Wednesday’s Words: San Diego’s Delight/Balboa Park

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Day five of our April trip to San Diego was defined by our visit to the enchanting Balboa Park. From the moment we entered, I felt almost as if in a dream, so lushly interesting was the landscape and so exotic much of the architecture. It was the Spanish influence that impacted me, a culture that draws me via literature, art, music and dance, design and architecture. This excellent park is named after explorer Vasco Nunez de Balboa in 1915. It was the site of the Panama-California Exposition and is now a National Historic Landmark. The park is 12 acres in which you can visit 16 museums, many performance venues, numerous gardens (19)and walkways–as well as the acclaimed San Diego Zoo.

Even after spending most of the day, we saw only a fraction of that. It is very hard to limit photographs and experiences–but here is a small offering of our experiences. Just follow along with the older gal in an apple green shirt–your guide, me, trying to look so cool and collected as I sweat like mad in the dry Mediterranean heat of day. Thank goodness for a swift breeze, at times. (Hottest day of our visit…)

We first checked out the House of Pacific Relations’ International Cottages built in 1935 to promote good will while sharing cultural exhibits. We discovered the open house tours occur only on week-ends. It was charming nonetheless. I paused at the doors of Germany and Ireland, parts of my heritage. (Marc is checking out a lovely trumpet-shaped flower.) I imagined any stucco cottage would be delightful to move into, at least for a few days, where I’d hunker down in shadow-drifts and write away, an iced tea at hand…

(For the sake of economy of space, I have tended to post smaller pictures. You know, of course,  to click on each you may want to view both complete and larger. Thanks!)

Next we wandered about, gawking at ornate buildings and passageways.  I felt whisked away to a different culture and time. As the heat ramped up, sweet coolness of shady spots was enjoyed more than once.

I always try to visit gardens when we travel. One I sought out was the Alcazar Garden, designed to mimic the Alcazar Castle gardens in Seville, Spain.

The Botanical Building and Lily Pond was a favorite stop. Built for the 1915-1916 Exposition, it is one of the world’s largest lath structures. It houses more than 2000  plants. The orchids were exquisite.

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We left the interior to admire the captivating surroundings of Lily Pond with Mama Duck and ducklings, turtles, and namesake lilies.

And this gentleman who played Latin music with feeling and a timeless if worn elan. I felt for him, sitting there in the simmering heat of day as passersby strolled to and fro, so we stood and listened awhile.

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We checked out the Museum of Photographic Arts which showcases solo artists. There was a wonderful exhibit of insect photos –beetles! which I love–among others. And we had a fun experience of standing before a work made of innumerable pictures of individuals, presumably reflective as suddenly the viewer–in this case, yours truly–becomes part of the art. It demonstrated how we are a part of each other: we are all 99.9 percent the same, according to scientific discoveries. Something to ponder as we live, learn and share with other humans in this madcap world. (I regret I can’t find the name of the artist.)

We walked through the prickly and peculiar Cactus garden, established 1935,

and as the afternoon waned, visited the Spanish Village Art Center. Created in 1935, the buildings were taken over by the US Army during WWII and used as barracks–but was reclaimed by artists in 1947. There are demonstrations  of craft and may art works to peruse but most shops were closing by the time we arrived. I managed to sneak in one and purchased one sea-blue mug as a keepsake of the visit. Note I am sitting, waiting for a freezing cold drink, which I did not get….

Hunger was driving us to the end of explorations for the day. As we headed for the car, we passed an attractive restaurant called El Prado (we tried to get in but no luck!), where people attired in fancy reds and blacks lined up for a fine dinner, some special event. We moved on with regret. There was so much more to view and wonder over! We resolved to return to Balboa Park and avail ourselves of the charms of 15 other gardens, the acclaimed San Diego Zoo and so much more.

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Farewell, you fun, beautiful place– for now!

Friday’s Quick Pick: San Diego’s Old Town (on My Possibly Jinxed Birthday)

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Way back on May 2nd when I started posting about a recent trip to San Diego (the 1st of three trip posts is here: Wednesday’s Word: An Odd and Beautiful Holiday Begins; the 2nd, here: Friday’s Quick Pick: Boat Cruise on San Diego’s Bay ; and the 3rd and most recent is here: Wednesday’s Words: Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcala ) I noted that there were three unexpected occurrences that made the trip a bit odd. The first one was a happy surprise–a last minute upgrade (to put it mildly) of hotel rooms that made a great difference for Marc and me in comfort, view and mood.

