Ocotillo, Pine Valley and the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

There are so many places to go and see around San Diego, every time I am here I see something different, exciting, completely new for me.

So one day we were out to Ocotillo and then up north on the Pine Valley drive to go to the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.

We started our tour off the highway from San Diego to Ocotillo. We had our first stop in a place called Jacumba Hot Springs. It was a recommended place from a friend who likes to go there with the whole family, also for a weekend only. In my opinion, a weekend is already too long. A super small village which seems more dead than alive and the Jacumba Hot Springs Spa and Resort.

I took a few nice shots there anyway as a nearly abandon place is always interesting.

We could see the border to Mexico which made me feel bad and laugh the same time. Bad because people build a wall to stop people moving around on the land. And laughing because the wall stops at a certain point and people simply can go around there. It makes no real sense for me, more a symbolic one maybe.

From here we’ve gone north through the Pine Valley and towards the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.

On the way we found a continuously changing nature from super luscious to super deserted. The colors in the desert are really special, no place can produce that chrome light so well like here.

We were slowly going up until the park and stopped in many places where I took these and more photos.

I love the brownish color of the desert, the flat valley and the mountains that give a very interesting frame to the desert with the low bushy plants.

In spring I saw here blooming flowers of all kinds and all colors and seizes. Now more exciting place than a desert!

Here are some more photos!

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Pine Valley, California/USA:

For further information:
Pine Valley on Facebook
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
Jacumba Hot Springs Spa & Resort

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Two days escape to Palm Springs

The time before Christmas was super busy. One invitation after the other, dinners, lunches, parties… it was nearly exhausting for me as I am not used to so much outgoing and I wanted really some time alone with my partner. I had the idea to go somewhere for a few days. Nearby, not far away, just far enough to be together for a while.

I had the option of Joshua Tree Park or Palm Springs. I chose the last one as I thought that in the end of December a city would be better than a wonderful National Park with hikes and nights under the stars.

I heard of course about Palm Springs. But didn’t know anything about it. My boy-friend told me it was once the place for the rich of the riches from Hollywood and Los Angeles and now more a community for same gender couples. Well, I didn’t notice that when I was there, but maybe because I am not aware about certain things.

Palm Springs is a desert resort within the Coachella Valley. For about 400 years there lived the Cahuilla people before white settlers in the mid of the 19th century came to stay here. The area has hot springs which gives a fertile land and also today one of the reasons of many Spas.

Another reason is the dry climate that is good for certain health conditions. This brought more hotels and Spas in the area.

During WW II it had an important role as military air base and later it became famous especially for the architecture known as mid-century modern. Open spaces, long glass walls, air-conditioning and the first time wall-to-wall carpeting. I like the open spaces with outside patios like living rooms and of course the huge windows that make one feel like being in the environment.

To me it seemed a very touristic place with uncountable shops, high prized as well as for normal people, uncountable restaurants and for sure no less hotels, b&b and more. We staid a little outside at La Quinta in an Air B&B which was the best choice ever.

I haven’t seen the Movie Colony where I could see estates from Hollywood stars like Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope or even Estée Lauder.

I thought the structure of the visitor center is very interesting. We could book ere some tours like one for the many celebrity villas, but we didn’t.

There are many cultural events during the year that are worth to see. During the few days we stayed here there was nothing

We had a wonderful morning here to go around, see the many shops and the center of the city. Later in the evening we came back for a night stroll and a great dinner in a restaurant. We enjoyed our stay inside the city and in its surroundings with breathtaking landscapes.

I think the place is much more than worth to go for a few days, maybe more in summer, when the life is outside and packed with people from all over the world. For us it was perfect the way it was, less people, more calm and relaxing, no traffic stress and hours to wait for lunch or dinner.

Palm Springs, California/USA:

For further information:
Visit Palm Springs

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The Town of Pies – Julian

Last year I have been to the desert east to San Diego and on the way back we passed a little sleepy town called Julian. It was for me like a town of an American movie.

Julian and its district actually are a California Historical Landmark – though a protected sight. There are some guidelines to follow and especially architecture can’t be altered.

Other than in Europe the place was ‘first’ settled by white people around 1850. Just 20 years a former slave found gold in a creek nearby the settlement and a short, intense boom of gold rush started.

Around that time someone else had an idea to use the land and the people rushing to it. James Madison arrived with a wagon loaded with young apple trees. The climate and ground were perfect for this fruit tree and they grew well. Ever since the apple plays a huge role in the town image: it is famous for its apple pies.

Most of the African-American people in the San Diego area lived here. The founder of the still today existing Robinson Hotel is one of them. America Newton is a famous citizen as well. She started with laundry services and owned a 320.000 m²/80 acres homestead later.

Today it is a mountain resort with an income out of tourism and agriculture (apples).

