Island living on Cheung Chau

Cheung Chau, Hong Kong SAR – March 2019

Early this year I was in Hong Kong with my parents for a few days and we wanted to get out of the city for a bit. My dad suggested we take a boat to Cheung Chau. It was about a 40 minute ride on the ferry leaving from one of the piers at Central, Hong Kong Island.

Cheung Chau is located 12km south-west of Hong Kong Island. The name means Long Island (so calling it Cheung Chau Island is a tautology), but it’s also known as dumbbell island, because well, it’s shaped like a dumbbell.

We were soon leaving Victoria Harbour behind us. The sea was a calm grey, reflecting the sky. It was an overcast day with low-hanging clouds partially shrouding some of the peaks on other islands spotted on the short voyage to Cheung Chau, like Lantau Island and Lamma Island.

Disembarking the ferry, the first thing you see on the island is a sign for McDonald’s. Walking up the path leading inland away from the waterfront, we encountered a fishball store in a large square.

Fishballs are very Cantonese and can be made of fish, squid, prawn, other seafood – I mean really, pretty much anything can be minced up and turned into a ball. Usually steamed, or boiled in stock, or deep-fried, sometimes served with curry sauce, they are a popular street food snack not just in Cheung Chau but everywhere in Hong Kong. The fishball shop in this large square is probably the best known one on the island.

A dumbbell! Kind of? Mmm, yummy.

We walked around the square and I took some photos of the colourful street murals.

Exiting the square, we kept going towards the other side of the island down a road which runs across the isthmus of the island (the narrowest bit of the “dumbbell”, as it were).

Just down a lane off this road, I came across this little shop called Hometown Teahouse which sold Japanese snacks. The menu basically consisted of different sushi hand-rolls and some sweet bun/cake things called obanyaki. I bought two cakes, one with red bean filling and one with vanilla custard filling. Both were pretty good.

Heading towards the beach on the eastern side, we spotted a bike locker turned into one of those love lock sites. As a mostly pedestrian island, bikes were plentiful, appearing to be the main mode of transport. A nearby shop was selling wooden hearts to decorate and affix to the bike locker.

A few minutes later we reached the beach (it was probably only 300 metres from the ferry pier on the western shore, to the beach on this side). There were a few people mucking about at the water’s edge. Several cute-looking dogs too.

(I think the land you can see on the horizon off in the distance is Lamma Island, but I could be wrong.)

There wasn’t that much to do at the beach as we had no intention of swimming. Shortly after, we headed back towards the streets and wandered for a bit.

Back on the western side of the island, there was a “seafood street” running along the coast. The street abutted the water on one side, a haphazard sort of harbour crammed with small boats. On the other side, servers stood outside restaurants touting their laminated menus of Cantonese-style seafood.

Honestly, they all looked the same as each other. Each of them made “the best” stir-fried pipis (little clams) with chilli, or “the best” crispy deep fried squid, or garlic prawns, etc.

I really wanted steamed fish, the Cantonese-style with ginger and spring onion and soy sauce, because it’s one of my favourite fish dishes. One of them caught hold of us (or more accurately, my mother) and we settled down to eat. The stir-fried pipis had excellent flavour but less appetisingly also some sand in them; they promptly whisked them away and gave us another dish instead.

Like lots of seafood restaurants, particularly in Asia, the seafood street establishments allow you to bring your own fish if you have purchased it from a nearby shop or fisherman. I think they then just charge you for cooking it. We did not BYO fish though.

After we’d had our fill, we kept walking down the street, past some shops displaying baskets of dried seafood. Eventually we came across another open sort of area, with a temple at the other end.

Yuk Hui Temple, also known as Pak Tai Temple, is the location of one of the things Cheung Chau is most famous for: the Cheung Chau Bun Festival.

The Cheung Chau Bun Festival apparently began as a fun ritual for fishing communities to pray for safety from pirates. In one origin story the island was devastated by a plague in the 18th century and infested with pirates. The local fishermen built an altar in front of the temple and petitioned the god Pak Tai to drive off the evil spirits besieging the island. They paraded statues of the deity through the narrow streets to drive away evil spirits. I’m not sure whether the pirates were possessed by these spirits or what, but in any case it must have worked as there didn’t seem to be any pirates around that I could see, or at least anyone who obviously resembled a pirate. Oh, and the plague ended too.