A second unplanned but unappealing experience happened the night before my birthday. We’d had a pleasurable day at Balboa Park (those photos/narrative not yet posted) and returned to Liberty Market for a quick meal. The other meals had been excellent (Argentinian empanadas and a fresh pasta dish) but this time I chose just a simple deli turkey sandwich. I was unimpressed, even mildly unsure about it but was so hungry I ate most of it. The result, a few hours later: I got sick  and slept little that night. I groaned as brightness of dawn seeped into the room, thinking: What a way to spend another birthday. I have not had good fortune on birthdays a few years– my oldest sister’s funeral was even on one of them. Like a jinx, my own birthday, I thought in a daze.

But at 10 am after a little sleep I felt better and got ready for the day. I was not going to do nothing on my 68th. (As many who have read this blog, I was diagnosed with heart disease at 51 and have lived past the projected expiry date so I count every day–and year–as a gift.) Off we went to visit Old Town as we’d planned. I figured if I ate little to none, drank a lot of water and hoped for the best, it’d be a decent day–despite having to cancel our celebratory dinner plans (at a much finer restaurant).

I’m glad I charged ahead. This touristy but interesting settlement reflects the period of early to mid-1800s, both Mexican and early American. Historic buildings as well as a few replicas line narrow , pedestrian-only streets. Colorful items overflow booths and shops. There is a stable and a fine old hotel as well as other peeks into the past. It was good to think on it all, how it must have been to live those days.

I was satisfied by our visit. Although my appetite was still minimal, my mood became lighter  and it felt like another good day to be alive and (more or less) kicking. Enjoy the meander with me!

 

The attractive, simple house of the Estudillo family was fascinating with its preserved or restored rooms and central courtyard. Four generations lived and gradually thrived there from 1827-1887. I felt the imprints and ghosts of hard work, their unfolding dreams, the family engaged in everyday life as if it all lingered on.

We paused at a mineral and gem shop and then a stables.

The refurbished Cosmopolitan Hotel was rustic yet elegant.

We wandered another hour as that California sun beat down; we both got a bit pinker and tanner. I consumed a great deal of water and rested in the shade some so I wouldn’t keel over…and bought just one item at the market, a small slim, teal-colored leather purse. Marc bought me heavenly eucalyptus hand cream and soap–I recommend it, Eucalyptus by Thymes. I’ve used it almost daily as the scent evokes these good memories despite rougher beginnings on my San Diego birthday.

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All in all, a good time was had. I absorbed the city view from our comfortable balcony; distant, sweet-salty ocean bay breezes wafted up to us as daylight began to gently fade.

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Wednesday’s Words: Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcala

Despite still feeling foggy and low following my brother’s recent death, I am glad to share some photographs of our visit to California’s first Mission Church, established in 1769. It somehow feels appropriate in that I am quietly musing about life lived by us humans, how our lives unfold and bloom and pass away so quickly.

This place is marked by calming hideaways and corners and lovely plantings. I was glad to see a statue of the tireless, brilliant and compassionate St. Augustine–a fascinating person I discovered in childhood– in the serene garden. He presided over a clear pool of water, hands reached out to birds and bees and all–and flowers left by visitors. I nodded at him as I snapped pictures.

I am not Catholic so perhaps experienced all of it differently than one who is, though this active church is open to all. It emanated a beautiful,  meditative feel of refuge and prayer. But it also was built in the home territory of large numbers of Native Americans who had resided there for thousands of years. Father Junipero Serra, aged 52, accompanied a party for a second Spanish land expedition and founded the Mission at Presidio Hill. Five years later it was moved to a better site. The history is complex and can be found on their website, here: http://www.missionsandiego.org/visit/history/

But I offer several moments I had the pleasure of experiencing as we wandered about the church and grounds. First the past and current sanctuary used for services and its immediate surrounds. The old ways and lives seemed to whisper to me as I paused to take it all in. The breezes were soft inside the thick walls.

The courtyard and garden was breathtaking to me. I found it hard to leave but enjoyed further meandering trough shadow-bathed corridors, then into splashes of Mediterranean-hot, clear light.

 

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As we paused in walkways, more markers of the past were observed with uneven flooring and windows, crooked doors, arches that opened to more maze-like areas or gardens. One could well imagine both the activities and quietude here.

