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.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017


     It was our last night in Auckland, and I needed to take one last stroll down Queen Street before turning in for the night. Then, I remembered those delicious-looking Hokkaido Baked Cheese Tarts that I hadn't tried yet. This was my last chance to try one of the freshly baked gems. Fortunately, the little yellow bake shop on Queen Street was still open.

     Now you must know that I am not a real foodie, and writing about food on my first post after traveling around New Zealand for a month is a little unusual. However, I can not forget those tasty little creamy, puffy, cheese tarts, with the buttery crust—by far the most scrumptious dessert I've ever had. 

     The company that produces these little gems is based in Malaysia. However, the inspiration for them came from the Hokkaido dairy of Japan. The original Hokkaido Baked Cheese Tart stores first launched in Malaysia in mid-2016 and have become a huge hit throughout Asia. The Auckland location (350 Queen Street) recently opened in August.

      The Malaysian firm, that produces the Hokkaido Baked Cheese Tarts, combines three unique cheeses to produce the savory and tart taste that makes them so famous.

     Remember that no matter how long you have been traveling, and how tired you are, there might be something new, interesting or tasty just around the corner.

Saturday, November 18, 2017


     Sixty-thousand passengers per day are expected to pass through the San Diego International Airport over the Thanksgiving holiday period. Hopefully, some of the harried travelers will take time to notice and enjoy this very special park across the way.

     Spanish Landing Park, 3900 North Harbor Drive, is a mile-long, narrow 21-acre park that parallels the busy road on one side and the West Basin with the marinas of Harbor Island on the other. Located directly across from the busy San Diego International Airport (also known as Lindbergh Field), this is a popular stopping-off point when visiting the airport. It offers a good vantage point for watching the booming jets land and take off. San Diego is one of the rare cities to have the benefit of a scenic park right at the doorstep of its major international airport.

     At the eastern end of Spanish Landing is the Cancer Survivor Park with eight impressive life-size bronze statues by Marlo Bartels, easily noticeable from N. Harbor Drive. They were donated by the Richard & Annette Bloch Foundation, as a tribute to the living and a reminder that cancer doesn't mean death. A nearby path leads to a large white gazebo with a vibrant-blue mosaic dome and six brightly-colored benches. There are plaques throughout with encouraging writings on them like: “Don't equate death and cancer,” and “Make up your mind that when your cancer is gone, you are through with it.”

A walking path and separate bikeway follow along the entire water side of the park that offer a pleasant view of the Harbor Island marinas with hundreds of yachts, fishing vessels, and sailboats. An occasional pleasure boat or helicopter passes by as I walk along the waterside path. There are benches and many eucalyptus trees for shade. At the west end of the park is a children's playgrounds, small beach and restrooms. An occasional fisherman can be found along the rocky wall facing the quay. There's plenty of metered parking available ($1 per hour).

     Located in the middle of the grounds is a historical landmark that commemorates the 1769 meeting of the Gaspar De Portolá and Father Junípero Serra expeditions that lead to the Spanish occupation of Alta California. Father Serra, founder of nine California missions was canonized by Pope Francis on September 23, 2015.

     One of my favorite bike rides in San Diego is the route which starts at the Broadway Pier and extends north along the Bay and winds through Spanish Landing Park and then on to Shelter Island in Point Loma. The one-mile ride through Spanish Landing Park is always interesting. I usually go to the very end where the pavement turns to gravel and walk my bike around and under the N. Harbor Drive bridge. From here, there is a path to the clearly visible Halsey Road pedestrian bridge, which is a nice alternative to biking or walking on Harbor Drive.

     After crossing the bridge, there is the historical landmark ship, USS Recruit, which was used by the US Navy for training up to 50,000 new recruits per year from 1949 until it was closed in 1997. The landlocked “dummy” training ship was affectionately called, the USS Neversail. From here, I make a quick stop at the nearby Starbuck's (2556 Laning Road) before heading on to Shelter Island in Point Loma.
                               HAPPY THANKSGIVING! 
                     THANKS FOR READING MY BLOG!