People also thought maybe the evil spirits were hungry, so they started making sesame-paste-filled “lucky buns”. Every year now, the islanders make papier-mâché effigies of deities, prepare costumes, bake buns and build a bamboo tower for the festival, which draws tens of thousands of local and overseas tourists every year. People who left the island for work return for the celebration, and it goes on for a week, with lion dances and drum beating. And of course, the Bun Scrambling Competition.

In front of the Pak Tai Temple, three giant bamboo towers are erected, covered with buns. These Bun Mountains (包山) originate from a custom of people snatching food offered to lonely spirits. Young men would race up the tower to snatch the buns and the higher the bun the better the fortune it would bring to your family.

Unfortunately during a bun-snatching race in 1978 one of the three Bun Mountains collapsed under the weight of over 200 climbers and injured over 100 people. The ritual was abandoned by government decree. In the 21st century, a local film about a cartoon pig bun-snatcher stirred up island nostalgia around the ritual and it was eventually reintroduced in 2005. Safety measures were put in place to prevent another disastrous Bun Mountain collapse: only 12 well-trained athletes selected from preliminary competitions were permitted to climb on one single Bun Mountain, which would be made of steel instead of the traditional bamboo.

Also, the buns were replaced with plastic ones. I guess they were going to waste.

Ensuring it wasn’t going away again any time soon, the Cheung Chau Bun Festival was inscribed onto China’s intangible cultural heritage list in 2011. Bun-snatching forever.

(If you search for the bun festival on YouTube, you can see some quite impressive displays of bun-snatching.)

There were no bun mountains the day we happened to be there, but we did spot massive life-size replicas in the Hong Kong Museum of History in Kowloon. Such is the importance of the festival to Hong Kong.

We finished off the day with dessert. Hong Kong loves dessert, and this island was no exception. I had a classic mango sago pomelo thing.

And then it was time to return to Hong Kong Island.

It was certainly a nice escape from the bustling crowds of Central or Kowloon, and if you’ve been to Hong Kong before and want to see a different, much more laid-back kind of island life, Cheung Chau is a nice option and only a short ferry ride away.

Pintxos in Paradise: Summertime in San Sebastián

Donostia-San Sebastián, Spain – June 2018

In the summer of last year, I went on a road trip with some friends from Paris to Barcelona. We drove down after a few nights in Bordeaux, stopped over in the French sea resort town of Biarritz, then crossed the border into Spain, arriving in San Sebastián.

This seaside town may be one of my favourite places in all of Spain, perhaps even all of Europe. Located in in the Basque Country along the Bay of Biscay, San Sebastián is known for its beaches, namely Playa de la Concha and Playa de Ondarreta. A splendid beachside promenade runs along between the beach and the town. It’s jam-packed during the summer months with vacationers.

The week we were there, the weather was balmy and the tourists were out in full force, getting their tan on. But we had other priorities in mind, topmost of which was food. Some of my friends had been to San Sebastián before and already had pintxos on the brain. After hearing about it for so long, I was salivating in anticipation.

Stomachs empty and growling, we headed to the cobblestoned Old Town (Parte Vieja) to partake. I was hungry. I was ready.

Eating in the Basque country is a joy and an experience to remember (with wistful longing forevermore, until the next visit). You may have already heard that it has the most Michelin stars per capita in the world (although I’m not sure if this is true, or if it is second behind Kyoto, Japan). The late Anthony Bourdain of TV chef fame once declared, “outside of Asia, Spain is the single greatest place for culinary achievement in the world,” and singled out San Sebastián as a bucket-list destination for food. It’s been described as the food equivalent of a theme park. A gastronomic Disneyland. There is high-end fine dining here that tops food critics’ lists year in and year out, places that have maxed out their Michelin stars like Arzak and Mugaritz. But the streets of San Sebastián are also abundantly filled with face-meltingly good pintxos bars, where some of the best Spanish food can be found if you know where to go.

The trouble is that there are just so many establishments, it’s a little hard to know where to start. The tragedy is that you will never be able to try everything, and knowing you can’t eat it all does tinge the delight with a trace of the bittersweet. The trick is to order one or maybe two things at any particular place: the specialty dish, the one they’re known for, or if you haven’t done your research, the thing everyone else is ordering.

So that’s the general rule of pintxos crawling: order the best thing on the menu, have a drink, and move on. The aim is to visit at least five bars. Of course, this is a good concept in theory. However, it is surprisingly (or perhaps not surprisingly) difficult to stick to this strategy. In fact, at many bars, we ended up ordering a lot more. A lot.

