Monday, March 5, 2018


The Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) Clock Tower in the East Village of downtown San Diego can be seen from numerous vantage points throughout the city and Coronado. I frequently admire it from afar when walking on the Bayshore Bikeway in Coronado. Too far away to actually read the time, but it's still a reminder that time keeps moving along.
There are no bells or chimes, and it is really quite plain with just one large white clock face on all four sides of the tower that is adorned with a white pointed roof. When it lights up at night it is especially striking. Standing about 300 feet tall, it is considerably shorter than many of the nearby structures.
After admiring it from a distance, I decided to head over to the East Village to get a closer look. The MTS Clock Tower is located at the 12th & Imperial Transit Center near Petco Park and just south of the San Diego Central Library. The tall gray cement structure, with red-steel beams at the base, was built in 1988. It sits on a plaza adjacent to the James R. Mill Building/Trolley Towers that serve as a hub for the county Health and Human Services Agency. The station is a major transfer point for various trolley lines and buses. Padre fans often pass by or use this stop when attending baseball games. It's surrounded by parking structures, residential construction projects, and the San Diego Trolley maintenance yard.
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San Diego is not known for tall or famous landmark buildings. Its skyline is spread out and consists of many different types of architecture. The nearby airport serves as a deterrent to extremely tall structures. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) restricts downtown building height to a maximum of 500 feet within a one and one-half mile radius of the San Diego International Airport. The tallest building in the city is the 24-story One America Plaza that was completed in 1991 and stands 500 feet tall. 

Sunday, February 18, 2018


It was May 1981. Ron and I were walking under the covered arcades and peering into the old shops and restaurants of old Bern, Switzerland. We noticed an art gallery that was adorned with beautiful mosaics and decided to wander in. Here, we were attracted to a colorful mosaic of the Bern ClockTower (Zytglogge). The art piece was a replica of the tower as it appeared in the 16th century and as it still looks today. It was artistically constructed with hundreds of small glass tiles and stones in shades of brown, orange, gray, cream, and gold that glimmered in the light.

Ron and I are not art collectors, and it was a little unusual for us to think about purchasing a piece of art, especially when it was three feet tall and weighed at least 30 pounds. However, there was something special about this mosaic that made us decide to return to Bern on our way back home to see if it was still available.

When we returned to Bern by train, a couple of weeks later, the gallery was closed. Fortunately, a nearby shop was still open and the friendly proprietor, who also spoke English, helped us. He called the owner of the art gallery to let him know we were there. The owner arrived and let us in. We made our purchase.

The proprietor wrapped it well for us, and we carefully carried it on to the train to Frankfurt and then on to the airport the next day. There was little airport security at that time, we just lugged the heavy package on to the plane as a carry-on without any problems.

For the people of Bern there is a saying: Time is always marching on, so enjoy the next hour of your life. I will try to remember that. However, as for the mosaic of this old clock, time has never changed. 

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More than six hundred years ago the city of Bern, with its old wooden buildings, was ravaged by the great fire of 1405. The city was then rebuilt in a similar medieval style, but this time in stone. The original guard tower was rebuilt, but with the addition of a clock--it  became known as the Clock Tower. The mechanisms were completely updated in 1530 by Kaspar Bruner and are still keeping the city on time. 

The famous clock doesn't just count the minutes, it also powers an hourly performance by a dancing jester, bears, and a gilded figure name Chronos who flips an hourglass and opens his mouth with each strike of the bell. On the east side of the tower is an astrological clock and calendar.

For the past 40 years, Markus Mari has been presiding over the maintenance of this
mechanical wonder. He is also known as the Timekeeper of Bern. If time permits, it would be interesting to attend one of his three weekly tours of  the tower to see and hear the pulleys, gears, wheels. and cogs in operation.
*Photo courtesy of Bern Tourism

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Wednesday, January 31, 2018


El Campo Santo Cemetery (2410 San Diego Avenue) is a historical site on the edge of Old Town, San Diego—often missed by those walking or driving by. It's small with very little signage, even though almost 500 bodies were interred here.

