San Diego - October 25, 2009


For our last full day in California, we took the old town trolley to several tourist locations in San Diego. Our first stop was at the fascinating Balboa Park, which celebrates San Diego's Spanish history and culture.

Balboa Park is home to 15 museums, several performing arts venues, botanical gardens, an international culture center, an open gallery market and the San Diego zoo. We took this photo of the San Diego Museum of Man from the zoo's gondola ride. The tower can be seen throughout the park.


The stunning Spanish architecture throughout the park is the legacy of two expositions, the 1915-1916 Panama-California Exposition and the 1935-1936 California Pacific International Exposition.


We started our day at the botanical garden.

The garden was very peaceful and the highlight was definitely the orchids.

The garden is housed in what looks like an old aircraft hanger.

We were lucky enough to visit Balboa Park on the day of an orchid contest and sale.

The entire room smelled heavenly.

Nina really liked the orchid varieties with frilled edges.


The orchids with long stems of multiple buds were also incredible.

The best in show orchid in a beautiful cherub lined planter.

Nina calls this orchid, “Fu Manchu,” because it looks like an old Chinese man's beard.

Several varieties of orchid had this strange pouch. Nina loves orchids because they remind her of her Great Aunt Doris who loved them.

The ornate entrance to the Casa del Prado theater. I imagine it would have been spectacular to see some theater at this venue.

Next, we checked out the art galleries and outdoor booths at the Spanish marketplace.

The local kids loved this artsy fishing tank.

The best part was the musician playing relaxing, romantic bossa nova music.

On Sundays, the International Cottages are open. The cottages, representing twenty countries from around the world, are decorated with each country's handicrafts and history and are staffed by volunteers who pass out regional delicacies and answer questions about their homelands. Each Sunday, one country is the featured country, with music, dancing and food in the park. The day we visited, Scotland was the featured country. We visited the cottages of Sweden, Norway, Poland, Estonia, Israel, Czech Republic, China, Hungary, Denmark, Philippines and France. Sadly, we didn't have enough time to visit Germany, Turkey, Puerto Rico, Spain and a few more.

Next, we hopped back on the Old Town Trolley and drove through the Little Italy area on our way to the Spanish Old Town of San Diego. This original Spanish settlement is now a barrage of Mexican restaurants and Mexican marketplace shopping.

The Heritage Park consists of several original, historic homes from the late 1800s.

Nina particularly likes the Queen Ann style. Chris thinks the historic homes look like bordellos!

This landmark home now houses an English tea room.

Old Town is basically Mexican Disneyland! This lively, outdoor restaurant is surrounded by art galleries and stores. The whole area was pretty cheesy...


We decided to end our trolley tour at the San Diego Seaport Village and take a walk along the seaside walkway to the ferry landing for Coronado Island at the San Diego Harbor. The Seaport Village was ridiculously touristy and the Ben and Jerry's charged $8.00 for a milkshake.

Along our way, we saw a kind sailor hosing off a tired, hot sea lion.

A giant sculpture of a Navy man kissing his gal...

The USS Midway docked at the San Diego harbor.

It's impressive to see several huge jets looking like ants atop a giant aircraft carrier.

The Midway is open for public tours, but sadly, we didn't have the time or the energy.

A shot of the San Diego skyline taken from the ferry to Coronado Island.

By the last night of our trip, Nina was utterly exhausted and refused to leave the hotel for dinner. So, Chris brought a pizza back to the room. Later, we went for a late night exploration of the hotel in our pajamas and bare feet. This antique chandelier hangs over the lobby.

The hotel is a labyrinth of dead end hallways, crooked floors and ceilings, tiny mysterious locked doors and twisting, creaky staircases.

The fifth floor, attic rooms were accessed by very narrow hallways with low ceilings.

Chris demonstrating the narrowness of the fifth floor, attic hallway.

By comparison, three Chris's standing arms length to arms length could easily fit across the wide third floor hallway.

A narrow hallway leading to just two guest rooms in one of the hotel's many towers. The hotel is said to be haunted by the ghost of Kate Morgan, who checked into the hotel in 1892, apparently planning to meet her estranged husband or possibly a lover. But she never checked out, five days later her lifeless body was found on an exterior hotel staircase.

Chris lounges on an antique sofa on the third floor of the hotel.

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