The tradition of pintxos was born when bodegas began serving small bites as an accompaniment to a glass of beer or wine before lunch or dinner. Pintxos is the Basque version of the Spanish pinchos, which comes from the verb pinchar meaning to skewer or to spike. Over the decades, Basque pintxos have become so elaborate and sophisticated that you’d have a hard time skewering most of them to pieces of bread. They’re all called pintxos here whether served pinchado to a piece of bread or not. If you order a seafood risotto or half a pig’s hindleg, it’s still called pintxos. The cold pintxos are laid out on the bars and you can take your pick of them. But mostly, the goods you want to get are those freshly made to order – the hot pintxos.

This pintxos culture is a cornerstone of Basque living and plays an important role in socialising. Around these parts, hanging out with your friends and family in a bar is the most natural thing to do – snacking on pintxos paired with a glass of local wine while you shoot the breeze.

Which brings me to drinks. You will definitely want something to wet your whistle while bar-hopping on a warm summer’s day. Txakoli, a lightly sparkling dry white wine produced in the Basque region, goes down superbly with the local seafood and freshly caught fish. It’s poured into the glass from a bottle held high above the bartender’s head for extra bubbles. If you prefer beer, some places serve shallow glasses with a quarter pint of beer splashed in the bottom called zuritos, which could save you from getting far too sloshed at one place to get to the next. Or there’s always Basque sidra (cider), also poured from a great height to give it fizz.

Anyway, I’m hardly the first person to go to San Sebastián and eat there, but I will add my rundown of some of our pintxos highlights, to the five hundred other blogposts on this topic. Here is a sample of our pintxos adventure.

Atari – Pulpo (grilled octopus) and Huevo a Baja Temperatura (sous-vide egg)

The crowd here spills onto the streets facing the steps of the old town’s beautiful baroque Santa Maria Basilica. Right off the bat, you can see that pintxos in San Sebastián are more than just jamón on bread (not that there is anything wrong with this, or anything less delicious – you will never hear me say no to some good jamón iberico).

The grilled octopus was served with potatoes, onions, and spiced aioli. The sous-vide egg was simple, but somehow, exactly the paragon of what a poached egg should be. It doesn’t hurt that the food also looks absolutely beautiful. The colour! Food made for glossy magazines. This bar has a nice repertoire of cocktails and apparently does one of the best G&Ts in town.

Bar Zeruko – La Hoguera de Bacalao (The Bonfire)

Anyone who comes here, comes for this pintxo. Smoked salted cod (bacalao) served on its own individual mini charcoal grill with avocado aioli on toasted bread and a tube of something cold and green (liquid salad of some kind – pureed asparagus? parsley? mint?), washed down with a glass of txakoli. Yes, please. The cod was brilliant, fleshy and flavoursome. And anyway, who wouldn’t want to order something called the bonfire? This is the kind of theatrical avant-garde stuff that can make a bar hop so fun. And also wins awards, it seems.

Borda Berri – Veal cheeks braised in red wine and crispy pig’s ear

Carrillera de Ternera al Vino Tinto. A vegetarian’s nightmare. Everything is described as melt-in-your-mouth these days but these veal cheeks, slow-cooked for six hours, were truly worthy of the description. You know how beef cheeks are generally tender? Well, imagine that, but taken to an extreme. “Aquí, Se Guisa” is the motto at Borda Berri, meaning “here, we braise”. Indeed, nearly every dish has braised-something as its star ingredient.

The pig’s ear (Oreja de Cerdo con Romescu) might be off-putting to some, but it was perfectly cooked – crispy fried on the outside, soft and gelatinous inside, served with a romesco sauce made from roasted red peppers and almonds.

This super popular, very famous bar was a favourite of mine (and I think all of us) and one of the reasons I will be returning to San Sebastián. It’s crazy busy and for good reason. The menu changes throughout the year, but I suspect you can’t really go wrong whatever you order. We also tried the risotto de “Puntalete” con Queso Idiazabal (a pressed cheese made from unpasteurized sheep milk), which was delicious as well. I do occasionally dream of those veal cheeks though.

A Fuego Nero – Gilda

The popular Gilda pintxo is an ageless classic, made with salted Cantabrian anchovies, pickled guindilla peppers, fat green olives and plenty of olive oil on a stick. Sometimes it is served on bread like the original definition of the word pintxos.

