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November 9, 2004

Roma

colosseum.jpgHow strange it was. It took almost two days of touring the ancient city to finally feel like we have arrived! It may be that there is not a singular site that defines Roma for us. Finally today after eating at a small restaurant where everyone spoke Italian did we finally feel like we are in Rome.

Nov 7

We had a lazy day in our apartment in Voorshoten. We did a bit of cleaning before the owner Nina arrive to inspect the apartment and finalize the bill. I had an 18 € phone bill. All the surfing. :) She gave us a ride to Schiphol. It was an easy check in and we had a chance to pickup some chocolate (Leonidas of course) before leaving. The flight was fine although it was filled with Dutch high school kids on a trip to Rome. They were so loud!

We were picked up by Maximillian for a quick trip into Rome. We were introduced to the type of driving done in Rome; often he flashed his headlights to get the slower cars to pull over and often straddled the white line.

About 35 minutes later, we arrived at our apartment. Natalia met us at the door and showed us up to the first floor. Our new home for a week; Colosseum View 1 from Dolce Roma. It was much larger than we expected and very tastefully decorated. She even had painted the walls. We also met her husband Walter. She took time to tell us what to see and recommend several places for dinner. What is best about the apartment is how well stocked it is with items to make the stay more comfortable. Amble plush large towels, everything you need for breakfast including coffee and milk and other little touches like hairdryer.

It was time for dinner so we make a short walk down the street to Trattoria Luzzo. They had a section setup outside under cover and heated and we decided to spend our first dinner outside. It was enjoyable and not too expensive. We split an antipasto mixta. I had spaghetti all'amatriciana and E had roasted veal. We split a insalada mixta. Of course, we also had a bottle of Chianti red wine. At the table next to us were another American couple. They had tiramisu and I couldn't resist and order it also. Total bill was 29 €

Nov 8

colosseum2.jpgA good night sleep and up for our first chore. After coffee, we made a trip to the local supermarket Dia a Dia for eggs, snacks, and water. Back to the apartment and the hunt for a cash machine. The first one did not work but I finally found one. It was noon and time for lunch. We made a quick trip around the outside of the Colosseum before going to Cafe Cafe, a wine bar. We each had a salad and a glass of wine. My salad was a mixture of Breaola, arugula, buffalo mozzerella and pear. E's salad was Prosciutto, arugula, cheese, mushrooms and walnuts.

forum.jpgWe headed out to tour the Colosseum. Such an amazing building. I really wanted the sound track to Gladiator to walk along the aisles. It wasn't too crowded. Next we headed out to the Palatine. It was sunny but the wind was very cold and strong. Neither of us had bundled up expecting it to be warmer. But it was almost as cold as Amsterdam. We later saw on the TV that the temperatures were 6 degrees below normal and on Sunday the temperature had dropped 7 degrees in one day. Just our luck. From here we headed to the forum. We struggled to read sections from the guide book with our numb hands in the wind. We left to see a view point and the forum closed so we did not get to finish our visit. Oh well another day.

We went back to the apartment after making a quick stop at the grocery store for a bottle of wine and a couple more cheeses. We warmed up with some Scilian wine and cheese. About 8:30 we mosied out for dinner. We choose a restaurant closer by, Hosteria Isidoro. This was not as good as the night before and was geared at tourists. It was a disapointment. We split an antipasti. E had chicken gorgonzola and I had lamb spedini. We both had mixed salads with walnuts. And a liter of the house wine. It was 37€. They tried to charge us for a tiramisu that we didn't eat. Fortunately, we noticed it.

Nov 9

Today was church day. We walked to Santa Maria Maggiori. It was an interesting church with some facinating mosaics. Several inlaid with gold. We completely forgot to bring binoculars so we couldn't see the details. We did get to see a relic - A holy crib.

From here we walked up by Termini to find the wine store Il Trimani. It had a wonderful selection of wines. The prices did not look extremely good. Several wines that I recognized were priced similar to Seattle once I took the 30% euro conversion into factor. But there were several nice Chianti. E picked up a price list of the Barolos.

