Sunday, December 21, 2014

MELBOURNE WITH A VIRTUAL TOUR GUIDE




BILL'S OLD NEIGHBORHOOD
SOUTH YARRA

      We are enjoying a December summer in Australia. It's a beautiful country with clean air and friendly people that go out of their way to help you. Currently, we are in Melbourne, staying at an apartment that we rented through Airbnb which is every bit as nice as the website described. We are on the 23rd floor with an expansive view of the downtown skyline and surrounding area. A perfect balcony for my morning coffee and cookies.
NEPHEW BILL'S FORMER APARTMENT
SOUTH YARRA
     We also have a virtual tour guide—my nephew, Bill Peterson, who lived in Melbourne for eight years and only recently moved on to Adelaide. (See his recommendations below.)  Ron and I walked to South Yarra to take a look at his old stomping grounds and former apartment on Fitzgerald Street. This post includes photos of the lovely Victorian homes in his old neighborhood. We also stopped by the Prahran Market that he frequented—Melbourne is known for these wonderful food markets and this is one of the best. With its huge range of fresh food and baked goods, I would love to have it nearby for my shopping needs. Bill's notes follow:

Welcome to Marvelous Melbourne!  You're near where I used to live.  Here are some ideas:

1. Saint Kilda, 1/2 day, an old Victorian seaside settlement originally, though of course it's on Port Phillip Bay and not the sea!  There's a nice pier and some good walks along the beach as well as plenty of cafes on Fitzroy and Acland Streets.  Also a really cool old amusement park from the Victorian era called Luna Park. On Sunday there's an outdoor crafts market along the Esplanade.

2. Chapel Street.1/2day. An iconic Melbourne shopping street, though it's mostly fashion really and may not be of interest to everyone.  I used to live just off this street. 

3. Carlton, Lygon Street, 1/2 day.  The old Italian neighborhood and near the University of Melbourne.  A shopping/eating/walking street.

4. Melbourne's CBD, especially the famous laneways, iconically Melbourne.  You may want to sign up for a Laneways tour or else explore them on your own. They're one of the things that makes Melbourne Melbourne. There's plenty of shopping in the CBD, notably on Bourke Street.

5. The beautiful Yarra River, especially in the city centre.  Walk on both sides, cross the bridges, go to the Casino if only to walk in and out.  If you walk down to the convention centre there's a cool old sailing shop you can check out.

6. Federation Square, one of the most user-friendly city squares in the world.  The branch of the National Museum of Victoria that specializes in Australian and Aboriginal art is there in Fed Square.  Don't miss it!

7. The National Gallery of Victoria.  A beautiful building, even if you don't spend much time looking at the collection.  It's near where you are.  It's free, though if there's a special exhibition you want to see.

8. Chinatown.  It's the oldest Chinatown in a Western city and fairly big.  Combine it with a trip to the CBD.  Lots of shops and restaurants.  If you're interested in the history of Chinese immigration, there's a good museum.

9. My mom and I took the haunted tour of Melbourne.  I think the one we took started at a magic shop.  It was a PM tour and kinda fun.

10. The Melbourne Goal.  Fun for the whole family.  Don't miss it!  If you want to be creeped out take the evening (haunted) tour.

11.  For more ghoulish activity, you may be interested in the (daytime) Melbourne General Cemetery tour.  My mom and I loved it.  It was the social history of Melbourne in the late 19th and early 20th century through the tombstones!  Not for everyone in the family though.

12.  Super kid friendly: The Collingwood Children's Zoo.  A superb little petting zoo on a lovely spot on the banks of the River Yarra.  Truly one of my favorite spots in Melbourne. 

13. Take the ferry down the Yarra and across to WIlliiamston, the original colonial settlement.  A lovely little town, beautifully preserved.  1/2 day.

14. If you don't do the above, take the ferry upriver from Fed Square or across the river at the arts centre.  It's about 2 hours.  A sweet river with lovely views.


That's it for the highlights.  This is making me miss Melbourne. 