Despite this one very traditional pintxo, A Fuego Nero was actually one of the most experimental pintxos places we stopped at. Unfortunately, I didn’t actually take any photos of the other things we ate. Even though we actually came here twice (on consecutive nights). One of their signature pintxos is a spin on fast food called Makcobe con txips (juicy mini Kobe beef burgers on an artisan tomato bun, served with thin-cut fried banana chips).

This is the kind of food found in fancy molecular gastronomy restaurants. Indeed, the siblings who started it wanted to bring haute cuisine from fine diners to the bars. They’ve been something of a success, winning awards for best pintxo and best bar on multiple occasions. The new-wave creative direction of the menu is reflected in the cosmopolitan decor: black furniture, poster-covered walls, low-hanging designer light fixtures. Moody and delicious.

Gandarias – Solomillo and other assorted pintxos

The mouthwatering solomillo is simply a small seared piece of tenderloin steak topped with green pepper and dropped onto a chunk of bread with a sprinkle of sea salt. Majestic. The photo doesn’t even do it justice, but I want to eat the picture anyway.

As you can see, the bartops are covered with artfully arranged plates of cold pintxos. This place caters well to the dietarily restricted, with vegetarian and gluten-free options. But if you’re not a vegetarian/vegan, order the solomillo. You’re welcome.

La Mejillonera – Steamed mussels and calamari with Padron peppers

This place had the feel of a fishmonger, with painted tiles depicting sea-faring vignettes. Adding to the fish-market vibe was the continual throng pressing towards the bar. It was packed to the gills, and definitely standing room only (there are no seats). To have any hope of getting served, it is necessary to elbow one’s way to the front and yell one’s order at anyone behind the bar you can lock eyes with, speaking loudly to make oneself heard over the general din (the floor-to-ceiling ceramic tiling probably doesn’t help with the noise).

The calamares and patatas bravas are nice, but the stars of the show here are the mussels, and my Lord are they good. Served in tomato sauce, or vinaigrette, or a white wine sauce, or simply al vapor (steamed). Smash down a plate or two, toss the shells on the ground at the base of the bar like everyone else (there’s something weirdly liberating about chucking refuse straight onto the floor), and then squeeze your way out.

La Cuchara de San Telmo – Veal cheeks in red wine and suckling pig

This place was buzzing like Borda Berri, and we had to wait to get any countertop real estate. Unlike Borda Berri though, they had tables outside, but they were all taken. The people behind Borda Berri started off here at La Cuchara de San Telmo, which probably explains some of the similarities (by that I mean the delicious, delicious similarities). We could not go past the slow-cooked veal cheeks. We also tried the slow-roasted suckling pig. As you would expect and hope with suckling pig, the skin was perfectly crisp and the meat was moist and tender. Of course, there are non-meat pintxos here, like fish, octopus, scallops, king prawns, and all are delicious. But if you want to compare two versions of veal cheeks, for say, scientific reasons, this place and Borda Berri are where you might want to start off such important research.

Zazpi – Red tuna, foie gras with oxtail, and huevo, jamón, patata y trufa

Some way out from the Old Town and close to where we were staying, the pintxos menu at Zazpi was a classy affair with some incredible plating of top-notch ingredients. The rabo (oxtail) was fantastic. And who knew the foursome of egg, jamón, potato and truffle would work so well? (Well, the chefs at Zazpi.)

La Viña – Basque burnt cheesecake

This place was unpretentiously traditional, like an old-school bodega, with legs of jamón dangling above the counter, and all the classics on offer like eggy tortillas. The reason everyone puts this on their itinerary, however, is the cheesecake. Scorched black on top, delicate and smooth inside with a gooey centre that oozes like a molten lava cake. This cheesecake is now well and truly famous beyond the Basque country, and there are dozens of recipes to be found online should you wish to replicate it at home. But if you want to try the original, come here. The recipe was invented three decades ago by Santiago Rivera, the owner of La Viña, and has since escalated into a full-fledged craze. They churn out around twenty cakes a day now. Apparently, Rivera regularly receives offers from potential investors wanting to take the La Viña recipe global.

Now, this wasn’t a complete list of all the places we went to. For your pintxos planning pleasure, here is a map of the Old Town with some recommended highlights:

Of course, we didn’t only eat in San Sebastián. (We also napped, for that full cultural immersion.) But given the focus (and the bulk of my emotional energy) was directed at experiencing the food scene here, I will only sparsely comment on some of the other attractions around town.

The Old Town is nice to walk around, although it should ideally be seen while walking from one pintxos bar to another. In the middle of the Old Town you will come across the lovely Plaza de la Constitución. I wouldn’t make the touristic mistake of eating here though.

