Posts Tagged ‘california’

Here’s a quick guide to what we did and where we ate while we were in San Diego.

What to See

San Diego Zoo

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San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Splurge on one of the special tours if you can.

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Point Loma Lighthouse

On your way to see the light house, stop off to see the crashing waves and the tide pools.

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San Diego Water Front

Just walk down toward the water. There is plenty to see.

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The Gaslamp Quarter

Plenty of shopping and food options.

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Where to Eat

Lucha Libre Tacos

Fun place inside. I had the surf and turf taco and a queso taco. Yum!!

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Hopping Pig Gastropub

We had pulled pork sliders, a beer flight, braised short ribs and a burger with an egg on top.

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We had breakfast. Everything we ate was delicious. I had the rancheros verdes, but it didn’t photograph as well as the pancakes.

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Sadly, I did not get pictures of any other food.


Steaks, lobster risotto, drinks and desserts were delicious. We thought¬† Jim Croce’s wife was our waitress, but it it wasn’t her.

RA Sushi

Even though it’s a chain, the food was delicious.

Spike Africa’s

Good for a larger group. The grilled artichoke and ceviche were delicious. I had the shrimp and bacon mac and cheese, which did not disappoint. Others in the group had fish and chips, scallops and really liked both.

The Beer Co.

Stopped in for a snack. They had good happy hour food and drink specials.


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San Diego March 2013

So for almost a whole year, my internet friend turned real friend, Becky and I had been talking about a vacation together with our husbands. We’d met at the Blathering in Austin in 2011 and then were roommates in New Orleans in 2012, so we knew we’d get along just fine.

We discussed locations, wanting to choose somewhere neither couple had been, somewhere there wasn’t snow (Becky and her husband live in Minnesota!), and somehow we decided on San Diego. We picked a general time frame, didn’t talk about it for a few months, then about 2 months before, pinned down a final date, booked flights and hotel rooms and we’d figure most of the rest out when we got there. And we crossed our fingers that the husbands would get along. ūüôā

Taylor and I got to San Diego on Thursday, a full day before Becky and H got to town (I’ll go with his usual internet name for privacy). We also got in really early so our room wasn’t ready when we got to the hotel (the Courtyard by Marriott in the Gaslamp Quarter). We weren’t terribly worried about it, so we just dropped our bags off and were going to go out exploring. Before we made it out of the building, the news was on about the new Pope announcement, so we were kind of waiting around to see who it was going to be. In the meantime, the bellman started talking to us and offered a private tour of the building, which used to be a bank and had been recently restored. And took us up to the cupola, which isn’t usually open for guests.

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They renovated the meeting space to incorporate the old bank vault.

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The ceilings and paintings around the building were so beautiful.

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Becky and H were scheduled to arrive later in the afternoon on Friday, so Taylor and I went to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in the morning before picking them up at the airport. We splurged on the caravan safari, where you get to ride in the back of an open truck through the wilderness. While there were many more animals, the highlights were definitely getting to see a baby rhino (he was only 2 weeks old!) and getting to feed the giraffes.

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Taylor made sure I fed the most slobbery giraffe here. Half my arm was green from chewed leaves. Yuck! What a nice husband.

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After Becky and Dave arrived, we walked down to the water for a while, before dinner.

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When we got back to the hotel after dinner, we saw our bellman friend who invited us on a tour he was giving to some other people.

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On Friday, we went to the San Diego Zoo. It was even bigger than I could have imagined. We had a great time, despite repeating the same path like 4 times. “Oh, hey. There is the sun bear again.”

The biggest highlight was seeing the baby panda, since they only let people go in the viewing area for a couple of hours a day.  But the other pandas were cool to look at too. One was napping, and one was pacing.

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I was also pumped to see koalas who were hiding in the trees so well we almost didn’t see them.

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More photographic proof that we did indeed go on vacation together.

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We were wiped out after the zoo, so we went back to the hotel to rest for a bit before meeting up with another internet friend, Ginger and her husband.

