Wednesday, 27 February 2013

California - last day, Cabrillo Lighthouse

Took a couple of buses but we got to Cabrillo State Park in dense fog. This made the lighthouse, which sits high over the entrance to San Diego Harbor, quite impressive poking up out of the clouds but made photos pretty unimpressive.

Old Cabrillo lighthouse

We walked around the site, explored the onsite displays (inside and outside) and watched a fascinating documentary about the grey whales that pass the area every year on their way from the Arctic to Baja California. It's a huge trip, 5000 miles each way, takes 9 months and they do not eat the whole time. Still the fog hadn't lifted but we walked around the headland to see the newer lighthouse.

New Cabrillo Lighthouse
While up there we saw dolphins and a number of naval ships coming in or leaving the harbor. Each time small naval powerboats "cleared the way" by warning pleasure craft out of their paths.

This submarine had two escort boats, you can just see one behind its tail.
The two sailboats were warned and tacked out of the way.

We left the site mid afternoon and the fog was gradually clearing. The road to the park goes through a naval base and, at one point, is bordered on both sides by cemeteries - quite sobering, especially with Mike and Aimee in the armed forces

We took a number of buses and trams to get to downtown San Diego and met Kathy and Bruce in the Gaslamp district which is an area full of bars and restaurants. We drank 'happy hour' drinks and ate 'happy hour' hors deuves as we worked our way around the area and found that we didn't need supper. Great ending to a great trip.
We loved the area, the desert landscapes and the coast. We found the people of San Diego to be extremely courteous and helpful. This was very obvious to us as we were using public transit and it was rare for a day to go by without someone asking if they could help us while we considered the bus/tram/train schedules. Unfortunately the shuttle driver in Buffalo, on the way home was extremely obnoxious and reminded me that Americans, just like Canadians, are a mixed lot. However we found southern Californians, overall, to be very pleasant.

Monday, 25 February 2013

California - Oceanside

While Kathy and Bruce went to the zoo, George and I bought a "Coaster" ticket and caught it at the Oldtown terminal. This train took us up the coast towards Los Angeles and the last stop was Oceanside. We got of the train there and walked out on to the pier.

George walking across the road to the pier
It was a very clean but rather sterile place. It had only really been built up in the last 30 years and didn't have much atmosphere but we watched the surfers

 and the fishermen, both human and avian.

We took the train back down the coast and got off at the next community South, Encinadas. This had a nice, busy, little downtown and bluffs overlooking the beach and the, ever present, surfers. We watched the sun go down into the ocean.

When Bruce had lived in San Diego, he lived in Ocean Beach, otherwise known as OB, not Oceanside. We went and checked out one of his haunts, a restaurant that had been featured on the Best Diners in the US TV show, Hoodads. We had burgers and huge plates of onion rings.

Hoodads walls are covered with license plates and other paraphernalia.

Friday, 22 February 2013

California - Coronado Island

We took the bus to Coronado Island which provides the protection for San Diego Harbour. Its all low rise housing and very pleasant with the Naval Base occupying the north end and beach all along the western side. We got off the bus next to the Coronado Hotel and had to explore it as it was beautiful.

We walked around the inner courtyard and the lobby which had a huge, incongruous, Christmas tree, about 3 stories high. There was an area that described the history of the hotel with pictures from its past and of visiting dignitaries.
On the beach side of the hotel we talked to a man with a falcon who was hired to chase away the seagulls. This was especially needed that day as they were serving a buffet lunch on the beach for a group holding a meeting in the hotel. Would have been a field day for the seagulls.

There were restaurants and bars along the beach side of the hotel and an ice skating rink! It was a lovely warm day so the rink had about an inch of water on the surface. Skaters were quite wet from falling down.

Walking out onto the beach, there was a man building sandcastles. There were 2, both with a Christmas message and both with a bucket for donations. He said that he just did it for fun and came every day to repair them if they needed it or to build new ones.

We walked the road beside the beach. The houses were all beautifully kept but not huge, however I imagine that its an expensive place to live.

