San Diego - Beauty close to Mexico

Trip Start Sep 14, 2007
Trip End Sep 23, 2007

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Flag of United States  , California
Sunday, September 30, 2007

We arrived only a short 45 minute drive from Laguna Beach in San Diego and returned our beloved convertible at the Fox Rent-a-car close to the airport.  I had the "smarts" to reserve us an airport shuttle to get us from the airport to our close by hotel location.  The 5 minute drive cost us $15.-.  My reservation read $9.00 for two people,  which is why I booked with "A-Blue-Shuttle".  They did not honor their reservation and it would have been cheaper to take a cab, which we did on our return to the airport: $8.- including tip!  Don't book with "A-Blue-Shuttle" if you stay close to the airport.

We checked in the "La Pensione" boutique hotel and had a cute little room that turned out much bigger than expected.  Here's the scoop on the hotel: 

I made a mental note to mention the brand spanking new bathroom.  Not a single scratch anywhere, everything (paint, shower curtain, floors and a shower liner) was neat and clean and the chessboard style floors gave it a fun and modern look.  There's no AC in LaPensione hotel, instead they provide a little fan plus an installed ceiling fan. That's really no problem since San Diego stays in the comfy 70's all year round. A door leads out to the balcony that you have to share with other La Pensione guests (not that I ever met anyone though).  It overlooks the "Little Italy" gate and all the cute little restaurants.  La Pensione is a boutique style hotel and you'll either love it or hate it.  We loved it ~ especially "Peggy" the little hotel dog.

But enough about LaPensione.  Once check-in was completed we headed out for lunch and then set out to visit Balboa Park ~ way to far to walk per the waitress.  We attempted it anyway and it wasn't far at all, we made it in under 30 minutes.  Ladies and Gentlemen, when you eat out three times a day a little sport is really not "overdoing" it.  Once at the park we waited for the next free park tram (<--- freebee), which would  take us into the park and around all the major attractions except the zoo.  Our driver was really funny, so we stayed on the tram and listened to his stories, but after a while we had that feeling "Haven't I been here before?"  After another couple loops it turned into "Yep, been here done that".   The thing is the tram loops around the same attractions over and over and only goes back out to the street twice per hour (which is where we were picked up).  It took us a while to find that out, but eventually we got it and hopped of at the "Plaza de Panama".  This is where all the beautiful buildings from the first World's Fair in 1915 are located. 

I love the Spanish architecture and the lush landscape with fountains, ponds and overlooks.  We visited late in the day and a lot of attractions seemed to be closed (Botanical garden, Japanese Teahouse, Organ Pavillion).  The museums were open, but I'm not much of a museum person.  More the freebee type of person.  I like to stay outdoors. 

After walking the grounds for a while we made our way back towards Little Italy and bypassed to explore the harbor.  We had a nice sunset walk along the waterfront on Harbor Drive, where beautiful ships anchor.  The most famous is the "Star of India", the oldest active sailing ship in the world and the pride of San Diego.  The Coronado Ferry and harbor cruises also depart from here.  It really is a beautiful walk with amazing views.  There seem to be endless dining choices with very romantic ambiance.  Just check out the various restaurants here.  We had our dinner at the San Diego Pier Cafe, a beautiful place, but not too fancy for casual people like us. 

The next morning started with a delicious breakfast at the Cafe Zucchero across the street from our hotel.  I loved their breakfast crepes with fresh strawberries, just make sure you mention that you want "strawberry" crepes twice otherwise you'll get the ham and egg filled ones, after all who would want strawberry crepes... Their prices were reasonable too.

After such a delicious start to the day we decided to take the bus to LaJolla (pronounced something like La Hoya) cove.  We bought our day pass (about $5.00), which would pay for all of today's transportation, bus and trolley.  We took the trolley to the Old Town Transit Center, where we switched to bus #30 towards University Towne Center.  This was going to be the bus ride from HELL.  At first it took the new bus driver about half an hour to get her seat adjusted before taking off.  Then she never once shifted gear and we continued to drive at a very low speed.  Once on the freeway whe pulled over to the shoulder to find out what the problem with the bus was.  After another 15 minutes we were glad to be back on the road, our driver discovered the stick shift and managed to shift gear.  Finally we were on our way and not being bypassed by scooters any longer.  At the next stop we got a new driver and finally went on a normal ride.  We were a little ticked off by the way the ride went and that they wouldn't announce any stops (nor did the signs at the stops have a name). 

