Elegant interior of the historic U.S. Grant Hotel.

The south side of the historic U.S. Grant Hotel, as seen from an upper level of Horton Plaza. The 1910 Broadway Fountain is visible in Horton Plaza Park.
The south side of the historic U.S. Grant Hotel, as seen from an upper level of Horton Plaza. The 1910 Broadway Fountain is visible in Horton Plaza Park.

During last weekend’s San Diego Architectural Foundation’s OPEN HOUSE 2017, I ventured into one of the event’s featured downtown locations: the historic U.S. Grant Hotel. I was able to get some photos of the hotel’s elegant interior!

The U.S. Grant was built by Ulysses S. Grant, Jr., the son of American President Ulysses S. Grant. The building was designed by architect Harrison Albright and built in the same spot where Alonzo Horton had his 1870 Horton House Hotel, which was demolished.

The U.S. Grant Hotel opened in 1910. It featured a steel and reinforced concrete framework to counter the threats of fire and California earthquakes. For over a hundred years the grand old hotel has stood prominently at the center of downtown San Diego. Notable guests have included 15 United States Presidents (there are 3 different presidential suites), Albert Einstein and Charles Lindbergh.

It’s also interesting to note the very first San Diego Comic-Con was held in the U.S. Grant, back in 1970.

The east side entrance of the elegant U.S. Grant Hotel on Fourth Avenue in downtown San Diego.
The east side entrance of the elegant U.S. Grant Hotel on Fourth Avenue in downtown San Diego.
I entered the hotel from the east entrance, where many guests arrive.
I entered the hotel from the east entrance, where many guests arrive.
The elegant interior just inside the east entrance.
The elegant interior just inside the east entrance.
Large glittering chandeliers add a glamorous touch throughout the posh hotel.
Large glittering chandeliers add a glamorous touch throughout the posh hotel.
Some beautiful artwork above stairs descending to the Crystal Ballroom.
Some beautiful artwork above stairs descending to the Crystal Ballroom.
Standing in the grand lobby, looking south toward the U.S. Grant Hotel's entrance on Broadway.
Standing in the grand lobby, looking south toward the U.S. Grant Hotel’s entrance on Broadway.
The U.S. Grant Hotel's front desk.
The U.S. Grant Hotel’s front desk.
The beautiful lobby, fit for royalty.
The beautiful lobby, fit for royalty.
A small sculpture near the Broadway entrance is titled Sweet Dreams, by artist David A. Montour.
A small sculpture near the Broadway entrance is titled Sweet Dreams, by artist David A. Montour.
Even the hotel elevators are beautiful.
Even the hotel elevators are beautiful.
A sitting area near the bank of elevators.
A sitting area near the bank of elevators.
Portraits along this wall include Native Americans. The U.S. Grant Hotel was bought by the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation in 2003. It is operated by Starwood Hotels and Resorts.
Portraits along this wall include Native Americans. The U.S. Grant Hotel was bought by the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation in 2003. It is operated by Starwood Hotels and Resorts.
North of the elevators is this large Presidential Portrait of Ulysses S. Grant.
North of the elevators is this large Presidential Portrait of Ulysses S. Grant.
Old photo of the Horton House, which stood at this downtown San Diego location before its demolition.
Old photo of the Horton House, which stood at this downtown San Diego location before its demolition.
Headline of The Evening Tribune announces the opening of the U.S. Grant Hotel on October 15, 1910.
Headline of The Evening Tribune announces the opening of the U.S. Grant Hotel on October 15, 1910.
On display is a 1910 US Grant Hotel door knob.
On display is a 1910 US Grant Hotel door knob.
A look across the U.S. Grant Hotel lobby from the mezzanine level. Pure elegance.
A look across the U.S. Grant Hotel lobby from the mezzanine level. Pure elegance.

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Japanese flower arrangement show in Balboa Park!