Love,

Bill
OLD VICTORIAN HOME
SOUTH YARRA

VICTORIAN HOME
SOUTH YARRA

FITZGERALD STREET
BILL'S NEIGHBORHOOD





PRAHRAN MARKET

VICTORIAN HOME
SOUTH YARRA


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

HONOLULU ---ON THE WAY TO AUSTRALIA

   
VIEW FROM HULA GRILL WAIKIKI
      We booked a flight from San Diego to Sydney, Australia on Hawaiian Airlines that required a 24 hour stopover in Honolulu (see previous post).  We decided it made some sense to break up the 16-hour flight with time in paradise. The disadvantages were the hassle of gathering up luggage, finding a taxi, and checking into a hotel for one night.

MILA SLEEPING

      It was late in the afternoon when we finally walked out of our hotel to enjoy some down time in Waikiki. After putting our toes in Mamala Bay, we continued our stroll along Kalakaua Avenue. We stopped for fish and chips along the way at the Hula Grill, (2335 Kalakaua Ave) just in time to enjoy the spectacular sunset over the turquoise waters of Waikiki. The journey continued with occasional visits to luxury hotels along the way. One of the benefits of visiting in December is a chance to see the colorful Christmas trees, decorated Hawaiian style. We arrived back at our hotel about 9 pm and were in bed shortly thereafter.
      Not surprisingly, I woke up at 4am the next morning which is about the 6am in California. It was dark, but I couldn't resist heading out for another walk.  I loved the quietness of an early morning, even though it included a few party-goers still heading home from the night before. Fortunately, McDonald’s is open 24 hours so I could get my morning coffee. Although I walked out the first time, and reentered later because I didn't want to hear the argument going on at the counter between two of the customers.
     
WAIKIKI BEACH
     I was glad for the sunrise about 5:30 am because then I felt safe walking along Kapl'olani Park to the New Otani Hotel where we stayed in the 1980s with my parents— my favorite area because it is a little more peaceful than the rest of Waikiki.
      I returned in time to hang out with my granddaughter Mila so her parents could go out for breakfast. She ate too – peas. I fed her real food for the first time using the latest in colorful plastic spoons that the babies get the pleasure of using these days.
Six-month old Mila is enjoying the travel; she likes activity, watching people and, of course, all the attention. 
RON, SUE, ANNA, JOHN & MILA
      We headed to the airport at 8:45 am the next morning for another ten hours of flying. We all agreed that the layover was an experience that we would not forget and was worth the extra effort. Fortunately, the rest of the travel went smoothly and Mila's grandpa said she was the best behaved kid on the plane (there were a lot of kids on that flight).
ROYAL HAWAIIAN RESORT

LOVE THIS TREE
SAND CASTLES


MAYBE NEXT TIME




Saturday, December 6, 2014

ANTICIPATING A VINTAGE JOURNEY TO AUSTRALIA


      It's December and we are on our way to Australia or “Down-Under.” It's one of those places that we've often considered visiting, but for various reasons it never quite happened. However, this is our time, and it seems to fit everyone's schedule. It might be a bit too hot and crowded, but nothing fits perfectly.
OH, THE PLACES YOU'LL GO!
DR. SEUSS
      We are thrilled about being accompanied by our children, including a new grandchild who at six months will never remember a thing, except through the stories and hundreds of photos that will be taken. Plus,we get the added benefit of celebrating Christmas with our nephew, Bill, who lives in Adelaide.
      I booked the flights last July which wasn't exactly easy because we are traveling during the holidays. I got it accomplished on Hawaiian Air, with a 24 hour stopover in Honolulu. The total flight time with be equal to the 15 hour nonstop flight from Los Angeles to Sydney. I think, however, the break, with the sweet smells of Hawaiian flowers and sea breezes will make the outbound trip much more palatable. We arrive in Sydney two days after we leave San Diego—24 hours just disappear due to our crossing the International Date Line.
      We plan to spend our first week in Sydney, followed by a week each in Melbourne and Adelaide. After the kids leave, Ron and I will go on to Perth followed by five days in Sydney before our return.
      December is a popular vacation time for Australians, so, I needed to get on the hotel/apartment reservations right away—they were filling up fast. We definitely preferred an apartment rental. I've had good luck booking apartments with Vrbo.com in the past, however, in Australia, Airbnb.com offered a much better selection and price. I was also impressed with the website, the convenience of paying with a credit card, and their cancellation policy. It's always a challenge to make lodging decisions when you don't know the area first hand, especially in large cities. I spent many hours perusing the Internet and finally reached a comfort level with apartments in each city. Sydney was the toughest, because it's expensive and most of the sought-after central locations were already booked. We finally chose a two-bedroom city-view apartment in Camperdown, about 30 minutes from the center with good bus service. The next three locations were also challenging and time consuming. I felt relieved when it was over—now we just hope for the best.
      We will be flying between cities on Qantas Airlines—I was able to use my British Air points for these flights because they can be shared with family and friends. Staying for a week at each destination will give us enough time to leisurely visit the sights and still allow for relaxing time with family. I'm more interested in enjoying the moment than seeing every recommended sight on the list.
      I will be bringing along Fodor's Travel Australia 2014 and an old DK Australia book. Then I will add library travel books to my Kindle right before we depart. Although easy to carry, kindle travel books are hard to skip around in, so I prefer a hard copy. The publication of travel books is on the decline now that people can search for just about all their travel needs on the Internet. Frommer's last book on Australia was 2012, and I understand that they are not coming out with a new version. I will always be partial to the Frommer books. I followed Europe on $5 a Day religiously back in 1967, when I traveled for eight weeks in Europe spending less that $5.50 per day.
      Unlike China, the visas for Australia are easy and cheap. You just go on line and order with a credit card ($20). It is linked automatically by computer to your passport number and shows up when scanned at the airport.
BONDI BEACH, SYDNEY