It was time for lunch so we walked back down Via Cavour and turned on a side street to locate La Carbonara. It was mentioned on a list given to us by Natalia. It has been in existence since 1906 and made fresh pasta. We split a carciofi alla giudia (deep fried artichoke) which was really yummy. A great mixture of nutty flavor with salt. I had to have pasta and ordered Spaghetti alla carbonara. What else could I order! E had a plate of straccetti (thin sliced beef) sauted with onions, herbs and carciofi (artichokes).

stclements.jpgWe wanted to go back and finish the forum so we headed to Piazza Venezia. We got distracted by Trajans forum and column. I think it is finally starting to hit me that I am looking at 2000 year old works. The column is in wonderful condition for the age and has some stellar carvings. We also meandered through the forum and Augustus's Foro. By now, it had started to sprinkle. I didn't have a raincoat or umbrella this time so we started back around the Colosseum and back to the apartment. By time we got to our street, we remembered that St Clement church was along the way and we dropped in to warm up and dry off.


There are the remains of three places of worship on the site. One pagan from the 1st century, built on top of this in the 4th century is a church to St. Clements with some interesting frescos. Above that built around the 12th century (?) is the most recent. I loved the frescos and painting in the alter. This was the most interesting church this far. It was very cool in the lowest level where the pagan worship was done and the 1st century roman condos. We kept thinking that 2000 years ago people walked the same paths and lived there.

Now we feel like we are in Rome!

November 11, 2004

Soggy Rome

Our luck the weather changed when we arrived. The first day was sunny but windy and very cold. The rain moved in and we have had rain off and on most of the days. It definitely makes it challenging walking on the narrow sidewalks and dodging each others umbrellas. The streets are not too slippery and fortunately, the motos take care not to splash.

November 10

We made our first trip on the Metro. We took the line from San Giovanni which is near our apartment to the Spanish Steps. We were headed to the Villa Borghese. We had reserved a ticket for 11 and gave ourselves an hour to get there. The Metro was still crowded even after 10am. Accelerate and stop - accelerate and stop. It took a bit to get my footing. After leaving the metro station, we wandered a bit in the park trying to find our way. I am always disoriented getting off the Metro.

With the help of some other lost Americans, we found our way and made our viewing time. I didn't realize I would have to check my large purse/bag and forgot my glasses. E had to read all guide book aloud to me. I felt so helpless!

shoes.jpgAfter the museum, we made our way to the Spanish Steps. We found a cafeteria recommended in Slow Eats, Pasticceria D'Angelo and it wasn't too bad. I had pasta with ham, peas and cream and E had a composed salad. It fueled us for some serious window shopping. Gorgeous clothes along Via Condotti. Lots of sharp pointed toed boots. I just dont see how anyone can walk in those. I felt so dowdy with my stubby toe shoes and slightly high water slacks. The other style is some seriously flared pants. I do like those. Nice ones in the Max Mara.

trevi.jpgWe cruised back up the apartment. Along the way we stopped at the Trevi Fountain to throw a coin in the fountain. Now we will return to Rome. E also wanted to look for the Hotel Trevi. She visited Rome when she was 7 and she remembers her mother talking about how she would wake when the fountain turned off. We looked up and down the streets but could not find it. We had given up. I saw a sign to the Pasta Museum and headed to check it out. Around a corner suddenly we saw... Hotel Trevi! We found it.

Another long walk back to the apartment. We were tired. But got inspired after deciding to eat at Da Giggetto in the Jewish Quarter. We love the fried artichokes and we each had one as a starter. We split a fettucini with funghi. E had the tongue and I had the Saltimbocca. We split a chestnut pastry. After a nice Chianti, we were totally satisfied even with the long walk. Total cost 70 €.

November 11

maria.jpgToday, we took in the Pantheon and two churches near by. Santa Maria sopre Minerva and San Luigi dei Francesi with a gorgeous Carvaggio painting. It was raining so Piazza Navona was deserted. We had a quick lunch in Campo di Fiori at Hostaria Romanesea before discovering Roscioli on Via dei Giubbonari just off the Campo. We got a bottle of Querciabella Chianti, pesto, San Martino pasta and the most awesome smoked buffalo mozzerella. We also went to Il Fiorentino butcher shop which was also recommended by Arthur Schwartz. We got some veal. We didn't get the T-Bone but another cut that looked like a spencer steak (rib).

We headed off and took time to tour the Cat Santuary in Torre Argentina. It was inspiring to hear the volunteers talked about the efforts they made to save the cats.

Time for dinner. Our veal and pesto is calling.

