Driving Along the Coast of Northern Ireland

It’s not the first time I have been to Northern Ireland but it’s the first time I did the coastal road from Belfast to the Giant Causeway. And the first time I had such beautiful weather. Which in Ireland – north or south – is not always guaranteed.

I was actually spending a whole weekend at Newcastle in the Mourne Mountains south-east of Belfast. And one day my friend and I went up to the Giants Causeway where I have been before, but on a really bad-weather-day. Now sun was shining and the prospective of having a wonderful sunny day along the coast was great.

We passed through Belfast without stopping and took the road along the coast. One of our few stops was at Whitehead. My friend remembered the little village from when she was young and wanted to have a look. Perfect for this sunny day to have a nice walk and then to get a coffee at a cafeteria. I got the ‘Italian feeling’ when two motorcyclists stopped with their wonderful old Vespas at the same cafeteria we went for coffee.

We drove along the shore road, all so incredibly green. We stopped at some castle where at that time there was held an event, a wedding, I think. All ladies dressed up nice, the famous English hats on their heads, but the most majestic and impressive to me were the two Greyhounds. So big, so calm and … aloof, shy. I loved to see them walking away slowly and nearly solemn, just to sit in another place.

We arrived at the Giants Causeway in the early afternoon and enjoyed a meal at the hotel right before going to see the lava formations.

On our way back while driving inland we had another stop over at the Hedges. It’s an alley with giant trees which became famous thanks to “Game of Thrones”. But that is another story….

Here are some more photos I took on this coastal drive. Hope to be there again soon for more exploring.

Coastal Route, Northern Ireland:

For further information:
Causeway Coastal Route

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Back to the Twenties with Silent Movies

A few days ago I jumped again into the twenties of the last century. We have been to see some silent movies. Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, Oliver Hardy and Stan Laurel, Rodolfo Valentino, Mary Pickford, Blanche Sweet, Theda Bara… just to remember some of the most famous actors of those times.

The event was held in the Trinity Presbyterian Church of San Diego. A little church and very particular. Perfect for small events. Here the Theater Organ Society of San Diego has one of the rare theater organs and gives members and non the possibility to see silent movies accompanied by great theater organists. I have known one of them, who I had the pleasure to listen to one evening in a private event at friends’ house. Something you will not forget easily.

This weekend we went to Trinity Church at 6 pm to see a movie with Buster Keaton – “The Scarecrow” from 1920 – and one with Laurel and Hardy – “Putting Pants on Philip” from 1927. I don’t know why but Keaton is always my favorite.

The movies where displayed with an intermission for a snack. Which was nice, perfect to walk a little bit and talk about the movie. But before and after the movies the excitement was all on the theater organist. He gave as a sneak peak of what he can do with this instrument that today, I believe, only few people know it exists.

When the movies came out, the cinema was born, the movies were still without any sound. It was already revolutionary to see moving pictures. Photography itself was not that long is use.

So, to give a sound and a better understanding for the action the movies had subtitles to see what the actors were talking about. But to give a feeling for the action sound was needed. And here comes the theater organ.

The theater organ was developed to give music and sound effects to the movies for three decades. The organ console has a horseshoe-shape of stop tabs arranged around the keyboard itself. One of the most famous ones were the Wurlitzer organs. Once there were more than 2.000 made only by this company.

It can play a complete orchestra with all instruments. Additionally there is a possibility for hundreds of sounds like train or boat whistles, a car horn, ocean sounds, sirens and much more. All perfect to accompany a silent movie and make it ‘feel-able’.

With a theater organ no orchestra was needed anymore and in many cinemas it was possible to see silent movies, even in small places.

They were first built in the United States by an Englishman and Wurlitzer, and only after WW I they ‘arrived’ on the European continent with some well known manufactures in Germany and the Netherlands.

The organ is connected to a pipe chamber. I had the possibility to see the room. It is mega amazingly impressive! Pipes of all (in)imaginable seizes. They need to have a certain temperature and not to be touched as though they could alter the sound.

I hope I will have the possibility to go to more silent movies from time to time. There should be events with theater organs also in Balboa Park in San Diego. Maybe when I am back in summer I can go. I really would like that. One of the organists said before playing: when the audience totally forget the organist then he is doing a good job. I confess: I forgot him completely and was only enjoying the movie with its music and effects. And it makes me think how important music is in a movie. Music is giving the real feeling for the story, feeling for anger, for excitement, for peace, for love, for sadness, any emotion that helps to feel what you see, what the actors try to give the audience. Without music and sounds it would be just moving pictures.

