Friday, April 26, 2019

Balboa Park, San Diego's visionary oasis, offers spectacular architecture, entertainment

 The Casa del Prado, also known as the Casa, and the adjacent Casa del Prado Theatre are historically accurate reconstructions of buildings from the 1915 exposition celebrating the opening of the Panama Canal.  

Spreckels Organ Pavilion houses the Spreckels Organ in
Balboa Park, San Diego. The Spreckels Organ is
the world's largest pipe organ in a fully outdoor venue.



MORE THAN 150 years ago, a handful of visionary San Diego citizens strolled through the California scrub and decided to set aside 1,400 acres for a city park. It became an oasis of culture, architecture, nature and the arts. Today, Balboa Park is one of America's largest urban parks and considered by many the jewel in San Diego's crown.
Balboa Park offers several modes of transportation, including
walking, for getting around to the museums and zoo.
In the middle of a bustling city, nicknamed "America's finest" sits this 1,200-acre urban cultural park. It is beloved by locals and tourists alike for its unique blending of open space areas, natural vegetation zones, green belts, gardens, restaurants, walking paths, theaters and museums.
WITH ITS 17 museums, in fact, Balboa Park is a museum lovers mecca. Known for its widely diverse collections and cultural institutions, Balboa Park's museums attract scientists, theater lovers and fans of flight, automobiles, trains and art of all kinds.
The San Diego Model Railroad Museum's marketing man,
Fernando Beltran, and young train buff James Ganner.

Penelope Ganner, left, and her
brother James, had a private
tour of the huge Model Railroad
museum with Fernando Beltran.
From satisfying a curiosity for local San Diego history, to the history of air travel, the art of the old masters, native American crafts and cultures of the world, it's hard to beat Balboa Park.
ANY ONE of the museums would be a drawing card, but don't forget the world renowned San Diego Zoo, also part of this unique park.
  Balboa Park at night is a fairyland, with the Old
   Globe Theatre, center-right, lit up for a performance
The magnificent concept was developed for the Panama–California Exposition held in San Diego for two years, between January 1, 1915, and January 1, 1917. The exposition celebrated the opening of the Panama Canal, and touted San Diego as the first U.S. port of call for ships traveling north after passing westward through the canal.

A STROLL through the park feels like a walk through the United Nations Assembly Room. You will hear languages from all over Europe, the Far East and Russia (San Diego boasts a large Russian population and there are frequent visitors from that part of the world.)
Lunch time for a handsome gorilla,
one of the stars at San Diego Zoo.
We recently made a double-pronged visit, entertaining young guests who wanted to see the impressive San Diego Model Railroad Museum and the famed San Diego Zoo.
San Diego Zoo is world famous, visited
recently by three generations -- from left,
Olivia Cosgriffe, Peny Ganner, Christene
"Cookie Meyers, James Ganner and
Amarylla Ganner, mother of the kids.
We parked near the organ pavilion and had a pleasant stroll to our first stop, the railroad. Fernando Beltran, the museum's amiable marketing director, toured us around the 27,000 square foot museum, the largest such indoor exhibit in North America, and one of the largest in the world. The museum is on the lower level of the Casa de Balboa Building on the Prado and we spent two interesting hours there with our eight-year-old train buff and Beltran.
WE TOOK a break in the pleasant coffee shop, and headed to the zoo, our second adventure and a 20-minute walk from the railroad museum.
We eyed the bounty of animals from atop the zoo's double-decker bus, with a lively, eco-friendly commentary from Lee, who knows the zoo like the back of her hand and stressed what young and old can do to help preserve animals and habitats worldwide.
The dedication of the Bruce Meyers Poets' Garden in Montana attracted
hundreds of arts lovers for a two-day festival highlighted by an appearance
by  famed poet Allen Ginsberg. Above, Corby Skinner and Christene Meyers.
She gave us helpful directions to see the panda before she returns to China, delighted in telling about a precious baby porcupette and pointed out antelope calves, mini meerkats and tortoises, whose beautiful patterned shells shown in the sunlight.

UP NEXT: Join "Cookie" (Christene Meyers, left, with friend Corby Skinner) as we visit the Bruce Meyers Poets' Garden on the campus of Montana State University-Billings.  It was dedicated as a place for faculty and students to relax, study, paint, write and ponder. Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us Fridays for a novel look at travel, the arts, nature, family, and unexpected ways to enjoy.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Ice Cream Museum: bite into a fun family outing in San Francisco

Ready for her close-up aboard an ice cream inspired steed is Penelope Margaret Ganner at the Museum of Ice Cream. The San Francisco attraction is not a museum really, but an entertainment venue promising a couple hours of tasty fun.