This weekend's annual show in Balboa Park by Ikebana International features beautiful Japanese flower arrangements.
This weekend’s annual flower show in Balboa Park by Ikebana International features beautiful Japanese floral arrangements.

I know almost nothing about ikebana, the ancient art of Japanese flower arrangement. But I do recognize stunning beauty and appreciate human creativity!

Check out these photos of amazing works of art at the annual Ikebana International flower show in Balboa Park’s Casa del Prado. The show continues through the weekend!

Exquisite displays of ikebana--the art of Japanese flower arrangement--can be seen inside the Casa del Prado.
Exquisite displays of ikebana–the art of Japanese flower arrangement–can be seen inside the Casa del Prado.
One of many stunning works of floral art that one can see this weekend in Balboa Park.
One of many stunning works of floral art that one can see this weekend in Balboa Park.
Freestyle arrangement by Mitsuko Takeya. Materials include fig branch, protea, palm leaves and leather fern.
Freestyle arrangement by Mitsuko Takeya. Materials include fig branch, protea, palm leaves and leather fern.
Arrangement by Noriko McDaniel. The Ohara School of Ikebana. Materials include magnolia, veronica, purple-crest aeonium, wisteria vine and philodendron.
Arrangement by Noriko McDaniel. The Ohara School of Ikebana. Materials include magnolia, veronica, purple-crest aeonium, wisteria vine and philodendron.
Freestyle arrangement by Patricia Fuchs. Sogetsu School of Ikebana. Materials include anthurium, dogwood, pom pom mum, japanese rope.
Freestyle arrangement by Patricia Fuchs. Sogetsu School of Ikebana. Materials include anthurium, dogwood, pom pom mum, Japanese rope.
Landscape style arrangement by Cris Bugarin. Ohara School of Ikebana. Materials include forsythia, camellia, parsley, iris leaves.
Landscape style arrangement by Cris Bugarin. Ohara School of Ikebana. Materials include forsythia, camellia, parsley, iris leaves.
Freestyle arrangement by Judy Cliffton. Sogetsu School of Ikebana. Materials include red bud, white cherry, ranunculus.
Freestyle arrangement by Judy Cliffton. Sogetsu School of Ikebana. Materials include red bud, white cherry, ranunculus.
Freestyle arrangement by Sue Elsayeh. Ichiyo School of Ikebana. Materials include forsythia and daffodils.
Freestyle arrangement by Sue Elsayeh. Ichiyo School of Ikebana. Materials include forsythia and daffodils.
Freestyle tropical arrangement by Inge Johansen. Sogetsu School of Ikebana. Materials include heliconia, ginger, gladiolus, white orchid, variegated ti leaf.
Freestyle tropical arrangement by Inge Johansen. Sogetsu School of Ikebana. Materials include heliconia, ginger, gladiolus, white orchid, variegated ti leaf.
A beautiful, complex work of art composed entirely of horsetail by Hiroko Szechinski.
A beautiful, complex work of art composed entirely of horsetail by Hiroko Szechinski.
Exquisitely arranged beauty, made from elements of the natural world.
Exquisitely arranged beauty, made from elements of the natural world.
A delight to the eye.
A delight to the eye. Gorgeous symmetry.
A bouquet of delicate beauty.
A bouquet of delicate beauty.
A small garden of colorful bursts and delights.
A small garden of colorful bursts and delights.
Intertwining flowers and leaves like a small, magical arch.
Intertwining flowers and leaves like a small, magical arch.
Many eyes at the ikebana show took in the jewel-like creations.
Many eyes at the annual ikebana show took delight in the perfect jewel-like creations.
A pink arrangement that seems to have materialized from a fairy tale.
A pink arrangement that seems to have materialized from a fairy tale.
Stunning colors and contrasts.
Stunning colors and contrasts.
A fantastic arrangement by Rumi Rice. Human creativity and natural materials combine to bring one dream to life.
A fantastic arrangement by Rumi Rice. Human creativity and natural materials combine to bring a dream to life.
A spectacular arrangement by ikebana Grandmaster Akiko Bourland. Materials include loquat, rose, rush.
A spectacular arrangement by ikebana Grandmaster Akiko Bourland. Materials include loquat, rose, rush.
Beauty designed by Keiko Schneider, President of Ikebana International 119.
Lavish beauty designed by Keiko Schneider, President of Ikebana International #119.
A fine vase containing orchids, palm leaves and dry branch.
A fine vase containing orchids, palm leaves and dry branch.
A vertical style arrangement by Barbara Adams. Materials include Mediterranean fan palm and mums.
A vertical style arrangement by Barbara Adams. Materials include Mediterranean fan palm and mums.
Another work of great beauty, by ikebana instructor Debbie Garofalo.
Another work of great beauty, by ikebana instructor Debbie Garofalo.
Pat Schneider combined a simple orchid, peacock feather and palm leaf.
Pat Schneider combined a simple orchid, peacock feather and palm leaf.
Tulips, like colorful fireworks!
Tulips, like colorful fireworks!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