There are dozens of white wooden crosses and picket fences (characteristic of Catholic cemeteries in the 1800s), some are broken or vandalized. Most of the grave sites are unmarked and placed in a rather haphazard manner. Several are surrounded by a circle of rocks, others by delicate iron fences. The grounds are bare with no grass or flowers. An adobe wall surrounds it.

Between 1849 and 1897, this was an active Catholic cemetery and the final resting place for 477 of Old Town's citizens including gamblers, bandits and others that happened to be passing through. Today, 120 years since the last burial, there are about 40 actual marked grave sites on the cemetery grounds.

Through the years, much of the original grounds have been covered over to allow for the expansion of the city. In 1889, tracks for the Santa Fe Railroad were built through the center of the cemetery. At the time the grave markers were removed, but not the physical bodies. The electric trains continued to run through the grounds on a daily basis until the 1940s. Then, the they were replaced by the expansion of San Diego Avenue for an all-bus transit system.

In 1994, a plaque was placed here to remember the more than 20 men, women and children who lie buried beneath San Diego Avenue. In addition, small brass circles that say “Grave Site” were embedded in the nearby sidewalk and street. Another plaque, near Linwood Avenue, behind the cemetery honors another 13 burials below the street. The grave sites were discovered with ground-penetrating radar.

Some of the more notorious citizens that are buried here include: James Robinson “Yankee Jim” (?-1852), a French-Canadian outlaw, who was sentenced to death by hanging for stealing the only rowboat in San Diego; and Antonio Garra, a Cupeňo Indian chief, who was convicted in 1851 of inciting the local indigenous people to revolt against the Americans and to expel them from Southern California. His sentence, death by firing squad, took place at his grave site that still can be seen within the grounds. As he was shot, he fell backward into his grave and was covered over.

Not surprisingly, this cemetery and those interred here are frequently mentioned on the the popular San Diego ghost tours.

The center of Old Town, San Diego, is beautifully maintained as a State Historic Park. However, El Santo Campo Cemetery lies outside those boundaries and is owned and maintained by the City of San Diego. There have been many plans through the years to restore and protect the cemetery, however, to date, not much has been accomplished. It's just old and left alone on the edge of Old Town, one of San Diego's most popular tourist destinations. I find the old place intriguing and often return for a visit when I'm in the area. I expect that in time it will be restored, but for now, I like it the way it is.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018


Travel & Adventure shows are the #1 series of travel shows in the U.S. They are held in eight separate locations throughout the country from January through March. The first show of 2018 was held in San Diego on January 13-14.

With over 140 exhibits, four stages, dance performances, and cooking presentations, deciding where to spend my time is always a challenge. However, since I enjoy hearing travel stories almost as much as I love to travel, I head for the travel theater to listen to travel stars like Samantha Brown, Peter Greenberg, Rudy Maxa, and Patricia Schultz share their adventures and expertise. 

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SamanthaBrown has always been one of the most popular speakers, and this year was no exception. She's been hosting television travel shows for over 15 years and recently launched her own public television series, Places to Love. The series of ten half-hour episodes feature places throughout the world, with the goal of getting to know the places directly from the people who live there and know it best. Samantha has the wonderful ability to make travel look like fun and making the art of conversation look easy.

If the programs are not yet available in your viewing area, you can download the PBS app and watch them anytime for free. I just now signed up for the app and spent 30 enjoyable minutes with “Samantha Brown in Bern, Switzerland”—I couldn't recommend her show more highly. The next episode takes place in Brooklyn, NY, it should be good because that's where she currently hails from.

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Rudy Maxa, travel expert, writer, and television personality, has produced 85 travel shows for public television. He is producer of the popular weekly radio program, Rudy Maxa's World with the Carey's.

As usual, he had some words of wisdom to share with the audience:

--If you want to go somewhere, set the date and work your      schedule  around it—or it just won't happen.
--Engage with the locals more. A few suggested websites:,,
--Every place can be discovered—it can also become your next favorite place.
--Travel in your own hometown.

