La Vie en La V en La J

Meeting a long-lost friend for dinner in La Jolla proved to be a royal So-Cal experience. After being picked up in a limo at the hotel, I was whisked to the Med at La Valencia Hotel for the evening sunset and an ocean view table. While catching up and talking non-stop til I was hoarse, we shared lovely courses of sea bass and garden vegetables highlighted by a local Foley Chardonnay.

In our conversation, we decided that Barcelona gets high marks for its liveliness, 24-hour living, and Miro scenery, while Sorrento despite many tourists was one of my top picks in Europe for its intimacy and striking setting.

We made plans to meet in Berlin to catch the art scene or go to an opera together in the near future. This weekend gave me multiple opportunities to renew old friendships and to discover many common interests through our conversations. If you haven’t made the effort, please think about getting in touch with someone you haven’t seen for a while. It’s one of the best investments you can make, and don’t forget: life is short.

In case you were wondering, the chauffeur advised me, “We people refer to the hotel as La V”. I was promptly returned to my hotel for a good night’s sleep…to dream about the magic carpet chauffeur-driven car and to kick-start the endorphins by conjuring up the next trip. These thoughts brought a perfect ending to this stimulating, fun-filled weekend to San Ysidro, La Jolla, and Pine Valley.

A Lazy Day in Pine Valley

We took it easy this morning. After a leisurely cup of cappuccino, we walked to the corner of town to visit Tryyn Gallery, where the owner, Bill, hones beautiful pieces of wood into spoons. He finds the inherent beauty in each piece of exotic wood and turns each piece into both functional items as well as works of art.
imageWe got into an extended conversation about the huge bamboo section that was inside the glass display cabinet. Bill explained that the roots at the outside tip of the piece had been cut and sanded down, and that the tip was the bottom of the root. We had a difference of opinion and believed that the tip pointed up and outside. Which way do you think the tip faced–up or down? Our initial research only confused us more.

Later in the morning were taken on a breathtaking tour of Pine Valley. It is deep in the Cleveland National Forest. We followed an old fire lane up into the hills of manzanita, live oaks, sage and agave plants. The hillsides were laden with thick growth from two weeks of rain, an unusual occurrence this late in Spring season. You can see the panoramic view of the valley in the header above.

After our venture into the hills where we had walked the previous day, we made a stop for lunch at a local saloon. Not too much was going on, except that the counters were made of shellacked half-logs and the seats were even bigger sections of logs. Sorry, guys, no foodie shots available here (you are being spared). A couple of relics served (or didn’t serve) us, in an area where you could hunt, if you used a bow and arrow.

German’s Food Truck

Photo, above: German (pronounced Her-Mann) and his Yelp 4.5 star rated food truck at the border in San Ysidro.

Deep fried fish, assorted seafood including mussels, octopus, shrimp and clams, and marlin on the menu.

The American Dream at work: creativity, innovation, and efficiency

“The grass is always greener on the other side”…view of Tijuana, Mexico from San Ysidro, California.

The Salk Institute, La Jolla, CA

I don’t normally like to follow raves on buildings by architects, but I am glad to succumb to this one. The Salk Institute is one of the icons of architecture and considered a sacred site by many. You can see why from the setting, the restraint of materials, and the pure forms that are executed with absolute skill and perfection.

I’ve cut and pasted the text from the website below so you can understand its mission and beginnings.

The Salk Institute was established in the 1960s by Jonas Salk, M.D., the developer of the polio vaccine. His goal was to establish an institute that would explore questions about the basic principles of life. He wanted to make it possible for biologists and others to work together in a collaborative environment that would encoura them to consider the wider implications of their discoveries for the future of humanity.

History of the Salk

Jonas Salk had a distinct vision for the Salk Institute as he worked with scientists and architects to create a new paradigm for research and collaboration. Pictured above the early 1960s, Salk worked closely on many of the construction details of the Institute.

In December 1959, Salk and architect Louis Kahn began a unique partnership to design such a facility. Salk summarized his aesthetic objectives by telling the architect to “create a facility worthy of a visit by Picasso.” Kahn, who was a devoted artist before he became an architect, was able to respond to this challenge.

For San Diego mayor Charles Dail, a polio survivor, bringing the Salk Institute to San Diego was a personal quest. Dail showed Salk 27 acres on a mesa in La Jolla, just west of the proposed site for the new University of California campus then planned for San Diego. In June 1960, in a special referendum, the citizens of San Diego voted overwhelmingly to give the land for Salk’s dream. With initial financial support from the National Foundation/March of Dimes, Salk and Kahn were able to proceed.

