Thursday, May 19, 2022

'Taste of Victoria' food tour takes the cake for fun, history, variety

 

Victoria, British Columbia, is a wonderful place to stroll, look and eat! The top-ranked food tasting
tour in Canada is waiting for you on your next visit to this charming, ethnically varied city. 

CULINARY WONDERS AWAIT -- FROM HISTORIC PUB TO FRENCH PATISSERIE TO A GOURMET HOLE IN THE WALL


STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER
Our tasting tour began at Roast Meat and Sandwich Shop,
where we devoured delectable meatballs in a satisfying sauce.
 

WE ALWAYS look for new, fun things to do when we travel, especially when we return to places we love and have visited before. So when we knew we'd have a long day in Victoria, B.C., we booked something we'd not tried before in this bustling city. We lined up a walking-tasting food tour.

WHAT FUN food tours are. We've munched our way across Amsterdam, Rome, New Orleans, London and Key West --  increasing our pleasure in each city and appreciation of its culinary variety.

Ayo Eat's yummy offering: delicious peanut sauce
to complement a tasty Indonesian spring roll. 
Food in any city is shaped by its residents. A good food tour artfully weaves history and eating, and Andy Olson is one of the best food tour guides in the business.  He owns and manages "A Taste of Victoria Food Tours" which has cultivated a healthy worldwide foodie following.
The amiable Olson takes a "hands on" -- make that "mouth on" -- approach. Since launching his business, he's continued his world travels, munching his way through dozens of food tours.  He knows what makes a good tasting tour fun: variety, local ingredients, history told with enthusiasm.
"I wanted to show off this beautiful city and the eateries that make it appealing," Olson said as he ushered us around downtown Victoria. "I also wanted to emphasize local places serving local stuff."
Mouth-watering candies were devoured with joy at Roger's 
Chocolates, with a delectable Victoria cream vanilla.
First, the Roast Meat and Sandwich Shop, located in a bustling converted warehouse and flanked by a coffee shop, and other small food operations. This was a welcome beginning. We'd eaten a light breakfast and by 1 p.m. were hungry. A pair of mouth-watering meatballs swimming in savory tomato sauce hit the spot -- right out of an Italian grandma's kitchen  

NEXT UP on our award-winning  historic walking and food tour was a stop at Victoria BBQ House and Bakery for a barbecue pork bun, a warm slightly sweet bun with a spoonful of seasoned pork inside. Olson guided us through Chinatown, Old Town and the city's Inner Harbor.

Fan Tan Alley dates back to the mid-19th
Century and is filled with boutiques.
We stopped in Fan Tan Alley, a narrow lane -- only a few feet wide and 240 feet long -- between Fisgard Street and Pandora Avenue in Victoria's small but colorful Chinatown.
Olson explained that it's the oldest Chinatown in Canada and the second oldest in North America after San Francisco. Its beginnings stem from the mid-19th Century's influx of miners from California.
IF WE'D been walking on our own, we might have passed by some of the intriguing places Olson chose. For instance, Ayo Eat, a tiny street-food place with a chef who cooked for the Dalai Lama before leaving Indonesia. The peanut sauce and tasty spring roll it garnished were fabulous -- tangy, rich, but not overpowering. It was a favorite of us both. 
Slim and fit, Olson shared his experience in making macarons, at a stop in the pretty, chandelier-lit French pastry shop, La Roux Patisserie. Its owner greeted us and described her clientele -- from wedding parties to couples celebrating an anniversary, to the retired teacher with an affection for croissants. 
TASTING TOURS have been around for a couple decades -- but they've really taken off in the past decade. "I think people like to feel they're doing something a bit off the grid," Olson said. "And it's fun to be together, learning something new."
Just Matcha's drinks are artfully served in
a peaceful, rejuvenating setting. 
We were a small group in the afternoon, but Olson's morning tour had the full 8 or 9 he likes to tour with.  His knowledge and enthusiasm are part of the fun. He greets everyone by name and they all know and like him. His passion for his adopted home and the food it serves is obvious. He's tried everything the tour offers. Does he cook for himself and his wife? "No, actually, neither of us is a very good cook. That's partly how I came into this business.''
Andy Olson talks about his passion for food,
inspiring his decision to open a tasting tour.












A delectable French macaron from La Roux
Patisserie in Victoria, a charming bakery.




