July 11, 2013 San Diego
It was raining like crazy when we were supposed to take off to go to San Diego. The traffic was a nightmare – you would think that New Englanders would be used to this weather, but never fail – when it rains, people drive like idiots. The crew was stuck in traffic, coming from Quincy. We boarded about 35 minutes late. Alaska Airlines was very reasonable price-wise and the terminal has ample food/shopping choices. They call first class, military, awards members and people who need extra time/people with children to board. Then they say that anyone that will not be utilizing the overhead bins can board. The best seats for this flight are going to be in row 6. It is handicap accessible, thus you board first, and it is right behind first class – normally there is divider wall between first and coach, but not here – you can put your bag under the seat in front of you. We didn’t get these seats on the way there, but we snagged the on them way home.
Above the clouds it is smooth sailing. The flight crew comes around with handheld tvs for $10. They also have wi-fi on board, but I am busy catching up on this season of Mad Men. It’s a long flight. While I appreciate the shaitsu massage, the kid behind me kicking my seat is starting to get me cranky. Never mind that I have been at work all day and am tired, I have 6 more hours of this?? Oh and did I mention the creaming baby? I get that there is nothing that you can do about it…but still. Thank god for Bose noise cancelling headphones.
We arrive at the W Hotel, Downtown San Diego (421 West B Street). It was about a $13 cab ride from the airport. We stayed for 3 nights, and they said that if we refused maid service they would give us 500 points a night, not including the night before checkout. Seriously? A) 500 points is nothing, B) that’s not being “green”, it just seems like it’s cutting corners, don’t you think? Oh, and ps. they only offer free wi-fi in the lobby.
So we head up to our room – a decent way away from the elevator, so you would think it would be quiet. There is a night club up on the room and there’s a faint bass thumping through the night.
The carpet outside our room looks like it’s seen a few too many party goers…
The room is much bigger than I thought. My friend had said, “think NY hotel rooms”, but this actually had space to walk around and a cute window seat (that we never used).
The decor is contemporary – sleek and white.
A nice desk area should we have been there for work…
Just so you were clear on what kind of trip this was :)
The bathroom sat behind a sliding door and was pretty spacious.
The have a mini hairdryer that is small but more powerful than it looked.
Bliss products for the shower.
Now here’s the ick part. Hair on the terry cloth shower curtain. Now this isn’t like an “oh a loose hair landed on the shower curtain”, this was a “someone was shaving something and wiped off with the shower curtain”. Ew. And it didn’t get cleaned any of the days that we were there. I cringed every time I had to get into the shower.
And in other areas of the shower curtain, there were icky yellow stains.
The grout in between the tiles looked like it hadn’t bee cleaned since 1990.
But good to know that there is always a backup plan…
A Tivoli radio and a dock to charge your iPhone.
Green Mountain K-Cups.
The W offers a complimentary ride in their Acura MDX within a 5 mile radius of the hotel. You can go to Coronado or get a lift to the airport. I recommend making a reservation, when we called they didn’t have anything available until mid day.
A cute variation on the mini bar with a lot of good options.
And good to know that the W always has your back when it comes to your love life. It’s like having your own personal wing-man.
The area around the hotel seems pretty safe, although there are a lot of bail bonds offices. We ended up renting a car on day 1 after we found that cabs are at the major stops/sites but it is hard to hail one. And we were going back and forth to La Jolla which was about a $50-$60 cab ride each way, so a car just made more sense. There are also a lot of open public lots around the hotel – at a reasonable price, some as low as $5, but we opted for valet overnight just to be on the safe side. There is also meter parking around, so if you have quarters, that might be the way to go…but then again, you would have to wake up early the following day to feed the meter.
After we get in about 8 hours of sleep we are awakened by banging on our door. The people across the hall are checking out and their young child is banging on our door while waiting to leave. Welcome to vacation right? So we take a quick walk down the block and grab a bagel at Bruegger’s and a coffee at Starbucks. We head off to the zoo. I would suggest buying tickets ahead of time over the internet (and there is a little bit of a discount). The line to buy tickets when we got to the zoo was pretty long and there were a bunch of school groups there. If you are going to be in San Diego for a few days and you are planning on visiting multiple parks, you should look into the multi park pass. Two adult tickets cost $81.20 and the tickets can be printed right from your home computer.
