Balboa Park At Sunset, The Golden Hour

Every San Diegan has visited Balboa Park numerous times, gone to December Nights, walked through on the way to the Zoo and also visited at least one of the museums throughout the park.

Now with limited attractions open within the park including the International cottages, most of the museums and visitor centers, the park has taken on a new role–primarily a place to enjoy the outdoors. You can visit the Balboa Park to see what is currently open during limited hours here: https://www.culturalpartnership.org/

Balboa Park still has its charms, especially if you come just before susnet when the park is lit up and the dusky light frames the historic Spanish-Renaissance architecture.

As people’s work and school routines settle into play and visitors go back to their communities, there is a more leisurely vibe of locals exercising, skating, biking and dating (I think!).

Walking down the corridors of the Prado

This is a good time to revisit the park, the pace of life at this time, more closely reflects the era in which it was built.

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Bounce, Rock, Skate, Roll

During the ‘Weirds, pandemic, Covid-19, Coronavirus, shutdown era we have been told to stay at home and only go out when necessary for essential items such as groceries, concerts, events, amusement parks and even the parks and beaches were shut down for awhile. All in the name of preventing more deaths and trying to limit the spread of the virus, but that hasn’t made it any easier.

That is why certain activities that seem to be of a bygone era are experiencing a renaissance of sorts–drive-in movie theaters are now sold out, kayaks–you can’t find one you can buy on the REI site and roller skating.

Fueled by an Instagram-filtered stream of young rollerskaters and scenes from Berlin’s Oumi Janta (@oumi_janta) to Venice Beach’s resurgence of the roller skate scene with sultry skater ‘Keon’, @neonkeon and the Long Beach scene you can find more quad skaters out on the strands and any concrete island now.

Moxie’s popular Lolly quad skates are sold out everywhere and only available by pre-order now for an earliest arrival date of 12 weeks.

Rollerskating represents a certain freedom that we haven’t felt for awhile and an escape.

Last time I rollerskated was as a 7-year old at the height of the roller disco movement. I had the whole get-up, the pom-poms on the skates, the braided streamer barrettes and the purple laces with the matching stopper.

That’s why during this era of self reflection and isolation, those happy childhood memories brought me back to that sense of freedom and escapism and I felt drawn to order some sparkly black rollerskates and find the tribe.

Little did I know, San Diego has a growing rollerskate scene going on here. Derby United is one of the major hubs, it opened up the week of the shutdown orders as a roller derby but has pivoted to embrace the roller skating scene and host beginner and intermediate classes, jam sessions and roller dance classes. The space was newly renovated and feels so open which is such a welcome site in this time.

Entrance to the roller rink at Derby United.

You have to order a pass on their site and for $20 you get a 90-minute class which includes roller skate rental. Class size is limited to 12 people at a time and as word spreads they are starting to fill up in advance.

If you’re like me, you can also then decide to go check out Sin City Skates, run by roller derby skaters to get some gear of your own and check out @Rollerskatesandiego for info on equipment and where to go to skate.

Ultreya Coffee Shop

This is my local coffee shop. Two years ago my neighborhood didn’t have a coffee shop that I would consider ‘my local coffee shop’. We had a local cafe’ that had three other locations locally, but it just didn’t jive with me. To start off with, the coffee was terrible. But,I digress. Two years ago, Ultreya ambitiously opened up in the neighborhood, the owner, Danielle with plenty of experience running other neighborhood coffee shops and building community, was excited to open up her own coffee shop–Ultreya.

I can’t remember exactly what Ultreya means, something to do with the journey and that vibes with me. I have always loved adventure and exploring and well, coffee and community and over the past two years, Danielle has thrown her heart and soul into building that with her coffee shop. Prior to Covid and the shutdowns, she was holding small events to promote local artists of all types and building community welcoming people of all backgrounds and creeds. She still supports many communities such as BLM and the LGBTQ community along with artists even as she is trying to keep the doors open herself.

