Hidden Gems in Hemet, California

Hemet 130Forty-something years of being a California native and I had yet to visit Hemet, California before this January. Embarassingly, I admit I thought that the Ramona Pageant took place in the city of Ramona, not Hemet.  Now after a day of taking in the various sights, I can say with enthusiasm that I plan to return to Hemet.

So, what is charming about the city of Hemet?  Why, the history of it!  Seemingly simple like an old man who says little yet is a wealth of interesting history, Hemet sits quietly in the San Jacinto Valley of Riverside County disturbing no one.  More boastful cities brag of their treasures and tout their popularity like school girls but not Hemet.  Hemet is refreshingly at ease with being a Plain Jane and I find confidence like that very appealing.

Hemet was once full of lakes, streams and was lush enough to be the playground for mammoths, sloths and mastodons.  Personally, I think its history is more fascinating than having a high-end shopping mall in town but I am the gal who frequents malls less then three times a year and crawls through museums reading every plaque, so what do I know? Fast forward ten thousand years or so, Hemet dried up a bit but that didn’t prevent the Cahuilla Tribe from settling there.  It was also used for cattle ranching by Mission San Luis Rey.  In 1895 the Hemet Dam was completed thus creating Lake Hemet and providing water to San Jacinto Valley.  The Valley would be forever changed now bringing agriculture, settlements and the railroad.  Hemet quickly became a trading center for agriculture like citrus, apricots, peaches, olives and walnuts. Hemet 119

A fascinating piece of Hemet history is the Ryan School of Aeronautics, where 6000 fliers were trained during WWII.  The site of the school is now Hemet-Ryan Airport.  There is a sailplane center for adventurous types and in nearby Anza, there is Moto-Ventures, an off-road motorcycle training school.  Large scale residential development began in the 1960′s but mostly consisted of mobile home parks and retirement communities.  The 1980′s brought subdivisions and “big-box” retail that still define much of the city.  Nowadays, Hemet is the seasonal home to many snowbirds seeking a more temperate winter.

How many cities can boast being home to Southern California’s emergency water supply? To put this in perspective, 19 million people count on the water in it should there be a drought or an emergency!  That Hemet 076alone should give the town instant respect.  This reservoir is the largest in Southern California and is called the Diamond Valley Lake.  Open for boating and fishing, it is stocked full of tasty Bass, Trout, Bluegill, Sunfish and Catfish, so bring your boat or rent one of many types available.  The awe-inspiring three dams, lake and 13,500 acre Multi-Species Reserve can be seen from an viewpoint perched on a hill or one can opt for one of the two trails where hiking, bicycling and horses are allowed.

Other treasures in Hemet include the Western Science Center (2345 Searl Parkway) which houses Ice Age mammals, “Max” and “Little Stevie” which were found while clearing the land for the dam.  Next doorHemet 048 is the Diamond Valley Visitors Center which has great exhibits that kept my attention for longer than I care to admit. Downtown Hemet is home to the 1921 historic Hemet Theater, where they still show an occasional movie.  Just down the road you will find the old train depot that now houses a museum showcasing Hemet’s history.

Hemet 101Hemet’s true claim to fame is the Ramona Pageant which occurs every spring at the Ramona Bowl.  “Ramona” has delighted audiences since April 13, 1923.  Its final first season performance drew an audience of 2000 people. Helen Hunt Jackson wrote the 1884 novel to create more concern from the American public for the Indians. Interestingly, the novel has never been out of print and has inspired many songs, four motion pictures and the Hemet play where many notable actresses like Raquel Welch have portrayed “Ramona”.  Hemet 114

This April, I plan to make the pilgrimage back to Hemet for the Ramona Pageant where I look forward to sharing the same space where thousands have come to witness the fictional romance and tragedy of Ramona and Alessandro.  I might just come early and sip a cocktail at Chappie’s while looking out the window at the Historic Hemet Theater.  I would like to imagine movie goers in 1921 standing outside waiting to see their favorite new talking movie. Care to join me?

Categories: Califonia, Hemet | 2 Comments

Accidentally In San Diego County!

As a long time California native, arguably this state does not hold the same mystique and enchantment that it does for many who long to live here. Please do not mistake me, I love my home state.  However, I love it in the same way you love your childhood home or hometown.  It’s great to go back to visit but you are hesitant to ever to live there again.