      Our daughter, Anna, has prepared a loose itinerary. Many beaches are on the list, including an excursion to Bondi Beach, the most famous of all in Sydney. I'm looking forward to the “not to be missed” Coast Walk from Bondi to Bronte Beach and a walk on the Sydney Harbor Bridge. Then, of course, there is the Opera House and ferry boat rides on the Sydney Harbor with its 149 miles of shoreline. Melbourne has outdoor markets, and great cuisine, and with the Yarra River cutting through the center, it should be beautiful. I'm looking forward to the old Victorian Buildings—I also heard they have great coffee houses. Next we will be on to the charming city of Adelaide and the best part of the trip—a Christmas celebration with my nephew Bill who will be competing with his mother in Minnesota for the best Swedish feast.
      Ron and I plan to stay on after the kids leave. We will fly to Perth in West Australia, which I understand is similar to San Diego. It will be fun to make the comparisons and to visit the nearby port town of Fremantle, Rottnest Island, and perhaps the Margaret River wine region.
      We will end our trip with a final five days in Sydney to include a visit to the Blue Mountains. It contains the world's widest variety of eucalyptus in one continuous forest and will be another reminder of San Diego where hundreds of these Australian trees have been planted.
      We are about to depart. I've made hard copies of all of the reservations. Contacted our apartment host in Sydney to confirm our arrival time and the baby bed. Double checked the flights to make sure nothing has changed. Checked in for our flights.
      Off we go on a new adventure and a chance to discover why Australians believe they live in the best country on earth.
      I will report along the way. Next Post: Waikiki.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

VISITING BALBOA PARK WITH A SPECIAL PERSON

SAN DIEGO AIR & SPACE MUSEUM
      This Thanksgiving I am particularly grateful for my family and a new six-month-old granddaughter who has touched our hearts in so many ways. I am looking forward to many Vintage Journeys with her.
      I met my daughter, Anna, and baby, Mila, at one of my favorite places, BalboaPark—they arrived late because Mila fell asleep in her crib. That's fine, because she enjoys life more when rested. The San Diego Air &Space Museum is one of many museums located in the park, and is free for residents on this Tuesday before Thanksgiving. Since its full of colorful airplanes, it seemed like a good choice for a six-month-old.
MILA AT AIR & SCIENCE MUSEUM
    Mila was her wide-eyed and observant self as I carried her around the museum, and showed her some of the cool airplanes on display. I want to believe that the bright-red airplane flown by Emilia Earhart made an impression on her, but I have to admit that she liked watching the other children and adults more than the planes. I still loved showing her the replica of the red Lockheed Vega 5B that Amelia Earhart flew as the first woman to fly solo nonstop across the Atlantic in 1932.
      The San Diego Air and Space Museum is recognized as one of the country's premier aerospace museums. It's located in the historic Ford Building which was built in 1935 as an exposition hall for Ford Motors. In addition to a collection of over 120 aircraft, it is home to the third largest aviation archives and library in America. It's a great museum to visit with its many shiny planes and spacecraft, some of which are hanging from the rafters. It is surrounded by a painted mural which depicts the history of human transportation. The actual Apollo 9 Command Module spacecraft capsule, with the exterior left in its original condition, and a working flying replica of Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis are my favorites. We will return someday to visit the fun kid-zone 3D/4D movie theater plus all of the hands-on interactive exhibits. Let us continue to believe that the best generation is still ahead. 