November 12, 2004

Vatican

Perfect Satisfaction. That was dinner last night. We decided to cook in the apartment and picked up veal from Il Fiorentino. It was so tender and tasty. And the smoked mozzerella. Both E and I woke up this morning wanting more. But tonight we will dine at Monti. Natalie made reservations for us.

The Vatican and St. Peters was on our agenda today. The museum opened at 8:45 and would close around 1:00pm so we tried to get an early start. Off to the Metro. We both took a double-take when the train arrived. It was crammed full. Oh my - how would we fit in. We squeezed in. It was so packed. I held my camera and purse while we jerked back and forth between the stops.

We got off at the Vatican Museum stop and followed the signs. We arrived just before 8:45. The line extended down around the corned. We got to the corner and the line kept going... and going... finally about 3-4 blocks we got to the end of the line. It moved and finally by 10:00am we entered the museum.

The collection is amazing. We started with the Egyptian collection. It was on par with the King Tut exhibit. Next was the statuary. It got more crowded as we headed to the map room. It was one of my favorite rooms. I loved the perspective and the ceiling. Next was the Raphael Rooms. Stunning. We decided to escape the crowds for a bit and went through the Borgia Rooms. Finally, the Sistine Chapel. Crowded by so inspiring. Slowly as you absorb the painting, the crowds fall away and you are alone with the paintings.

By this time it was after 1pm and we needed food. We decided to grab a quick lunch at one of the restaurants between the museum and St. Peters. Hostaria Dei Bastioni was in the Cheap Eats so we gave it a try. It was actually just what we needed. I had a pasta and salad. They were very friendly owners with a mixed international crowd. The table next to us was a group from France.

On to St. Peters. Again, another line. This time to go through the metal detectors. We decided to climb to the dome. We got tickets for the stairs instead of the elevator and headed up. We were in condition and it went quickly. We took a quick view out over the floor of St. Peters before heading up the final narrow corkscrew stairs. But what vistas. And crowds.

A quick trip down and into the St. Peters. Michaelangelos Pieta was stunning. E and I were speechless and moved.

We decided to walk back to the apartment. It took about hour to go from the Vatican to beyond the Colosseum. We had some time to rest before our 8:30 dinner reservation.

We had high expectations of Monti. Several of the past guest had written highly of the restaurant. It also has some rave reviews on Fodors. It was good but we were a bit disappointed. The staff was excellent. They gave us a menu in English. It had just a bit of description of the dishes. We started by sharing an appetizer dish of deep fried breaded olives with lightly breaded and deep fried zuchini. Next we split the pasta of the day which was a fettucini with a vegetable cream sauce of zucchini, zuchini flowers and pureed carrot. Very nice. For a main entry, E had the lamb cutlets. This was the major disappoint of the night. We expected to get lamb chops but instead she got a rib lamb chop that had been breaded and deep fried. I had the rabbit stuffed with sausage and roasted potatoes. Our wine was a bottle of Montiano by Falesco. It was 70€. Although disappointed with E's main entry, we would recommend Monti's.

January 21, 2009

24 hours of Air Traffic

There is something mesmerizing about this video. I've watched it several times. Sometimes I just watch the sun move across the planets. Other times, I look for specific flights that I have taken to far off places like Patagonia, South Africa, Australia. Then other times, I'm just amazed at the number of flights that take place each day. It is a little frightening when you realize the amount of pollution and the wide movement of people that happens each day.

The video was created by the Zurich School of Applied Sciences. You can find high quality Windows Media and Quicktime videos on the school website. According to Wired Magazine:

While the map may look complex, Dr. Karl Rege tells us he and his team found it surprisingly simple to assemble using data readily available on the internet.

"We used a commercial website called FlightStats to gather global flight and schedule information," he says. "So there was no need to contact the different airlines."

The team mined FlightStats for the departure and arrival times of every commercial flight in the world, then plugged it all into a computer to assemble their simulation. For the sake of simplicity, they assumed every plane traveled at the same speed and every flight took the most direct route to its destination. Then every flight was assigned a position on a Miller cylindrical projection, which is similar to a Mercator Projection but doesn't distort the poles so much.

January 28, 2009

SlowBowl 2009

Slow Bowl GTG
Slow Travel GTG - Paso Robles 2008 (Click here for fullsize picture)

It is time for the 3rd Annual SlowBowl Get Together. It is organized by Shannon and takes place in Paso Robles. I'm flying down on Friday and I'll drive from San Jose to Paso. The weather is supposed to be great - maybe even 70 degrees! If it is nice I hope to drive down Hwy 1.

