Tag Archives: usa 2016

USA 2016 – 20 Cabrillo National Monument in San Diego (2016-07-18) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 12 MAY 2018

One of the best views of San Diego’s harbour and skyline can be found at the Cabrillo National Monument – in fact, a clear day will actually give you a good view over a wide expanse of the Pacific Ocean, Tijuana, and even Mexico’s Coronado Islands!

Situated at the southern tip of the Point Loma Peninsula in San Diego, California, the Cabrillo National Monument commemorates the landing of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo at San Diego Bay on September 28, 1542 – the first time a European expedition had ever set foot on what later became the West Coast of the United States.

The first thing that greets you as you drive up into the national park is the fantastic Cabrillo Visitor Center, which in addition to its useful outdoor signage, viewing deck spots and smorgasbord of visitor information on hand, also sports a fantastically well done museum section, containing a fascinating array of carefully preserved items, information and interactive exhibits.

Then of course there is the unmissable limestone heroic statue of Cabrillo himself, a present to the USA from the Portuguese government. The original statue which was handed over by the Portuguese ambassador in 1938 was executed by sculptor Alvaro de Bree, with it weighing in at 6,400 kg and measuring 4.3 m in height.

However, weathering as a result of its exposed position dictated that the original sandstone model needed to eventually be replaced, and so in 1988 the (still striking) limestone replica that you see on site today made its appearance.

Interesting fact: During World War II the original Cabrillo Monument site was completely off-limits to the public thanks to the Point Loma Peninsula’s reservation for military purposes (San Diego is strategically incredibly important to the United States Navy), but this worked out well in the end – following the war, the national monument’s area was significantly enlarged thanks to work by both presidents Eisenhower and Ford.

Standing at around 57 hectares in size, the Cabrillo National Monument is also home to a number of other fascinating points of interest, like the Old Point Loma Lighthouse – one of the oldest lighthouses to ever operate on the West Coast of the United States of America.

And while this particular lighthouse now operates as a walk-in museum attraction only, just down the hill is the still very much in operation New Point Loma Lighthouse as well. There there are also the old gun batteries and retired radio station that houses an interesting the military history of the area exhibition.

In terms of nature activities, there are a number of short trails throughout the Cabrillo National Monument, including the popular two-mile long Bayside Trail that takes you through one one of the last remaining remnants of coastal sage scrub habitat in the world. It also in the process gives you spectacular views of Sand Diego Bay and the city beyond, Ballast Point (where Cabrillo landed), sandstone cliffs, and if the season is right, even some snow on the tops of the mountains!

The Coastal Tidepool Trail on the other hand takes you along its winding path down to the rocky intertidal area of the monument – which is incidentally one one of the best-protected and most easily accessible of rocky intertidal areas in southern California. Given the incredibly diverse and thriving animal communities to be found in the tidal pool area, this section also then happens to be one  of the more interesting spots of the park to pay a visit to.

Oh, and as if all this wasn’t yet enough, given its high elevation, the Cabrillo National Monument is also a brilliant whale watching spot – the perfect place in fact to watch migrating Gray Whales pass by from December through February!

So pretty hard not to include this as one of the many tourist things to do here in San Diego then!

Related Link: Cabrillo National Monument | Wikipedia | San Diego | #USA2016

USA 2016 – 19 Walking the Dog on the Beach in Del Mar (2016-07-17) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 27 MAR 2018

Following our little walkabout the Torrey Pines Gliderport, Johann and I continued the theme of taking his dog out for a walk by heading down to Del Mar, a small, prosperous, and nearby beach city that forms part of San Diego county.

The first surfing location mentioned in the 1963 Beach Boys’ song Surfin’ U.S.A., Del Mar (meaning “of the sea” in Spanish) is known for its boutique shops, fine dining, good surfing, and great beaches. (It is also now home to Tom DeLonge, former guitarist and founding member of Blink-182, now full time UFO researcher)

There is also the famous Del Mar racetrack (horse racing), it borders the Torrey Pines State Beach, and the city hosts both the San Diego County Fair and the tri-annual Del Mar Antique Show.

As for our trip, we stepped out on Main Beach, which was absolutely perfect for walking the dog, watching people pull out fish, glancing at a beachcomber hobo, and spectating an absolutely perfect sunset.

Plus, the water is nice and warm.

