San Diego 2016: The Del and the NAT

The last day of my San Diego vacation I was on my own. Angela and Allysa had departed the previous day, and Renée left that morning to attend her conference at the hotel. I had several hours until my 5 pm flight, so I packed up and took off for a bit of solo touristing.

First up, I decided to head over to the Hotel del Coronado. I have ogled it on websites and friends’ travel albums for years, so I didn’t want to leave San Diego without seeing it in person! It is a big hotel; actually it is the second largest wooden structure in the United States, (second only to the Tillamook Air Museum in Tillamook, Oregon – which I still totally want to visit, by the way). It was built during the Victorian Age of Grand Hotels; when it opened in 1888 it was the largest resort in the world.

The beach side of the Hotel del Coronado

The beach side of the Hotel del Coronado

The Del, as it is often called, is famous for its round pavilion tower. It was a construction marvel, requiring fresh water to be piped under the bay from San Diego, and lumber to be shipped from Eureka, California. It had electricity right from the beginning, although the builders ran the electrical wiring through gas piping, just in case that new-fangled electricity thing didn’t work out… The hotel is right off the beach, with gorgeous views of the water.

The street side of the Hotel del Coronado

The street side of the Hotel del Coronado

I wandered around the outside and checked it out; there are some areas that are only open to guests though. Inside, on the bottom floor, there are shops and a little coffee shop café. This is where it really gives itself away as someplace where the other half lives… The shops are super ritzy, and drip coffee costs $5!

I would love to have a spot here on a hot summer day.

I would love to have a spot here on a hot summer day.

The Hotel del Coronado has hosted its share of famous people, including Rudolph Valentino, Charlie Chaplin, Clark Gable and Mae West, as well, as several Presidents. McKinley, Taft, and Wilson, all stayed there, and so has Barack Obama. Although it is out of my price range right now, I hope to be able to stay there one day, but an outdoor selfie will have to do for now! Hopefully it will be a famous landmark for another hundred years!

My attempt at a selfie with The Del - sort of a fail...

My attempt at a selfie with The Del – sort of a fail…

 

I love the Historical Landmark signs...

I love the Historical Landmark signs…

After checking out The Del, I decided to spend a bit more time at Balboa Park. I wanted to visit the NAT, short for the Natural History Museum. They had a couple of movies on whales that were included in the price of admission, one in 3D! I watched Ocean Oasis, about Baja California and the islands off of it, and the phenomenon that allows this area to team with ocean life. And I also watched Whales in 3D, which had the most incredible underwater footage of several whale species. What majestic creatures!

A reproduction mammoth skeleton at the NAT

A reproduction mammoth skeleton at the NAT

I also had time to see the exhibits, including one on the fossils in the San Diego area – it was very interesting. They also had a whole collection of skulls; rodents, birds and larger mammals. It was fascinating to be able to compare the different shapes and sizes of skulls. I know, I am a little morbid, but I found it very fascinating!

Ammonite Fossils at the NAT - I loved these!

Ammonite Fossils at the NAT – I loved these!

It was the perfect amount of time at the NAT – I was just finishing up with the exhibits when it was time to head out to return to the airport. I did get a bit freaked out though on the drive back to the airport. The rental car return is very poorly marked, and I circled around the streets near the airport for a while before I found it. ARGH! Luckily, I managed to find it in time, and checked in and made it through security with enough time to spare.

What a wonderful trip!  I can’t wait to return to San Diego!

San Diego 2016: Old Town San Diego

After we left the Mission San Diego de Alcala we headed downtown to Old Town San Diego, located adjacent to Presidio Hill, underneath the bluff. For the first several decades, residents preferred to live within the Presidio walls or just outside, for protection from other Europeans or hostile Native Americans. By 1820, the threats had decreased, and San Diego residents were choosing to live at the base of the bluff in what is now Old Town San Diego.

The problem with the site of Old Town San Diego was that its location was several miles from navigable water, so supplies had to be brought overland from Point Loma several miles away. In the 1860s, residents began abandoning Old Town in favor of New Town (where the current downtown is now) because of its proximity to shipping ports.

We were hungry when we arrived after touring the mission, so we found a Latin American restaurant called Berta’s which offered cuisine from several Latin American countries. Renée had a wonderful Mango Avocado salad, a Chilean empanada and a glass of sangria, and I had Chilean Pastel de Choclo with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. The sun was shining and it was warm – we enjoyed just sitting outside and having our meal.

Me sitting at Berta's among the Hibiscus flowers

Me sitting at Berta’s among the Hibiscus flowers

 

Renée's Mango Avocado salad at Berta's - YUM!

Renée’s Mango Avocado salad at Berta’s – YUM!