I’ve written a very short story about delicate cherry blossoms, and the passage of time. It’s titled A Short Bloom. Click to read it!

A sudden discovery of beautiful art!

An amazing drawing of a human eye. Window to the soul.
An amazing drawing of a human eye. Window to the soul.

A professional henna tattoo artist was set up near Seaport Village, and as I walked by I was struck by a drawing that she was patiently working on. You can see it in my second photograph.

Jaya Tulasi is a super nice person who let me see some of her artwork. Her drawings are so elegant and precise that they truly are stunning. It’s like looking at small pieces of perfection. She likes to draw while waiting for henna customers. All I can say is, keep on drawing! Wow!

Jaya is based out of San Diego and Los Angeles. Please check out her website!

This elegant drawing of a sunflower stopped me in my tracks. Patience combined with talent.
This elegant drawing of a sunflower stopped me in my tracks. Patience combined with great talent.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Angel hovers above homeless person.

An angel hovers above a homeless person.
An angel hovers above a homeless person.

I usually don’t post only one photograph, but I captured a remarkable image this morning, and thought some of you might like to see it. I was walking into the Panama-California Sculpture Court at the Casa del Prado in Balboa Park when I observed the standing figure titled “Religion” hovering like a heavenly angel above a homeless person sitting alone on a bench.

Views of San Diego from a hike up Cowles Mountain.

Hikers descend from the summit of Cowles Mountain, which rises above San Diego's San Carlos neighborhood.
Hikers descend from the summit of Cowles Mountain, which rises above San Diego’s San Carlos neighborhood.

Please enjoy the following photos. They are from a hike that I took yesterday to the summit of Cowles Mountain in Mission Trails Regional Park. Cowles Mountain, elevation 1,593 feet, is the highest peak in the city of San Diego. Because it’s located near so many urban residents, hundreds of hikers can be found on its trails on any given day.

Yesterday, around noon, I started from the trailhead at the Cowles Staging Area on Golfcrest Drive, and I slowly climbed the zigzagging trail to the summit. It’s a fairly steep ascent–one gains 950 feet in just 1.5 miles. Furthermore, yesterday the footing was more difficult than usual. A small stream was flowing down much of the muddy trail, due to the recent rain.

But the climb was definitely worth the effort!

The higher I ascended, the more fantastic the views became. At the top I could survey nearly all of San Diego and much of the surrounding region. From mountains to ocean, Mexico to North County and beyond–the spectacular views stretched in every direction!