Trinity Prebyterian Church, Spring Valley, San Diego, California/USA:

For further information:
Trinity Presbyterian Church, Spring Valley, San Diego

Theater Organ Society of San Diego

The Scarecrow Silent Movie

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The Green Healthy Fat – Guacamole

Avocados are so healthy that I should eat them on a daily base. That’s what for years I am reading on every paleo or health blog. And avocados are so yummy. I never liked them. The texture is strange, something between slimy and viscid, the taste nothing spectacular and definitely a no-go for me.

20 years ago when I visited Mexico I am sure I tried guacamole and liked it. Or maybe I avoided it thinking I don’t like avocados ergo I don’t like anything with them.

When I first visited San Diego last year one morning my friend prepared some avocado for breakfast. I made a face confirming I don’t like avocados. He made me try… and I loved it!

A few days later he bought some fresh made guacamole in a store nearby. I tried it with corn chips. And since then I am addicted to guacamole and anything with avocados. Is it just I changed my taste over the years or it is because the different way to prepare avocados? I don’t know. Fact is that I love it and have my (nearly) daily intake of healthy avocado fat since then. At least when I am in San Diego.

Avocados in Europe are a little bit tricky as they are oftentimes over ripe or if OK they often have black spots in their flesh. And: for guacamole in Europe (or at least in Germany and Italy) it is not that easy to find cilantro. Which is crucial in the guacamole! You can’t substitute cilantro with parsley for example. No way!

Homemade guacamole is super easy. You just need an avocado, a tomato, some fresh lime juice, salt and of course cilantro. For my Italian readers: coriandolo, and my German speakers: Koriander. And it must be FRESH. I tried the dried version, forget it! No taste at all!

Important also: don’t put the ingredients in a blender but mash them with a fork. It gives the right texture like a dip.

Enjoy the healthy fat!

Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
1 medium bowl 10 minutes
Servings Prep Time
1 medium bowl 10 minutes
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
1 medium bowl 10 minutes
Servings Prep Time
1 medium bowl 10 minutes
Servings: medium bowl
  1. Half the avocados, take out the pit and scoop the flesh out of the peel. Place in the bowl.
  2. Dice the onion and the tomato and add it to the avocados.
  3. Chop the cilantro and add to the bowl.
  4. Add the lime juice, salt and pepper to taste and mash all well. If there are still avocado chunks leave them if you like. It must not be sauce-like.
  5. Eat right away or store in a container covered with a lit in the fridge.
Recipe Notes

Guacamole is perfect with corn tortillas or on fresh paleo bread. I had the guacamole also with a mixed salad and with meat like burgers. 

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Contemplating at the Franciscan Mission San Diego de Alcalà

There is a lot to explore in a city like San Diego, Southern California. And lately I have had the opportunity to see many places and experience new adventures in this big city.

One of my discoveries is the Franciscan Mission San Diego de Alcalà. It’s situated just in the middle of the city not far away from the stadium and on the way where I have been a few times for yoga lessons (btw: I found out that I like yoga a lot).

Being a guests of native San Diegan friends has many advantages. They know where to bring me and what really interests me and the time I need to explore. That happened one super sunny morning when I had the opportunity to see the mission.

Historically the Franciscan mission was the very first one in the area and was founded in July 1769 by the Spanish friar Junipero Serra on the ground of the Kumeyaay, Indian natives of South and Baja California. Unfortunately the mission is also known for its first public execution after father Luis Jaime was murdered by a revolt of Indian natives in 1778.

The mission today is a national historic landmark and the fifth on this location. Here historically starts also ‘El Camino Real’, a nearly 600 miles/970 kilometers long road along the Californian coast connecting 21 Spanish missions up to Sonoma, north to San Francisco. The road is signed by hanging bells I could notice in many places in San Diego and along the Californian coast.

Around 1769 an expedition was sent to found missions and presidios at San Diego and Monterey. Junipero Serra was amongst them. This way the Spanish wanted to secure their claim along the Pacific coast.

