23 April 2014

San Diego Days, with Maria and Bonnie!

Ocean Beach Pier

In February, and going into the beginning of March, it was my pleasure to host two of my favorite people at our new home in San Diego. Maria escaped the Polar Vortex from Minnesota, and two weeks later, Bonnie sought refuge from the Polar Vortex happening in Chicago.

Thanks, Polar Vortex!

OB surfersBreakfast Burrito - Ocean Beach Pier Cafe

12 February This morning, Maria and I drove down to Ocean Beach pier, to check out the beach, the surfers, and to get breakfast at the OB pier cafe. (Delicious breakfast burrito above.)

Taylor Guitar factory tour!

After breakfast, we took a circuitous route through Pacific Beach and La Jolla, before turning east toward El Cajon. Our destination? The Taylor Guitars factory, for a free guided tour with other guitar enthusiasts (and their hosts).

Taylor Guitar factory tour!

Maria was concerned that she was dragging me to something boring, but I assured her that I "enjoy learning things about stuff." And the tour is good. The tour guide was one of the company higher ups, and he had a relaxed, friendly, informative demeanor, with occasional jokes.

Cleo greets us through the window.

After the tour, we returned to my house for rest, before heading out to our dear friend Rebecca's house, across town. (When I moved back to San Diego, this time I was moving to a city where one of my college roommates/best friends ever now resides! How lucky is that?) We enjoyed dinner and conversation, and Rebecca's little boy's antics, and I failed to take a photograph of any of us. Boo on me.

Back at home later that night, we greeted the kitty through the window before entering the house. ^


13 February We had a late start this morning, thanks to Amanda sleeping in. "No worries," said Maria, who had been out on our backyard patio, reading her book in the sunshine. I laughed, because she'd closed the back kitchen door on Cleo, who'd been standing on the other side of the screen door, meowing incessantly to let her (Cleo) outside for companionship/exploring. (How can you resist THAT KITTEN FACE, Maria?!?!)

For lunch, we drove to Hillcrest, and after surveying restaurants offering food from around the globe, we decided on a kebabery, Luna Grill. A gyro plate, chicken kebab, and spinach pies, my my.

Hillcrest Neighborhood Sign

I'm a little obsessed with San Diego's neighborhood signs. ("Collect them all!")

Balboa Park Botanical GardenBalboa Park corridor

After looking around Hillcrest, we meandered (with the car, I mean) over to Balboa Park. Above, the Botanical Garden and a corridor off the main thoroughfare, El Prado.

a hummingbird in Balboa Park

There weren't many roses in bloom in the rose garden, but I did find a hummingbird feasting on the one of these Crimson Bottlebrush flowers. (Lower right. See 'im?)

Balboa Park Cactus Garden

It was business as usual in the cactus garden.

cactus in the cactus garden

Don't get into a brawl in a cactus garden.

Point Loma Tidal Pools

Next on the agenda: the tide pools at Cabrillo National Monument, at the southern tip of Point Loma.

Point Loma Tidal Pools

This area is so beautiful. I was surprised that I hadn't yet been to this part of San Diego, though I had visited the monument in the past. (Thanks to Rebecca and Jim for the tip!)

octopus in the tidal pool

Thanks to the efforts of a few students and their professor, we came across an octopus in one of the tide pools! See that? That brown blobby thing in the water, in the middle of the photo? Octopus.

students at the Point Loma tidal poolsMaria at Point Loma tidal pools

The aforementioned students, and Maria. The prof had tromped about the water, demonstrating how to lure an octopus from under the rock by simply sticking his hand under the rock and letting the octopus tentacles feel for wiggling fingers.

Maria and Amanda at Point Loma

Back on the top of the monument, Maria and I posed with Coronado and downtown San Diego in the background.

The Sunset Cliffs

Later, we returned to my house, only to leave soon afterward on bicycles: onward to the Sunset Cliffs! For the sunset.

