Some favorite things…

Cal Guy Jnr is a connoisseur of play parks. Over three weeks in San Marcos there were expeditions to 9 different parks, some on more than one occasion. “You see, I can swing myself* now, Granny,” said the 7 year old.      After the first three parks Boatwif ‘felt a chart coming on’. Within certain circles, as when establishing plans for a Sisters & Cousins Coven gathering or finding dinner dates for the Girls’ Night Out set, a chart has often proved a useful tool… The chart with Cal Guy Jnr listed park names and respective locations, the equipment and attractions at each site and comments. No numeric scoring was created but summarizing words were used. For him a prerequisite of a good park is a set of swings. The nearest community park has swings, a not very tall climbing wall,  monkey bars, slides, shaded picnic tables, BBQ points, a duck pond – and a fine grassy hill great for rolling down. (Great too for grubbying up a pale coloured hooded top!) While many of the parks visited had similar play equipment the design arrangement of slides, clambering logs, towers, firefighters’ poles, monkey bars, etc was usually different. Always the equipment appeared well maintained but the locations and the local landscaping made each park individually appealing. 

Up at Mission Hills Park there is a compass rose set in the ground, a challenging climbing wall  – and great big grizzly bear paw prints.      Need to cross a creek? Use the stepping stones.

If it’s water you want in a park turn up at Discovery Lake Park in San Marcos. There is a lake to walk around (a 0.75 mile circuit) and five times a day a fountain produces a glorious spray of splashing and paddling water.  

Of course there’s water on an entirely different scale out at Oceanside where, if bored of sand or ocean (the Pacific, that is) you can resort to some climbing frames, slides and swings… 

Top choice park for Cal Guy Jnr though is the Waterfront Park downtown in San Diego. Here, after a long morning spent on board the massive aircraft carrier, the USS Midway                there was opportunity aplenty for climbing and clambering, sliding and bouncing.       While a visitor may be distracted by the skyscraper surroundings,    the fountains spraying into long rectangular pools, the sight of the Star of India at the Maritime Museum across the road      or an oversized baseball player,       Cal Guy Jnr, quite understandably, just wants to play. Nothing it seems is more thrilling than attaching yourself to the outside of the asymmetric spinner, pushing it round and then achieving lift off…  

Who doesn’t remember Julie Andrews and These are a few of my favorite things…?  San Diego’s Balboa Park has long been a favourite place: the museums, the Botanical Building, talented buskers, the stunning colours, both indoors    and outdoors    at the Spanish Village… It’s obviously a favourite place for others too. On a Tuesday afternoon a bride and groom were being photographed at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion .     Six days later in a different sector of the park two assistants were busy organising a bride and her dress for a photographer…   

Not all ‘favourite things’ are visual. There is something deeply appealing about the sounds made by trains. There was a trip to the bookstore in the neighbouring valley via the local light railway,     there was a double circuit of Old Poway Park on the historic speeder,     there were Amtrak trains and Coaster commuter trains heard between Oceanside and San Diego – but best of all is the haunting sound at about 11.30pm on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday nights. Then a freight train passes through San Marcos heading inland for Escondido, from where its cargo of horse feed is transported up to Ramona in the foothills of the Laguna Mountains.  Road traffic is quiet then and the horn sound echoes and resonates across the valley in a most mournful way. (Listen here for air horns and clanging bells).

Some places just have to be revisited time and time again. One, Pannikin, is a café on Highway 101. Aim to get there before 2pm so as to order the delicious Greek eggs.  The coffee is always excellent    and the cake display a delight to look at!       

Another Must Visit place is Double Peak Park. It’s high, 1,646 feet (502 metres) above sea level.  From here expansive views extend south to San Diego and Mexico, west to the Pacific Ocean,    north over San Marcos and into Orange County,      east inland to the mountainous interior.    On the one rainy day during a three week spell heavy cloud was moving in off the ocean, it was windy – and for the first time it felt a bit cool. Each year for perhaps the last five there’s been a trip up to this viewpoint to look down over the city, to spot the freeway, the university, the high school, the light railway line… The population continues to grow: housing developments have sprouted beside the steep hill up to Double Peak       and further areas of housing are being created just below the summit.  

A late afternoon trip to Oceanside was Cal Guy Snr’s idea: “Get there for sunset, Granny, and go out on the pier.” High temperatures on Thanksgiving Eve (22nd November) had drawn crowds to the beaches.       Surfers were in the water and groups had gathered around the beach fire pits ready for when darkness fell.          And at a latitude of 33N dusk and darkness come very quickly.  

A meal at a local diner inspired many hours of challenging fun. Themed as a bank The Money Pit features the door to a bank vault, glass table tops protecting coin collections and Monopoly board layouts. “We’ve got a Monopoly game at home,” Cal Son commented – sowing a seed for seven or eight Monopoly games.  But this was a Doctor Who set: those players used to the four London railway stations providing lucrative rents for the buyer who held all four would find that the stations had become Tardises, that the Community Chest and Chance cards had been rebranded as U.N.I.T. and Galifrey cards You could still end up in jail, but out in the far galaxy there’s no chance of winning £10 in a beauty contest; instead you might win M10 (monopols) in a botany competition!

All too soon time ran out on the 2017 Thanksgiving visit. The Cal Clan needed to go back to school and work. The car was pointed north, back to Los Angeles, passing untamed territory, past fancy concrete work,      negotiating freeway layers,      eventually to surrender the rental car and take a shuttle bus out to the airport.

At take off at 5.50pm on Tuesday the outside temperature at Los Angeles was 66F/18C. On landing at Heathrow at 12 noon on Wednesday the air temperature was 43F/5C. A chilly difference!


So that’s that – the suitcases have been returned to the loft and the summer weight clothes washed, ironed and put away. Nothing, however, can wash away a whole stash of new Californian memories…

* How a small boy sees his world is interesting: another recently mastered skill apparently is the ability to click his fingers. “My music teacher taught me,” he declared. When excited and nearly ready to go to a birthday party he was told to go and wash his (ketchup smeared) face. His response: “No. I don’t have to – it’s just boys!” 

You may also like...

1 Response

  1. Jaqueline Biggs says:

    Awww this is a truly lovely post and I am all teary eyed now. I miss the Cal crew and I haven’t even met them! I miss America too. the pictures are wonderful and your prose is extremely visual as usual. Thank you for posting and sharing your memories.

    Love Jaq xxx

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.