Sunday, July 27, 2008

San Antonio Part - I

Last Monday of May every year is observed as Memorial Day in USA, to commemorate US men and women who died while in Military service. That gave us a long weekend to explore the state of Texas a bit more. So my friends and me decided to visit San Antonio. It is the second largest city in Texas and is place to one of the most important historical moments in the history of Texas.

Cut to chase... Saturday, May 24th morning we boarded a Greyhound bus to San Antonio from Houston. Greyhound is a popular inter-city bus service in USA servicing to people who cant drive or who don't want to drive. Special things to note about the Greyhound buses are, firstly it is fully air conditioned(that was obvious), it has multiple TV screens hanging(although nothing was played on it) and lastly has a built-in restroom at the back of the bus. And By the way Greyhound claims that the running dog is one of the most recognized brands in the world! The bus stations here are quite different from what we were used to, here we have to go through a baggage check and the baggage is weighed and hence there is a limit on how much you can carry. Since we already had our tickets we went through the checking and collected our "boarding passes". Return tickets were not booked so we got that booked too. Then we found a place to spend the rest of the 30 minutes waiting. While we were waiting a lot of thoughts were running through my mind, though all these niceties are not present back home the US public transport system has a lot of catching up to do. The other side of the argument would be America being the inventor of the Car Culture. But with Global Warming and souring crude oil prices its time the public transport system gets its much needed adoption and recognition. I was brought back to reality by the "boarding call" announcement on the Public Announcement System and people rushing to the departure gate and in no time there was a long queue. Since all of us were well versed with this we managed to garb a place almost at the beginning of the queue. Once on-board and ready to depart the driver/conductor welcomed us and announced the departure of the bus and the estimated arrival time.

A three and half hour bus journey later we were at San Antonio bus station. The first impression I got on seeing San Antonio is that it has a lot of European touch to it. Right outside there were a lot of cabs waiting, so we took a cab to our hotel. Since we didn't book the hotels early enough we couldn't get a hotel reservation in the downtown area. Our hotel was around 10 miles from the bus station. By the time we checked in it was lunch time so we decided to try out the Mexican restaurant within the hotel compound. We were in for a surprise as the waitress came to our table and started speaking in Spanish! and all three of us were looking at each other to figure out who amongst us looks like a Mexican!?! To keep things simple we spoke in English and asked "Do you speak English?". Realizing the confusion the waitress went and asked one of her colleague to take our orders, who thankfully spoke in English. The next surprise although I had expected this to happen sooner or later, was to land up in a restaurant with no vegetarian dishes. I was kind-of prepared to handle the surprise but all that goes for a toss when your hungry. So we asked the waitress to suggest something for poor souls like me and she suggested something and we had to take that only as we didn't have much of an option. That dish was just Tortilla (cousin brother of Chapathi) and tons of cheese poured over it! Short rest in the room after lunch we headed to Alamo mission, a fortress which stands testimony for the Battle of Alamo. Since it was almost closing time we decided we decided to visit Guinness World Records Museum right across the road. This place has photographs and videos of all the Guinness records. The place is not that interesting as it sounds nonetheless a nice time pass. Next door to the museum is the Tomb Raider arcade

This is a small ride with 3-D goggles and laser guns. We sit in a cart which looks more like a big cup and this cart moves along a guided path. Once inside you have 3-D images and sound effects to simulate a scary cave on your way to raid a tomb. We have to shoot the daemons with our laser guns and earn points. The experience was like being in a video game yourself. At the end of the ride regardless of the points scored you are give 4 coins to use it on the video games parlor at the exit. And at one of the broken shooting console I happen to find four more coins, which I used it to play a round of car racing :-P . After exhausting our coins we headed to Louis Tussaud’s Plaza Wax Museum. First I met Mr. Forrest Gump

Laurel and Hardy told me a joke.

Later Oprah invited me to her show...

then I had to rescue Little Red Riding Hood, at least in the school drama I was the hunter who rescued her!

Next stop was the Ripley's Odditorium (yes its not auditorium but Odditorium for the oddities it houses inside). Here we get to see the 1:1 scale model of the world's tallest man.

Piece of the Berlin Wall

Largest production tyre and much more...

Famous San Antonio River Walk was our next stop. As we walked along the stream it felt like as if we were transported to some place in Europe, but was brought back to Texas with a restaurant proudly displaying the Cowboy shoe and skull of a bull. On both side of the stream you have a lot of restaurants. As the prices were a bit high and "choice" for the veggie guys being bleak we decided not to eat on the river walk. Since it was also getting late we decided to have dinner and head back to our hotel. Since my friend had vowed not to return to the Mexican restaurant in the hotel premises we went on a restaurant hunt to find something that suited us. And uncle Sam's Mc Donald's came to our rescue. We finished our dinner and decided to call it a day, an eventful day. We took a cab to return our hotel.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Splash at Splashtown

At around 9.30 on a lazy Sunday morning I was admiring the closeness of the shave in the mirror, my phone started playing Final Countdown and I started to hum along with it. Then a second later I
realized that was an incoming call! So ran to pickup the call before it gets re-directed to my voice mail. I picked up the call...

Me: Hello.?. (Wondering why this person is calling on a Sunday morning)

Friend: Arent you coming to Splash town?

Me: Yeah, but when is everyone leaving?

Friend: Now... We are leaving in half an hour!

Me: Oh!... I thought it was sometime later not so early

Friend: Start now, meet you at the entrance in 20 mins!

Me: But wait, am not ready yet, I need some more time

Friend: Better get ready soon... I got to go... see you at the entrance bye!

And the line went dead...

Splash town is a water amusement park situated around 30 miles from my house. Our client had arranged for an all expenses paid one day outing at Splashtown. Being a contractor I too got a chance to avail that pass! So me and and bunch of my colleagues were planing to go Splashtown and have a splash. In a hurry I emptied the small rucksack that I carry to office everyday and dumped a set of dress and headed to the entrance where my friends were waiting to leave. After the initial Hi, hellos we started towards splashtown.

45 minutes and 30 miles later we were at Splashtown. Since we were not the earlier once to arrive we had to navigate around the parking lot to find a spot, we found one soon and we were on our way into the park. First thing we did was to rent a locker to keep our belongings. And the first place that we went was to the Wave pool. By the time were out of the pool it was already around 12.30, so we headed to grab a bite. The queue was quite long. By the time we finished lunch it was around 2.

Next stop after lunch was Shotgun falls, this ride is very much like a slide in the park, the only difference is that you land in 10 feet deep water pool instead of the conventional slide. Next stop was the high point of the whole outing, the Tornado. In this ride we fall into a huge cone and see-saw inside the cone before splashing into water. The adrenaline rush just cannot be explained in words. After this dose of fun we headed to other rides and chit-chatted for a while. it was almost 5 in the evening so we went to get some evening snacks and some rest in the shade. Then came the time for some beach-volleyball. After
two matches we headed towards the River walk. Here you can walk, swim or just float around and rest yourself. After floating around the stream couple of times we headed to the wave pool again for the last wave of the day. By the time the wave in to pool came to normal it was closing time, almost all of us were tired by the day long activities.

Did some car searching to spot the car and hopped onto it and headed home after a eventful day at the water park. I was looking forward for a nice hot shower and sleep like a baby :-). Forty five minutes later we were back in home....