We took our girls to the San Francisco Zoo, excited to point out real animals to Pumpkin, animals she had only thus far seen in My Big Book of Animals.
Despite some inconveniences, such as difficult parking, small and ill-placed exhibit signage and a very hectic food court, my girls had a fun time on their first visit to the zoo.
If you are planning a visit to the San Francisco Zoo, here are some things to keep in mind:
A great Indian getaway is the beautiful seaside state of Goa, on the western coast of India. It’s more scenic to take the train in order to watch the changing landscape.
Upon reaching the railway station at Margão, we were picked up by van, courtesy of the Bambolim Beach Resort. On the way, the tropical scenery provided a preview for what we could expect at the resort.
The ride seemed to end too soon as we quickly reached our destination. As we checked in, we were served welcome drinks at the front desk upon our arrival. When we arrived at our sea-facing cottage and saw our room, we were impressed. There was a mini-fridge, as well as a spacious sitting area, and fully stocked bathroom. But by far, my favorite part of the room was the sliding glass door, which opened out to a small patio area with chairs and a table, and literally 20 feet beyond, the beach itself.
The next morning, after a buffet breakfast in the outdoor dining area overlooking the beach, we went out to Panaji (Panjim) to do a little shopping and blend in with the locals. Panaji reminded me very much of Thrissur town in Kerala. The architecture here is overlaid with Portuguese elements, as Goa was ruled by Portugal for almost 500 years.
Upon returning to the resort, we spent some time on the beach. This strip of beach is free from debris and very well-maintained, in contrast to more crowded areas of the Goa coastline.
Some of the other resort guests were out already, soaking up the sunshine, swimming in the sea, and taking photos. After eating lunch outside (our particular package included only breakfast and dinner at the resort), we were back to the beach where we spent the remainder of our daylight hours taking photos.
After that, we retreated to our cottage where we showered and dressed for our buffet dinner. When we returned to our room, we spent time on the (very private) outdoor patio, sitting and watching the waves and listening to the roar of the ocean.
On our third day, we only had the morning to ourselves, as our package deal included a tour of Goan landmarks, and in the evening, a river cruise. As you may have guessed, we found ourselves back on the beach! We returned to our room in time to get dressed and meet up with the other guests who would be joining us on the tour bus.
Once we began our journey, we rode through the Goan countryside, everyone taking photos, singing, and in generally good spirits. Our first stop was a wax museum, then onto Mangeshi Temple and the Church of Bom Jesus. Although Hindu temples are closed to non-Hindus, Mangeshi Temple is a tourist site and therefore allows visitors of all backgrounds.
Tourists, upon removing their shoes, must maintain silence, and photography of any kind is strictly forbidden within the temple. As I had never been inside a Hindu temple before, I strained to catch a glimpse of the inner sanctum where the deity resided.
TOURISTS, UPON REMOVING THEIR SHOES, MUST MAINTAIN SILENCE, AND PHOTOGRAPHY OF ANY KIND IS STRICTLY FORBIDDEN WITHIN THE TEMPLE. AS I HAD NEVER BEEN INSIDE A HINDU TEMPLE BEFORE, I STRAINED TO CATCH A GLIMPSE OF THE INNER SANCTUM WHERE THE DEITY RESIDED.
Our third stop was the Church of Bom Jesus. This impressive structure cast a large shadow over the visitors as they milled about. After entering the church, we were able to see the preserved body of St. Francis Xavier laid to rest in its ornately carved coffin, which had been nestled several feet above and into the wall.
The tour bus brought us back to the resort, and we were told to be ready again in the evening for the river cruise. The atmosphere of the cruise was electric, with tourists as well as locals lining up to board the triple-decker boat for a night of cultural stage performances, food, mingling, and dancing the night away in the disco, located on the first level. When the cruise returned to port, everyone was exhausted from partying but smiling nonetheless.
The excellent service received at the Bambolim Beach Resort, as well as the pristine beauty of the beach, would make this a trip memorable for anyone. An ideal destination for a honeymoon, family trip, or just to get away, Goa provides all the ingredients to make this a truly exotic locale.