Someone sits on the stone wall at the Cowles Staging Area. This is one of the most popular hiking trails in San Diego, and can be somewhat crowded on weekends.
Someone sits on the stone wall at the Cowles Staging Area. This is one of the most popular hiking trails in San Diego, and can be very crowded on weekends.
A bench at the staging area had this small plaque. We walked, we talked and we became friends. Thank you little Tommy Sablan.
A bench at the staging area had this small plaque. We walked, we talked and we became friends. Thank you little Tommy Sablan.
Sign at the trailhead explains Cowles Mountain was named after a prominent San Diego ranching pioneer. His ranches in the El Cajon valley were so successful he was named Raisin King of the US.
Sign at the trailhead explains Cowles Mountain was named after a prominent San Diego ranching pioneer. His two ranches in the El Cajon valley were so successful he was named Raisin King of the US.
Map shows trails to the summit of Cowles Mountain in Mission Trails Regional Park, which is the largest municipal park in the state of California.
Map shows trails to the summit of Cowles Mountain in Mission Trails Regional Park, which is the largest municipal park in the state of California.
Sign near the trailhead. On a busy trail, etiquette should be observed to preserve the natural beauty and enhance experience of other hikers.
Sign near the trailhead. On a busy trail, etiquette should be observed to preserve the natural beauty and enhance the experience of other hikers.
Starting up the 1.5 mile trail. The footing is stony in many places. This day it was also muddy due to recent rain.
Starting up the 1.5 mile trail. The footing is stony in many places. This day it was also muddy due to recent rain.
Pausing for a moment to look back down at the staging area.
Pausing for a moment to look back down at the staging area.
Another hiker, starting up toward the summit, appears to be prepared. A nearly 1000 foot climb is required. One should wear sturdy shoes and bring water. There is no shade.
Another hiker, starting up toward the summit, appears to be prepared. A nearly 1000 foot climb is entailed. One should wear sturdy shoes and bring water. There is no shade.
Looking westward as we ascend into a beautiful San Diego sky.
Looking westward as we ascend into a beautiful San Diego sky.
Looking to the south, one can see the Mission Trails Golf Course and Lake Murray.
Looking to the south, one can see the Mission Trails Golf Course and Lake Murray.
A group hikes up the trail.
A group hikes up the trail.
The top of Cowles Mountain is on the left. First we will climb up that rise on the right.
The top of Cowles Mountain is on the left. First we will climb up that rise on the right.
Rescues are often made on this trail due to its popularity. Many urban hikers aren't prepared for this fairly strenuous trek. I spotted a few emergency markers which are used to locate those in distress.
Rescues are often made on this trail due to its popularity. Many urban hikers aren’t prepared for this fairly strenuous trek. I spotted a few emergency markers which are used to locate people in distress.
Up, up we go! The climb is relentless, with only a few short level stretches.
Up, up we go! The climb is relentless, with only a few short level stretches.
As we climb higher on this clear day, it's possible to see farther into the distance. I can barely detect downtown San Diego at the horizon.
As we climb higher on this clear day, it’s possible to see farther into the distance. I can barely detect downtown San Diego at the horizon.
Many hikers had dogs, who enjoyed the hike, too. The scrubby vegetation and exposed boulders are common in the mountains and hills around San Diego.
Many hikers had dogs, who enjoyed the hike, too. The scrubby vegetation and exposed boulders are common in the mountains and hills around San Diego.