 

We moved into the sting of heat and blinding light to find an outside walkway or two, then found our way out. It was a good visit to the Mission Church, but we were ready for a hike at Torrey Pines State Park–perhaps next week’s post!

 

 

 

Oops, I Flew the Coop Again!

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I got so busy getting ready for our trip to San Diego, California, that I truly forgot to post last Friday, so please consider this in place of the abandoned post…

We flew here Saturday and after a glitch or two we settled into a new suite at the Downtown Courtyard Marriott Hotel that is lovely. It was once a stately, mammoth old bank. Then we commenced our explorations last night in the Gaslamp District for dinner–a hopping place–and later slept  well. Today we mostly enjoyed the lively harbor area not far from the hotel. We walked about 4 miles starting along the Embarcadero, by boats of all sorts including tall  ships, humongous cruise ships, yachts and sailboats and the USS Midway from WWII. We even saw a speed boat reminiscent of  a shark!

Marc has visited here often in connection with business but this is my first time.  I am enjoying it immensely. Our suite is perfect as you might imagine from nearly the top floor and a private veranda from which we easily see city and water views– a real treat, as my birthday is coming up this week! Tomorrow a 2 hour boat Hornblower boat cruise awaits us. Then maybe we’ll head out to the desert…or find trails to trod beyond the city bustle. And we will look for a great bookstore and sample more restaurants, the last of which abound. There is a lot going on in this place!

Here, April breezes are soft and toasty enough to come back to the rooms a bit pink–Marc has a very bright nose, already, I’m afraid–and very relaxed. We Pacific Northwesterners have a hunger for spring sunshine. And we both were in great need of rest and recreation, so are pleased to be here at last.

Below are a few of the first shots offered for your viewing pleasure. (I already snapped over 200…) I look forward to writing a couple of trip posts and to sharing plenty of other photographs upon our return. Click on each to see a larger view, as usual.

See you in ten days!

 

 

 

Friday’s Passing Fancy: A Happy Trip–Ashland to Mt. Shasta

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I get the itch to take off for other places by late February-early March. Despite my appreciation (on the good days) and acceptance (when the drear feels too murky and confining) of the insular winter months of Portland’s chilly rainfall, it gets a bit tiresome by then. And Marc is also ready to take a break from work once more (since his yearly one at Christmas). We make our first travel plans for April or May, as I have gotten in the habit of celebrating my birthday (and/or Mother’s Day) by travelling. We usually choose a place where 1) it will be, if not warm, at least brighter with cheerier, more interesting landscapes than drenched city blocks and muddied emerald lawns; and 2) we can travel via car and explore for 7-14 days out.

We are about to embark on another trip–this time flying to San Diego, California and surrounds, a first time for me if familiar territory for my businessman hubby. I started to get excited while checking photos of past trips. I was perusing those of a satisfying, gorgeous exploration of southern Oregon in 2006. It was pleasant to take a short virtual hop there so thought to share pictorial impressions.

We first headed down to Ashland, OR., located 16 miles from the northern CA. border. It is the home of Southern Oregon University and the well known Oregon Shakespeare Festival. We did see a play but I regret I can’t recall what it was though it was a fine performance, no doubt! I do oddly recall the OSF theaters and campus area were very attractive. The college town is a lustrous gem within rolling hills and a backdrop of the Siskiyou Mountains, a part of greater Klamath Mountains.

From there we drove to the border of OR./CA. and on toward Mt. Shasta and the redwoods. Mt. Shasta is within a southern part of the Cascade Range, which stretches across Oregon to British Columbia. This particular mountain is considered sacred by Native Americans and is one of the Pacific Basin’s “Ring of Fire” volcanoes. It is an awesome presence to behold at 14,179 ft. and covered with a brilliant crown of snow. At first its peak was obscured by a topknot of clouds but as we got closer, it appeared for a short time like magic. I felt humbled being as close as we were.

There are many other decent shots of this longer trip but these are some I like the most from the first leg. I may post other photos later. I was less engaged with digital photography then; almost all shots are landscapes. There are two of our charming accommodations and its back garden. I also included one of Marc and myself for the heck of it. How times flies–we both have changed (he got bigger… and works even harder while I got smaller as I began more creative endeavors once retired; we both got greyer over 12 years). But our love of experiencing interesting places and people has not altered–perhaps this has even grown.

In a couple weeks I will be posting pictures and musings gathered or formed while in beautiful, dry southern California!

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