They breed pandas there and after 3 years they send them to China to participate in their breeding program. The panda experience is being renovated, and there is a small viewing area, so be prepared to wait.
In a few years the zoo is coming up on its 100th anniversary, so they are making lots of upgrades and they are adding new exhibits in anticipation.
When Disney was making the Lion King, they came to the zoo for inspiration. The merecat has one look out who alerts the rest of the animals if there is danger.
The zoo has older elephants that need extra care. They are one of the only animals that get bathed by zoo keepers and they have pedicures!
We walked around with our map – and it wasn’t until we were almost ready to leave did we hear about the zoo app. It tracks you with GPS, so no map needed. The zoo is huge, so I recommend this to make sure you don’t miss anything. There are bus tours and hop on hop off shuttles that run through the park as well. We took the bus tour after we had walked on our own, just to catch up on interesting facts. Our driver was super bubbly – wonder if she is ever grumpy. The line for the bus was about 25-35 minutes wait but it comes free with your admission.
They had an issue with breeding their flamingos at one point. Apparently, the trick is to put them in a room full of mirrors to make them think that there are more of them than there really are.
The monkeys didn’t really come up to the window until the trainer happened to walk by and they interacted with the kids. Pretty fun.
I love this guy…
After the zoo we tried to go to Bertrand at Mr. A’s. It boasts amazing views of the city – I envisioned it to be Top of the Hub -eque. We had made a reservation at the tail end of their lunch service. However, we were denied because my husband was wearing shorts. On to plan b. Casa Guadalajara, located in old town (4105 Taylor Street). We couldn’t find a cab so we called an Uber – which is relatively new to San Diego. $26 later, we were ready for lunch. The day had started off a bit cloudy, but it was sunny and warm by lunch. We decided to grab lunch outside.
There were ladies at the tortilleria who were making the flour tortillas by hand. I wanted them to come home with me…they tortillas were amazing.
After the whole fiasco of running around and changing plans, I needed a drink. Margarita, yes please. I’m pretty sure I saw one that was sure to hold a gallon go by….
I had the tequila lime shrimp ($17.95) and it was delicious. Light and fresh with a bright flavor. It came with two flour tortillas on the side, yum!
We also had the beef and bean toastada special ($7.95) which was tasty. The service was decent and they called us a cab to bring us to Avis to pick up our rental car.
When you figure the prices out, the amount you pay in cabs and the amount you pay for the car/parking probably come out equal, but the rent a car gave us more options. We picked up the Chrysler 200 and headed over to Seaport Village to kill some time before our late dinner.
You pay to park but there is validation with a $10 purchase. It ended up being $3 for 2 hours.
They have lots of tourist trap shops and a nice boardwalk to enjoy the cool breeze off the water.
We walked down the marina, past the fortune tellers, the palms readers, the psychics, the ballon animal and performance artists to the boats. This one boat actually had a helicopter land on it…AMAZING!
We walked back and stopped at the Frosted Robin Cupcakes shop (859 W Garbor Drive). What a cute little shop!
We picked up some cupcakes and macarons for later!
Chocolate peanut butter ($3.25): Chocolate cake, peanut butter frosting, chocolate ganache, peanut butter cup topping. I wasn’t getting a strong peanut butter taste with the frosting, but it was tasty.
Red Velvet ($3.23): Red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting. Missed out on the cute toppers they showed in the website, but that’s ok. The cupcake tasted good, although the cake was a bit dense.
We also tried 3 macarons ($8.70) in vanilla, pistachio and nutella. Simply delicious, light and flavorful.
They had a fun carousel indoors for the kids! We head back to the hotel to get ready for dinner.
There is street parking near the Marine Room, but the valet is only $5. We drove about 15-20 minutes up to La Jolla. The Marine Room was rated best ambiance and best scenic view by Open Table diners.
The view is pretty amazing, the water comes right up to the window. They have spotlights that shine out onto the water when it gets dark so you can still enjoy the view. We had to wait for a bit for our table, even though we had a reservation. We were seated off in the dining room to the left where the larger groups were situated. We had a booth in the back.
While parts of the restaurant felt La Jolla-ish, and by that I mean open and cottage like, there were parts that felt a bit dated. I think I equate it to Anthony’s Pier 4 here in Boston, probably a hot spot in its heyday – but could use a pick me up.
