Friday, April 27, 2018

Coronado offers delightful village ambiance, first-class amenities

The Bluewater Boathouse, near Hotel del Coronado stands stately on a recent rainy evening.  The restaurant mimics the beautiful Hotel Del architecture, lovely by day or night. Hornblower Cruises offers a lovely dinner cruise, passing under the majestic Coronado Bridge with a view of  The Del and the Boathouse.Consider Hornblower for its popular Sights and Sips.
The Coronado Bridge, opened in 1969, is becoming a
symbol of San Diego, much like the Golden Gate to
San Francisco. A Hornblower Cruise goes under it.  



Coronado has the feel of a small town, with fine food, plays,
fun shopping, a relaxed environment, bicyclers and the beach.
Lamb's Players Theatre offers delightful, professional plays,
including the current hit production of  the farce "Noises Off!"

WE'D SAILED UNDER the impressive Coronado Bridge many times with our favorite Hornblower Cruises.  Finally, I drove across it, viewing Coronado from land rather than sea.
The occasion was a play at the famous Lamb's Players Theatre on Orange Street. My husband, a San Diego native son, had long raved about the theater and its prime location on Orange Street, the main artery. He loves theater and the bridge and said the Hotel del Coronado was a must. As theater junkies, bridge climbers and vintage hotel fans, a visit was a fine way to satisfy those interests.
"Coronado has the feeling of a village," Keller said as we parked. He was right.
SITUATED JUST across the bay from downtown San Diego, Coronado has maintained its "small town" feel with a lovely beach, charming shops and attractive restaurants. It's a walkable town, where locals and tourists mingle -- a pleasant blend of stollers, bicyclers, dog walkers and vacationers enjoying cocktails or a leisurely meal. We joined other play-goers on Orange Avenue for a drink and supper after an excellent matinee at Lamb's Players Theatre.
ITS PERFECT BEACH is often voted "best in the U.S." My surfer husband says its waves are gentle and appealing.
The stately Hotel del Coronado is an easy walk from the beach, Lamb's
Players Theatre, a choice of fun restaurants and colorful galleries and shops.
We're fans of fine old hotels and  Hotel del Coronado is that and more. Built in 1888 it is beloved by Hollywood stars, dating back to Charlie Chaplin, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. "The Del" has 25 films and TV shows to its credit. At least a dozen presidents have visited and "The Wizard of Oz" author L. Frank Baum stayed at the hotel for years, writing his Oz series there from 1904 to 1910.  Marilyn Monroe's "Some Like It Hot" was filmed at The Del.  FOUNDERS ELISHA Babcock

Sailboats dot the bay on a recent sunny day, viewed from the Coronado bridge.
and Hampton L. Story would be pleased. They dreamed their seaside resort would be “the talk of the Western world.” They designed the slope of the charming main street and laid out the village for family homes, shops,  and romantic inns and cafes to appeal to vacationers.
CORONADO WAS  a baby when "The Del" was built -- just a few families.  Now it is home to over 25,000 people.  Coronado isn't exactly an island, connected to the mainland as it is.  The architecture and easy-going feeling are part of the allure. Its  lively appeal includes Mexican influence, old-world military personnel, beach culture, Hollywood glamour and its unique local history. For my money, the best way to enjoy a view of the spectacular Coronado Bridge and Coronado is to take a Hornblower cruise -- dinner cruise is ideal -- and watch Coronado light up.;;
BEST BET: "South Pacific" opens at Horton Grand Theater in San Diego.  As a youngster, I saw Mary Martin "Wash That Man Right Out of My Hair" and love this grand old musical. It's not only a stirring love story, but a lesson on tolerance. San Diego Musical Theater opens the beloved musical this weekend,  through May 27.
The famed Cannes Film Festival opens soon, and we'll take you there.

****************************NEXT UP: Cannes. Long the most famous of festivals, it's time for the Cannes Film Festival in southern France.  We take you to the Cote d'Azur, one of the first modern resort areas of Europe, to look at the stately architecture, sail boats, casinos and restaurants. Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us each week when we post a fresh take on travel, the arts, nature, family and more.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Legoland delights: SoCal theme park offers fun for children of all ages

Penelope Margaret and James Brian Ganner prepare their take off for a day of frolic at Legoland, north of San Diego.
Ready for their Legoland close-ups, from left:  Amarylla Ganner, Penelope Ganner,
Christene Meyers, aka Cookie, and James Brian Ganner, on a recent visit to the resort.



