Sunday, November 30, 2008

a time of preparation...

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign.
Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and shall call his name Immanuel.
Isaiah 7:14

Today marks the first Sunday of Advent...a time of preparation and expectation. Advent is meant to prepare us for a transformational celebration of Christ's birth...not a huge gift exchange. As we approach this special season...may we truly experience the Christ of Christmas.

Friday, November 28, 2008

oh, I've been to the desert...

Were we just on vacation? It seems a distant we are now busy with Christmas preparations and life in general. So before I totally forget the subject of my vacation photos, I will do a post of the week we spent in the desert.

We spent most of our time at a resort east of Palm Springs...where we lazed by the pools...floated down the lazy books...played Rook...and ate well. And we were in good company (my sister and brother-in-law from Manitoba joined us there) we enjoyed more than a few laughs!

As you can tell..we had plenty of choice as to which part of the pool to claim as our own!

Our biggest departure from our usual routine at the resort was a day trip to Joshua Tree National Park.

It lies about an hour’s drive north of Palm Springs and is one of California’s newer parks. It is here that the Mojave Desert and the Colorado Desert meet.

We entered the park from the southeast corner…paid our entrance fee and meandered through the park at a leisurely pace…stopping at many viewpoints along the way. At first glance, it may look like there’s not much to see…but look again!

We stopped at the cholla cactus gardens…growing on the well drained slopes of the desert mountain. The chollas provide shelter for various desert animals…wood rats, wrens and rattlesnakes make their home here.

Though interesting to look it…this is not a plant to mess with!

One of the most unique features of the park are the rock piles…rocks in amazing shapes piled one on top of the other. How they ever got there is beyond me…but I do know that this never happened yesterday!

We wandered about on the rock piles that were easily accessible…and then watched the seasoned rock climbers tackling those that were not meant to be climbed.

We ate our lunch in the shadow of the boulders…as we watched the climbers attempt an ascent. We heard language that shouldn’t be repeated…and left before they reached the top. I can’t quite figure out why anyone would want to climb a sheer rock wall just for the fun of it!

We stopped at Keys View lookout…a most windy spot at 5185 feet elevation! The view below was quite grand…we could see the Salton Sea in the distance, the coastal mountains…and a mountain peak in Mexico, 95 miles away.

A good indicator that we were in the Mojave Desert was the abundance Joshua trees. This 'tree' is actually a giant member of the lily family. The Joshua tree grows about one half inch per year...with the tallest one being about forty feet in height; it is estimated to be over nine-hundred years old.

There are campgrounds throughout the park…mostly used by those who are tenting and interested in back country hiking in the desert. But we spotted one most interesting RV parked under a Joshua tree...

...and when we passed by we we noticed it was a European unit (Mercedes truck and camper) with German license plates. I guess if Cruise America does not have the RV to which you are ship your own across the Atlantic!

On our return from Joshua Tree National Park...we just happened upon an oasis of Palm Trees in the desert. Known as Thousand Palms Oasis...we discovered it was situated on the San Andreas Fault. The movement of the earth along the fault line has allowed springs to bubble up...providing the moisture for the palm forests to flourish. There are about 1500 palm trees at this location.

We stopped and strolled for a bit. I'm thinking that walking about on the San Andreas fault in the cool shade of a beautiful palm oasis is rather special!

Our week sped by before we knew it...and for a final dinner we decided to visit The Cheesecake Factory.

We had good intentions of trying one of their yummy looking desserts...but by the time we were done with our most hearty meals, there was no room for cheesecake. Next time!

Every morning while we were at the resort, we walked past the ducks...who seemed to have their act together...un-like how I am feeling these days. There is much to be done in the next while...and I do not have all 'my ducks in a row'! Vacations are great...but now it is time to catch up.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Greetings

Up here in the far north, Thanksgiving celebrations are a distant memory...but I send my warmest Thanksgiving greetings to all of you who live south of the 49th!

