26 April, 2013

USA Adventure: Part 3 - San Diego!

The 6 hour drive from Tucson to San Diego was pretty amazing. Heading across the Interstate 8, through desert towns like Casa Grande and Yuma, the landscape changes from desert mountains to desert sands and into the most incredible boulder mounds I’ve ever seen. Huge flat expanses of land are home to giant windmills, generating energy from the wind farms and slowly disappearing the close to the coast you get.
 

Once we arrived in San Diego, we checked into our accommodation for the duration, the Lafayette Hotel, Swim Club & Bungalows. Built in 1946, this historic property was once a vacation hotspot for Hollywood’s elite, including celebrities like Bob Hope and Ava Gardner. The hotel has kept much of its grand colonial style and seamlessly blended it into the facilities you’d come to expect in a modern hotel. The rooms themselves (or at least the poolside room that we stayed in) was fairly basic compared to the grandeur of the rest of the hotel but given we weren’t spending too much time in there it served its purpose. The service was reasonable but not quite as good as we were expecting, particularly for the price we paid. In saying that, it was lovely to be surrounded by such classic beauty.
 

Our first night in San Diego, we had a (rather strong but delicious) drink at the hotel bar before heading next door to the Red Fox. This old English steakhouse also featured a piano bar and has a history of its own. Originally built in Surrey around 1560, the inn was dismantled in 1926 and shipped to America for actress Marion Davies. By the 1950s, Ms Davies sold the property and after a short time in storage, the Red Fox came to rest in San Diego and is now an icon. We had dinner and drinks in this intimate and atmospheric restaurant before retiring for the night rather giggly and looking forward to sightseeing the next day.
 

After a bit of hike in the morning (read a 1 hour flat out walk up and down hills thanks to some dodgy advice from the front desk) we made it to beautiful Balboa Park. America’s largest urban cultural park, Balboa is home to 15 major museums, renowned performing arts venues, beautiful gardens and the San Diego Zoo. A sprawling 490 hectares, we finally found our tram that was to take us around the beautiful city of San Diego. This was a fantastic day of sightseeing, with the hop on hop off tram allowing you to see what you wanted to see without wasting time on things you didn’t. We cruised through Little Italy and the Old Town, touted as ‘little Tijuana’ but seeing as we were going to the real thing in a couple of days decided not to hop off. We did drive past Whaley House though, which is a rather old house that is renowned as America’s Most Haunted House. It did look kinda spooky.
 

Next it was off the Harbour and Marina. We got off here for a lovely stroll along the foreshore seeing a huge aircraft carrier and a cruise ship as well as some beautiful old ships including the Star of India, an iconic old ship that is so old it was built when Abraham Lincoln was still president! We downed a margarita while we watched the boats sailing on the horizon before hopping back on the trolley for a scenic ride through the lovely Seaport Village. Then it was on to the famous Gaslamp Quarter, home to some stunning old architecture as well as a huge range of bars, restaurants and theatres. We explored some of the local hangouts and picked up a couple of souvenirs before stopping in for a beer at…none other than…Hooters! Haha
 

Back on the trolley we drove through downtown and past the famous Petco Park Stadium (known for its baseball) before doing over the big bridge to Coronado. A little island off the coast of San Diego, Coronado is a beautiful little spot home to the historic Hotel Del Coronado, a National Historic Landmark. Built in 1888, this Victorian luxury beachfront resort has been host to a number of famous guests and was even the setting for Marilyn Monroe’s film Some Like It Hot. We explored the stunning gardens, classic old architecture and beautiful beachfront location of this amazing hotel before hopping back on the trolley and returning to Balboa Park.
 

We had some dinner at the hotel bar/restaurant where we met some friendly guys who shared a few drinks with us and even footed our bill at the end of the night! Everyone was so friendly over there! The next day we visited the San Diego Zoo which, despite everything we’d heard, was very much a disappointment. It is supposed to be the ‘best zoo in the world’ and while that may have been so 10-15 years ago, it’s certainly not true today. The habitats were quite small and not very well landscaped, there were lots of empty enclosures and the animals were a rather sad sight to see, with most of them looking unhappy or flat our stir crazy. It was sad and frustrating and disappointing. We would have preferred to spend another day exploring San Diego. Still, it’s all a learning experience. Luckily the guys at the bar the night before had recommended a great place to eat, Lucha Libre, and so we ended the day there with a delicious burrito in a VERY cool shop who’s claim to fame apart from some of the best burritos was a visit from the TV show Man V Food. As one of my fave TV shows, it was a real kick to visit this place.
 

Well that’s it for San Diego! The next day we headed over the border into Tijuana, Mexico. Bet you can’t wait to hear all about that one, huh!? Well sorry, but you’ll just have to wait until Monday for that!

In the meantime, you can catch up on the beginning of my USA adventure in Vegas including my Vegas tattoo, the Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekender, the wild west and tiki bars of Arizona, our San Diego experience, making it back alive from Tijuana, Long Beach and the Queen Mary, amazing Palm Springs and all the adventures of Hollywood!

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