Animation and old-fashioned fun are part of the
attraction, here with Christene "Cookie" Meyers, right,
and her niece Amarylla Ganner, on old-fashioned dial-ups.


James Brian Ganner is adrift in sprinkles in one of the Museum of
Ice Cream stops.  It's a pool of non-edible sprinkles for kids to play in.
Below, he is joined by his parents, right, sister, auntie and friends.

SAN FRANCISCO'S Museum of Ice Cream Museum brings out the kid in children of all ages.
Who likes ice cream?
 Apparently, people from all over the world shout, "We do! Make mine a double scoop."  So we recently joined an international crowd to queue up for a two-hour journey into the history, mystery and fun of 

ice cream at the colorful San Francisco venue, right in the center of town just steps from Union Square. We based at the lovely Handlery Hotel Union Square, steps away. 

THERE'S A LOT of theater in the museum, which isn't really a museum at all, but rather an entertainment venue geared to family fun. From the moment you show your tickets and progress into the line, you're front and center for a bit of edible theater. First, you must have an ice cream name, so our party of six came up with some doozies: Keller was Peppermint KK. I was Cookie Monster Mocha. Our family signed in as Mint Chocolate Chip Daddy, Apricot Amarylla, Peachy Peny and Jelly Bean James.
We joined an international crowd to queue up for a two-hour journey into the magic, mystery and fun of ice cream at the colorful San Francisco venue, right in the center of town just steps from Union Square. There's a lot of theater in the museum, from the moment you show your tickets and get in line for the first of of several interactive exhibits.
Pink is the color at the museum,
with large sculptures, all in the
theme of ice cream.

THE MUSEUM of Ice Cream concept was born in New York City as an user-involved extravaganza with ice cream and candy themed exhibits, all brightly colored, in a maze of rooms containing a rock-candy cave, a unicorn, and the fabled swimming pool of rainbow sprinkles which made its way to the San Francisco show. The exhibits are tailored as backdrops for selfies, and social media sites promote the exhibit. Tickets are not cheap and must be purchased in advance for specific time slots online only.
I asked about the term "museum" and was told it was chosen for the temporary art exhibition because it was something people would understand
One of the activities is a funny-face selfi camera
that puts interesting adornments on people.

THE TREATS are plentiful as there are tasting stations along the way:  your choice of several samples.  We enjoyed peach and mint chip mochi, popsicles of several flavors, cotton candy (pink of course), delicious fruit sherbet and ice cream cones, then at the last munchy stop, hot chocolate served in an old-fashioned '50s soda shop with whipped cream topping.
Capping the day are samples of hot chocolate with cream.
ALTHOUGH the place is not an art museum, there are nods to learning about ice cream's history if you care to, with plaques and data about ice cream and its history. Ice cream has a time-honored past -- dating back hundreds of years to the Chinese or Romans, who
used snow to ice the mixture -- long before refrigeration.
The audience is largely family-oriented -- grandparents and parents taking their kids on an outing, or great-aunties and uncles such as ourselves treating the family out for a fun afternoon.
Lots of pictures were taken and everyone had a cell phone. Instagram photos aplenty were in vogue.
If you go, plan to just "roll with it" and rediscover your inner child. If you do, you'll enjoy it. It's up in San Francisco through May 27.;

Uma Incrocci, Omri Schein and David McBean
in a sketch from "All in the Timing."  Can chimps
really eventually type their way to "Hamlet"?  
BEST BET:   North Coast Repertory Theatre's "All in the Timing" is a tour de force for an ensemble of  southern California's most versatile actors. A half dozen David Ives sketches are directed by the gifted David Ellenstein, whose love of the bon mot and physical comedy are a perfect fit for this entertaining and fast-paced production. The one-act comedies premiered Off Broadway in 1993 and have withstood the test of time. Prepare for a little Marx Bros., a pinch of Seinfeld, a measure of theater of the absurd, and a dollop of Mel Brooks. Those old enough to appreciate the banter may be reminded of Nichols and May or Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca. Bravo, brava. You'll laugh until you hurt. It's a show to relish and see again. On stage through May 5.   

NEXT UP:  Balboa Park is a beloved urban park, one of America's largest and a a tribute to the vision of its founders, who conceived of the idea more than 150 years ago. Come with us to visit this San Diego wonder, with magnificent gardens, hiking and walking paths, a theater, concert venue, buskers, food aplenty, a green belt, a veritable 17-museum mecca, and the world famous San Diego Zoo. Meanwhile, remember to explore, learn and live and catch us each Friday for a novel look at travel, nature, family, the arts and more.  