A better look at shining Lake Murray, a popular fishing destination.
A better look at shining Lake Murray, a popular fishing destination.
Rounding a corner, we can now see to the southeast. The nearer peak is Mt. Helix in La Mesa.
Rounding a corner, we can now see to the southeast. The nearer cone-like peak is Mt. Helix in La Mesa.
As we continue toward the summit, the Barker Way Trail leads off to the east.
As we continue toward the summit, the Barker Way Trail leads off to the east.
Looking again to the southwest, toward downtown San Diego.
Looking again to the southwest, toward downtown San Diego, very faint in the far distance.
A zoomed photo. Downtown skyscrapers rise beside San Diego Bay. The Point Loma peninsula can be seen, as well.
A zoomed photo. Downtown skyscrapers rise beside San Diego Bay. The Point Loma peninsula can be seen, as well.
The trails zig-zags among interesting rocky outcrops near the summit.
The trail zigzags among interesting rocky outcrops near the summit.
A far view from high above San Diego. Looking to the southeast, I see prominent San Miguel Mountain. My hike earlier in the day was a bit north of that mountain in East County.
A far view from high above San Diego. Looking to the southeast, I see prominent San Miguel Mountain. My hike earlier in the day (see the previous blog post) was a bit north of that mountain in East County.
Once we cross this rocky expanse, we will be at the summit of Cowles Mountain, highest point in the city of San Diego!
Once we cross this rocky expanse, we will be at the summit of Cowles Mountain, highest point in the city of San Diego!
Plaque at the summit. Cowles Mountain is the dominant feature of Mission Trails Regional Park. It was named to honor George A. Cowles, a pioneer leader of San Diego County in the 1870's.
Plaque at the summit. Cowles Mountain is the dominant feature of Mission Trails Regional Park. It was named to honor George A. Cowles, a pioneer leader of San Diego County in the 1870’s.
Sign shows sights from the south to the west, including distant Tijuana, Los Coronados Islands (which I could barely see), the Silver Strand, Point Loma, Mission Bay and Mount Soledad.
Sign shows sights from the south to the west, including distant Tijuana, Los Coronados Islands (which I could just barely see), the Silver Strand, Point Loma, Mission Bay and Mount Soledad.
A second sign shows mountains from the north to southeast, including Mt. Woodson, San Jacinto, Palomar Mountain, Cuyamaca Peak, the Laguna Mountains, Otay Mountain and San Miguel Mountain.
A second sign shows mountains from the north to southeast, including Mt. Woodson, distant San Jacinto, Palomar Mountain, Cuyamaca Peak, the Laguna Mountains, Otay Mountain and San Miguel Mountain.
To the north, antennas rise from Cowles Mountain into the sky. I could see the Pacific Ocean coastline stretching into the distance in the northwest.
To the north, antennas rise from Cowles Mountain into the sky. I could see the Pacific Ocean coastline stretching into the distance in the northwest.
Looking north beyond the antenna station. Highway 52 below descends from Mission Trails Pass east into Santee.
Looking north beyond the antenna station. Highway 52 below descends from Mission Trails Pass east into Santee.
Gazing northeast toward Santee and Lakeside and nearby mountains. At the very center is El Cajon Mountain.
Gazing northeast toward Santee and Lakeside and nearby mountains. At the very center is El Cajon Mountain.
Gazing to the west one can see Mount Soledad, and distant office buildings in University City (also called the Golden Triangle) and Sorrento Valley. The ocean is a thin blue thread.
Gazing to the west one can see Mount Soledad, and distant office buildings in University City (also called the Golden Triangle) and Sorrento Valley. The ocean is a thin blue line.
Sitting high in the sky, taking in amazing views.
Sitting high in the sky, taking in some amazing views.

