Flame-winged flamingoes, flamenco tunes charged with emotion echoing through the streets, a coastal strip extending for kilometers, part Mexico, part America... San Diego, the largest natural harbor on the west coast of the United States, is 30km from the Mexican border.
San Diego was first discovered in 1542. After the Spanish discovery the city was known as San Miguel. It waited until 1602 to be given its present name. After a long time in Mexican hands the city passed to the USA in 1867.
In one of the world's largest natural marinas San Diego has 2 large yacht clubs and several marinas.
San Diego Bay owes its depth and sheltered position to its surrounding headlands, Loma Point and Coronado Peninsula. This busy harbor for local and foreign boats is one of the world's largest natural harbors. In San Diego which preserves its Mexican roots in Spanish style buildings, restaurants and strains of flamenco from street musicians has 2 large yacht clubs and several marinas. San Diego and its inseparable twin, its boats, from the bridge leading to Coronado Peninsula...
The end of the cold war had a great effect on San Diego. Now it is possible to buy a flat in the city for half its former value.
Along with the brightly colored boats decorating its harbor and beaches San Diego was principally known for its war industry until the end of the cold war when several projects were canceled leaving thousands of technicians, engineers and computer staff out of work. As the economic structure of the city changed it became possible to buy houses formerly sold at $400-500,000 at half price. If you want to reach the famous beaches you will have to travel 15-20km. north along the coast...
Star of India, a museum with 4 masts and 4 sails, still seaworthy.
Some safety measures are necessary to protect swimmers from the angry Pacific. Life guards are on duty throughout the day in huts ranged along the shore.
In San Diego there's nothing between you and the coastline and you. If there are no steep cliffs or other natural barriers the sea is always accessible. The beaches extending along the coastline are open to everyone.
San Digeo's Sea World, the USA's first underwater museum, welcomes its guests with an orchestra ad performances by dolphins, penguins and sea lions...
According to the ancient Romans the sea was common property, and for long years this was not disputed. In Turkey we have succeeded in keeping people born and bred by the sea away from it by enclosing our holiday homes in walls. In San Diego in the state of California 30 km from the Mexican border the shore is accessible to everyone unless you happen to be standing in front of a sheer cliff or some similar natural barrier. San Diego with its equable climate and miles of wonderful coastline is paradise.
Spanish influence lingers in the architecture, restaurants and street musicians with flamenco guitar in hand.
When the Spanish discovered the city in 1542 they named it San Miguel. In 1602 it was renamed San Diego. In 1867 the United States wrested the city from Mexico but the Spanish influence lingers in the architecture, restaurants and street musicians with flamenco guitar in hand. If you wish to see the real Mexico, Tijuana is just across the border.
San Diego has the largest natural harbor of the west coast. Part of the Pacific navy is permanently stationed here and fishing fleets are part of the off-shore scenery. In the harbor is a yachting club and several marinas.
On a hill above the eastern end of the harbor is the lush green Balboa Park complete with Space Theater for the screening of 3-D films, arboretum with plants brought from all over the world, a comprehensive natural history and art museum and a zoo whose 4,000 captives live in conditions resembling their own natural environment. another feature of the park is its scientific research on endangered species. The buildings around the park are some of the oldest and most impressive in the city and the majority are protected.
A stonethrow from the city center is ancient mariner's pride, the Star of India, which serves as a museum 365 days of the year and unfurls her four sails one day a year and takes to the sea. This is a sight said to bring tears to the eyes of old sailors and to ensure swift turnover of whisky in the wharf-side restaurants.
In Horton Plaza are a multitude of shops.
Around 20 km to the north of the city is the famous surfing beach second only to Hawaii,
|Balboa Park houses almost a thousand species of 4,000 individual animals in its zoo... The special characteristic of the zoo is its endeavors to provide natural habitats for the animals brought from all over the world.|
The deterrent for disturbing the seal colony is a $10,000 fine.
The Scripps Marine science Institute linked to the University of California played a major part in the opening of the park. The institute founded in 1903 conducts research by means of an international team and 12 large vessels into not only the Pacific but all the world's oceans. Their comprehensive aquarium is open to the public and in the same building is an exhibition explaining their scientific research. The San Diego campus of the University of California is raised on a hill to the east of Scripps. In spite of being a relatively new university 5 of its teaching staff are Nobel Prize winners. One of its most interesting buildings is the library which looks like a space ship seen from a distance when illuminated at night. Its stock includes a collection of thousands of volumes on voyages in the South Pacific, the gift of a wealthy patron, Hill.
At low tide children scour the rock pools for crustaceans. On the beach is the unique residence of Jonas Salk, discoverer of the child polio inoculation, raised above the sand on a concrete cylinder and accessible by means of a lift.
|One of Sea World's daily shows of trained dolphins.(above)
On the agenda of Balboa Park is scientific research into endangered animals. Flamingoes are a pink feature of Balboa Park.(below)
Unfortunately if you scratch below the shiny surface of the city social problems emerge. For a long time the city was involved in the war industry until the end of the cold war when several military projects were canceled leaving thousands of technicians, engineers and computer personnel out of work. Naturally the economy has been affected. Houses on sale for $400-500 a few years ago now fetch half the price. As in many other cities there has been a political slide to the right. One such effect is the abolition of the quota system providing opportunities for minorities to enter the University of California.
An estimated million Mexicans have immigrated illegally into the United States, a fact much lamented by the "locals" who seem to have forgotten how San Diego was taken from Mexico in the last century.
The state of California takes the environment seriously. All motor vehicles are obliged to be fitted with exhaust filters and industrial waste is under constant surveillance. The beaches are spotless. In the 50 km or so that we visited we only came across a handful of bottles.
|La Jolla, one of San Diego's most expensive districts.
In the course of our trip we were guests of an ex colleague, Linda Garifal and husband which gave us an opportunity to compare lifestyles. The couple have no children but share their home with 6 cats rescued at various times from the streets. To show their gratitude the cats bring in mangled lizards and birds as 'gifts'. One such bird was afforded the treatment of a close relative and ushered in a box to the Wild Life project for treatment. The foundation is partly funded by the state and partly by animal lovers such as Linda. It treats only wild animals. Another foundation deals with pets.
Houses on sale for $400-500 a few years ago now fetch half the price.
On our return from the clinic we called in a Pet Metropolis, a giant pet supermarket stocking everything from flea powder to toothbrushes for dogs and cats. At the front of the store is a display case full of pure white mice specially bred for the palate of boas kept of the rear of the store. I found it hard to reconcile the image of an animal lover cleaning the teeth of a dog with that of one who can place live mice in the jaws of a pet serpent.
San Diego is indeed a place worth seeing. But if you stay as someone's guest in a house without a cat or dog be sure to check under the bed for any more exotic pets that may have gone astray.