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On our second full day together, we drove over to Coronado. The weather was still a bit cool for bathing suits, so we just walked around for a bit. The sand is really pretty and has golden flecks in it.

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On Saturday, we drove to Point Loma to look at the tidal pools and the light house. Both Becky and H approved of the ocean views.

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I got in a cave.

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The lighthouse was just ok.

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After a long day of driving, we went back to the hotel to rest a bit and get ready for dinner. Becky and I had a pre-dinner cocktail at the hotel bar before dinner. And after a delicious and hilarious sushi dinner, we weren’t quite ready to say goodbye. Taylor and I were heading out early in the morning, so Becky and I sat up a while longer catching up on life while the guys went back to the rooms.

It was such a fun trip. It makes me sad we don’t live closer to Becky and H. Hopefully sometime in the future we can plan another vacation!

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This is a post that is long overdue (actually, it’ll be two posts).¬†I’ve been putting it off because there were so many pictures I wanted to share, but¬†adding images can be a little time intensive.

In April, Taylor and I went to San Francisco. Taylor had a conference, and I tagged along. Last June we honeymooned in California and stayed in San Francisco a portion of our time, so we loved it, and were excited to be back so soon after our honeymoon. (In fact we were there exactly one year ago!)

The trip didn’t disappoint, and since I never did get around to sharing pictures from the honeymoon, these will have to suffice. I promise you’ll enjoy them. But first, get yourself a snack and something to drink,¬†this will take a while.

When we arrived in SF we hit the ground running. We picked up the rental car, and made a last-minute reservation to¬†see the Castello di Amorosa. It’s a full size replica castle and winery. We’d¬†done the tour and tasting¬†our honeymoon, and¬†it was¬†worth it¬†enough to go back and for us to bring a friend. This is a fresco painted in the chapel, that holds a Sunday morning Latin Mass.

 And this one is in the great banquet hall. Some of the fixtures are from actual old castles.

This time I stopped to take a picture of the Napa sign, something I didn’t even see last time we were there.

We would have liked to stay longer and visit a few more wineries, but we were exhausted from being up before 5am to catch our flight. So we drove the 2ish hours back to San Francisco to check into our hotel.

The hotel was beautiful, and located right in Union Square. As we were checking in we inquired into making sure we were in the nicer part of the building, rather than the historic part, since we’d heard the historic part was more old than charming. The person checking us in offered us a room in the new section of the hotel.¬†He sold it as being bigger than regular sized rooms, for the same price, only that it had a Murphy bed. I¬†double checked that the Murphy bed would be just as “heavenly” as all their other beds, and we were assured it would be. I should have known better.

The queen sized Murphy bed was most certainly not “heavenly” and in fact squeaked and creaked all through the night. To make matters worse, we were on the corner of the building¬†and in addition to the wind whipping around the building, wafting up from the streets were the sounds of a panhandler drumming on some buckets and the light pole. I was exhausted, and couldn’t really handle the¬†drumming, so I called downstairs to¬†guest services to find out what the deal was, and¬†when¬†the music would stop.¬†¬†10PM. It was only in the 8 o’clock hour so I was offered some earplugs. I thought I could handle it, so I politely declined. But after only a few minutes I called back and took them up on their offer of the earplugs. They showed up nearly an hour after my request, so I put in the earplugs and drifted off to bed. The next day I¬†was still a little pissed that the guy at the front lied to us about the “heavenly” qualities of the bed. So I marched down to the front desk to ask if there was another room available. I kindly explained that the bed wasn’t what the original guy made it out to be, and that we’d like to switch. Fortunately, we were able to switch, and spent the remainder of our nights in a bed that was actually heavenly, and king sized for that matter. We could still hear the panhandler one man band, but it was more tolerable a few floors up. And thanks to the earplugs.

I was free to roam around by myself most of the days since Taylor was in conference sessions. One of my favorite things is sightseeing all by myself. It means I don’t have to worry about what someone else wants to do, and I can go back to the hotel whenever I am ready. One of the days I set out in the morning and walked forever. (Although I didn’t actually calculate my mileage, I estimate I probably walked about 15 or 20 miles in the 6 days we were in SF.)