      I will be ever grateful to readers and the opportunity to write a blog. I get much satisfaction from writing and hope that I can make someones day more enjoyable.  

OUTSIDE THE ENTRANCE
SAN DIEGO AIR & SPACE MUSEUM


APOLLO 9 COMMAND MODULE
BELL AH-1E COBRA




SPIRIT OF ST. LOUIS








Tuesday, October 28, 2014

GREAT DOWNTOWN SAN DIEGO PLACES & SPACES



ORIGINAL MOSAIC TILE FLOOR
BALBOA THEATER
      This is the first year for a locally organized event called the San Diego Architecture and Design Month or “Archtoberfest.” As part of the program, “Great Downtown San Diego Places & Spaces” was offered on October 19. This included free on-site tours of several historic buildings. With a perfect 70 degree sunny day and free parking, Ron and I decided to head downtown for a good walk and a chance to visit some places that we might not have an opportunity to see again.

     Here are the highlights:

-- A visit to an old bank vault with a 47,000 pound door, and walls covered with the original safe deposit boxes. This room is in the basement of the historic San Diego Trust & Savings Bank that was built in 1928. It is now used for private dinner functions. In 2002, the bank was converted into the Courtyard by Marriott (530 Broadway) with much of its original design intact. The hand-painted stenciled ceilings and 19 types of marble from around the world were meticulously preserved.
47,000 POUND DOOR
SAN DIEGO TRUST & SAVINGS BANK

BALBOA THEATER

--A chance to hear the Balboa Theater (868 Fourth Ave.) House Organist, Russ Peck, play popular American tunes like “Thanks for the Memory” on the 1928 Wonder Morton Organ. We were also given a backstage tour. The music and historic theater reminded me of my visits to Radio City Music Hall in New York. Fortunately, the Balboa Theater avoided demolition, and after 20 years of being closed, it reopened for live theater and concerts in 2008. The original mosaic tile floor which depicts Balboa's sailing ship and “1513,” the year he reached the Pacific Ocean, still graces the entrance.

1886 JOHN GINTY HOUSE

--A self-guided tour of the the John Ginty House (1568 9th Avenue) which was built in 1886. The Queen Anne style family residence has a wrap-around veranda, turret, five fireplaces and original fir flooring. One of the many unusual touches is a faux bookcase that serves as a door to the guest bathroom. After a major renovation, it is currently on the market for $2.2 million.

STAINED GLASS DOME
HARD ROCK CAFE SAN DIEGO

--Ye Golden Lion Tavern, built in 1906, and one of the best restaurants in the West at the time, is now the Hard Rock Cafe (801 4th Ave). We enjoyed a lunch directly under the remarkable stained-glass dome from Milan, Italy, that was shipped here in pieces from it previous home at the Elks Lodge in Stockton, CA.


BUMBLE BEE SEAFOODS
--A great tour of the original 1924 Showley Brothers Candy Factory, that has been newly renovated and opened as the Bumble Bee Seafoods headquarters (280 Tenth Ave). Old photos of the candy factory and San Diego's fishing industry hang on the walls as a reminder of the past. With a view of the adjacent Petco Park from the third floor and its open office design I found the place fascinating.
US GRANT HOTEL

--Finally, a walk through the US Grant Hotel (326 Broadway) which is always open to the public and a recommended stop for anyone on a downtown tour. It was built as a hotel in 1910 by Ulysses S. Grant,Jr., to honor his father, President Ulysses S. Grant. The $1.9 million cost was staggering at that time. The second floor gallery has photos of its many famous guests like Albert Einstein, Charles Lindbergh, and over a dozen US Presidents. The hotel was purchased by the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation in 2003, returning the land “full circle” to its original ancestors. It was reopened in 2006 after a $52 million restoration, with every effort made to return it to its original splendor. Old postcards were used for reference in the renovation, and they are currently framed for viewing in the gallery.

