San Diego, Continued

In the last few weeks I have blogged about our two visits to San Diego this year, and there is still more to tell; including our amazing Airbnb experiences and a visit to the waterfront area.

On our most recent visit we stayed at a delightful Airbnb studio located in the North Park neighborhood. Our host, Rick, is warm, welcoming and attentive to every detail. He responds quickly to questions and makes sure that everything is just right. The studio is perfectly comfortable, sparkling clean and has one of the most comfortable beds I have ever slept on!

My husband, thetravelsketcher, painted the picture above of the front patio.

Restaurants and shops are within walking distance (figure two blocks to several miles). Rick left many snacks for us including some delicious fresh peaches, an inviting Sauvignon Blanc, and other tasty treats.

I highly recommend Rick’s bungalow, he is a delightful host and even gave us a ride to the airport!

In January we stayed at Waterhaven in the Hillcrest neighborhood which is also a private studio in a quiet neighborhood. Bruce and Grant are kind and generous hosts and welcomed us with wine, home-baked cookies and much more. Their backyard has a beautiful koi pond and many places to sit to enjoy the peaceful, serene setting.

We felt completely at home here and throughly enjoyed the gorgeous setting. This studio is also perfectly clean, quiet, comfortable and has many special touches. It was my birthday weekend when we visited and the hosts serenaded me at their grand piano with a lively rendition of Happy Birthday!

We keep in touch with Bruce and Grant and even had lunch with them on our last visit to San Diego. We will connect with Rick again on our next visit there. And that, right there, is what makes Airbnb so special. We have stayed at many Airbnb locations around the world and have had some amazing experiences. I can’t say that about any of the hotels we have stayed in! Check out my previous blog posts for more information about our many Airbnb experiences.

I should say that I am not connected with Airbnb in anyway whatsoever; I’m just a fan. We have had a few, hmm, not so great experiences with Airbnb. So to prevent that from happening to you, here ares a few tips to be sure you have also have a great experience:

1. Read the reviews; if there are none; think hard before booking.

2. Book in advance to get the best properties and locations.

3. Ask questions of your host, if they are slow in replying, think twice about booking.

Moving on; a walk along the waterfront will take you past the The Midway Museum. The USS Midway was active for 47 years, and has visited more ports than most of us will see in our lifetimes. This ship is HUGE and is a great place for kids and families to visit.

There are many other areas along the waterfront to visit including shops and restaurants.

The beautiful, cerulean skies of San Diego.

San Diego is a warm, welcoming, beautiful place to visit, with so much to offer. I have barely scratched the surface with my posts. Since my sister and family live there now, I may be spending more time there in the future. 🙂

As always, please leave a comment with your favorite activities in San Diego.

Sunny San Diego

Every winter my husband and I get away from the grey and gloomy weather of the Pacific Northwest for a short vacation in the sun, this past winter, we chose San Diego for our destination. This was my first visit there and I quickly realized why so many of my family members and friends love the city. With warmth and sunshine (an average of 266 sunny days each year) what’s not to like? This beautiful city has much to offer in addition to the paradisiacal weather.

I had heard quite a lot about Balboa Park, so this was our first stop. This 1,200 acre park is packed with a multitude of activities. We started at the Spanish Village Art Center. This area is filled with small shops run by local artists. There are a wide variety of hand crafted items including pottery, jewelry, and many paintings in different mediums.

The Botanical Building and Lily Pond is a popular site in the park. It was built for the 1915 – 1916 Exposition and is one of the largest lath structures in the world.

Inside there are a wide variety of beautiful plants and flowers.

Not far from the Botanical Building is the Timken Museum of Fine Art. This free museum opened in 1965 and houses the private collections of the Timken family and the Putnam sisters. Is has a unique collection of European and American art.

Also in the park you will find the Japanese Friendship Gardens. This beautiful, 12 acre garden opened in 1991 with the purpose of educating people about Japanese culture.

The park is filled with many more interesting sites including cultural activities, the famous San Diego Zoo, museums, trails and so much more. I highly recommend a visit to the park.

Coronado Island is an interesting place to visit. The famous hotel is probably the most well known site in the area, but there are many other sites and activities including water sports and shopping.

We found a little French bistro there called Chez Loma which has fabulous food.

You will find many other great restaurants in San Diego including Encontro in North Park. They have great food and a wide selection of beers on tap. I love the sign right by the front door.

Et Voila Bistro also in North Park is another great restaurant. Nous avons mange beignet d’haricot verts, et beignet de champignons, c’est delicieux!

We had another delicious meal at Buon Appetito in Little Italy. The risotto was yummy.

We made another trip to San Diego a few weeks ago to attend our niece’s wedding. She moved to the city well over ten years ago to attend law school, and has made the city her home. My sister and other niece recently moved there as well. With other family members there for the wedding, we had fun filled and special time together. It was hard to say goodbye, but I can see many more trips to San Diego in the near future.

Check back next week when I will write more about this beautiful city and the surrounding area, including our amazing Airbnbs hosts and experiences.

As always, please leave a comment with your favorite activities in San Diego.

Wishing you happy and adventurous travels.

Death Valley National Park

Death Valley, the name doesn’t sound very inviting. In fact, an immediate response to a suggested vacation there might receive an incredulous “why?!?” My husband and I visited a few years ago for our anniversary. Needless to say, we received a lot of teasing for our choice of our anniversary getaway location. However, it truly is a majestic place, with canyons, dunes, vistas, craters and so much more to see.

Death Valley, located in Eastern California in the northern part of the Mojave Dessert, received its national park designation in 1994, so it is one of the newer national parks. It boasts some other designations as well, including being the lowest point in North America, and being one of the hottest places on the planet. On July 10, 1913 it was a scorching 134 degrees, making winter a great time to visit.

A highlight of our visit was a hike in Golden Canyon. This beautiful hike starts off through a narrow canyon, with many smaller canyons on either side of the trail.

After about one mile, you will see a large, steep hill where the path cuts right into the side of the rock wall.

Photos above taken by theTravelsketcher.

It is a bit dicey getting across the hillside, with the rock wall on one side, and a drop off on the other, so keep your eyes focused on your footing. The trail twists down through some steep, rocky ledges and opens up onto what looks like an old, dry riverbed filled with large, loose gravel. It took about 45 minutes to work our way out of the riverbed. Then we came to some hairpin turns through more narrow canyons. At several points we had to navigate down some steep, stone walls, keeping a watchful eye out for scorpions as we used the rocks for balance. Once out of the canyons, the trail opens up at the base of the mountains.

It was about another mile to get back to the trailhead. This hike isn’t for everyone, but it was one of the more memorable ones we have taken. As we left the trailhead, we were ushered out by this critter:

Coyotes are abundant in the park, be careful not to get too close.

Artists’ Drive is another beautiful place to visit.

The beautiful colors in the rocks were caused by oxidation of metals.

I found the plants to be interesting as well, since they grow right out of the rocks.

Dante’s View is another point of interest in the park.

Photo above courtesy of theTravelsketcher.

Badwater Basin, pictured below is the lowest point in North America. It sits at 282 feet below sea level.

Photos below, courtesy of theTravelsketcher.

There are many other interesting places within the park to visit including Scotty’s Castle, Furnace Creek, Panamint Springs and Twenty Mule Teams. These teams of mules hauled borax from Harmony Borax Works. Note that Scotty’s Castle is closed until 2020 due to storm damage. There are many other things to do and see in the park as well, so do some research before you go.

I highly recommend visiting Death Valley, it’s an interesting and historical place to see. I prefer visiting in the winter, because the weather is cooler and I am not too keen on seeing snakes. Scorpions are active all year long in the area, and we were given guidelines on avoiding encounters with them when we checked into our hotel. But, hey, that’s all part of the adventure!

Wishing you happy and adventurous travels,


Arms Raised to Joshua Tree National Park

At the convergence of the Colorado and Mojave desserts lies Joshua Tree National Park. Its quiet, surreal beauty will draw you in, and you will find yourself lost in its distinctive landscape. The many hiking trails you’ll find here are an open invitation to roam, wander and experience its rugged terrain. The trails twist and careen around massive boulders, plants and the spiny, prickly looking Joshua trees. The trees were named by a group of Mormon settlers who thought the trees reminded them of the Israeli leader, Joshua with his arms raised to Heaven.

Located in Southern California, not far from Palm Springs, this almost 800,000 acre park has much to offer if you enjoy outdoor activities. There are many hiking trails to discover and rock climbing. At night, you’ll want to lift your eyes to the sky and take in the vast stars above. We visited a few years ago in January, and the weather was perfect, low 70s and clear, brilliant blye skies. Several of the hikes we took include Barker Dam, Hidden Valley, and my favorite, Fortynine Palms. This 3 mile round trip trail takes you to a secluded oasis with a stream. It is a relatively easy hike, but be sure to take plenty of water. The oasis is a gorgeous place to relax.

It was a hot day when we took this hike, and on several occasions, when we caught a glimpse of the oasis in the distance, I was beginning to think it was a mirage.

You will find some Native American petroglyphs along the Barker Dam trail.

Skull Rock is an interesting site to see. As the name indicates, this large rock looks like a skull.

I couldn’t take enough photos of the interesting rock formations and plant life.

Earlier this year, during the government shut down, there was much vandalism and destruction of the Joshua trees. Apparently, this happens on occasion, but the deliquients took advantage of the lack of park rangers during the shut down, and did a tremendous amount of damage. I don’t think they were ever caught, but I do hope that they are haunted by the trees in their dreams. What a completely thuggish thing to do. We have a treasure in our National Parks, and as citizens of this country, we have the responsibility of being good stewards, so be sure to tread lightly and leave no trace of your visit.

Yosemite National Park

We are blessed to live in a country with some amazingly gorgeous national parks that have immense diversity of landscape, animals, flora and fauna. We have President Theodore Roosevelt to thank for much of the effort in creating some national parks, the US National Forest Service, and for his efforts to preserve the beauty of our vast country.

There are over 400 national parks in the US and US territories. I have been fortunate to have visited perhaps a dozen of these, so I have barley scratched the surface.

One of my favorites is Yosemite National Park, which is located in the western Sierra Nevada range of Central California. We visited in April, 2018 and the weather was perfect. A bit chilly in the mornings and evenings, but sunny, clear and absolutely perfect for hiking and exploring. As I have mentioned in many of my blog posts, vacationing in the off season means fewer crowds and lower prices as well.

We stayed at Wawona Lodge, formerly Big Tree Lodge.

This charming Victorian Era hotel opened in the 1850s, and is 20 miles from Tunnel View. This scene took my breath away when I first saw it in the misty, morning light.

Half Dome Rock is a granite dome at the eastern end of the park. It was first ascended by George Anderson in 1875, and is still a popular spot today for rock climbers.

Yosemite Falls is a spectacular site to witness. There are many waterfalls in the park and they are at their fullest in the spring.

And of course, there are many hiking trails in the park offering beautiful views.

As we wandered through a pretty meadow, we saw a group of picnickers sprawled out on blankets, with binoculars, oohing and aahing at the side of a cliff. We turned and realized that they were watching a group of rock climbers ascend a rock wall. We stopped to watch as well. The climbers are far more brave than I am! I prefer the spectator spot for this sport.

There are many more activities in Yosemite than what I have mentioned here, as well as the amazing beauty of the area. Have you been to Yosemite National Park? As always, please leave a comment and share your favorite things about the park.