A Travellerspoint blog

December 2012

San Diego: Balboa Park (Animals)

sunny 23 °C

This was going to be part of the last post, but it got a bit long. I had a bit of a time crunch as I absolutely had to leave San Diego on the Friday, and was dithering over whether I wanted to go to the zoo or to Sea World (I kind of wanted to see the Midway as well, but I clambered all over the Mighty Mo in Hawaii so decided I'd seen my naval ships for the trip). I ended up going to the zoo, mainly because it was so convenient, being in Balboa Park and included in the week long passport I had bought. My main impression is that there has been a huge of amount of money spent on making it a good visitor experience (the landscaping is impressive) but I came away thinking there weren't actually all that many animals, and a bit concerned that the living environment of some seemed not exactly plush. So I went in about 3:00 in the afternoon and came out just after dark at 5:30 satisfied I had seen all there was to see: some of the animals were cuter than others. Some of my photos came out better than others: I don't really have a whole lot to say about the animals, so this is really just a collection of the photos I am happiest with.

Here's an ordinary old duck (not served with veges and rice (yet)) and his more colourful cousin, the mallard


I found the Central Asian Camel really oddly shaped and wondered how they got about, and with a face that reminded me of a bear


Forgot to record what these were


Of course there were elephants


but I'd never seen a secretary bird




I'd never seen a Southern Gerenuk (from Tanzania) but found them to be quite endearing


So were the zebras


There were a whole bunch of flamingoes, settling in for the night


The hippo was extraordinarily difficult to get a photo of - he spent his time submerged and my camera couldn't tell the difference between hippo and water (stupid technology) - he was surprisingly nimble when he set off swimming


The lion was also quite hard to get a shot of, as it was asleep behind some quite reflective glass


Finally, there was a South African animal I'd never heard of, a bontebok


Posted by NZBarry 22:34 Archived in USA Comments (0)

San Diego: Balboa Park (Art)

sunny 25 °C

I think my favourite museum was the Museum Of the Photographic Arts or MOPA. There was an interesting collection from a photographer called Arthur Tress: rather than me try to describe what he does, there is a good collection on this blog. The thing I liked the most, however, was a crowd-sourced selection from the collection. What this means is that they put up 120 photos and asked people to vote, kind of like Photo Idol, and then showed the results. The top three featured an Angkor Wat ruin with a giant encroaching tree root, the Atomic bomb blast at Bikini Atoll and a crazy scene from the top of a Swiss mountain. The bottom three were truly stupid, I have no idea how they ever got into the collection: a big yellow blob, a tiny picture of a picnic table and chairs and some random near nude bloke maybe wearing a mask - the picture was very small. I was surprised at how many were black and white - all but a handful. I wasn't allowed to take any photos, so don't have any accurate way to share what I saw, but I liked all of the 120 down to about # 100, found them engrossing. There was also a Youth Exhibition, from those still at school - they demonstrated an over-arching concern with the state of the planet, either by showing nature at work (eg bees pollinating flowers, flowers themselves) and how it is being polluted.

My visit to the San Diego Museum of Art was pretty short - there were just a few works which struck me, including this view of Venice from Canaletto


and this interesting untitled work by one Yves Tanguy


and most particular, this one, "Eve of St John" by Peter Hurd.


They had a major exhibition by Charles Reiffel, an "American Post Impressionist" but actually a couple of his paintings struck me as quite realistic - The Lumberyard and In the Street, of downtown SD, possibly 5th Avenue. Many were impressions of the countryside. One picture I could actually see the streets glistening with rain was, sure enough, called Rainy Evening. There was a glorious picture of a train largely obscured by fog "Railway Yards - Winter Evening".

Finally, I went into a make your own art exhibition, where a room was set up with lots of metal objects and we were invited to create our own expression of the built environment. This is how matters had progressed by the time of my visit


There was a seperate space called works by living artists, mainly emerging painters. I snapped a couple I liked but neglected to record the painters.