Deborah has some great pictures of last year GTG on her blog. I'm going to shamelessly follow her lead and post of few more pictures of last year GTG.

Slow Bowl GTG
Looking over scrapbooks and dreaming of future trips

Slow Bowl GTG
Friday night card game

Slow Bowl GTG
Happy couple

Slow Bowl GTG
Great food

Slow Bowl GTG
Good Times

February 9, 2009

How well traveled are you?

Your Travel Profile:
You Are Very Well Traveled in the Midwestern United States (75%)
You Are Very Well Traveled in New Zealand (67%)
You Are Very Well Traveled in the Western United States (63%)
You Are Somewhat Well Traveled in Southern Europe (40%)
You Are Somewhat Well Traveled in Australia (38%)
You Are Somewhat Well Traveled in Western Europe (29%)
You Are Somewhat Well Traveled in the Northeastern United States (29%)
You Are Somewhat Well Traveled in Africa (25%)
You Are Somewhat Well Traveled in the United Kingdom (25%)
You Are Somewhat Well Traveled in the Southern United States (23%)
You Are Mostly Untraveled in Canada (20%)
You Are Mostly Untraveled in Latin America (13%)
You Are Mostly Untraveled in Asia (4%)
You Are Untraveled in Eastern Europe (0%)
You Are Untraveled in Scandinavia (0%)
You Are Untraveled in the Middle East (0%)

I found this on Girosoli's blog. I thought it was pretty interesting. I'm sorry about some of the questions on Asia. I've been to Singapore and heading to Borneo. But neither would help my score. Bummer.

I also can't believe I'm so well traveled in the mid-west. It only comes because of travel for work - not for pleasure. Interesting poll.

December 20, 2010

Christmas in New York

Christmas in NYC

I spent the first two weeks in December in New Jersey training for my new job. So what to do over the weekend? It was only an hour by train to NYC - Perfect. I have always wanted to see NYC at Christmas.

I had two main goals initially. I wanted to see the ice skating rink at Rockefeller Square and I also wanted to go to the Museum of Modern Art. MOMA was closed the last time I was in New York for renovation. I was talking with the hotel staff and they mentioned it would be crowded. They also suggested that I google Christmas in New York for other idea.

I completely forgot about the Christmas windows in the major department stores. Perfect! So I did a little bit of planning. It was easy to catch the New Jersey Transit train from Princeton into to Penn Station in New York. I used Google Maps to map out a route. Macy's is close to Penn Station so I decided to start at Macy's and then work my way up 5th Avenue which would take me by Lord and Taylor and Saks. Next, stop at Rockefeller Square to see the rink and tree and then go to the Top of Rock which is highly recommended on Slow Talk. I really like the idea that you can see the Empire State Building from the Top of Rock. Then on to MOMA for lunch and a bit of culture. Finally up to 60th to see Barney's before heading back to New Jersey.

I got to the Princeton Station just as the train was pulling out. The lobby filled up quickly with couples and families which gave me a hint that it was going to be very crowded day in NYC. The ride took about an hour and gave me a chance to see a bit of central New Jersey. It took me a little bit to orient myself after arriving at Penn Station but soon I was heading up 34th Avenue to see the "Miracle on 34th Street" windows at Macy's. I also needed do a little shopping. My Goodness, Macy's was already crowded at 10am but so beautiful with all the decorations.

Heading up 5th Avenue, I stopped and queued up to see the windows at Lord and Taylor. They were okay. I had a great time talking with some tourists from UK while we slowly queued past the windows.

It was packed but crowd moved along at Rockefeller Square. I was able to elbow my way up to the glass and watch the skaters. Santa was circling and weaving through the skaters. I bought my tickets for the "Top of the Rock" and had a few minutes to walk over to see the decor on the buildings and Radio City Hall.

I lined up for the elevator and watched the movie about the building of the center. It was built during the depression. I kept wondering why we could have similar projects today to reduce unemployment. The elevator car zoomed to the top and soon NYC was at my feet. I loved it. I explored all three observation floors amazed at the views. Highly recommended!

It was 1pm and I was starved so I headed off to MOMA. I had a bowl of rigatoni and a glass of Chianti at the cafe on the second floor. Very filling and perfect for a cold day.