Interesting fact (just in case you spotted the South African flag fluttering in one of the photos) – there are actually quite a large number of South African expats that call the San Diego region home, and after seeing the place for myself, well it is easy to see just why that is.

Related Link: Del Mar | #USA2016

USA 2016 – 18 The Torrey Pines Gliderport at La Jolla, San Diego (2016-07-17) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 26 MAR 2018

One of the very first bits of sightseeing that I did after reaching San Diego was a drive about the beautiful La Jolla area with Johann, the ride ending with a walkabout on the cliffs flanking the historic Torrey Pines Gliderport site.

Given its 100 years of flying history, the Torrey Pines Gliderport is one of North America’s most historic aviation sites, having played a pivotal role in the aviation industry of both Southern California and the United States as a whole.

For example, aviation legends like Charles Lindbergh, Woody Brown, Hawley Bowlus, John Robinson, and Bob Fronius all have history with the Torrey Pines Gliderport, whilst technologies like the Robinson Variometer, the Air Brakes on the Zanoonia, the original Parachute Recovery System, early radio controlled model airplanes, the first hang gliders, and even paragliding all were either refined, created or tested at this very launch site!

These days the Torrey Pines Gliderport positions itself as Southern California’s premiere location for paragliding, hang gliding, remote control models and sailplanes, providing a world class flying site, flight lessons, certifications, tandem flights, equipment sales, and even repair services in the process.

The cliffs themselves make for a wonderful viewing platform of the area, and if you feel energetic and adventurous enough, a steep path down the face of the cliffs will reward you with an amazing strip of beach down below.

Well worth a visit if you enjoy watching people effortlessly float about in the sky.

Next up, a walk along a beach in Del Mar!

Related Link: Torrey Pines Gliderport | Wikipedia | La Jolla | San Diego | #USA2016

USA 2016 – 17 Staying in Sabre Springs, San Diego (2016-07-17) Photo Gallery 25 MAR 2018

So, I kind of need to return to pushing out all the posts regarding my business/tourist visit to the USA in 2016. So far I’ve only managed to get to the first 16, and to be honest, there are in fact 14 photo galleries still left to post!

Admittedly, this is not one of the “Cool place that I visited” entries on the list, but instead serves as more of a gentle reminder to myself of the latter part of the trip – You know, because I primarily use this blog as a memory box for myself.

Anyway, so after the successful expo and all the sightseeing around the Anaheim/Los Angeles area, Johann and I bid farewell to Carl and drove out to San Diego, more specifically heading over to Johann’s house in the beautiful Sabre Springs neighbourhood, where I would be staying for the next couple of days while I packed the last bit of being a tourist in.

A healthy amount of driving about and San Diego sightseeing aside (Torre Pines, Del Mar, Cabrillo Monument, USS Midway, Embarcadero, Old Town, Hotel Del Coronado, Balboa Park and of course San Diego Zoo), I rather enjoyed taking in some suburban experiencesas well – like taking the dog on walks, trying out cream cheese on bagels for the first time, sampling a lot of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavours, seeing way too much politics (Trump was everywhere!) on the near constant news cycle, cringing at the amount of non-stop medicine-hawking adverts across radio and TV, and of course nipping out burgers, pizza and beer whenever the opportunity arose.

I probably enjoyed that part the most.

(For reference, we paid a visit to Oggi’s and Bruski whilst in the area – both were good, but with not enough photos taken, they are relegated to appearing here as footnotes of my trip memories).

Oh, and yes, I did take full advantage of the pool as well. Definitely one thing that I miss having access to back at my own home here in SA.

Related Link: Sabre Springs | San Diego | #USA2016

USA 2016 – 16 Disney California Adventure Park (2016-07-16) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 16 FEB 2018

The NACUFS events always close off with a big social, and the 2016 Anaheim edition was no different, with the final get together hosted at Stage 17 of the Disney California Adventure Park.

However, seeing as Johann, Carl and I had already been in full on tourist mode for most of the day already, we decided to skip the social and rather enjoy the offerings of Disney’s slightly more adult orientated theme park instead.

Best decision ever.

Themed after the history and culture of California, Disney California Adventure is situated literally across the gates of the original Disneyland Park, and while a later (massive and expensive) overhaul wove in more kid friendly entertainment options focused on Disney’s Pixar and Marvel properties, the park comes away as much more suited for older visitors as opposed to the youngsters.

There are lots of vintage props and real world themed backdrops to enjoy, and while the rides aren’t quite as numerous or iconic as what you get in the original park across the road, the rides that are there are certainly a lot of fun.

Given our time constraints (i.e., we only arrived there in the early evening), Johann, Carl and I only manage to dip our toes into two of the rides on offer – the heart stopping Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (which is an accelerated drop tower dark ride that essentially catapults you up and out at the top of a very high building) and the gorgeous Soarin’ Around the World experience (a flight motion simulator that ‘flies’ you through the world on a mechanical lift system).

Obviously had the lines been shorter we would have got to do more, but this is Disneyland – the lines are NEVER short!

Other than that, we spent our time strolling around the grounds, taking in the sights, chewing on churros, tackling turkey legs, and capping it all off with a viewing of the incredible water fountain projection finale, the World of Color nighttime show.

Spectacular.

Despite their proximity to one another, Disney California Adventure Park is a very different animal to Disneyland Park, meaning that if you have the time (and money, because boy, entrance to these places are expensive!), it is well worth spending at least two full days in order to explore both!

Related Link: Disney California Adventure Park | Wikipedia | World of Color | #USA2016

USA 2016 – 15 A Stroll Down the Venice Beach Boardwalk in Los Angeles (2016-07-16) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 31 JAN 2018

Having just completed our super interesting outing aboard the Queen Mary ocean liner/museum ship (out in Long Beach), Johann and Carl next decided that an impromptu drive out to Venice Beach (before we return to Anaheim) would definitely be a good idea.

It was.

Founded in 1905 and established as a seaside resort town, Venice stood as an independent city until 1926, when it and its man-made canals (hence the city’s name) was absorbed into the greater city of Los Angeles.

These days this residential and recreational neighbourhood is known for its bohemian style and sensibilities, long being home to a countless number of artists, poets, and musicians from all walks of life.

Labelled as “a cultural hub known for its eccentricities”, Venice’s biggest tourist attraction (if not Southern California’s number one visitor attraction) is without a doubt Venice Beach, which attracts literally millions of visitors each year.

The actual beach itself is wide, flat, long and covered in soft sand, making it one of those good beaches that people really can enjoy. Other than all the normal beach sports prevalent on its sands, there is also plenty of surfing (and other water sports) to be had in the sea, and a seemingly good lifeguard system in place.

There’s even a long bicycle track that runs parallel to the beach, which, given the number of bicycles cruising up and down on it (not to mention all the bicycle rental spots along the promenade), seems to be a very popular distraction indeed!

But a beach is just a beach, and in reality the real draw of Venice Beach is of course its world famous Venice Beach Boardwalk (sometimes called the “Ocean Front Walk”), a promenade/beach road that stretches for about 2,5 kilometers along the beachfront.

The promenade is vibrant, packed with art murals, buskers, hustlers and little grungy shops of all shapes and form. From clothing stores, marijuana dispensaries, bars, eateries, and curio stops, the Venice Beach Boardwalk is an eccentric mix of people from all races, colours and creeds, trying to simply make a living by selling pretty much anything to anyone.

There is also all the outdoor sports courts to glace over, play areas that include spaces like skateboard parks, paddle ball arenas, and of course all the well known basketball courts from which many a legendary NBA player has been plucked!

That said, honestly, I’m not really the type of person who likes this kind of place (I’m not overly fond of seemingly rundown spots full of hustle and bustle), but it would be a straight out lie to say that I didn’t find the Venice Beach Boardwalk a super interesting and intriguing spot. So many strange (and often eccentric) people to take in, from the hustlers in front of the freakshow attraction, to the preaching gangsters on a podium, to the guy selling insults on the side of the street!

Enjoy the sun on this warm Summer’s day, the three of us slowly ambled down the strip, taking in the sights and sounds, stopping for some frozen yoghurt (and some or other slightly less identifiable snack at a different hole in the wall eatery), before finally turning around once we had hit the famous Muscle Beach section of the boardwalk – which in itself is a very entertaining stop as you get to watch all the musclebound men and women do their strength exercises out in front of all the people walking along the promenade (i.e. showing off), with the guys quite often stepping out of their routine in order to flex a muscle or two while posing for some photo hungry visitor.

Amusing indeed!

So while I didn’t necessarily LOVE the vibe of the Venice Beach Boardwalk, I did very much like the art and appreciate the experience – after all, who hasn’t seen this famous strip of land on American TV before? :)

Related Link: Venice | Wikipedia | #USA2016

USA 2016 – 14 The Queen Mary Ocean Liner Museum Ship in Long Beach (2016-07-16) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 24 JAN 2018

Day 3 of the NACUFS IDEA ’16 conference, and the morning after our evening of Angels baseball watching, Johann and Carl decided to skip the early sessions to instead act as tour guides and take me for some sightseeing of the area. Our first stop for the day: The Queen Mary ocean liner museum ship, moored in Long Beach, California!

Now a floating hotel and museum ship, The majestic RMS Queen Mary is a retired luxury ocean liner that sailed the North Atlantic Ocean from 1936 to 1967, bowing out of service following the dawning of the jet age (which marked the beginning of the end for transatlantic passenger services on the whole).

Build for the Cunard Line in Clydebank, Scotland, the luxurious (and gigantic) Queen Mary was fast enough to hold the Blue Riband accolade a handful of times, earning the award as it shuttled its 2139 passengers and 1101 crew members on its standard route between Southampton and New York.

During the Second World War, the Queen Mary was painted navy grey, fitted with a degaussing coil (to protect against magnetic mines), and enlisted as a troop carrier, a job which she performed rather well – apart from that time where she accidentally killed 239 people by slicing through one of her escort ships, the light cruiser HMS Curacoa, of course.

(She is also known as having  ferried Winston Churchill for his strategic meetings across the Atlantic a couple of times.)

As I mentioned earlier, nowadays the grand old lady operates as a floating hotel, with guests enjoying a pretty unique accommodation experience that does much to simulate what travelling across the Atlantic in the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s must have felt like.

The other side of the business is acting as a museum ship, with plenty of different tour options and packages available. The historic tour is the one we opted for, and after being greeted by our fabulously entertaining tour guide (seriously, this man was brilliant!), our group was guided through part of the ship while being fed a steady stream of interesting information and stories regarding this beautiful ocean liner and some of the famous passengers she ferried across the Atlantic.

The ship is known for its extensive use of wood from all over the then British colonies, and its magnificent murals, art deco styling, grand bars and luxurious ballrooms also make for a particularly visually stunning tour.

There is a big collection of model boats/ships on board (a gem for model building fanatics), not to mention a room (The Shipyard) dedicated entirely to LEGO creations – the centerpiece being of course the giant 250,000 brick big LEGO Queen Mary model ship!

The Queen Mary has also garnered a bit of a reputation for being a ghost ship over the years (thanks to all that creaking wood), meaning that (what else did you expect from Americans?) Haunted Tour packages are also quite the big thing for the operators.

Now I’ve never been on an ocean liner (or any other cruise ship for that matter) before, so for me this was by far the biggest ship that I had ever set foot on, and admittedly, thanks the historic grandeur of the vessel, I absolutely LOVED the experience as a whole.

(In other words, highly recommended if you ever find yourself out in the Long Beach area as a tourist!)

Bonus: Directly in front of the moored Queen Mary lies the B-427 Scorpion, an interesting Soviet era attack submarine that has been operating as a museum vessel since 1995, going on show first in Australia at their maritime museum, before moving to Long Beach, California in 1998.

Sadly, the display is currently closed to the public, following the discovery of irreversible flooding in parts of the sub a couple of years back.

Bonus 2: I can’t remember exactly what movie I was watching the other day, but I spotted a golden mural, paused, and shouted to Chantelle, “Hey, I’ve seen that before!”. Turns out I was correct – given her grandeur, The Queen Mary shows up in a LOT of movies, commercials and television shows!

Bonus 3: That funny big dome out next to the Queen Mary is currently a cruise ship terminal (used by Carnival Cruise Lines), but before that it actually housed the magnificent Spruce Goose (the largest flying boat ever built, not to mention having had the largest wingspan of any aircraft ever flown) for a while!

Anyway, here’s the map if you want to go find all these things out for yourself!

Related Link: The Queen Mary | Wikipedia | #USA2016

USA 2016 – 13 Los Angeles Angels vs Chicago White Sox at Angel Stadium of Anaheim (2016-07-15) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 18 JAN 2018

The evening of the first day of expo was spent eating exquisite American steak. The evening of the second day of expo saw my colleagues Johann and Carl eager show off something even more American to me. In other words, off to a baseball game we went!

Truth be told, I was pretty excited about this. The fact is that I do actually rather like baseball. I played it as a kid for a good number of years (go Bellville Tygers!), and even coached a girl’s softball team late in high school for fun.

(Also, there was precedent to this. I caught a profession baseball game the very first time I ever left South Africa’s shores, meaning that there was no way that I could not make the same effort given the fact that we were now in the very home of this sport!)

Our hotel turned out to be within walking distance of the Angel Stadium of Anaheim (also known as The Big A), and as luck would have it, there was indeed a game on that very evening – the Chicago White Sox were in town to take on the local boys from the Los Angeles Angels (of Anaheim).

So we bought the tickets (reasonably pricey of course), walked down to the stadium (on the way discovering that this part of the States actually import a lot of flowering plants from South Africa – so, so weird seeing strelitzias along the side of the road!), took some photos, and grabbed some stadium beer, before heading in to find our seats – just in time to watch the t-shirt cannon girls begin entertaining the crowd.

As for the baseball itself, the game ended up being pretty good to watch. Despite no exciting home runs being hit, the Angels managed to run in a well deserved 7-0 victory, leaving the home crowd in quite the good mood.

(Also, I have to thank the super helpful/patient local who was sitting in the seat behind me – I kept pestering him with 101 questions when it came to the stats and abbreviations on the giant scoreboard, for pretty much the duration of the game!) 

A classic Americana experience at its best then. #USA2016

Related Link: Los Angeles Angels | Wikipedia | Angel Stadium of Anaheim#USA2016

USA 2016 – 12 Touchwork at NACUFS 2016 in the Anaheim Convention Center (2016-07-14) My Life | Photo Gallery 15 JAN 2018

Despite having started off my first ever trip to the USA with some serious Disneyland tourist action, I was of course in Anaheim, California for work purposes – specifically to help man the Touchwork booth at NACUFS IDEA ’16, the 2016 national conference for NACUFS, otherwise known as the National Association of College & University Food Services.

In case you are wondering the connection, Touchwork’s main business focus is providing a platform and solutions in the CX (Customer Experience) space, something we’ve historically enjoyed great success in implementing in the USA university dining services sector. (Our biggest market by far).

Our USA office, led up by Johann Leitner and Carl Mostert, routinely hits the dining services conference circuit in order to cement existing relationships and turn up a few more opportunities in the university space, with Touchwork SA occasionally sending someone (i.e. me this time around) up for the experience.

Of course, this then meant finding a shirt and ironing it first (as a mostly work from home software developer, shirts aren’t something I actually own), before making my way to the Anaheim Convention Center in order to help set up our booth, grab a coffee, and then spend the rest of the day standing around and speaking to anyone who shows even the slightest glimmer of interest in what we have to offer.

Surprisingly, it went pretty well, and I pulled in some nice leads for the team, so come close of day I ended up being rather chuffed with myself (I’m not known for being a people person).

This went on for two days, the length of the showcase/exhibition part of the NACUFS IDEA ’16 conference (which itself ran for about four days).

It wasn’t all work though. The first evening we attended the NACUFS event party, catching the finals of the NACUFS Culinary Challenge, essentially a live Chef food preparation battle as what you would see on DSTV’s Food Network channel or something like that.

Asking the question, it turns out that dining services are in fact big business for American universities. A lot of prestige can be found in this function, hence the focus on profession chefs, and quite often this service is used as a class differentiation between institutions!

(Who knew that someone might actually pick a university based entirely on what food it has on offer!)

We also ended up bumping into one of our very good clients at that same party, and as such decided to leave the bustle behind and head out for a quiet supper with them instead – ending up at a particularly brilliant/upmarket steak place (Ruth’s Chris Steak House) where I ate what was probably the best steak of my life. (Mind you, the wine and conversation were just as good!)

On that note, the second evening after work wasn’t bad either – Carl and Johann decided that catching a baseball game was very much something that I as a first time USA visitor needed to do, a sentiment which I (who played baseball as a kid) most heartily agreed with!

Pictures of that particular outing a little later, I assure you.

So. NACUFS IDEA ’16 appears to have been a decent success, but more specifically for me, was a great opportunity to see how Touchwork utilizes and sells my software on that side of the world, the end result being me given a much clearer idea of what software development our US office needs going forward.

Still, given the amount of tourist things I did along the way sure makes it difficult to think of #USA2016 as a pure business trip! ;)

Related Link: NACUFS IDEA ’16 | NACUFS | Touchwork | #USA2016