Saturday, September 22, 2007

Dead Sea Scrolls and Mexican Food

Lisa, Debbie and I hopped in the CRV and headed down to Balboa Park today to see the Dead Sea Scroll exhibit at the San Diego Museum of Natural History.

We left home at 10:15 and managed to take almost three hours to get there. It was bumper to bumper traffic all the way down. Not fun.

But, the great thing about driving down to San Diego is that the freeway parallels the ocean. The vistas are stunning. It was threatening to rain so the sky was full of beautiful clouds and was a brilliant shade of blue. Not exceeding 30 mph we had lots of time to look at the sky. We saw the collision of two storms noticed water spouts over the ocean. In my mind I call them ocean tornados. You could actually see the funnel clouds suck the water up out of the ocean into the sky. It was phenomenal.

When we got to Leucadia we had to pull over and get a photo. Of course my rechargeable batteries chose that moment to die, so luckily Debbie had her camera. It was stunningly beautiful. About 50 other people had the same idea, our little vista was jam packed.

But alas it was back to the traffic. We had visions of the Old Town Mexican Cafe in our heads and now only about two hours before our 3:15 p.m. entry time to the Dead Sea Scrolls. So our tortilla dreams had to be fulfilled pretty quickly.

Unfortunately, we picked the art festival weekend to visit Old Town and parking was out of the question. So we wandered over to Balboa Park and found St. Tropez Bakery & Bistro in Hillcrest. It is a beautiful cafe promising equally delicious crepes, panini's, and tasty baked treats. The food was ok, nothing spectacular. It sounds a lot better on the menu than it actually tastes. I don't think I'd go back.

Now its off to the Scrolls. The exhibit is divided into two sections. The first level is an introduction to the region where the Scrolls were found. You see beautiful photographs of the Dead Sea and surrounding areas. It's amazing how similar the biodiversity is to Southern California. Not exactly the images you have in mind of the middle East. I was picturing desert, war-ravaged areas and camels. So not true. We saw lush, rolling hills. Beautiful olive and date trees. And learned how the Dead Sea is receding because people keep drawing from it.

The introduction transitions to the archeological dig. You learn how the Bedouins discovered the scrolls in a a cave, untouched for thousands of years, through many different ruling parties from the Hittites to the Romans to the Mongols to 1948. The Scrolls were preserved by the dark, cry climate of the cave and many disintegrated simply by being removed. Unsure of their authenticity the scrolls were advertised for sale. Once scholars verified them they began the long process of preservation. Early techiniques had only proven to weaken them future.

In the second part of the exhibit you move down stars, grab your audio tour device and decend into a simulated cave. The lights are dimmed and the temperature is dropped to protect the documents. First we learned about Qumran the community near the caves where the Scrolls were found.

After 14 stops on the audio tour, through hair nets, shoes, coins and desks we finally we got to see the Scrolls. They are so small, frail, and fragmented. There are large reproductions above them so you can view them more clearly. It's amazing to see the different penmanships between the different documents. Each one bearing traces of its human connection. Some are clear and precise. Others are blurred, thick and hard to read. We saw scrolls of the biblical books of Leviticus, Job, Psalms and Deuteronomy.

It's hard to image a society where only a select few know how to read and write. Yet they were passing on sacred texts because they believed the veracity of it. The exhibits dismisses the Scrolls as little more than ideas. Ideas that have certainly shaped thousands of years of thoughts, philosophies and religion, but is still just one idea of many.

It was interesting to listen to the different theologies of those viewing the documents. There were many Christians there who were studying the timelines, tracing prophecies and discussing bible stories. Others saw them as just an interesting historical discovery having little importance to their life today.

One thing struck me is how the Bible did not change for thousands of years. It was passed from scroll to scroll by diligent scribes and nothing changed. The message, meaning and importance remain the same.

The museum was packed. It is shoulder-to-shoulder view of the photographs, exhibits, and films in the collection. It was frustrating to try and read while being bumped and pushing while listening to screaming babies. It was not a leisurely visit to one of the most important archaological discoveries of the 20th centuries. By the end I was exhausted.

We went back to Old Town for dinner and headed home. Overall a fantastic day with two of my favorite people.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Tall Ships Festival, Dana Point

Tall Ships
Originally uploaded by greenbeangirl74

I went to the Toshiba Tall Ships Festival in Dana Point. I don't know what I was expecting but this wasn't it. I think I was struck by my Southern California Festival curse.