The bathrooms were especially dated in green and salmon.
The service was very good – very attentive, professional servers. I will say that all my silverware had water spots on them, which is a turn off if you are having a fine dining experience. I had the lobster tail ($42) which was tasty, but not as sweet as New England lobster.
The tuna special was also delicious. Cooked rare it had a wonderful flavor.
We were celebrating so they brought us a cheesecake. Delish!
We were in the mood for something chocolate as well, so we ordered the chocolate pyramid. A Feuillentine Gianduja crunch pyramid comes with a rose consumme, griottine and a pistachio tuile ($12). The chocolate was rich and the crunch was a nice tough. I wasn’t keen on trying the consumme, but the waiter said that it paired well with the chocolate.
The next day we decided to head out to LA. I hadn’t been and we both have friends out there. We figured that we were already most of the way there, and we hadn’t met their kids yet (that were born in the last year) so what the hell! We wake up early for breakfast. We head over to Hash House A Go Go (3628 5th Ave).
They open at 7:30 and we were there a little after 8. If you are a party of more than 2, you’re probably going to wait, even at this hour. It’s like the Zaftigs of California. We were seated right away. There was also seating outside on the patio but we didn’t want to wait. The seating is pretty tight, so get used to having someone virtually share your table, and don’t forget to pass the ketchup :)
There are so many good looking options, it’s hard to know what to choose. The plates are enormous. The pancakes are as big as a dinner plate and they are a half and inch thick. Everyone leaving has a to go box with them.
We order the basic – two eggs (any style but we get scrambled), potatoes, fruit and a biscuit. ($7.95) Man that is a LOT of food.
How do you go to a place called Hash House A Go Go and not get the hash? Exactly what I was thinking! So I pick the corned beef hash ($12.95) that comes with corned beef, red onions and Swiss cheese, along with fruit, potatoes and a biscuit. And they don’t skimp on the corned beef, check out the size of those cubes! Needless to say, we didn’t leave hungry! We were ready for the two and a half hour drive.
So a funny story about our drive. It was pretty smooth, we didn’t really hit any traffic until we came up on a car that was flipped over on its roof. We were feeling really good about our time. So we head over to friend #1’s house and we let ourselves in the gate. The front door is open and we walk in, yelling out hello. This guy comes out of the kitchen, clearly unsure of who we are. We tell him who we are, and who we are looking for. Turns out that our friends moved 3 months ago and didn’t mention to us their new address. Talk about awkward! So we drive 30 minutes to their new place and visit for a bit.
We head over to In – N – Out Burger for lunch around the corner. It’s packed!
Multiple friends back home have asked us to pick them up a shirt, In – N – Out has a cult following.
So what do you get when you go to In – N – Out? A double double of course ($3.30). Animal style or not? I went sans animal style – no mayo based sauce for this girl. Grabbed an order of fries ($1.60) and a vanilla milkshake and I was a happy camper. Do you think that it just feels healthier eating this because you are in California? Needless to say that it was a successful lunch and I am now a fan!
So we finish lunch and drive about 30 minutes to friend #2’s house. Isn’t it kind of funny that going anywhere in LA takes 30 minutes? So we visit friends, ooh and ah over their adorable baby boy and head back to San Diego. We decide to go back the PCH. Hey, how often do we get out on the West Coast, have to do all those touristy things while we are here. So PCH isn’t as glamorous as I thought it was. In fact, LA wasn’t as glamorous as I thought it would be. Leaving LA, the PCH is a two lane road that is riddled with stop lights every block.
I think that the PCH doesn’t even get scenic until you hit Huntington Beach. It’s kind of cool seeing the different feel of each place. Huntington has all the surfers in RV’s, Laguna has all the cute shops and bistros etc. So it takes us about double the time to get back to San Diego. We actually stop in La Jolla for dinner because it is getting so late.
Truluck’s was voted best in overall experience and best in service. It is inland in La Jolla in an industrial park that holds a hotel and other restaurants. Zagats gave it a 24/30.
There are parts of this restaurants that make it feel like an old school steak house and other parts that make it feel like a swanky, modern restaurant.
The restaurant is dimly lit, and romantic, but there are a surprising number of families there.
