Sunday, March 6, 2011

San Diego, California, by Water

During any conference, there has to be some downtime to rest the brain. During a conference in San Diego, this downtime is likely spent walking the Embarcadero, admiring the super-yachts and wondering who the heck lives like that, people watching, cruising over the bay for a walk around Coronado (the movie "Some Like it Hot" was filmed at the Hotel del Coronado),
or touring the USS Midway.This enormous aircraft carrier served the US Navy for forty-seven years, beginning right after the Japanese surrender in 1945. It is difficult to get a sense of the length of the flight deck with the many restored aircraft poised for duty, but it is a whopping 1,001 feet long.
My colleagues and I toured the entire ship, saw the bunks and control rooms, and even spent some time in the brig.

As my colleagues flew home after the conference, I hung around for a couple of days to explore. I walked through the Maritime Museum, made up of floating ships rather than buildings. I eavesdropped on a class learning about the Star of India (1863), the oldest active merchant ship in the world.
I was surprised to encounter the HMS Surprise, a replica of an 18th century British Royal Navy frigate which was featured in the movie "Master and Commander". (I will have to re-watch this movie as I embarrassed myself by falling asleep during my first viewing in the theater. And it was my selection. I was really tired that evening. My friend was annoyed.)
The 1974 B-39 Soviet Attack Submarine was memorable partly for the small, round, three-foot-maximum passageways I had to maneuver through.

Keeping with the nautical theme, I signed on for a whale watching cruise that afternoon. although the promotional documents guaranteed whale sightings, I was skeptical. Way out, almost ten miles into the Pacific Ocean, we did see three Pacific Gray Whales. We were told to watch out for heart-shaped spouts,
and then to look for breaching whales, and whale flukes.
I was thrilled, these being my first whale photos after many Atlantic Ocean whale watching cruises. Our naturalist, from the Birch Aquarium at Scripps, thought one of these three was a yearling and mentioned that these Pacific Gray Whales are the size of a VW Beetle when born.

After a long day of water sightseeing, I headed out to El Cajon Boulevard to my post-conference hotel, the Lafayette. This formerly opulent hotel was a favorite of movie stars in the 1940s and features a swimming pool designed by Johnny Weismuller of "Tarzan" fame.

The hotel is undergoing a renovation and shows promise, but don't stay there anytime soon unless you enjoy carrying heavy suitcases up a flight of concrete stairs. Hey, I saved some money AND got to stay in the Mae West suite.

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