BETWEEN FOOD courses it was nice to get a break at Just Matcha Tea Shop, where we sipped a delightful matcha infused drink and had a Zen moment in the relaxing ambiance of soothing artwork and tea-inspired calm.
Food tours appeal both to seasoned travelers as well as newcomers to a region or city. If you've been there before, you're looking for something different. If you're new, a good tasting tour will give you highlights of places to eat and offer a pleasant overview of the city and its life, history, ethnicity and neighborhoods. Expect a bit of background, anecdotes, personal history as you skip from humble to lavish stops.

ROGER'S Chocolates is dripping with Victorian charm -- an old-fashioned candy shop with a fragrant array of intoxicating chocolates for every taste. And Churchill Pub rounds out the tour -- a real English-feeling drinking house with sturdy wooden booths and a beautiful bar. This was the only time Andy

The Churchill, a traditional English pub, is a stop in
the fast-paced and varied "Taste of Victoria Food Tour."

participated, having a small sample of a local brew. Six or seven stops are offered with a changing repertoire depending on time of year, fresh produce and Olson's whims.  Tours are balanced to provide a filling "meal" in sensible, 
small portions over the allotted time.
OLSON'S foodie orbit embraces his own personal wide-ranging culinary tastes, traditional specialties and time honored treats. He's also on the lookout for new dining options to show off the varied heritage of Victoria. The food tour always includes Asian fare, important because immigrants from the Far East helped build the city.  We enjoyed all seven tastings. Not a clunker in the bunch. "Fantastic food tour with delightful tastings, heaping helpings of world culture, and enthusiasm for Victoria's past and present," Keller said. He pronounced the two-plus hour event "great fun, for first-timers to Victoria, or return guests looking for something new." www.atasteofvictoriafoodtours.com (250)893-9815

San Francisco Love Tours is a fun option for aging hippies or
anyone wanting a fresh look at the city by the bay.



UP NEXT:
While we're touring, how about a trip down memory lane to the 1970s and San Francisco? Remember those days of old, when Volkswagen buses were the mode of transportation and everyone knew of Haight Ashbury, Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix. We hitched a ride around the city by the bay in our colorful VW bus.  Come take a spin with us and San Francisco Love Tours, with an entertaining commentary on the generation that shaped music, art and the counter culture.  Meanwhile, remember to explore, learn and live and catch us weekly for a fresh spin on travel, nature, the arts, family and more: www.whereiscookie.com


Thursday, May 12, 2022

Hilo's Tsunami Museum packs a powerful punch with frightening exhibits, films, commentary

The dreaded tsunami was the focus of an interesting afternoon for Bruce Keller and Christene
"Cookie" Meyers, who visited the engaging Pacific Tsunami Museum in Hilo, Hawaii
. An extensive
collection of photos, oral histories, videos, artifacts and scientific displays awaits.

 

The wreckage caused by a tsunami is enormous.
The Hilo museum explores the causes of the killer waves.

KILLER WAVES  EXPLORED IN VIVID DETAIL AT PACIFIC TSUNAMI MUSEUM IN HILO, HAWAII

 

STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS

PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER


Dramatic displays tell the story of how
humanity is affected by tsunami's horrors.
TSUNAMIS are among the planet's most fearsome natural disasters. And nowhere are people more aware of the dangers of this raging act of nature than in the Hawaiian Islands.
In Hilo, Tsunami sirens are on alert and school children are taught to watch for warning signs: tremors, roars from the ocean, receding waters exposing the sea floor. All spell impending doom. Evacuation Zones are marked and families store emergency kits.
Since 1812, more than 160 confirmed tsunamis have been recorded on the islands, causing countless deaths and damage topping $625 million. The April, 1946, tsunami in Hilo alone, killed 159 people and destroyed $26 million in property.  Its cause was an undersea earthquake off the Alaskan coast triggering the massive Big Island tsunami.
IT SEEMS fitting, then, that the world's only museum dedicated entirely to the tsunami is located in Hilo.
Tsunamis around the world are explored in well
designed displays with photographs, news clips.
The fascinating Pacific Tsunami Museum -- a thoughtfully  renovated bank-- tells the fearsome tale of the tsunami, pronounced soo-NAH-mee, and its impact in Japan, Alaska, the Indian Ocean and elsewhere. Taken from the Japanese, tsunami means "harbor wave" but is usually a series of waves caused by an underwater disturbance. Earthquakes, landslides and volcanic eruptions are among tsunami's chief causes.
Getting a breath of fresh air
after the intensity of the fine
Pacific Tsunami Museum.
Hilo's small but excellent museum interestingly weaves specific tsunami occurrences with data, photographs and narrative.  It features an absorbing mix of scientific exhibits. A favorite with school children is an interactive wave-making model which allows the visitor to make his own miniature tsunami.
AN ABSORBING film includes moving personal anecdotes of brave tsunami survivors, interlaced with graphic details of brushes with monster waves. The museum is all about stories and tells them well.
Stories of rescues and heroism are also well told.