This card is from an antique postcard book given to me by my grandfather when I was a child...all were postcards sent to Miss Lillian Arnold in the early 1900's. This Thanksgiving greeting came from a friend named Bea...and was mailed from Nelson, B.C. in 1913.

Today I will pass it along to all of my American friends and my brother and his family in my sister and her boys in south Texas...extended family in several states...and many wonderful friends old and new.

May you all have a blessed Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

more of the delights of san diego...

We had great overview of the distinctive sights of San Diego on our first day there...and knew exactly where we wanted to spend our remaining time.

The next morning we returned to Balboa Park...the largest urban cultural park in the nation. It encompasses 1200 hundred acres...and is named after the Spanish explorer Vascoe de Balboa. The park had it's early beginnings in 1868...and was mostly green space until the early 1900's. In 1910 it took on a new life...when it became the site of the Panama-California Exposition following the completion of the Panama Canal. Many of the buildings erected for this occasion, still stand today...mostly of Spanish Revival architecture.

Most of the main attractions are along El Prado...a wide promenade that runs through the centre of the park.

The California Tower...

...and the covered walkways are examples of the typical buildings on site.

We strolled the wide pedestrian seemed November was a good time to escape the crowds.

There are many museums in the heart of the park...

...and being short on time and not that big on museums, the only museum we toured was the Timkin Museum, which houses world-class old masters paintings. (Did I happen to mention that it was also the only museum with no admission fee?)

We also had the opportunity to take in an outdoor organ concert in the famous Spreckels Pavilion. John D. and Adolph Spreckels donated the Spreckels Organ, one of the world's largest outdoor pipe organs, to the City of San Diego in 1914 for the Panama-California Exposition. This unique organ contains 4,530 pipes ranging in length from the size of a pencil to 32 feet and is housed in an ornate vaulted structure with highly embellished gables. Since 1917, San Diego has had a civic organist, who performs free weekly concerts on Sundays. We were there on a Friday...but happened to chance upon a performance for a school group. An amazing instrument...but seemingly from a past era. I'm wondering how much longer San Diego will find people qualified to play.

Balboa Park is also known for it's lush landscaping and renowned gardens. A horticulturist and landscape designer by the name of Kate Sessions, became the city gardener in 1892 and can be thanked for planting many of the trees that are found throughout the park today. Sessions asked for 30 acres at the northwest corner of the park for a nursery. In return, she pledged to plant 100 trees in the park each year...and inspired private citizens and schoolchildren to help her in the task of planting.

We toured the Botanical of the world's largest lath slat buildings, which was erected for the 1915 Exposition. I was more interested in the orchids inside...than the structure!

There were photographers with tripods and professional equipment everywhere...for good reason.

In front of the Botanical Building is a large lily pond...the most photographed spot in San Diego. Hmmm...I took a picture of a lily pad, but it seems I missed out on the the '#1 photo op'. Next time!

Today there are over 16,000 trees growing in Balboa Park...including more than 400 varieties.

I have no idea what type of trees these are...I just thought they were most interesting, since they are unlike anything I would see in my back yard.

And I had to wonder about this tree...not a leaf in sight but blooming for all it was worth! I like that.

The cactus garden was developed in 1935...and includes many large, old cactuses. We saw much in our time at Balboa Park...but there is still lots to see and do next time! The famous San Diego Zoo is also situated in Balboa Park...but we decided we leave that for another day.

We returned to the San Diego Harbour for another look.

Hubby wanted to tour the USS Midway...a US carrier with quite the history. In active use for 47 years...the Midway was commissioned in 1945 and served as a flagship in Desert Storm.

This picture was taken on the top deck...looking more like an airfield than the deck of a ship. Retired naval pilots worked as stories of missions they were involved in. It was all very interesting to my hubby!

The Star of India is another famous sailing vessel that now has a home in the Port of San Diego. It was built in 1863...and is the oldest ship in the world that still sails regularly.
Enough of ports and ships...I was more interested in beaches and sunsets.

We made our way seven miles up the coast to Ocean Beach...'a California surfing town that marches to a 60's beat'. It felt rather like I was back in the sixties...and that felt quite OK. We spread our blanket out on the beach and watched the surfers.

