Monday, October 20, 2014

Sights to See: Balboa Park, San Diego, California


PART 1

BALBOA PARK:
Sixth Ave. on the west, 28th St. on the east, Upas St. on the north, Russ Blvd. on the south, (619) 239-0512. 

Balboa Park Visitors Center  1549 El Prado, 619-239-0512.  Get oriented here.  An assortment of free guided walking tours  www.balboapark.org/visit/tours  address the park's architectural heritage, history, and botanical treasures.
map 
parking/tram 
    You'll need to spend several days or more to see everything in this magnificent 1,200-acre recreational wonderland. Larger than New York's Central Park and older than San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, Balboa Park is the largest museum complex west of the Mississippi and San Diego’s crown jewel. 
    In addition to the famous zoo, this fabulous park is also home to a host of fascinating museums, most of which are found along the Prado--a sort of Museum Row with lovely Spanish Colonial Revival-style architecture.  Note that most are closed on Monday, and all have a free admission day each month.  To avoid getting museumed out, punctuate your gallery-going with garden-strolling.  One of the park’s great free pleasures is hearing the central bell tower peal out the hour.  If you want to see more than a few museums, look into the Passport to Balboa Park, which includes admission to 14 participating museums and is valid for a week.  Otherwise, visiting more than a few museums can get quite expensive.   

PARK ATTRACTIONS
Balboa Park Carousel  Daily 11-5; Sept-May, Sat-Sun.  $2.  You can ride hand-carved animals on this 1910 merry-go-round (the cats are my personal favorite), and you can also still grab for the proverbial brass ring . . . which in this case wins you a free ride. 

Balboa Park Miniature Railroad  Daily 11-6:30, Sept-May Sat-Sun 11-4:30.  $2.  Children especially enjoy riding this vintage train.


Botanical Building in Balboa Park in San Diego, California
Botanical Building  F-W 10-4.  Free.  This grand old building, measuring 250 feet long by 75 feet wide by 60 feet tall, was the largest wood lath structure in the world when it was built in 1915.  It houses more than 2,100 tropical plants along with a changing display of seasonal flowers.  Out front, the gorgeous reflecting pond filled with lilies, koi of all colors, crawfish, and turtles attracts kids like a magnet, and they get mighty excited when they spot a few ducks doing a dive-bomb landing in front of them. 

House of Pacific Relations  Sun 12-4. 
Interesting informal exhibits depict the traditions and customs of an assortment of foreign countries within this cluster of cottages.




koi in Japanese Friendship Garden in Balboa Park in San Diego, California
Japanese Friendship Garden  Daily 10-4:30.  $6, 65+ $5, under 7 free.  Free garden tours, usually on Thur, Sat, & Sun.  Free Tea Ceremony demonstration on 1st Sat & 2nd Tu; to try the tea, $3.  No pets.  Originally built for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition, this garden symbolizes the friendship between San Diego and its sister city Yokohama in Japan.  You can see an overview from the outside sidewalk at the Tea Pavilion.  The sights in the relatively small garden—it contains a peaceful Zen stone garden, a crystal-clear koi pond filled with priceless fish, a display of old bonsai—are connected by a pleasant strolling path.  Construction is under way for a large expansion in the canyon. 
    Just outside the entrance, the inexpensive and informal Tea Pavilion serves traditional Japanese green tea as well as herbal and specialty teas, along with a menu of sushi, noodles, rice bowls, and salads.  Unusual imported foods, beverages, and gift items are also available for purchase.

Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater  In summer, W-Sun at 11, 1, & 2:30.  $5, seniors $4.  Younger children especially enjoy the shows presented here; summer only.

Moreton Bay fig tree  This immense tree was planted in preparation for the 1915 exposition.

Old Globe Theatre  Year-round.  Shakespearean and other classical works are presented in this three-theater complex. 


Palm Canyon in Balboa Park in San Diego, California
Palm Canyon  Daily.  Free.  Don’t miss the chance to see 450 different kinds of palms together in one spot.  An original group of Mexican fan palms date back to the early 1900s. 

