Join me for three minutes, walking through Mission Trails in San Diego. I’m just learning the video thing so bear with me. It’s a perfect place to get back to nature, be mindful and just enjoy a nice afternoon walk. All just minutes from the chaos of the city of San Diego. I hope you enjoy it.
I had a friend drop me off because I assumed that parking would be a nightmare. I got there over an hour before Carnevale was set to begin. Traffic was picking up but I easily found a seat in the main ‘piazza’, actually just where two streets intersect and there is a little seating on one corner. I sat down and excitedly waited for the night to begin. Set to start at 5:00 pm, I watched the street, combing for performers and beautiful costumes with masks of every shape and color adorned with feathers, glitter and rhinestones. Unfortunately what I ended up with was disapointment; no parade, no masquerade balls, no nothing. Here, Carnevale is two blocks of (in my opinion) a lame street fair. The vendors weren’t even selling arts and crafts, but clothing, whisks, plants and cars. There was a lovely band playing which was adding a little warmth to this cold night air, but I was crushed. I even heard others walking beside me on the sidewalk saying, “Is this it?” Evidently, it was.
Leaving the intersection of Date and India streets, I headed up India to find somewhere to eat and hopefully salvage my night with a great meal. I wanted to find somewhere to sit for a while, enjoy some wine and write. Obviously being in Little Italy I didn’t have any trouble finding Italian food, which was just fine with me. I strolled along and pondered over numerous menus filled with pretentious sounding names and prices to match. Not for me. I eventually ended up walking past a restaurant that had a huge line out front. Finding the end of the line I asked the ladies if they’d eaten here before. They said no, but we agreed that it must have a long line for some reason. I asked the woman ahead of them. She told us that she’d eaten there many times and that they had “good food, huge portions and reasonable prices”. I got in line. A few moments later a woman got in line behind me. I struck up a conversation by asking if she’d ever been here before. She replied, “only for the last forty years”. Through my time with her waiting in line I learned that she started coming here in college because they didn’t “card” the kids back then, and now they come here for every major family event and tonight was no exception. I was hooked. How much more Italian can you get? A restaurant that’s been here for sixty years and a family that’s been coming here for nearly that long. As more of her family arrived I learned about their children and grandchildren complete with pictures, a bad joke from the husband and an invite to join them for dinner provided I paid. Since there was twelve of them, I declined.
I quickly reached the hostess desk, distracted by the delightful conversation, and was seated at a table for two in one of the many alcoves of the large restaurant. I was jovially greeted by a woman that was over 50, perhaps over 60 but with the energy, friendliness and sheer joy of a person just venturing out on their own in life with all the possibilities ahead of them.
I didn’t know what to order so she helped me. I went with a combination plate of lasagna and meat ravioli covered in cheese and baked. She told me it was wonderful and not on the menu and I completely trusted her, like a grandmother I’ve known my whole life. She did not steer me wrong. I also got a salad, garlic bread and a carafe of house chianti, which did not come with the pretentious stemmed glass. Just a small glass, just the same way they drink it in Italy. Everything was delicious, hot, filling and actually seemed as though it was made in a real Italian kitchen.
When you eat alone the staff feels sometimes compelled to chat with you. Maybe they feel the need to fill up your evening with chatter that isn’t filled by dinner companions, keep you from feeling lonely or perhaps to have someone to talk to themselves. Either way, it’s fine with me because you meet the most interesting and wonderful people, like my server. Irene, I learned, has been here at Fillippis for over 35 years and I’m certain that some of the restaurants success can be attributed directly to her. A genuine smile, an infectious friendly personality and a kindness that she couldn’t have suppressed if she tried. While I sat alone, she and I chatted a little. She continued to help others, many of which waited in line longer just to sit in her section. She wore big hoop earrings, her hair was swept up and although she walked with the gait of a person touched by age and time, she didn’t reveal it in the way she spoke to you. She had an expressive and to-the-point way of speaking, I liked her immediately. I’m sure everyone does. She made everyone smile and feel a glow of happiness. No wonder people waited to sit in here, this little corner of paradise.
I couldn’t possibly eat all the food I was served and that’s okay. I was perfectly happy just to enjoy the lovely chianti and the conversation. I needed no dessert and had no room for it anyway, as I was filled with the sweetness of human kindness.