From the Old Town, you can walk to the summit of Monte Urgull for some panoramic views of the beach and the city. This hill (it’s more of a hill than a mount) has been important as a defensive point since the city’s foundation, and military structures can be found along the paths across the hillside. At the top, Monte Urgull is crowned with the city’s fortress, Castillo de la Mota, flanked by cannons once relied upon to defend the city from attack. Some of the ramparts date back to the 12th century. There is a giant statue of Christ at the summit called El Sagrado Corazón (Sacred Heart) which is visible from miles away at sea.

A stroll across the Playa de la Concha promenade will take you to the rocks at the foot of Mount Igueldo on the western end of the beach, and a contemporary sculpture called Peine Del Viento (Comb of the Wind). Or rather, a collection of three sculptures. Don’t ask me what it all means. Something about the sea.

Continuing up the hill of Monte Igueldo will take you to another panoramic viewpoint, and also an amusement park, complete with a rickety wooden rollercoaster and old-school bumper cars. Take the hundred-year old funicular railway if you need to rest your feet. The views are wonderful up here.

While staying in San Sebastián, we also had an amazing degustation dinner at Akelarre, with a view so superlative I won’t even bother trying to describe it. I could also double the length of this post by listing pictorially all the dishes we had, but I won’t. If it’s within your budget, I would definitely recommend trying one of the several haute cuisine restaurants in the area. Book far in advance though.

The couple of days we had here only made me wish we had more. Aski ez duena, deusik ez duena – not having enough is like not having anything. There are pintxos places at home, inspired by this Basque food mecca. But it’s not the same as being in the Parte Vieja, giddily going from bar to bar, from pintxo to pintxo. The way to my heart is definitely through my stomach, and San Sebastián got right in there and stole it.

I cannot wait to go back.

Finding Peace by the Pacific at Point Loma

San Diego, USA – December 2016

A few years ago I was in San Diego attending yet another conference. I was due to fly out the morning after the last day, but had an afternoon on my own to spare. I decided to venture outside of the downtown area to check out the Cabrillo National Monument, located at the tip of the Point Loma peninsula. To get there, I took a bus from central San Diego and headed west past the airport, then south towards the Cabrillo National Monument.

Point Loma is a rugged, hilly peninsula separating San Diego Bay from the Pacific Ocean to the west. Its geography naturally protects the bay from the open ocean, together with Coronado and Silver Strand. The peninsula has had a longtime association with the United States military since the mid 1800s when the area was designated as a military reserve, and it continued to play an important defensive role in the 20th century during both World Wars.

Looking out the windows on the road south to the Cabrillo National Monument, I saw row after orderly row of headstones facing west towards the Pacific Ocean. There were still quite a few hours of daylight before nightfall, and I made a spur-of-the-moment decision to disembark prematurely and take a gander.

I soon discovered the place was a federal military cemetery called Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery. It was a built on the site of a former Army coastal artillery station, and named after a Union general in the Civil War. The remains of 112,000 people are interred here. The majority of these were US veterans who fought in military conflicts dating back to the 1800s; in fact, the cemetery’s very first burials laid to rest the remains of casualties from the Battle of San Pasqual during the Mexican-American War.

If you would indulge me, I’m about to go off on a tangent here. We don’t really learn about this war in school, but my very rudimentary understanding of the events are as follows: when Mexico gained independence from Spain, it was a much bigger country that included the territories comprising present-day California, New Mexico and Texas. Native Americans kept bothering northern Mexico with violent raids, so Mexico imported migrants from the United States – yes, the irony should not be lost here – to create a buffer in the Mexican state of Tejas against the incursions.

This strategy backfired when the Texans staged a revolution against the Mexican government and declared itself an independent republic. The United States Congress offered to annex the Texan Republic, and the Texans agreed, becoming the 28th state of the Union. Not surprisingly, Mexico (who had obviously refused to recognise the independence of Texas) was extremely unimpressed with this annexation situation. That same year, the newly elected US President James Polk proposed purchasing Alta California and Santa Fe de Nueva Mexico from Mexico, and Mexico countered with “gracias gringos, pero… no“. Polk tried to negotiate but eventually sent armed forces in, because Manifest Destiny! What came next was a string of ensuing battles, more battles, death, destruction, etc. To cut a long story short, Mexico lost almost a third of its original territory and the Union gained a couple of new (eventual) states.

Obviously I’m skipping a whole lot of detail, but hopefully you get the gist.