LEGOLAND is more fun than I'd imagined.  But only if undertaken with a least one child.  Two is better. Add their energetic mother and you're set for a time of adventure, laughs, discovery, family togetherness.
James and Peny Ganner pose in front of a giant Lego dinosaur.
I invited my niece, Amarylla Ganner, and her two eager youngsters, Penelope and James Ganner. (James is building an entire Lego city and is enraptured with Legos.)  The three flew in from San Francisco so we headed north to Carlsbad to check into a lovely ocean view room. The welcoming Hilton Garden Inn Carlsbad is a quick five minutes from famed Legoland, whose locations include Europe and Asia. The SoCal Legoland has its own flashy lego-theme hotel, too, but we opted for the ocean view the Hilton offered. We were pleased with friendly, helpful personnel, a lovely happy hour with fine fare and decent wine, quiet rooms, pleasant landscaping and made-to-order breakfasts in a cheery environment.
"Wow." Peny and her mum, Amarylla, enjoy the Coast Cruise 
which takes passengers via waterway to view landmarks,
animals and famous buildings from around the world.
Checking into a pretty ocean-view room at
Hilton Garden Inn Carlsbad: Amarylla,
Peny and James Ganner and Auntie Cookie.
James and Peny Ganner give the peace sign to chef Kevin,
as thanks for their custom-made breakfast.
WE ENJOYED a pleasant dinner, the kids played in the pool then we slept, dined on the kids' favorite chocolate chip pancakes, served by cheery  chef Kevin.  We hit the decks early for a fun, full and happy day of "Legoland" overload.  Legos, if you've been on another planet, are those interlocking plastic bricks made by a smart Dane in 1949.  Kids love them as they're both play toys and an educational tool. Legoland's huge theme park has dozens of attractions, rides, shows, shops and restaurants. Most families plan at least two days to do it justice.  We crammed our visit into a single long day, knowing we'll return.

A fascinating Legoland New York scene
is in one of several miniature cities.
--Amarylla Ganner photo
 THE SHORT DRIVE from the Garden Inn took us through an imposing entrance lined with all manner of Lego movie and cartoon characters -- lifesize and larger.  The invention is Danish and the name 'Lego' is an abbreviation of two Danish words "leg godt," meaning "play well." We certainly did, beginning with a fun cruise around the world, through Miniland's array of iconic buildings: the Eiffel Tower, Taj Mahal, Big Ben -- all made of legos. Millions and millions of Legos.
James says "way cool" to the
Legoland Taj Mahal, a bit smaller
than the original in India.
On to a Lego "Star Wars" display with all the beloved characters, then Castle Hill with its "Dragon Coaster," which the kids loved.  Legoland's Ninjago World offers a rock climb and temple build. There are pharaohs, fairies, stables with Lego horses to ride and a dig for dinos.
THE THEME park is enjoyable for adults, too, but it's much more fun with a kid or two in tow.  The friendly staff trades Lego figures, and our kids came prepared.
Handicapped access is available throughout the resort and children with developmental difficulties get special attention.
The expansive, well organized attraction is divided into three parts, with a beautifully designed aquarium and a fun water park too. Too much for a single day, so Legoland, prepare: we'll be back.

Josh Young and Ester Rada star
in "Soul Doctor" at the Lyceum.
Their chemistry is electric.
BEST BET: A high-energy biographical musical, "Soul Doctor," is on stage in San Diego only through April 22 at the Lyceum Theatre  downtown. The high-energy musical tale tells the unlikely but true story of real-life "singing rabbi" Shlomo Carlebach and his remarkable  friendship with singer Nina Simone, the high priestess of soul. A spirited and versatile cast, particularly the two lead players, tell the fascinating story with fun dancing, and creative staging which includes musicians both on stage and in the wings. Catch it at the Lyceum before the show begins a world tour that includes Israel, where Rada grew up and is a star. One of the hottest bands to play the Lyceum conveys the delightful score and many of the actors play instruments too. The Holy Beggars are conducted by talented Rick Fox on piano.