Fourteen thousand steps later, we were ready to head home. You might question the number of steps; however, if you knew my husband and his attachment to numbers and gadgets, you would understand. He religiously records his daily steps using an app on his android called S Health/Walking Mate. (Sorry Doc, he is not getting the 10,000 steps in every day that you recommended.)


US GRANT HOTEL

Thursday, October 16, 2014

THE HUNTINGTON LIBRARY, ART COLLECTIONS, AND BOTANICAL GARDENS

THE DESERT GARDENS

HUNTINGTON'S MANSION
VERANDA

      The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens are located in a residential neighborhood of palatial homes in San Marino, CA, about twelve miles from downtown Los Angeles. The property was originally called the San Marino Ranch when it was purchased by Henry E. Huntington in 1903. He was a successful investor in the railroad industry and real estate. His special love and knowledge of books, art, plants, and trees resulted in his amassing one of the finest research libraries in the world, significant art collections, and gardens.
      When Henry first purchased the working ranch in 1903, it was covered with citrus groves, alfalfa crops, poultry, and small herds of cows. Working with his superintendent, William Hertrich, Henry developed over 120 acres into gardens of rare and exotic plants from all over the world. Among the most popular is the Japanese Garden, which includes a drum bridge, Japanese house, and walled Zen garden. The desert garden is one of the largest cacti and succulent gardens in the world with over five thousand species of plants. You couldn't miss the sweet scents when walking through the rose gardens.
      We arrived when it opened at 10:30 am on October 4, and with a weather forecast of over 100 degree F, it was not crowded. Due to the heat, we were the only ones to join the one and one-half hour garden tour. Fortunately, our informative guide made sure stops were in the shade.
      There are currently more than three thousand trees on the property, including hundreds of Huntington's favorite oak and palm trees. Our guide pointed out the Pinus coulter, which produces the largest cone of any pine tree species. Its nickname is the widow maker because the cones can weigh up to ten pounds (people are actually advised to wear hardhats when working in Coulter pine groves). I could easily spend many more hours perusing these twelve lovely gardens, especially in the spring when the roses and camellias are at their peak. There was a large shaded veranda at the front of Huntington's mansion with comfortable chairs—not a bad place to take it all in on such a warm October day.
      After our tour through the gardens, it was time to move into the three air-conditioned buildings that house the art collections and library. Our first stop, the Virginia Steele Scott Galleries of American Art, includes 18 rooms full of paintings, sculpture, and decorative arts from the colonial period through the middle of the 20th century. My favorite piece of work is by an American artist, Mary Cassatt (1844-1926), entitled Breakfast in Bed. I think I was partial to the painting because it reminded me of my daughter, Anna, and her baby, Mila.
Breakfast in Bed  by Mary Cassatt
      Next, we visited the Huntington Art Gallery which offers magnificent works of art, and an opportunity to see the original early Huntington residence. Although many of the rooms have been converted into art galleries, one still gets a glimpse of the opulent lifestyle of one of the richest families in America in the early 1900s. The focus in this gallery is European art from the 15th to the early 20th century. Among the famous paintings is the Blue Boy by Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788). This was purchased by Henry Huntington in 1921 at a price of $640,000 ($8.5 million in 2014), making it a record price for art at the time.
Blue Boy by Thomas Gainsborough
      At the entrance to the mansion is a life sized painting of a stern looking woman with thick black- rimmed glasses, dressed in widow's weeks. It is Arabella Huntington, the second wife of Henry, and before that, the second wife of Henry's uncle Collis Huntington. After the death of Collis in 1900, she always wore black when in public even after marrying Henry in 1913. They married in their 60s, and shared interests and expertise in collecting. The story of her life from modest beginnings to becoming one of the richest women in the world is fascinating. I am looking forward to reading the well researched 2013 book: The Art of Wealth:The Huntingtons in the Gilded Age by Shelly M. Bennett.
      Our visit would not have been complete without a stop at the Library where Henry E. Huntington collected millions of rare books and manuscripts. It's considered the largest library ever assembled by one person and currently holds about nine million items. Among them is a Gutenberg Bible on vellum and a world-class collection of the early editions of Shakespeare's work. For qualified scholars, it is one of the largest and most complete humanities research libraries in the US.
      We left about 4:30 when they closed—glad to have had a full day visit without rushing—the vintage way. By then we were hungry and thirsty so we stopped at Maria's Italian Kitchen, 3537 E. Foothill Blvd, Pasadena. It was a good choice. Ron had three rather large meat balls with melted cheese over them and I enjoyed a caprese salad and french fries. Later we walked around old Pasadena, enjoying all the activity and peering into the interesting restaurants and shops.
      We are fortunate for the generosity of Henry E. Huntington who left his entire estate in a public trust for all of us to enjoy.

