Niki de Saint Phalle, a well-respected artist, is best known for her large-scale sculptures.

Originally from France, de Saint Phalle [pronounced Sahn Fall], relocated to La Jolla in 1994, where she and her work were embraced by the city. She has sculptures displayed in downtown, by the bay, in the Escondido Performing Arts Center, and in Balboa Park. In fact, the inaugural exhibit at the new Mingei Annex in Escondido is devoted to Ms. de Saint Phalle.

In Balboa Park, we were struck by the beautiful, bold colors, whimsical subjects, and that the art is designed to be touched and even climbed upon. [below]

Niki De Saint Phalle passed away last year, and the piece of art she was working on is a sculpture garden.

'Queen Califia's Magical Circle,' located 35 miles north of San Diego in Escondido, is tucked away in an out of the way location in Kit Carson Park. Dedicated to the supposed namesake of the state of California, it is a large art piece that has to be seen to be experienced.

So on the way home we decided to check it out.

We found Kit Carson Park easily enough, but once there, saw no evidence of the sculpture garden. Then, in the distance, through the brown-green chaparral, a burst of color.

[roll your mouse over the image below]

And as we made our way around...
...the spectacular entrance is revealed.

This is Niki De Saint Phalle's only sculpture garden in the United States. It really is quite a sight, and very inspiring. So inspiring, we used a self-timer to create this year's Christmas card. [below]

An exciting end to a rather ordinary Thanksgiving holiday. We all felt a bit sluggish, and couldn't seem to get kick started during our trip to San Diego.

But we are thankful. We have our health, our families, and we are very thankful to be able to take off and experience new places and things. Heck, not all of our trips and adventures are slam-dunks. But that's what makes the process fun -- that feeling that, while traveling together as a family, there just might be a Queen Califia's Magical Circle around the next corner.

Here's to finding more new adventures in 2004.


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