Spanish Village Art Center  Daily 11-4.  In this warren of interesting craft shops, artists work in residence and demonstrate their skills. 

Spreckles Organ Pavilion  Free concerts are presented on the world's largest outdoor pipe organ, which has 4,518 pipes and weighs nearly 100,000 pounds. 

Starlight Bowl  June-Sept.  This outdoor amphitheater is the setting for musicals, concerts, and plays--think The Sound of Music and Hello, Dolly!.  It is directly under the flight path of the international airport, so actors have learned to pause when a plane flies over.

street performers  They entertain in El Prado, the central plaza area.  Sun at 2.

United Nations Building  Daily 10-4:30.  The United Nations Building houses the United Nations Association of San Diego, the Eleanor Roosevelt Global Classroom, and the International Gift Shop, which helps fund the building through sales of unique world handicrafts that includes jewelry, books, toys, and world music. 

More things to do in San Diego.

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images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers
 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Great Sleeps: Wine Valley Inn & Cottages, Solvang, California


Wine Valley Inn & Cottages  1564 Copenhagen Dr., (800) 824-6444, (805) 688- 2111.  65 rooms; 3 stories.  Some gas fireplaces & kitchens.  Fitness room; hot tub; massage room.  Breakfast.  Pets ok.


clock tower at Wine Valley Inn & Cottages in Solvang, California
This inn kept its Old World charm and Danish architecture when it merged from two previously existing lodgings into one.  Located on a quiet back street, it is still close to shops and restaurants a plenty.  It wraps around its landmark clock tower, which had a part in the movie “Psycho,” and when the clock chimes it can be heard throughout the small town.  The quiet grounds are beautifully landscaped with winding paths, a koi pond and waterfall feature, and a secluded hot tub.  From 5 to 9 p.m. daily, wine is available for purchase by the glass and bottle at the lobby lounge; cheese and crackers are complimentary.


guest room at Wine Valley Inn & Cottages in Solvang, California
Each room is unique.  Some connect, some have bunk beds, and a few are specialty rooms.  They do not have phones.  My favorite is #204, which features dramatic Danish architecture and a vaulted ceiling and has steps from the entry down to a bedroom holding two queens.  It can optionally open to room #205, which has bunk beds—making the two rooms perfect for a family.  Several half-timbered cottages that sleep up to six are also available.  Bikes can be rented on site, including surreys and mountain bikes.


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images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Good Eats: Casa Guadalajara, San Diego, California


Casa Guadalajara  4105 Taylor St., just outside the Old Town park, (619) 295-5111.  L-D daily; $$.


patio of Casa Guadalajara in San Diego, California
Resembling a Mexican hacienda--with adobe walls, tile floors, and heavy wooden furniture—this comfortable spot offers seating both indoors in an expansive colorful room, and outdoors on a quiet tree-sheltered patio with a soothing fountain and free-flying birds.  Adventuresome palates will want to try unusual items, which include “armadillo eggs” (deep-fried jalapenos stuffed with cream cheese), dishes made with spicy mole sauce, and seafood Mexican-style.


enchalada verde at Casa Guadalajara in San Diego, California
I am fond of the complimentary thin, crispy chips with spicy salsa, and I also favor the tangy enchilada verde.  Margaritas come in styles and sizes galore, but my favorite remains the basic blended lemon-lime.  A children’s coloring menu offers familiar items such as a cheese enchilada and bean burrito.  For dessert, the whole family can easily share a deep-fried ice cream.  Kids might also want to try a churro (a long Mexican donut) or Cup of Mudd (chocolate pudding with crushed Oreo cookies and gummi worms) from the kid’s menu.  Live entertainment is scheduled nightly from 6 to 9 p.m. and on Saturday and Sunday afternoons from noon to 3 p.m. 
Casa Guadalajara on Urbanspoon


colorful kitchen towels at Bazaar del Mundo in San Diego, California
Bazaar del Mundo  4133 Taylor St., (619) 296-3161.  Tu-Sat 10am-9pm, Sun-M 10am-5:30pm.  Across the parking lot from the restaurant, this colorful international marketplace has a large concentration of Mexican and Guatemalan handicrafts. Its jewelry, crafts, and wearable art are from all over the globe.  I couldn’t resist a bright kitchen towel decorated with a Frida Kahlo motif, but your own weakness might be the large and lovely paper flowers.

