Ramona saved Casa de Estudillo in Old Town.

Front of Casa de Estudillo seen during Cinco de Mayo.
Front of Casa de Estudillo seen during Cinco de Mayo.

Ramona, written by Helen Hunt Jackson in 1884, is one of the most popular American novels in history. The book has had more than 300 printings. It’s been made into a movie four times. Today, few remember it.

Those who walk through La Casa de Estudillo in San Diego’s historic Old Town, however, are seeing with their own eyes a remnant of Ramona’s fame. Without that novel, and past generations’ fondness for its main character, this handsome old building and possibly others around it would have been torn down and utterly obliterated.

The Casa de Estudillo was built in 1827. It was the property of José María Estudillo, an early settler of San Diego. Captain Estudillo was twice Commandant of the Presidio of San Diego. This large, many-roomed adobe was one of finest houses in all of Mexican California, and remains one of the oldest surviving examples of Spanish Colonial architecture in California.

Shortly after the publication of Ramona, the house, in the hands of a caretaker, enjoyed a burst of popularity with tourists when San Diego’s newspaper, the San Diego Union, declared that the Estudillo house was the title character’s wedding place. Helen Hunt Jackson never stated this was so; the novel described a similar location, but was fictional.

As decades went by the old adobe fell into disrepair and might have been razed. In 1906, John D. Spreckels, owner of the San Diego Electric Railway Company and the Union newspaper, purchased the house and preserved it, transforming it into a true tourist attraction. He altered the building to make it seem more compatible with the description of Ramona’s marriage place, while adding electricity and other conveniences.

The building eventually was given National Historic Landmark status. It’s exaggerated association with the novel caused it to be officially described as “Casa Estudillo/Ramona’s Marriage Place.”

Just inside the courtyard looking up at bell tower.
Just inside the courtyard looking up at bell tower.
Courtyard fountain of historic Casa de Estudillo.
Courtyard fountain of historic Casa de Estudillo.
Outdoor oven and one end of old U-shaped adobe house.
Outdoor oven and one end of old U-shaped adobe house.
The house was heavily promoted as the birthplace of Ramona.
The house was heavily promoted as the wedding place of Ramona.
Walking along the outdoor corridor of old Spanish Colonial home.
Walking along the outdoor corridor of old Spanish Colonial home.
Camera's flash illuminates one interior room.
Camera’s flash illuminates one interior room.
Trees and flowers in the beautiful courtyard.
Trees and flowers in the beautiful courtyard.
Ramona, a famous novel, saved historic buildings in Old Town.
Ramona, a famous novel, saved history in Old Town.

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Mexican clay art in San Diego’s Old Town.

Miranda's Courtyard in San Diego's Old Town.
Miranda’s Courtyard in San Diego’s Old Town.

Everywhere you go in San Diego’s Old Town there are touristy shops selling Mexican curios. As I walked along one typical street last Sunday, I was struck by the dazzling array of patio ornaments on display outside a place called Miranda’s Courtyard.

I took several photos from the sidewalk. According to reviews on Yelp, Miranda’s Courtyard sells Mexican religious art, terra cotta suns, Talavera clay pottery, and just a huge bunch of colorful knick knacks.

Photo of suns and moons taken from sidewalk.
Photo of suns and moons taken from sidewalk.
Lots of colorful trinkets and home decorations.
Lots of colorful trinkets and home decorations.
Seems you could spend a whole day at this place!
Seems you could spend a whole day at this place!
Lady checks out Mexican curios at Miranda's Courtyard.
Lady checks out Mexican curios at Miranda’s Courtyard.

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Torrey Pines State Reserve’s Guy Fleming Trail.

Guy Fleming Trail sign on Torrey Pines Park Road.
Guy Fleming Trail sign on Torrey Pines Park Road.

My very, very, very favorite place in all of San Diego County is Torrey Pines State Reserve. It’s located along the Pacific Ocean in northern La Jolla, between the famous Torrey Pines Golf Course and Del Mar. I took a trip there this morning! I got so many pics, I’ll break my visit up into several blog posts!

Let me start by taking you around the Guy Fleming Trail loop.

There are many hiking trails to explore in Torrey Pines State Reserve. Reaching this particular trailhead requires a short hike or drive from the entrance gate up steep Torrey Pines Park Road. As you head on up, you see numerous pine trees growing atop and clinging to eroded sandstone cliffs. These are the endangered Torrey pines (Pinus torreyana). They can only be found here and on the small island of Santa Rosa, off the coast of Santa Barbara. A good concentration of them can be seen on the Guy Fleming Trail.

Diversity amid adversity on the Guy Fleming Trail.
Diversity amid adversity on the Guy Fleming Trail.

Here we’ve stepped onto the looping 2/3 mile easy level trail. We’re going to proceed counterclockwise. Look at the sign. It reads: The Guy Fleming Trail features a variety of habitats and rare plants. Where else in the world can you find cacti and ferns growing side-by-side under the canopy of a Torrey Pine tree? As you walk along this trail, consider the variety of biomes that you see and factors that create them. Not only must plants adapt to southern California’s climate of hot, dry summers and cool, wet winters, but also variables of solar exposure, salt-laden winds, and erosion.

Trail passes under many endangered Torrey pines.
Trail passes under many endangered Torrey pines.
Twisted branches of Torrey pines in the State Reserve.
Wind-twisted branches of Torrey pines in the State Reserve.
Walkers pause to enjoy a breathtaking ocean view.
Walkers pause to enjoy a breathtaking ocean view.

Here we are emerging above the wide Pacific Ocean. These ladies are gazing off into the blue distance. As I came up to them today, they asked excitedly: “Did you see the whale?” A gray whale migrating back northward to the Bering Sea was lingering just beyond the breakers, touching the surface and spouting every few minutes! This whale seemed to be heading north from Mexico a bit late. It’s almost May!

Looking north near a scenic overlook on the Guy Fleming Trail.
Looking north near a scenic overlook on the Guy Fleming Trail.

This is one reason why Torrey Pines State Reserve is one of my all-time favorite places. Incredible views!  You can see a portion of Los Peñasquitos Marsh Natural Preserve and Lagoon.

Torrey Pines State Reserve entrance gate far below.
Torrey Pines State Reserve entrance gate far below.
Mojave yucca grow beside amazing trail at edge of steep cliff.
Mojave yucca grow beside amazing trail at edge of steep cliff.

Now we’re heading south along the edge of the cliff. Torrey Pines State Beach is far below. When it’s possible to spy beach-goers, they’re very tiny!

Yellow sea dahlias high above foaming breakers.
Yellow sea dahlias high above foaming breakers.

You can’t hear the crashing waves, but the mighty expanse of
ocean seen from above makes a lasting impression!

Pink sand verbenas add bright color to a beautiful walk.
Pink sand verbenas add bright color to a beautiful walk.

It’s springtime and many native flowers are in bloom. These dry, brittle hillsides are covered with coastal sagebrush and chaparral and during the dry summer can appear quite brown and desolate.

Trail heading down toward another scenic overlook.
Trail heading down toward another scenic overlook.
Looking south over a sculpted sandstone canyon.
Looking south over a sculpted sandstone canyon.

Another fantastic view. Many beautifully eroded sandstone canyons run through the State Reserve.  You’ll see more in upcoming blog posts.

A glance back toward the ocean and a lone walker.
A glance back toward the ocean and a lone walker.

We’ve nearly come full circle. The sunshine and warm ocean breeze, the views, majestic Torrey pines, cacti and flowers…you really need to walk the Guy Fleming Trail to fully experience its magnificence!

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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 Embarcadero made more beautiful.

Trees ready for planting in new park on Embarcadero.
Trees ready for planting in new park on Embarcadero.

Major improvements to the North Embarcadero are well underway, and I was able to get some interesting pics yesterday!

Harbor Drive is undergoing a facelift from the Coast Guard Station down to the USS Midway Museum. This area is considered San Diego’s front doorstep, but until this renovation it’s been more parking lot than park.

Many large-scale changes are going to make San Diego even more beautiful! The two ugly parking lots on either side of the County Administration Building are being transformed into grassy waterfront parks; Harbor Drive is being made more pedestrian friendly with pavilions, flower beds and new restrooms; most of the traffic on Harbor Drive will now be diverted onto Pacific Highway.

I’m really looking forward to the project’s completion!

Workers prepare public park near Star of India.
Workers prepare public park near Star of India.
County Administration Building will have grass parks on either side.
County Administration Building will have grass parks on either side.
Working on a new pavilion on San Diego's front doorstep.
Working on a new pavilion on San Diego’s front doorstep.
New pavilion being built behind the Bay Cafe.
New pavilion being built behind the Bay Cafe.
Sign near Broadway Pier describes Embarcadero improvements.
Sign near Broadway Pier describes Embarcadero improvements.
Anchor on Harbor Drive near USS Midway Museum.
Anchor on Harbor Drive near USS Midway Museum.

Here are two pics I took on 5/24/14…

New waterfront pavilion under construction.
New waterfront pavilion under construction.
Building made of words to be part of new Embarcadero.
Building made of words to be part of new Embarcadero.

And two more pics from 9/20/14…

Pavilion near Broadway will complete part of North Embarcadero Visionary Plan.
Pavilion near Broadway will complete part of North Embarcadero Visionary Plan.
The word SKY allows light to shine in from the sky!
The word SKY allows light to shine in from the sky!

UPDATE!

I took the following pictures on November 9, 2014. The improvements around the Broadway Pier appear to be nearly finished!

New pavilion near Broadway Pier is almost finished in early November 2014.
New pavilion near Broadway Pier is almost finished in early November 2014.
Colorful glass, shiny surfaces and word-shaped skylights are a delight!
Colorful glass, shiny surfaces and word-shaped skylights are a delight!
Worker putting final touches on a booth to be used by harbor cruise company.
Worker putting final touches on a ticket booth to be used by harbor cruise company.
Word shining from roof of pavilion spells JOY.
Word shining from roof of pavilion spells JOY.
Restroom walls are formed of crazy letters spelling various words.
Restroom walls are formed of crazy letters spelling various words.
A new hotel is rising across Harbor Drive, at site of old Lane Field, north of Broadway.
A new hotel is rising across Harbor Drive, at site of old Lane Field, north of Broadway.

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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Sunrise, palm trees, and Mission Valley Resort.

Sun rises between palm trees above Mission Valley Resort.
Sun rises between palm trees above Mission Valley Resort.

Greetings to the folks at Mission Valley Resort! Thanks for following my blog! My walk to work takes me down Bachman Place, so today I decided to take a small detour and pass by the resort to check it out! Great location! I took several quick pics and the one above turned out best!

Cheers!