There is very little parking in the Dana Point Harbor so you park in remote shuttle lots and are bused in. You're dropped off near the existing shops and restaurants in Dana Point so I wasn't sure where the festival started. Sure these shops had stuff on the sidewalk because of the festival, but it was just the usual wares.

So I kept walking and finally found some booths. There were about 30 ranging from information about marine life to paintings to face painters for kids. There were lots of kids and dogs.

It was nice to be down by the water but I was hoping to see the ships with sails up. I'll either have to time it better or just go back to San Diego.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

San Diego: Reprieve from the Heat

Today was our final day of site seeing and the end of our vacation together.

We decided to spend the night in San Diego since they have a morning flight out on Thursday. We got a great rate on Hotwire for a hotel in the downtown/harbor area of San Diego.

We've had such a good time. I think we all were a little mindful of the fact that it was our final outing.

We had a lazy morning. Mom and Dad finished packing, then an early lunch at the Corner Bakery. Home of the tastiest cinnamon creme coffee cake on the planet.

We didn't make it to San Diego until about 2 p.m. We checked into the hotel and then went to the harbor. My dad wanted to see the tall ships and we opted for a 2 hour harbor cruise on the Hornblower.

There are only two harbor cruise companies to choose from Harbor Excursions and Hornblower. They offer the exact same cruise, both in a one hour and two hour variety. We opted for the two hour tour of both the north and south bay on the Hornblower.

Why the Hornblower, we had a coupon from a tourist mag we found at the hotel, saving $2 a person. The tour itself was fine, but the narrator sucked. It didn't sound like he enjoyed his job all that much. But he was quick to ask for a tip. I hate that.

Our tour included: the navy ship yard, naval sub station, tall ships, coronado bridge, point loma, harbor and shelter islands, cabrillo national monument, and more. Being out on the water sure lowered our temperature. In our second hour I started to freeze. I was ready to be off the boat.

From there we opted for dinner in the Gaslamp district. Before heading back to the ethnic food wasteland known as Ohio my parents wanted one last Mexican dinner. They chose Fred's Mexican Cafe, voted best Mexican cuisine in San Diego.

The salsa is fantastic. With a hint of chipotle its the best I've had in a while. Mom had the enchiladas suizas, Dad had fajitas and I had chicken monterrey. All very good I would recommend it. As we were eating a friend of mine randomly walks by. It was great to see her and her new fiance. What a treat.

After dinner we walked around a little. Mom wanted to visit the Ghirardelli Store. Dad wanted to buy a Cuban cigar and I visited the ZGallerie. Everyone was happy.

I can't wait to get back to the Gaslamp area and explore some more. There are over 65 different restaurants, many museums, shops and clubs. So much to do.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Battling the Inland Heat

We got a slow start today. It is still so flipping hot. This is not the Camelot weather we are supposed to have here in Southern California.

We made it worse by heading inland. Instead of the cool moving breeze off the ocean we headed northeast to San Gabriel, CA, near Pasadena to visit the San Gabriel Mission. I am on a quest to see all 21 missions and this is my 8th one.

San Gabriel Mission is the 4th Mission founded in 1771 by Father Junipero Serra. He hoped to turn over mission management to the local Shoshone indians (Gabrielenos) but due to secularization in 1833 it didn't happen. In the 1900s the Claretian missionaries restored the mission and church and continued to reach out into the community with compassion.

This mission, like all of them, is a small city. It contains its own wine press, candle-making, tannery and other provisions. The grounds themselves are a little undermaintained but the simple beauty of the mission shines through.

After soaking up all of the history of the mission we continued to brave the heat and travelled to the LA Arborteum in Arcadia. This 127 acre botanical garden was founded by EJ Baldwin. Who bought the desert land with visions of an oasis. He proceeded to hand plant much of the property and received many of the varieties of plants as gifts from around the world. One distinct feature of the property are the peacocks and peahens that roam freely throughout the park. I was hoping to see one display its feathers but they weren't having it. Perhaps they were too hot as well.

I knew we were in trouble when upon arrival we learned that they were not running a tram today, it seems the roads are under construction.

