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California road trip, July 2017 - Part 1 - San Diego

August 18, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

For our summer vacation this year we decided on a drive through California, from San Diego to San Francisco... or from San Francisco to San Diego. We planned it for June, when the weather is not too hot and it's not yet the beach season in NY. However, our plans got re-scheduled and re-shuffled, and I was only able to take 2 weeks off for the 2nd half of July. Well, my coworker who lived in LA for a long time told me the hottest time there is actually August and September, so we should be OK. Changes of plans also meant that we basically have no hotels reserved, but we should find some place to sleep :) 

While planning, we found that a section of Pacific Coast Highway (also known as Route 1) is closed in two places because of this spring's landslides that did a lot of damage. This makes pretty much the most scenic areas inaccessible or require huge detours. Well, it will have to be done some other day, together with Monterey. Instead, we're gonna go east to the national parks - Sequoia and Yosemite.

The full set of pictures from the trip is here.

Day 0

San Diego

I also have a coworker who grew up in San Diego, so we got a bit of info about it. We're landing in the evening, so we did reserve a hotel... well, not precisely in San Diego, where they turned out to be quite expensive (a trend that we found more common than we wish in California), but in Mission Valley, a bit north of San Diego. We figured: everybody drives in California, right? That means the infrastructure is ready for us, let's drive! 

The hotel is fine (Comfort Suites), and has a pool that looks good, with a small hot pool. Anne wants to go in, our answer - "definitely maybe some time". We found a Japanese restaurant nearby. Time to sleep.

Day 1

San Diego SeaWorld

When we were discussing the trip we convinced Anne that after all our visits to Orlando parks we should skip the ones in California, and we agreed on it, but, seeing that we should have ample time, made an exception for SeaWorld. We decided to visit it and go to the city afterwards.

The first attractive thing we see in SeaWorld is... flowers, which is symbolic as we are going to see so many beautiful plants (and, particularly, palm trees), on this trip...

_7150147_7150147San Diego SeaWorld

Some droplets are on the spiderweb...

_7150157-2_7150157-2San Diego SeaWorld

We all love SeaWorld although I personally have seen it enough times already and it shows in the low number of photographs this time - Dolphin show is pretty much the same as it is in Orlando, and I've made photos of Orca show back when it was, let's say, a bit more visually impressive than it is nowadays. I'm not criticizing, in fact what they did after all the criticism, at least here in San Diego, turned out to be more informative, and we learned things about Orcas that we did not know, so, kudos to SeaWorld for adjusting pretty well to circumstances, definitely a place we like.

We also see some sea otters...


They have some sort of a light show in the evening that sounds awesome, and we decide to return to SeaWorld in the evening.

USS Midway 

It's past lunch time and it's reasonable to have a "linner" instead. To our surprise, parking near USS Midway or Seaport village seems practically impossible in the afternoon. We got lucky and finally found a parking space when a gentleman signaled us that he was leaving. We have a pretty nice linner in a restaurant at Fish Market and decide to leave the car here and go to USS Midway, a short walk from here. Well, it turns out it closes in an hour, we talk our options out with Harry, a cheerful ticket booth employee, a former navy officer from Long Island. The best choice we have is to see something today and get back tomorrow. 

_7150237_7150237San Diego

It's too late for the tours, we just walk around.

Photobomb... There's been a lot of those lately... I don't mind really :)

_7150228_7150228San Diego, USS Midway

Back to SeaWorld, walking about, we decide to get the seats about 45min before the show, and it's good that we do because the seats are going fast. The show itself I think was shorter than that, about 30min of acrobats in the dark wearing phosphorescent suits. Pretty cool..


Day 2

San Diego 

This time we're in earlier, and park in the USS Midway lot. This will be our base and we'll walk around from here. This time we are more thorough exploring the ship, with a tour and some lectures too.

_7160283_7160283San Diego

Some active carriers are parked on the other side of the bay

_7160285_7160285San Diego

Done with USS Midway, heading out with some cheers to Harry, who is in one of the ticket booths again... It's time for lunch.

On our trip to Virginia our chain eatery of choice was Cracker Barrel. This time it turned out to be Cheesecake Factory. There is one near Seaport Village. The weather is sunny, very pleasant, maybe just a bit warmer than perfect. The city is clean and beautiful and the cacti are abundant. Clearly, we are on vacation in California.

_7160288_7160288San Diego

Seaport Village turned out to be, basically, a picturesque shopping area with restaurants, we're done with it pretty quickly.

_7160299_7160299San Diego

What to do next? We walked back to the car and considered - it is too hot to walk across the city to see the streets. Tamara has an idea - an amphibian tour! We should see some of the city and get some views from the sea.

It turned out to be not exactly what we thought - mainly a water tour that took us north of the city past the airport to the piers with a lot of sea lions, pelicans and herons, which, as far as we're concerned, is just as good if not better. The ground part of our tour was just a faster way to get to the sea lions :)

_7160379_7160379San Diego

The shores are filled with hills and tiled roof houses. What is it about tiled roofs that I like so much?