Groundbreaking took place in 1962, and soon thereafter the Salk Institute for Biological Studies became a reality. A few key researchers were invited to work in temporary buildings which were used while construction was under way. When the first laboratory was opened in 1963, there were five senior scientists and their research teams. This distinguished group of fellows formed members of Salk’s first faculty group and in addition to Jonas Salk included Jacob Bronowski, Melvin Cohn, Renato Dulbecco, Edwin Lennox, and Leslie Orgel. The first Nonresident Fellows selected were Leo Szilard, Francis Crick, Salvador Luria, Jacques Monod, and Warren Weaver.

During the next few years, as the Salk expanded, resident fellows (now generally regarded as professors) and nonresident fellows (appointed scientists from other institutions) together advised Dr. Salk about future scientific directions. The organization of the Institute has evolved with time to its present structure, consisting of a board of trustees, a president and CEO, an academic council, and a chairman of the faculty.

Today the major areas of study at Salk are: molecular biology and genetics, neurosciences, and plant biology. Salk research provides new understanding and potential new therapies and treatments for a range of diseases—from cancer, AIDS and Alzheimer’s disease, to cardiovascular disorders, anomalies of the brain and birth defects. Discoveries by plant biologists at the Salk pave the way to improving the quality and quantity of the world’s food supply and to addressing pressing environmental problems, including global warming.

The Institute has been supported over the years by funds awarded to its members in the form of research grants, most from the National Institutes of Health, and from private foundations and individuals. Especially important has been the continued support of the March of Dimes which, in addition to funds for the original structure, has contributed significantly every year to the Institute’s financial needs.

For more details about the history of the Salk Institute, check the website for information about the “Genesis of The Salk Institute”. Written by Suzanne Bourgeois, Professor Emerita and Founding Director of the Regulatory Biology Laboratory at the Salk Institute.


SFO TO San Diego by Amtrak

I am traveling today via Amtrak to San Diego. I will be meeting hubby Gee Kin tomorrow, who is flying in from SFO. This is a free trip for me, inspired by expired Amtrak points that were recovered. This “special” allows passengers to go from San Francisco to LA or San Diego area for 1500 points each way. Normally the minimum number of points is 10,000 for any free trip, so this was a bargain for those who have time.

The first leg is via what is known as a Thruway Bus, or by bus from SFO to Santa Barbara. It takes about 7.5 hours. After that, passengers transfer to the Pacific Surfliner from SB to LA or San Diego. The train arrives around 8pm, or in another 6 hours.

Obviously flying is far more efficient, but for me, why not? Free is free, but not faster. I managed to entertain myself on the bus with music, snoozing, and people watching. It was very comfortable and relaxing, far easier than my usual mode of driving.

The weekend will be capped by a visit to friends of ours, who live an hour outside SD. Since GK doesn’t have the time to travel by train, I plan to meet him at the airport tomorrow morning. After Gee Kin’s work-related portion of the trip, we will rent a car and drive to our friend’s place. We will do the reverse at the end of the trip, with Gee Kin flying back on Saturday, and then I will be taking the train on my own on Sunday.

This was initially a little complicated and confusing, but after I worked out the logistics it was quite simple. I discovered that I can wrap train travel around someone else’s busy schedule. By using Amtrak, I can enjoy some personal time and share time together. This works great for me, and is consistent with traveling with myself and others. If you hadn’t thought about this option before, you might consider this creative method of travel. It gives greater flexibility to accommodate different schedules for two people.

So far the bus ride following Hwy. 101 was uneventful, with stops in San Jose, Salinas, King City, San Luis Obispo and Paso Robles. The last two locations looked inviting, in between traversing many vineyards. And despite the drought, the Salinas Valley crops still looked well watered (pun intended).

From Santa Barbara to Ventura, the views along the Pacific Ocean have been spectacular, with tracks paralleling the surf! There are a string of small towns from Santa Barbara to LA such as Carpenteria and Oxnard. Alert your overseas friends and visitors (and a reminder to yourselves) that this portion of the route allows you to see the California coast and beaches ringside from the train during the day–which obviously now is the train’s featured namesake.


Here’s one additional bonus: free wifi on the train! I can write this and send it to you real time!

Stay tuned for the weekend’s activities coming up.