The hotel wasn’t far from Chinatown, so I took off in that direction. Although I didn’t buy anything in Chinatown, I did enjoy checking out the shops and the¬†sights.¬†

Not long after I was out of Chinatown, it started to rain so I ducked into Caffe Trieste¬†(the North Beach location) and ordered a cappuccino and a bagel. Thank goodness I had a little bit of cash on me, since they didn’t take plastic. The bagel was delicious and the cappuccino was authentically Italian. I’d love to live close by, I’d go there all the time. They even have Saturday afternoon concerts.

Once I finished, and the rain let up, I headed back on my trek toward Coit Tower and Telegraph Hill. The walk really wasn’t that far, but it was very humid since it had been raining, so I was getting a little bit annoyed with my coat and shoved it into my bag.

Not far from the tower is the magnificent Saints Peter and Paul Church. I didn’t go in but should have. It’s a magnificent building.

The street that runs right in front of the church heads up toward Coit Tower, so I made a right turn and headed up a very steep street. The tower is on top of Telegraph Hill.¬†I unfortunately didn’t see any of the famed wild parrots, but the hill was very beautiful. I couldn’t believe there were houses up there.

Inside the tower are brightly painted murals illustrating the industries of California. 

The ride to the top of the tower cost me a couple bucks, but it was worth it, despite the rain.

There’s not much at the top of the tower, so after looking around a bit I headed back down, and then continued on my walk. I had read about some stairway walks at Telegraph Hill, so I headed down one of a couple stairways.

I didn’t find the tiled stairway I was hoping to find, but I did stumble upon a magical garden stairway that continued for what seemed like forever. The stairways continued steeply down the hill, passing right through people’s backyards.

I couldn’t resist taking a picture of this perfect calla lily growing in someone’s garden.

Off and on it would rain, and I’d need to get my umbrella out. But that didn’t stop me from taking pictures.

Toward the end of the day, I was soaked from the bottom up and headed back to the hotel to dry off. It rained nearly every day, so I’d go back to the¬†hotel in the afternoon and hang up my jeans in on the shower curtain rod, and watch TV while I waited¬†for¬†Taylor to get back from his meetings.

And now I awkwardly end this post, since I have WAY too many pictures and stories for this one post.

Stay tuned for part 2…

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As I finish sharing about my trip to California, more than a month after the fact, I can’t believe I didn’t share a very interesting portion of my trip.

It happened on my first day in Long Beach, as I was searching for a place to eat lunch. From afar, I spied a scantily dressed woman pushing¬†a baby stroller. It wasn’t hard for me to notice the¬†deep V-neck halter top and mini skirt¬†from nearly a block’s distance. It was also easy to see the black fedora perched atop long, red, dyed hair. I knew it was dyed, even at that distance, because that color doesn’t typically occur in nature. I couldn’t believe a mother was pushing her child down the street in a stroller¬†wearing that. I guess it takes self-confidence that I doubt I’ll ever have.

As she approached me, I could more clearly make out that her mini skirt was made of fur and draped across the handle bars of the stroller was a long fur coat. In the seat of the stroller was not a child, as I had initially thought, but rather, two large rabbits Рone black and one white.

I wish I had the balls to take a picture from the front, but after she passed me on the sidewalk, I lingered for a few moments and grabbed my camera before snapping a photo.

Seriously, one of the best parts of traveling is people watching.

Have you ever spied some interesting characters on your trips??

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The day after my LA tour I headed out to Long Beach, for part two of my work trip. Fortunately, Long Beach is only about 20 miles or so away from LA. After a crazy time paying my ride…no cash, driver’s credit card machine broken, hotel atm out of cash…I ended up getting a cash advance from the hotel on my¬†room account, and¬†finally got settled in.

I enjoyed a quick lunch at Rock Bottom Brewery just across the street before heading down to the marina to find a whale watching tour. After buying my ticket, I had some time to spare, so I wandered around the area, to check out the light house

and the Queen Mary, a huge cruise ship from the 1930’s that has been turned into a hotel and tourist attraction. I couldn’t figure out exactly how to get to the ship so I didn’t actually visit. I kind of wish I had. The thing is bigger than the Titanic. But it was cool¬†to view from across the water. ¬†

I lined up with other whale watching tourists, waiting in anticipation. I really hoped we’d actually get to see a whale.