My last museum was the Mingei International, which had three disconnected things happening: Blue, Japan and Music. The former two didn't occupy me for long


but I was in with the musical instruments for quite a while. Although there was no-one there playing any instruments, they had recordings of most of them. Some just looked great


These were not only images of Mexicans playing whistles but, according to the sign, were actually whistles.


There is an instrument which is played without any contact with the musician, an instrument I very much like the sound of - they had a pretty basic version of one there - the theremin. One instrument produced a completely unexpected sound, and a sound I liked a lot: the Romanian bucium - the sounds it produced were surprisingly melodic and textured given its apparent simplicity.


As I said, my hostel was in the Gaslamp area, which had created the general impression of being quite gracious, even if very noisy, but when I actually went looking for buildings I really liked the look of, there was only a handful, including the Horton Grand Hotel (Alonzo Horton was a pretty big wheel in San Diego back in the day, owned a huge tract of what became the Gaslamp area and gambled successfully on the railroad coming)


Here are other random images taken as I wandered up and down 5th Avenue within a couple of blocks of the hostel


Posted by NZBarry 20:57 Archived in USA Comments (0)

San Diego: Balboa Park (Planes, trains and automobiles)

sunny 25 °C

I've been in cheap, no internet motels so there's been a bit of a posting delay: this one is courtesy of the main Tucson public library.

The first couple of days in San Diego, I pretty much did nothing of note. I wandered around the downtown and Gaslamp area, I jumped on a bus and went out to La Jolla, a long drawn out posh beach side suburb which had both a Bentley and a Maserati dealership. I had the best coffee of the trip so far there, at a place called Livingroom and (outside) was insulted by a fellow: he was lying on the footpath and took it amiss when I didn't want to shake his hand. It was a pleasant evening walk back as far as the next suburb, Pacific Beach. I noticed a burger joint called the Bareback Grill which claimed to be selling New Zealand burgers and 'wiches: not many items on the menu seemed particularly distinctive of New Zealand or even very common there (who has ever seen turkey chili?). Nearby, I saw the rather special looking Crystal Pier Hotel, which has built cottages all the way out the pier. I'd love to stay here.

My dining got even more random: I popped into a supermarket and was so taken with its chicken lime and cilantro soup and its roasted chicken than I got myself a bunch of takeaway food but had nowhere to dine and had to resort to a bus stop. I made up for it on my last night in San Diego, by going into a place that had been living in my imagination for a couple of days, Yardhouse - mainly because they claimed 170 beers on tap. I'll have to take their word for it, as I only had the two. The place was totally packed but they found space for me and I left very happy. I had thought it was a local institution, but have seen several of them as I have travelled. All in all, I really liked the feel of San Diego: unlike Honolulu, I was thinking I could cancel the rest of the trip and just hang out here.

The majority of my time was spent in Balboa Park, which I think is said to be the biggest urban park in the USA, although it is really a park of two halves because it is bisected by an Interstate. It is about 1200 acres, which were first set aside as parkland in 1868. In one of the halves, a fairly major group of museums (15 in all) was established more than 100 years ago, along with San Diego Museum of Art and the zoo. Here are some more or less random images from my wandering about:


My first visit was a quick one, in which I explored the grounds and popped into the Timken Art Gallery: two weeks ago, the name Timken would have meant nothing to me, but my brothers had some mechanicing to do which involved a trip to Supercheap Autos to buy some Timken wheel bearings. This family endowed the gallery.

I went back the next day and, after a coffee at the rather mad Cafe Bassam (I don't think there was a square incho of wall, including in the bathrroms, that was not covered with artworks or memorabilia),


spent it mainly at the Automotive Museum and the Air and Space one. I think that of all the cars they had, the one I wanted most was the 1930 Cadillac 452


which had a massive 16 cylinder engine. The older 1913 30 also looked pretty good and was the first to abandon crank starting in favour of electric ignition:


Back in the late 1940's, a fellow called Louie Mattar bought himself a 1948 Cadillac,


but he wasn't your ordinary Caddy owner: he's described as somewhat obsessive, and gave it some modifications. In the engine area, for example, it could change its own oil when it was in motion. This came in handy, as he broke records for non-stop driving: he drove it from Alaska to Mexico City without stopping (had mobile refuelling in airfields) and did a round trip across America from San Diego to New York, again without ever stopping. He had other modifications: he installed running boards so he could walk around the car while it was moving, maybe to take a shower or get a drink from the external water fountain. A video showed him doing mechanical work on the engine and then changing a tyre, all without stopping the vehicle (there was an emergency wheel on the jack).