The view from The Boathouse Restaurant offers a stunning
look at the Hotel Del Coronado, 
 **************UP NEXT:
Coronado, known to locals as "the 
Island," is home to around 25,000 people.
Located in San Diego County, it is a prized
vacation spot with gentle surf, inviting beaches,
a charming main street with pretty shops, 
terrific theater by Lamb's Players and great 
hotels, including the famous Hotel del Coronado.
We visit this romantic getaway next week. 
Remember to explore, learn and live and catch
us Fridays when we post for each weekend.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Pop in to Peggy Sue's, for fun film decor, diner food served with flair

Peggy Sue's diner is a classic '50s diner, with fine food and a treasure trove of  movie memorabilia collected by its owners.
Dine with Elvis, James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, John Wayne and many others from the movie glory days of the 1950s. 


Peggy Sue Gabler was a Hollywood actor in the 1950s. Her husband,
Champ, worked nearby at Knott's Berry Farm, Los Angeles. The couple
developed the diner as a colorful way to share their extensive memorabilia.





Actor James Dean leads the way to the colorful restroom.
Behind the Dean manikin are photos of him with
Marilyn Monroe, and other classic Hollywood portraits. 
IF YOU ARE old enough to remember the colorful diners and coffee shops of the 1950s, you'll find yourself in nostalgia heaven at Peggy Sue's '50s Diner, an original roadside attraction built in 1954.
Turn your mental clock back 60-plus years, to the movies, fashions, food and fads of the day.
Prepare your taste buds and sharpen up your sense of humor. Hit the I-15 and take the Ghost Town exit near Yermo. You'll be at Peggy Sue's, where friendly smiles and speedy service begin your journey into the past.  Take your pick from nine counter stools and three boths. Have a look at the hot pink menu, place your order, then enjoy the ambiance and a pleasant overload of movie memorabilia.
PERHAPS YOU'LL choose the Marlon Brando mushroom cheese burger, or the Buddy Holly bacon cheese burger. Maybe you fancy a Patti Page tuna melt or John Wayne's barbecue sandwich. Gary Cooper's ham and cheese on rye is tasty and Fabian's French dip charmed photographer Keller, who wandered around the place with his cameras for over an hour. Peggy Sue's is pure fun, with a capital "F."
Set in the shadow of the Calico Mountains, the diner was built from railroad ties and held together with mortar from the nearby Union Pacific Rail Yard.
Portraits of many Hollywood stars -- most of
them signed -- cover the walls at Peggy Sue's.
Our planned "quick stop" turned into a two-hour journey down Memory Lane with a leisurely lunch and enjoyable self-guided tour.
A fun little gift shop sells all manner of memorabilia,
posters, signs, and many fun road-trip souvenirs.
Peggy Sue's waitresses greet you in colorful pastels reminiscent of the
1950s diners where a good burger and piece of pie were standard fare.
The place induced such a happy reverie that we plan to return each time we drive through the desert on our frequent forays to and from Las Vegas. The imaginatively decorated diner is a love song to the 1950s,  crafted by a California couple whose enthusiasm for Hollywood and show business is contagious.
The Duke has plenty of wall space at Peggy Sue's.
The ladies restroom offers this
surprise! A mural, all in good fun.
CHAMP AND PEGGY Sue Gabler came to Yermo from Southern California in 1981, and rescued the diner which was falling into disrepair. After careful restoration, they opened it in 1987, using their memorabilia, imaginations and elbow grease. The result is a kitschy "not to miss" place to stop for fine fare and  nicely preserved movie  souvenirs and effects. Peggy Sue's Diner is a 10,000-square-foot '50s fantasyland with Tinseltown memorabilia and many famous customers.  For us, it livens up the tedious drive between Los Angeles or San Diego and Las Vegas.
IT'S A THROWBACK to another time.  This '50s style diner entertains with remarkable memorabilia, friendly service and fine fare. And yes, chicken fried steak, great burgers and meatloaf appear, along with homemade pie and sodas fresh from the fountain. This treasure is in Yermo, California. 
***************************************************************************************BEST BET: "How the Other Half Loves" is funny, sexy well acted diversion on stage at North Coast Rep
The ensemble in "How the Other Half Loves" at North Coast
Repertory Theatre in San Diego: front, L-R: Benjamin Cole,
Noelle Marion, Sharon Rietkirk; Rear, L-R: James Newcomb,
Jacqueline Ritz, Christopher Williams.--Aaron Rumley photo

