Did you guess from my photos in my previous post that I had the most glorious time on my holiday in… San Diego.

What an amazing city! While I had been there briefly over 16 years ago (I visited Sea World and passed through it on the way to Tijuana) it had never crossed my mind as a place to have a holiday. This would mainly be because it’s not promoted as a tourist destination in New Zealand. Kind of, out of sight, out of mind.

When the opportunity arose to have a holiday there I jumped at the chance even though I still didn’t know much about the place.

I embarked on a ten-day holiday (which got extended to two-weeks!) of fun, food and friendship that sent me into sensory overload.

Below is a list of highlights from my holiday:

Flying high… and low!

When I got off the plane I didn’t realise how much San Diego Airport was going to play a part in my holiday.

The airport is right in the middle of the city. And I mean right in the middle! It became the only way I could orient myself. If I knew where the airport was I knew what side of the city I was on.

This airport is so ‘in’ the city that I could be sitting in traffic and a jet would appear right in front or beside me causing me to jump with fright.

Other scary stuff!

The Coronado Bridge. Oh my God! This bridge is high, rises up and curves all at the same time and there’s only a small concrete barrier between you and a death-spiralling drop over the side and into the sea. I was filled with a combination of terror and excitement all at the same time. It was like being on an amusement ride!

More terror and excitement when I encountered a thin, black snake slithering across the path I was walking down not far from the lighthouse at Cabrillo.

The World Famous San Diego Zoo

My personal tour guide gave me all sorts of inside information about the animals and the workings of the zoo. I love cats so I was particularly drawn to the snow leopard and the lions. The eagle was pretty awesome too!

San Juan Capistrano

A very cool train trip up the picturesque coast to San Juan Capistrano, accompanied by pelicans. Golden sandy beaches, green-blue ocean against the brilliant blue of the sky. And the huge expensive houses that had stunning ocean views. Oh, and ask me about the 3.01 pm ghost train (weird experience!).

Julian

A day trip to the quaint old gold mining town of Julian was a highlight. The topography changed as the city was left behind from rolling hills, dry scorched grass to scrub. A stop off at the serene Lake Chuymaca to take photos from the jetty.

Cabrillo

Amazing views of San Diego city, harbour and outlying areas. Point Loma Lighthouse was fascinating – I want to live in a lighthouse!

USS Midway

This ship is massive outside, inside, everywhere. I had a fascinating time exploring the ship, taking the bridge tour and, once again, a personal tour with commentary made this tourist experience extra special.

Maritime Museum

A leisurely morning strolling around and inside the Star of India, HMS Surprise, the B-39 Soviet Sub, USS Dolphin, the steam ferry Berkeley and the swift boat.

Hotel del Coronado

Exquisite architecture.

I wandered down to the beach and dipped my toe in the Pacific Ocean. Now I can say I’ve done that on the west cost of the US and the east cost of New Zealand.

Birch Aquarium, La Jolla

See ‘Cute Stuff’.

Eat!

If you love food, San Diego is the place to go. I think I ate and drank my way everywhere!

From the fruit tarts from the local bakery, to dining at places such as Shakespeare Pub and Grille (English Pub), Romanesque’s (Italian), Taco Tuesday, Rancho Capistrano Winery, Julian Café and Bakery (for the biggest French toast topped with blueberries, strawberries and spiced apple slices), Miner’s Diner (for a sarsaparilla; interpretation – cough medicine!), Season 52 for Copper River Salmon with asparagus and mashed potatoes (yum!), C Level (more salmon – yummy!), 57 degrees (cool wine bar) where I had fried green tomatoes for the first time, chicken sliders, sangrias (two or three – lost count somewhere!), Albert’s (at the Zoo) chardonnay – Bella, Pacific Grove. Breakfast at Galley at The Marina, Chula Vista with a sampling of biscuits and gravy (say what? Pass, thank you). Homemade meals – watermelon and tomato salad, princess eggs, salmon planked on a BBQ with baby carrots and smashed potatoes, New Orleans Ya Ya Gumbo. paninis. To finish apple pie from Julian or blueberry pie from the supermarket, chunky monkey ice cream (double yum).

Coasterra – would have to be my favourite. Right on the edge of the sea, an upscale Mexican restaurant with incredible food, fantastic service and a stunning all round view of San Diego (oh and the Frida Rita Margarita was to die for). Try the fish and chip tacos, coconut lime shrimp tacos, and finish off with the melt-in-the-mouth butter cake for the best dessert I’ve ever tasted.

 Visionary spectacular

Flowers and colour everywhere – lilac jacaranda trees, San Diego Red Bougainvillea, gorgeous fuchsia hydrangeas. Dangerous looking cacti and palm fronds.

Dragon fruit – the strangest looking fruit I’d ever seen. Pink and round and spiky on the outside but inside, white and dotted with what looks like black seeds. A different taste.

The LED swimmers at San Diego Airport (took me a while to figure out how this worked) and the wall at Los Angeles Airport.

And the brilliant intensely coloured coral at the Birch Aquarium.

Backyard animals

Orioles, humming birds (watch they don’t poke you in the head while they dart and flit all over). Lizards, yellow-greenish butterflies, and the cutest, most inquisitive orange dragonfly.

Cute stuff

I became fascinated with squirrels when I visited Toronto, but didn’t quite get to see one properly so I was on a mission to see squirrels. Mission accomplished! Really cute and I ended up taking home a stuffed squirrel (toy, not a real one).

Birch Aquarium, La Jolla

I saw my first sea horses at the Monterey Aquarium many years ago and, like the squirrels, have been fascinated ever since.

I spent a morning in a dream like state admiring the tiny little creatures that languished, slowly spinning their way through life.

The sea dragons and pipe fish were also cool. Plus I got to play in the sand.

Cheeky animals

That would be the skunk at The Galley who decided to take a jaunty walk through the restaurant surprising breakfast diners and staff alike.

Final thoughts

San Diego was a pretty city that hugged the harbour and where the sun shone forever (mostly!). The people were incredibly friendly and I talked to everyone everywhere I went. Those who live here are incredibly proud of their city. It had such an appeal and uniqueness to it with its huge navy influence and its proximity of just three miles from the Mexico border.

I loved my San Diego holiday, and I’d definitely go back. Having a personal tour guide made it so much more special and I learnt heaps that I probably wouldn’t have done if I hadn’t been immersed so thoroughly into the culture.

My two top cities in the world have always been Sydney and San Francisco. My holiday in San Francisco will always be a favourite memory, but San Diego just overtakes San Francisco by a hop, skip and a jump.

Next week’s blog: What I was really doing in San Diego and the secret tour guide’s identity is revealed.

What would be your most favourite holiday city in the world?

 

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