Diagrams, maps, newspaper accounts and displays show various horrifying tsunamis over the last 500 years. Visitors learn what caused them and see stories of the human survival spirit. Maps show "runup points" -- measurements of the heights wave reach. 
Where tsunamis were caused by earthquakes, the quake's magnitude is analyzed through wave energy creating this fearsome natural disaster. 
TSUNAMIS GO back centuries. The oldest recorded one occurred in 479 BC, destroying a Persian army attacking Potidaea, Greece.
Fast forward to 1958, in a display recounting effects of a huge tsunami triggered by an Alaskan landslide. Its 1,700-foot wave -- the largest ever recorded -- inundated five square miles of land and cleared thousands of trees.

Positano today is a highlight on Italy's Amalfi coast.
In 1343, it was the scene of a huge tsunami which
destroyed the town, ending the republic's sea power days.
   
Another catastrophe occurred on the Amalfi coast, where we've many times visited.  In its maritime republic days, it was a thriving port with a wealthy population of 70,000.
That was until 1343 when it was wiped out.  A massive earthquake under the Tyrrhenian Sea sparked a devastating tsunami along southern Italy's coast. Amalfi’s harbor and its boats were destroyed; the lower town fell into the sea. A once thriving city shrank to a village of 6,000, ending Amalfi's days as a sea power.
The lovely stretch of coastline from north of Naples to south of the Cilento National Park bore the brunt of the huge killer wave, which wiped out the towns of Bussanto and Blanda, near present-day resorts of Sapri and Maratea. Both Naples and nearby Salerno suffered huge damage, including a death toll of tens of thousands. 
The museum is a testimony both to the power of the tsunami and the power of the human spirit.
More information on this intriguing museum: www.tsunami.org 


A refreshing green tea drink is served at Just Matcha Tea Shop, one of
seven varied stops on a highly recommended "Taste of Victoria" food tour.
UP NEXT: Food glorious food! Plus history, exercise, variety, fun.  Victoria, British Columbia, has much to recommend it, and we frequent visitors found a new, delightful, food-sampling, history-telling venue.  We take readers on a "Taste of Victoria" food tour,  Canada's top-rated food tour, with stops at a variety of large and small bars, eateries and food stands.  We found it an engaging way to spend a few hours.  Owner Andy Olson delivers a delightful time showing  his love both of food and his adopted city. Rain or shine, he takes foodies and history lovers around downtown Victoria, from tea and sweets shops to pubs, Indonesian and barbecue eateries and other hidden gems in this lively, historic city where he knows everyone. Remember to explore, learn, live and catch us weekly. Please share:  www.whereiscookie.com









Thursday, April 28, 2022

Hotel La Casa del Zorro offers desert pampering, scenery and fine food

The soothing environment of La Casa del Zorro is designed with comfort and relaxation in mind, but
there is plenty to do if you're an "active type." Something for everyone, since its 1937 opening. 
Below, sunset from La Casa del Zorro's pool area is a gorgeous sight

.
ELEGANCE, AMBIANCE, NATURE MAKE  A STUNNING, RELAXING RETREAT

STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS

PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER

STEP INTO a world of pampering perfection with artful touches at every sun-soaked turn. 

From left, Bruce Keller, Christene "Cookie"
Meyers, with UK pals, Sue and John Speight
.

This is your world for a few treasured days at La Casa del Zorro, a true find if you're looking for a place to unplug, enjoy and indulge your senses. The light is lovely in this jewel of southern Coachella Valley.  Each sun dappled corner of this well managed place welcomes you to picturesque surroundings.  
You feel healthier the moment you enter the cozy yet elegant reception area where veteran host Mona or one of her able colleagues checks you in. The whole tasteful place is right out of a desert painting.

Carefully planted cacti, palms and desert perennials grace walkways framed by subtle Spanish colonial architecture. Nature-inspired touches greet the visitor -- weathered stone, polished wood, showy seasonal perennials. 

