Kaleidoscope and a revolving bowl of flowers.

Interesting contraption in a nook at Spanish Village.
Interesting contraption in a nook at artsy Spanish Village.

In a nook of Balboa Park’s Spanish Village, right next to the San Diego Mineral and Gem Society building, you’ll find this interesting contraption. Is it an antique device once used to navigate a ship? Is it a microscope? What is it?

It’s a kaleidoscope mounted above a revolving bowl of flowers! Instead of turning the kaleidoscope tube, you whirl the bowl of blooms and watch different colorful patterns form through the lens. Several mirrors in the tube create the complex symmetry.

Once I figured out what the contraption was, I tried putting my camera right up to the eyepiece. I got a bunch of interesting photos!

A kaleidoscope aimed at turning bowl of flowers.
A kaleidoscope aimed at turning bowl of flowers.
Mirrors of kaleidoscope turn flower blooms into art.
Mirrors of kaleidoscope turn flower blooms into art.
Revolving the bowl turns flowers and leaves into amazing patterns.
Revolving the bowl turns flowers and leaves into amazing patterns.
Infinite beauty created via the reflection of light.
Infinite beauty created via the reflection of light.

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Old Coronado ferry ticket booth recalls history.

Original Coronado ferry ticket booth remains as historical artifact.
Original Coronado ferry ticket booth remains as historical artifact.

About a block north of today’s touristy Coronado Ferry Landing, you’ll find the old ticket booth of Coronado’s original ferry. It stands beside a garden full of colorful roses and a pleasant walkway that runs from the end of Orange Avenue east to San Diego Bay. This beautiful area is called Centennial Park.

The original ferry was designed to transport horses and buggies; later ferries took automobiles across the bay. This vital link to downtown San Diego ran from 1886 to 1969, the year the Coronado Bay Bridge finally opened.

Looking over roses near the nostalgic old ticket booth.
Looking over roses near the nostalgic old ticket booth.
Sign reminds passersby of nearly a century of history.
Sign reminds passersby of nearly a century of history.
Plaque describes the history of the once vital Coronado ferry.
Plaque describes the history of the once vital Coronado ferry.
Old Coronado ferry ticket booth surrounded by flowers.
Old Coronado ferry ticket booth surrounded by flowers.

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San Diego’s unknown tiny corner of heaven.

This hidden gem is the perfect spot for a picnic or quiet relaxation.
This hidden gem is the perfect spot for a picnic or quiet relaxation.

This morning I headed out to enjoy a special event in Balboa Park: the Japanese Friendship Garden’s Cherry Blossom Festival. Unfortunately, lots and lots of people were in line at the front entrance, and my feet didn’t want to stop. So I kept moseying along, pointing my nose toward the park’s Gymnasium, where I believed the big annual Rummage Sale was being held. This massive fundraiser is put on every year by the Thursday Club, and attracts thousands of eager bargain-seekers. Well, what do you know? The only thing going on in the Gymnasium was a basketball game. Strike Two. Okay, I thought to myself, I’ll just keep on going and have a leisurely walk…

Thursday Club Rummage Sale banner on Park Boulevard.
Thursday Club Rummage Sale banner on Park Boulevard.

Wham! Suddenly in front of my eyeballs loomed a gigantic banner–the Rummage Sale was being held this year across Park Boulevard, in Balboa Park’s Activity Center, a building I’d never visited. In fact, I’ve seldom walked about the park’s Inspiration Point area, except to visit the Veteran’s Museum. My restless feet were once again redirected…

People descend stairs of Balboa Park Administrative Building.
People descend stairs of Balboa Park Administration Building.

The handsome Spanish Colonial Revival style Balboa Park Administration Building (which originally was headquarters for San Diego’s Naval Hospital, built in the early 1920s) lured me forward into uncharted territory.   Several people leaving the Rummage Sale were heading down the stairs.  So up the stairs I went, around the quiet building and…WOW!

Gazebo with colored tile roof near entrance to hidden park.
Gazebo with colored tile roof near entrance to hidden park.

I’d stumbled upon a corner of heaven.

Balboa Park Administration Building Courtyard's benches are empty.
Balboa Park Administrative Courtyard’s benches are empty.

After a bit of research, I learned this beautiful and seldom-visited area is called the Balboa Park Administrative Courtyard. One website calls it a San Diego hidden gem, and I must concur. The place was stunningly beautiful–and completely empty. Nobody was present. Not a soul. On this warm Saturday, the rest of Balboa Park was crowded with people.

Fountain in the Balboa Park Administrative Building Courtyard was once part of San Diego's United States Naval Hospital.
Fountain in the Balboa Park Administrative Courtyard was once part of San Diego’s United States Naval Hospital.

The park-like courtyard and three nearby buildings–the old Navy chapel (now the Veteran’s Museum), the administration building, and an old medical library and auditorium building–used to be part of a sprawling Navy Hospital campus. Today the modern hospital is located just east of the courtyard, down in Florida Canyon. You can see a small part of it in the first photo. Naval Medical Center San Diego (NMCSD) is also known as Bob Wilson Naval Hospital or Balboa Hospital.

