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Balboa Park is a unique part of San Diego.  Just to the east of downtown lies this interesting collection of buildings that house Botanical Gardens, several museums, a replica of the Globe theatre, a set of small houses used for international relations, and even a complete pipe organ that can be opened to the outside.

SONY DSC          1 19 bp charlie in cacti

The area is huge.  Lots of parking, lots of sidewalks, and a great deal to see.  Much of it is free, as well as many museums (14, I believe) that are available for a price.  We visited the botanical gardens, walked the areas, strolled through the cactus garden, walked around the Globe theatre area, and visited those small houses I mentioned, which are used as an international village.  It is open Sunday afternoons, with each house representing a different country – we visited China, Sweden, Ireland, Germany, the US, Spain, the Ukraine, Poland, Japan, Italy, and more.  Each house held relics of each country – and food samples were made available by volunteers.  There were displays of clothing and artwork available to appreciate.  We even found some live folk music at the Ireland house – some real footstomping fiddle music.

We lunched at the small sandwich restaurant in the Hall of Champions … for a reasonable price, we satisfied ourselves on some very nice sandwiches that were offered at very reasonable prices.  The Hall of Champions is the site of all the heroes of the San Diego area – I found it quite hilarious that the first thing you see as you enter the building is the ever famous San Diego Chicken – actually, it’s the costume hanging in a display case.

WE enjoyed the morning… but the very reason for our visit to Balboa Park was yet to be.

1 19 bp organ opening     SONY DSC

One hundred years ago, San Diego was the site of an international exhibition of some sort.  Much of the park was built for this event – but the big feature of that exhibition – and of the park (at least as far as we were concerned) was the pipe organ pavilion.

The Spreckels family donated money for the pavilion and the pipe organ.  Built in 1914 for the exhibition, the organ pipes were housed in a large pavilion – 4500 pipes now make up the voice of the organ  – the console is huge.  Here’s a clip of the first piece of the day….

Every Sunday afternoon at 2 pm, the organist hired by the Spreckels Organ Society presents a few concert.  That’s why we came, and that’s why we left with a bright soul and happy faces.  What a great concert!  We took our seats a bit early ..right in the front row…. The huge garage door rolled up (it took five minutes) to expose the pipes … the console had been rolled out to the middle of the stage, and right at 2 pm, out came the organist, who thrilled us with a huge range of organ music, starting with a piece by John Rutter, then adding some J.C. Bach, some Mendelssohn, an Erik Satie piece, and more.  About 2/3s of the way through the concert, she invited the audience – at least those who wanted to – to come back and go inside the pavilion and up into the pipe room to hear the organ from the inside.  What an amazing experience!!  Wilma and I each took time to go in.  The concert was so well worth it… so fun and exciting…..

So with that concert done, we headed home … but took time to stop at Mission Beach near a place called Belmont Park – and watched a sunset.  Home we came, ready to share the next few days with friends… but hey, that’s what the next installment of the travelogue will address.

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