Cookie (aka Christene Meyers) prepares for an assault on LEGOLAND with
her niece, Amarylla Ganner, and great-niece and nephew, Peny and James Ganner.
FANS OF WITTY British comedies will delight in a charming production at San Diego's North Coast Repertory Theater. Sir Alan Ayckbourn's "How the Other Half Loves," is a fast-paced farce featuring a gifted ensemble. Three married couples and clever tricks of time and place, tell of an adulterous affair between a married man and his boss’s wife. Precise timing, clever dialogue, skillful direction are in store, plus a dinner scene to amuse. Head to Solana Beach for intrigue, irony, jealousy, misunderstanding, humor and forgiveness. A  crack cast and Geoffrey Sherman's fine direction deliver Ayckbourn's vintage stagecraft with flying colors.
******************************* **********
UP NEXT: Get ready for LEGOLAND! Rest up folks, because it's going to be a hectic, lively ride. We took to the famous amusement diversion recently, with our niece and her two enthusiastic youngsters. We rode rides, admired all the Legoland characters, stayed in the lovely nearby Hilton Garden Inn, walked miles and came back happy -- and exhausted. Tips on taking kids to the engaging site, and more. Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us Fridays when we post a lively look at travel, the arts, family and nature.

Friday, April 6, 2018

'Beachtown' charms with spirited acting, old-fashioned sincerity

The high-energy cast of "Beachtown" includes Jason Heil as Steve Novak, mayor of Beachtown, Lee Ann Kim as Susan Suhiro, town archivist. William “B.J.” Robinson asmusic teacher Bob Ruby, and Marci Wuebben as Donna French, an activist resident of the fictional town. Photo by Daren Scott.

  San Diego Rep premier boasts energetic staging, local references, audience involvement and dessert

PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER and courtesy SD Rep

'BEACHTOWN' is playing downtown in the theater mecca of San Diego. It's part revival meeting, a splash of pot luck, part pep rally, shades of a political assembly and a little '60s sing-along. That adds up to 100 per cent-plus  entertainment.

William "B.J." Robinson plays Bob Ruby, Beachtown music teacher.
Above, Marci Wuebben and Antonio T.J. Johnson are involved residents.

You may enter the Lyceum a cynic,  thinking it all sounds a bit corny.  Give it a few moments.  Before long, you'll be a believer, for "Beachtown" weaves a spell on its audience. It makes us believe that civic dialogue, courteous listening and respectful debate are possible even in these jaded times.

Salomon Maya plays Benny Ramos-
Leibowitz, councilman
THE PREMISE is that we're returning to the fictional Beachtown for the once-a-decade opening of a time capsule, also the 100th year anniversary of the capsule. Our charge is to vote one new item into the capsule and retire one that no longer fits the town's mood and sensibilities.
 The Rep's always cordial usher corps gets us in the mood by welcoming fellow "Beachtonians"  and wishing "Happy Time Capsule Day," then offering the audience tasty desserts and name tags, just like an old-fashioned church social or college mixer.
When the sweets buffet is retired, the Mayor Steve Novak steps forward to welcome us and explain the premise. Jason Heil plays the charismatic civic leader, whose enthusiasm is contagious as the action unfolds, with the audience voting on the capsule's contents. Equally enthusiastic William "BJ" Robinson provides spirited vocal and keyboard accompaniment, encouraging participation. 
Lee Ann Kim plays plays Susan Suhiro, town archivist.
offers lively acting and Sam Woodhouse's always inventive direction. We feel the theme of idealism and community spirit and develop a real connection to the other members of the audience as both actors and audience share thoughts. The clever piece was written by Rep resident playwright Herbert Siguenza, who artfully pushes the envelope, in collaboration with engagement artist Rachel Grossman.
Details of each time capsule artifact -- and the ardor of the proponents -- creates touching theater with timely San Diego references. *************************************
BEST BETLamb's Players Theatre on Coronado just finished an engaging run of "Camping With Henry and Tom." You won't want to miss the company's new production, "Noises Off," by playwright Michael Frayn. The witty send-up of the British sex farces of the 1970s demands perfect timing as we follow the action on stage and behind the scenes.
Peggy Sue Gabler and her husband Champ have created a fantasyland
homage to the 1950s, with all their Hollywood memorabilia at Peggy Sue's.