We stopped here and had lunch with soup and sweet potato fries sitting outside in the late sunshine. It is a all but busy little town with nice little shops (I found a beautiful pair of earrings and much more). And of course more than one shop offering yummy looking apple pies. I was really tempted but could not as non was (at least) gluten-free. I loved to stroll in the main street, looking at the old wooden buildings and their yards.

Driving out of the town there were other nice places to look at and we stopped as (unfortunately closed) antique store. We listened to a performing country band in a restaurant and saw one of the most beautiful sunsets.

Julian, California/USA:

For further information:
Julian website

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Hiking at the Thousand Palms Oasis Preserve

Last year I was in Palm Springs, California, for a few days and enjoyed my stay. We explored the surroundings as well and so we had a short hiking in a beautiful place called Thousand Palms Oasis Preserve.

In a deserted landscape an oasis is the only place where animals and humans can live. So the valley was inhabited by Indian cultures until white settlers arrive. There are some families who settle here in the 19th century.

In the twentieth – and also later – they were even filming some movies like ‘The Sheik’ with Rodolfo Valentino.

In the mid-century Paul Wilhelm owns an 80 acre land and starts to offer tents and cabins to overnight visitors. In addition he offers also hikes on his land. Building some dams in the little stream he creates pools for the visitors to swim in. He 15.000 palm trees he plants in the oasis create a unique place.

We happened an afternoon after trying to find the right road to the visitor center. A huge parking place, one car and a lot of palm trees. Where is the visitor center?

We found it. It is a little wooden structure with beautiful, native wood carvings. Unfortunately it was closed. But behind it we could see a trail and so we started to go.

The place is magic with its high completely wild growing palm trees. We found a hiking path and some people coming towards us. They told us there is a pond not too far away. That’s were we started to walk.

The pond is beautiful, wild, original, and the light of the upcoming sunset perfect for some amazing photos.

In the end we had to hurry a little bit because the parking place would be closed at 5 pm. We did it right before but we never saw anyone to come and close the gate.

I liked to wander around the place, in a kind of palm jungle so high I couldn’t see the treetops and so closely that I couldn’t see the sky.

Thousand Palms Oasis Preserve, California/USA:

For further information:
To Visit Palm Springs
A video of the Thousand Palms Oasis Preserve
The Coachella Valley Preserve

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At the Palazzo Ducale of Urbino

Urbino is a fascinating little Medieval city in the Marche region. I have been there several times – one of the reasons is that there is a gelateria with olive oil ice cream. And another that many of my visiting friends want to see this little interesting place with so much history. Urbino was once a papal town and played always a huge role in religion and politics.

Although I have been several times there I always discover something new. This time I had the opportunity to see the Palazzo Ducale, the Ducal Palace.

The Ducal Palace is a Renaissance building of the 15th century. It is one of the most important monuments of the period and today listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site.

It is situated right in the middle of the little fortified Medieval city of Urbino and was once a very important city for the Catholic church when it became a papal city.

The construction of the Ducal Palace was commissioned by Federico III da Montefeltro, the rulers of this area. The new building would include the older Palace of the Jole.

The problem was that the rock was in fact impregnable to siege but also carving out a foundation for the huge palace would be nearly impossible.

Luciano Laurana from Dalmatia was asked to come in help. He was a very well known fortress builder and though knew how to built a foundation for such a big construction.

He left before the palace was done and today unknown designers and architects were operating on the palace. It is thought that the native Donato Bramante (he was born in Fermignano, a nearby town), one of the most famous architects at that time, was helping out. He was one of the designers and architects of St Peter’s Basilica in 1504.

The most famous room in the palace is the ‘studiolo’, a small study for contemplation. It is still nearly completely the same like it was originally.

I visited the National Galleries of the Marche, the ‘Galleria Nazionale delle Marche’. They have many artifacts of different epochs but mainly the paintings are from huge interests. Paintings of Paolo Uccello, Titian, Timoteo Viti, Melozzo di Forlì, Raphael (born a few streets further of the palace in Urbino) and Piero della Francesca. All these painters were already famous and well requested during their life-time.

The palace is wonderfully decorated. Very often I had to look up at the ceilings as they are spectacular. Rooms are big, delicately decorated without being overloaded. The many windows give the possibility to look out over the land on one side and into the streets of Urbino itself on the other side.

The Palazzo Ducale is open nearly every day of the year and the ticket costs 6,50 €. You should know that every first Sunday of a month the entrance is free in Italian museums. You can have also a ticket including the birth house of Rafaello, which I would recommend. It is just a few minutes walk away, a very small house on a few levels but it looks like he is still living there.

In the Ducal Palace there is a book shop in case you like to bring some souvenir or want to know more about Urbino and the rich history of the Marche. And if getting thirsty or hungry go to the cafeteria and restaurant.

I enjoyed a lot going through this old palace that seems so perfect. One of the reasons may be because it was always in use, as in a result also in a certain way well-maintained.

Urbino, Le Marche/Italy:

For further information:
Urbino website
Palazzo Ducale Urbino website

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