Car show 033It has been said that it is a rite of passage to leave your hometown, often times even your home state.  I, however, have never been successful at permanently leaving my home state though I keep trying.  I lived in Istanbul, Turkey as an exchange student and was invited to move there permanently but was too young to appreciate the opportunity.  Once again, I had the chance to move to the state Ohio and was excited about going (don’t laugh) but my then partner was fearful to make the move with me because we weren’t married yet and thought I would hate it and leave him there alone and single.  Fast forward many years, I almost had to move to Fort Worth, Texas.  This location was not even close to the top of my wishlist but I was willing to relocate for my then husband’s career.  Fortunately that “opportunity” passed.  Roughly a year ago, I was planning a move to Spain to see if I could figure out how to find work before the three month Visa ran out.  Alas, some personal obligations back in the states postponed my plans indefinitely.

My own young son, beat me at relocating, now calling Pennsylvania home.  Well, at least the majority of the year as he only returns to his home state More Fallbrook 003now for college summer breaks.  In 2005, I purchased what was to be the retirement home I would share with my then husband.  Ironically, I kept it after the divorce and he is the one slated to retire this month!  It resides in Southwestern Washington state where I attempted to move last summer after a four-month trial run living in a nearby town to see if it agreed with me.  It did, but as fate would have it, family heartstrings lured me to Pennsylvania for a planned six month stay.  Sadly, six months turned into two and a half when an injury turned my life upside down and I sought refuge and much healing with a family member in sunny southern California.

A few months ago, I swore I would never return to California to live but an impending knee surgery and nearby aging family has made me rethink my strong opinions about living here.  Funny, how the more things change, the more they stay the same.  Frankly, my personal belongings are tired of warming up a cold storage unit and I have nearly forgotten what I possess that was safely tucked away some sixteen months ago when I began this traveling sabbatical.  So there it is, I have gone full circle as I once predicted.  My quest to live daily out of my comfort zone worked so well, that putting down roots is now completely out of my comfort zone, therefore I must do it.  Sigh…


Categories: Califonia, San Diego | 2 Comments

Just Call Me Twinkle Toes

April 15 To be filed 011The Basque Traveler logo was born out of a recurring theme in my photos:  MY FEET!  I began taking photos of my feet while traveling because I travel alone and don’t have anyone handy to snap photos of me.  I have been doing it for years and now have several hundred photos capturing my manicured toes or shoes in interesting places.

I also happen to be a shoe collector and I adore pedicures!  With more high heels then I care to say I am now slowly beginning to add more loafers and flats out of a desire for comfort.  Perhaps that is a sign of maturity, however I prefer to think of it as simply a longing for variety!

Oddly enough, I am not an avid shopper for anything, including shoes.  However, I will purchase a delightfully fun pair when traipsing around the world.  A black strappy pair called out to me in Mexico and I nearly wore them out FEETSalsa dancing.  Some people collect shot glasses or snow globes…I collect shoes!

I have been nicknamed “Twinkle Toes” by some.  About a month ago, I managed to break one of my Twinkle Toes.  This has been really hard on a traveler that was already healing some torn knee ligaments!  I still can’t wear anything but flip flops and slippers due to soreness.  Everyday I stare longingly at my fancy high heels or my shiny patent leather loafers, waiting for an opportunity to once again strut around in them.  Olympic Pennisula & MacAlisters 012

While waiting on my twinkle toe to completely heal and for my upcoming knee surgery to repair a ruptured ligament, I will organize my shoes and mentally stroll down memory lane, reminiscing about all of fabulous adventures my feet and I have been lucky enough to have…

Categories: Arizona, Califonia, Pacific Northwest, Washington | 2 Comments

If My Jeans Could Talk…

me with holsterMy blue jeans are never far away from me, especially when I am traveling.  I have some that feel like trusty old comfortable slippers, a decorated pair that make me feel like a million bucks and some that are like souvenirs I collected in my travels.  One thing they share in common is that they all have witnessed important parts of my life journey.

If my jeans could talk, what would they tell you?  These blue jeans to the left, worn while practicing shooting out in the Arizona desert, would reveal that I had ten extra pounds on me at the time.  Some of those pounds were lovingly added in Europe, just months before. A couple are attributed to the holidays that occurred two months before this was taken.  The rest were delightfully added while exploring new restaurants during a foray back into dating.

