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December 17th 2011
Published: December 18th 2011
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Monday 12thDecember

Chris’ 65th Birthday! A cloudy day which was very disappointing as we wanted to go on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, which was 10 minutes away from the motel. This is a 2 1/2mile cable car ride from 2643ft to 8516ft up onto Mt San Jacinto State Park, with many walking trails at the top. We spoke to the guides at the bottom, who confirmed that it was in cloud and currently snowing at the top, with more bad weather forecast in the next few hours – part of the first winter storn affecting Southern California . A definite must for next time I think!

Instead we had a walk up the Tahquitz Canyon, part of Agua Caliente Indian Reservation – This was a 2 mile way-marked path that follows the creek up to a beautiful waterfall. There are white boulders, black rocks and golden California Sycamores making it a very pretty walk (would have been absolutely stunning if the sun was out!) and with the added bonus of seeing quite a lot of little hummingbirds! As we got back it started raining.....

Got onto route 111 road to drive to Highway 10, coming off at Highway 60 – the rain was quite heavy by now and the visibility was low, with spray and cloud. Fortunately by the time we got to Highway 215, the rain had eased a little and we were able to at least see some of the mountains!

Continued South on IS 15 and reached Candy & Jeffs at about 4.00 and after a cup of tea went out to Il fornaio Cucina on Coronada Island, with fantastic views of down town San Diego, for Chris’ 65th birthday meal!

Tuesday 13th December

Cloud and rain! Not good – especially as it’s untypically California! However we used the day to do a few loads of washing and when it stopped raining in the afternoon, we took a walk down to the local shops.

Candy and Jeff arrived home from work about 4.30pm ish and after a lovely spaghetti bolognese we all went to see Chris’ nephew sing in a High School carol concert.

Wednesday 14th December

Blue skies and sunshine again so about 9.00am we headed off to La Jolla (pronounced La Hoya!). After driving through the village we parked up and walked all along the sandstone cliffs, looking at all the little coves and watching the harbour seals that have, controversially, taken over the childrens’ beach – not that they were doing that much! Awesome amount of wildlife – apart from the Harbour Seals there were Grey seals, flocks of Pelicans, hundreds of cormorants and sea birds as well as ibis and herons. We were also lucky enough to see two dolphins swimming past and spotted a few squirrels and a hummingbird feeding on the cactus flowers.

Drove further along the coast, past Mission Bay onto Point Loma where we had fantastic views of San Diego and right down past the Mexican border. Had a look at Old Point Loma Lighthouse that was built in 1854 and used until 1891 before a new lighthouse was built at sea level as the light from the old one was often obscured by fog and low cloud.

Went to the whale watching point, where we knew that Grey whales had just began their 12.000 mile migration trip from the Arctic to Baja California Sur bays but we didn’t see any!

Drove then to the Old Town and had a quick wander around the shops before we dropped the car back at the airport, and Candy and Jeff picked us up and took us back to the house! Played with Zoe, their adorable 2yr old, blind boxer dog before going out for a meal with Candy and the boys.

Thursday 15th December

A beautiful sunny day and an early start! Candy gave us a lift to the tram station where we bought dayrider passes for $5.00 each. Caught the tram to Old Town for a look around – most of it hadn’t opened yet so we promised ourselves another look later in the day! Took another tram to Santa Fe railway station and from there, walked to the terminal and caught the ferry across to Coronado. Walked across the island to see the Hotel Del Coronado (known as the Del), which is a Victorian hotel built in 1887, and is Americas largest wooden building. It is also famous as Marilyn Monroe stayed here quite a few times and also King Edward and Mrs Simpson came here on their honeymoon, as well as hosting several USA presidents. A very fine building!

Caught the ferry back and walked along to Seaport village passing a huge sculpture called ‘The Kiss’ and an aircraft carrier (‘Midway’) that is now a museum. Seaport was quite pretty with its little shops and restaurants and Christmas decorations everywhere.

Walked up through the oldest part of San Diego, the Gas Lamp District, passing many old Victorian buildings, before catching the No 7 bus to Balboa Park. This park was built in 1935 for the California/Pacific Exposition and is a series of fine Spanish/Mexican buildings with gardens and fountains. Very pleasant stroll, admiring the architecture and arched walkways before the skies clouded over and we decided to make our journey back.

Stopped in Old Town for a stroll around the Christmas shops, and a well deserved margarita, before catching the tram back. Candy picked us up from the station and we went back to the house where she had arranged an End of Term evening gathering for students and colleagues. Met some interesting people and ate some good food, although I think Zoe objected to missing all the action and food, as she was shut outside, her little face peering at us through the patio doors!

Friday 16th December

They had promised a blue sky day today but already there was a promise of clouds building! Candy and Jeff had taken the day off work to show us around and our first stop was their local San Diego de Alcala Mission.

It was founded in 1769 by Fr Junipero Serra and was the first of a chain off 21 Missions along the coast of California that attempted to convert the Native Indians. This was met with some resistance at first as the Mission was attacked and destroyed in 1775. However, Padre Serra returned to the site in 1776 to restore the church and gradually, increasing numbers of Indians received baptism. Unfortunately, the Mission was destroyed by earthquake in 1803 and not restored, but was re-dedicated in 1931.

From here we drove to the University of San Diego, where Candy works, and had a wander around the grounds looking at all the buildings – a lot of them had been built in the Spanish style with courtyards and arches so really quite pretty.We also went to her Department and met some of her staff and colleagues, dropping off the remnants of the party.

Back onto SH15 to Escondito and then drove on to route 78 to reach San Diego Zoo Safari Park! A huge wildlife park, set in a valley, that we couldn’t possible have done justice to. But we had a wander through the Park, (which looks more like a jungle!) stopping to look at the lions, to the Africa Tram that took us on a half hour safari ride through the plains of ‘Africa’ looking at antelope, giraffes and various other animals.

Drove across country then, through a gorge with a lake before reaching Mission Beach where we all sat down for a late lunch at “The Green Flash” – so named because of a green flash of the sun at sunset! Had a short stroll along the seafront, watching the surfers and the potential sunset, that turned out to be spectacular on our short drive to the green flash though !

Managed to get the baggage charge waived fairly easily and catching the 8.00pm flight to LA (Delta) and then a connecting flight to New York (Delta) arriving tomorrow am at 06.00am! Oh joy!

And even more joy....the first flight has been delayed by an hour so we will miss our connection flight and have to get the 11.30pm to New York.......................

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