I too will come back to Fillippis and when I’m in line I’ll happily tell ‘newbies’ the same thing told to me, with one caveat. Good food, huge portions and reasonable prices, but be sure to sit in Irene’s section. That alone will be worth the wait.
I look forward to bringing my Prince Charming husband here and introducing him to my new friend.
When you have been bitten by the bug to travel, sometimes you’re so focused on looking at exotic and far away places that you forget what’s just around the corner from you. Similarly, life can be lived in the same way and although I didn’t realize it, I ended up getting a few lessons on how to live in an art museum.
Balboa Park, in San Diego, California, is one of the nations largest urban cultural parks. It has fifteen major museums, an outdoor concert pavillion, several live theatres and of course, the World Famous San Diego Zoo. Many of the buildings in the park were built for the 1915-1916 Panama-California Exposition and the architecture is gorgeous, with sculptures and ornate decorative facades, that are themselves, art.
With the best of intentions to get out the door and on our way to our next adventure, my Prince Charming husband and I are invariably late. Although we’ve never minded this about ourselves, when we went to Balboa Park we didn’t arrive until well after lunch and the museums were going to close at 4:00 pm.
Feeling in need of a moment of relaxation we stopped at the Prado restaurant and sat in the bar. The bite was anything but quick but the food was warm, comforting and a great lead in to our cultural afternoon. We sat down in the ecclectically decorated cafe and pondered what exactly was the motif’ we were admiring. Latin American, Mexican, Italian? The confusing, colorful décor always gave you something to look at so we decided it was designed to be a little of everything, that way no matter who came here, or where in the world they came from, they would be comfortable. Even our meal had influences from different parts of the world. Basically a pizza; meat, cheese and vegetables on on Italian-style flatbread. However the Mexican inspired ingredients on top were anything but Italian. Guajillo beef, roasted green chilies, chimmichuri sauce (which I’ve developed a real love for), manchego, mozzarella, jack cheeses and cilantro. The flavors exploded in our mouths, waking us up from our lazy slow beginning of the day.
Wanting to get to our destination, we walked across the parking lot and into the San Diego Museum Of Art. After showing our identification to prove we live in America’s Finest City, we were allowed access. It was Free Tuesday in Balboa Park. One or several museums each Tuesday are open free to residents of San Diego county. If you didn’t live here you would just have to pay to get in.
Stepping into the lobby we reviewed the exhibits and decided that a methodical approach was necessary. Start to the right, move through one and on to the next, and so on.
The first exhibit was Behold, America! An exhibit of art from American artists from several different museums. This art was not for me, or for my Prince Charming husband. The pieces had no cohesion, it was a confusing exhibit and most of the art bothered me. Many of the pieces, I’m certain, were specifically designed to create that feeling; pain, torture and unsettling images. We moved on.
In the adjoining room was the Impressionist works by Charles Reiffel. These lovely paintings were filled with movement, shape, color and texture perfectly placed to reveal a scene; a woman in a park, a snowy day, a rainy afternoon. Yes, these paintings moved me. Although Monet is probably my favorite impressionist painter, this guy was pretty good too. I find impressionism to be a metaphor for life. Don’t get too close and don’t concentrate on the details. Step back and look at the whole picture and it’s beauty comes into focus.
Several of the other exhibits were lovely, filled with glorious works of art that as I pondered over them I was thankful they had survived through time to find their way here, just for me. Just for the sake of beauty. That’s why they exist. Perhaps that’s another great idea for a way to live life. Just for the beauty. Another one of several lessons I would learn on this day.
The next exhibit turned out to be my absolute favorite, The Temple Palace Mosque* pieces. It contained exterior walls of temples and shrines from Hindu, Buddhist and Jain temples, all across India and Southest Asia, as well as other objects. These sculptures are broken shells of larger works with saints and divinities cemented into art forever. One piece in particular shook me more than all the others. It was called ‘Navagraha’ and was a piece from a temple in Eastern India from the the 10th century. Nine figures; Sun, Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, Saturn, Rahu (Demon of Eclipses) and Comet, all together. These nine likenesses together tell us that the temple they were part of was built on a day when the stars and planets were properly aligned. This was very important for the efficacy of the site as a place of worship. I looked at the extraordinary piece of art and wondered how that temple ever got built, because it seems in my life that the stars and planets never line up perfectly. Surely, divine intervention is the only way it could ever happen. I’d like to be there for that moment! Perhaps what I’m to take from this is another life lesson. Like the details of the impressionist paintings, I shouldn’t look too closely. I need to step back and look at the big picture of my life and realize that it is beautiful. Maybe the sun, moon and stars align more often than I realize.