He built everything in including the kitchen sink, along with a stove, washing machine TV, fridge, toilet and a wee bar and hookah pipe


Something else which caught my attention was a video of the Plank Road of Imperial County. They wanted to build a road to connect San Diego to the East, but run into problems with some sand dunes between El Centro to Yuma. From 1915 to 1927, the solution was a road made from 13000 planks,


running from Gray's Well for 6 1/2 miles. It was initially a single line, but rebuilt in 1916 with turnouts every 1000 feet. It was continually being buried under the sand and damaged by traffic - even so in 1924 the California Highway Commission thought it might double lane the plank road. Luckily sense prevailed and a normal asphalt road was built. This piece of road is in one of the hottest and driest parts of the USA (there are sand dunes covering an area of 40 x 12 miles) and thus was a very isolated and dangerous place, so people would die for want of water. Because I was intrigued and this is a full service sort of blog, I took a side trip to inspect the remains of this road:


I was surprised that Frank Sinatra not only had an English car, but that it was an Austin


I wonder how many know that Herbert Austin was an Australian shearing machine maker and, after moving to the UK, only made cars to keep the employees of his bicycle factory busy. Australians were given the blame for pick up trucks, which emulated the Ute. Some versions looked ridiculous


but the pickups they had on display were beautiful (and made me wish I had a truck)


The Air and Space Museum was a very busy place, stacked to the ceiling with various sorts of aircraft


Some in particular interested me. This is a Fokker Dr 1, the type of plane flown by the infamous Red Baron


This little Robinson R44 helicopter was surprisingly comfortable to sit in


This plane just looked odd, very squat, all engine and yet quite pretty it is a Gee Bee R-1)


This is the Lockheed Vega 58 used in the movie Amelia, and the model flown by Amelia Earhart in various flights and races across the USA and the Atlantic.


It seems that early Pan Am planes are made out of corrugated iron.


Oh, and the had the capsule from the Apollo 9 rocket - I had a hard time working out where the astronauts actually fitted in - they had these sort of canvas seats, but with low backs and nowhere for the lower halves of their legs. Maybe space flight really is just a big hoax.


There were no actual trains in the museum, but there was a large space devoted to model trains - they had set up half a dozen different scenarios: some were very large, so much so that I couldn't get any sort of sensible shot, and some were incredibly detailed. My main concern was that there just wasn't enough train action.


Walking home one night, I noticed that kennels seem to be a thing of the past, now it is all about spas and country clubs


Posted by NZBarry 09:28 Archived in USA Tagged san diego Comments (0)

San Diego: Coronado and Old Town

sunny 24 °C

I saw a lot while I was in San Diego, so there are going to be a lot of photos but not a whole lot of story going on. I was there six nights, five in the HI Hostel right in the middle of the Gaslamp and then my final night in 500 W, the former YMCA, purely because it was close to the train station. The former was a warm and friendly experience, the latter was not. My first morning, despite the time difference and the noise going on until 2 a.m. I was up and about by 7:30 and on a bus out to Coronado Island (I'm not convinced it is an island - sure, we got there by going over a vast bridge, but I caught another bus which took me off the bottom without crossing any water).

This is a posh place, with the famous Hotel del Coronado a key feature.


It is a $400 a night joint, attracting the sort of crowd who would try to have a shiny Landrover _MG_4221.jpg
a key feature. After a quick breakfast, it was time to meet Chris

- a fellow running a photography course I had booked through one of those discount voucher places: money well spent, as I learnt so much about the various buttons on my camera and a few tips on shooting as well.