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A short hike in San Diego National Wildlife Refuge.

There was no need to alter this photo in the slightest way. The colors appeared astonishingly bright this morning in the sunlit mountains and hills east of San Diego.
There was no need to alter this photo in the slightest way. Nature’s colors appeared astonishingly rich this morning in the sunlit mountains and hills east of San Diego.

My 9:00 hike this morning turned out to be shorter than expected. That’s because I was the only one to show up for a scheduled nature hike in a beautiful section of the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge. Following directions, I parked a few minutes early at the Par 4 trailhead in Jamul, near the Cottonwood Golf Course. I kept checking my watch, hoping the US Fish & Wildlife Service ranger would arrive. I was looking forward to identifying the spring wildflowers and flowering plants along the trail. But it wasn’t to be. I suppose the event was cancelled due to yesterday’s rain.

I didn’t walk far because I didn’t want to adversely impact the still wet trail. Near the trailhead the footing was packed and firm, and my shoes barely made an impression, but perhaps a quarter mile into my hike there was just too much mud to continue.

As you can see, the hills of San Diego are bright green! This winter has been very rainy. During the summer the green in these photos will vanish as the native grasses, sagebrush and scrubby chaparral dry out in the relentless Southern California sun.

During my short hike, I did capture a few photos of tiny flowers and a bird! I’m sorry to report that I can’t properly identify them. Perhaps you can!

Sign at the Par 4 trailhead includes information for hikers and those on horseback. The trail follows the Sweetwater River in Jamul.
Sign at the Par 4 trailhead includes information for hikers and those on horseback. The trail follows the Sweetwater River in Jamul.
The San Diego National Wildlife Refuge Complex includes four areas designed to protect wildlife in Southern California.
The San Diego National Wildlife Refuge Complex includes four areas designed to protect wildlife in Southern California. (Click image to enlarge.)
There are patchy wildlife refuges in some of San Diego County's undeveloped areas. This map shops where they are located. The Par 4 trailhead is near the top of the bigger green blob.
There are various wildlife refuges in San Diego County’s undeveloped areas. This map shows where several managed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service are located. The Par 4 trailhead is near the top of the bigger green blob.
A wet trail heads west over a green landscape. Many birds were seen flying across the open space.
A damp trail leads west over a green landscape. Many birds were seen flying across this open space. The morning’s short hike was made pleasurable by a fresh cool breeze and warm sunlight.
Beautiful tiny yellow flowers and raindrops on green leaves. What this plant is, I don't know. Leave a comment if you do!
Beautiful tiny yellow flowers and lingering raindrops on green leaves. What this plant is, I don’t know. Leave a comment if you do!
I spotted this little bird perched on a twig near the hiking trail.
I spotted this little bird perched on a twig near the hiking trail.
I tried to identify this small bird, using my California Birds pocket guide, but I couldn't decide. If you know, leave a comment!
I tried to identify this small bird using my California Birds pocket guide, but I couldn’t decide. If you know, leave a comment!
I'm no expert, but I did find these tiny jewel-like lavender flowers to be beautiful.
I’m no expert, but I did find these tiny jewel-like lavender flowers to be beautiful.
Dramatic white clouds in a blue sky. Natural beauty in San Diego's East County the day after a big storm.
Dramatic white clouds in a blue sky. Natural beauty in San Diego’s East County the day after a big storm.

After this very small hike, I drove along Highway 94 to Campo, winding my way through bright green rocky mountains. Then I headed back toward San Diego via Buckman Springs and Pine Valley, without any particular notion of where to stop. Then it occurred to me: Why not hike Cowles Mountain today? So I did, as you’ll see in the next blog post!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Bright orange sunset casts magic on buildings.

A blazing orange and yellow sunset behind palm trees on San Diego's Embarcadero.
A blazing orange and yellow sunset behind palm trees on San Diego’s Embarcadero.

I saw magic this evening. The spell was cast as the sun neared the horizon. I lingered a few moments near Pacific Highway downtown, spellbound.

Golden light on the rippling sculptural facade of the Marriott building at Lane Field. The cool public art conceals hotel parking levels. It's titled California Rain and was created by artist David Franklin.
Golden light on the rippling sculptural facade of the Marriott building at Lane Field. The cool public art conceals hotel parking levels. It’s titled California Rain and was created by artist David Franklin.
Sunset flames becomes glowing embers in the dark windows of several downtown skyscrapers.
The sunset’s orange flames have become glowing embers in the dark windows of several downtown skyscrapers.
Reflected sunset in many different glass windows behind the Santa Fe Depot.
Reflected sunset in many different glass windows behind the Santa Fe Depot.
One stately dome of the Santa Fe Depot seems enveloped by magical panels of glowing color.
Dome of the Santa Fe Depot seems enveloped by magical panels of molten color.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!