We completed the museum and ventured out into the cool evening air. The sun was fading fast on the horizon as we surveyed the park, strolling around and marveling at the architecture and enjoying the holiday lights. The light was warm and glowing, like a fire slowly dying out. The famous tower of Balboa Park was illuminated, showing off it’s lovely details. We walked, talked and laughed and I felt my worries lift a little. On this ordinary night, I was creating memories and treasured moments of my life. It was a lovely big picture to look at and everything was in alignment. I just need to remember not to look too close.
*The Temple Palace Mosque exhibit is unfortunately no longer at the San Diego Museum of Art.
One weekend of food booths, music, entertainment, crafts, art and everything in between.
All the museums are open from 5-9 pm for free and there’s also free concerts in the beautiful organ pavilion.
This is definitively the festival that launches the holiday season in San Diego.
We walked around and enjoyed the festivities.
Ate a few NON-diet friendly food items.
Listened to the music of some of the bands.
Perused the craft booths admiring the creativeness and ingenuity of others.
But probably my favorite part of the evening was taking pictures. (That’s always my favorite part of traveling)
Here’s a few from the evening.
Moving back to Southern California from the East Coast was not a hard decision for me. I admit, I miss the seasons and my friends but the allure of the West Coast is hard to deny. The perfect weather, enviable produce, flowers and beautiful beaches accessable to everyone. One of those amazing beaches calls to me, and always has; Torrey Pines State Reserve. It’s timeless beauty masks a delicate foundation struggling to survive in the world around it.
This natural reserve is located between Del Mar and La Jolla, within the San Diego city limits, along a long lovely stretch of the Pacific and is home to the nations rarest pine tree, the Torrey Pine. Possibly the rarest pine in the world. It is indiginous only in two places in the nation, here and Santa Rosa island off the coast of Santa Barbara. These lovely trees have many enemies including the bark beetle which has done irreparable damage to this species and it’s still evident. This fragile area is wild and untamed with trails that meander in and around the cliffs overlooking the ocean. Most of the trails have overlooks and no matter where you are it seems you have a panoramic view of the sea. Along the miles of trails throughout this park you see cactus and brush reminding you that we are actually in a desert. Benches have been strategically placed along the paths to enjoy some quiet solitude looking at the water. The reward at the end of the hike is strolling along this welcoming beach soaking in the sunshine and listening to the waves crest and crash beside you.
The beach here is wide, the waves manageable and you can walk for miles. If you go into the sparkling salt water you can head out a good distance and still have the water be no higher than your knees. The waves crash into you and you teeter a little, but don’t get knocked down. It’s a friendier beach to me.
The facinating and colorful cliffsides tell a story a million years old in the lines running through them, similar to the way sheet music tells us how to play the symphony. The sandstone, wind tunnels, caverns and fossils of this area make this park a geologists playground. Pay attention when walking past these cliffs on the beach. Many of them are unstable and you can see evidence of the errosion of time, wind and water with every step you take.
With millions of visitors every year enjoying this preserve, keeping the park and beach pristine is a constant endeavor. There are signs everywhere reminding hikers to stay on the trails so the delicate landscape on the other side of the rope can renew itself and find it’s foothold into life. Signs are all over warning that some of the caves, and ravines are unstable and in need of rest from trampling feet. Resisting the urge to step off the beaten path and take a picture is almost painful. The world around is spectacular in every way and it’s beautifully displayed here at this park. However, keeping it that way is sometimes as difficult as preserving the rare trees that are the parks namesake.
I hiked Cowles Mountain the other day and we climbed just shy of 1000 feet!
We’re beginning to do more challenging hikes that change in elevation to train for Machu Picchu.
I did very well. Ended up with some back pain but overall came out of it alright.
