San Diego

Every good thing you have ever heard about San Diego is true, I can testify.  They were having an odd cold snap while we were visiting, but the days turned out to be warm with sunshine.  Only the nights and early mornings were cold.

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Balboa Park is a 1,200-acre urban cultural park in San Diego. In addition to open space areas, natural vegetation zones, green belts, gardens, and walking paths, it contains museums, several theaters, and the world-famous San Diego Zoo. There are also many recreational facilities and several gift shops and restaurants within the boundaries of the park. Placed in reserve in 1835, the park’s site is one of the oldest in the United States dedicated to public recreational use.  Naturally, we went to the art museum.

balboaFirst day in San Diego was Christmas eve.  We had planned to be in the zoo from opening bell to closing bell.  Unfortunately, the zoo closed at 5pm because it was Christmas eve (naturally).  Sweet husband was upset because the website said it closed at 9pm.  However, by 4:30 p.m. he was ready to call it a day.  The zoo is a combination zoo and botanical garden.  There is a bus tour and an overhead gondola lift to move you from one end of the park to another, quickly.  It is truly wonderful.

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I was most impressed that the zoo had a Center for Reproduction of Endangered Species (CRES).  This was founded in 1975 at the urging of Kurt Benirschke, who became its first director. CRES was renamed the division of Conservation and Research for Endangered Species in 2005 to better reflect its mission.

The day after Christmas we drove out to del Coronado Hotel on Coronado island.  Hotel del Coronado (also known as The Del and Hotel Del) is a beachfront luxury hotel.  It is one of the few surviving examples of an American architectural genre: the wooden Victorian beach resort. It is the second largest wooden structure in the United States and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1977 and a California Historical Landmark in 1970.  It opened in 1888, and at the time was the largest resort hotel in the world. It has hosted presidents, royalty, and celebrities through the years. The hotel has been featured in numerous movies and books.

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Christmas day we went for Christmas services at a nice Methodist church near our hotel.  It was a sweet, sacred celebration complete with a wonderful Christmas choir and communion.  This was the event that made me KNOW, beyond a shadow of a doubt, we were in California – they had communion with gluten free bread.  Enough said.  That afternoon we went for the first day release of Unbroken.  The movie based on the book by the same name about Louis Zamperini and directed by Angelia Jolie.  The book and the movie were both excellent.

That week we also received news of the loss of our sweet friend, Lexie.  She was a faithful companion, friend and playmate for 15 wonderful years.  That day I stayed alone at the hotel while Sweet husband, sister-in-law and brother-in-law went back to Balboa Park for the day.

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The Tournament of Roses Parade

Sweet husband and his sweet sister planned this trip for us at least two years ago. We joined an educational tour group called Road Scholar so we could get the full-meal-deal out of the trip. Believe me we did. I am not a parade person, I am, however, a hands-on person and that is exactly what I got. The group price was really reasonable, we all stayed together in a hotel near Pasadena, transportation to all events were provided as well as all meals. Just show up when and where they tell you…EASY!

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The theme this year was, “Inspiring Stories”. Local son and hero, Louis Zamperini was asked to be the Grand Marshall. Unfortunately he passed away this past summer, but his family represented him along with a horse without a rider. His inspiring story was told by Laura Hillenbrand in her book, “Unbroken”, which was made into a movie, directed by Angelina Jolie. I highly recommend the book, it is one of the best I have read in years.

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Speaking of horses, they have been a constant companion to the parade from the first year and they presented some magnificent horses and riders for this year’s event.

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First day we were taken to this enormous warehouse facility owned by Phoenix (a company who actually designs and builds some of the corporate floats). The volunteers are all managed by The Kiwanis Club. Here we received our work orders for the day. We were assigned to decorate the Princess Cruise Line Float in the morning and cut roses all afternoon.

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THINGS I LEARNED:

  • 55 million watch this parade worldwide
  • The cost of a float is between $50,000 and $200,000
  • They paint a pink line in the middle of the street, all the way down the 5 mile route so the drivers (who are inside) can see where to go.  There is someone on the float or walking beside it telling the driver when to stop and when to go forward.
  • All the bands are high school bands with the exception of the Pasadena Community College Band and the two college bands representing the two teams planning in the Rose Bowl.
  • The royal court is chosen from among the exceptional young women from the local high schools.
  • There are only three judges and 24 prizes.
  • There are between 2 and 3 million roses grown for and flown in for this parade.
  • There is nothing dyed and every item on the float is organic:  flowers, dried flowers, fruit, grains, bark, vegetables, sea weed, etc.

Besides decorating the float we had the opportunity to attend classes lead by people who have held different positions for this event. We went to Pasadena Community College to hear the marching bands. We were also taken to the Getty Museum for one afternoon. The weather was spectacular as were the building and grounds. Naturally the art was spectacular, as well.  We have seen many art museums over the past several months and I am always impressed by the architure; the Getty was no exception.  It is perched on a mountain overlooking Los Angeles on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other.

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We learned that the bands had to raise their own money to attend and perform. Plus, they actually played songs during the full five mile route. I have seen many bands in parades and they just mostly marched and beat the drums to the time of the march. These kids worked very hard…makes you proud.

We were taken to see the floats on display the day after the parade (we were allowed in before the general public went in) Pictures of finished floats below.  I hope you can see the details.

I was skeptical about this event going in, but I would do it again and recommend it to any Rose Parade lovers. The only negative was the weather on the day we viewed the bands (rain, lots of it). California needs it so we didn’t gripe. It was also the coldest Parade on record – who would have guessed in sunny California.

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