Love these semi private booths. The red leather makes me think old school steak house, the shape reminds me of a seashell.
I go with the sea scallops ($32) that are pretty tasty. They are a touch over cooked and the rice ( well maybe the whole plate) feels like it has been sitting under a heat lamp, which is surprising because our food came out pretty quickly.
We also ordered the king crab legs/ The come by the pound and were market priced at about $65 a pound. They come pre-split for easy eating! Pretty darn tasty – second only to some crab that our friends had sent us from Pike Place Market.
As I had mentioned, we were celebrating, so they brought us out a chocolate bread pudding. Super sweet. I’m not a bread pudding kind of gal, so I ordered another dessert.
Carrot cake, an enormous piece. They bring it table-side and they drizzle caramel sauce and candied walnuts on it. At $11 this is a pricey dessert, makes me think of Smith and Wollensky’s desserts. It wasn’t the best carrot cake I’ve had, I think that they bank on the sheer wow factor of the dessert. The service was really good- our waitress, who looked like Shakira, was attentive and didn’t make us feel rushed even though we came in late and we were her last table.
Still feeling full from the night before, we wake up the next morning and head over to Coronado for brunch. We drive over the bridge onto the island, known to be an affluent resort city, and drive the scenic route. The part of the island you can see is beautiful, but a lot of the island is taken up by the naval base. Some parts of the island make you think that you’ve gone back in time to the 60’s or 70’s (see above).
One of my friends told me that brunch at the Hotel Del Coronado is a MUST.
The hotel is massive, and has a charm about it. I can only imagine what it was like in it’s prime. This is the kind of grand hotel that movies are filmed at.
Brunch is in the Grand Room. And it is pretty impressive. You have to call the hotel to make reservations – and you must pre pay. At $82 a head, it wasn’t cheap – but we had high hopes. While the hotel in magnificent on the outside, the brunch could have used some updates. The linens could have been updated, the chairs were dated, the rug was dirty and the waiters, even a the beginning of their shift (we were there at 9:30 when they opened) had dirty aprons. I was hoping for the full on luxury experience… So we get there early, as I said, and there is already a line. Get there early to get a seat by the window.
As we are waiting for our waiter to come over, I notice this HUGE Jurrasic Park sized mosquito buzzing around in the window. Upon closer inspection, there are LOTS of petrified bugs in the window. You would think that they would take the time to clean the sills before the first seating, but I think they haven’t cleaned here since 1920.
So first rule of an $80 buffet, go for the high priced ticket items first. Seafood, seafood, seafood. Clams, shrimp, king crab legs, yes please! Only to find out that the crab legs don’t have much meat on them, although thank goodness they are pre-cracked, and they taste like they have been packed away in salt. The shrimps are rubbery and taste watery. So, moving on…
They have a great Italian station with pre-made salads that look delish.
Here’s a close up of my first round. Buffet comes with complimentary champagne, mimosas, bloody mary’s, juice and coffee.
Check out the sweet potato mash and short ribs!
They had a nice assortment of bakery items. I was a fan of the almond croissants.
They had people putting on the finishing touches to the desserts – check out these cute embellishments!
The prosciutto was sliced impossibly thin. I paired it with both the melon and the cheese cubes they had near by.
An amazing assortment at the pickling station.
Here’s round 2.
The desserts were a miss for me. The tiramisu was all kinds of watery and bland and the other desserts just didn’t have the “wow” factor. All in all it was a wonderful experience, even if the food wasn’t as top notch as we had hoped. So after we rolled out of brunch, we returned the rental car and headed to our next hotel.
We spent one night at Paradise Point (1404 Vacation Road). Located on a 44 acre island, this is a perfect place for a family. We arrived early and checked in. Our room wasn’t ready, but they offered us keys to the pool. We were leaving to go to Sea World anyway, so it made no difference that our room wasn’t ready. We booked with a promotion that got us 20% off our room when we used our American Express and we were entitled to a room upgrade if one was available. The hotel was at capacity, so we didn’t get the upgrade after all.
The hotel is beautiful and the service is top notch. They bring you by golf cart to your room because they are laid out over a wide area. We just missed the water taxi to Sea World – so we had to go by regular taxi. Bummer! Check the gift shop for tickets and schedules.
The lookout tower was closed for construction, but doesn’t it look cool?