Sunset Cliffs

Above, Sunset Cliffs scenes. While we waited for the sun to sink into the horizon, a random sunset looker asked if he could photograph my bike. I said "sure," and then I decided to photograph it myself.

On the Coronado ferry.cute retro motel signage

14 February On this beautiful Friday, Maria and I biked from Ocean Beach to downtown San Diego. It's six miles to Broadway Pier, where we boarded ferry to Coronado ferry. It's only $4.25 for a one-way trip on the ferry, a cheap option for seeing an abbreviated stretch of San Diego Bay by boat and exploring lovely Coronado Island by bike. (Only motorized vehicles are permitted to enter Coronado via the Coronado Bridge.)

Above, riding the ferry, and a cute retro motel. ^
Coronado Beach Valentine's Day Message

Our destination was the Hotel Del Coronado, a 125-year old beachfront luxury hotel, a National Historic Landmark and the main location for the filming of Some Like It Hot.

lunch at the Hotel Delat the water's edge

We ate lunch at the Sun Deck Grill, the more affordable restaurant on the property. I drank a "glass" of wine in the sun and gazed out onto the beach and felt fancy and decadent.

Another Hotel Del Coronado

Then we explored the beach.

Coronado Beach

Hee, they are scampering away from the rolling wave.

living sand dollar

We found countless live sand dollars, up and down the beach.

sparkling Coronado Beach

Coronado Beach is covered with sand that sparkles metallic and gold in the sunlight. This photo doesn't come close to doing the effect justice.

Hotel Del on Coronado Beach

The Hotel Del, and neighboring high-rise hotels and condos.

Maria loves San Diego!Hotel Del Coronado lobby light.

Maria loves San Diego!

After the beach, we wandered through the shops in the hotel, ate some chocolate from the candy store, and checked out the historic lobby.

Bicycles on the Coronado ferry. #sandiego #latergram

Eventually, it was time to bike back to the ferry, and then bike the six miles back home. We were exhausted from the sun on the beach, and the sun INMYEYES for at least three of those cycled miles home, so at home we vegged in front of the Olympics on TV.

Maria and Amanda

All that Olympics-watching got us geared up for a night on the town. Here we are listening to live music (some great jazzy/bluesy stuff) at a bar in the Gaslamp Quarter. Our date/drink-fetcher: MB. This place is called Speakeasy. There is no bathroom in this place, but the bartenders do take 45 minutes to hand-craft each drink. MB didn't stiff them on the tip, however, and even included an additional tip, written out on the receipt: "Be faster. You're slow and it sucks." I bet they totally changed their slow ways after that.

Choir of angels. Choir of angels! #radlerAMAZING Berkeley Pizza

It was late by the time we left Speakeasy, since we'd insisted on two drinks each, which in total required hours-worth of preparation by the bartenders. We wandered down to the bottom of 5th Avenue to see the Gaslamp Quarter sign lit up at night, and then wandered back up among the late night revelers, debating where to go next. Finally we settled on Berkeley Pizza, where the pizza is deep-dish and the drink menu offers Stiegl Radler. Stiegl Radler, yay!
lunch at Jose's!
15 February On this day, MB accompanied Maria and I to La Jolla for lunch. We hit up Jose's, so Maria could experience fish tacos and so Amanda could swig a margarita.

No wonder all the rich people want to live here. #lajollacove #sandiego #latergram

After lunch, we walked along the park and boardwalk that lines the cliffs and beaches at La Jolla Cove. I snapped this very popular on Instagram photo. #talented

La Jolla CoveFeeding opportunistic creatures: Gull, Ground Squirrel and Pidgeon #lajollacove #sandiego #latergram

Not many sea lions and pups, yet, but a variety of other creatures gathered to beg for food from gullible tourists.

Creepy sperm. #museumofman #balboapark

After lunch, we dropped MB off at home, and then drove back to Balboa Park, for the anthropology museum in the park, the Museum of Man. (We hadn't had time to tour the museum during our previous visit.)