So we proceeded to start walking in 100+ degree weather around the grounds. Did I mention it's 127 acres of stuff to see. Yea. In triple digit weather with humidity. I think we're high on siteseeing and don't know when to stop. So our first tour was through was African garden. All I remember is desert hot.

20 minutes in and ours collective wagons were a draggin'. My mom soaked her shirt in the water fountain and it was dry in about 15 minutes. Yep. Hot.

So we persevered and went into the tropical garden. It was thick with foliage and a smidgen cooler. Unforunately it came to an end all to fast. We pressed on toward the Queen Anne Cottage, which was also home to Fantasy Island. It's a beautiful victorian home with a lush rose garden and pond nearby. Very beautiful. Still hot.

My mom gave up at this point, flagged down a maintenance man on a golf cart and headed back towards the entrance. Maybe we should have taken heed from the fact that the aboretum was virtually empty upon our arrival.

Dad and I tredged on to see the waterfall. Only we make it there to learn that due to high temperature there is no water. At this point we're parched and wondering if we're going to make it back to the entrance. I have visions of a search and rescue team having to come find us. We'll be on the news as the idiots that trapsed around the gardens in 120 degree weather. It didn't help that none of the water fountains worked. They turned them off. What the heck. We nearly died out there for heaven sakes.

We only ended up seeing about half of it before we gave up. But the grounds are stunning, even though a lot of the plants are dormant or dead in the weather. I can't wait to go back when more is in bloom and it isn't so flipping hot.

We haven't had enough heat we head towards Ontario to have dinner with my cousin Sammy. We're going to meet him at the Ontario Mills Mall. We opt for BJs Pizzeria and the air conditioning. Praise God for air conditioning and water.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Cars, Vegetables, and the Hollywood Sign

Our adventure today was to LA to visit the Petersen Automotive Museum, The Grove and Hollywood and Highland.

I come from a family that loves cars. My dad used to be a mechanical engineer. We frequent dealerships just to see the new cars, even when we're not going to buy. We go to car shows and I used to work in the automotive aftermarket. Cars rock! So the Petersen Automotive Museum was a must see for us.

I have to say this was the best museum I've been to in a while. It does an amazing job of showcasing the cars in their context. It explores the world they lived in. You see cars from their inception up through the 60s in the permanent exhibition. You watch the gas pump and freeways in LA evolve.

What was amazing to me was that as early as 1917 they were exploring hybrids. They didn't have the technology they needed to make it work. What was also interesting was that those early cars got 50 miles to the gallon, even through the 40s. Those cars weighed significantly more than our cars do today and they got 50 mpg and we can't manage that with all of our technology, something is wrong with that picture.

Other exhibits on display now are Hollywood Cars, Convertibles and Microcars. If you like cars you really need to visit. Admission is $10 and parking is $6.

For lunch we headed over to the LA Farmer's Market on 3rd and Fairfax, just a few blocks from the museum. Established in 1934 the market has a long history of bring the community together around food. You can buy your vegetables, eat a crepe, taco or New Orleans gumbo. We opted for Du-Parrs a family-owned restaurant established in 1936. Their homemade food was delicious. They have a bakery onsite so the bread and desserts were fantastic.

Then we wandered down the block to The Grove to see the fountain show, shop at Crate & Barrell and we listened to a band on the grassy knoll. The band was called The Copycats and they were really good. Lots of celebrities like to shop there but we didn't see any.

Needing a fix of the weird and fanciful we decided to visit Hollywood and Highland. Out in full force were people dressed up like Shrek, Harry Potter, vampires, Spiderman, SpongeBob and other characters to make money taking pictures with tourists. It works.

We opted instead to have a cream puff at Beard Papa, see the Hollywood Sign (directly behind the shopping complex), and visit the Grauman's Chinese Theatre. I don't know what's so fascinating about seeing celebrity hand and shoe prints but it is. I think its because they're all so amazingly small.

Our last stop was at the Roosevelt Hotel, right across the street from Graumans. Knowing that is where the first Oscar's were held I wanted to check it out. The hotel was home away from home for many stars back when Hollywood was still glamorous.It has been completely restored the Spanish Colonial style and its luster. However I don't think its as beautiful as The Biltmore in downtown Los Angeles.

After three full days of siteseeing we're exhausted. Tomorrow we're going to sleep in and lay low.