I’m ashamed to begin posting about California only now, over a year after we became its residents. I hereby attempt to atone for my protracted hesitation.
Considering how vast and varied California is, I anticipate at least three follow-up stories to cover the state—more than for any other so far. That said, bear with me, and let’s get started.
San Jose was one of the first better-known Californian cities we examined upon moving to the West Coast. Our tour commenced with a stroll through the neighborhood of Santana Row, a fashionable shopping district, frequented by natives and tourists alike and praised for its trim looks and cozy atmosphere.
When we found ourselves near the Winchester Mystery House, we had to contrive a way to adequately photograph the property from behind its high fence of dense vegetation. The place has the reputation of a tourist trap, and its curators know better than to leave unhindered photographic access to the what is likely the estate’s most prominent feature; namely, the mansion’s façade.
About a mile away, on the other side of I-880, we set out for a short walk in the Rose Garden park, whose only perk as an otherwise unremarkable plot of public land is a small fountain pool.
We traveled but a few blocks to the Rosicrucian Park and spotted a few neat buildings thereabouts.
The park itself is impregnated by the Ancient Egypt theme, the fact of which is unraveled by the close proximity of the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum.
To retain the cooperation of our youngest travelers for the duration of a day, we try to punctuate our recreational plans by their recreational needs, which is generally fulfilled by the means of playgrounds and children’s museums. In this case we chose the Rotary PlayGarden to address that task.
(Because this leisurely bit did not yield any photos to fit the format of my blog, I am padding the story with a filler image of an airplane, which I spotted hovering at low altitude over the parking lot of the playground.)
The next destination disappointed us by the paucity of views relatable to its appellation of Japantown.
On the other hand, we had a great time sauntering about the San Pedro Square Market, glancing over the unpretentious outdoor scenery and relaxed restaurant bunches.
We passed by the beautiful Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph, shamelessly crowded by mundane urban development.
GPS directions to the next point had us take a pleasant narrow street, shaded from light by the wall of tall buildings and bare-branched trees.
The destination itself was an oversized board from the game Monopoly, situated at the edge of a park and aptly named Monopoly in the Park. It’s a pity the banker was not in attendance, for none of us could collect for passing Go.
Then we descried a statue of exceptionable artistic worth—the colossal Babe Muffler, a buoyant auto mechanic who seems oblivious to the fact that he has been robbed off his wrench (or a large cucumber… or a pet snake).
In the Willow Glen neighborhood we indulged in some afternoon treats at a local Baskin Robbins.
A bit later we reached the Kelley Park, which, though officially closed for the day, remained more than accessible by foot via numerous paths.
We barely had enough sunlight to catch sight of Sikh Gurdwara Sahib, the city’s only Sikh temple. I know nothing of the Sikh religion, but its followers sure have a taste for sumptuous designs.
Since the day was done before we were with our itinerary, a few remaining San Jose destinations were put off until another day. That day came when headed to Santa Cruz to show the Mystery Spot to a family member visiting us in the United States.
Once we left Milpitas behind driving down on I-680, we veered off west towards the picturesque green slopes of pastures near Peony Gardens. These are some of the best views of nature around San Jose.
A perfect bucolic setting.
Before proceeding to the main objective of the trip, we made one final stop at the Overfelt Gardens Park, whose focal feature is the Chinese Cultural Garden.
Though I am sure that some future occasions will bring us back to San Jose, at this time I conclude my review of the city with a good deal of satisfaction.
Now, I know that some six hundred miles separate San Diego from San Jose, and it may seem odd that they make an appearance in the same blog post. The reason for this is that they both happened to be lone Californian cities in their respective trips, San Jose as the primary goal of a one-day weekend sally, and San Diego as the first point in a week-long journey over Arizona and New Mexico. But their names being of Hispanic origin and having the word “San” in them is as good a reason as any.
Anyhow… It was a peculiarly foggy morning when we arrived at the Torrey Pines State Reserve, the fog imparting a certain ghostly charm to the already captivating terrain.
Individual members of the native fauna appeared as if they had consumed a double-shot of their morning coffee,
while others clearly didn’t.
We found seals in even greater abundance at La Jolla Cove some ten miles to the south. I have to say that in spite of their generally somnolent pastime (or maybe because of it) on the entire span of the Californian coast, these creatures possess a very genial and relatable physiognomy.
Well, OK, many animals do, but sea gulls are not one of them.
Zoological matters aside, La Jolla Cove is one heck of a seafront.
Ten more miles to the south, and we finally started seeing the more central part of San Diego, which is actually less exciting than it sounds, for most of the best sights of the city are found along the shoreline.
Old Town Neighborhood is one respectable exception. Firstly, it is thought to be the site of the first European settlement in California. And secondly, such an exuberant conglomeration of Mexican-flavored décor is simply pleasing to the eye.
Halfway to the Sunset Cliffs Park, at the junction of Ocean Beach a Point Loma Heights, we caught a glimpse of the Sacred Heart Church.
Once at the park, I skimmed along the shore up to Ladera Street and back in search of nice views, which promptly emerged.
In the very heart of Point Loma, stretching nearly a mile parallel to the either coast, lies the Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery.
From a number of nooks on the east side of the cemetery one gets to discover a vast panorama of the San Diego Bay. Behind the Coronado Island materializes a vague outline of the mainland behind, even skyscrapers barely discernible through the haze.
A bit more detail clears up when examining the same view from the cliffs of the Cabrillo National Monument.
I ventured out to the rocky shore, carefully clambering over slippery boulders, in attempts to hunt out a beautiful hidden cave we stumbled upon in our preparatory research but found nothing to convincingly match its description. As far as I’m concerned, all of the following are equally hopeless contenders.
A couple more stops called for remaining near the waterfront, such as the blatantly named Waterfront Park
and the much wittier Unconditional Surrender Statue.
After that we were finally free to survey the urban landscapes.
In retrospect, San Diego did not really exude the “urban” feel in the traditional big-city sense. The immense Balboa Park in the midst of a residential sector is a testament to that.
Accessible by car, but designated largely for pedestrian use, the park features not only a multitude of shops, restaurants, gardens, and museums, but even a zoo. To me, the finest characteristic of the Balboa Park is its architecture. Ranging from simpler, conventional forms
to more extravagant layouts with ornate reliefs, the park sets the bar for other recreational grounds in the country.
I cannot ignore one other omnipresent aspect of the Balboa Park—street performers. Some were outright boring and bad, such as this cutie spoiling an otherwise amazing background.
Others were talented and smart, such as this hombre posing as a robotic guitarist. I can attest to the fact that he remained perfectly still until the moment a deposit was made; then he suddenly started strumming the guitar with a machine-like precision, moving in way that not in the slightest revealed his very biological essence.
Just a few streets over from the western edge of the park, away from prying eyes, dangles the Spruce Street Suspension Bridge, a massive hand-weaved structure reaching across a peaceful wooded valley. Regardless of its name, the bridge was the least suspenseful point in our exploration of San Diego, for it was the last.
(To be continued.)