As we began our tour, the representative from the local aquarium explained what sea life we might encounter (dolphins, pelicans, birds, whales), and what to look for if you saw a whale (smoke-like puff above the water, whale fins). We were instructed to keep our eyes peeled and shout “thar she blows” if we saw a whale.

Not very long after we spotted some kind of sea birds and then several dolphins.

A few swam right alongside the boat for a while.

After cruising a while longer, and seeing many more dolphins, the whale spotter called out a hearty “thar she blows”. Of course no one actually saw it so we had to trust him, and the boat captain turned the boat in the whale’s direction. We slowly approached the general location of the sighting before coming to a stop to wait. Whales come to the surface approximately every 3-5 minutes, so we all waited. Then we saw¬†the whale in the distance, but since no one was really familiar with whale spotting, we¬†caught¬†a tiny¬†glimpse of the lingering¬†“puff” and then the¬†tail slip into the water.¬†The captain got a better idea of¬†which way the whale was headed, so we got closer, and again waited with bated breath. Finally, camera ready, I saw the puff of water

and the tail flip out of the water

and then quietly slip back in. I couldn’t believe it.¬†It was freezing out on the water, but I waited out on the front deck of the boat as we followed the whale for probably 30 minutes.¬†The sun was beginning to set, as we caught one last glimpse of the whale and headed back to the dock.

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My 3rd day in LA, was February 25th. My workshops ended early, so I had time to book a tour of the LA area. Being near the airport is super crappy because there really isn’t anything nearby and you don’t really want to walk anywhere.

I booked a tour that would go all over the city an would last about 5 hours. It would keep me busy for most of the afternoon and into the evening. If I got back in time I thought I’d take the trolley back to Manhattan Beach.

The tour company was scheduled to pick me up around 2:45PM. Another girl from the hotel was waiting for the same tour. I wasn’t really interested in chatting, but we ended up talking anyway. She was in the middle of a¬†voluntary leave of absence from¬†her job as a lawyer in New York City and was spending the year traveling the world.¬†¬†She was from New Jersey and had to¬†unexpectedly stay in LA fo about a week because she had gotten sick on her flight home from¬†Peru (I think it was¬†Peru).¬†

We were taken from our hotel to the tour company headquarters where we boarded the main tour bus. I tend to be antisocial on trips because I just prefer to be on my own, but we ended up chatting and hanging out during the whole tour.

The guide was pretty good, but he had a funny “heh-heh” type laugh and he REALLY cracked himself up telling jokes. He laughed a lot.

First stop on the tour was Venice Beach. We got to get out and walk around a bit. It was really beautiful.

There were only one or two people lifting weights at the muscle beach but there were a lot people playing basketball.

There were men advertising medical pot shops nearby, and a guy wearing nothing but a speedo and tennis shoes.

There was a section of the beach where people with a permit could graffiti and paint art.

And there was a magnificent steel sculpture standing among the palm trees.

 After boarding the bus again, we drove what seemed like a long way. We zoomed past Beverly Hills and Rodeo Drive (as evidence by the blurry pics), 

From the bus we saw the Beverly Hills Hotel, Fox Television Studios, the Sunset Strip, Steven Spielberg’s¬†house, the Viper Room, and some restaurants owned by Johnny Depp.

After many minutes in traffic on the freeway, we finally we got to stop near the Walk of Fame.  

Before checking out any of the stars, we rushed to the spot our bus driver told us we could best see the Hollywood sign. Allegedly, the Hollywood sign is possibly going to be gone in the next couple years, so our bus driver really wanted us to be able to see it.


I didn’t take too many pictures of the Walk of Fame because there are just too many stars¬†to choose from. I did get Michael Jackson, who died while I was in California on my honeymoon last June.

¬†Grauman’s Chinese Theater was really cool to see.