Palm trees line courtyard behind Balboa Park's Administrative Building.
Palms line the tranquil courtyard behind Balboa Park’s Administration Building.
Another view of Balboa Park's seldom-visited paradise.
Another view of Balboa Park’s seldom-visited paradise.

I’m glad I randomly walked in a new direction! Adventures and discoveries await in unexpected places!

Trees, green grass, blue sky and a small corner of heaven.
Trees, flowers, walkways, blue sky and a small corner of heaven.

I revisited this beautiful place in late 2014…

Plane approaching Lindbergh Field flies above Balboa Park Administration Building.
Plane approaching Lindbergh Field flies above Balboa Park Administration Building.
A pleasant stroll past bird of paradise flowers.
A pleasant stroll through an arbor past bird of paradise flowers.
Fountain is near center of a large, quiet grassy space.
This fountain is near the center of a large, quiet grassy space.  A second, slightly smaller fountain can be found to the north.
Some people rest on a bench in the sunny courtyard.
Some people rest on a bench in the sunny courtyard.

Two more pics from September 2015.  Still as beautiful and peaceful as ever!

Have a picnic.
Have a picnic.
Read (or write) a book.
Read (or write) a book.

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Cool modified images of cacti in Balboa Park.

People take a walk through Balboa Park cactus garden.
People take a walk through Balboa Park’s amazing Desert Garden.

My walk through Balboa Park last weekend ended at the Desert Garden, located east of the Natural History Museum just across Park Boulevard. I was able to get some cool cacti pics before my camera’s batteries finally fizzled.

Here are some photos that I modified using good old GIMP.  It’s fun to goof around randomly and produce different effects!

While I recognized many different types of cactus, I sadly don’t know many names. Sorry about that.

Fuzzy cactus with red thingamajigs attached.
Fuzzy cactus with red thingamajigs attached.
I played with the brightness and contrast.
I played with the brightness and contrast.
Slightly altered pic of jagged cactus in Balboa Park.
Slightly altered pic of cool jagged cactus in Balboa Park.
I fiddled with contrast, darkness and color saturation.
I fiddled with contrast, darkness and color saturation.
Sunlight amplified on green cactus in Balboa Park.
Sunlight amplified on a green cactus in Balboa Park’s Desert Garden.
Barrel cactus photo with super high contrast applied.
Barrel cactus photo with super high contrast applied.

Here are even more modified cacti photos from late 2014!

Contrast increased on photo of a spiky cactus.
Contrast increased on photo of a spiky cactus.
Some fat barrel cacti in a large desert-like garden in Balboa Park.
Some fat barrel cacti in a large desert-like garden in Balboa Park.
A cool image I created by goofing around with various settings.
A cool image I created by goofing around with various settings.
This huge tangled cactus visible from Park Boulevard is the craziest thing I ever saw!
This huge tangled cactus visible from Park Boulevard is the craziest thing I ever saw!
Now I'm radically altering some pics.
Now I’m radically altering some pics.
Cool silhouette in Balboa Park's cactus garden.
Cool silhouette in a popular Balboa Park cactus garden.
I completely changed these colors just for fun!
I completely changed these colors just for fun!

Poinsettia Christmas tree at Seaport Village.

Poinsettia Christmas tree by Seaport Village carousel.
Poinsettia Christmas tree by Seaport Village carousel.

Every year during the holiday season you can find this enormous bright red Christmas tree standing right next to the Seaport Village carousel.  It’s built entirely of poinsettias!  Lots of visitors enjoy posing for photographs beside it!

Manchester Grand Hyatt towers behind poinsettia Christmas tree at Seaport Village.
Manchester Grand Hyatt towers behind poinsettia Christmas tree at Seaport Village.

Colorful street art in Mission Valley.

colorful dog breeds painted on utility box

Check out these two photos of utility boxes I spotted while walking to work today in Mission Valley.  They sit side-by-side a bit north of the San Diego River on a corner of Camino del Este.

The first box is painted in an amusing fashion with all sorts of dog breeds.  Looks like the artist was definitely a lover of canines!

beautiful flowers decorate a utility box

This second box is super colorful.  I’ve observed that flowers are often central elements in street art.  Perhaps people crave a bit of natural beauty in the concrete jungle.

Freakishly gigantic flowers in San Diego!

freakishly gigantic flowers in city

Flowers that are several feet across are growing in downtown San Diego’s Little Italy neighborhood. They’ve grown out of an artist’s paintbrush and onto a wall!

Check out another photo from the amazing, colorful mural I recently walked past and enjoyed. It’s a shame this public art is set back a bit from First Avenue and not immediately obvious to those driving past. To experience it best, you have to pull into a gas station’s parking lot.

This dolphin is swimming right next to those flowers!
This dolphin is swimming right next to those flowers!