There were guys and gals..old and young...and they all looked right at home riding the waves.
The Ocean Beach Pier is the longest concrete pier on the West Coast, measuring nearly 2000 feet. It includes includes a restaurant, bait shop, and surf board shop and is open to the public for walking and fishing.

We walked the entire length...and chatted with some of the locals. She caught the fish...he cleaned them. I like that idea!

We had heard that the best spot to watch the setting sun was right here at Ocean Beach...and we heard right!

How special to see the sun setting over the water...something those on the east coast will never witness! We so enjoyed our little taste of San Diego...if you ever have a chance, check it out.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

experiencing san diego...

Let me take you back to San Diego with me...where we spent a few days seeing the sights and experiencing a little of California's Mexican heritage.

Not knowing where to begin...we decided to take a historic tour aboard the Old Town Trolley. The tour was fully narrated...two hours in length and covered a thirty-two mile loop through San Diego and Coronado. We had the option of disembarking at any bus-stop...and picking up the tour on a later trolley. It was a wonderful way to learn about the city!

We boarded our trolley at Balboa Park...the home of the world famous San Diego Zoo, and so much more.

Our first stop was the Old Town Market...where we toured the Old Town Historic State Park. This area was home to the first European settlers...and California's first Spanish mission was located here. The state park encompasses nine blocks and is home to many historic structures...each of them a museum in themselves. After spending some time here...I had a pretty good idea of what life in San Diego in the 1800's would have looked like.

And since it happened to be lunchtime...we thought it only fitting that we experience the flavour of San Diego as well.

A very tasty chicken taco salad in the courtyard cafe at Casa de Reyes hit the spot...

...and we were entertained by birds in the planter next to the table as we dined! case you think it was only about museums...there were plenty of places to shop if one so desired. Why go to was all right here!

After lunch we carried on with our tour...through Heritage Park, with it's famous Victorian homes... and along the San Diego inner harbour. We decided we would return to this area the following day for a more extensive tour.

We crossed the two-mile long bridge to Coronado Island....a most picturesque place to spend the afternoon.

We strolled the walkway at 'The Old Ferry Landing'...a spot which is famous for it's panoramic view of the San Diego sky-line.

We passed by many shops...but the sign that caught my eye was 'Cold Stone Creamery'. Everyone raves about their fantastic ice-cream...and having never sampled it before (not available in Canada), this seemed the perfect time and place.

We both ordered small waffle sundaes...but we aren't sure they got the message right! We wouldn't have been able to do justice to one serving...never mind two. And was very tasty!

The seagulls seemed to think we may have something for them, and circled overhead while we enjoyed our ice-cream...making me rather nervous!

Eating ice-cream while watching sailboats and tugs in the bay...a wonderful way to spend a November afternoon...especially when we knew the rains were pouring down at home!

Back on our trolley once more...we rode across the island to the Hotel del Coronado...

...probably the most famous landmark in the San Diego area, and situated right on the beach. It was built in 1886...and every American president since that time has been a guest at this hotel.

We walked the beach in front of the hotel...and could easily see landmarks in Mexico not many miles away.

Known as the best family beach in California...we saw many kids enjoying the surf and the sand on this November afternoon.

The day was drawing to a close...the lifeguard was leaving his post...and it was time to catch the last trolley back to Balboa Park, where we had left our car early that morning. Eventually we arrived back at our starting point...but not without a little excitement en route. As I mentioned earlier, our trolley was involved in a traffic accident on a freeway...and we were delayed for some time. We had the opportunity to assist a German tourist who was in quite a tizzy because of the delay. She was due to meet her children in her hotel lobby...and they had no idea that she had gone off on her own to tour San Diego. She had no way to contact them...and knew they would be frantic when she never showed up and the designated time and place. We offered to take her to her hotel...and had her reunited with her family before they had called out the search crew!

I'll take you on a harbour tour another day...maybe tomorrow. There is so much to see and do in San Diego...and the weather can't be beat!

Enjoy the day...