 

The gorgeous Hibiscus at Berta's

The gorgeous Hibiscus at Berta’s

After lunch, we walked across the street to the San Diego State Historic Park – a collection of historic buildings built between 1820 and 1872, when New Town took over in dominance. The park contains five original adobes, a schoolhouse, blacksmith shop and a stable, among dozens of other buildings. Some are reconstructions. We enjoyed wandering around in a rock shop that was originally the Assayer’s Office, and toured some of the different displays in one of the adobe homes and other buildings.  We even sat on a wooden donkey!  The real donkeys didn’t want to come over and talk to us…  The entire park is free to visitors, and there are living history demonstrations too.

The Assayer's Office - there was a wonderful rock shop inside

The Assayer’s Office – there was a wonderful rock shop inside

 

One of the original adobe homes at Old Town

One of the original adobe homes at Old Town

 

This little bird was singing his heart out at Old Town

This little bird was singing his heart out at Old Town

Nearby, there are other historic sites that are not part of the San Diego State Historic Park too. I could have spent a couple of days just wandering around Old Town San Diego, checking it all out. I wish I had more time! It is nice that Renée has a similar appreciation for historic sites, so I didn’t feel like I needed to rush. I would have loved to have seen the Whaley House Museum that is nearby. I will certainly have to return…

The Old Town General Store

The Old Town General Store

 

One of the shops at Old Town San Diego - an interesting combination of items.

One of the shops at Old Town San Diego – an interesting combination of items.

 

The Colorado House at Old Town San Diego

The Colorado House at Old Town San Diego

 

Renée posing with the jail - they didn't let you go inside though...

Renée posing with the jail – they didn’t let you go inside though…

 

Renée had to be back at the hotel before 2:30 that afternoon for a meeting for her conference, so we left Old Town San Diego and headed back to the resort. I took the opportunity to get in some pool time. Angela and Allysa had to head out to the airport to fly home, while I was staying one more day. I enjoyed some time just laying by the pool with my book and my travel journal. And then I spent some time walking along the beach and collecting some shells.

That evening Renée and I went out to dinner at the Pacific Beach Fish Shop with a coworker of hers (my former coworker) who had also flown in for the conference. We had lobster lumpia, fish tacos, and beer. I swear I would be there all the time if I lived there…  It was all so delicious!

Our meal at the Pacific Beach Fish Shop - to die for!

Our meal at the Pacific Beach Fish Shop – to die for!

Book Review: The Wild Vine

Have you ever heard of the Norton grape? I had, but I knew nothing of its history. I only knew that there are a few Michigan wineries that grow it and produce wine made from Norton grapes. But I was about to become a lot more read on the history of the Norton.

The Wild Vine, by Todd Kliman

The Wild Vine, by Todd Kliman

Kliman tells the story of the discovery of the Norton grape, a hybrid created in the 1820s by Dr. Daniel Norton. It is special because it can withstand the humidity and punishing storms of Virginia and Missouri, not succumbing to the rot that so many European wine grapes do. It allows Americans, for the first time, to believe that the United States can produce wine to rival Europe.

The Norton grape almost disappeared entirely during Prohibition, when wine growers were forced in large numbers to pull up their vineyards or face the wrath of government agents. When Prohibition ended, winemakers in the East were not quick to rush back to their former occupations, and by the time new wineries were created in Virginia, the Norton was seemingly nowhere to be found. In the 1970s, against all odds, Dennis Horton discovers that some bootleggers have a small patch of Norton growing, now almost wild in Missouri. He brings it home to Virginia.

Now, thanks for a few dedicated winegrowers, Norton has made a small comeback and is being produced again. Kliman’s book documents the history of the grape, its near extinction, and its remarkable comeback. This book marries two of my favorite subjects – History and Wine. His writing style will have you rooting for the underdog, the little grape that could… You’ll have to be on the lookout for this book, and a Norton wine!

Amavi 2014 Sémillon

Tonight I’m drinking the Amavi 2014 Sémillon.  According to the winemaker notes on Amavi’s website, it:

smells like: honeysuckle, orange blossom, lemon zest, wet stones
tastes like: granny smith apple, grapefruit, honeydew melon
mouthfeel: refreshing acidity, rich & balanced structure
drink with: rich fish & shellfish; spicy dishes

Varietal(s): 85% Sémillon, 15% Sauvignon Blanc
Vineyard(s): 46% Les Collines, 29% Seven Hills, 25% Goff
Appellation: Walla Walla Valley
Oak Program: 100% neutral French Oak

amavi-2014-semillon

I paired mine with some leftover Étouffée from our fabulous local Cajun restaurant.  It goes nicely with the spice of the dish.  It is perfect for this hot summer Pacific Northwest evening!