Friday, April 12, 2019

Palm Springs delights: where the rich and famous escaped Hollywood

The Elvis Presley home in Palm Springs is a major attraction and a striking presence, with its unusual modern design. 


Palm Springs and its star-studded list of  residents came
 about because the studios wanted to keep stars close to L.A.

THE STARS come out in Palm Springs. Or at least star-gazers do. Many of the greats who once luxuriated in the desert sun are gone to that big movie palace in the sky, but there are still some around this ever popular hide-away of the rich and famous. The stars settled here because studios insisted contracted personnel be within two hours from Hollywood -- not as far as "Sin City," Las Vegas.
 Many of Palm Springs' current residents snd visitors were barely born when Frank Sinatra, known as "the Chairman of the Board," caroused with Sammy Davis Jr. and Dean Martin.  John F. Kennedy visited Palm Springs to see Marilyn Monroe, who lived in a sweet little bungalow at 1326 Rose Avenue.
Loretta Young entertained here.  Bob Hope golfed here.
Find out which star owned this Palm Springs home
when you take a lively tour with guide Jeffrey Swanson.
"The King," Elvis Presley, leased and later purchased a striking contemporary home here, honeymooning with Priscilla in 1967 after a secret wedding in Las Vegas. After ups and downs with listings -- from $9.5 million in 2014 to $5.9, to less than $1 million, the home is currently valued at a surprising $750,000.
Keep in mind that July in Palm Springs can be 110 degrees! It is not a year-round comfort zone, but gorgeous on our recent spring visit.
Designed by prolific modern architect William Krisel, the Elvis house was built for Robert Alexander of Alexander Construction Company, which assembled thousands of Southern California homes in the 1950s and ’60s, defining the architectural style of Palm Springs.
The Double Tree by Hilton Golf Resort Palm Springs is a luxurious base
for touring this beautiful resort town. Fabulous landscaping, great food.
THE ELVIS HOME is a five-bedroom, 5,000-square feet spectacle, built in four intersecting pod-like wings. The unusual house where The King held court was named "House of Tomorrow" by Look Magazine in 1962. Pool and tennis court included, of course.
We discovered Palm Springs on an entertaining near 3-hour tour with a brilliant guide, Jeffrey Swanson. He's lived in Palm Springs most of his life, and knows the stars' homes and the stories that bring them to life. He described "Hollywood's Playground" with anecdotes and lively history, including bits about Marilyn, Elvis, Nat King Cole, Liberace and the Rat Pack, Cary Grant, Jack Benny and more.  His user-friendly commentary offered insights into plants, climate,
Jeffrey Swanson is a font of Palm Springs
knowledge and lore, a terrific tour guide.
architecture, eateries and the region's history, including its Native American heritage. We ended the engaging day with a date milkshake at Windmill Market.
THE MOST famous contemporary star owning Palm
Twin Palms, Frank Sinatra's Palm Springs home.
Springs property today is Leonardo DiCaprio, who bought singer/actress Dinah Shore's former home at 432 Hermosa. It's an elegant but not over-the-top place designed by famed architect Donald Wexler with Shore's help in 1964.
A gigantic statue of Marilyn Monroe, "Forever
Marilyn,"  was in Palm Springs for many years
and has toured Chicago and other U.S. cities
For a thrilling bird's eye view, take the Palm Springs
Aerial Tramway, 8,500 feet above the town.  Hike, shop,
explore and dine in the Forest View Room.
The Sinatra house, "Twin Palms,"  is a pretty mid-century modern house where "the Chairman" lived from 1947 to 1954. Liberace designed his two Palm Springs homes in musical motif. Swanson showed us both,  along with those owned by Alan Ladd, George Montgomery and the famous Gabor sisters, Eva and Zsa Zsa.

You can find the homes yourself, but we recommend the delightful Viator tour for its ease and entertainment. Swanson's love of the place shines through.
And don't forget the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, to give you a bird's eye view of the whole extravaganza.
  Dean Martin's home is a laid-back ranch style place propped
against the hillside with welcoming palm trees. 

Peny Ganner and her brother, James, swoon in childlike wonder
during an afternoon of indulgence at the Museum of Ice Cream. 
UP NEXT:  Ice cream, we all scream! Who doesn't like ice cream, so why not venture into the Sprinkles Pool with us at the San Francisco. We took our favorite photo subjects to The Museum of Ice Cream in San Francisco. The concept began in New York City as an interactive art exhibit with ice cream and candy themed exhibits, all brightly colored, in a maze of rooms containing a rock-candy cave, a unicorn, soda fountain and a swimming pool of rainbow sprinkles. Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us each Friday.

