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A WALK IN THE PARK

FOLLOW THE GLOW TO GRAND, GRACEFUL BALBOA PARK, SAN DIEGO’S REMARKABLE CULTURAL HEART
Balboa Park’s Plaza de Panama is a hub of activity. The tower and dome grace the San Diego Museum of Man, devoted to anthropology
PHOTO GRAPHS MICHAEL GEORGE

I don’t know how many cities employ their own pipe organist, but I know the new organist in San Diego has flair. Raúl Prieto Ramírez is wearing bright red trousers, a magenta shirt, and high-heeled white shoes. In other words, you can’t miss him.

A 40-year-old Spaniard, Ramírez gets to play the world’s largest outdoor pipe organ (the shoes are for its many pedals), which is housed in the century-old Spreckels Organ Pavilion, one of various architectural wonders that dot Balboa Park.

At this moment, he’s considering what special effects to use at his upcoming free concerts. “I’ll cover the whole thing in fog,” he says, smiling.

A bolt of energy from Barcelona, Ramírez brings a new dynamic to San Diego’s arts scene. Every Sunday at 2pm he performs an hour of harmonic hits from memory. Finishing a 17th-century composition or Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, he spins around his bench, springs to his feet, and bows to a crowd of 800 or more. His goal, he tells me, is to jolt audiences “out of reality” and into a more connected sense of self — particularly young San Diegans. “It’s what music is for.”

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About National Geographic Traveller (UK)

We reveal the destinations that made our Cool List 2019 — from booming gastronomic hotspots to up-and-coming cities, this is the last word in where you should visit in the year to come. Elsewhere, we explore the wild side of Quebec’s national parks; leave our shoes behind on Colombia’s barefoot Pacific coast; and spend a long weekend in Bornholm. Other highlights this issue include Kuala Lumpur, Richmond, Prague, Marrakech and Taipei while our photo story joins the wild horse herders in Iceland’s rural east.