Leaving for the (relative) calm of Las Vegas

Part one of the trip is done - the convergence of the Spengler/Batzer/Jaffee clan into a Home Away vacation home in La Jolla (the number of people this strangely laid out house can hold is amazing).  As you know, Wayne and I arrived on Friday and spent the morning hitting the Japanese Friendship Garden in Balboa Park, which opened in 1991.  The Garden is an expression of friendship between San Diego and its sister city, Yokohama. The Garden’s design, which sits on 12 acres, is based on centuries-old Japanese techniques adapted to San Diego’s climate and florae and seeks to foster a relationship between humans and nature, providing a respite attuned to Japanese simplicity, serenity, and aestheticism.  While the stone arrangements, koi ponds, bonsai, and water features are breathtaking, perhaps the most poignant feature to me was the peace tree from Hiroshima, a cutting of one of the trees that survived “Little Boy.”  We spent several days in Hiroshima with Eliot this year, one of the more solemn places I have visited.  I thought that the infrared media captured hope against the stark reality of life in wartime.


Then it was off to the Birch Aquarium at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla.  I had been here many years before, during a business trip when I worked for Booz Allen.  There is a lot of construction going on, so the parking situation was a bit confusing, but Wayne and I navigated through and made it.  The air was dotted with multiple hang gliders that swooped close as we made our way to the aquarium.  

Perched on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, Birch Aquarium features more than 60 habitats of fishes and invertebrates from the cold waters of the Pacific Northwest to the tropical waters of Mexico and beyond. An oceanographic museum showcases research discoveries by Scripps Oceanography scientists on climate, earth, and ocean science and includes interactive elements. So, needless to say, lots of happy children running around in an aquarium filled with Halloween decorations.  The exhibits are small, but representative of the Pacific Ocean stretching from California to Micronesia.  A pleasant way to spend 1 1/2 hours. 


If you couldn’t tell, I’m really enjoying infrared photography.

And then on to vacation rental.  My parents had dropped off their luggage earlier, but the house cleaner was still going strong when we arrived.  We did a short walk down the block where the house is located, came back, and were able to come in.  After scoping out the house, we chose a room, and awaited the parental, sister and nephew’s arrival.  Following a communal dinner, it was time for bed.

Saturday morning came, and our days diverged.  For Wayne and me, it was a post brekky trek to Chico’s (it is bloody hot here, I packed the wrong clothes), where I took advantage of sale prices on summer wear, and to Patagonia for Wayne - new shirt and shorts.  Pam and Will took off to get Scott and Kate (the bro-in-law and niece), and they spent the afternoon at the Embarcadero touring the USS Midway.  Apparently quite difficult to get the kids out of the simulation chambers.  Mom and Dad went to the Mission District on a Dia de la Morte mission.  Photo cred to my dad.


From there, regrouping at the home.  It was the Yankees’ last chance game, no chance of eating out with bro-in-law here.  He’s a season ticket holder and quite the supporter.  So, for Batzer dinner night, we ordered in pizza and Greek salad from a local establishment to be delivered.  Passable thanks to the spicy sauce and premium mozzarella.  

Sunday was our last day together as a large group.   First stop was the breathtakingly amazing brunch at the Hotel del Coronado.  I don’t think that Wayne and I made it past the seafood/sushi tables.  If you haven’t been, it’s a must.  The Del (as it is affectionately known) is a historic beachfront hotel in the city and island of Coronado, just across the Bay from San Diego. 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 California Historical Landmark in 1970 and a National Historic Landmark in 1977.


Again, the Crown Room Sunday brunch is not to be missed!

From there, it was a change of clothing and a trip to the San Diego Zoo.  While the zoo is often touted as the best in the United States, largely I think to its preservation work, there are still a lot of rare animals in cages and behind glass that do not get to roam freely.  We prefer the Safari Zoo Park (Wayne and I) and the Bronx Zoo, where the animals have more of a chance to roam freely. 

We spit into two groups, Jaffees going to the left and the Spengler/Batzer quartet to the right.  Mom, Dad, Wayne and I took the bus after the obligatory photo op.  Oh, and screw Storipass, we bought the hard copies and were supposed to be able to download the photos as well.  Guess you have to read the fine print a little more closely.  Which would imply bringing your reading glasses to the zoo...


It was still bloody hot, so we traversed only a small portion of the zoo after our bus ride, and then we headed to see Ice Age 4D, which was fun, and then to ride the SkySafari back to the entrance.  By the time we made it there, it was about 4 pm, so we headed back to the ranch to a left-over plus roasted chicken dinner.  Jaffees made it back a wee bit after us, and we all made a night of it.

Monday was Jaffee return day.  Pam, Scott and Kate did spin class in the morning overlooking Child’s Beach, where the sea lions were out.  I woke up Will, we fed him, and all got ready to go down to La Jolla Shore Drive.  When we arrived, the Sea Lions were still out, and we had a lovely time visiting with them.  Will was quite pleased, and definitely into some camera work. 


Wayne and I headed to the post office to mail my too warm clothing back home, and then got back to the house in time to say farewell to the Jaffees.  Then Mom, Dad, Wayne and I checked in for our flights to Vegas, and headed off to Temecula wine country. 

Our first stop was a recommendation made by an umpiring friend of my father’s (and I used to work with him, too).  The winery was Bel Vino.  My advice, don’t go.  The staff was completely unprofessional, the wines nondescript.  There were no notes or discussion of the characteristics of the wine outside of “Yeah, it’s sweet, you probably wouldn’t like it), and our server was approached in the midst of our tasting and told to move the tasting area to a different location.  Recommendation = 0. 


Next was the winery for which Dad secured a Groupon - Mount Palomar.  The staff was wonderful (in one of the ratings, a customer said that as soon as you walked in the door you were treated like family), knowledgeable of the product, and actively engaged.  We enjoyed ourselves so much that we joined the club and bought several bottles to be shipped home.  Lunch was at their adjacent eatery, and it was marvelous.  Super high marks for Mount Palomar.


The back to the casa for a final night of leftovers. 

This morning we leave at 8 am, headed for Sin City.  Looking forward to a little peace and quiet!