I am like most people, I have jeans for nearly every size I morph into.  My pant size worn at any time depends on my activity level and my social calendar.  I wear more blue jeans when I am in the United States and now rarely wear them in Europe.  While in Spain, I transform into a girly girl, adorning myself with jewelry and swirling skirts. Back in the U.S.A., especially in the Pacific Northwest, a comfortable pair of blue jeans paired with comfy sneakers are my favorite way to explore.  Olympic loop 174

Since I mostly travel alone, my trusty blue jeans could be compared to a best friend. One who knows too much about you but shares nothing with the world.  My jeans have seen tears, joy, rejection, love, pain, injury and laughter.  One thing is certain, they have seen plenty of action!  Blue jeans are versatile and that is what I argue makes them a constant in my wardrobe.  I wear them on errands, on “dressy casual” social occasions and even when sharing a cocktail and a few laughs with a friend.

Voodoo donuts & stuff 019I used to love to dance and if I have flexible enough jeans on, I have been known to wear them out dancing. Why, my former favorite jeans that were a souvenir of Seattle, got buried in Mexico after a full night of Salsa dancing with girlfriends that ended with a jean tear WAY beyond repair and a very embarrassed me!

My jeans, as do I, cherish their memories, good and bad.  Each and every outing they saw was a tiny piece of the journey that has created the multifaceted person I am today.

If YOUR jeans could talk, just what would THEY say?

Categories: Arizona, Bullhead City, Lake Crescent, Long Beach Peninsula, Pacific Northwest, Washington | 2 Comments

Land of Avocados!

avocado theft signWelcome to San Diego County, California, land of avocados!  This county grows approximately sixty percent of all of the avocados in California and California grows ninety percent of the nation’s avocado crop!  Over fifteen years ago a close family member moved to rural Fallbrook in North San Diego County.  This cute town sits adjacent to Marine Corp Base Camp Pendleton and is a quick eighteen mile scenic jaunt to Oceanside.   Fallbrook boasts many acres of avocado groves and is home to the Fallbrook Avocado Festival, which occurs annually in April where some 70,000 avocado enthusiasts attend and celebrate the fruit.  Yes, you read that right, avocados are a fruit!

Touted as a “Superfood”, avocados are gluten free and cholesterol free, containing more potassium than bananas!   They are high in protein but this protein can be more easily absorbed by the body than red meat.  Okay, they do contain fat.  However it’s the “good” kind which helps to lower LDL, the “bad” cholesterol.  If those weren’t reasons enough to eat them, note that they are also said to be an aphrodisiac!

Unfortunately, eating them is not really an option for those of us who have a latex food allergy.  It is said that cooking avocados lowers the enzyme that we are allergic to, but I haven’t gotten up the nerve to try it yet for fear of a reaction.  The good news is that avocados have so many other wonderful uses that everyone can enjoy them regardless of allergies.  Have a sunburn and no aloe vera?  Grab an avocado and smooth some of the inside over your burn.  Looking to give your dull hair new shine?  Whip up a mixture of one medium avocado and two tablespoons of honey.  Massage into hair and leave on for 20-30 minutes and then rinse.  In need of an inexpensive facial treatment?  Just mix one-half of an avocado, two tablespoons of honey, one tablespoon sugar and a dash of lemon juice if you have oily skin.  Leave on your face for 15 minutes then rinse and pat dry.  It’s nearly as good as a day at the day spa!Phone photos 125

On a humorous note, the word “avocado” was derived from the Nahuatl word, Ahuacati, which literally means “testicles”.  The unlikely fruit is nicknamed, Alligator Pear, because of its green bumpy skin.  While most think of slicing it for use on salads or sandwiches or using it to prepare the ubiquitous guacamole, Brazilians love to pair it with ice cream.  Be sure to search for unique items such as avocado ice cream, avocado pie and my favorite gift to give, avocado fudge (photo on right:  see happy avocado fudge taste tester).  See you at the Fallbrook Avocado Festival on April 13th, 2014!  http://www.fallbrookchamberofcommerce.org/events-v2/avocado-festival.html

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Mazel tov!

I adore all weddings, mostly because they typically have accompanying parties and I enjoy fiestas! While traveling over the years I have made it a point to look for weddings to view.  I have peeked in on them in European cathedrals and spied in on receptions at restaurants.  I rarely ever turn down an invitation to a wedding because it is a great honor to be asked to part of a happy couple’s special day. Spring Break 2013 - East Coast 031 I realize that in America about fifty percent of marriages end in divorce.  I have some theories and opinions about that statistic but will keep those to myself.  Truthfully though, I haven’t completely given up believing in marriage as I have seen evidence of so many that are positively precious.  My Great Aunt and Uncle have recently celebrated their 68th wedding anniversary and my second cousin and his wife just celebrated their 50th by renewing their vows.  Incidentally, I caught the bouquet!  This leads me to ponder if the next wedding I attend will be my own!