Then, a few interesting facts: the average American takes 3.8 days of vacation per year; the first commercial jet air flight was in 1952; the Milestone Motel in San Luis Obispo, California, opened in 1925—it was the first motel in the world. At that time, you could rent a two-bedroom bungalow with a kitchen for $1.25 a night. It closed in 1991, however, you can still see part of the original structure if you are driving along Hwy 101 halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

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PeterGreenberg, an Emmy Award-winning journalist and CBS News Travel Editor, travels 420,000 miles a year. Of the many programs he has produced for public television, a favorite is The Royal Tour. In this series he does one-on-one journeys through countries with their heads of state.

Here are his predictions for the most popular travel destinations of 2018:

Portugal with its high standard living at a low cost. TAP, the Portugal airlines,MM allows for free five day layovers in Portugal before flying on to your final destination.
Malta, a southern European island country is also on the list. Only a two-hour flight from Rome—offering a warm climate, great food, historical monuments and three UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Valletta, the Megalithic Temples of Malta, and Hal Saflieni Hypogeum (underground cemetary).
Baja California, Mexico, is well known for it hundreds of miles coastline, however, the hidden secret is great wine. Wine tours have become popular and Baja now exports 75% of its wine to France.
The Faroe Islands, halfway between Iceland and Norway, are best visited in the summer when there are 22 hours of daylight. It consists of 18 islands and many are connected by underground tunnel roads.
Chile is another popular destination. A place of natural beauty with mountains, coastline, national parks, forests, and lakes to enjoy.
Detroit, Michigan, the motor city, is making a comeback due to its restoration of buildings, parks, and restaurants along the riverfront.
York, Pennsylvania, is considered a good place to learn about American history while enjoying great food. It's also known as the factory tour capital of the world. It sounds like a great place for a family vacation.

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Just on last thing: I didn't spend my entire time at the travel theater. I also stopped to visit Eli the camel and took advantage of the free camel ride that is provided to all visitors at the Travel & Adventure show. I guess that qualifies me for a three- day camel safari ride.                                                                                               


Thursday, December 21, 2017


            “Childhood is the most beautiful of all life's seasons.”
                                                                    -Author Unknown

     Our family journey to New Zealand this past November included our 3 1/2-year-old granddaughter, Mila. We felt blessed to have her along. Ron and I found that in some ways she was easier to travel with than our own children were—probably because her parents were never more than a cell phone call away.

     Here are some special times that Mila and I had together in this child-friendly nation, south of the equator, and 6,500 miles from home:

     On Mila's first morning in New Zealand (Ron and I arrived two days earlier) we headed out early to find the Up Cafe for breakfast. She asked for my map so she could pretend to help me find the way because I told her I was a little lost as usual. Once we found the restaurant, she ordered hot chocolate which she drank by the spoonful. It took over an hour to finish, and she did not want anything else to eat. Perhaps we could count the two marshmallows that came with it as breakfast.

   When returning from Silo Park, located on the waterfront in Auckland, we arrived at the pedestrian lift bridge, Wynyard Crossing, just as the gate was closing. Mila quietly sat down on a nearby embankment and watched intently as the bridge lifted for a passing boat.

   Whenever Mila and I were out together, she immediately gave us each an assigned name for the day. Most often, she was Elsa and I was Anna—characters from her favorite Disney movie Frozen. One day, when we were at a playground in Queenstown, Mila told a little Chinese girl that her name was Elsa, and then she held out her arm and told the girl's little brother to freeze when he was misbehaving. I just hope she doesn't use fictitious names when she's trying to make new friends in her neighborhood.

New Zealand is a wonderful child-friendly nation. In addition to numerous playgrounds, the restaurants often have little play areas or shelves full of children's books and toys. I also noticed that the locals took time to stop and visit with Mila. The museums often had areas dedicated to children. The world famous Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington, with its many discovery centers for children, provided hours of creative play for Mila and a much needed break for her parents.

