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San Diego, 2005: The Harbor and the Park.
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San Diego, 2005: The Harbor and the Park.


Original Article and Photographs by Kenneth A. Larson © 2007 - 2017

We got off early on a Saturday, heading south on the San Diego Freeway out of Los Angeles. At this hour, the traffic is still light and about 10:00 we arrive at the Maritime Museum of San Diego on the edge of San Diego Bay, one of the great natural harbors of California and where European settlement of California began.
We began exploring the several vessels on display at the Maritime Museum, starting with the Star of India, the world's oldest active ship and one of the earliest ships with a metal hull. Next we climbed on board The Berkeley Ferry which is set up as the exhibit area of the museum because of the spacious passenger areas it contains. The Berkeley once carried passengers across San Francisco Bay and aided in the evacuation of San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake. We quickly noticed a little sign announcing a harbor tour starting in a few minutes for a modest price on one of the small boats in the collection. We quickly bought our tickets and wandered the Berkeley a few minutes until the tour was ready. We boarded the Pilot and began the tour. The tour, which lasted about an hour, took us all around the outer harbor, including a floating barricade around a number of Navy ships. We were told that the barricade had been tested by ramming it with a ship at full speed and it held. We got a closeup view of the Coronado Bridge, sailed past various harbor highlights, and around the Aircraft Carrier Museum, a piece of Naval history which we made plans to visit another day. Just as the tour was ending, we passed a recently arrived Russian submarine which had lost part of it's aft cowling on the way to its new home and was not ready to exhibit. We planned to return the following year to see this sub My only regret was that I had left my hat behind fearing it would blow off into the harbor and be lost, and I got a bit of a sun burn. Once back at the Maritime Museum, we continued exploring the other vessels, especially the H. M. S. Surprise, originally built in 1970 as a replica of an 18th Century British Royal Navy frigate and modified in 2002 for the movie Master and Commander. The Californian was sailing in the bay and the Medea was not open, so we took a short bit of the harbor side walk. The time was up on the parking meter and we headed to our next stop.
It was a short drive counterclockwise around the bay to our next stop, Cabrillo National Monument and Point Loma. We started at the tide, although "we" is the wrong word as my wife rested in the car while I visited the tide pools. The tide pools are quite popular and there were many people observing the fascinating and beautiful sea creatures that inhabit this transition area between the sea and land. This sea of people clambered over the rocks watching the intertidal creatures sifting nutrients from the water. We passed the new Point Loma Lighthouse (which really isn't that new, it was built in 1891) on the way to the old Point Loma Lighthouse which was built in 1855. It seems that the original light, high on the hill, was above the fog and not visible to ships. The old light has been restored and is open to the public. We toured the buildings and visited the small museum/gift shop and then walked the grounds. In the cliff below the lighthouse are the remains of 20th century military spotting emplacements. There was a bronze sculpture of a whale as whale watching is popular when these magnificent creatures are migrating.
The lighthouse is a short walk from the Visitor Center with exhibits, a statue of Joan Rodríguez Cabrillo, and a spectacular view of San Diego Harbor below. Cabrillo was the first European to explore the coast of California and landed in San Diego Harbor in 1542. It was interesting to look down at the many military helicopters flying below.
We headed east to visit my friend in Alpine where we spent the rest of the day, returning to San Diego and our motel about nine. Alpine is a growing community a half hour east of San Diego trying to preserve a part of its historic past.
Sunday morning, we attended Mass at the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Old Town San Diego. We had visited Old Town several times before, so we walked through it quickly and headed to our real destination, Balboa Park.
There is too much to do in Balboa Park to see it all in a weekend or two. The park began in the late 1800s, but the beautiful Spanish Revival style buildings are the result of the 1915-16 Panama-California Exposition. Many of the buildings remained and are now home to a number of museums. We skipped the Carousel for lack of time. The famous San Diego Zoo is just beyond. We also skipped the Natural History Museum, which is worth a stop, but we had seen it a year or two earlier. Behind this museum on the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center which we had also seen earlier. We did stop to photograph a large Morton Bay fig tree in front of the Natural History Museum and then strolled past Casa del Prado, one of the beautiful and iconic buildings in the park. There is a large green area filled with pools and fountains with the Botanical Building framing one side. We had to skip the San Diego Museum of Art, saving it for another day. We skipped the Model Train Museum which we had seen earlier and the Museum of Living Artists and the Mangei International Museum where my wife posed with some whimsical sculptures.
We wandered through Palm Canyon, a cool meandering path among palm trees and other tropical plants. We came upon a cluster of buildings containing museums, theaters, and a club. In this cluster were the Puppet Theater, Recital Hall, San Diego Hall of Champions which is a sports museum, the San Diego Auto Museum, the San Diego Aerospace Museum which we had seen a few years earlier, the Starlight Bowl, and the Balboa Park Club. There is so much to see and do in Balboa Park, we skipped this entire cluster and headed back.
Suddenly we stumbled upon something I never knew about, the House of Pacific Relations International Cottages. This is a charming collection of several dozen small buildings, each operated by people of a different ethnic group. There were samples of food and drink associated with the various groups, travel and cultural information, and photos. I was spellbound by a young girl in the Ireland cottage doing a jig with her feet moving so fast, I could hardly see them.
We passed the Japanese Garden on the way to the Spreakles Organ. It was about an hour before the concert so we staked a claim of two seats and rested until the concert began. The 1914 outdoor organ was undergoing restoration so the organist came out wearing a symbolic hard hat. There is a free organ concert every Sunday at 2:00 and we enjoyed this one.
After the concert, we found the Museum of Man and actually entered one of the wonderful museums of Balboa Park. The museum is two levels with many exhibits to early civilizations and human history and evolution. We exited the museum and found the Old Globe Theater, a reproduction of the theater an obscure author named Shakespear made famous. It was now late and the museums were starting to close, so we headed back to the car, but made a quick perusal of the Spanish village Art Center. There are several other museums and gardens not mentioned here and we hope to return soon.
It was late but my wife allowed me a quick visit at the San Diego Presidio site. This was the first Presidio founded in Alta California and the original site of the first mission. Mission San Diego de Arcala later moved away, moved back, then moved back to the second site where it still operates. Nothing remains, but a garden wall stands in the approximate location of the original wall and a cross marks the center and a sculpture to the side commemorates the native people who built the mission. My wife reluctantly allowed me a few quick photographs of the mission on our way out of town. From here we traveled north on Highway I-15, back to LA arriving a little after sundown.

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This page last updated: Thursday, 09-Feb-2017 12:47:20 EST

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