastic 8 year old boys following suit after us.

We read this station with interest…



…and looked at the display.




It didn’t peak our interest for very long….one might almost say…a low point.

This one was a complete mess for us!




It is meant to show what shapes raindrops make…but we really couldn’t make head or tail of this display.


Due to Bart Simpson, we all think that water in toilets only spin counterclockwise in the Southern Hemisphere and that it only spins clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere. Whenever I’m asked this question on the DisBoard, I always concur with Bart and put it down to magnetic poles or the rotation of the earth, depending on whether I have had coffee or not.

Yes, water spins counterclockwise in the Southern Hemisphere – but it can just as easily spin the other way round, as it does in my bath.

So, when I saw this display, I had a small chuckle to myself.




DS and I used to do a vortex experiment together:
  • Take two 1.5L clear plastic bottles.
  • Fill one with about 1 L of water.
  • Join them together at the top with duct tape (probably best to put the empty bottle on top and tape it together that way).

Turn the bottles so that the one filled with water is at the top. Voila! A vortex will appear.




Check it out – depending on how you shake the bottle, the vortex will spin in either direction!

The thing that I love the most about the main complex is the Bee Hive.




You get to see the bees busy with the honeycombs!




And I always make it a point to watch them coming in and out of the hose..




..to the outside world.




Yes, the main complex is pure hands-on magic for DS and this geek!




(Continued in Next Post)
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Old 02-26-2011, 02:35 PM   #310
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(Continued from Previous Post)


The second main area of CO is the wildlife habitat area, in the surrounding gardens. There are quite a few local animals that are housed in the habitat area. The animals here are all classed as non-releasable and if released back to the wild are at high risk of dying. Quite a few of them have been injured or were brought in young (mother died) to give them a chance of surviving. The habitat holds birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians.

We headed straight for the aviary.

The Golden Eagles gave me the evil eye; but ignored us.




The Burrowing Owl didn’t even bother with the evil eye! We were ignored as well.




At least the Snowy Egret looked our way…yup! Ignorami’d as well.



I had specifically put CO back on the list of places to visit this trip because I was on the hunt for a Hawk, for the photo scavenger hunt. We looked high…




…and low in the aviary.




No luck with the Hawk!

One of the animal rangers, Andy, noticed me looking for something and asked if he could help. So, I explained about the photo hunt.

Andy told me that they rotate the birds in the Aviary and the Hawk was resting in the back. He told me to come back in a week. I then explained that I couldn’t as I was leaving at the end of the week. My luck of just stumbling over hunt items was holding…

….because Andy was fantastic! He had some work to finish up and arranged to meet us outside. He took us out back and because of him, I’ve ended up with my Swainson’s Hawk.




So, with many thanks to Andy, we headed out of the Aviary.

We did stop to see the amphibians and the reptiles – but I didn’t seem to have taken any shots of them.

Time to check out the mammals. I guess it was the time of day or the time of year….not many of them were out; and a few were asleep so we didn’t get to see as many as I would have liked. Still….

The two bobcats at the facility nearly died from pneumonia. Now they cannot be released back in the wild because they have imprinted on humans.

Both were cuddly warm in their basket when we walked up…




…but I think they were ready to play…




And they jumped up and growled at us.




DS didn’t like them growling.

We moved on to the Raccoon.




He was enjoying some playtime with his human.


Given that we missed them at Monterey, I was pleased to see these fellows about.




DS just loved the otters!







And with a final look….







….It was time for us to head back. We had a car to drop off.



(Continued in Next Post)
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Old 02-26-2011, 02:40 PM   #311
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(Continued from Previous Post)


Dinner for Two

After Coyote Point, it was with pleasure that we dropped off the stinky Nissan. We met DH at the Beech Street Hertz and then headed back to the hotel.

Tonight was one of those nights that DH was spending with his work colleagues. They had two dinners planned and this was the first of them. So, with only one car between the two of us, we dropped him off at the restaurant. He was going to get a ride back with another colleague.

That pretty much left DS and I to our own devices. I suggested going to a nearby mall and shopping, but DS wasn’t having a bar of that. And bribery was not going to work tonight.

I’ve raised my DS right and he can only go so long without eating one of his main staples….RICE! He wanted food and he wanted Chinese. And there was a Chinese restaurant close by that the whole family love going to.

The food at this restaurant is authentic Chinese and I remember it as always decent, in the 10 years that we’ve been visiting, and reasonably priced. I also remember the serving sizes being large enough to feed an army; so I went with a different ordering strategy in mind.

We were served the complimentary pickled vegetables when we sat down.




I took a bite and there was just something wrong with it. So, I left it unfinished. Thankfully, it was the only thing that wasn’t up to the normal standard for the night.

To eat with the rice, we ordered half a steamed chicken with scallions and ginger.




The chicken was tender and beautifully done.

We both wanted some Chinese green vegetables….and the Gai Lan or Chinese Broccoli with oyster sauce is something that even DS loves. This huge serving is actually the half serving and what they normally bring out during the day for Dim Sum (or Yum Cha).




Exactly what the doctor ordered! The Gai Lan was perfectly cooked and just tender without losing the beautiful bright green colour.

We also ordered the half serve of the Sweet and Sour Prawns. There were 6 big, plump prawns in this serve.




DS licked the plate clean.

We ordered some steamed Custard Buns for dessert. We didn’t really need anymore…but DS was craving them. And I snuck in my bribe at this point….




Wonderful!




Now I’ve got myself craving some!

Ordering the half serves seems to have done the trick! DS and I managed to finish dinner without the need for a doggy bag.
The damage? The bill came to $33 and it would have been sub-$30 without the buns. Given that the chicken accounted for about $15 of the bill, I figured we'd done rather well. I really like the food at this restaurant!

After dinner and given that I had bribed DS with the Custard Buns, we made our way to Hillsdale Mall. We went to the Disney shop, the Lego shop and I shopped in Macy’s, Gap and BR before heading back to the hotel.

Another delightful messing about day!







[Up Next – Day 8. Looking for my Lost Heart]
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Old 02-26-2011, 02:55 PM   #312
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Love the last otter pic! And what a teaser to end....
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Old 02-26-2011, 04:41 PM   #313
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I just love all the wild life pics. That hawk is beautiful. Such a sweet face on the otter. I am glad she gave you the discount. Your trip sounds so relaxing.
Cant wait to hear more.
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Old 02-26-2011, 07:50 PM   #314
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So where is Coyote Point? That sounds like a place we might want to visit. How handicapped accessible is the place?

Sounds like you had a very nice day, and great dinner and shopping trip!
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Old 02-27-2011, 12:53 PM   #315
kimmar067
We have squash and zucchini coming outta the wazoo
I just shot coffee through my NOSE!!
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PrincessInOz View Post


By this stage, DS had lost his ‘deer in headlights’ look…



...and gained a 'deer-on-top-of-the head' look....
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