The start of the foundation was not really under a good sign. It was continuously attacked by the Kumeyaay as they saw the Spanish missionaries as intruders. Arriving in extremis the few still remaining members of the mission wanted to leave when supply ships finally arrived on the 19th March and they could start to fortify the mission. Years later in 1774 the mission was relocated to its present location and is now near to the San Diego river.

In November 1774 there was a massive revolt of at least 15 villages and father Luis Jaime lost his life together with a carpenter and a blacksmith. The buildings were burned down and no records survived. One of the leaders of the assault repented and sought refuge in the jacal. As being a holy place for both, natives and Christians, he thought himself secure but he was removed from the house and should have been executed with three other leaders. But there is no record if this first public execution really ever took place.

In the mid 19th century the mission was offered for sale as the “Decree of Confiscation” closed the missions. But none offered enough money so the properties were given to ex-military officers. The mission was used by the military from 1846 to 1862 when it was given back to the Roman Catholic Church by Abraham Lincoln’s proclamation. Father Anthony Ubach restored the old buildings until his death and today it’s a minor basilica.

The parish church is still active today, can be visited and has a gift shop.

The impressive bell tower has five bells. The bells were once very important for notifying people in the land when it’s mealtime, someone died, a ship coming into the port, for religious services and many other reasons.

I was in the mission one late morning. The mission can be entered by the gift shop where one pays a fee and can find some religious souvenirs.

From the gift shop I entered into the courtyard with a beautiful well in the middle, surrounded by trees and flowers. A wonderful place where to sit in the shade and contemplate the day.

From here I go into the little church which is simple though very beautifully decorated, with a wooden ceiling covered with green paintings.

Leaving the church on the other side I arrive in the garden where the bell tower is situated. In between the many flowers and greens are some saints statues, water flowing in wells and it gives an enormous sense of peace.

The bell tower is 46 feet high, has five bells of different seizes. A sequence of rhythms and tones was developed during the centuries to indicate the different announcements. Time for mass, meals or work, to indicate danger or death or even to celebrate a feast and calling people to come to church for the joyful event. I know church bells ringing the time of the day in Italy, don’t know if they do the same here.

The last place I enter is a little museum where I can find some old books, spectacles and other things used during the centuries in the mission.

I enjoyed my morning exploring the San Diego mission and also the time I spent in the courtyard to contemplate about my happy stay here in San Diego.

San Diego, California/USA:

For further information:
Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcalà
10818 San Diego Mission Rd
San Diego, CA 92108

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The Anza Borrego Desert State Park in Flowers

I can’t think of anything more amazing than nature. It is full of wonders and there is so much to discover every day.

This year I had the unique opportunity to see a desert become alive. A so dry and brownish desert full of cactus, sand and rocks that becomes after a rainy winter season a wonder of colors.

The Anza Borrego State Park is situated east of San Diego in Southern California, USA. And is nearly all a rocky, dry desert with oasis, smaller towns and a landscape of cactus. Once I saw a coyote crossing the street in the middle of the day and thought: that’s a real desert.

The winter 2016/17 had an unusually higher amount of rainfall. And when I came back to San Diego in spring I saw the city was already covered with flowers of all sorts and colors. So incredibly beautiful. My wish was to go to the desert and see what it offers.

I expected to see some flowers here and there, maybe some cactus with flowers blooming near to an oasis. But that was not at all what I saw! It was an amazing tour, discovering the beauty of nature and the incredible power of it.

We were not going to the usual recommended hiking places but just driving through the State Park from South to North. We stopped everywhere we saw a hint of color, and we found an unbelievable amount of wild flowers everywhere. On cactus (the Ocotillos are really amazing), on the trees and on the ground. From huge flowers to super tiny flowers that seem to be not bigger than a big sand kernel.

We wanted to go to the Anza Borrego Visitor center but we never made it. We were exhausted in the late afternoon before sunset and never did even one hike. I don’t know what impressed me more: the quantity of flowers, the diversity of flowers or the colors. It was the most amazing day I could expect.

As I took many photos I just show you the best ones. They are all so beautiful! At the end you will find a slideshow to see more photos. Be sure you will not miss it. You will be definitely surprised how many flowers come alive in a desert! But be aware: there are not too many flower fields, you have to watch every step you make and you will discover one surprise after the other. Enjoy the photos!

San Diego Desert, California/USA:

For further information:
Anza Borrego Desert State Park

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