Previously unseen…

If calculated correctly this is the 15th visit to San Marcos. Though this Southern Californian city is familiar now, it’s still not necessarily easy to find your way about.  Whether on a shopping expedition, a school pick up run or a sight-seeing mission the US version of the Co-pilot app on the smart phone is a regular lifeline.

With the app’s aid the Cleddau crew have managed to find their way to several previously new (to them) locations. “What, you haven’t ever seen the Moonlight Theater in Vista?” an acquaintance exclaimed. Well, no…

Vista isn’t far away, it’s a few miles west of San Marcos and a bit closer to the Pacific Ocean. The place concerned is an outdoor amphitheatre, set in a park on a hillside above Vista. Shows, either theatrical runs or one-night musical performances, are staged between April and October. On investigation day, a November Monday morning, there certainly wouldn’t be a show in progress but perhaps there could be a glimpse of the stage.

Once found (courtesy of the phone app!) the Captain and Boatwif entered the site via the backstage gate. All seemed quiet and secure. Then an administrator in an office appeared at an office window. The theater was closed, the season finished, no access could be allowed without advance permission and a booking with a designated member of staff. Though ‘Health and Safety’ was not quoted the blanket application of regulation and directive was implied…But it was the references to other amphitheatres visited (Caerleon in Wales , Kourion in Cyprus) that did the trick. The regulator became a risk taker and she swiftly led the intruders up into the Moonlight Theater.

What a splendid sight. 908 fixed seats in raked tiers   with space for an additional 1092 “lawn seats”       allows an audience total of 2,000. The stage is wide with a fine array of lighting above.        During the out of season months, the stage becomes an enclosed venue for cabaret evenings. Conversation across the auditorium was relayed crisply; the landscape’s bowl providing splendid acoustics. Then the relaxed discussion between two UK theatre fans and one US administrator was brought to a sudden conclusion: “There’s my boss,” she hissed, leading the way back to the offices. Email addresses exchanged, the 2018 Moonlight Theater Vista program has already arrived via computer…

No trip to San Diego County is complete without a visit to the glorious Balboa Park down in San Diego.  What had been just the City Park was transformed in 1915 by the setting up of the San Diego Exposition.  Balboa Park now houses the Olde Globe Theatre complex   ,  17 separate museums , stunning architecture   and wonderful walks. Inside a spectacularly tiled dome is the Museum of Man, not previously visited.

     Now, since 1st January 2015 (100 years since its original opening), visitors can climb the eight storeys to the viewing floor beneath      the California Tower’s distinctive cupola.       There are far-reaching views across the city              and over towards the Mexican border.      Below, within the museum, an Ancient Egypt gallery fostered the idea of a return visit with Cal Gal        and a temporary exhibition challenged ideas about Cannibalism through history,     myth, literature  and medicine.

It was during the 2016 visit that Boatwif and the Captain came across the nearby San Luis Rey Mission.     The fascinating museum deserved a revisit – so the Mission lands really did cover a thousand square miles up to the base of Palomar Mountain; (perhaps that’s why Cal Guy Snr’s school is called Mission Hills High).    On a mid-week morning, while worshippers entered the cool and tranquil interior of the Mission Church for private prayer,    it was the duty docent (volunteer guide) who provided a welcome and informative talk. The Baptistery, in a small side chapel beside the entry door, had been undiscovered last year. “This is unusual,” it was explained: “as in Europe the baptistery is often in a separate building across the street.”    Any comments on the positioning of the font in mainland Europe Catholic churches would be welcome.

On a Friday night the Captain and Boatwif were witness not only to an entirely new sport, American football, but also to the conventions associated with each game. Cal Guy Snr’s high school varsity team had reached the quarter final of the San Diego CIF Open Division. Note below what seemed to be the key features of a noisy and nearly four hour long evening:

A drumline beat the players onto the pitch.

Each team fielded 50 players though it seems only 11 played at any one time.

Before the game the cheer leaders practised and the players warmed up.   

The sports commentator in an opening speech repeatedly played up the value of team sport for its role in developing character and sportsmanship.

The names of the team captains were announced (four for each team).

All spectators and players were urged to stand, take off hats and face the American flag while the national anthem was played.

During play the marching band, as directed by the drum majors, played rousing sequences to urge on their team.


The half time show included displays from modern dancers, from the cheer leaders and from the marching band.

When not performing the cheer leaders stand on named boxes,     the number on the back  displaying their year of high school graduation.

For those not interested in watching every second of the game there was food, team clothing and drinks to buy. 

After many time outs and player swapping and after four quarters the home team progressed via 52-42 through to this Friday’s semi-final…

“You took hardly any pictures of the game,” the Captain chided the next day.     For Boatwif the rituals and razzmatazz had proved far more entertaining…

There was a picnic expedition to a San Marcos park one weekend. “Remember how we all enjoyed the picnic we had at Old Sarum in the summer in the UK?” said Cal Son. A picnic spot under a shady tree overlooking the Avon Valley and the nearly 800 year old Salisbury Cathedral had been a universal success… Off the picnic party set for Walnut Grove Park, another place previously unvisited.      It lies to the north of the city on flat ground, surrounded by hills. Shade was provided by a sheltered picnic table and historic setting by the nearby San Marcos Historical Society Museum.      In the last fifteen years two old houses     have been brought from their original locations to this Heritage Park.  Luck was in again: a pre-booked guided tour was in progress but the addition of a pair of grandparents, a middle schooler and a second grader was welcomed. To think that the land on which Cal State University San Marcos now stands was previously the largest chicken factory in the world!      This was the creek area in the 1950s before water was piped in.      Now housing developments, leisure facilities, retail areas and office parks abound (view from Google).    The bell from the original San Marcos schoolhouse used to call students from quite a wide area.       A loud sound was needed – and that can still be created!

The oldest “old house” was built in 1888, the other in 1890. It was the kitchen mincers that intrigued the youngsters most but the bedrooms looked quaint too… 

Last item not previously seen was this, spotted by Cal Gal in a park further south at Poway.     It’s one of the little free libraries that had inspired the installation of the Library in the Landscape at Tegg’s Nose Country Park back in Cheshire East. The book selection inside the Poway box was limited to four volumes only:     a great idea not much used –  or a keen readership with books currently out on loan? Who knows…! (Look closely for a useful modification!)  

Today, Thursday, the traditional Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade has been beamed across this vast continent from New York, where participants and spectators were all well wrapped in winter layers. Meanwhile here in Southern California it is rather hot, currently 90ºF /32ºC…

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