_7160401_7160401San Diego

We did get some views of the city as seascapes from afar:

_7160403_7160403San Diego

_7160405_7160405San Diego

We're back and the sun is still fairly high. We have a choice of driving around the city or visiting Coronado, a peninsula known for the fancy Hotel del Coronado, built in 1880s and featured in "Some Like It Hot". We choose Coronado. The highway (CA 75) is going over what I'm pretty sure the tallest bridge I've ever seen so far. I don't know if it's made this way for the large ships to get through, I think airplanes can fly under it freely... The bridge is overlooking the city in a haze of the setting sun on one side. There are several battleships and carriers parked on the other side... no, I mean on the side of the bay opposite of the city relative to the bridge, not parked on the other side of the bridge! I'd love to park on that bridge to make some photos though, but alas...

It's a beautiful hotel and beach, and we walk about the beach, the sun is setting making it a very pleasant evening indeed.

_7160420_7160420Coronado, San Diego


Yep, there is a photobomb...

_7160429_7160429Coronado, San Diego

There is also a charming town around the hotel... with tiled roofs...

_7160450_7160450Coronado, San Diego

Unfortunately, places to eat that look like something we'd like are closed and we drive back. We are not that hungry anyway.

There is still a little time left and tomorrow we'll have a busy day. I really wanted to go to La Jolla Cove (pronounced the same way as "la hoya"), where apparently we can see seals. It is in general direction of our hotel (north) and opposite of where we'll go tomorrow.

Turned out we did not see any seals. We did, however, see the sea lions in abundance. Through a little door you can get to the sand-covered rocks and - voila - you can get as near to a sea lion as you wish, though we did not try to pet any or take with us :)

_7160467_7160467La Jolla Cove, San Diego

_7160452_7160452La Jolla Cove, San Diego

_7160459_7160459La Jolla Cove, San Diego

Another rock is filled with cormorants


Cormorants here have dark blue eyes. The ones I've seen on the east coast had green eyes. I need to figure out which species these are.

_7160455_7160455La Jolla Cove, San Diego

We're still not hungry and it's too late to go to a restaurant anyway. Instead Anne and I take the plunge, literally, and go for the pool and hot tub. OK, the hot tub is too hot and we enjoy it only for a fraction of a second, but the swim in the pool is very enjoyable. Apparently it took long enough for Toma to get hungry and we order a Japanese takeout...

Day 3

San Diego Zoo and Balboa Park

Today we are visiting the two main attractions of San Diego, according to most, the zoo and Balboa Park. There is an outdoor organ in the park and one of the main reasons we started our trip in San Diego is that we can be here on a Monday, when, in the summer, the park hosts free organ concerts.

I expected to be blown away by San Diego Zoo that everybody lists as the #1 must see. Apparently, all the Bronx Zoo and National Zoo and others spoiled me, I think San Diego Zoo is on the similar level with them. Looking back though I have to admit that they do have rare pandas, koalas and an Amur Leopard, though they are hard to see. Pairing cheetas with dogs is also really interesting, and hey, they've got a donkey playing football


With pandas in hiding what really welcomed us in the zoo is... flora! Not sure if it's mostly native or the zoo acts as a botanical garden as well, but the flowers and plants are amazing!

_7170488_7170488San Diego Zoo

_7170515_7170515San Diego Zoo _7170598_7170598San Diego Zoo

Curiously, San Diego Zoo conducted an experiment where a cheetah kitten grew up with a dog puppy of similar age (and I must add, somewhat similar size, such as Golden Retriever). Apparently, when growing up this way cheetas develop, I guess, better communication skills? This one certainly is not shying away...

_7170534_7170534San Diego Zoo

There are many beautiful animals in San Diego Zoo.

Here is an antelope

_7170626_7170626San Diego Zoo

Here is a sad monkey

_7170587_7170587San Diego Zoo

The ride on Skyfary is nice. Here is a view to the California Tower and Museum of Man, two of the beautiful buildings in Balboa Park.

_7170604_7170604San Diego Zoo

After the zoo we take a pretty short walk to Balboa Park and stroll around the buildings. This greens arrangement is appropriate...

_7170639_7170639San Diego

In the park the museums are now closed, but it gives me a chance to just snap some pictures.

_7170650_7170650San Diego

_7170655_7170655San Diego

Tamara's color pattern goes well with the environment

_7170641_7170641San Diego

We find the organ and take a little rest at the plaza nearby.

_7170668_7170668San Diego

A book of jokes is an excellent accessory in a traveling bag.

_7170671_7170671San Diego

There are some buildings left to see and we continue our walk ending it with California Tower.

_7170683_7170683San Diego

Back to the organ, got some drinks (soft), just waiting for the concert to start

_7170702_stitch_7170702_stitchSan Diego

The concert is very nice, though we only listened to the first half, about 1 hour 15 min. Taking it in fully we would end up going to sleep very late. In the dusk the park looks different

_7170719_7170719San Diego

_7170716_7170716San Diego

_7170723_7170723San Diego

A little plaza is completely empty and I spend several minutes making long exposures shots.

_7180730_7180730San Diego

Now we go to the hotel, we will not return to the city of San Diego on this trip.

Day 3

San Diego 

Nope, this is not a mistake. Although we are not going to the city of San Diego we are going to Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, thanks to Toma who remembered it from the fist time she visited Sand Diego. This is where the city was founded, not in the glorious bay, but several miles north of it, on the river. Listed as attraction #23 in San Diego by TripAdvisor, behind the baseball stadium and some beaches, this is the place to learn about San Diego history.

_7180742_7180742San Diego

_7180750_7180750San Diego

We have a considerable drive in front of us and a plan to go to Pageant of the Masters, an elaborately named art show in Laguna Beach that features paintings made on stage with real people, highly recommended! On to LA!



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