Sunday, April 26, 2015

Birthday Brunch

Lydia arranged brunch for me in a secret location for my birthday. It was fun because I had not the slightest idea where we were going and all of my guesses were pitifully far off.

The secret location was none other than the lovely Cafe Madeleine at Tower Grove Park. Not only was the food delicious and several of our family members present, but this marked off yet another experience from our holy subquest to complete St. Louis Magazine's "101 Things Every St. Louisan Must Do". My year of exile is almost over, and St. Louis will once again get amazingly adventured on the daily. Boom!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

A Texan Cattle Drive

I drove down to Dallas to visit my buddy Rodion from my SIUE days. Good times were had.

We went to the The Sixth Floor Museum which is in the book depository building that Kennedy was shot from. Especially chilling was looking out the sniper's window and seeing the streets below looking very similar to how they did back then. They were pretty nazi with their no pictures policy, so you'll just have to trust me that it was cool.

We then went to Dallas' mysterious sibling, Fort Worth.

The Forth Worth Stock Yards were a pretty darn solid tourist attraction. I felt like it had a good mix of history and touristy tackiness.

This giant building that looked like it used to be stables or something had been converted into a cool maze of shops.

There was what looked to be a Southeastern Asian tv show being filmed. I imagine I'm famous somewhere.

The Stock Yards' biggest draw is the daily mini cattle drive that goes through town. It was funny because the Asian tv show kept getting yelled at by the cattle drive staff for standing in the street. The show must go on I suppose.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

A Second Swipe at Balboa Park

We had a few hours to explore on our last day in San Diego, and we wisely spent them at the Balboa Park that we encountered two days ago.

Every park needs a working replica of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre.

You could probably spend a month at this park seeing everything. There are like 10 museums on the campus, so we just had to pick one. We opted for the Museum of Man.

Probably my favorite exhibit was a world history of beer. One culture makes it by chewing grain and then spitting it into a bucket to get the fermentation process started. Yum.

We paid special attention to the mummy exhibits in order to prepare ourselves for our trip to EGYPT in a couple weeks. No big deal.

There were so many people out that I thought there must be some sort of special event or something happening, but that didn't seem to be the case. It was just another awesome day at an awesome park.

Lunch was worth the wait.

Our last event was watching a performance on the gargantuan Spreckels Organ.

I'll just borrow this picture from Wikipedia. Yoink. Anyway, the organ was built for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition and was the largest outdoor organ in the world at the time.

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Meeting Some Family

The main goal of the day was to meet up with my cousin Colin and his wife Laure who just so happen to live in San Diego. 

We had been talking about breakfast at this Donut Bar place that was walking distance from the hotel. A couple other people had the same idea so we gave up and continued on our journey.

We checked out this farmer's market in Little Italy.

Things were eaten.

We then met Colin and Laure for lunch and then did some good old fashioned touristy stuff.

We stopped for refreshments at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens - Liberty Station. Liberty Station is a really cool old naval training center converted into shops and restaurants.

We took a walk through a park that is on the naval training center's grounds that is adjacent to the water. Across the water is San Diego's airport, so it was an interesting juxtaposition.

We ended with a stroll around San Diego's Old Town.

We rocked this old timey candy shop real hard. The period-dressed worker was very generous with samples so we tried all kinds of stuff. I settled on a bag of cordials which were fun. They were like chocolate balls, with a crunchy layer, and inside that was a juicy flavored center. I chose lavender. I should really be eating more flowers.

We returned to our hotel's Gaslamp Quarter neighborhood for dinner and then turned in for the night.

Friday, April 03, 2015

Hanging Out With the Seals of San Diego

We had initially planned on arriving in San Diego on Thursday, a day before Lydia's mom and sister. Our flight plan was messed up beyond repair and Southwest put us up in a hotel in Phoenix for the night. Why not? They also gave us $400 in travel vouchers which we immediately spent on trips to occur later this month. Free travel vouchers don't last long with us these days.

On Friday we drove the rental straight from the airport to Torrey Pines State Reserve. For some reason I expected a basic wooded area, but this park was pretty amazing. The beach was nice and had an eye catching mixture of black and yellow sand.

Lydia's crew.

There were big wads of seaweed sitting in the sand that we (ok, mostly I) found noteworthy. After a nice walk on the beach we drove up the hill to the welcome center.

At the visitor center they had quite a collection of cacti and other fun plants that I don't see much.

We continued on into La Jolla and had lunch. Lydia's mom and sister are both doing the vegan thing so that was an interesting twist to the culinary part of the trip. So we walk into a place that is part cafe and part yoga something studio and order off of the chalk board menu. I don't know what brought it on but I got this feeling of personal growth or growing up or something. This place was pretty "out there" and I can remember a time that I would have disdained the place as being too hippie but I ended up having a great meal.

One of the first things I saw was a pregnant lady in yoga clothing with her belly hanging out, which had a large intricate henna tattoo inscribed on it. Welcome to California.

I had a couple of really good portabella mushroom tacos, with really interestingly textured homemade shells and a smoothie with different berries and other good stuff in it.

We popped into the local Goodwill for the heck of it then headed to Children's Pool Beach for something completely different. The draw at this beach is the seals. As we approached I wondered if maybe we had come at the wrong time of day because I didn't see any seals at all. As we got nearer though I could see their little heads popping up among the waves. There were a few babies struggling against the tide which were particular crowd favorites.

After hopping up on a few rocky... rocks we found where 10-20 seals were taking naps in the sun. They were fun to watch even while sleeping. One looked like she was having a dream because her little flippers kept flapping against the rocks. If we were too loud one might briefly open its big eyes and turn its head in our direction but it would quickly doze off again. They didn't seem bothered by our presence in the slightest.

The babies were like little slippery pillows with a head. With a painful amount of cute they seemed to be almost as bad at moving in the water as they were on land. We briefly considered taking one home. At the very least we could have borrowed one and let it live in the hotel bathtub for a couple of days.

If you can think of one good reason "seal dreaming its swimming" shouldn't be a 24 hour tv channel then you sir are a monster and I bid you good day. Good day to you sir!

As we were about to leave we witnessed the most pathetic scene like ever. This baby seal was trying to get to its mother but it just sucked at moving so, so badly. The waves were too strong to swim over and it just did not have the legs, knees, elbows, or really any useful body part to move on land. It just mewed and struggled. I just wanted to pick the damn thing up and walk it over there just to end the suffering for both of us.

The real stick-in-the-eye of it all was that its sibling was over there with the mom, just gobbling up all that milk. Really just going to town within eyeshot of its limbless and hungry crying sibling. Maybe if a hawk or something came and snatched the hungry one this could have been sadder. I think that's the only way. Or if Hungry made it all the way over there and the mom was like "you're adopted" and then the hawk swooped down. I'll have to think about it.

We gawked at a stranger's wedding nearby for a bit.

Well it would be hard to top that but we definitely tried. I drove the rental to Balboa Park and we had a nice stroll. Balboa fits into the same story as St. Louis' Forest Park where a world's fair type thing was held and they decided to keep a lot of the buildings. Both the 1915–16 Panama–California Exposition and 1935–36 California Pacific International Exposition were held at the park. The Panama one was held to celebrate the opening of the Panama Canal, to which San Diego was relevant because it is the southernmost port on the west coast and was suddenly much more important to all the ships using the Panama Canal from the east coast.

Anyway we'd come late enough that the numerous museums and attractions were all closed so we finished up our walk, dropped the luggage and some people off at the hotel, and then returned the rental car and took the metro back. One night of parking at the hotel would have cost more than the car cost to rent so it seemed like the right call.

We had dinner at an interesting Mexican restaurant and then called it a night.