This started another adventure game:  "Guess where your stop is".  Follow the road on our map and try to pinpoint where you are.  It works like this: "The road just took a sharp turn, could be this one on the map.  Do you see a beach?  Nope. Don't see a beach, guess it's not this one."

Eventually we did find La Jolla and got off the bus.  We explored the cliffs and got all excited when we spotted a seal.  So we sat down on the rocks for about 30 minutes and waited to see if we can catch another glimpse.  But no such luck, the seal wouldn't show up again, so we decided to continue to walk.  Not long and we came up on a little breaker wall and guess what was there?  A whole bunch of seals.  Guess I still didn't learn my lesson (remember the same happened in San Simeon).  Lifelesson 1:  If you see one, then there's a whole bunch somwhere close by.

It's fun to watch these harbor seals.  There are some old and some small ones, some big and some small ones, some sleep, some play.  But don't get too facinated or you the big wave coming in and crashing over the breaker will creep up on you.  Let me tell you this is really fun if it happens to someone else.  The same joy like throwing pigeon food at other people on the Piazza San Marco in Venice.  Throw, hide and watch what happens :)

After gaping at the seals it was time to have lunch at Jose's Court Room.  Food was priced well and was delicious, not to mention the place had character.  I could have skipped their Margherita though.  There are plenty of little souvenier shops along the road and we just couldn't resist to shop around, though I managed not to buy anything.  We found the coolest place: Wyland Galleries, they create sculptures and paintings involving ocean themes.  Their gallery is so whimsical you just gotta love it!  The website really doesn't do the gallery justice.  It's completely different to stand in front one of those paintings or to discover all the hidden carvings in one of their tables - something you can't see on the website.  Did I mention there's no entrance fee (<--- freebee)?

Back in Little Italy it was starting to get dark and that's the time when Little Italy really comes to life.  String lights illuminate facades, the delicious smells, conversations & (live) music carries to the street and it's fun to walk around.  For dinner we chose "Zagarella's restaurant" and had a very special dinner in their hidden couryard.  The courtyard is quite beautiful, with lights strung across, a gorgeous fountain and Italian music.  Their food was the most authentic Italian food I've ever eaten in the United States.  It didn't taste "americanized".  Actually San Diego's Little Italy is the best Little Italy in the U.S. that I've visited so far, which means it is better than the one in New York and San Francisco.

Here we go, day three - no plan.  By now we were really tired of eating out all the time and ready to go home.  So what's the plan for today?  No idea, I'm tired of planning.  So my hubby took over and took us to Old Town.  We hpped on the trolley to the Old Town Transit Station, just like the day before.  By the way, the trolley station is only one block from the hotel, which made it another great choice.  Once in Old Town we visited what I thought was the "Bazaar del Mundo", turns out it was not.  It was an art fair.  I never went to an art fair since I thought I wasn't much for art, but this place was awesome!  So much neat stuff to look at (and no money to spend as I lost my credit card on this trip) (<---freebee).  People are so creative.

After visiting the art fair we took the trolley to the gaslamp quarter, but we didn't know what 's there to see and soon turned around.   I think this goes for our whole San Diego trip.  We didn't plan very well and we didn't see a whole lot.  What we did see was really nice though.  We definetely didn't pay San Diego the attention it deserves.  I found that there's a "Go San Diego card" that allows you free access and tours to many attractions.  It might pay off if you stay a little longer than we did.  Here's what we didn't see and do:  Coronado Island, Harbor cruise, Torrey Pines State Reserve, Mission Beach & Bay, San Diego Zoo, Sea World, a trip to Tijuana and probably many more.

But this is how we ended our 9 day California dream vacation.  I would hope we inspired you to take this trip yourself and do me a favor: Make more of your San Diego stay than we did.  As for us, we are seriously considering moving to California once we leave D.C., but first we'll have to travel to a few more destinations in the U.S.

See you & Have a great trip,


PS:  Make sure you take a look at the many more pictures in the photo gallery for this vacation stop.  There's even one video from LaJolla cove.
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schlossie on

Thank you!
We came across some truly amazing scenery. Big SUR is stunning (and a bit scary) and McWay falls is a dream come true, San Diego & San Francisco are beautiful cities. You won't regret going - I promise! Should I make it there again during Spring then I would also like to see the Antelope Valley. Just google 'spring antelope valley' and you'll see what I mean :)

schlossie on

Thank you!
I read the article - thank you for submitting it! I wish I had had it before I went :)

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