Monday, 3 February 2014

Still in San Diego....

We love it here! There has been only one night of rain, and temperatures during the day generally rise to a warm 78F to 80+F [26C or so].  The last couple of days have only been 65 to 70F. However, as soon as the sun goes down, the temperature plummets very quickly to just above freezing.  We have to remember to take fleecies or jackets when we head out in the morning as we are never back by dark. Santee Lakes is lovely. The folks here are so friendly.

There is so much to see and do in San Diego, we have decided to extend our visit for another week! That makes 4 weeks, the longest we have stayed anywhere. We have developed a pattern of walking all over for two long days, then driving somewhere or doing things [like washing, cleaning or rearranging cupboards] around the RV 

Catching some sun in our new site...

Coffee Time...

or catching up on Canadian news
or in Santee for the third day. 

We usually taking the trolley in to San Diego,
Trolley coming into Santee Station

Boarding, push the button and doors open- right at street level
and hop off and on at various stops. The trolley system here is fabulous. We drive to Trolley Square in Santee, get a $5 day pass, hop the Green Line and are wisked into San Diego. We usually get off at the Santa Fe station

Sante Fe Trolley stop + Amtrak and Coastal trains on a secoond set of tracks
if we are doing something downtown. Then we can walk to the Embarcadero, to Seaport Village or to the Gaslamp Quarter.

We have walked all along the Embarcadero on San Diego Bay.

Toward Seaport Village

Embarcadero from  USS Midway
There are a lot of pedi-cabs, if you don’t feel like walking. The drivers/riders give you a tour of the waterfront with bits of history and interesting facts. We haven’t taken one, but you encounter them and hear bits of their talks as you walk. There has been a lot of work completed, and more being done, to make the walk a really interesting experience into the history of the area. It is approximately a 15 minute walk [with no stopping] from the Marine Museum at one end to Seaport Village at the other end. Add another few minutes, and you are at the Convention Center.

The Maritime Museum’s motto is “Bringing Adventure and Discovery to Life”. It is a variety of ships including a replica of a 1700’s British Frigate, a merchant sailing ship from the 1800’s, an 1898 steam ferryboat, a 1904 steam yacht, 2 submarines and several America’s Cup boats. Each houses displays, photographs and information to help you understand life aboard. It was fascinating to get glimpses of life at sea from the viewpoint of such a variety of sailors. There was a class of school children on the Star of India merchant ship.
Star of India
They were in groups, getting a chance to experience the life and jobs of various crewmembers in 1863. Like the group we saw in San Francisco, they were to spend the night on board. One of the subs was a Russian “Foxtrot class”

Russian "Foxtrot series" Sub
which patrolled the oceans, sometimes to a depth of 985ft. 

very narrow and low ceiling
The US sub, Dolphin, transports you into the world of cutting edge naval research for the last half of the 20th century. It set the record for depth of a dive, in excess of 3000ft, [The exact depth is still classified information.] and for the deepest launch of a torpedo. The subs were very narrow, and really cramped. They were both fascinating, but claustrophobic and short on headroom!  It is hard to imagine living there for months at a time. The ship you could travel comfortably and elegantly in, however, is the steam yacht, Medea. The dining room could be in any elegant home of the early 1900’s, and the leather chairs in the aft cabin were a very comfortable place to sit if the winds did not permit lounging on the aft deck.
The ferryboat, Berkley, had wonderful paintings, models, and accounts of maritime life, on the first deck. The second deck was huge, with wooden booths

2nd Deck of the Berkley
which would sit 10 or 12 people with ease, at one end, the large square bar in the center, and a very large dance floor with a piano at the other end. The top windows were beautiful stained glass, and the floors highly polished wood. You could almost hear the music as you walked through this room, and out to the deck. It was used primarily to ferry folks between the Oakland transcontinental rail terminus and San Francisco. However, it was put to use to evacuate people from the burning city of San Francisco after the earthquake of 1906.
The British frigate HMS Surprise
HMS Surprise
was built from plans for HMS Rose and served as a sail training ship on the east coast for 30 years.  The ship was purchased by 20th Century Fox and, after an extensive refit, renamed HMS Surprise for the film Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World.  Unfortunately the ship was closed to visitors as it was undergoing routine maintenance.
 As sailors ourselves, it was particularly interesting to see the evolving designs of the boats used in the America’s Cup Challenges.

Americas' Cup Challenger
A Little further along the Embarcadero, is the aircraft carrier, the USS Midway.

