Sensory overload

           The Cal Clan’s home is about 30 miles north east of San Diego. Many times there has been a landing well after dusk, a shuffle through Immigration, Baggage Reclaim and Customs, followed by a courtesy bus trip to a car rental company and delays while paperwork and car allocation is made… This year the agony of fatigue and driving an unfamiliar vehicle at night was avoided.
          “Eleventh floor,” said the hotel receptionist. “Your room overlooks the city but there’s water both sides.”

From the room’s tiny balcony pinpricks of light could be seen arcing over the water across the Coronado Bridge. The sound of water cascading filled the air, feature fountains playing far below. As the balcony door was closed the haunting sound of a train’s air horn pulsed across to the water front from the train line that runs south from Los Angeles to Mexico.
           Sleep came quickly that night – though did not last long. The body clock dictates – and the body found itself vertical all too soon. It was nearly 6am and the city was stirring. Traffic hummed – and the sky was a blaze of deep oranges and yellows.

Could anyone not be moved by the sheer drama of daybreak

over a skyline like this?
           Full sun came – the city was properly awake. Aircraft engines roared as movement resumed over at the airport. Then a single bugle call floated up from across the harbour: Reveille. It was start of day for the Marine Corps; a brass band played The Stars and Stripes and more bugles replied. From the lighthouse out on the Ocean’s edge came the long low blast of a foghorn, its note deep enough to rattle your ribcage.
            And on TV, with tales of Thanksgiving holiday traffic being disrupted because of bad weather and of One Direction’s Central Park show was Good Morning, America. With the sun warm on the skin, with bushes and shrubs still showing blooms in vibrant colours, it was indeed Good Morning America.
            A recent chance encounter with a Lists book played on the mind. ‘See the top ten attractions in San Diego’ had shouted the page in a glossy coffee table book on display at a garden centre. Balboa Park? TICK. Coronado Island? TICK. Gaslamp Quarter? TICK. Old Town? TICK… But there was one place not yet encountered. So, before heading north to see the Cal Clan, there was a diversion to the San Diego Mission.

Here in 1774 the first of the 21 Catholic Missions in California was established. There is a museum to the mission’s history,

a church still in active use, a large area of land for vineyards, orchards and gardens, and a Native American shelter.

            Then to head north. After stints on several freeways, an unplanned excursion through suburbia, the security of the familiar was reached, Highway 101. There was a caffeine boost at the old railway halt, the Pannikin,

a sniff of Pacific Ocean salt air

overflown by a pair of pelicans, some mountain shots from Double Peak viewpoint

– and then the best sensory assault of all. Arrived in the Cal Clan’s neighbourhood – where Cal Guy Jnr tore down the street, leapt in the arms, gave a hug and a squeeze, wriggled free, then sang Twinkle twinkle little star all the way through, while simultaneously doing paired feet jumps up and down on the sidewalk!  Such glee… Sight, sound, hearing, touch – what a great welcome from  America, from California and from family all in a few short hours…

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