I took an hour and viewed the wonderful paintings. My favorite period is the early 20th Century. The end of the impressionists, cubism and on into surrealism. I have more difficulties with the later abstract painters but do enjoy Pollock and De Koonig.

The afternoon was waning so I headed off to see the windows at Barney's. I was not impressed. The theme was The Food Channel and it was creative but not what I wanted to see at Christmas. I headed back and stopped at Bergdorf Goodman - What a beautiful collection of windows. These were my favorites. I loved, loved, loved them.

I started to head back to Penn Station and decided to head back along 6th and 7th Avenue with a stop in Time Square. And then along 6th to Bryant Park where I loved the ice rink and market.

It was a packed crowd in the lobby at Penn Station waiting for the track to be posted for the Trenton Train. Track 14 - and the rush was on. It was a stampede as we all rushed to get on the train and a seat. We squeeze through the doors and down the stairs. I found a seat.

I loved my day in NYC. I wish I would have been a bit braver and stayed after dark but even in the day - it was perfect day to get me in the holiday spirit.

Christmas in NYC

Christmas in NYC

Christmas in New York

Christmas in NYC

Christmas in NYC

Christmas in NYC

Christmas in New York

Christmas in NYC

Christmas in NYC

Christmas in NYC

Christmas in NYC

December 28, 2010

Princeton

Princeton
Princeton Library

I also had the opportunity to visit Princeton while I was in New Jersey for training. Kim came by the hotel and picked me up and we drove into Princeton. We were meeting up with Terry for a moderator's breakfast at PJ's Pancake House. The day was sunny but cold especially when the wind whipped around the buildings but we had a sheltered area in front of the restaurant to wait for a table. The pancakes were fluffy, the coffee hot and the conversation fun. Time passed quickly.

Kim and Terry had other commitments for the rest of the day so I decided to stay in Princeton and walk around the village and the campus. I printed out walking tour of historic Princeton as a guide.

First I did a quick walk around Palmer Square. The shops were just starting to open and there was a lovely brass band playing carols. I had passed a shop that had a sign out for hot chocolate. That sounded so good plus I heard a mother talking to her boy about going to get hot chocolate. I went in and warmed up with a cup of thick dark hot chocolate from The Bent Spoon. I should have picked up a can of the mix. Yummm..

Next I headed down a couple of blocks to see if I could find where Albert Einstein lived while at Princeton. I couldn't really locate it but I had a chance to see a bit of the neighborhood. I walked a bit around the grounds at Morven. It was a country estate of Richard Stockton one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. I considered doing a tour but I decided to head over to the University campus instead.

I loved the campus. It was my first visit to an Ivy League school. It was so different from the campuses in the west. Most of the western universities campuses are mostly modern buildings. Heck, Washington probably wasn't even a state when some of the Princeton buildings were built. I particularly loved the dorm and quad areas. It felt almost like I was at Hogswart. I also remembered the movie "A Beautiful Mind" which was also filmed on campus.

I headed towards the University chapel and was pleasantly surprised to find out there was a free Christmas concert by the Princeton Choral scheduled to begin in a half hour. I headed into the Library to get warm and to look at the exhibit of the maps of the exploration of the Pacific Ocean. These were maps of the voyages of Captain Cook. It was fun to see how they depicted Borneo, Australia and Hawaii (Sandwich Islands) on the maps of the explorations.

The concert was beautiful and perfect for the season. The golden sun was just setting as the concert finished and I took a taxi back to the hotel. A quick but satisfying visit.

Princeton
Nassau Street buildings

Princeton
Neighborhood around the University

Princeton
Morven

Princeton
Palmer Square

Princeton
Local brass band playing on Palmer Square

Princeton
Nassau Hall - Princeton University

Princeton
Princeton University Campus

Princeton
Alexander Hall - Princeton University

Princeton
Blair Hall - Princeton University

Princeton
Blair Hall - Princeton University

Princeton
University Chapel - Princeton University


November 12, 2013

Escape to sunshine

Hess Brewing
Taster flight at Hess Brewing
Saturday October 12, 2013

This year has been somewhat disappointing for travel. I know… we did do several west coast trips but it is another year without international travel. We had one more opportunity for trip on the west coast and this one did not disappoint.

