California 2014, Part 3 (Walking And Hiking)

I can’t believe it’s Thursday and our last day at the house already. Tomorrow we’ll move to Ocean Beach for the weekend. Time to wash laundry and blog.

On Monday I took a different route for my hike downtown, which was a bit better but not much. I decided that from now on I’d take the trolley and skip that part.

Anyway, I walked from Logan Heights to Petco Park and then into Gaslamp Quarter.

Gaslamp Quarter
Gaslamp Quarter

And then all the way up 5th to Balboa Park. Always be careful when I say that something’s in walking distance. Bring hiking shoes! 😉

There’s a 100 % vegan fast food joint called Evolution Fast Food on 5th/Quince where I had a wonderful mock chicken sandwich and a beet, carrot and orange juice for lunch. Look at the color!

Buffalo Chick'n Sandwich and beet, carrot, orange juice
Buffalo Chick’n Sandwich and beet, carrot, orange juice

They have outdoor seating, and I enjoyed the shady spot by the little fountain. :-)

Then on to Balboa Park.

Balboa Park
Balboa Park

As if I hadn’t walked enough already I hiked the Bridle trail where I took some close-up pictures of squirrels and lizards with my DSLR. I’ll post those as soon as I find the time to go through my photos.

Then I walked up to the fountain where I had a lemonade and listened to a jazz sax player while I waited for Eric. :-)

Old man plays saxophone in the park
Jazz saxophone guy

Not much has changed at Balboa Park since my last visit way back in 2001, except that there’s free wifi in the park now. Free wifi! Woohoo!

When Eric arrived from the conference we took another small walk through the Japanese garden, cactus garden and the Spanish village until sunset.

Sunset seen from Balboa Park
Sunset seen from Balboa Park

Then we walked all the way back to Gaslamp Quarter for a well deserved dinner at Gourmet India. There are plenty of vegan choices and we both went for the bindi masala and tandoori naan.

Bindi masala
Bindi masala

I liked that the okra wasn’t cooked all squishy like so often in Indian restaurants. It still had a little bite and hopefully some vitamins left. 😉

The restaurant shows Bollywood movies on the big screen (no sound, just captions) and with the check you get a complimentary Bombay Mix CD. Haven’t listened to it yet, but I bet it’s just my kind of music. Not. 😀

Gourmet India Bombay Mix CD
Gourmet India Bombay Mix CD

But a nice idea and a good way to remember the good time at their restaurant.

The original plan was to go to an Irish pub next to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, but when we left the restaurant we were already quite tired. No wonder if you take into account that it was already 5 a.m. back home in Germany.

So we only had a beer at the Hard Rock Café across the street. I was surprised that this Hard Rock Café actually played some hard rock. I can’t say the same thing about their locations in Berlin and Frankfurt.

They have some interesting memorabilia on display. I liked Chris Cornell’s guitar best. 😉

Chris Cornell’s guitar (broken)
Chris Cornell’s guitar

Service was a bit slow that day, but the manager made up for it by quickly switching his role to bartender, running super hero style around the bar to rescue his thirsty guests. 😀

A funny end of a really nice day. :-)

According to my UP band I made 27,314 steps that day. 😉

California 2014, Part 2 (Thinking And Wondering …)

The hike from Logan Heights to Seaport Village was quite an adventure. Lots of interesting sights, all the little houses, families BBQing, people smiling at me, dogs barking as I walked by – a hot and lazy Sunday.

At some point I had to cross the San Diego Freeway and entered a whole different world: homeless people living under the bridge in huge camps. The stench was appaling. And it only got worse from there. There were hundreds of them in the streets, so many that the city actually installed long rows of portable toilets. There were so many of them that they literally blocked the entire sidewalk and I had to walk on the road. There were people with missing limbs, one of them with no legs in a wheelchair, the wheelchair loaded with all of his possessions in plastic bags and a piece of cardboard attached to its back that said that he was a war vet.

I felt terrible. Not that I was scared, everyone was peaceful, no one talked to me, except one guy who told me not to be scared, and I replied that I wasn’t. Not scared. I was shocked.