...Where it was our pleasure to take in this illuminating model of giant sperms looking creepy in a uterus.

inside the Museum of Man

Here is a panorama of the upper level of the Museum of Man. ^

There was a display on this level that describes the history of a Native American tribe local to the San Diego area, the Kumeyaay people. I said to Maria "Oh right, the Kumeyaay!" as if I had long known of the existence of this culture. Instead, I'd randomly noticed that very morning, for the first time in my life, the name of the stretch Interstate 8 between Ocean Beach and Mission Bay: Kumeyaay Highway. Funny how stuff like that happens. (There are reasons for the names of things!)

"Beerology," at the Museum of Man, Balboa Park, San DiegoNice change of pace from the doomsayer Christians on the other end of the plaza.

The Museum of Man was also doing a fun exhibition about beer. Beerology. "Modern civilization is beer civilization! Agriculture, cities, writing, and religion all have ties to ancient craft brewing."

^ Also above, across the plaza from the usual demonstrating Christian doom-sayers ("Where will you spend eternity?!"), was an atheist booth ("A personal relationship with reality"). I appreciated the messages: "Relax. Hell does not exist. Or Heaven either. Enjoy your life."


Balboa Park El Prado

This is the view of the park above El Prado, from upper level walkway in the Museum of Man. It was Saturday, so the park was buzzing with activity. There were religious and non-religious proselytizers, Quinceañera photos by the botanical garden, live music and street performers.

Maria and Cleo!

That night, mostly TV and chatting and cuddling the kitty cat. And to the airport the next morning! It was a good visit.

Less than two weeks later...rain!

I picked Bonnie up from the airport, under clouds and scattered showers. Two months of mostly sunny days did not guarantee a sunny weekend, even for deserving visitors escaping the frigid temperatures of Chicago. It rained much needed but poorly timed rain that weekend. Oh how it rained. My Catholic guilt doesn't shield me from the feeling that meteorological occurrences ALL MY FAULT, but at least Bonnie had a sense of humor about the whole thing.

A break in the rain at Balboa Park

28 February For lunch, we ate fish tacos at South Beach Bar & Grill in Ocean Beach. Our table had a view of Ocean Beach pier, which was partially bathed in sunlight for at least twenty minutes while we were there!

After lunch, we drove over to Balboa Park, because if there's any place where you should be on a rainy day, it's a park. In the rose garden, we got trapped under an arbor during a sudden downpour. A family had also gotten trapped. One moment, when the rain seemed to cease, they tentatively walked out from under the shelter, only to return a few seconds later, when the rain saw them out in the open and decided to attack again.

Eventually we returned for the car, despite some lingering sprinkling. Coffee seemed like a good idea in the wet afternoon, so we stopped at Bread & Cie in Hillcrest. I added a dark chocolate-dipped macaroon to my latte order, because of course I did.

Somehow I managed to eat non-tacos during Bonnie's visit, once or twice.

After coffee, we picked up MB at the house, and take-out Italian food from Pepe's Italian in OB. Lasagna, garlic bread and a green salad - for dinner over at Rebecca and Jim's house! No photo of our time there, because we were distracted with eating and visiting and I guess I was a slacker.

Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo says "Seriously it *never* rains here!"

1 March Things seemed somewhat dismal and cloudy the next morning, but miraculously, the sun decided to make an appearance for a couple of hours. B and I responded by running out to the car and zipping over to explore Cabrillo National Monument. (See? Blue in the sky!)

In order to suck up the remaining sunlight, for lunch we thithered to Mission Beach, and more tacos on the restaurant patio at The Sandbar.

Reading Cinema Gaslamp, San DiegoGaslamp District neighborhood sign, San Diego

San Diego is one of the most wonderful cities in the country. There are a ton of things to do here, and 90% of them are located out of doors. So when the rain started again, we decided to catch one of the Academy Award-nominated films at the downtown Reading Cinema: Her. And it was terrific! I ended up enjoying this film much more than I thought I would. After the movie we walked around the Gaslamp and talked about the themes and scenes in the movie, and it was very nice, fun and peaceful. It struck me how starved I am for my friends who share my taste in cinema.