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Where Was This Photo Taken? …Can You Guess?

Looks can deceive us.  Have you ever misjudged someone’s age, the weather outside when looking out from a window or in this case, a place?  Twenty-eight years ago I told my Engineer boyfriend that I loved him and would follow him anywhere in the world but Texas or Palmdale, CA.  I hated everything about Texas at the time.  Blame it on the show, “Dallas”!  Palmdale, CA is located in the high desert of CA and seemed to have little more than a few Aerospace contractors, a couple of restaurants and too many tumbleweeds. so I definitely couldn’t picture myself there.

Fast forward about 12 years I found myself several years into a marriage with that Engineer and being told to come with him to Ft. Worth, Texas to look at neighborhoods and homes because we were likely to move there for this job.  I was horrified!  I rented a convertible as the weather was nice enough.  I was almost having fun until I got a look at the size of their bugs that were now dangerously close to me on the windshield of that convertible.  One full week of tearing up the town, I finally resolved myself to what I thought would be my future fate and picked out a town.  Shortly after, the heavens rewarded my flexibility by making the need to move to Texas suddenly vanish as quickly as it appeared.

A couple years passed and the company that my husband worked for began to implement sweeping layoffs and talk of a move resurfaced.  We lived in a small but lovely beach community in Los Angeles County and although I secretly had an itching to try living somewhere new, I had reservations about where that “somewhere” might be.  Then one fateful day, he came home and raved about a new position he was offered.  It didn’t take me but a few minutes to notice he hadn’t said where it was located and my stomach began to get queasy.  I just knew it had to be in Palmdale!  006

He insisted that I keep an open mind and we scheduled a Sunday drive up to this high desert area.  We headed up from San Diego where we had been visiting my mother and entered the Antelope Valley (where Palmdale resides) from  mountainous Wrightwood, CA.  All I saw for miles and miles was brown hillsides, open desert and cactus.  It would have made a delightfully funny adventure if it hadn’t represented my future.  How could this be, first a close call with Texas, now Palmdale?  God clearly had a sense of humor, I mused.

Several months passed and the move was imminent.  We sold our beach home so we could begin our new life in what looked like another planet to me.  I fashioned the best pair of rose-colored glasses that I could create and jumped in with both feet.  We were hysterical to watch at the beginning.  I was born and bred on temperate Southern CA weather  so in my mind 45 deg F was bone-chilling.  Now I had arrived in my new city in late November to be greeted with 18 degree F evenings, I was less than enthusiastic and my rose-colored glasses were quickly becoming transparent ones.    My hubby fared better as he is a Pennsylvania native however I froze the first winter!

We quickly learned how to dodge tumbleweeds on the roads, not freak out when neighbors in cars actually waved to us, and most importantly, not decorate beautiful outdoor pine trees with Christmas ornaments.  That brings me to the only thing I never really got used to in the desert, the WIND!  It blew like I never knew wind could blow.  It blew in the winter.  It blew in the summer.  It blew at night, it blew in the morning.  It blew anytime it damn well felt like it and it seemed that that was most of the time.  All of our trees had one semi-barren side due to my “friend”, the wind.  One quickly figured out that good hair days were a rarity given the wind’s desire to restyle it often and dramatically.

I blinked one day and nine plus years had passed.  I not only survived my move to the desert, I had managed to thrive there.  I had many friends, lots of clients, tons of funny stories and plenty of memories.   Alas, it was time for my departure as all of the lessons there were complete.  I will always have a soft spot in my heart for the Antelope Valley of California.  I braved my worst fear of moving there only to find exquisite beauty in the desert sunsets, stunning natural buttes. the cleanest air in Los Angeles County and some of the warmest people I have ever met.

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Old Town San Diego – Something For Everyone!

Welcome to the “birthplace” of California!  Although there are indications that the Kumeyaay people inhabited the San Diego area dating back 9000 years ago, most tend to associate the earliest inhabitants with the Spanish settlements of 1769.  It was here that Father Junipero Serra established the first of 21 missions across California.  Later in 1835, a Mexican adobe community was formed and called the area, El Pueblo de San Diego.  Finally in 1846, San Diego flew the American flag.

Nowadays Old Town San Diego dishes out a well-preserved peek back into California’s early history with a side of lively shops, tantalizing cuisine washed down with a refreshing margarita!    For those with a taste for the macabre, head straight to the haunted Whaley House which was built over the site of former gallows or visit El Campo Cemetery.where notorious boat thief, Yankee Jim Robinson was buried.  It is Yankee Jim’s ghost that is said to haunt the Whaley House.

History lovers will be happy to learn that there is no shortage of historic buildings (many now museums) all within walking distance down San Diego Avenue, which is Old Town’s “Main” street.  If you love churches then El Adobe Chapel and the Church of the Immaculate Conception will not disappoint.   Into architecture?  See Casa de Estudillo (circa 1825) which is one of the finest adobe haciendas in the state or walk through Heritage Park, 7.8 acres of fabulously preserved Victorian homes.  Foodies will find plenty of choices among the more than 25 restaurants located within a mile radius.

If you don’t want to miss an ounce of what this lively area has to offer then take one or more tours to get the whole scoop!  Just show up at the Visitor’s Center located in the Robinson Rose building in the plaza for a State Park Tour or make a reservation (619) 469-3174 with the Boosters of Old Town so you may see it with a knowledgeable guide dressed in period costume.  Old Town also boasts a rare original stagecoach, a Sheriff’s Museum, volumes of cultural art and interesting jewelry.  It’s truly a feast for the eyes and the stomach!

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My Secret Lair…

When I am seeking a tranquil retreat I always head to a strip of land that is barely one and a half miles wide and stretches nearly twenty-eight miles long.  The vast Pacific Ocean sits on its west, the Willapa Bay flanks the east side and it is tucked in by the treacherous Columbia River to its south.   The world calls it the Long Beach Peninsula but I refer to it as my “Secret Lair”.

Although it is a haven to many kite flyers, fishermen, clam diggers, birdwatchers and beachgoers alike, my favorite peninsula gems are the North Head Lighthouse where I am likely to be found braving the wind to photograph the sunset and historic Oysterville where I can safely step back in time to the late 1800s.

The terrain is wildly different on various parts of the peninsula which adds to its mystique.   Most of the beaches are rural, covered with beach grass yet if you venture south to Beard’s Hollow the landscape begins to turn rocky with coves and long forgotten driftwood washed up on the shoreline.  The northeastern side of the peninsula offers a national wildlife refuge and the Willapa Bay that never fails to fascinate onlookers with its drastic tide changes.  I love to watch flat-bottomed oyster boats cruise along one minute and then see vast sparse mudflats the next.  This aquatic symphony gets played out all day and night; it is so mesmerizing that one is likely to forget to venture off and explore the rest of the peninsula.

The Long Beach Peninsula was the furthest north that the Lewis and Clark’s Expedition traveled and when I explore its natural treasures, it is easy to understand why they never felt tempted to venture past here.

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Staircases Galore!

Staircases are practical, yet just as with clothing, form trumps function.  Well, at least that is the perspective of a traveling photographer and writer.  Lighthouses & Ft. Canby 022

I have been fascinated with staircases since my childhood.  We initially had only porch steps in my childhood house but then my parents added on a big den (remember how we used to call them that and “rumpus rooms”?).  The entry down to the den contained increasingly wide steps that conjured up visions of a grand ballroom in my youthful mind.  My girlfriend Kathy and I took turns descending down them, draped with a patchwork quilt that we fancied was a royal cape.  I couldn’t decide at the time if I felt more comfortable in the commanding role of Queen or as a delicate Princess who awaited her Prince.

Phone photos 172 Phone photos 135Stairs provide much more than a way from Point A to Point B!  Anyone who has ever walked down a flight that provided a breathtaking view can attest to that.  Brides have been known to descend a flight, appearing as if to be floating on air down to their bridal ceremony.  Good movie chase and fight scenes always take place in a stairwell.  They have also been made famous in scary movies.  You can’t have a creepy basement scene without those dark steep narrow steps leading to it.

If you love stairs then head to densely populated area like San Francisco or Amsterdam where you will find an abundance of them!  Stairs there are typically very steep and have short treads so be careful!

Phone photos 383Phone photos 226The more unique the staircase, the better!Spring Break 2013 - East Coast 276

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