USS Midway
This is magnificent! With your admission, you get a free audio tour. Although there were signs, displays

and informative posters everywhere, the audio included more detailed information, and often personal accounts from a variety of sailors and pilots from all ranks. The path to follow as we toured was well marked with yellow arrows

We are to go down the stairs/ladder

to ensure you tour in a logical sequence. You begin your journey on the Hanger Deck. 

Toward Aft

Looking Forward
The intricacies and interconnections necessary to run a ship of this magnitude are overwhelming in their complexity, from the boilers to the controls for each of the 4 propellers requiring a separate room with dials, wheels and miles of pipes.

Panel controlling Propeller #3
It is a feat of engineering.  The whole city on board was fascinating, from the dentist to the massive kitchens, and various dining rooms –depending on your rank-, to the huge laundry facilities, and sleeping quarters- from very cramped for the juniors to the large suites for the captain and admiral. I have not even yet mentioned the massive size of the flight deck with 22 planes 


Sea King

Planes on Board in 1945

The "Island"
and two launching catapults, and the elevators which could bring a plane up from the hanger deck to the flight deck in under 10 seconds. We spent 3 1/2 hours exploring the ship, and only had to leave, because it was closing.

Just past the USS Midway are the Taffy 3 WWll Memorial,

the famous Sweet Surrender statue,

and a tribute to Bob Hope. The bronze statue of Bob Hope is facing bronze statues representing both active members of the military and veterans.

The audio is a sample of his performances made at various times to the men and women in the armed forces. It is a must see, sit and listen. Continuing along the path, there is the Fish Market and several Restaurants.
The Fish Market, top of the Market Restaurant

The market has beautiful fresh seafood and ceviche. They also sell delicious take-out clam chowder. We bought it for lunch one day and sat on a bench in the harbour watching the fishing fleet. Included was warm fresh crusty bread, butter and oyster crackers with the tasty soup. It was so good, we brought some home for dinner another evening.
Ambling further along the Embarcadero, there are three memorials: Pearl Harbour Memorial, Aircraft Carrier Memorial and the USS San Diego Memorial.
Down at the end of this section, is Seaport Village. This is a San Diego’s version of a quaint seaside fishing village. It is a collection of shops and booths which sell everything from souvenir trinkets to flags, including an interesting book store, a mug store, cafes, restaurants and even an historical carousel. 
Another fascinating stop on the Green Line is Old Town. Part of this is actually a State Historic Park, on the site of the first Spanish settlement in 1769, with restored and reconstructed buildings, many of which are now museums, shops and restaurants. The central plaza, Plaza de las Armas, 1800’s California’s bustling hub, is lined with buildings which give us a glimpse of the lifestyles of both ordinary and the wealthy, influential residents. One large area is Fiesta de Reyes
Entrance to Courtyard Fiesta de Reyes

with restaurants, and 19 unique shops around the outside selling souvenirs, unique gifts, an olive oil tasting shop, 

Day of the Dead Festival Mannequin
coffee and dessert bar, and wine tasting. There is a large central courtyard with a stage and benches. We were there on a Friday and were treated to excellent live entertainment. 

Great Entertainment

Old Town Market and Bazaar del Mundo are unique shopping and restaurant areas. This is a fascinating place to wander and talk to the very knowledgeable volunteers about life in San Diego in the 1800’s.

On our way back from San Diego one day, we decided to get off the trolley at Fashion Valley. It is of course a giant Mall. However, because the weather is so good here, and rainfall so light, it is not enclosed. Rather you wander along a street between two rows of stores. There are 2 levels, with Bloomingdale’s at one end JC Penney at the other and Macy’s, Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom in between. There are a variety of other stores, eg. Pottery Barn, Williams Sonoma, Rolex, Tiffany & Co., Gucci, Coach, Prada, Jimmy Choo, Louis Vuitton for more expensive tastes. But also Forever 21, Foot Locker, Sephora, Old Navy and Bath and Body Works balance out the shopping budget. There were also Apple, a Sony and Microsoft stores. There is a large AMC Theatre complex, a Food Court and several restaurants. It was an interesting experience to wander in and out of stores and people watch. 
On our way home on the trolley, John went to get his phone and couldn’t find it. In his own words: I lost my Blackberry on Thursday; I wasn't sure where - either at the Fashion Valley mall or on the trolley.  The next morning I had a voice mail from my mother in Montreal, saying that someone from the MTS (Metropolitan Transportation System) had called stating someone had found the phone and turned it in.  They must have located my name on the phone and then called ‘home’, so to speak. So we headed to the MTS lost and found. On the way downtown on the trolley we noticed an MTS supervisor and asked where the lost and found was. Having told him the story, he called ahead, to short circuit the process and located the phone. We followed him to the central depot where the trains are serviced. He went upstairs and got the phone and then gave us some swag (ball caps, pins, etc.). He asked if we’d like to see the Control Center. Delighted at the offer, we followed him up stairs and along corridors to the control room for the whole trolley system. There are cameras in every car, and one whole wall, was a bank of monitors. Another wall was a huge electronic schematic of the 3 trolley lines, and the location of every train in operation. It was fascinating.
We walked from there up to the Gaslamp Quarter. 