I had to fit the week in between my co-workers time off and scheduled weekend on-call. The week was mid-October. Where to go was the question. Kauai? New York? Both were a little more than we wanted to spend. Arizona in the fall has been on the list but we really didn’t want to go again this year. We remembered that the weather is usually great in California in October. G had never been to San Diego. I remember being amazed at the succulents on my trip a couple of years ago. And it is a great location for beer tasting. In early September we started planning.

Airfare was easy and not too expensive. Alaska had a convenient direct flight for less than $300 RT. I was able to find a weekly car rental via Costco for about $150. The big decision was where to stay.

We prefer to stay in a vacation rental especially if we are staying for 4 or more days. We also like staying in a smaller rental in an interesting neighborhood where we can easily walk to restaurants or bars. Researching the breweries, I stumbled upon the North Park neighborhood. It is centrally located just north of Balboa Park. Forbes listed it as one of the best hipster neighborhoods. There were also several breweries and bars specializing in beer in the neighborhood. After a couple of reviews of the rentals on VRBO, we decided on this charming cottage.

The flight was a breeze. I love it when we have a flight later in the morning and we don’t have to get up in the middle of the night to make the 7am flight. Picking up the car was not a breeze. We got to Avis at the airport and there was already a line. It did not move. They seemed to be having a lot of difficulties finding the type of car people had rented. When we got to the counter, they did not have any compact cars available and it took a good 15 minutes to find one similar. We did not want a convertible or Mustang. Overall it took over 30 minutes to pick up our car. I also was not very happy with the car since it has a major blind spot. I may not rent from Avis again after this experience.

The cottage was just a short 10 minutes from the airport. San Diego’s airport is right next to downtown on the harbor. It is pretty amazing landing in SD since you fly right over and next to the large office buildings. We arrived and were greeted by Marjorie, the owner, who lives next door. She gave us a quick tour and some neighborhood recommendations. The cottage was immaculate and well decorated especially the paintings which were painted by the owner. They were scenes of Provence, Europe and Southern California painted in lovely Mediterranean colors. It also has a well appointed kitchen, a charming garden patio and excellent electronics for getting on the internet or watching a movie.

We headed to the supermarket and Trader Joe’s to pick up groceries for the week. The ability to cook in the rental is one of the big vacation cost savings. Plus it is always so relaxing to be able to get up and have a leisurely breakfast or cook up a late night snack. The owner had provided a welcome basket so we had great coffee, milk and juice. Of course, we also had to pick up several bottles of local beer to start our tastings.

We still had a bit of daylight so we took a walk around the neighborhood. The yards were very interesting. Many were cactus or succulent and other low water gardens. Some had old plantings of tall euphorbia, brugmansia and other semi-tropical plants. The architecture is also very interesting with many craftsman or other bungalows built in the 1920-1940s.
We stopped at Hess Brewing which was just a few blocks away. It recently opened a larger brewery and tasting room in North Park. We had a flight which gave us a great overview of their beers. It was a little pricey ($15 for 5 tastes) but we were able to take home the glasses. The tastings included their pale ale, rye IPA, standard IPA, black IPA and a Belgium Strong. All were good and a perfect start to our beer filled week.

Cottage
Our rental in North Park neighborhood

Cottage
Kitchen and dining area

Cottage
Bedroom

Patio garden
Patio Garden

Patio garden
Cycad, palm and staghorn fern which grows really well out doors in shade

Schefflera - outside San Diego
Schefflera - not certain which variety. It was about 10 feet

Euphorbia tirucalli
Interesting garden in front of an architecture firm Euphorbia tirucalli. Very artistic and used in several gardens. We also saw similar cactus low-water gardens

Kalanchoe beharensis
Kalanchoe beharensis outside on deck

Hess Brewing
Hess Brewing

Hess Brewing
Hess Brewing - I missed getting a picture of the great graphics for their different beers on the wall

North Park

November 13, 2013

Off to the Market

Hillcrest Farmers Market
Bushels of grapes

Sunday October 13, 2013

I love to visiting local farmers markets. A Sunday visit would be a great way to start our vacation week. I find each one very interesting especially exploring the local produce and fruits. I was excited to see what fruits would be available. We had researched before leaving and found the Hillcrest Farmers Market was on Sunday. It was one of the best in the region. Margorie also gave it a recommendation.

We had heard that it might be hard to park. From their website, there is a local trolley that stops at the farmers market which expands the parking to the parking at the local school. It was just a short wait for the trolley. There was parking in the DMV lot next to the market but the trolley was fun and short ride.