The hike is very nice. A little desert-y for me but still very pretty.
The views (although not on the day we went) are magnificent. On a clear day you could probably see all of San Diego.
Below are some images from the hike….enjoy!
Tourist attraction or tourist trap?
The first time I went to Old Town I was very disappointed. I ended up walking around on a very hot day thinking to myself, this is a very large retail strip mall filled with gift shops disguised as a historical site. I ended up leaving feeling let down and thinking it was nothing more than a tourist trap. It stayed in my mind for weeks afterward. They pour millions of dollars into advertising and marketing this place every year. Why? What was the fascination? So, I decided to return and find out the answer to that question.
It was a summer afternoon in San Diego, the dry air was warm but not stifling, and a cool breeze was keeping it quite pleasant. Driving north on Interstate 5, past the San Diego International Airport, a plane flew right over my classic red convertible so close that it’s shadow covered my entire car and I could see the wings reflected on the hood. It felt like a close call, but I knew better. Planes fly what seems dangerously close over I-5 all the time to land at the airport. I’ve met pilots and they’ve confirmed that it’s a hard airport to fly into. It’s commonplace now for residents, but long before that airport existed there was a small settlement of people building what would become America’s Finest City. They tilled the earth, built homes to live in, raised families and started businesses. It all began in what is now Old Town. The sign entering the area says it is the ‘Birthplace of California’.
I found a parking place fairly easily as it was not a weekend day and it was late in the summer. Most of the tourists have gone home now; back to school and work and back to their lives, but here I was, ready to explore California’s birthplace. I didn’t know what that meant or where to begin.
I walked past shop after shop, filled with ‘treasures’, most with a latin american flavor. There’s Mexican glass, colored dinnerware and pottery, cookbooks, religious artifacts, colorful clothes and so much more. The shops were very vivid and delightful to look through but that wasn’t what I had in mind. I was looking for history and that window into the past. The true story of California’s birthplace had to be here somewhere. I left the shops behind and headed to the center of Old Town. On the far side of the large open plaza in the center of the Old Town State Park was the Robinson-Rose Visitor Information Center. I spoke to the docent behind the counter about what to see and do and she kindly suggested that I take the free tour of the park. Luckily for me, it was going to start in about ten minutes. As I waited, a group of people started gathering on the planked front porch of this old building, waiting to be told all the history and interesting facts about the area.
We were greeted by our guide, Becky, who was dressed in mid-1800’s attire (as was the docent that helped me earlier) and headed off to learn the history of Old Town. Becky was funny, informative and kind. I found her delightful. She told us that most of the people who settled here came down from the Presidio, an area just up the hill from Old Town. In the Presidio, long before Old Town was populated, Franciscan Friars had built a mission and the first European settlement on the West Coast around 1770. Fifty years later, in the early 1820’s, things really started happening in Old Town. Spanish soldiers came down from the presidio and began building adobe structures. Two of the original structures were homes that are still there to see. La Casa de Estudillo and La Casa de Machado y Stewart. Both are excellent examples of life in another time. The Estudillo home is a glimpse into the life of a wealthy family. Built from sun-baked adobe bricks on large river cobble foundations, this home has three to five foot thick walls. It has fifteen rooms, including five bedrooms, a study, dining room, living room, a large inner courtyard, and even a chapel. This chapel later became the only place to worship for the entire community until another chapel was built.
The Estudillo hacienda is a grand home of wealth and opulence for the time, very unlike the other home that’s original to this area. La Casa de Machado y Stewart is a modest family home. They were the workers in this area. Living in one large living room and one bedroom. All of the family members slept in one room and most of the time the young boys had to sleep outside. Fortunately, San Diego has great year round weather. Interestingly, this house was lived in until the 1960’s.
Adobe structures like these are intriguing. There are no fireplaces or stoves inside the home, always outside. Also there was no porch on the front, only verandas on the back near the garden plot and outside oven. One could enjoy the shade on the veranda, after picking fresh vegetables, while watching the evening dinner cook in the oven.
