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Published: December 15th 2018
We had one day at sea after we left Cabo and the most exciting thing that happened that day was that we finally won the quiz!! We had been tied twice before and lost on a tie breaker and had been close several times but this day we cracked it. Our friends from the UK,Helena and Mark Smith,were great and we got 12/15 on a fairly tough set of questions. Much to our delight we were the last team with hands up when they called the number 12 . The prize was a Mimosa each( champagne and orange) but it was the honour and the glory that mattered.
The next morning we arrived into San Diego. We all had to present ourselves with passports and forms in hand to custom inspectors on board but that went very smoothly. After breakfast, we left the ship and explored the waterfront. San Diego is an attractive city with the port close to the downtown area. It is a home base for the US Navy and there are two aircraft carriers moored here. We walked down to their Maritime museum. This consisits of a small fleet of various types of seacraft, including a Soviet
submarine, a replica of the ship the first Spanish explorers arrived in and several other sailing vessels including the Star of India.We didn't go in but could see them all lined up against the wharf.
It was a sunny morning and only 18 degrees, so the sun was pleasant. We walked back past our ship to the USS Midway, one of the largest aircraft carriers to be built. It was commisioned in 1945, just after the end of WW2 and is now a floating museum. It is huge!! We bought ur tickets and walked up several flights of stairs to climb on board.We were given an audio tour guide and set about discovering the many aircraft and other parts of the ship. The hangar space could accomodate Adelaide Oval inside though it is not as wide, and here there were an impressive array of airplanes of many different types, all of which had served on the Midway at some time.At the stern was a souvenir shop and in the Christmas spirit, various attractions were decorated, some quite elaborately.
We went up on deck in the lift and here were more planes and helicopters glistening in the morning sun.
One of the "yellow hats", the guides, was on hand and asked if we were ready for our Island tour. I was puzzled until I realised that the large tower where all comings and goings of the planes are controlled, is called the Island.We went over to the entrance and a small group of us were directed up the narrow ladders to the air craft controller's room. Here an ex commander explained the activities that went on when launching and receiving aircraft onto the ship. He was very knowledgable and explained quickly but clearly. Next to this was the chart room where the navigators did their work. There was a display of charts and we had celestial navigation explained. This had an early form of GPS which had been added later. Then it was along to the captain's area, the bridge, which was much larger and we saw the ship's wheel and the various instruments needed to steer a steady course. We then had to negotiate our way back down the narrow ladders without hitting our heads on the low ceilings.
Back on deck we continued our exploration and went towards the bow of the ship where another of
the guides was just starting a talk on how the launch system for the planes operated, This was fascinating and we sat there for about 20 minutes while the mechanisms of the catapult and the various jobs of personnel were explained.He had excellent diagrams and video which showed how it all worked. However, by this time it was nearly 12 and we had to be back to the bus by 12-30pm to join the included tour for the day. We went below decks and did a rapid walk through of the lower deck seeing the galleys, the chapel, the captain's quarters etc. The eating areas were spacious though the sleeping quarters were very small.I couldn't imagine living like that but many did!! Back in the hangar we returned our handsets and disembarked. We could have easily spent more time there but it was a great experience.
We made it to our bus with time to spare and then we were off to see more of San Diego. Our guide, Jamie was young but with a good sense of humour. We drove slowly past the Midway while she explained some of the history and our first stop was at a
huge statue called Embracing Peace,
which was based on the iconic photo of a sailor kissing a nurse on VJ Day. Next to this is a tribute to Bob Hope in the form of a series of statues, depicting him entertaining wounded and appreciative servicemen. Very appropriate, I thought. Then we went for a drive through the Gaslamp district. This was an area which in the early 19th century was only for rabbits but was bought by an entrepreneur,Alonzo Horton, who built houses and shops making small blocks so there were many prime corner locations. When a fire ravaged the Old Town, most of the inhabitants moved to the new district and modern day San Diego was born.He got a great return on his investment.
We were then driven to Balboa Park. This area is larger than Central Park in New York and it became a park and exhibition area when San Diego bid for the World's Fair. They didn't win that but they did host an exhibition after the opening of the Panama Canal to celebrate this momentous occasion.Many of the buildings here have been rebuilt or restored and now house museums. It is a fantastic place.
We were given 30 minutes free time here and we walked through the many areas and admired the beauty of the gardens and the stylish buildings. With such a beautiful day many families were taking advantage of the park's facilities. We grabbed a sandwich and a beer from a small cafe but we had forgotten how sweet American white bread is. We soon abandoned the bread and just ate the ham and cheese on its own.
Back on the bus and it was off to see the Old Town. Much of this has been rebuilt due to the fire I mentioned before, but the wooden and adobe buildings are very attractive. We had an hour here to explore. Our first stop was La Casa de Estudillo, once the grandest house,built from adobe bricks. It is now a free museum with the rooms furnished in the style of the early 19th century. It seemed frozen in time. There was a large central square in front of this house, with an enormous flagpole towering above. On all sides were lovely wooden houses including the courthouse, a hotel and various stores. On one side of the square we stopped for a drink
at a very Mexican themed bar, BarraBarra, where we enjoyed a Modelo beer. Next to this was Le Fiesta del Reyes, an area with a huge Mexican restaurant and other small shops. Very attractive area. As we walked back to the bus we went into Seeley Stables Museum where there was a collection of wagons and carriages dating back to the late 18th century. This was an interesting exhibition. One very primitive ox-cart, had carried a lady from San Diego to Los Angeles. It would have been very uncomfortable.
Then our hour was up so the bus took us back to the ship for our last sailaway. We met Charlie and Barbara in the bar where we had manged to grab one of the tables and proceeded to enjoy the evening. The entertainers performed a Christmas themed show in the Atrium for us while we manged a few glasses of wine. We went up to the World's Cafe for a quick bite as we were too late for anywhere else and Fletcher enjoyed his Alaskan crab claws. Then back to the bar for a nightcap or two. It was hard saying goodbye to the bar staff but we were
glad to see Frances and Jim there to say farewell. A very happy, though sad night and the end to a great cruise!!
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