He was a bit more pre-occupied with taking pictures of plants than I was: I did take lots but junked most, there were only a couple I quite liked:


The main focus of the course was the hotel itself: it is a bit of a rambling pile of a place, built in a hell of a hurry and thus not very well planned or consistent in its look


We had a go at portrait photos of the other members of the group, but curiously enough it was Maddy who was "volunteered" to be our model, I don't know why


I was playing around a bit: she's a bit outshone by the fountain in this one


I had quite a lot of fun trying different shots of the fountain


Along the way, we met this colourful fellow, who was willing to be shot


Out the back (really the sea frontage, but there's no road access so it seems like the back)


there was ice-skating. We were challenged to take an action shot - I had a few failures, but got this fellow


as he skated past (after about the third attempt) - I decided he was a better option than the young kids skating - an old guy taking multiple photos of kids skating is not a socially acceptable practice

We did get to go inside the hotel, but I didn't get any photos I am particularly proud of. All in all, it was a great way to spend a Sunday morning and meet some locals. After we split up, I had a good look up and down the main street of Coronado - the only place that really caught my eye was Clayton's Coffee Shop, although it turned out to be more diner than coffee shop (at least as I understand the term), so I signed on for pancakes instead of cappucino.


I thought it would be interesing to go to what I believed to be a suburb of San Diego but which was actually more of a re-enactment of the original site of San Diego: Old Town. This is where San Diego started but there was a big bust up at some point, and the powers that be decided it should be a few miles south. So the original buildings have either been preserved or reconstructed


The original homestead is still there


I was surprised at how many bedrooms this place had - I suppose there would have been a big family of multiple generations and perhaps others to house, given that the family who lived here were the leading family in the area. The house was framed around a garden and had internal verandahs, quite nice really


I had a good walk around: the town was maybe two or three short blocks long, it was hard to tell where reconstruction ended and a new pastiche of the original took over (there were lots of bars and the like in modern buildings done old style). I particularly liked the general store, where everything was laid out on neat wooden shelves


although I was a bit confused by the ginger beer they sold me: it was "botanically brewed" and from the UK


Looking at the Fentiman's website, I think that all it means is they use real products i.e. ginger to make the brew. It certainly had a nice hot gingery spice to it, not like the oversweet Schweppes I have taken to drinking. Something in another shop also confused me, for a different reason


One story seemed like it had come straight out of the book I am reading: Mark Twain's The Gilded Age. The good people of San Diego needed a prison, so they called for tenders. A builder submitted a tender for $3000. The Sheriff (and son of Town Council President) bid $5,000 and was given the tender. He built a nice cobblestone building, using mortar to hold the cobblestones together, as you do. Only he forgot the cement: apparently when they actually locked any prisoners up, they'd give the key to the prisoner in order to preserve the structure of the building (in case the prisoner was minded to escape). One famous prisoner (actually the first) was a fellow called Roy Bean, who was brother of the Mayor and who went on to be a Judge (after escaping from the jail by burrowing out using a knife concealed in some food he was given. His Wikipedia page makes him sound like a real character, a man very much like those who populate Twain's novel.

In the evening, I took a bus a way out along University Avenue (I thought there would be good cafes around the Uni, but did not know that University Avenue goes to a projected University that was never built) and had what google reveals to be a 9 mile (!!) walk back. It was an interesting walk - a few posh areas, but mainly lots of "plazas", liquor stores, fast food places and small businesses doing things like taxes, tattoos, pet-minding, pawns and small loans, car repairs and supplying all sorts of adult services. I never did get dinner: instead I grazed on buffalo wings, donuts and coffee (I found at least three good looking coffee shops on my walk). I picked the Claire de Lune on the very scientific basis of it being the first I saw.