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images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Monday, October 13, 2014

Sights to See: Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, San Diego, California


Old Town San Diego State Historic Park   At intersection of Hwys. 5 & 8.  Located within the six blocks bounded by Taylor, Juan, Twiggs, and Congress sts.  Free admission.  Hours vary for shops and restaurants.  Free parking.  Considered the “birthplace” of California and the site of the first permanent European settlement on the West Coast, this 12-acre park was the center of town in the mid-1800s.  Kit Carson was among the first pioneers to raise the American flag here in 1846.  The park now houses a pleasant mixture of museum displays, shops (including a working blacksmith shop), and Mexican restaurants, plus five original adobes and a collection of 19th-century homes and businesses give visitors a glimpse into colonial life in San Diego. 


entrance sign to Old Town San Diego State Historic Park in San Diego, California
Visitor Information Center and museum  4002 Wallace St., (619) 220-5422; .  Daily 10am-4pm.  One-hour ranger-guided tours daily at 11am and 2pm.  Free.  Park information and interesting exhibits are located in the circa 1853 Robinson-Rose House adobe.



The Catholic Church of the Immaculate Conception in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park in San Diego, California
The Catholic Church of the Immaculate Conception  2540 San Diego Ave., (619) 295-4148.  This still-active church was dedicated in 1919.  Near here, Father Junipero Serra celebrated the first Holy Mass in California on July 2, 1769.  The first parish church was established here in 1849 and is now known as the Old Adobe Chapel (at 3963 Conde Street). 


The Cosmopolitan Restaurant and Hotel in Old Town State Historic Park
The Cosmopolitan Restaurant and Hotel  2660 Calhoun St., (619) 297-1874.  10 rooms.  Restaurant.  Dating back to 1827, when it was constructed as a home for San Diego pioneer Juan Bandini, this historically significant building retains many of its original features, including original adobe brick walls, a wood exterior dating back to 1869, and a wrap-around balcony that once served as the perfect place to watch local bullfights.  It is the only hotel located within the park.  Guest rooms are on the second floor, and each is uniquely furnished with antique furniture matching that in the original 1869 manifests.
A popular restaurant and saloon operates on the first floor and features antique and reproduction period furniture, period art, and chandeliers.  The menu features grilled meats, seafood, and Mexican items served al fresco on a beautiful patio or indoorx in the sala.  Drinks are available at San Diego’s oldest saloon bar.  Kids eat free (one per adult).

Mason Street School  3966 Mason St., (916) 653-6995.  Daily 10-4.  Free.  In San Diego’s first schoolhouse, dating from 1865, kids can see what it feels like sitting in an old-time wooden desk. 


The Thomas Whaley House in San Diego State Historic Park
Thomas Whaley House Museum  2476 San Diego Ave., (619) 297-9327.  June-Labor Day, daily 10am-9:30pm; rest of year, Sun-Tu 10am-5pm, Thur-Sat 10am-9:3 pm.  $6, 65+ $5, 3-12 $4; after 5 pm tours are available, adults $10, children $5; after 10pm, private tours are available by reservation for an additional fee.  Constructed in 1857, this very small, classic Greek Revival house was built on a former gallows site and was the first 2-story brick building in San Diego.  Owner Thomas Whaley made the bricks in his own brickyard.  Over the years it has been a granary, the County Court House, San Diego’s first commercial theater, a general store, a ballroom, a billiard hall, a school, and a polling place.  It is one of two officially designated haunted houses in California--the other is the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose--and reputedly hosts seven ghosts. 

Wells Fargo History Museum  2733 San Diego Ave., (619) 238-3929.  Daily 10am-5pm.  Free.  Kids especially enjoy the seeing a stagecoach and telegraph.

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images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Monday, October 6, 2014

Sights to See: Elverhoj Museum of History & Art, Solvang, California

Elverhoj Museum of History & Art  1624 Elverhoy Way, (805) 686-1211. W-Sun 11-4; closed M-Tu.  By donation. 