This is an area that was rundown and not very prosperous, nor contributing to the picture of the city that San Diegans wanted visitors to see. It did, however, have beautiful buildings. It has now been almost completely revamped. 

Balboa Theatre The fenced area to the right will be a beautiful large park

There are interesting shops, boutiques, hotels and restaurants. Some buildings got a facelift, others were rebuilt to fit into the ambiance of the area.

One of the things that has stood out for us as we tour San Diego and meet people, is the pride that the citizens take in their city. They want to share with us places that they like and think will interest us. We frequently hear, “have you seen ...”, or “have you been to...”  or “you must go to...”, “ try this restaurant”. A municipal worker noticed us taking pictures in the Gaslamp Quarter. He took a break from what he was doing to point out a couple of the buildings and give us a bit of their history. There was a large square fenced off, and he explained with pride what was going to be there, and then suggested several other sights we might enjoy.. 

We have been to Balboa Park 

once, and next week we’ll be going again. We took the trolley from Santee, then the Orange Line to State College stop, and walked up to the Park, along Park Blvd. There are parking lots all over the grounds, so we may drive next week. In front of the Veterans’ Museum and Memorial Center on the east side of the street, is a portico

where we caught a 2-car tram

Tram stop in Plaza de Panama

that takes you into the Park stopping a couple of times. There are 15 major museums, performing arts venues, beautiful gardens and the San Diego Zoo. There are 3 main sections: the Zoo to the north end, and two sections which are legacies of two Expositions. The middle section is from 1915-16 Panama-California Exposition, commemorating the opening of the Panama Canal. The southern section is from1935-36 California Pacific International Exposition held to boost the economy during the depression. We got off at the middle section. Most of the museums and art organizations are in Spanish Renaissance-style buildings. We didn’t take time to tour any of the museums or galleries on this visit, but walked around taking pictures, overwhelmed by the stunning architecture,

Casa del Prado

Botannical Gardens

The Globe Theatre

Courtyard of the Casa del Prado

Reflecting Pool

Outside corridor of San Diego History Centre

friezes and landscaping. 
Birds of Paradise are used everywhere

Back garden of the San Diego Museum of Art to the San Diego Museum of Man

Alcazar Garden behind the Mingei International Museum 
Then we walked into the Spanish Village Art Center. 

There are over 50 shops, 

some are artists’ studios, others sell gifts as well and one of a kind art, jewellery, glass, wood, ceramic, pottery, paintings, clothes and more. They all have interesting tales to tell, and are happy to stop and chat.

This week, we drove to La Jolla [pronounced La Hoya]. It is a beautiful little town north of downtown, south of Torrey Pines on the coast. It is said to be the Beverly Hills of San Diego. However, although there were some beautiful and expensive galleries and jewellery stores, it did not seem too bad to us. Many house prices looked to be North Toronto prices, albeit some were more “Rosedale” than others. The beach was great when the tide was out.

La Jolla Beach, tide pools to the left  [tide is out]
There were a lot of tide pools and a stretch of beach about 200 yards long. We went around a point, and out on a breakwater. There were about 75 seals hanging out on the beach and on the rocks, and playing in the surf.
The Breakwater, with seals on the beach.

John calls this "Nude Sun Bathers"

Some seals preferred the rocks to the sand
The most striking thing was that there was no noise. When we saw the sea lions further north, they barked and played with each other like little kids.  Further up the coast there are 

caves that you can kayak into. 

The Spanish influence is very evident in the architecture.
La Valencia Hotel
This week, we enjoyed breakfast with our nephew, who is with the Canadian Armed Forces. He was down at MCAS [Marine Corps Air Station]

Proud Uncle
Miramar doing training exercises. On the weekend, we met up with a friend from U of T days who lives in LA now. We joined him on his boat in Oceanside Marina, and later for a great lunch in Carlsbad at Karl Strauss,

and enjoyed a motor
John at the helm for our tour

[he is doing some maintenance on the boat, so no sails] out to see the sea lions on the buoy.
Just sunning on the buoy!
Unfortunately, there were no whales hanging around. But we had a great visit!

There is more San Diego to come- Coronado, a sail around the coast on the Schooner, America [we hope], more Balboa Park and Point Loma area....

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