I could have sworn that I had some photos of my visit there last summer, but I can’t seem to find them, so you’ll just have to check out their website to see how amazing their setup is.  If you go, sit on the deck.  Trust me, just do it…

Happy Sunday, I hope your week gets off to a good start…

 

San Diego 2016: Mission San Diego de Alcala

The Mission San Diego de Alcala was the first mission founded in Alta California, in 1769 by Father Junípero Serra. The location of the current mission is the second location, having been moved to more fertile soil five years after the mission was established. The original site was on a bluff overlooking the water, where the Presidio was located (there is a park preserving the site, but no original historic structures remain), so it is aptly named Presidio Hill. The Presidio was also founded in 1769, a few months earlier than the Mission.

The front of the Mission San Diego de Alcala, California's oldest mission, founded 1769.

The front of the Mission San Diego de Alcala, California’s oldest mission, founded 1769.

Colonists began arriving shortly after the mission was built, but sadly, there was an uprising by the Native Americans, who killed the priest and two other people and burned the mission.  It was rebuilt at the original site as a fireproof adobe, but in 1774 it was moved 6 miles inland along the San Diego River to ensure a consistent water supply.  Like other missions from the time, it was destroyed periodically by earthquakes; in this case earthquakes struck both in 1803 and 1812.

Most of the current mission was rebuilt in 1931; at that time only one wall of the mission remained, and the rest was a ruin. The mission has a self-guided tour, where you can walk through the priest’s quarters, the church, the garden and a smaller chapel. The tour was interesting, as there are several informational signs detailing what life was like for the priests and the Native Americans living at the Mission.  It is an active Catholic parish, so if you want to go inside the chapel, you do need to time your visit so that it is not during Mass.  Or, alternatively, you can attend Mass and experience it in this beautiful historic church.  The Mission San Diego de Alcala is designated as a Basilica, or a church of historic significance.

A view of the Mission church

A view of the Mission church

 

The altar in the Mission church

The altar in the Mission church

The garden was beautiful, with lots of blooming flowers, including several interesting colors of Bougainvillea.  The mission also has two historic bells in the bell tower with a description of the history of the bell. I love reading about the little details of a place. The three small bells on top are copies of originals. The large bell on the bottom left (in my photo taken from the garden) is an 1894 recasting of the original Mater de la Rossa bell. It is the largest of the two larger bells, weighing 1200 pounds!  The bottom bell on the right is from 1802, and weighs 805 pounds.  It is amazingly intricate with a crown motif on the top.  The cross at the top of the bell tower is made from timbers from the original Mission.

What a unique color of Bougainvillea!

What a unique color of Bougainvillea!

 

A gorgeous Hibiscus flower at the San Diego Mission.

A gorgeous Hibiscus flower at the San Diego Mission.

 

The Bell Tower at the San Diego Mission

The Bell Tower at the San Diego Mission

In the garden there is an area with the stations of the cross, and interestingly they have an abstract representation taking center stage.  If you aren’t familiar with the stations of the cross, they are:

  • One: Jesus is Sentenced to Death
  • Two: Jesus Takes His Cross
  • Three: Jesus Falls
  • Four: Jesus Meets Mary, His Mother
  • Five: Jesus is Helped by Simon
  • Six: Veronica Helps Jesus
  • Seven: Jesus Falls a Second Time
  • Eight: Jesus Talks to Some Mothers
  • Nine: Jesus Falls for the Third and Last Time
  • Ten: Jesus is Stripped
  • Eleven: Jesus is Nailed to the Cross
  • Twelve: Jesus Dies on the Cross
  • Thirteen: Jesus is Taken Down from the Cross
  • Fourteen: Jesus is Laid in the Tomb
The abstract representation of the Stations of the Cross

The abstract representation of the Stations of the Cross

Off the courtyard is a small chapel (La Capilla), with the altar and choir stalls that were brought over from a 17th century Spanish convent. They were amazing.  The stone floor in La Capilla came from Our Lady of Guadalupe Basilica in Mexico City. 

The altar of the small chapel, La Capilla, at the San Diego Mission

The altar of the small chapel, La Capilla, at the San Diego Mission

 

The choir stalls in La Capilla

The choir stalls in La Capilla

 

Some of the Native American artifacts in the Mission museum

Some of the Native American artifacts in the Mission museum

The Mission San Diego de Alcala was beautiful and it was certainly worth a visit to see this historic site.  And it brings my total of California Missions up to 6.  I still have so many more to see!

 

Oliver Gazes

My gorgeous boy is so irresistible!  Happy Wednesday Everybody!

He's such a pretty boy, even if he wouldn't look at the camera...

He’s such a pretty boy, even if he wouldn’t look at the camera…