Garden Door

The Long Leg by Edward Hopper 

The Gutenberg Bible
Desert Garden
Japanese Gardens
Chinese Gardens


Friday, September 26, 2014

VISIT TO THE NAVAL AIR STATION, NORTH ISLAND CORONADO

USS PINCKNEY (DDG 91)
Motto: "Proud to Serve" 

USS PINCKNEY & USS SOMERSET
CORONADO BRIDGE IN BACKGROUND

      It's Fleet Week in San Diego with many opportunities for the community to honor and celebrate the men and women of the military.
      It is during this time, on September 21-22, 2014, that the public is invited to visit the Naval Air Station North Island, and to enjoy free tours of three active US Navy ships. The chance to personally board and walk around these huge technological wonders is an opportunity that Ron and I could not resist.
      We found it interesting to drive through the main gate, and then drive through the base, normally off limits to the public, to the parking lot. NAS Coronado is the largest command center in the southwest region of the US. It resembles a small city and employs over 24,000 military and civilian personnel. It is also famous for being the Birthplace of Naval Aviation.
      After parking and going through security, we walked a short distance to where the buses were loading to head over to the ships. We were in line for about one hour. It started out as a cloudy morning, however, the sun finally came out and it was warm. Once we reached the docks, we had the options of boarding a destroyer, an aircraft carrier, and an amphibious transport dock.
      Our first stop was the destroyer, USS Pinckney (DDG 91), home based in San Diego. The uniformed Navy personnel conducting the tours and greeting the visitors were polite and friendly. There was plenty of time for questions during the one-hour tour. It did require walking up (and then down) six floors of narrow steep stairwells that were definitely not made for tall persons—at 5'7” that would include me. We also got to sit in the captain's chair at the bridge of the vessel.
VINTAGE RUNS THE SHIP


      Our next visit was the USS Nimitz (CVN 68) which was launched in 1972 and weighs 101,600 tons. It is the super carrier of the US Navy and one of the largest warships in the world. Formerly based in Coronado, the home port is now Everett, Washington. At 1,092' in length, it is twice as long as the Pinckney (520 ft). It was fascinating to see the magnitude of the deck where aircraft are launched with the help of a catapult.To get to the flight deck, we rode the gigantic airplane elevator without walls.
      Finally, we boarded the USS Somerset (LPD 25), an amphibious transport dock based in San Antonio, TX. Commissioned in 2014, it's the newest ship in the Navy. Its namesake and motto “Let's Roll” are to honor the bravery of the passengers and crew on hijacked United Airlines flight 93 that crashed in Somerset County, PA. In addition, street names from Somerset are hung along the hallways throughout the ship.
      We then returned to the center, where there were dozens of aircraft, military boats, and vehicles for viewing. Most of them could be boarded, which was extremely popular with the children. We found the representatives at each display to be very informative.
      After four and one-half hours of walking and standing in the sun, we were tired and ready to head out. Unlike most events, this one did not offer food for purchase so we were hungry as well. On the way home we stopped at our favorite restaurant, the Coronado Brewery, where Ron enjoyed his usual bratwurst burger and beer.
      Thank you to the men and women in uniform who so valiantly serve our country. They deserve our support and prayers in this time of uncertainty in the world.
TOUR GUIDES
USS PINCKNEY (DDG 91)
USS NIMITZ

USS NIMITZ (CVN 68)
FLIGHT DECK RUNWAY


DRONE
SCORPION TWO

USS SOMERSET (LPD 25)
MOTTO "LET'S ROLL"