When we left downtown, we took a driving tour of Coronado, and then made our way home for rest/recuperation/repast before going...back downtown - for fancy bars and fancy drinks with my fancy friend. ♥

The first place we visited wasn't great, so I didn't bother to remember the name of it. I did try a vodka martini for the first time - having informed Bonnie the day before that it's time for me to be a person who drinks "grown-up" drinks. It tasted like olive-flavored vodka; I wasn't impressed. Perhaps I should have tried the Speakeasy version (yes, I went there again, because where do you go, downtown?!), because when they made my Old Fashioned, they were so meticulous in its preparation, that at one point the bartender was hand-sculpting the ice. On the recommendation of the gentlemen who'd been chatting with us at the bar at Speakeasy, we ended the night at Encore Champagne bar. I drank a cocktail that involved gin and champagne, and then straight-up starting drinking champagne by the glass. Luckily, the bar closed before I could spend too much money there.

Gin and Champagne cocktailGlass of Champagne

From fancy to not-so fancy: some earlier passenger had vomited in the cab we took back to my neighborhood. On my side of the backseat, specifically. I tipsily hinted to the cab driver in the most Minnesotan way possible that "perhaps he should consider cleaning it?" The smell didn't prevent us from craving late night tacos, though, and I directed him to drop us off at Roberto's taco shop. We ordered tacos for the third time within a 48 hour period, and then walked home with them, because no one ever regrets drunk tacos on the morning after.

Another Classic Mission Shot  Mission San Diego de Alcala

3 March On this day, we explored the Mission San Diego de Alcalá, the first of the California's 17 missions built under the direction of Junípero Serra, and the sixth of those 17 missions visited by me.

Mission San Diego de AlcalaClassic Mission Shot  Mission San Diego de Alcala

The mission is nestled in the middle of a bunch of unremarkable apartment buildings and office parks, which seemed historically irreverent, and vaguely depressing to me.

blue cross, orange flowers

Still, it features many of the details that make these missions interesting and beautiful. Also I realized where many of the names for things this area had originated: Mission Valley, Friar's Road, Serra Mesa. #lightbulb

San Diego Mission Garden

As you can see, it was still raining this morning. But it cleared up in the afternoon!

Orange lilies in the garden of Mission San Diego de Alcala

After we left the mission, I drove us out to Pacific Beach. The sun was out, so we walked along the boardwalk and browsed the beachy shops.

Crystal Pier

Crystal Pier was cruelly closed to the public. Shenanigans.

Looking north, toward Tourmaline  Pacific Beach, San Diego

After the beach, via In-N-Out (!), we drove back home. We had just enough time to snack on burgers and fries and for me to do the prep work for Tater Tot Hotdish, before leaving for our friends' H&W's home. They were having a party, and there would Oscars-Watching!

B & I watched several of the Academy Awards shows together/at Oscar parties when we lived in MN, and we chatted online during others, since we both moved away. So it was special that her trip aligned at exactly the right time for watching another ceremony together, if not the right time for a 100% sunny San Diego weekend. (Here is where I blogged about the ceremony.)

Blue and Green La Jolla Cove

3 March Well, obviously the sun would be shining brightly on the day she had to fly home.

seals on the beach at La Jolla Cove

We spent the late morning before I had to drive to the airport, at La Jolla Cove, with coffee and croissants from Living Room Coffee.

seals on the beach at La Jolla Cove

There were sea lions and sea lion pups basking and frolicking on the beach.

La Jolla Harbor Seal

Life is good.

La Jolla Cove lifeguard station, in blue green and yellow

I thought I'd get a picture of us when we were out downtown, but I'd forgotten. Then I aimed for Oscar night, but had forgotten then, as well. La Jolla provides a prettier background for photos, anyway.

Bonnie and Amanda at La Jolla Cove

After a brief stop at a gas station, where I finally learned how to use a San Diego gas pump (#skillz), it was off to the airport for my friend, and another wonderful visit in the books.