The Market was split over two blocks. One block consisted of food vendors. I was almost sorry we had eaten breakfast after the wonderful smells. They were selling everything from African Food to vegan tamales. We did notice an emphasis on vegan and healthy juices which were probably a reflection of the Hillcrest, North Park and Normal Heights local neighborhoods.

The other block were the produce and other food vendors. The tables were filled with tomatoes, salad fixing, squashes and fruit. There were a couple of vendors selling a bit more tropical fruit such as guavas, figs, grapes and mangoes. We picked up some homemade ravioli from Close to Home Pasta , a loaf of bread from Bread & Cie bakery and a mango. The mango was from Mexico and it was outstanding. I asked the vendor to pick out one and we had it for breakfast the next day. Perfect.

We caught the trolley back to the parking lot. The route took us through the Hillcrest business district which I wish we had a chance to explore. Back at the rental, we dropped off our purchases and headed for Sunday in the park.

Hillcrest Farmers Market
Beautiful sunny Sunday in San Diego at the Hillcrest Farmers Market

Hillcrest Farmers Market
There were lots of fixings for salsa

Hillcrest Farmers Market
Guavas and Figs - the scent of the guavas reminded us of Hawaii

Hillcrest Farmers Market
Table filled with heirloom tomatoes and squash blossoms.

Hillcrest Farmers Market
This vendor was very interesting. She was selling dried aromatic plants that she had collected from her property. They were the scents of the chaparral. The wild aroma of white sage, toyon berries, lichens, manzanita. The sage in particular brought back strong memories of growing up in California.

November 19, 2013

Sunday in the Park - Part 1

Botanical Building
Sunday October 13, 2013

One of the main highlights of our trip to San Diego was a visit to the Botanical Building in Balboa Park. The building is one of the largest lath structures in the world. It was built for the 1915-1916 Exposition and now contains over 2,100 permanent plants. Here is a page on the planning, building and restoration of the house.

We have been to the lath house in Merritt Lake Park in Oakland. It is much smaller and rather boring architecture structure. Nothing really prepares you for Botanical Building in Balboa Park. The design is somewhat similar to glass conservatories but it is all open to the weather. The lath provide shade from the sun and heat in San Diego and the mist system keeps it cool and humid.

The lovely lily pond leads you to the doorway. There are a few interesting potted agaves along the way and large tropical plants such a brugmansia, Calotropis, and stunning Bismarckia nobilis palms. Through the doors the dome soars close to three stories above. The paths are lined with huge specimens that you would normally find in your house and vines twine in the rafters above. There is a carnivorous plant pond for the curious and lots and lots of begonias.

It is a very impressive collection although for serious plantaholics - there were some items missing. We had hoped to see some tropical vireya rhododendrons and Mexican salvias.

Botanical Building

Botanical Building

Botanical Building
I loved the Bismarckia nobilis palms

Botanical Building

Botanical Building

Botanical Building

Botanical Building

Botanical Building


Botanical Building

Botanical Building

Botanical Building

Botanical Building

Botanical Building

Botanical Building

Botanical Building

Botanical Building

Botanical Building


November 27, 2013

Sunday in the Park - Part 2

Desert Garden

Sunday October 13, 2013

The other botanical attraction we wanted to see in Balboa Park was the Desert Garden. It is located on the eastern side of Balboa Park. I am still amazed to see the diversity of cactus and succulents that grow outside in San Diego. It is really a coastal desert with some amazing micro-climates. I stayed on Shelter Island along the harbor on my last visit and I am still amazed at the large established succulents in the gardens in the Point Loma neighborhood especially along Rozencrantz boulevard. I was stopped at a light and looked around to see Dragon trees (Dracaena draco) in a front yard. It is not unusual to see large Euphorbias, Yuccas or cactus in the older neighborhoods.

Desert Garden
A wedding party and a large Euphorbia ingens

Desert Garden
The garden paths are a popular jogging path

Desert Garden
Agave attenuata

Desert Garden
The garden is on the top slope of a canyon. The slope helps the drainage.

Desert Garden
Euphorbia ingens

Desert Garden
Dragon Trees - Dracaena draco

Desert Garden
These Dragon trees are one of my favorites

Desert Garden


Desert Garden

Desert Garden

Desert Garden

Desert Garden
Interesting branches of an Aloe tree

Desert Garden
Quiver Tree - Aloe dichotoma

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