It got dark while we were at the Walk of Fame, and soon it was time to get back on the bus. Our last stop was the Farmer’s Market. There were tons of restaurants and shops, but there wasn’t too much time to browse. I ended up with a bottle of wine¬† for me (2007 PETS Petite Syrah, a portion of sales goes to animal shelters) and a few souvenir chocolate bars for Taylor. (Dark Chocolate with bacon anyone?)

Finally, it was time to head back to the hotel, where I grabbed a cheese pizza from the hotel bar/restaurant and called it a night.

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My trip to LA was pretty uneventful…other than the fact that I somehow was originally assigned a seat near the back of the plane. Now this might sound really stupid or petty, but I hate sitting near the back of the plane. First, its near the rear bathroom, and I can’t really handle that. And second, there are many people who act like they have never had to form a calm, straight line. It takes 87 thousand years to get off a plane if you are near the back. And there are often people who act like they don’t know how to form a nice, straight line, and politely exit the plane. There are also the morons who get on the plane 2.5 seconds before the plane door closes, then they have to put their massive sized carry-on, in the back of the plane. Their seat however is near the front, and they naturally insist on trying to get to the back to get their luggage before everyone else gets off.

Ugh. Enough of my rambling. Anyhow, I was lucky enough to be able to swap to a seat in row 8. Rows 5 or 6 (depending on how big first class is) through 10 are ideal for me. Too bad my favorite airline is now going to be charging extra for the bulkhead seats and exit rows, because I didn’t mind sitting in either place.

Once I got to the hotel, I didn’t really do much. The hotel was near the airport, so there was nothing in walking distance, and I was kind of tired, so I stayed in, ate some mediocre fish tacos at the hotel restaurant, and went to bed early.

My second day was February 25th. I had  training for work (yeah, the actual reason I was in LA). Once we ended for the day, I bought a $3 ticket for the trolley to Manhattan Beach.  

It was a neat little seaside town. Apparently it’s all man-made beach, but I didn’t care. It was cute. I took a few¬†photos of the beach, the ocean and some surfers. The evening was overcast, so the photos don’t quite show the actual beauty.

After walking around in the sand in my tennis shoes (pretty¬†difficult I might add) I decided to walk¬†back up to the main street and look for something to eat. I checked out the menus on¬†several restaurant’s doors, but¬†ultimately decided on a place called Darren’s. I made a very good choice.

 And luckily it was happy hour, so some of the menu items were half price. While I sipped a glass of Zinfandel, I decided on Lobster Chowder and Shrimp Ravioli.

The Lobster Chowder was AMAZING! It was so different from¬†any chowder I’ve ever had before. Lobster knuckles, corn, shiitake mushrooms, purple potato, and sweet potato in a coconut milk broth….mmmm, my mouth is watering just thinking about it. There was just enough spice to it, and the coconut milk was so¬†unexpected, but really made the dish. I did not get a photo, it was gone that fast.¬†

Then the Shrimp Ravioli came out. Again, so delicious. The ravioli was made with goat cheese and pine nuts, rock shrimp, shiitake mushrooms¬†and white truffle oil. I got a picture this time, but it doesn’t do the dish one bit of justice. You’ll just have to trust how me on how yummy it was.

I really ought to have stopped after the ravioli, and my second glass of Zin, but when the manager brought me a sample of his signature drink, the frisky pear, I decided I wanted to see the dessert menu.

After a bit of contemplation, I decided on the Chocolate Nutella souffle. Who can pass up Nutella and chocolate together??? Not me.

I couldn’t eat the whole thing, but the crispy outer crust and gooey center really hit the spot. It was served with a small scoop of vanilla bean gelato that perfectly complimented it. The photo I got also doesn’t do¬†it justice.¬†

The owner of the restaurant, Darren, was in there that night with his wife. And the bartender/manager was really nice. The restaurant was really cool and cozy, and I seriously contemplated going back the next night, even though I didn’t ultimately end up back at Manhattan Beach.

Stay tuned for my LA tour bus adventure and my stay in Long Beach.

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