Elverhoj Museum of History & Art in Solvang, California
Hand constructed by a local artist in the 1950s to resemble a brick farmhouse in Denmark, this converted residence is now a community museum devoted to Danish culture and the Danish-American experience.  It covers the history of Solvang, the colorful heritage of Denmark, and Danish arts.  In addition to answering questions and providing personal tours, docents sometimes demonstrate lacework.  The museum is freshly painted and its beautiful pale pine floors are newly refinished, making this the perfect time for a visit. 


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images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Friday, October 3, 2014

Things to Do: Historic Rice Mill & Taro Farm Tour, Hanalei, Kauai, Hawaii


Historic Rice Mill & Taro Farm Tour  (808) 651-3399.  By reservation.  This tour begins with a lucious little smoothie and a short bus ride to visit the taro fields, where you’ll learn how one dedicated family has worked the fields of this family farm for five generations.



Additionally, you’ll have the opportunity, if you like, to take in the beautiful jagged-mountain backdrop scenery of the Hanalei Valley and to participate in some hands-on activities among the heart-shaped taro leaves.  Farm work here is still done by hand.  Five endangered bird species are often spotted in this official wildlife refuge, coexisting with the taro farmers.  Birdwatchers are invited to bring their list and binoculars, and the guide will assist, and those with limited mobility will have plenty of opportunities to sit.  I was surprised to find how challenging this work is and about the many hardships and difficulties the farmers face. 

Later, the bus delivers you to the Hoopulapula Haraguchi Rice Mill--an agrarian museum listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  Built by Chinese laborers in the late 1800s, the mill was purchased by the Haraguchi family in 1924 and is the only remaining rice mill in Hawaii.  It was rebuilt several times through theyears and ceased operating in 1960, when Kauai’s rice industry collapsed.  A nonprofit organization now preserves this historic site.  While here, you will view a short educational slide show, followed by a tour of the mill.  Finally, you’ll see a poi-pounding demonstration and a coconut husking, and you’ll taste these delicious fresh foods.


plate lunch at Hanalei Taro & Juice Co. food truck in Kauai, Hawaii
The bus then returns to the Hanalei Taro & Juice Co. food truck for lunch—a sandwich or plate lunch--which is included.  This enterprise makes taro products found nowhere else:  taro-coconut mochi, taro hummus, luau rolls, and kalo koolers (taro smoothies). 
Hanalei Taro & Juice Co. on Urbanspoon

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images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Things to Do: Hanalei Center shops, Kauai, Hawaii


The Old Hanalei School Building dating to 1926 has been converted into a small shopping strip within the

Old Hanalei School Building in Hanalei, Kauai, Hawaii
Hanalei Center (at 5-5161 Kuhio Hwy.).  You'll find art galleries, restaurants, and shops, most of which are locally owned and sell Hawaiian items.


Havaiki Oceanic and Tribal Art shop in Hanalei, Kauai, Hawaii
Havaiki Oceanic and Tribal Art  4884 Pepelani Loop, (808) 826-7606.  Named after the legendary homeland of all Polynesians, this shop stocks the work of artisans and carvers throughout Oceania. 

Hula Beach Boutique & Sarong Shop  (808) 826-4741.  Daily 9:30am-8pm.  Casual island wear. 

Rainbow Ducks Toys & Clothing  (808) 826-4741.  You’ll find toys and swimwear for children in this little red house.  They stock everything from a zippered coconut purse, to bean bag collectibles, to a rubber gecko. 


Rainbow Ducks Toys & Clothing shop in Hanalei, Kauai, Hawaii
 ●Sand People  (808) 826-1008.  M-Sat 9:30am-8pm, Sun 10-8.  Great gift items are augmented by beachy house accents and nautical décor.

Tropical Tantrum  5183 Kuhio Hwy., (808) 826-6944.  The clerk claims that everything in this store is all rayon and hand-colored.  Long dresses and aloha shirts are among the goods. 