We have homeless people in Germany, but not at that scale. How can so many people end up in the street? And in such a poor condition? Are there no shelters where they can get food and a shower? No social workers who look after them?

Pondering these questions I arrived in shiny happy people Seaport Village where I met Eric to watch the sunset by the Pier Café.

view of sunset by the Pier Café
Just after sunset by the Pier Café

From a German perspective, Seaport Village is an odd place. Here you have a festive little tourist spot with Mexican music, margaritas and little gift shops. People walk their dogs, or jog, or have a quick bite at one of the many eateries. And when the sun sets, time stands still for a few minutes and everyone enjoys the view: sunset over Coronado Island. The military base. Huge military ships among harbor tour boats. Helicopters returning to their base. Aaaah, sunset!

Again I thought about the homeless people. The war vet in the wheelchair. In a society that’s rooted in the belief that guns and war are an answer, where a military base is in the heart of the city and the army is omnipresent – how come that the veterans aren’t taken better care of? I thought of Forrest Gump and Lt. Dan and their shrimp farm and how they bought Apple stock … and then the sun was gone and we took a taxi to Station Tavern & Burgers.

The taxi driver asked us what we do for a living, and quickly got us into a conversation about programming. And then suddenly – I couldn’t believe  it and had to snap a picture to prove it to myself – he breaks out his laptop and shows us some code he’s written! He kept showing us stuff while driving. It was totally unreal.

taxi driver’s laptop
Taxi driver’s laptop

On any other day, if that had happened to me in Germany I would have reported that guy. But after everything I’ve seen that day the absolutely last thing I wanted was to be responsible for someone to lose their job. So I let Eric do the small talk and quietly crossed fingers that we make it to the Tavern in one piece.

At the Tavern we had what has to be the best vegan burger in the world. They have two vegan burgers to choose from and we went for the Black Bean Burger and added jalapeños and avocado. It was absolutely delicious and it’s no wonder they sold over 12,000 of it in their first year. Yummy. I hope we can go there again while we’re here. :-)

black bean burger

Back home, I fell asleep early. What an odd day …

Well, time to leave the house for more adventures! My next post will be happier, so check back! :-)

Senk ju vor träwelling wis Deutsche Bahn

Two small anecdotes from our recent trip to Berlin:

It may have come to your attention that parts of Germany have been hit by floods a few weeks ago. As a result, even the Deutsche Bahn – the German railway company – has to take a couple of detours. Entirely not their fault, but still they feel like they have to apologize to their customers. Maybe because they’re so used to apologizing by now. So they decided to give them free sweets.

While we were enjoying a beer in the dining car, a Deutsche Bahn employee handed me a small bag of (cow’s) milk chocolate. I returned it to him, adding politely: “Excuse me, please keep it. We’re vegan and we don’t eat this.”

And I kid you not: the entire restaurant fell silent and everyone was like:

Of course, everyone had heard of the existence of vegans. But now here they were, two (!) of them, right before their eyes, having a beer, just like normal people would. They kept staring and staring. And I couldn’t help staring back, amazed at the kind of reaction you can still get out of people when you come out as vegan. It took minutes before the conversations went back to normal …

On our way back from Berlin – again enjoying a beer in the restaurant – I happened to sit right next to the exit where they had put up a table with a bucket full of free gummy bears.

bucket of gummy bears

A little boy passed by and asked if he could have some. I said: “Yes, they’re free. Take as many as you like …” and so he did, happily continuing on his way through the train.

When the boy was out of earshot I added quietly: “… and enjoy your ground up animal bones.”

The man at the table next to us, who had overheard this, burst into laughter and said: “Thanks, you made my day! That’s so funny! I will laugh all day!”

I replied: “Well, it’s true. Gelatine. Ground up animal bones and sugar.”

The man looked at me and said quietly: “Yes … I know …”

Half an hour or so later the man left the restaurant. On his way out he reached for a bag of gummy bears, then hesitated – and left without taking one.

I’m wondering if he’s still laughing …