Friday, April 5, 2019

San Diego in spring: splendors aplenty in a favorite American city

San Diego in spring is a sight to behold -- with blue skies, feathery clouds and a dinner or lunch cruise aboard Hornblower.

"To what purpose, April, do you return again?
Beauty is not enough."
                                                --Edna St. Vincent Millay

Cookie and Keller welcome spring aboard Hornblower.


SAN DIEGO offers many pleasures from world class theater to water sport and fine dining. Its year-round beauty is a huge plus, and it's at its finest in spring.
Chief among San Diego's attractions for this Rocky Mountain girl is the gorgeous climate. Dry warm weather makes San Diego a "most desired" city. The beauty peaks now when many of our annual 30 million visitors call.
Water and the nearby ocean provide sport,
beauty, fine dining, viewing and fishing.

So whether whale watching with Hornblower or enjoying a dinner cruise in November, hiking among desert flowers in March, relishing  summer's bloom bonanza in June, balmy ocean breezes in July or holiday cheer in December, there is no "bad time" to visit San Diego. "America's finest city" deserves its moniker.
San Diego is abloom.
IT IS HOME to a large sport-fishing fleet, a major ball park, state-of-the-art cruise terminal, train travel and airport and many fine theaters including the world renowned La Jolla Playhouse, which sends productions to Broadway, recently its Tony winning "Come From Away." "Diana," a stunning new musical by the creators of "Memphis" is selling out. Another brilliant play, "A Jewish Joke," was developed by San Diego's inventive Roustabouts Theatre Co. and brilliant actor Phil Johnson. It opens soon off-Broadway, directed by North Coast Repertory Theatre's gifted artistic director, David Ellenstein.
San Diego's sunsets are legendary,
 here above La Jolla.
Camp Pendleton and its Marine Corps base bring money and people to the region and San Diego is homeport to a huge Pacific Navy fleet. Balboa Park offers a 1,200-acre urban oasis with welcoming parks, natural vegetation zones, green belts, gardens, and walking paths. It houses a variety of world-class museums, theaters, and the famous San Diego Zoo.
Balboa Park dates back to 1915-1917, built for the
Panama-California Exposition and the canal opening.
La Jolla Shores beckons to tourists from around the world,
here two youngsters from the Bay Area at play.

ALTHOUGH we're only 1.3 million, San Diego boasts an abundance of lively neighborhoods and attractions:  Gaslamp Quarter, La Jolla, Little Italy, Pacific Beach, Liberty Station and the impressive fleet of the Maritime Museum with impressive historic vessels, a submarine and the enormous USS Midway Museum. Find ethnic restaurants, fine dining, street food, craft beers, buskers and distinct flavors -- from Carlsbad and Del Mar to the north to Point Loma, North Park and Old Town farther south.
ORIGINALLY named San Miguel, San Diego was discovered in 1542 by European explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, who has a lovely lighthouse named after him.The gorgeous bay and San Diego were given that name in 1602. European settlement in San Diego County began in 1769 with Mission San Diego de Alcala. From 1821 to 1848, we belonged to Mexico until in 1850, after the U.S.-Mexican War when we became a state. The connection endures,  through San Diego's immediacy to Mexico.
Legoland beckons Cookie, her niece
Amarylla, left, and kids Peny and James.
We share an international border and Tijuana and San Diego are an international metropolitan area where visitors, including cruisers, travel south to enjoy luxury spas, beachfront resorts, golf courses, festivals, celebrations,
One can catch the Coaster in San Diego 
and take the train north to Seattle.

colorful neighborhoods, and nightlife. Sports teams, even with the Padres gone north, are part of life here as is world famous Legoland, a huge family theme park. Add to that attractive mix research, manufacturing, biotechnology (Qualcomm and more) and world class medical centers -- including Scripps Green Hospital, where Keller received his liver transplant nearly two years ago.

Palm Springs offers a beautiful, relaxing or invigorating get-away.
UP NEXT: Palm Springs has long been a haunt of the rich and famous. Come with us to see where Frank Sinatra and Liberace, Sammy Davis Jr., Loretta Young and many others escaped the pressures of Hollywood.  Come with us to visit this picturesque city in the Sonoran Desert of southern California, known for its hot springs, stylish hotels, golf courses and spas. We'll visit the famous Tram and stars' homes with abundant examples of midcentury-modern architecture. Meanwhile, explore, learn and live and catch us Fridays for a fresh look at travel, the arts, family, health and nature.