California Vacation, Part 2: San Diego


After spending 3 wonderful days in Santa Barbara for my brother’s wedding, Adam and I decided to extend our trip a bit and spend some time in San Diego. I’d been to San Diego before, but Adam never had – so we were looking forward to exploring it together.

Off to San Diego..

Day 4: Santa Barbara to San Diego

This was a pretty relaxing day, though a lot of it was dedicated to travel. We woke up fairly late and said goodbye to many of the fellow wedding attendees who were leaving that day. Packing up our stuff was a bigger ordeal than we’d expected, but we managed to be packed and ready to go well before noon so that we could enjoy a relaxing brunch with Dan, Liana, and my mom. A few of Liana’s friends joined in as well, and Art and his son John stopped by for some of it as well. We found our way to a lovely little place- Renaud’s Patisserie & Bistro. It was one of those places were everything is just amazingly good – even if it seems simple. I got a grilled cheese sandwich with a salad, but the cheese was to die for and the sourdough bread just perfect. MmmMm, a great way to say goodbye to Santa Barbara.

Then we headed for the train station where we said our final goodbyes to my family. Our time in Santa Barbara was really great visit with everyone, but we were happy to be spending a few bonus days on our own. We’d booked an Amtrak trip which would take us right into downtown San Diego for about $30 per person – much less than it would’ve cost us had we taken my mom’s rental car and tried to park at our hotel. In all, the trip went well – though it was pretty long. We didn’t get into San Diego until about 8pm, and at that point we were hungry and eager to get to our hotel.

Unfortunately this is where we hit the one big hiccup of our trip: Amtrak lost our luggage. It’s true – you don’t usually check baggage with Amtrak, but lucky for us, this was one of the rare trains that did require checking large baggage. We checked both of our bags, and somehow only one came off of the train in San Diego. The Amtrak employee’s comment “Well that’s bizarre” wasn’t exactly reassuring either. Hmm. At least he did almost immediately hand us $100 cash to pay for our toiletries, etc while we waited for our luggage to arrive. He was pretty sure it would arrive that night by the last train arriving around 3am, so we weren’t too worried. Of course, Adam’s $$$ tux was in that suitcase, along with my bridesmaid dress – so while it was good that this happened after the wedding – it was still a bit nerve wracking to have such expensive items in a missing suitcase.

We made our way to our hotel by cab, and only paid about $5 to get there. We were staying at the Ivy Hotel, a lovely boutique hotel in the Gaslamp Quarter (a main downtown hub of San Diego). A fancier place than we usually stay, but we felt like a splurge – and we got a fantastic deal. Staying at fancy hotels is really a great thing to do when you get the deal – you notice the difference in service levels right away. The front desk was super helpful with our lost luggage issue – and had a nice supply of “emergency” supplies available – including (nice) toothbrushes, toothpaste, and deodorant. The other perk of nice hotels? The soaps/shampoos/lotions you find in the room are actually worth using! More on our hotel over on my mom’s blog.

Anyway – we got settled and made our way out to find dinner. We ended up at a decent but fairly forgettable sushi place a few blocks from our hotel before calling it a night.

Day 5: San Diego Zoo and Old Town

Our main plan for this day (our only *full* day in San Diego) was to hit the zoo. We’d hoped to get our luggage that morning, but no luck. We found our way to The Broken Yolk, a breakfast place within a few blocks of our hotel that got fairly high reviews on my iPhone app Urban Spoon. Again, a pretty eh experience here. Adam got Eggs Florentine, which makes sense for a place that is clearly focusing on eggs. It was quite yummy. My Belgian waffle, however, left much to be desired. I’ve never ordered Belgian waffles and been disappointed before, but I guess there’s a first for everything. It kind of tasted like an Egg-o,  and came solo on a plate. No sides, no fancy show – just one waffle plopped onto the middle of a plate. It would’ve been ok had it tasted like something special, but again, very Egg-o. The food wasn’t the memorable part, however – the service was. It was pretty abysmal. Not once were we offered more coffee, and not once were we checked on once our food was plopped in front of us. Luckily the kind of crappy breakfast experience was saved by the fact that we got a call during breakfast that our luggage had been found. Yay! It had headed north, but was now on it’s way and would be to our hotel by 3-ish.

After breakfast we made our way to the zoo. It was about 3 miles away, and rather than take public transit we decided that walking there would be a nice way to see a bit more of San Diego. It wasn’t the most exciting walk, unfortunately – but once we got into Balboa Park it became clear why everyone talks about it so much. So much is there! Tons of museums, gardens, art shops, and general pretty scenery and trails. We mentally marked off a number of things to see on the way back, and went on to the zoo.

Hug Me!