The cemetery grounds really were beautiful, with immaculately kept lawns and rows of white marble headstones converging towards the horizon in geometrically satisfying lines. I’ve always loved cemeteries, which is probably an odd thing to admit to, but there it is. (I also think about death a lot, so.)

I saw no one else around the place on this particular afternoon. A light breeze blew in gently from the ocean, and it was fairly quiet besides the muted sound of waves breaking on the shoreline some distance away.

There was something strikingly egalitarian in how one marble memorial was essentially the same as any other; while a few had fresh cut flowers placed in front of them, there were no peculiarly ostentatious graves seen. All are equal in death, I suppose. I drifted through the cemetery without any particular direction in mind, stopping occasionally to look upon the concise epitaphs on the tombstones. Reading the inscriptions gave me pause for thought, and I found myself wondering what these veterans did in their lifetimes, and what sacrifices some of them might have made for the freedom of their compatriots. Although certainly not a blanket endorsement of all US military action throughout history, I must say that I did and still do admire the brave men and women who gave their lives in service of their country, whatever cause they may have fought for.

As I crested a small hill, the view across the cemetery to the Pacific Ocean opened up before me. And wow, talk about a view. It was a glorious sight. How lucky to have a final resting place like this, I briefly thought to myself. The late afternoon sun broke through the clouds and streamed down in bright patches, dappling the sea with shifting pools of soft light. The magnificent vista reminded me (for some reason) of The Lord of the Rings characters departing the Grey Havens for the Undying Lands, at the end of The Return of the King. A shimmering, Tolkienesque picture.

Having had my fill of the serenity and the silent company of departed souls, I found my way back to the roadside bus stop, only to discover from the weathered timetable that the next bus wasn’t due for another hour. Seeing how low the sun now sat in the sky, I figured it would be quicker to continue on foot and headed south in the direction of the Cabrillo National Monument. After about twenty minutes, I spied the stone statue marking the tip of the peninsula.

Point Loma was the landing site of the first European expedition to come ashore in present-day California, when Portuguese navigator Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo led an expedition in the name of the Spanish crown from Mexico to explore the west coast of what is now the United States of America. Cabrillo docked his ship on Point Loma’s east shore was the first European to see San Diego Bay. The peninsula has been described as the place “where California began”.

This large stone statue, presumably sculpted in the explorer’s likeness, sits elevated above the shoreline where Cabrillo first stepped ashore in 1542. It was commissioned by the Portuguese government and donated to the United States. He stands an imposing 4.3 metres tall, surveying San Diego Bay. Facing east from here you can see the naval air station on Coronado across the water, and beyond that, the high-rise buildings of downtown San Diego.

Perched upon the southern tip of the peninsula, not far from the Cabrillo statue, sits the small two-storey Old Point Loma lighthouse, the best known landmark in Point Loma (occasionally seen representing the city of San Diego).

For 36 years, from 1854 to 1891, the Old Point Loma Lighthouse guided ships into San Diego Bay. They realised pretty quickly that at such an elevation, the fog and low clouds were often dense enough to obscure the light from view at sea, impairing the utility of the lighthouse, and so a new lighthouse was built closer to sea level at the shore. The flame of the old lighthouse was extinguished and it was turned into a museum.

It was close to sunset by now. I hopped on a bus headed back towards the city, but not before making another quick stop along the route to a detour I couldn’t pass up, based simply on its name: Sunset Cliffs.

I actually missed the setting of the sun as I underestimated the time it would take to walk from the main road to the ocean, but I managed to catch the remnant colours of the afterglow and it was still spectacularly scenic.

I stayed at Sunset Cliffs for a while and listened to the sound of the Pacific rushing in to meet land again and again, the rhythmic crashing louder and more brutal here than back at the national cemetery. I watched the ocean spray and foam against the rocks. The lingering light started to vanish, the line of the horizon blurring between inky sky and inky sea. I turned and wandered back up to the stop, then rode the bus back to the bright lights of downtown San Diego.

We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. All that the consecrated wealth and taste of the Nation can add to their adornment and security is but a fitting tribute to the memory of her slain defenders. Let no wanton foot tread rudely on such hallowed grounds. Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and found mourners. Let no vandalism of avarice of neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten, as a people, the cost of free and undivided republic.
If other eyes grow dull and other hands slack, and other hearts cold in the solemn trust, ours shall keep it well as long as the light and warmth of life remain in us.
― General John A. Logan, General Order No. 11