THE  "ZORRO" is a perfect place to hike, relax with a favorite 
Yoga instructor Paul, a native
of Holland, at the gazebo
where yoga is offered.
book and beverage at the lap pool, or choose from a life-size chess game, horseshoes, bocci ball, croquet, ping pong, yoga,  pickleball, tennis or shuffleboard. The spa has a fine reputation for its pampering. We brought our portable Scrabble game, but didn't have time, choosing a complimentary bike ride instead.
Live music is often offered at
dinner, here Cookie admires!
 
As the day dwindles, an elegantly served meal awaits at Fox Bistro, often with live music. Earlier, you've enjoyed complimentary breakfast.  Admire celestial wonders from a star-gazing theater or relax by the kiva fire pit. A DVD player and complimentary movies are yours, too, if you're not yet lulled to the arms of Morpheus by the calming ambiance of this unique and restful place.

I BEGAN my day twice with a rejuvenating complimentary yoga meditation class. 
The resort's instructor is an amiable Dutchman, Paul, who has studied and taught this restorative mind-and-body art for many years. Lucky California to be the recipient of his talent, since leaving his native Amsterdam to settle near Borrego Springs with his business-career wife. He was the "frosting on the cake" -- a wonderful, calming treat during a perfect three days, one of many surprises and delights.

Walking trails lead the way to tennis courts, a
yoga pavilion, individual cabanas, desert plants.

 We visited with friends from England.  They, too, found the resort a pleasure and spent several hours basking in their private poolside cabana, treasuring each sunny moment -- a treat after a soggy, chilly winter in their native Yorkshire.
 IF YOGA is not your thing, a game of tennis might be the ticket.  Or simply stroll well marked nature trails.  Enjoy a few hours with a good book by the immaculate pool -- or share a cool beverage poolside in your own cabana, using your complimentary drink coupon, a lovely touch.

With a history dating back to 1937, the hotel
has survived change and is flourishing.
You're living a life of ease, comfort and relaxation. So enjoy it.  Back inside your room, stretch out to admire desert inspired paintings and sculpture. Each guest room and casita is individually adorned with artwork and antiques.  

Artful appointments are part
of the charm -- each room
has unique pieces
.

The place is beloved for its understated elegance, superior service and artful  decor. 

Bruce Keller and Cookie Meyers take to the
desert on desert paths near the resort.
It's a serene, get-away in the Anza Borrego desert is just a mile from the small friendly town of Borrego Springs. But it is light years away from the rest of the world as the only five-star resort in the area.

Happily, the resort has survived several names and physical incarnations. A few years ago, the Zorro was lovingly restored by a dynamic investor-developer-hotelier trio.  Jack McGrory, Casey Brown and Jack Giacomini blended contemporary convenience and amenities with classic desert architecture with a pleasing nod to nostalgia.

A world-class golf course, perfectly manicured,
is steps away at La Casa del Zorro.
   THE ZORRO opened in 1937  as a small desert lodge, evolving into today's world class resort. Through the years, Hollywood discovered it, and San Diego social and business icons hob-nobbed, golfed, sunbathed, swam, drank and dined here.  

Another view of the changing
light, a constant pleasure.
 




Ricardo Breceda's sculpture
is nearby, another treat.


Presidents Nixon and George H.W. Bush, actor Marlon Brando and others came, seeking the solitude and serenity that mark a visit. Noted sculptor Ricardo Breceda maintains a shop on the property and his whimsical metal creatures grace the grounds and surrounding properties.  One of his friendly T-Rex creations greets guests! And a world-class public golf course is minutes away. Rams Hill is one of the most beautiful in the world, a spectacular $22 million Fazio desert course. And famed sculptor, Ricardo Breceda, has positioned dozens of his whimsical art pieces in the desert surrounding the resort. This is worth a few hours on its own, a lovely complement to the resort's artwork.

  

"Keller and Cookie" learned about the deadly effects of
tsunamis, in a recent visit to Hilo's Pacific Tsunami Museum.
UP NEXT: It's nearing hurricane season as we visit a museum dedicated to one of the fiercest forces of nature, the tsunami. One of the only museums devoted entirely to this horrifying act of nature is in Hilo, Hawaii, and gives a fascinating overview of the deadly waves and damage they've done. We learned about the origins and causes of tsunami waves. Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and explosions  all have the potential to generate a tsunami. We found the museum riveting and hope you will, too. Meanwhile, remember to explore, learn and live and catch us weekly for a fresh spin on travel, nature, family, the arts and more: www.whereiscookie.com


Hawaii's Lyman Museum highlights wildlife, sea life, Polynesian travel, rich island history

Hawaii's fascinating history is told in striking exhibits and displays at Lyman Museum in Hilo.



























HILO MUSEUM OFFERS WORLD CLASS STUDY OF SETTLING OF HAWAII, CRAFTS, ART, CULTURE AND A HISTORIC HOME BUILT BY MISSIONARY TEACHERS

Murals, paintings and expertly written commentary tell
the fascinating story of the settlement of Hawaii.

STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER


New England born Lymans brought their "Cape
Cod" style architecture to build in Hawaii.
IF YOU THINK of Hawaii  -- and only seashells, hula and palm trees come to mind -- you'll be pleasantly surprised when you visit the Lyman Museum and Mission House.
Located in Hilo, on "the Big Island" of Hawaii, this treasure is Smithsonian-affiliated and the islands' only museum of natural and cultural history.
Its large collection of intriguing artifacts is displayed throughout more than 20,000 square feet of open, airy and well designed galleries.  Expertly curated and sometimes surprising exhibits range from a beautifully illustrated history of the islands' settlement to a tour of the home next door, built by New England missionaries and teachers, David and Sarah Lyman in 1839.
The much visited museum began with the home,  the Lyman Mission House, built near its present location and moved in 1931, nearly 100 years later. The museum was established by Lyman descendants and both buildings are carefully tended by docents who also give lively tours.
THE NICELY restored Mission House is home to both furniture owned and built by the Lymans and other period pieces acquired by the museum which achieved status with both the State and National Registers of Historic Places. We admired lovely hand-crafted furniture, tools, household items, and artifacts used by the Lymans and other early missionary families.
The Lyman house is on the State and National Registers of
Historic Places and an important artifact of the Museum.
The much larger Lyman Museum building, next door to the Mission House, was constructed in 1971.  We admired its superb collection of artifacts and natural history exhibits -- displayed in an impressively large and open space. A handsome gift shop offers handmade Hawaiian souvenirs -- classy, not airport kitsch.

VISITORS TOURING the two facilities can see the old Mission House and life as it was 150 years ago, then go next door to inspect immersive exhibits on a range of Hawaiian natural history and culture. Through our Lyman Mission House guide, Jan, we enjoyed a glimpse into the life of the Lymans Lyman, who sailed 5,000 miles from New England in 1832 to build the island's oldest standing wood structure.
Exquisite feather work is on show.
Jan conveyed the courage of the couple -- rounding "The Horn" in a six-month voyage, before the Panama Canal, to craft a house without electricity or running water.
WE SPENT a good share of our afternoon visit in the museum's newly renovated Heritage Gallery which studies  Polynesian settlement and the life of these early Hawaiian people. We studied nicely displayed tools and implements crafted from native materials so these inventive people could farm, fish, build canoes and structures, grow crops, prepare and serve food, fashion weapons and adornments, and create clothing, coverings, and containers.
THE SHELLS, rocks and feather work are stunning. So is an artistic exhibit on Hawaii's famous waterfowl. 
The museum involves the community in learning, enrichment projects and guest artists, offering a range of educational programs from special lectures and talks to hands-on workshops on Hawaiian skills and crafts.  A favorite exhibit of locals is "Lei Hulu" featuring traditional Hawaiian feather work, exquisitely done.  Regional exhibits also draw attention. “Sasana: The Burma Portfolio,” features images of the Burmese people and their land, showcased the work of a noted Hawaii-based photographer.
Bruce Keller looks to the horizon in front of a colorful
mural at Lyman Museum, which offers a fascinating
immersion in the complex culture of Hawaii
 
THE GALLERY spends time on their spiritual beliefs and social relationships and diplomatically studies the influences of "Agents of Change," a variety of early European explorers, whalers, traders, missionaries and people from the mainland.  All helped shape the  islands' government, land use, economy and education.

Tools are nicely displayed with commentary
on their use and how they were made.
WE ENJOY this aspect of our frequent Hawaii visits. It's an appealing "melting pot," a multi-cultural mecca.  The museum notes these important contributors: Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, Portuguese and Korean immigrants who worked the sugar plantations, contributed to an evolving language and brought new foods and music. That exotic blend shaped what Hawaiian people consider “local."
 HAWAII'S POLITICAL development is also carefully analyzed. The Monarchy's early 
The museum's many and varied exhibits include this lovely
three-dimensional display on Hawaii's waterbirds.
class-based society is explained, leading up to Hawaii's statehood in 1959.  We learned how David Kalākaua, Hawaii's last and "Merrie Monarch” -- revived hula. He loved this graceful traditional Hawaiian dance, and helped revitalize it and other waning art traditions, ushering in a "cultural renaissance" in Hawaii.
THE MUSEUM and next-door home are popular with schools and students are welcome. Our guide, Jan, noted that this is appropriate since high school boys crafted some of the furniture in the home. A highlight of the gallery is the "Kīpuka," an interactive learning space where students enjoy hands-on activities: Hawaiian kapa and tattoo design, mat plaiting, storytelling through hula, chant, petroglyphs, and oral legends. They take home their artwork -- learning  traditional techniques and an appreciation for the rich culture inspiring the artforms.
Admissions are surprisingly low -- only a few dollars, with locals getting a price break. 

www.lymanmuseum.org

The seductive charms of La Casa del Zorro await you,
a desert hotel offering a peaceful get-away with all
the amenities of a resort or big-city property. 
UP NEXT:
A retreat in the desert -- both elegant and relaxed -- awaits at La Casa del Zorro in Borrego, Springs, a beautiful hotel with all the amenities of a big city resort yet the quiet and calming surroundings of one of the world's most picturesque deserts. "La Casa" offers private casitas and a handsomely decorated hotel, bird life, walking trails, a spa, yoga classes, tennis and a fine restaurant and bar with specialties of the house and something for every taste. Then as we approach hurricane season in Hawaii, we visit a fascinating Tsunami Museum. Meanwhile, remember to explore, learn and live and catch us weekly for a fresh spin on travel, nature, family and the arts: www.whereiscookie.com
 
























UP NEXT: La Casa del Zorro is a stately yet relaxed hotel in the desert near Borrego Springs, Calif.  

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Natural History Museum is treasure trove in San Diego's Balboa Park

A patron pauses outside the San Diego Natural History Museum, where fans of nature and the natural world are treated
to a variety of exhibits which inspire to visit and appreciate nature and the diversity of the San Diego region.

 

A long extinct shark, whose teeth were found near
Oceanside, Calif., greets visitors in artful replica.

ARTFUL EXHIBITION SPACE IS A HIGHLIGHT OF A VISIT TO SAN DIEGO'S BEAUTIFUL BALBOA PARK



STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER

THE SAN DIEGO Natural History Museum makes for a great family outing.
A magnificent dinosaur skeleton, bears, elephants and
more await inspection, framed by colorful murals.
Affectionately nicknamed "The Nat," it's also perfect for visitors looking to get a feel for our region, for  
couples seeking an educational yet fun outing, or for a single person who wants a beautifully curated stroll for a look at life as it continues to evolve and change in southern California and the Baja California peninsula.
First, there's a remarkable Moreton Bay Fig Tree gracing the lawn in front of the museum -- planted in 1915 for the city's famous Panama-California Exhibition. Inside, visitors tilt heads upward to gaze at a realistic looking replica of an extinct megalodon shark, inspired by teeth collected from Miocene sandstones in Oceanside, California, and near Ensenada, Baja California.
Minerals are "hidden"
throughout the museum.




WE WATCHED people posing for animated selfies in the atrium there, and knew we were in for a treat by the pleased comments of visitors coming and going.
Evolution and diversity are what this well established museum is about.
Founded in 1874, the San Diego Society of Natural History is the oldest scientific institution in southern California, and the third oldest west of the Mississippi.
The name was tweaked as the building and ambitions grew and the Society grew from a small group of natural history lovers and collectors to a large museum with 8 million specimens, spectacular outreach programs, and award-winning exhibitions.
So for nearly a century and a half, the organization has delighted and educated hundreds of thousands of us.
Bruce Keller, left, with Sue and John Speight,
and Christene "Cookie" Meyers, in Balboa Park.
WE TOOK GUESTS,  a pair of history buffs from York, England.  They're natural history museum aficionados, having visited some of the great ones around the world: Vienna, Cambridge, London, Dublin, Geneva. Our San Diego treasure, they noted, is no slouch, compared to the others these world travelers have seen.
For 150 years, the organization has studied, protected, and introduced people to nature's wonders. Its museum  doesn't disappoint. Exhibits span five levels with a sparkling and clever "hidden gems" display starting in a small corner of the basement, then appearing on a corner of each floor, thus the "hidden" moniker. On up to the ground entrance floor, or Level 1, as it's called, for several learning labs about various topics including your own back yard. A wonderful movie theater shows three revolving films. We picked "Dinosaurs of Antarctica" -- thoroughly entertaining.   We followed this fascinating creature from Permian through Jurassic periods -- emerging from his south polar landscapes hundreds of millions of years ago.
The museum's open, airy expanse offers a pleasant
perspective and draws the eye upwards and around.
WATCHING AN engaging film with friends about our own planet and the creatures who struggled for survival gave us fodder for dinner conversation later in the day, as we pondered the emergence of giant mammals, fierce carnivores, gentle vegetarian giants and the scientists who work to understand the effect of the ice continent's transformation on us.
Two other films rotate -- and both won praise from viewers and fellow museum enthusiasts we met.
A grade-school teacher with her charges said "The Story of Earth" had her class spellbound. "It takes the planet from dying stars, through collisions in space into the world we know today -- with life forms unknown elsewhere in the universe."  All with beautiful special effects, she said, and dialogue that kept easily distracted kids entertained.
"Ocean Oasis" is the third film, which takes viewers on a journey through two seemingly opposite worlds -- Mexico's Sea of Cortes and the great Baja California desert.
A beautiful fig tree graces the lawn in front of the museum.
The stately tree is one of the oldest in California.
OTHER EXHIBITS include "The Living Lab," a display popular with curious youngsters and others of us who love critters.  We viewed lizards, snakes, scorpions and more; "Coast to Cactus" shows the diversity of this corner of California where a person can surf in the ocean, hike in the desert and ski on a hilltop in the same day. 
There's a wonderful dinosaur skeleton replica -- cast from bones found in Utah; 200 (count 'em!) skulls of every kind, a lovely California flowers photo display, fossils and "Cool Stuff From Storage," which shows off intriguing items from the archives. An  exhibit on Baja is coming soon.
A fascinating exhibit on amazing discoveries
by ordinary people caught Cookie's attention.
The museum is respected for its outings and video offerings: A "Virtual Live Lesson: Earth Wants You" is Friday, April 22, at 10 a.m. "Nature Hike: Pacific Crest Trail - Eagle Rock," is Sunday, April 24, at 9 a.m.; "Nat Talk: Picture a Scientist," is Thursday, April 28, at 6:30 p.m.; "City Nature Challenge" is Friday, April 29, at 3:41 p.m.; "Nature Hike: Oakoasis Preserve, Oak Grove Trail," is May 7 (check the museum for time.)
    The popular "Nat Talks"  feature museum staff and other experts speaking on the latest in scientific research, history, conservation, and the natural world.
    The museum's website is a good place to confirm times and get a wealth of information about changing exhibits and outings. Remember that residents can visit Balboa Park museums free on rotating days throughout the month. 
    sdnat.org
 
Bruce Keller admires a mural at Hilo, Hawaii's famed
Lyman Museum and Mission House, which takes
visitors on a colorful, engaging tour of the islands' history.
UP NEXT
: While we're visiting world class museums, check out this one -- even if only by "armchair travel." In Hilo, Hawaii, the Lyman Museum and Mission House takes visitors into the natural and cultural history of the Hawaiian Islands with over 20,000 square feet of stunning galleries. Affiliated with the Smithsonian, the two-part museum includes fascinating exhibits and a 19th Century Mission House. Volcanoes, wildlife, sea life, nature habitats and more await. Meanwhile remember to explore, learn and live and catch us weekly for a fresh spin on the arts: www.whereiscookie.com


Thursday, April 14, 2022

Midway marvels: historic wartime vessel engages visitors in San Diego

Interested visitors come and go on the top deck of the USS Midway.



Actor Tom Cruise in "Top Gun." Press promotion
shots were made aboard USS Enterprise, not
Midway as many people think. Cruise posed for
 photos on San Diego's waterfront where Midway
now resides and is a popular tourist attraction. 

STUNNING MIDWAY MUSEUM TELLS TALES OF WAR, HEROISM, HONOR,  VICTORY AT SEA


STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS

PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER



THE USS MIDWAY MUSEUM in San Diego is a unique testimony to the power of military might, brilliant design and the dedication of hundreds of people devoted to the concept of service to country. Midway Museum is both an enormous floating ship and a fascinating museum. The famous aircraft carrier -- named for the Battle of Midway -- is a carefully curated collection of more than 60 exhibits. Hospital, cafeteria, quarters, rooms where battle strategy was discussed.... you'll even have an opportunity to "chat" with the captain in an "animatronics" exhibit, in one of the museum's many interesting chambers.


Bruce Keller in the cockpit of a Midway plane.
 This one allows visitors to sit inside.

Bruce Keller, aka "Keller" and Christene "Cookie"
Meyers enjoy a day on the top deck of Midway.










We climbed aboard recently in my husband's hometown, with guests from Britain. We four had a wonderful time on this historic, fascinating "fighting machine" as we explored exhibits, walked through cabins and viewed 29 carefully restored aircraft.

THE FAMOUS Battle of Midway -- in June of 1942 of World War II -- turned the tide of war between the United States and Japan. Although Midway was
built in a record 17 months, she missed World War II by a week, commissioned on Sept. 10, 1945. So while she was not in the battle for which she is named, she played a crucial part in other actions, particularly Operation Desert Storm.

Jazzercise dancers exercise in celebration in a fundraiser
to fight breast cancer on Midway. The ship is beloved by its port.

HERE'S WHAT we learned of that:
On Jan. 17, 1991, aircraft from Carrier Air Wing 5 launched from the flight deck of Midway in a combat air campaign against Iraq, preparing the battlefield for a coalition of nations’ counter-invasion and the liberation of Kuwait. This was in response to the surprise attack and seizure of the small, oil-rich kingdom by Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s military.  
Midway's career was officially nearing the end. The rapid collapse of communism after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 rendered the Cold War moot, and the Midway -- after nearly 50 years of service -- was slated for decommissioning. But the aging carrier didn't fade away. On Oct. 2, she cast off from Yokosuka, Japan, bound for the Persian Gulf.
She arrived Nov. 1 to relieve the USS Independence to watch over oil fields. With military action likely, the Midway was joined by USS Ranger and USS Theodore Roosevelt battlegroups. Despite her age, the Midway remained the flagship for the rest of the Gulf conflict. She was decommissioned in San Diego and remained in storage in Bremerton, Washington until 2003 when she was donated to the San Diego Aircraft Carrier Museum organization. It opened as the USS Midway Museum in June 2004. Bravo, Midway.

The Midway from the sea strikes a handsome pose.
MANY GROUPS and organizations  visit Midway. Music groups are regularly scheduled to play on her top deck; a community band serenaded us with patriotic tunes and Sousa marches the day we visited. Movies are shown from time to time, including the film "Midway" and of course, "Top Gun," starring Tom Cruise. My Jazzercise group celebrated the 50th birthday of Jazzercise aboard Midway, with a thousand of us dancing to celebrate  the ship and our exercise program's fight for a cancer cure.
"The Kiss" can be seen from San
Diego's embarcadero near Midway. 
Yorkshire visitors Sue and
John Speight enjoyed a day
on San Diego's waterfront
and especially their Midway
and Star of India visits.
HIGHLIGHTS of our recent visit: a walking tour through the officers' quarters, and a contrasting look at the much smaller and more cramped enlisted men's bunks.  Our friends -- who also visited nearby Star of India with us --  took the elevator down to the galley and infirmary area and pronounced it fascinating. "We were impressed with the realistic food display and layout of the galley," said Sue Speight. Added husband John, "It's amazing how they churned out hundreds of meals for the sailors in such limited space." The two found the compact infirmary "incredibly well equipped to be able to deal with all the ailments and emergencies they encountered."
One of San Diego's most famous artworks -- "The Kiss" statue -- is very near Midway and worth a short walk to view. It's inspired by the famous WWII photo shot in Times Square of a sailor and nurse hugging in jubilation at war's end.  
More information: www.midway.org; sdmaritime.org
 

Plan to take visitors or family for an educational yet fun
outing at the San Diego Natural History Museum, a whale
of a time is guaranteed. (Here, a
 replica of an extinct  
megalodon shark which once lived here, awaits your view.)  
UP NEXT:
The San Diego Natural History Museum in the captivating city's beautiful Balboa Park, is an educational yet fun place, a wonderful family outing.  It was founded in 1874 as the San Diego Society of Natural History and is the second oldest scientific institution west of the Mississippi, the oldest in Southern California. From the life of native peoples, to vegetation, minerals and, dinosaurs, visitors will find it an interesting place to spend a few hours. Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us weekly for a fresh spin on nature, travel, the arts and more: www.whereiscookie.com

sdnat.org