Wednesday, February 11, 2015

California Climb

The California tower in San Diego's Balboa Park has been closed for 80 years.  It re-opened to the public in January 2015.  I couldn't wait to climb it!  For the twenty years I have lived in San Diego, I have always wanted to go up it+.  I was miffed that it wasn't open to the general public "for safety reasons".  I would often see people--presumably museum staff-- in the tower, camera's clicking away-- on December Nights.  When asked what they were doing up there, the answer was "safety reasons." Perhaps they were carrying security cameras as hundreds of thousands of people do attend the December Nights event. However, they looked like they were having a good time as opposed to "serious security scanning."  Hmm.  I wondered if the Museum of Man had any job openings for tower security. I never checked but still longed to go in the tower.

In December a local news channel posts an article on facebook announcing  the tower will be open to the public starting  next month!  Yahoo!  The California tower is in the Museum of Man so two tickets must be purchased (of course).  I guess they can't use the side door near the tower as an entrance, "for safety reasons."

My neighbors and I decided to make a day of it, visiting the museum, climbing the tower and eating in the Sculpture Garden afterwards.  One of us was so excited to go, she showed up a day early for the carpool!  I purchased the tickets online; there are many prices depending upon age, military status, museum membership,etc.  If you print the tickets out they won't charge you extra; after all, you get ink and paper free, right?  If you want them on your smart phone, they charge an extra dollar each.  So much for technology getting cheaper.

The ticket says to get in line 15 minutes prior to ascending the tower. A waiver must be signed, tickets collected, a safety speech listened to and tower history videos watched.  Purses, backpacks and water bottles must be stored in the free lockers provided.  Bring your camera.  Definitely bring your camera. Twelve patrons and two museum guides, for a total of 14 people is the maximum allowed in the tower at any one time "for safety reasons."  The size of the tour group is perfect.  As a short person, I often can't see what is being talked about if there are too many people in front of me.  The tower is quite spacious, clean and well maintained.  The guide admits that safety really wasn't really a reason why the tower was closed.  Building inspectors deemed it structurally sound.  Explanations of why the tower closed in the first place include that the tower was expected to reopen when another exposition was held.  There never was.

The 125 step ascent up and down the tower takes 40 minutes.  The time includes 15 minutes on the first level observation deck. Climbing single file, holding hand rails, the group climbs; our sneaker and sandal laden feet pounding the stairs.  We stop at various landings to rest, looking out the rectangular shaped windows framing our view below.  On one landing, the guide shows us the area where the tile had been removed.  We reach the level where the carillon is housed.  The tower was never intended to be a bell tower.  The chimes that play every quarter hour emit from the carillon.  Frequently, the organist comes in to record some notes.  Up, up, up we go. The last staircase is a spiral one.  Hold on with both hands for this one!

I owe the guide an apology.  The camera flash automatically went off blinding her.  Sorry!

The breathtaking views at the top ( bottom level of the tower) gave me a sense of peace and happiness.  It is January, sunny, 70 degrees, and a sweet part of San Diego.  Cell phones and cameras click away.

My neighbor's husband tiled the dome of the adjacent building.  Here is her chance to see his handy work. She approves.

My favorite photo is the one of the roof of the Old Globe.  Now we know where they store the Grinch!

The Encanto Enchantresses descend the tower. We eat a much deserved lunch viewing the tower we just climbed. The next San Diego Sweet adventure?  The new Central Library downtown.

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