I guess this is a post not only about the coffee shop, Ultreya, but about the people behind it and the people that support it. When you talk about resilience and tenacious, then Danielle is one of those people that come to mind. So many business owners have had to flip backwards and forwards, stand on one leg and spin around while doing it and Danielle is one of those people not going down without a fight and a lot of creativity.

As far as the actual coffee shop, the elements that were built from the ground up are still there–great coffee that serves the community, unique local artisan items in the shop that I can’t help but indulge in every time I stop by, kombucha, fresh, delicious acai bowls and tempting pastries such as donuts with icing and sprinkles (my Kryptonite).

We don’t know how long this will be our new normal, we still have a great coffee shop in our neighborhood supporting the community. Let’s support our neighbors while also getting some indulgent and tasty treats.

https://www.ultreyacoffeeandtea.com/

Time to Revisit

It’s been at least two years since my last post. I started traveling and spending more time outside of San Diego and got busy with work and life. Now 5 months into a pandemic, our city has been through a lot. I have seen our city really come together and unite to help one another–making face shields for first responders and essential workers, providing meals for those on the front line and those who have been struck hard with the loss of employment. Many small businesses struggling to keep their doors open. Many of these small businesses that help make up the beauty that is San Diego. San Diego is one of the most diverse places I know. Where you can be in the snow the same day that you can go get some Eritrean Injera among the many mom and pops in central San Diego or go down to Barrio Logan and have a chamango. And then top it off with an afternoon paddleboard session.

That is why I am reviving this site and blog as a way to post about the unique places we can visit in our town and help support some truly great businesses as well.

Pala Preserve

Last weekend I wanted to go hiking…I wanted to feel like I was far away but not have to deal with the driving that actually entails far away. I pulled out Google maps for San Diego County and zoomed out looking for green spots on the map. That is when I remembered the Wilderness Garden Preserve in Pala. It is just off of the 76 East and I feel, little known unless you live near. This time of year is one of the best times of the year to come–they close for the month of August, partially due to the heat in that time of year.

The park is the oldest county park in San Diego County and trails are very well-maintained and of an easy-moderate level. It is a great place to bring your family and you can also bring your dog. Just be sure to bring plenty of water for all if you take them out on the trail.

While we were out there we saw many types of birds, hawks, loons, bullfrogs and even what looked like some type of praying mantis.

 

 

 

 

The preserve also has some interesting history as a grist mill and there are some structures and information at the Ranger Station. In addition, is some Native American history from the Luiseno Tribe who had a metate located along the trail with a marker.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the nicest things about this park, however, was that even on a Sunday, a holiday, no less, it felt very secluded and private. There were very few people when we came in the middle of the day and there is plenty of room to spread out with over 700 acres of park space.

The Wilderness Gardens Preserve is open from 8 AM to 4 PM, Thursday through Monday only. Parking is $3. It is worth the drive this time of year and provides many attractions and natural beauty that is unique to this area.

    

 

San Diego Harbor

San Diego Harbor is undergoing a major revamp these days. As you can see from my pictures below there is construction equipment in the background and old buildings being torn down to make way for the new. It is hoped that the future harbor will rival big city waterfronts like San Francisco or Seattle at some point. The most recent projects to have completed were the cruise ship terminal and the visitor information center and kiosks such as the popular Carnitas Snack Shack.

 

Phase 2 and 3 remain to move forward on what is known as the Embarcadero re-development project. If you are interested, you can find out more here: https://www.portofsandiego.org/central-embarcadero.html and here: http://fw.to/o2HaWMK

The San Diego harbor is really a gateway to San Diego and downtown though, so it is a great place to either start your visit to San Diego, check out what is happening as a local, get some exercise on the walking paths, take the kids for some low cost fun at the new waterfront park or even head on over to Little Italy for some great dining options.

Waterfront Park

Parking can be a bit tricky in this area, the waterfront park pictured above has some underground parking for a fee, otherwise you may have to lace up those walking shoes and be prepared for hitting the blocks down here or opening up the wallet for some pricey downtown parking fees–whichever eases your mind the most is up to you.

One of the biggest attractions here is the San Diego Harbor tours–Hornblower and Flagship are the two main ones and they are all located just to the left of the above photo. You can do a 1-hour tour or go out further for some whale watching which is a nice, relaxing way to see San Diego from another perspective.

Tour Boats lined up

The Embarcadero walking path also tells a little history of San Diego’s military and its contributions. At the southern end of the walking path, you will see one of San Diego’s more famous landmarks, (which can also be seen in the background of my homepage ;-)) along with other memorials and sights to see.

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All in all, there is a little something for everyone at the Embarcadero and is an area with a lot of history for San Diego.

Nice, new dog park in Mission Valley

Living in central San Diego, there are few options for dog parks if you have a small to medium-sized dog that cannot go off-leash without fencing. Until now. The Civita development

as part of the master plan for this 14.3 acre park located off of Friars Road and Russell Parkway has recently unveiled the first phase of a large, open space park with multiple attractions with plans to open the next phases in the coming months. When completed it will include an outdoor, small amphitheater, a museum of Mission Valley history, community garden, recreation center and pools for the homeowners of the Civita community, walking trails, basketball court, ping pong tables and more. You can find out more information here.

Bathroom signOutdoor Amphitheatre

While exploring this new park, I saw an interesting crysal sculpture and learned on the Civitas blog of a pop-up art exhibit coming to town in the next two weeks. It looked intriguing so I purchased tickets. You can find out more on the exhibit’s website–Wonderspaces. It proclaims to be an event with food trucks, beer and interactive art spaces. Lots of exciting stuff!

Wonderspace

This article mainly focuses on the dog park, which just opened about two weeks ago. It is located at the top of the park, after climbing several flights of steps or coming from Murray Ridge Road, you can park at the top. The park has two runs, one for small dogs and one for larger breeds. In the dog parks are drinking fountains, trees that provide shade, several structures for agility training or play and plenty of grass.

Large Dog Run

It is nice to have something as equally nice as the dog park up in Encinitas without having to make that long drive.

 

Bliss Path

Yesterday, I had woken up remembering my dream from the night. In my dream, I had gone into a dark temple which was empty except for the Priest who I could not see. I sat down in this circular space and crossed my legs and the Priest started the chant, “Ommm”. I joined along with the chant “Ommmm”. It sounded empty and dull at first. Soon after there was another voice joining in and gradually the chant multiplied and before I knew it the room was full of people chanting and forming dance circles.

This was the right frame of mind to start off my day and serendipity led me to this trail that I had no idea existed. I found the San Dieguito River Trail by chance, I had planned on going to Del Mar dog beach but the tide was so unusually high that there was not much of a beach for the pooch to run around. So we ventured down the road to look over the marsh that was now a large body of water on the east side of the road. I crossed over the road to that side and saw a walking path and took the road less taken. Apparently, many people are also not aware of this trail because it was virtually empty save for the three to four people I came across in the 3 miles that I walked this trail.

Not long after I started walking you come upon the train tracks for the Coaster and so the trail does not officially start until after the train tracks. I cannot endorse crossing the train tracks, there is little warning of an oncoming train and they are fast so best to start after the train tracks. There is parking, I believe just where the path starts, you can consult the map I linked here or find parking just outside of the Del Mar Public Works building.

Continuing on this path were landscaped trails, benches, tranquility, peace and all kinds of different varieties of birds that crossed my path. There are signs posted allowing fishing in certain areas as well. The fog tempered any glare from the sun and made me feel that I was up in the Pacific Northwest, perhaps walking along the Deschutes or some other river trail in a cooler climate.

There are informative signs posted along the trail and I learned that this is a newer portion of the Coast to Crest trail and work began on this portion in May 2016. There was a walkway that also goes down into the middle of the marsh but it was closed at this time for construction to protect the wetland habitat.

sd-river-path-sign

As I crossed Jimmy Durante Blvd. to get to the other side of the trail, I passed what looked to be a new brewery being constructed. That will make for a nice riverside summer stop for a local brew and relaxing views.

new-brew

Along this stretch of the trail, it looked more landscaped and more signs were posted listing volunteers and the history and biology of the area. One engraved plaque on a stone really caught my eye though..

love-sign

It is hard to read from the photo, but it says, “This Riverpath made possible in part through the generous donation of land by Mary Lou Jefferson in memory of her husband Philip Jefferson”. I thought what a loving tribute to her husband to share this beautiful space with others in memory of her husband. So fitting for Valentine’s Day coming  around the corner. Evidently, many volunteers and donors put a lot of work into making this path a reality.

At this point, the trail or path seems to end at an overlook, former site of the  ‘Grand Avenue Bridge’. The Del Mar Sandpiper, a local paper, provides some interesting information on the origins of this former bridge, which is now a wetlands overlook deck.

old-grand-ave-bridge

I look forward to the completion of this ambitious Coast to Crest trail project. For more information on that, the San Dieguito River Park website has a plethora of info by clicking on the hyperlink under Coast to Crest trail project.

After my dream, I truly found my bliss on this path and that my friends in these crazy times is much-needed. Namaste.

 

 

 

Hipster Gustatorial Guilt

So, it’s January 2017, been a while since I posted here. Sorry about that. Life. School. Work. Times, they are a-changing. I have some guilt about that…but on that topic of guilt–baked goods. January is supposed to be the time of the year of New year’s resolutions, getting out that gym card membership and putting it to use, buying some new yoga pants with the Christmas or Hanukkah Geld. Not.hitting.up.the.bakery. Oh, but yes, this one, Yes!!!

Blackmarket Bakery, this one, don’t worry about the guilt. We are living in stressful times and sometimes we need a little guilty pleasure, a little indulgence. And if we are going to blow the bank calorie wise, it had better be worth it, right? And this place is. The morning I came here after a rough work shift, I had the homemade biscuits, egg and cheese sandwich with sausage gravy. Mmmm, mmm, mmmh! For my other half, I chose the dark chocolate croissant and the espresso–en pointe, my friends, en pointe!

The space is also a feast for the senses, especially if you are of a hipster nature. We have the fixie bike all decked out with maker gear, the back patio that looks like a theme park playground almost and all kinds of other delicacies and hipster t-shirts and coffee mugs for sale with just the right saucy phrase to sport around North Park.

And as for the cherry on the top, dedicated parking in North Park, just south of the building. It really doesn’t get much better than that. So, for a stealth mission for some contraband this dieting season, it is all laid up for you here.

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A Fiesta of Flavors in San Marcos

I was looking up an after summer camp ice cream spot for my daughter and admittedly pulled up Yelp. Being that we were in San Marcos, many of our options were Mexican frutas or tostilocos. Immediately, I was transported to a month I spent in San Felipe as a child and the paleteria (popsicle shop) that I would get taken to on a weekly basis. It was rows upon rows of a myriad of flavors of paletas and it was a sweet memory of that time–limon, coco, pina, leche–the possibilities were endless…

I decided to take my daughter to try this paleteria called La Michoacana in San Marcos and a new generation fell in love. I had a chamoya, which was mango and pineapple ice cream with lime and chile powder for some heat to balance out the sweet and my little one was pretty adventurous with some ice cream fruit flavor called “Soursop” which is supposed to have a strawberry with coconut type flavor. The next day she was clamoring for more and altogether we visited the shop three times that week.

In addition to the ice cream and popsicle flavors they also serve up “tostilocos”, which is a Mexican snack of corn chips topped with different toppings like lime juice, chile, avocado and hot sauce.

It looks like La Michoacana is a well-oiled chain of ice cream shops throughout Mexico and the southwest. The shop was very clean, the workers were very friendly, local teenage girls and don’t let language be a barrier to opening up a whole new world of new flavors. I got to practice some of my Spanglish and one of the girls spoke fluent English if that was not possible.

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