Sunday, August 12, 2007

All Work, Some Play

As people may have noticed from my complete inability to respond to emails in the past six weeks, STEP is busy. My days pretty much consist of teaching, going to class, doing homework, and nothing else. But thanks to the mini-break last weekend, I finally got to do some of the touristy stuff I've been hoping for.

Friday was a trip to Pescadero Beach, just south of Half Moon Bay. It's right on Highway 1, aka the Pacific Coast Highway, and the highway definitely lives up to the hype. No New Zealand, of course, but I am obviously just biased.

One of the things I keep forgetting about NorCal beaches is that they're cold. I think "beach" and I think "lie around in the sun and play in the water," not "huddle under a blanket and stare at the ocean."

Not that this means people don't go in the water, just not me. I briefly braved dipping my toe in, but the cold was physically painful, so one toe was more than enough for me. Obviously my classmates are hardier than I am, which I'm perfectly fine with.

Saturday involved another trip to the coast, this time to Monterey Bay. We went specifically for the famous aquarium, but after seeing what a cute town it is, I definitely want to go back and explore more.

Those black things in the water and on the rocks are wild sea otters!

I could have spent most of my time at the jellyfish exhibit because I think jellyfish are beautiful (when the are behind a pane of glass). I was particularly interested in seeing the deadly box jellyfish that were supposedly out there when I was at on the Great Barrier Reef. I'm glad that at the time I didn't know how tiny they were because I would not have believed our guides who told us that it was no big deal that our feet and hands weren't covered by our wetsuits.

Anyway, these are moon jellyfish. My pictures of the other kinds didn't turn out too well.

There was also a pretty fantastic sea otter exhibit, another animal I could watch all day.

Speaking of things I could watch all day, check out the kelp forest. It's about two stories tall and you can just sit there and watch the kelp sway back and forth. When paired with the soothing music they play, the whole environment is instantly calming. I need to keep this place in mind after particularly stressful teaching experiences.

Also worth seeing, but in a completely different way, was the massive--and massively ugly--sunfish. I found it much creepier than the hammerhead sharks that were in the same tank.

After two successful days of ocean and water, I spent Sunday in the trees. Muir Woods is a beautiful redwood forest just north of San Francisco. As promised, the redwoods were tall, beautiful, and completely impressive.

A redwood fun fact (although I'm probably getting it wrong): redwoods can grow out of other redwoods, so when one falls over, a whole group of new ones will grow out of its roots. That's why you find small circles of redwoods all clustered together but then none other in the immediate area. These are called "fairy rings."

I was fortunate enough to make this trip with my wonderful cousins (you can see their account of the day, which includes some of the less pleasant, more nauseating details). As much as I've loved traveling alone and traveling with friends, nothing can compare to the completely different world you get to experience when traveling with a three-year old. Seriously, could she be any more adorable?

So all in all, a successful weekend; I checked off a number of items on my tourist list for the Bay Area. Next up: Alcatraz, walking the Golden Gate Bridge, Angel Island, Great America amusement park, and of course that's just the beginning. Considering that this was pretty much the only break I'll get for the rest of the year when I won't be coming back to Michigan, I'm sure doing all these things will be no problem.


Jen said...

Oh my gosh, Geetha, we almost took the same photos! When we were in CA in the spring, we had a great time at the Aquarium and at Muir Woods. And our faves at the Aquarium were the jellyfish and otters and that view outside where the sea lions were!

Another sight you should definitely get to is driving highway 1 through Big Sur. Just incredible.

Teana said...

the aquarium is like my most favorite place in the state. i could live there.

give me a call when you come up to san francisco and i'll see if i can meet up with you. it'll be fun!

Rebecca said...

otters are the best! during thesis when everyone was getting all stressed out, we would make them watch the otter video to remind them that there are still good things in the world:

PS, that aquarium might be the best thing I've ever seen. I'm gonna need to come out there and we have to go there. I don't care about seeing anything else.

Jen said...

You might have fun with this link - NZ comedians that were on a friend's site: