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Road Trip north to Santa Barbara

Visit to Santa Barbara Pier, the Ronald Reagan Ranch Centre, the Old Mission and another winery.

sunny 22 °C
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I was then taken on a Road Trip north for a few days to see the sights of the Central Californian Coast. After overnighting in Port Hueneme we arrived at the popular tourist destination and resort of Santa Barbara with its main street (called State Street) bedecked in American and Mexican Flags.

Driving down State Street, the main street in Santa Barbara

Driving down State Street, the main street in Santa Barbara


Santa Barbara East Beach

Santa Barbara East Beach

At the entrance onto the Pier was the Statute of Three Dolphins erected in 1982; according to legend the dolphin is a cousin of Santa Barbara's early Chumash Indians and brings luck. Santa Barbara Pier and Stearns Wharf that it reaches out to were built by lumberman John P Stearns in 1872 and is the longest deep-water pier between San Francisco and Los Angeles. It has been seriously damaged by fire and restored several times (most recently in 1998) but still has many shops and restaurants.

Santa Barbara Pier and Stearns Wharf

Santa Barbara Pier and Stearns Wharf


The Dolphin Statue at the entrance onto Santa Barbara Pier and Stearns Wharf

The Dolphin Statue at the entrance onto Santa Barbara Pier and Stearns Wharf


Driving onto Santa Barbara Pier

Driving onto Santa Barbara Pier


Looking back along Santa Barbara Pier from Stearns Wharf

Looking back along Santa Barbara Pier from Stearns Wharf


Looking back along Santa Barbara Pier

Looking back along Santa Barbara Pier

Ronald Reagan was The US President between 1981-1989 and his ranch (Rancho del Cielo aka "The Western White House") is located atop the Santa Ynez Mountain Range north west of the city. The ranch itself is closed to the public but there is a centre dedicated to his life on the ranch and love of horses just a short distance from the end of Santa Barbara Pier. Ronald Reagan had been o close to the British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher who had died shortly before our visit and there was a glass tribute case to her on the ground floor.

The Reagan Ranch Center in Santa Barbara

The Reagan Ranch Center in Santa Barbara


Photographic Portrait of President Reagan greeting visitors at the Reagan Ranch Center

Photographic Portrait of President Reagan greeting visitors at the Reagan Ranch Center


A piece of the Berlin Wall greeting visitors at the Reagan Ranch Center

A piece of the Berlin Wall greeting visitors at the Reagan Ranch Center


Tribute case to Margaret Thatcher in the Reagan Ranch Center

Tribute case to Margaret Thatcher in the Reagan Ranch Center

Upstairs there was an impressive multimedia desk illustrating episodes from Ronald Reagan's presidency surrounded by artifacts from his Ranch. The largest item on display was the Scrambler CJ-8 Jeep he used to get around the ranch but other things included his cowboy hat, saddle and boots along with the chainshaw he used to tidy up trees.

The large multimedia desk in the main gallery of the Reagan Ranch Center

The large multimedia desk in the main gallery of the Reagan Ranch Center


Ronald Reagan's 1983 CJ-8 Scrambler Jeep

Ronald Reagan's 1983 CJ-8 Scrambler Jeep


Ronald Reagan's Cowboy Hat and Saddle at the Reagan Ranch Center

Ronald Reagan's Cowboy Hat and Saddle at the Reagan Ranch Center


Ronald Reagan's riding boots

Ronald Reagan's riding boots

There was also the desk used for radio broadcasts to the nation during his presidency. It was from here during a 'mic' test that wasn't meant to be recorded Ronald Reagan made the humourous comment "My fellow Americans, I am pleased to tell you that today I have signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in 5 minutes." Needless to say the Soviets were not amused!

Desk used for Presidential Radio Broadcasts from Ronald Reagan's Ranch

Desk used for Presidential Radio Broadcasts from Ronald Reagan's Ranch

The gem amongst the many sights to see in Santa Barbara however is the Old Mission (the first of five old missions I was to see in Southern California - for the record the others I went on to see were at San Luis Obispo, Santa Ines/Solvang, San Luis Rey de Francia/Oceanside and San Juan Capistrano). Established in 1786 with the church mostly rebuilt following an earthquake in 1812, it has over the years served at different times as the Cathedral Church for both the Los Angeles and Monterey Roman Catholic dioceses and as a result unusually for a mission church has a double bell tower.

My first view of the Mission at Santa Barbara

My first view of the Mission at Santa Barbara


The Sacred Garden inside Santa Barbara Mission

The Sacred Garden inside Santa Barbara Mission


An old ox cart on display inside the Santa Barbara Mission

An old ox cart on display inside the Santa Barbara Mission

Inside the Mission grounds there was an historic mausoleum used as the final resting places for many of the early Franciscan friar and founding family inhabitants of Santa Barbara with a further 4,000 Chumush Indians buried in the Cemetery Garden in the shadow of the old fig tree. The church has statutes to both Saint Francis and Saint Dominic behind the alter and is the only Californian Mission to have a crypt.

My first view of the Mission at Santa Barbara

My first view of the Mission at Santa Barbara


The Sacred Garden inside Santa Barbara Mission

The Sacred Garden inside Santa Barbara Mission


An old ox cart on display inside the Santa Barbara Mission

An old ox cart on display inside the Santa Barbara Mission


The historic Mausoleum within Santa Barbara Mission

The historic Mausoleum within Santa Barbara Mission

Attached to the Mission Church is also a small museum containing many paintings and a number of rooms recreating the life of the early Franciscan monks who lived at the mission.

Making our way through the old rooms of the museum at the Santa Barbara Mission

Making our way through the old rooms of the museum at the Santa Barbara Mission


Paintings on a Staircase at the Old Santa Barbara Mission

Paintings on a Staircase at the Old Santa Barbara Mission


Paintings of Franciscan Friars within the museum inside the Old Santa Barbara Mission

Paintings of Franciscan Friars within the museum inside the Old Santa Barbara Mission


Recreation of a typical Mission Kitchen from the time the Mission was founded

Recreation of a typical Mission Kitchen from the time the Mission was founded


Unique Chumash Indian altar constructed for the 1789 church

Unique Chumash Indian altar constructed for the 1789 church


The Old Mission at Santa Barbara

The Old Mission at Santa Barbara

We then continued north towards San Luis Obispo but not before stopping for some wine testing (known as a flight, see after going wine tasting in 3 countries I'm finally learning the jargon!) at the nearby Foley Winery.

The drive upto the Foley Winery near Santa Barbara

The drive upto the Foley Winery near Santa Barbara


Old tractor by the entrance to the Foley Winery

Old tractor by the entrance to the Foley Winery


Rows of vines at the Foley Winery near Santa Barbara

Rows of vines at the Foley Winery near Santa Barbara

Posted by FrancisRTW 02:00 Archived in USA Tagged beaches churches museums california wine piers missions mexican us_presidents Comments (0)

San Clemente and a weekend away in Mexico

Visit to a bonus country while staying at a Spanish Village by the Sea

semi-overcast 21 °C
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San Clemente describes itself as a "Spanish Village by the Sea" and is located on California's Pacific Coast about half way between Los Angeles and San Diego. It was founded by a former Mayor of Seattle, Ole Hanson, who envisaged it becoming a haven for Californians who tired of "the big city". Its most obvious landmark is its beautiful 1,296 foot (395 metre) long wooden pier original built in 1928.

San Clemente Pier

San Clemente Pier


Looking out along San Clemente Pier

Looking out along San Clemente Pier


Looking back along San Clemente Pier

Looking back along San Clemente Pier

Sat on a bluff-top above the pier is Casa Romantica, with a red tiled roof and white stucco arches it was the original home of San Clemente's founder Ole Hanson built in 1928 in the Spanish style and is now heritage listed. However what San Clemente is more famous for is La Casa Pacifica which was bought by President Richard Nixon in 1969 as his vacation home during his presidency and became known as the "Western White House".

Casa Romantica above San Clemente Pier

Casa Romantica above San Clemente Pier


Looking along San Clemente State Beach towards La Casa Pacifica with surfers waiting for waves and the Amtrak heading south to San Diego

Looking along San Clemente State Beach towards La Casa Pacifica with surfers waiting for waves and the Amtrak heading south to San Diego

Mexico was not a country I thought I would be able to include in my itinerary of my trip around the world so I was very pleased when the chance of a weekend south of the border arose while I was in San Clemente. We drove down to Rosarito Beach (Playas de Rosarito in Spanish), a Pacific coastal resort 30 miles south of San Diego in the Mexican state of Baja California that is very popular for its beaches and dance clubs. Our hotel, around which the surrounding town grew, was originally opened in 1925 but since then has had a lot built onto it including the 17 storey Presido Tower in which we stayed.

The Pacifico Tower at the Rosarito Beach Hotel

The Pacifico Tower at the Rosarito Beach Hotel


Security Checkpoint at the Rosarito Beach Hotel

Security Checkpoint at the Rosarito Beach Hotel


The street outside the Rosarito Beach Hotel

The street outside the Rosarito Beach Hotel


Corridor in the old part of the Rosarito Beach Hotel

Corridor in the old part of the Rosarito Beach Hotel

In addition to bars, restaurants and a ballroom the hotel we were staying at also had a lovely golden sand beach and a quarter mile long private pier. Unfortunately the weather was not at its best while we were there so the pier was closed and there were few takers for the horse or quad bike riding however it was evident from the volleyball nets, stands of empty seating and other paraphernalia that this could often become a very busy beach.

View from the beach of the Rosarito Beach Hotel

View from the beach of the Rosarito Beach Hotel


Horses and quad bikes waiting for tourists on Rosarito Beach

Horses and quad bikes waiting for tourists on Rosarito Beach


The pier at the Rosarito Beach Hotel

The pier at the Rosarito Beach Hotel


The beach at the Rosarito Beach Hotel

The beach at the Rosarito Beach Hotel

We did venture south to Puerto Nuevo passing the enormous 75 foot (23 metre) high statue of Christ of the Sacred Heart (Cristo del Sagrado Corazon in Spanish) above the highway at the town of El Morro. Puerto Nuevo itself is known as "the Lobster Capital of Baja" and having been coaxed into a restaurant and chosen the crustaceans we wanted to eat we enjoyed lovely fresh lobster for Sunday lunch.

Christ of the Sacred Heart Statute above the highway at El Morro

Christ of the Sacred Heart Statute above the highway at El Morro


Entering the town of Puerto Nuevo in Baja California Mexico

Entering the town of Puerto Nuevo in Baja California Mexico


Street scene in Puerto Nuevo

Street scene in Puerto Nuevo


Lobster ready for the pot in Puerto Nuevo

Lobster ready for the pot in Puerto Nuevo

On the Monday morning it was time for us to return north across the USA border, experiencing the heavy traffic in Tijuana just south of San Diego on the way. Thankfully our hotel was part of the Border Fastpass Scheme and this enabled us to use a dedicated lane to avoid the chaos and often 2 hour delay crossing over the Mexico/USA border.

Entering Tijuna on the way back to the USA border

Entering Tijuna on the way back to the USA border


Traffic jam in downtown Tijuana

Traffic jam in downtown Tijuana


Following the signs in Tijuna to the USA border

Following the signs in Tijuna to the USA border


Chaos approaching the USA border, thankfully we had a Border Fastpass from our hotel :-)

Chaos approaching the USA border, thankfully we had a Border Fastpass from our hotel :-)

On our return to San Clemente we visited family in Valley Center just north of San Diego and managed to stop at Mission San Luis Rey de Francia founded in 1798 at Oceanside on the way back. The 21 Spanish missions in California are a series of religious and military outposts established by Spanish Catholics of the Franciscan Order between 1769 and 1833 to spread the Christian faith among the local Native Americans. Starting from San Diego they stretch north with each mission about 30 miles apart - considered a long days ride on horseback or 3 days walk. All told I saw 5 of the 21 missions while I was in California, including the Mission at San Juan Capistrano which I had visited on a previous visit to California and we passed as I got on the Amtrak train to Fullerton.

Mission San Luis Rey de Francia at Oceanside

Mission San Luis Rey de Francia at Oceanside


Another view of the Mission San Luis Rey de Francia at Oceanside

Another view of the Mission San Luis Rey de Francia at Oceanside


The Mission at San Juan Capistrano

The Mission at San Juan Capistrano


My train pulls into San Juan Capistrano Station to take me to Fullerton

My train pulls into San Juan Capistrano Station to take me to Fullerton

Posted by FrancisRTW 02:00 Archived in Mexico Tagged beaches churches trains hotels california piers missions mexican us_presidents Comments (0)

The Gettysburg Battlefield

My pilgrimage to the site of the biggest battle of the American Civil War

rain 21 °C
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I learnt a lot about the history of the American Civil War from wargaming it as a kid with the small plastic soldiers from Airfix. A visit to Gettysburg, the site of its biggest battle which happened 1st - 3rd July 1863 (2013 is its 150th anniversary) and involved more than 160,000 soldiers, was therefore a bit of a pilgrimage for me.

The day started pretty wet when we went to visit Gettysburg

The day started pretty wet when we went to visit Gettysburg

In addition to commemorating the battle, the Visitor's Center also had lots of references to US President Abraham Lincoln's famous Gettysburg Address he made at the dedication of the Soldiers' National Cemetery on the battlefield four and a half months later - including a rather nice life size statue out front which was just begging for me to sit down beside it!

Me sat beside a life size statue of Abraham Lincoln outside the Visitor's Center

Me sat beside a life size statue of Abraham Lincoln outside the Visitor's Center


A plaque with the words of Lincoln's famous Gettysburg Address

A plaque with the words of Lincoln's famous Gettysburg Address

One of the most impressive features of the Visitor's Center is the 377 feet (115 metre) long Cyclorama of the battle at the time of Pickett's Charge (the climax of the battle on the 3rd day). Cycloramas were very popular in the late 1800s and were massive paintings displayed in special circular auditoriums enhanced with landscaped foregrounds to give a three-dimensional effect of the historical event they were depicting to viewers on a central platform. The Battle of Gettysburg Cyclorama took the French artist Paul Philippoteaux more than 18 months to paint in the early 1880's and was originally displayed in Boston.

Viewers leaving the central platform of the Cyclorama

Viewers leaving the central platform of the Cyclorama


Cyclorama - looking west as Pickett's charge reaches 'The Angle'

Cyclorama - looking west as Pickett's charge reaches 'The Angle'


Cyclorama - looking south west at the highwater mark of the Confederate advance (note the gun carriage in the foreground to give a 3D effect)

Cyclorama - looking south west at the highwater mark of the Confederate advance (note the gun carriage in the foreground to give a 3D effect)


Cyclorama - looking south with General Hancock directing the Union defence of Cemetery Ridge

Cyclorama - looking south with General Hancock directing the Union defence of Cemetery Ridge


Cyclorama - the view north with Union artillery firing on the advancing Confederates (again note the real canon in the foreground to give a 3D effect)

Cyclorama - the view north with Union artillery firing on the advancing Confederates (again note the real canon in the foreground to give a 3D effect)

We were then taken on a 3 hour tour of the battlefield starting with a drive through the town of Gettysburg itself. The battle began on the first day with the Confederate advance guard stumbling into the Union cavalry west of the town and the Union troops then doing a fighting retreat through the town itself to a defensive line on the hills on the other side. Because of their historical significance many of the buildings from the time of the battle have been preserved and have commemorative plaques on them.

Houses in Gettysburg from the time of the battle

Houses in Gettysburg from the time of the battle


Gettysburg house from the time of the battle

Gettysburg house from the time of the battle


The Lutheran Seminary on the edge of town where the Union General Burford watched the Confederate advance towards Gettysburg on the first day

The Lutheran Seminary on the edge of town where the Union General Burford watched the Confederate advance towards Gettysburg on the first day

We were then driven along McPherson Ridge and Oak Ridge north west of Gettysburg which is where all the heavy fighting took place on the first day. The battlefield is now a National Military Park treated as hallowed ground with over 1,400 monuments scattered all over it commemorating units, states and individuals who took part. One of the first monuments we saw was to John Burns, a local who picked up his musket on the first day and went to fight alongside the Union soldiers and as result became somewhat of a national hero.

McPherson Farm north west of Gettysburg - scene of heavy fighting on the first day

McPherson Farm north west of Gettysburg - scene of heavy fighting on the first day


Statue of John Burns, a local retired policeman who turned up on the day to fight alongside the Union soldiers

Statue of John Burns, a local retired policeman who turned up on the day to fight alongside the Union soldiers

The first place we actually stopped and were able to have a walk around was the Eternal Light Peace Memorial on Oak Ridge which was dedicated by US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on the 75th anniversary of the battle in 1938. Here we got a flavour of what the rest of the battlefield was going to be like - lots of plaques, memorials and canons lining every road.

The Eternal Light Peace Memorial - dedicated by President Franklin D Roosevelt on the 75th anniversary of the battle in 1938

The Eternal Light Peace Memorial - dedicated by President Franklin D Roosevelt on the 75th anniversary of the battle in 1938


Parrott Gun from the battle by the Eternal Light Peace Memorial

Parrott Gun from the battle by the Eternal Light Peace Memorial


Canon on Oak Ridge looking south east towards Gettysburg

Canon on Oak Ridge looking south east towards Gettysburg

We were then briefly taken through the town again, passing the Railway Station (vital for evacuating the wounded after the battle and where Abraham Lincoln arrived the evening before he made his famous Gettysburg Address) and then through the main square (now remained Lincoln Square). We also passed Jennie Wade's House, she was tragically shot by a stray bullet while making bread and thus became the only civilian killed during the battle (although she didn't know it at the time, her fiancée Jack Skelly had been captured by the Confederates at the Battle of Winchester a fortnight earlier and later died of his wounds).

Gettysburg Railway Station

Gettysburg Railway Station


The town square in Gettysburg, the red brick building on the left (known as David Wills House) is where Abraham Lincoln stayed the night before he made his Gettysburg Address

The town square in Gettysburg, the red brick building on the left (known as David Wills House) is where Abraham Lincoln stayed the night before he made his Gettysburg Address


Jennie Wade's house in Gettysburg, the only civilian killed by a stray bullet during the battle

Jennie Wade's house in Gettysburg, the only civilian killed by a stray bullet during the battle

Having left town again we drove along West Confederate Avenue on Seminary Ridge which was the Confederate front line for much of the battle. It was proving difficult to get the pictures I wanted from the moving coach so I was snapping at everything! We circled the State of Virginia Monument topped by a mounted statue of the Confederate Commander-in-Chief Robert E. Lee which is the largest Confederate monument on the battlefield.

It was from here that Pickett's Charge set out for the Union positions on Cemetery Ridge at the climax of the battle on the third day; of the 12,500 soldiers who set out less than 50% made it back afterwards to the Confederate lines.

Canon along West Confederate Avenue pointing at the Union positions on the other side of the battlefield

Canon along West Confederate Avenue pointing at the Union positions on the other side of the battlefield


The State of North Carolina Monument on West Confederate Avenue, the tall white monument opposite is for the US Regular Army

The State of North Carolina Monument on West Confederate Avenue, the tall white monument opposite is for the US Regular Army


The State of Virginia Monument, the largest of the Confederate memorials - Pickett's Charge set off from here on the third day

The State of Virginia Monument, the largest of the Confederate memorials - Pickett's Charge set off from here on the third day

We then crossed the battlefield to the Union side through the Peach Orchard, the Wheatfield and Devil's Den, which were the scene of heavy fighting on the second day of the battle while the Confederates tried to outflank the Union positions to the south. On the Union side of the battlefield there is a much visited small hill called the Little Round Top which has terrific views of the battlefield.

Monument to a New York Artillery Battery on the Wheatfield Road - note the zigzagging 'worm' fencing, this was everywhere

Monument to a New York Artillery Battery on the Wheatfield Road - note the zigzagging 'worm' fencing, this was everywhere


The boulders of the Devil's Den from Little Round Top

The boulders of the Devil's Den from Little Round Top


The boulders of Devil's Den viewed from behind a canon on Little Round Top

The boulders of Devil's Den viewed from behind a canon on Little Round Top

The Little Round Top was undefended at the start of the second day until General Warren (the chief engineer of the Union Army) realised the danger and had troops rushed to it just in time to repel a surprise attack by the Confederates, a key moment during the battle.

Little Round Top as seen from the Wheatfield - along with Devil's Den they were all the scene of heavy fighting on the second day

Little Round Top as seen from the Wheatfield - along with Devil's Den they were all the scene of heavy fighting on the second day


General Warren's statue on Little Round Top - one of the most visited spots on the battlefield

General Warren's statue on Little Round Top - one of the most visited spots on the battlefield


The white dome of the State of Pennsylvania Monument as seen from Little Round Top - the largest monument on the battlefield

The white dome of the State of Pennsylvania Monument as seen from Little Round Top - the largest monument on the battlefield

We then drove back along Hancock Avenue which was the Union front line for much of the battle. We passed several farms which had been the scene of heavy fighting and then been used as field hospitals, many of them were totally destroyed or were never occupied again.

The George Weikert Farm north of Little Round Top

The George Weikert Farm north of Little Round Top


The Codori Farm just south of Gettysburg on the east side of Emmitsburg Road

The Codori Farm just south of Gettysburg on the east side of Emmitsburg Road

We then reached the top of Cemetery Ridge and the High Water Mark of the Rebellion Monument marking the climax point of the battle. This is where Pickett's Charge, the event from the battle depicted in the Cyclorama we saw in the Visitors Centre, reached on the third day and considered the furthest point the Confederate invasion of the North ever reached.

The High Water Mark of the Rebellion Monument

The High Water Mark of the Rebellion Monument


Canon at the Angle, target of Pickett's Charge which was launched from the Virginia Monument which can be seen on the left hand side of the tree line in the distance

Canon at the Angle, target of Pickett's Charge which was launched from the Virginia Monument which can be seen on the left hand side of the tree line in the distance


Looking across the battlefield towards the Confederate lines from the Brian Farm Barn

Looking across the battlefield towards the Confederate lines from the Brian Farm Barn

We then returned to the Visitors Center, passing the statue of General George G. Meade (the Union Commander-in-Chief) mounted on his famous horse Old Baldy located on the ridge just above his headquarters at Liester Farm. We also skirted the edge of the Soldiers' National Cemetery were Abraham Lincoln gave his Gettysburg Address at its dedication; 8,900 men died at the battle of Gettysburg and the Union dead were reburied here.

General Mead's Statue on Cemetery Ridge above his headquarters in Leister Farm

General Mead's Statue on Cemetery Ridge above his headquarters in Leister Farm


The edge of the Soldiers' National Cemetery at Gettysburg

The edge of the Soldiers' National Cemetery at Gettysburg

Back inside the Visitors Center in addition to the Cyclorama there is also a very good Museum filled with artifacts explaining the battle and why it happened. The 150th anniversary of the battle was only 5 weeks away when we visited so everything was in tip-top condition with many new exhibits. The anniversary of the battle has become a magnet for re-enactors dressed in the Blue and Grey of the two armies and with 2013 being the 150th anniversary 35,000 were expected to descend on Gettysburg.

Rebel Grey and Union Blue Infantry Uniforms on display outside the museum

Rebel Grey and Union Blue Infantry Uniforms on display outside the museum


Example of a soldier's tent from the time of the battle

Example of a soldier's tent from the time of the battle


Union Cavalryman on display in the Museum

Union Cavalryman on display in the Museum


Museum displays describing the different phases of Pickett's Charge

Museum displays describing the different phases of Pickett's Charge

As we drove back to New Jersey we passed the Pennsylvania Turnpike exit for the Valley Forge National Historic Park where George Washington withdrew his army for the winter of 1777-1778 during the American Revolution after being defeated by the British at the Battle of Brandywine Creek. However there is a limit to how much history even I can do and Valley Forge will need to wait for another time! (Oh by the way, US President Dwight D. Eisenhower's Gettysburg Farm is also next door to the battlefield - certainly a lot of history around these parts!)

Freeway exit to the Valley Forge National Historic Park

Freeway exit to the Valley Forge National Historic Park

Posted by FrancisRTW 02:00 Archived in USA Tagged museums war_memorials us_presidents us_east_coast external_links Comments (0)

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