Yellowfish Trading Company shop in Hanalei, Kauai, Hawaii
Yellowfish Trading Company  (808) 826-1227.  Protected by a guard cat, this unique shop sells 1940s and 1950s memorabilia as well as antiques and home furnishings.

down the road
Hanalei Trading Co.  5-5134 Kuhio Hwy., (808) 826-1373.  Located in the historic Tahiti Nui Building, this shop’s diverse collection includes aloha wear, hand-carved wood sculptures, black pearls, and plenty more.

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images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Monday, September 29, 2014

Sights to See: Hanalei town, Kauai, Hawaii


Hanalei town


Hanalei Valley Lookout in Kauai, Hawaii
 Before arriving here, stop at the scenic Hanalei Valley Lookout to admire the lushly pastoral landscape of the Hanalei Valley--home to the legendary magical, musical dragon Puff.  Continue on, driving the winding road that is very much like the famous Road to Hana on Maui, with many one-lane bridges.


house on stilts in Hanalei, Kauai, Hawaii
 Just before the end of the road, you’ll see houses on stilts and the Dry Cave (described by one unimpressed kid as “just a big dry cave”) and the Wet Cave (which contains a lake).


Kee Beach in Kauai, Hawaii
At the end of the road is Kee Beach, where a reef-protected lagoon makes this the island’s best beach for swimming, but be aware that strong currents and dangerous waves break out on the rocks.  Scenes from the TV mini-series Thorn Birds and the movies South Pacific and Lord of the Flies were filmed here, and the sunsets can be magnificent.  Bring a picnic lunch or dinner. 
    The end of the road is also the beginning of the spectacularly scenic and green Na Pali Coast and the infamous 11-mile-long Kalalau Trail that is popular with back-packers. 

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images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Friday, September 26, 2014

Good Eats: The Garden Cafe at Common Ground, in Kilauea, Kauai, Hawaii--CLOSED


The Garden Cafe at Common Ground  4900 Kuawa Rd., Kilauea, (808) 828-1041.  Located on the grounds of the old Guava Kai plantation, this organic farm now provides its cafe with fresh produce and as well serves beef and lamb from named ranches.  Prices are high, but so is quality.  It is especially nice to enjoy brunch or lunch on the serene outdoor patio.


sandwich wrap at The Garden Cafe at Common Ground in Kilauea, Kauai, Hawaii
I am fond of the sandwich wraps and the Vanilla Thrilla smoothie consisting of coconut milk, pineapple, bananas, mac nuts, dates, vanilla bean, hemp protein powder, and oat milk.  Yum!


The Garden Cafe at Common Ground in Kilauea, Kauai, Hawaii
Order at the counter, find a table, and you’ll be called when your prepared-to-order food is ready.  Many items are vegan, vegetarian, and/or gluten-free.


gardens at The Garden Cafe at Common Ground in Kilauea, Kauai, Hawaii
Before or after, you can take a hike out to the old stone dam or stroll past fields and along the river.

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images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Good Eats: Duke’s Kauai, in Lihue, Kauai, Hawaii


Duke’s Kauai  At the Kaua’ Marriott Resort & Beach Club, 3610 Rice St., at Kalapaki Beach, (808) 246-9599.


fresh fish plate at Duke's Kauai, in Lihue, Kauai, Hawaii
 Famous for its fresh fish


salad bar plate at Duke's Kauai, in Lihue, Kauai, Hawaii
and expansive salad bar (the potato salad is really good), this always-bustling restaurant features a 30-foot waterfall that splashes into a koi pond


outrigger canoe at Duke's Kauai, in Lihue, Kauai, Hawaii
and it displays a 40-foot outrigger canoe and three of surfing legend Duke Kahanamoku’s surfboards.  The menu is not extensive but manages to squeeze on coconut shrimp with spicy ilikoi dip, a cheddar burger, and mango barbecued baby back ribs.


Kimo's Original Hula Pie at Duke's Kauai, in Lihue, Kauai, Hawaii
Described as “what the sailors swam to shore for in Lahaina” (on Maui), Kimo’s Original Hula Pie is rich and delish.


mai tai at Duke's Kauai, in Lihue, Kauai, Hawaii
And you won't want to miss the mai tai.

More things to do in Kauai.

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images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers