The cool America Plaza trolley station.

San Diego Trolley stops at cool America Plaza station.
San Diego Trolley stops at cool America Plaza station.

There are a few San Diego Trolley stations that are unusual and especially interesting. One is the partially enclosed station at America Plaza. Every busy day, long red trolleys snake through the skirt of the tall, glassy building. One America Plaza is the highest skyscraper downtown, and stands just across Kettner Boulevard from the Santa Fe Depot.

Looking outward from the partially enclosed trolley station.
Looking outward from the partially enclosed trolley station.
Silver Line trolley stops at America Plaza.
Silver Line trolley stops at America Plaza.
Taking a walk through the shady station on a sunny day.
Taking a walk through the shady station on a sunny day.

To enjoy future posts, you can “like” Cool San Diego Sights on Facebook, or follow me on Twitter.

Anthony Newman plays the Spreckels Organ.

People arrive early to get good seats for tonight's organ concert.
People arrive very early to get good seats for tonight’s organ concert.

Mere pictures and words are inadequate to describe the fantastic concert I enjoyed this evening in Balboa Park. Tonight was the first Monday concert at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion of the Summer International Organ Festival.

The special guest organist was Anthony Newman, widely considered one of the foremost Baroque musicians in the United States. He’s made countless recordings, won numerous awards, performed at New York City’s prestigious Lincoln Center more than 60 times, and was described by Wynton Marsalis as “The High Priest of Bach.” Tonight’s concert, I’m glad to say, was jam packed with Johann Sebastian Bach–my absolute favorite composer!

Anthony Newman seemed superhuman at times. He played difficult pieces with ease, crispness and energy.  It was flawless poetry and simply amazing.  The concert was over much too soon!

Here are a few pics!

Spreckels Organ Society membership table and a smile.
Spreckels Organ Society membership table and a smile.
Anticipating first concert of Summer International Organ Festival.
Anticipating first concert of the Summer International Organ Festival.
Big banner on Organ Pavilion's colonnade announces the event.
Big banner on Organ Pavilion’s colonnade announces the free event.
Rolling out the red carpet for great organist Anthony Newman.
Rolling out the red carpet for great American organist Anthony Newman.
Flag and a bronze plaque of the historic pavilion.
Flag and a bronze plaque of the historic pavilion.
Beautiful pavilion is a treat for the eye in changing light.
Beautiful building is a treat for the eye in changing light.
Elegant peek by organ assistant at the growing crowd.
Elegant peek by organ assistant at the growing crowd.
Dr. Carol Williams, civic organist, announces guest musician.
Dr. Carol Williams, San Diego’s Civic Organist, announces guest artist.
Famed Baroque organist Anthony Newman greets audience.
Famed Baroque organist Anthony Newman greets audience.
A masterful performance on the Spreckels Organ begins.
A masterful performance on the Spreckels Organ begins.

Those pipes you see on the left side of the stage form the new Centennial Tuba rank, soon to be added to the Spreckels Organ for its one hundredth anniversary on New Year’s Eve!

Anthony Newman acknowledges enthusiastic applause.
Anthony Newman acknowledges long, enthusiastic applause.
KUSI television cameraman records a portion of the event.
KUSI television cameraman records a portion of the event.
The lights come on in the twilight and the pavilion becomes magical.
The lights come on in the twilight and the pavilion becomes magical.
There are 1400 embedded lights in the main structure and colonnades.
There are 1400 embedded lights in the main structure and colonnades.

The Spreckels Organ Pavilion was built for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition. You can observe similar plaster ornamentation on the Spanish Colonial Revival style buildings that line El Prado, in the center of Balboa Park.

Night descends and people stretch their legs during intermission.
Night descends and people stretch their legs during intermission.

My camera is worthless at night, so I recorded only half of the evening.  But the music throughout was amazing!  What a brilliant start to the 2014 International Organ Festival!

To enjoy future posts, you can “like” Cool San Diego Sights on Facebook, or follow me on Twitter.

House of Scotland Pipe Band in Balboa Park.

House of Scotland Pipe Band performs at Spreckels Organ Pavilion.
House of Scotland Pipe Band performs at Spreckels Organ Pavilion.

Today’s free Sunday organ concert at Balboa Park’s Spreckels Organ Pavilion featured the amazing House of Scotland Pipe Band! The House of Scotland makes its home in the International Cottages just steps away from the pavilion.

I’ve always loved bagpipe music. It’s even better, if that’s possible, when accompanied by Dr. Carol Williams, San Diego’s famous Civic Organist, on the majestic Spreckels Organ. The large-lunged instruments combine their resonance, and with the addition of a booming drum, the melodies that are produced really stir the blood. I wish the concert had gone on all afternoon!

Songs included Highland Cathedral, Flower of Scotland, Blue Bells, Amazing Grace, Scotland the Brave, and The Ballad of Glencoe.

Raising and twirling the baton in time with great bagpipe music.
Raising and twirling the baton in time with great bagpipe music.
Dr. Carol Williams accompanies bagpipes with Spreckels Organ.
Dr. Carol Williams accompanies bagpipes on the Spreckels Organ.
The big booming drum of the House of Scotland!
The big booming drum of the House of Scotland!
Balboa Park visitors mingle with musicians after the stirring concert.
Balboa Park visitors mingle with musicians after the stirring concert.

To enjoy future posts, you can “like” Cool San Diego Sights on Facebook, or follow me on Twitter.

Drama and music in Balboa Park’s Zoro Garden.

Actors rehearse A Nation of Pain in Balboa Park's small Zoro Garden.
Actors rehearse A Nation of Pain in Balboa Park’s small Zoro Garden.

Today during my walk through Balboa Park, I noticed that the small Zoro Garden has become a venue for summer weekend entertainment. Usually the shady, sinuous, amphitheatre-like garden is left to the butterflies, who flutter here and there in sunbeams above ragged beds of colorful flowers.

As I walked down, actors were rehearsing for a comedic play on the bare dirt center of the garden. At two o’clock a musical performance began, and I listened while chowing down on a polish sausage. I love Balboa Park!

Garden Theatre Festival takes place during the summer in Balboa Park.
Garden Theatre Festival takes place during the summer in Balboa Park.
People enter the seldom-used, charming Zoro Garden.
People enter the seldom-used, charming Zoro Garden.
This was a nudist colony during the 1935 California-Pacific Exposition!
This was a nudist colony during the 1935 California-Pacific Exposition!
Butterfly among flowers in the small Zoro Garden.
Butterfly among flowers in the small Zoro Garden.
Zoro Garden dedicated to butterflies in 2007.
Zoro Garden dedicated to butterflies in 2007.
Jennie Buss' Band plays warm-hearted music for onlookers.
Jennie Buss’ Band plays warm-hearted music for onlookers.
Folks enjoy a musical performance in Balboa Park.
Folks enjoy an intimate musical performance in Balboa Park.

To enjoy future posts, you can “like” Cool San Diego Sights on Facebook, or follow me on Twitter.

El Camino Real bells around San Diego.

El Camino Real bell in front of California's first Spanish mission.
El Camino Real bell in front of California’s first Spanish mission.

Here are just a few random pics of El Camino Real bells around San Diego. During my walks, I’m often surprised to discover a new bell.

Many of these guidepost bells were placed in 1906 by the California Federation of Women’s Clubs. They marked the primitive roads that connected the old Spanish missions in California. El Camino Real, which means the Royal Road or King’s Highway in Spanish, led to 21 missions in Alta California, plus a variety of sub-missions, presidios and pueblos. The bells stand on tall posts in the shape of a shepherd’s crook. In subsequent years, bells have been removed or added to the California landscape.

Bell in front of Old Town's historic cemetery.
Bell in front of Old Town’s historic El Campo Santo cemetery.
Plaque explains history of the guidepost bells.
Plaque explains history of the guidepost bells.
El Camino Real bell spotted on Harbor Island.
El Camino Real bell spotted on Harbor Island.
El Camino Real bell by County Administration Building.
El Camino Real bell by the downtown County Administration Building.
Historic bell and palm trees in Imperial Beach.
Historic bell and palm trees in Imperial Beach.
I even found an El Camino Real bell near the Hotel del Coronado!
I found an El Camino Real bell near the Hotel del Coronado!
El Camino Real bell in Cesar Chavez Park in Barrio Logan.
El Camino Real bell in Cesar Chavez Park in Barrio Logan.
Plaque on Harbor Drive reveals nearby bell was donated by San Diego Woman's Club.
Plaque on Harbor Drive reveals that a nearby bell was donated by San Diego Woman’s Club.

 

El Camino Real bell on Martin Luther King Jr. Promenade by Children's Park.
El Camino Real bell on Martin Luther King Jr. Promenade by Children’s Park.

To enjoy future posts, you can “like” Cool San Diego Sights on Facebook, or follow me on Twitter.

California’s first Spanish mission in San Diego.

Facade of old Mission San Diego seen from parking lot.
Facade of old Mission San Diego seen from parking lot below.

A month or so ago I finally visited the famous Mission San Diego de Alcala. I’ve lived in San Diego for many years, and have driven past this important historical landmark many times, but I’d never stepped inside. Writing this blog compels me to check out cool new sights!

Built in 1774 by the Franciscan priest Junipero Serra, the building you see was the first of 21 Spanish missions in California. It was constructed several miles inland of the Pacific Ocean near the San Diego River. (The very first mission was actually built in 1769 at the old Presidio, but later relocated to this more fertile location.)

In 1775, just one year after it was built, the mission was burned to the ground by native Indians. Father Junipero Serra returned the next year to rebuild the church and mission buildings.

Over the years the San Diego Mission became very prosperous, with vineyards, orchards and thousands of cattle in its possession. Hundreds of baptized Native American Kumeyaay, whom the friars named Dieguenos, did most of the work.

History is rich here. The mission was claimed by Mexico in 1821, then used by the United States Cavalry after the US-Mexican War. Today its unique facade is one of the most iconic sights in San Diego. Unfortunately, it’s a slightly out-of-the-way place that relatively few tourists visit.

In case you can’t stop by, I took a few photos!

El Camino Real bell near California's first mission.
El Camino Real bell just outside California’s first mission.

These bells on posts mark the primitive road, the King’s Highway, that connected the Spanish missions in California.

La Playa Trail ran along San Diego River from the bay.
La Playa Trail ran along San Diego River from the bay.

You might have read about the La Playa Trail in Two Years Before the Mast. Richard Henry Dana, Jr. rode horseback down it with his friend to enjoy meals at the old mission. The west end, La Playa, located just inside San Diego Bay, is the place where Dana worked for several months in 1835 drying cattle hides.

Sculpture of friar with cross in front of mission bells.
Sculpture of Padre Serra with cross in front of the campanario, containing the mission bells.
Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcala holds Catholic Mass.
Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcala holds regular Catholic Mass.

The historic church has remained active for many centuries.

Corridor in front of mission has plaques and statues of saints.
Corridor in front of mission has plaques and statues of saints.

Small statues of saints in the small nooks along the wall represent the nine missions that Father Junipero Serra founded.

Petra de Mallorca, Spain linked to Father Junipero Serra.
Petra de Mallorca, Spain linked to Father Junipero Serra.
Padres' living quarters with adobe walls and wooden beams.
Padres’ living quarters with adobe walls and wooden beams.

Now we’re inside one of the various mission buildings. The self-guided tour proceeds clockwise around the central square.

Beautiful radiant altar inside the quiet church sanctuary.
Beautiful radiant altar inside the quiet church sanctuary.

The church inside is beautiful and invites reflection.

Garden courtyard by sanctuary contains sunlit statues.
Garden courtyard by sanctuary contains sunlit statues.
Flowers and peaceful walkways lead to holy figures.
Flowers and peaceful walkways lead to holy figures.

Many birds were about and almost no weekend visitors.

Rear view of the Mission San Diego bell tower.
Rear view of the Mission San Diego bell tower, or campanario.
Small tile-roofed shine with Christ on the cross.
Small tile-roofed shine with Christ on the cross.
Modern abstract mural lines wall above wood bench.
Modern abstract mural lines wall above wood bench.

This and the following photo were taken in a space between the garden and a small one-room museum.

Sculpted Pieta with Virgin Mary and Jesus.
Sculpted Pieta with Virgin Mary and Jesus.
Inside the small mission chapel.
Inside the small mission chapel.

This small chapel can be found at one corner of the central square.

Fountain at center of San Diego mission's central square.
Fountain at center of San Diego mission’s central square.
Moving sculpture of Christ after the crucifixion.
Moving sculpture of Christ after the crucifixion.
Native American Kumeyaay hut built of willow branches.
Native American Kumeyaay hut built of willow branches.

The local Kumeyaay provided the labor that enriched the mission. This hut near an excavation site is an example of where they lived while the friars enjoyed greater comforts.

Mission's old foundation investigated by archaeologists.
Mission’s old foundation investigated by archaeologists.
The distinctive facade of California's first Spanish mission.
The distinctive facade of California’s first Spanish mission.

In San Diego, those who hunger for colorful sights and local history should remember to swing by California’s very first Spanish mission in–you guessed it–Mission Valley!

To enjoy future posts, you can “like” Cool San Diego Sights on Facebook, or follow me on Twitter.

Pics of big Tony Gwynn flag on San Diego Bay.

Big Tony Gwynn flag flies above tall ship America at Maritime Museum.
The big Tony Gwynn flag flies above tall ship America at Maritime Museum.

Both before and after work today, I strolled over to the Embarcadero to take a few pics of the big, 50 foot Tony Gwynn flag. It’s been flying for a couple days from the mast of America, a tall ship owned by Next Level Sailing. America is a replica of the yacht that won the original America’s Cup.

The flag in the late afternoon was fluttering in the sea breeze and glowing brightly in the San Diego sunlight. It seemed a perfect symbol of Tony Gwynn himself. The great, always smiling Padres hitter was not only a superstar, but was like sunshine on a perfect day.

I took the first photo in the early morning, and the others in the late afternoon.

Flag is flown in memory of deceased Tony Gwynn, number 19.
Flag is flown in memory of deceased Tony Gwynn, number 19.
Tony Gwynn flag on San Diego Bay seen between Star of India masts.
Tony Gwynn flag on San Diego Bay seen between Star of India masts.
Star of India figurehead faces 19, uniform number of Tony Gwynn.
Star of India figurehead faces 19, uniform number of Tony Gwynn.

During my walk along the Embarcadero on June 29, I happened to notice a big Tony Gwynn Padres jersey hanging from the roof of the County Administration Building!

Tony Gwynn jersey on County Administration Building.
Tony Gwynn jersey on County Administration Building.

To enjoy future posts, you can “like” Cool San Diego Sights on Facebook, or follow me on Twitter.