Another original building is the Commercial Restaurant. This is a good example of what it was like to dine out in Old Town. It doesn’t look anything like restaurants of today which line every street, blaring loud music, with televisions showing every sports game from around the world and everyone that comes in is treated the same. No, not at the Commercial Restaurant. Here people were seated and served according to their social class. Even the food choices were limited by class and rank in life. Quite a departure to today’s restaurants. For the tour through this old restaurant, it has been set up to show how each class section would look and what would be served. It’s quite illuminating.
In 1848 the gold rush happened and changes happened fast in San Diego. There was an influx of people wanting to cash in and get wealthy overnight and the influences in Old Town changed with it. A good example is the Courthouse, it was the first fired brick building in town. Although the one in the park is not the original, it was interesting nonetheless. The park has painstakingly tried to build all the replicas to as close to original as possible to give visitors a real glimpse into the past. Shortly after the fired bricks came wooden structures. San Diego was rather barren and without many trees so pre-fabricated kits had to be ordered from the east coast and shipped around the tip of South America to be assembled here. Once these started to arrive, people started to see new and improved innovations in housing. Many things we take for granted, homes, churches, food and much more. Even how buildings were constructed and the progression of fabrication and design. Some of which we still use today. First came a front porch with planked wooden floors, then two stories and even decorative details, oh boy. By this time, they were beginning to resemble the homes we live in today.
After my tour, I stopped in one of the shops, got myself a sarsaparilla and walked around the square trying to imagine the events, festivals and meetings held here. People worked the land here, built businesses, fell in love and died here. The sarsaparilla was cold, caramelly and refreshing. I asked myself if a girl in the 1800’s would have come in here to buy one of these drinks for herself on a hot August day. I don’t know, perhaps one of the Estudillo daughters did. I imagined for a moment I was one of them, but then I caught a glimpse of myself in a store window, with my plastic ‘crocs’, shorts and tank top. I couldn’t really stretch my imagination that far as I really have no concept of what these people went through to build a life for themselves here. Money makes everything easier and that hasn’t changed through time. The poor or middle class, how did they survive? I can barely make it through a hot afternoon without the fan going. Not to mention no refrigerator. Forget it.
The tour showed me the shadows of a people and lives that came before me. It was interesting and absolutely invaluable to seeing Old Town. Allows you to walk through the time machine door and see another way of life.
I left the State Park and wandered into the surrounding business area, filled with restaurants and gift shops. I decided to head up the street to see the Whaley House. My guide told me it’s quite beautiful and worth seeing. She was right. I’m sure everyone has heard by now that it is supposedly the most haunted building in San Diego. I don’t believe in ghosts, but I was secretly hoping there might be ‘something’ in there to change my mind. I bought my ticket and told the lovely women behind the counter that I was writing an article on Old Town. She was thrilled and told me to ask for “Pat”. Pat was a plump woman, mostly due to her bustled costume. Her fair hair was in a bun and with no makeup, she looked quite matronly to me. Obviously accustomed to the costume she was wearing, she carried herself as if she were from an earlier time. She is the docent in the Whaley House and a fantastic one at that. She was very kind, knowledgeable and truly enjoyed what she was doing. When asked if she’s experienced or seen anything in the house, Pat replied, “Oh yes, many times, I’ve even had one pass through me.” Well, after learning information from Pat and finishing the entire self guided tour I felt a little cheated. I hadn’t felt any ‘presence’ at all. I did however get to see that gorgeous old home and, being a movie and live theater lover, was pleased to learn that the Whaley House is the site of the first commercial theatre in San Diego. It operated only for a short time, but I was sure the people loved it.
Up the road from the Whaley House, past numerous Mexican restaurants, I went to the old cemetery. All the white crosses looked lonely. The grounds were unattended and unkept. Many of the graves were unmarked. Time has taken it toll here. Several of the graves were children, victims of the times in which they lived. Young souls, taken too young and most probably too horribly.
As I left, I knew I had enjoyed my window into the past much more this time around. I had changed my opinion of Old Town. No longer did I feel it was nothing but a tourist trap and a waste of time: a mediocre restaurant row with a souvenir shop on every corner. I came to realize that it’s a painstakingly restored glimpse into the people who sacrificed everything to come to the West Coast and begin again. They strived to carve a new and hopefully wonderful life for themselves. People in general are always looking for new ways to improve their lives, create wealth and security for their family. These people were no different and Old Town as it stands today allows you to see the fruits of their labor.