Coronado beach

Coronado Beach Lifeguard Station

THe Midway, from the harbor, welcoming troops home.
We took the ferry back to San Diego, impressed again by what a large and busy harbour it was

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

California - Balboa Park

Kathy, Bruce, George and I did spend the day together at Balboa Park. It is a huge park and is the location for the famous San Diego Zoo. Kathy and Bruce went to the zoo another day but George and I decided, with limited time available, to see other things.


The park is about 1200 acres and has many museums, galleries and gardens. We went to the tourist information centre, got a map and started wandering. First to an art gallery where I fell in love with a Georgia O'Keefe painting and may have to rug hook it in the future.

White Trumpet Flower by Georgia O'Keefe
Next we spent some time in the greenhouse (hardly a name that does it justice)

The greenhouse was just one of the many buildings in the Park. Most were built for a World Fair or Exposition, so are ornate and impressive.

There are also beautiful gardens throughout the park and a number of specific ones. The rose garden has a huge collection of, you guessed it, roses, of every colour imaginable.

 Right next to it is the cactus garden and I have never seen such a huge variety of cacti, all shapes and sizes.

There were also a number of wild creatures to be seen, small ones;

And large ones;

Sunday, 17 February 2013

California - The Midway

In San Diego we spent a day aboard the aircraft carrier Midway. We literally spent the day and still did not see everything. It was a pretty crummy day weather-wise but fine for walking around the ship and observing the busy harbour.

The carrier is docked right at the downtown wharf, next to where the cruise ships come in.

The flight deck was covered with planes and helicopters and there were more below on the hanger deck. Some you could climb in to.

The inside workings of the ship were also open for viewing, from the operations rooms and flight crew ready rooms to sleeping quarters and mess rooms for officers and enlisted. It was fascinating to see the menus and recipes for a ship with a crew of 4500.

Everywhere there were people to describe how things worked or to give some history. Most were veterans who had served on the Midway.

In the busy harbour we watched civilian and military craft and a small boat with people training a dolphin. We were told it was being taught to check the bottom of ships for bombs and that dolphins were already being used to do that in other ports. 

We stayed til sunset.

Friday, 15 February 2013

California - San Diego, Oldtown

Our second week in California we spent in San Diego. We stayed in the same hotel as Kathy and Bruce and played some cards and ate a few meals with them but, by and large, we had different agendas. Bruce had spent a number of months in Ocean Beach (OB) when he was younger and wanted to see his old haunts and catch up with friends. George and I just wanted to do the tourist thing.

The first day there we explored Oldtown. We were to find ourselves there most days after that as it was a great place to eat and drink and it was our nearest hub for the transit system.

Oldtown is an area of the city that is a State Park. The buildings are all of a period early in San Diego's history and they are an interesting combination of museums, retail stores and restaurants. Sometimes all in the same building. For instance this is the outside of the Wells Fargo Office

This is the inside
There were lots of displays about how Wells Fargo was formed, maps of routes, old documents and pictures. In short, a museum. However it was also a working Wells Fargo Bank.
The restaurants and retail stores were all beautifully appointed and legitimately historic buildings.

A restaurant in Oldtown
The hotel, which had a fabulous restaurant inside
We spent a great deal of time inside the Livery Stables as there were some fascinating displays regarding mule and oxen trains and some of the land barons of the area.
A mule train wagon from above
I ended the day there by doing a quick sketch of this church while standing in the sun.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

California - Palm Springs cont

Our visit with Rick and Eve was both relaxing and interesting. Aside from the places I have highlighted we went to The Living Desert which is a zoological garden with cactus gardens, a dessert hike and an amazing model railroad (I don't know why, I guess just could someone wanted to do it).

Mountain goat at the Living Desert, unfortunately we never saw one in the wild
Model railroad
Aside from that we had mimosas in the hot tub every morning,

Some beautiful surroundings,

Some wonderful meals out, and in,
 Some huge drinks,

And in downtown Palm Springs a huge statue of Marilyn Munroe (I don't know why, I guess just because someone wanted to)

Someone has to take a picture up her dress!