And what a zoo it is. We did a bit of a whirlwind tour of it, but saw everything we’d wanted to. Well, everything but the polar bears which were out of their exhibit for some reason. I like to think they were off frolicking and drinking coke, but  somehow I doubt it. My favourite part? The koalas. I just want to cuddle all of them! We also got a great view of the elephants, including some time with the zookeepers washing them.

I was surprised that we got through it in about 3 hours, but we did skip one section and kept a good pace. I guess going to the zoo without little ones really does help you get through quickly! If we’d had a bit of extra time I would’ve loved to go to the Wild Animal Park as well, but we didn’t really want to spend the extra money for such a short trip. Gotta save something for the next time we’re in San Diego, right?

After leaving the zoo, we decided to check out some of the other fun things in Balboa Park, including a really great little village of art shops. I was very tempted by many of the pieces of jewelry, but didn’t quite commit. Then we headed to a botanical garden that was beautiful both inside and out. We slowly made our way out of Balboa Park, and headed east towards the water.

We were briefly distracted by San Diego’s Little Italy, and while we didn’t spend much time there, we did get a chance to pop into a Yorgurtland. Brilliant concept yogurt chain that has popped up all over California – it’s all self serve, and then you pay by weight. You can load up on as much (or as little) of any type of yogurt you could possibly want, along with a variety of toppings. Mmmm!

Once we loaded up on yogurt, off to the harbour we went. It was nice to hang out near the water again, which we hadn’t really done since the first day back in Santa Barbara. It’s a nice harbour – though we mostly just walked along the water and looked at the various touristy boat tours that were offered. There’s also a nice cruise port here, and we got to get a glimpse of a Royal Caribbean and Carnival ship in port. Then began the slowish walk back to our hotel. Including the 3 or so hours walking around the zoo, we think we may have walked about 10 miles that day. Whew.

After a brief rest at our hotel (when we were reunited with our luggage – YAY!), we made a the trip out to Old Town – this time via public transit. While San Diego has a handy trolley system, we took the bus – as there was a stop a mere block from our hotel, and it took us straight to old town, for less than $5/per person round trip.  Old Town is, well, the old part of San Diego. It’s clearly  now mostly a tourist area – with most of the shops geared entirely towards tourists with their trinkets and general ‘what can we  convince you to buy’ crap. I almost wrote off most of it, but then we poked into one series of shops and were intrigued. Sure, there was a lot of pure crap, but there was a number of nice shops with interesting art. We ended up buying one thing – a lovely wooden bowl painted with sunflowers.

Now for what brought us to Old Town in the first place: Old Town Mexican Cafe. A super super touristy place (the hostesses had to wear those bright mexican skirts and frilly tops), but it had been voted best mexican by a local poll, so we figured it had to be good. We were almost immediately greeted by two mariachi singers with guitars, who proceeded to serenade us with La Bamba:

Yo no soy marinero...

And the food? The food was good! Definitely worth the fun touristy silliness. After a lateish dinner we made our way back to the hotel to rest up for our last day in San Diego…

Day 6: Ocean Beach

This was our last day in San Diego, and with a redeye flight leaving at 9pm, we wanted to make the most of our day. We packed up and checked out of our hotel early, left our luggage with the front desk, and out we went. We headed to the Ocean Beach area – getting day passes this time, which you can get on the bus for only $5 per person, so so long as you ride at least twice, it’s paid for. We made our way to Ocean Beach and first stumbled upon Dog Beach. We wondered the area – first through a mostly residential area as we ventured towards the main shopping street of the area, Newport Street. A very funky area that clearly catered towards a surfer crowd, but also featured a lot of old fashioned storefronts and mom-and-pop style independent joints. Definitely a fun area to hang out in.


The inside of Hodad's

For lunch we sought out Hodad’s – a place Adam had read about as being the best burger place in the area. Yummy – certainly a place worth checking out! An adorable dive-y place, decorated mostly with old license plates from edge to edge along their walls. Pretty awesome. And according to Adam, the beef burgers were awesome – and I can definitely testify that they had a awesome veggie burger as well. And the fries were *awesome* – wedges, really – but spiced really really well.

After we’d thoroughly wondered Ocean Beach, we slowly made our way back to Gaslamp. We stopped in Old Town once again just for the sake of a bus transfer, and wondered it again to see it in the daylight.

Once back in the Gaslamp area, we had a bit of time to kill so we ended up spending a bit of time at the big mall near our hotel – Horton Plaza.  A nice outdoor-ish mall.

Then dinner – we found a nice pizza place this time: Sammy’s. It did have a larger menu, but they specialized in wood fired pizza. A nice meal to end a really lovely trip.


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One Response to “California Vacation, Part 2: San Diego”

  1. The Ivy Hotel, San Diego | Advance Travel Says:

    […] Read more about Cari’s trip to San Diego in her blog, here. […]

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