They had a bunch of gazebos and decks that you could sit out at. With such a big property, we barely saw other people. They have multiple pools, one adult only, and BBQ pits where you can cook s’mores at night – a beach area, multiple restaurants, bike and boat rentals and more.
Check out these cute baby ducks we saw on our walk around the property.
Here’s the view from our room. Each room comes with a parking spot (extra cost).
The rooms are like their own private cottages. It was super quiet. And while I like that they had room darkeners over the windows, I wish they carried it all the way across the room – it got pretty bright in the morning.
A great little living area.
A desk area.
A breakfast nook.
The outer bathroom.
The spacious inner bathroom.
They sent us some cookies because we were celebrating! So we head over to Sea World, about a $20 taxi ride. Again, I recommend buying tickets ahead of time – two adults were $64 each, for a total of $128.
We get there early and get a seat for the One World show. While it had been partly cloudy for most of our trip, today was super sunny and we BAKED. Make sure to bring sunscreen. We picked a row towards the center, and it was the first row outside of the “splash zone”. The show fills up pretty quickly, so show up early if you want a good seat.
One of the whales just had a baby, who was also in the show. Pretty cool. Sea World makes it a point to recognize the men and women who serve this country, before the show started they asked anyone who had served to stand up and the whole place erupted with applause. Very emotional. Back to Shamu. It is amazing, the sheer size of these animals and how high they can jump out of the water.
I thin everyone “thinks” they want to sit in the splash zone, wouldn’t it be fun, we will get sprinkled…yeah, think again. We are talking DOUSED with water. Note the man carrying his child running up the stairs. Lots of screaming, surprised and unhappy children. Don’t worry, they sell towels and parkas.
Pretty amazing show.
While the zoo was crowded, it didn’t feel that way. Here, it gets congested, especially at the shows. If you are on two feet you are a minority, considering the amount of motorized chairs and strollers there are. And be prepared to walk.
The seals were pretty cute, they were showing off.
You can buy food to feed the seals.
We weren’t going to go to the Sea Lion show, but it was starting and we decided why not? “Biff” was entertaining the crowd before the show started. He was playing various songs and dancing to the famous scenes. Can you guess this one? Flashdance! It was probably one of the funniest shows I’ve seen.
The show lasts about 20 minutes, and they do scenes from popular shows – Dancing with the Stars, CSI, and Survivor. Above is “Gangnam Style“.
The show is about 20 minutes and you don’t want it to end.
The penguin exhibit was a little disappointing. There are better views of them at the New England Aquarium. Here they are in a dark exhibit and it is hard to see through the glass. You are on a moving walkway so your time is limited. They do have a few penguins playing outside – this guy looks a little sunburned :)
We went to downtown San Diego for dinner that night. BiCE is a cute little restaurant in the Gaslamp district on the corner of 4th and Island (425 Island Ave).
They had some wonderful specials. I had to have the gnocchi.
The restaurant is bright and modern with clean lines and dark wood.
We started with the burrata ($14) that came with cherry tomatoes and seasoned with olive oil and basil. Just look at those magnificent colors. The burrata was smooth and creamy – some of the best we have had.
The butter alternative.
We ordered the braised beef, veal and spinach stuffed ravioli ($21) smothered in marsala wine sauce. Wonderful flavors.
I had the gnocchi special with wine braised beef ragu ($23). The plates look small but the food was rich and it was just the right amount. The service here was sporadic. Moments were good – the manager came over and was helping us, and then we would be ignored for a course.
For dessert, we ordered one that needed 10 minutes to bake. Wish we would have known about this before we ordered dessert. We had the pistachio and chocolate molton lava cake with raspberry sauce and Hibiscus ice cream. ($11)
Here’s a pet peeve of mine. You go to an upscale restaurant- they bring you coffee and actually place it in front of you (and leave it) spilled over the side and all over the saucer. Not a deal breaker, as I said, just a pet peeve.
And the moment we have been waiting for…the dessert. THIS is what an $11 dessert should look like. It is a work of art and equally as delicious – we devour every bite. We would certainly recommend this place to friends and if we are ever back in the area, we would go again.
The trip over all was wonderful – it was nice to get away, nice to see a new city, nice to be out of Boston and out of the monsoon that we were having! Looking forward to our next vacation, where ever that may be!