Most of the restaurants in Old Town today have mexican food or some variation and all of them are good. You can’t really go wrong. And if your going to Old town, you have to try the mexican food. I can’t imagine having anything else. So, after your tour, stop and have a margarita (or two), enjoy the food, the atmosphere and sit back relishing in how easy your life is compared to the people who forged this land before us. Enjoy drinks, great food and a day in this truly surprising place. With all the shops you might say it’s a bit of a tourist trap, but for me, it was a wonderful afternoon of history, and I will visit again soon.
Today I had every intention of going to the Diabetes Conference at the San Diego Convention Center.
My Prince Charming husband and I got up this morning, and he began dressing for our Saturday morning hike. I told him that the conference was all day and that I was hoping to be there by 9:00 am when it started, which he didn’t realize. He seemed genuinely disappointed. He thought we were going on our hike and then I’d go to the conference later.
I considered this for a moment and then I thought, “Wait a minute! What am I doing?” I’m actually thinking of giving up going hiking. Something that will help me get rid of my diabetes so I can go to the conference and learn about diabetes? Needless to say, we went hiking. I don’t want to learn about diabetes…I WANT IT GONE! So off we went…and I’m so glad we did.
Initially we headed up I-5 toward La Jolla to Torrey Pines State Beach, but the road is temporarily closed due to some construction. We considered parking but a day pass, (and we would only be there less than 2 hours of that) was $15.00. I think that is a bit steep so we decided to go elsewhere. Driving out of the park we quickly discussed our options and decided to go back to Balboa Park. But just a short ways from Torrey Pines going south we remembered that there are some trails, so we decided to give them a try.
These trails are located on the UCSD campus and they are just wonderful. Quiet paths with few people, easy parking and numerous choices. The eucalyptus trees were just lovely with the extreme blue sky behind them, and the suns rays peeking through the tops of the highest branches. The weather was comfortable and not too warm. It was so pleasant out there I couldn’t resist snapping a few shots.
A little over an hour later, sweaty and breathing heavily we headed back to the car. While stretching out I knew that I had made the right choice. I also realized that I’m making this choice more often and it’s becoming easier.
It’s a good day!
When you live in a big city it’s hard to find someplace that’s quiet. A place to sit in peace and enjoy the silence. The Point Loma Tidepools is that kind of spot. San Diego’s’ Point Loma is a peninsula that helps to create the bay. At the southern tip is Cabrillo National Monument with a lighthouse and museum. This vantage point also offers views of San Diego you can’t see anywhere else. On the way, you must drive through residential areas, business districts and once inside the park, past a very large military cemetery. But if you keep going your reward makes it worth the drive. To get to the tidepools you need to take the road away from the museum, toward the ocean but once there you’ll find a place to rest and just be with your thoughts, unwind and relax.
Out here there are craggy rocks that look as if giants scrapped their fingernails into the sides. Waves crashing up repeatedly, slowly eroding away the very foundation upon which you stand. Beautiful and magnificent damage. If you go away for a long time when you return you can see the erosion. The paths have been moved to accommodate, and the view is altered. I was away for over eight years and it was definitely different when I returned. Still beautiful, peaceful and magnificent, but changed nonetheless.
It is the perfect place for a picnic or to take a book to read. Go there to meditate, to paint or perhaps, just to be. Looking at the view is certainly not a bad way to spend the day. The ocean seems to go on forever. The sound of the waves crashing on the rocks is a comforting distraction, and the sunset is the best ending to a day ever.
Whether I’m in need of a quiet place to write or some me time, this place is idyllic. The unobstructed views of the ocean are so vast you’re sure you can see the curve of the earth. A place where I can throw my worries into the ocean and let the waves swallow them up. Smashing my fears and concerns on the rocks below. When I leave, I try not to take them with me.
Peace is a difficult commodity to come by in a concrete, freeway covered city, but here there are no roads, no cars, and no noise other than the smashing surf. A respite from city life and a place where if you’ve forgotten where you’ve put your soul, here you may well find it again.
Life comes with complications. Money, job, paying bills all weigh in on a person’s sanity. At the Point Loma Tidepools you magically get out of your car and leave those worries behind you. For a brief time you are one with nature. Sound like a pretty good day to you?