Posted by NZBarry 00:14 Archived in USA Tagged san diego Comments (0)

Honolulu - San Diego

sunny 27 °C

My last day in Hawaii, I had to prioritise because there was more to do than I had time to do it and decided on the Bishop Museum. I caught the bus but was beginning to wonder if I was lost, as the neighbourhood didn't strike me as being where I would find Hawai'i's premier museum: used car yards and a sprawl of run down shops in the South Dunedin of Honolulu, between Downtown and the airport. So I had my first fast food experience of the trip and called into a Zippy's for coffee, dougnuts and reassurance. Sure enough, up behind the High School, I found it. This photo shows how far from downtown I was


It really is quite magnificent. It was purpose built in the late 19th century by a fellow called Bishop by way of memorial for his wife, a kind of Hawai'in Taj Mahal but more useful.


It tellls the story of how the Pacific came to be populated, and then focusses on the Hawai'in story with its Gods, beliefs, culture and Royalty. While I genuinely felt this all to be interesting, although a bit overwhelming to take in on a single visit, it is the building itself which really impressed - this fellow Bishop must have had some serious coin. In the Palace yesterday, I learnt about the overthrow of the Queen: today I learnt more about the subsequent history. There wasn't much of a plan, there were competing alllegiances to the UK and USA so for the first few years it was a self governing Republic, before becoming a US Territory under the governorship of a pineapplehead, one Sanford Dole. He was actually a lawyer, who had drafted the infamous "Bayonet Constitution" which limited the power of the monarchy, took the right to vote away from all Asians and made it difficult for native Hawaiins and poor people to vote (a cousin started the pineapple farm). Hawaii remained a mere territory, albeit a vital cog in the US military machine, for 60 years, becoming a State in 1959.

The museum is comprised of a few buildings - it has a wee observatory and a planetarium (which was being relaunched the day after I was there) and a building originally used as a school for native Hawaiins


There was a special collection devoted to Alfred Shaheen. We all know about the Hawaiin or aloha shirt: although he didn't exactly invent it, he was a major figure in its prominence: he put it into mass production, and even sold patterns so people could make their own at home. There were well over 100 shirts on display, maybe 2 or 3 I would wear. Although no photos were allowed, I wasn't told that when I went in. Oops.


He also designed dresses, using the same fabrics, and developed a few matching sets - shirt and dress of the same fabric - taking togetherness to the extreme! Shaheen himself grew up in the family custom clothing shop, but went off and studied aeronautical engineering and was a successful WWII fighter pilot. He retired and closed the factory in 1988: I asked why he didn't sell - no-one in the family was interested and he didn't want the business in the hands of strangers. Its weird: when I first saw this exhibit, I had thought it wouldn't possibly be of interest, but found it quite absorbing.

Then the thing I thought might be the best failed to do much for me - the Science Adventure Center. Lot's of money has been spent on interior design, to give a mock up of a volcano, for example but its a bit of a one trick pony with little to do or see. More fun were the robotic version of creepy crawlies outside


Walking back, I decided I'd see how Zippy's fared for dinner, as I am planning to try out various US fast-food joints, those which are a bit more interesting than the sort of thing we get back home. Zippy's has been going strong in Hawaii for more than 60 years and has an extensive menu. I only had some of their chili (which they say is their trademark product) and some fried chicken - both were initially very impressive (the chicken was particularly moist because it had a hard crust) but got a bit dull by the time I'd finished.

My flight to San Diego was in the early afternoon so I once again took the bus out to the airport. I had left in plenty of time but after the driver took off in an unexpected direction, took a morning tea break and returned me to where I had started, I was starting to worry. But everything worked out, I made my Air Alaska flight with an hour to spare and found my way by bus into downtown San Diego. I hadn't realised my hostel was in a party zone: the Gaslamp on a Saturday night is the place to be - there were hordes of people out in the streets, every bar seemed to be packed (some had lines for nearly a block) and the place was a confusion of sounds. Luckily, they shut everything down about 2:00 so I slept well. I think it helped a bit that I visited the Ghirardelli Ice Cream and Chocolate shop and had a mega triple chocolate ice cream sundae. Yum.


This, by the way, is one of the very few photos of neon I have taken that is at all good.

Posted by NZBarry 22:44 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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