We stayed at a lot of nice places on our journey. However, if Mila were to choose her favorite, it would be, without a doubt, the Red Tussock Motel in Te Anau. This is because of the little swing set (the kind that we had in the 50s and 60s) with just two swings and a small slide that she spotted immediately. I think it was the first time in her life that she had her own private swing set that she could enjoy to her heart's content.

     We returned to Auckland at the end of our journey shortly after Thanksgiving and the beginning of the Christmas season. As Ron, Mila, and I were walking along Queens Street on our last day, Mila noticed the colorful animated window display at Smith & Caughey's. This is the oldest and most loved department store in Auckland. They decorate their windows annually for children to enjoy. This year it was based on the children's book A Pirate's Night Before Christmas. Grandpa read the script to her, while they happily walked along, looking at each of the displays, as the music played. For many Aucklanders, it's not Christmas until they've experienced these windows in all their glory. So come all ye pirates, joyful & otherwise. .” by author, Philip Yates.

     Mila still remembers the window display in Auckland because she mentioned it last night while we were watching the San Diego boat parade. It also had a santa pirate theme.

    I wonder how many other events from her 30 days in New Zealand she will remember through the years. 

Thursday, December 7, 2017



     What was your favorite place?: a common question most of us
are asked when we return from a trip, and sometimes I don't have an obvious answer. One highlight of my trip to New Zealand in November was the Milford Sound. In fact, this two-hour cruise on the fjord out to the Tasman Sea and back was one of the most spectacular scenic boat rides of my life. I stood outside on the deck, most of the way, observing the incredible beauty of this ten-mile long, narrow inlet (fjord) surrounded by steep cliffs capped with fresh snow. Dozens of waterfalls completed the scene. The towering beauty and majesty of the famous Mitre Peak (5,522 feet) stands above them all. It is so named because of its resemblance to a bishop's mitre.

The ship moved slowly up and down the inlet for the 10 miles to the sea with our commentator pointing out sights along the way. Passengers could move around and choose to sit or stand on any of the three floors of the catamaran, both inside and out. Seals, penguins, and dolphins frequent the waters here; we were fortunate to see them all. Our captain went up close to the rocks and slowed the boat so we could get a good view of the rare Fjordland crested penguins—I think the staff was just as thrilled as we were to see them as they will depart soon when the nesting season ends. They also pointed out seals sunning themselves on a rock. We then had the benefit of observing bottlenose dolphins that are among the largest in the world.

   One of the popular events of the cruise is to give interested passengers an opportunity to stand outside on the front deck and experience what it's like to be directly under a large waterfall. I happened to be at the bow of the boat when they announced that the waterfalls were ahead of us. I decided to stay on deck to see what it was all about. After all, my new hooded jacket was suppose to be waterproof. We did get drenched, but it was fun. I stayed dry, except for my jeans. The crowd was also singing “Happy Birthday” to a woman whose friends apparently thought that getting drenched under a waterfall was the perfect birthday present.
     Milford Sound (pop.120) is known to be the wettest inhabited place in New Zealand and one of the wettest in the world. The annual rainfall is 252 inches. It is still beautiful in the rain as they say, however, I don't think it could match the perfectly sunny and warm day that we experienced. Like everything else in life, a little bit of luck helps. (The week before, it snowed here, and the road to Milford Sound was closed for a day.).

     For most visitors the two-hour drive on winding mountainous roads with single lane tunnels and bridges is a requirement to see the Milford Sound. The road was completed in 1953, and the 75-mile drive to Milford Sound from Te Anau has earned World Heritage Highway status for its beauty. Milford Trek, acclaimed as one of the great walks of the world, ends at Sandfly Point in Milford Sound. The challenging 55 km (34 miles) hike goes in one direction only and takes fours days to complete. Reservations must be made in advance.

     Milford Sound is located in the Fjordland National Park on the west coast of the south island of New Zealand. With over a half million visitors per year, it is the most popular of the 15 fjords located in the park, also notable are Doubtful Sound and Dusky Sound. Although named otherwise, the sounds are fjords which are valleys carved by the pressure and power of glaciers during successive Ice Ages. They were later flooded by the sea as the ice melted and sea levels rose.