Ahhhhhhh. That is the sound of returning from four days of California fun and sun. I am a little red, and a lot happy.
Every year, Mike and I do something special to celebrate April 2nd, the day we said our vows. I can’t believe it’s been three years already.
For our first anniversary, we hiked Red Rocks with Knox and then went to our favorite Italian restaurant, Carrabba’s. For our second anniversary, we toured northern California (San Francisco, Sonoma, Monterey, and Big Sur). And this year, we decided to return to California for a “sleepier” tour of the southern half in San Diego … although it ended up being much more eventful.
We booked our stay through AirBNB, since we loved our first experience with the site so much. (Terry and Bobbi in Sonoma, we miss you!)
This time around was a little different, as there were a few discrepancies on our host’s description of the stay. We thought we had access to a hot tub, but it was an exercise pool that only heated to 80 degrees (instead, we never used it). We thought we had free reign of some beach cruisers, but we had to put a cash deposit down to use them (instead, we ended up walking everywhere and not using the bikes at all). We thought we’d be the only guests staying at the house (instead, we shared a bathroom with two other guests during our stay). It was a bit micromanaged and was not at all as private and relaxing as our last AirBNB experience.
But we couldn’t complain. We were two blocks from the beach and all the night life along the boardwalk. We also were preoccupied with our out-and-about activities. So much so, in fact, that we barely took any pictures. It seems we made a non-verbal agreement to just enjoy our experience and not try and document it too much (and with picture-obsessed people like Mike and I, that serves as a testament to how much fun we had).
Here are our favorite moments of the trip and the few pictures we did manage to take.
Day 1: A Strange Breakfast, San Diego Zoo, and Mission Blvd. Deliciousness
When we landed in San Diego, it was early morning, overcast, and chilly (the one day a year San Diego doesn’t have perfect weather, apparently). We decided to find a cute breakfast place before deciding what to do next (that’s how we roll). We ended up going to Café Bassam … which was a complete miss. The cappuccino tasted like tar and the best we could find on their “breakfast” menu was toast… with strange herbs in it (no, not that kind!), which they paired with a spicy apricot jam (read: disgusting). As we tried to consume the gross “meal,” we found many other things to complain about: the sassy waitress who told us there was only one kind of jam, and the fact that the café was literally an antique shop picking up dust. “Café Bassam” ended up being a running joke the whole trip. Lesson learned: Don’t be fooled by hipster-esque looks when it comes to your sacred morning coffee. [Note: Reviews on Yelp were great... so maybe we just had an unlucky visit.]
Full on strange-tasting toast, we decided to spend the day at the zoo before check-in at our AirBNB. With a coupon and a AAA discount, we made our way in and had a really great time. We walked almost nonstop for five and a half hours; the San Diego Zoo is the largest I’ve ever been to. We saw every animal imaginable, except the pandas, because the line was over two hours long. Our favorite animals were the honey badger, the maned wolf, and these two guys:
We crashed in our AirBNB bed that evening for a nap before heading out to Mission Blvd. to check out The Duck Dive, a dinner recommendation from our host. We were hungry, but decided to split their specialty, the Duck Fat Fries (“load ‘em up” style). That was the correct decision, because the plate was huge and the greasy fries were filling, to say the least. We inhaled them and I never documented the evidence. I did, however, snap a picture of our dessert, which we did not share, although we should have (we were blinded by our sweet teeth).
The Baked Bear was incredibly delicious, and the concept is so simple it’s stupid: home-made ice cream sandwiches with cookies and brownies. They can even “press” your sandwich so that the brownie and/or cookie (or in my case, both) are warm and melty.
Day 2: Universal Studios Hollywood: The Studio Tour
We made a split-second decision to go to Los Angeles because I wanted to see Hollywood and Mike really wanted to go to a theme park. We almost went to Disney, but decided on Universal Studios, instead. It was so much fun, and different enough from Orlando that I felt like I experienced the park concept for the very first time. We rode every ride and saw every show (save one!). Some favorites were Transformers, Jurassic Park, Water World, and Animal Actors (we got to watch trained cats, dogs, birds, rats, and pigs perform adorable tricks!).
And naturally, here I am with a Doc Brown impersonator:
The hands-down absolute favorite part of the whole trip for both of us was The Universal Studios Tour, which we went on just to check it off our list, without realizing what it actually was.
The bus took us all over different TV and movie sets, and we got to learn how different city scenes and environments are created through facades and illusions — all within the studio grounds. We rode by The Mindy Project studio, where she had been filming that day! If you don’t know by now, I am a huge fan of Mindy Kaling’s.
We saw the New York street where they shoot her outside-the-office scenes, as well as many other NY scenes in movies and television. The coolest part is that they show scenes from movies which were shot exactly where you’re sitting.
These are just a few of the pictures I was able to snap while I soaked it all in. We also passed the Bates motel, Wisteria Lane, their European set, their Wild West set, and so much more. It was the best part of our visit to Universal Studios, which lasted a whopping 10+ hours in the park, total. We could barely drive home we were so tired.
Day 3: Pacific Beach, La Jolla Cove, and our Annual Ring Photo
With all of our big walking days behind us, we decided that we had earned a lazy beach day. We grabbed brunch at Leilani’s, a Hawaiian restaurant, where I had Da Original Bagel (egg, basil, spinach, tomato, and cheese with some kind of aioli). It was incredible. Then we found ourselves a spot on the beach to work on our tans and people watch.
We dipped our toes in the water, but it was icy cold. I attempted to snap our annual ring photo on the beach towel:
I may or may not have gotten burned. Looks like my white Colorado-winter skin is not the best canvas for a long and slow roast on the beach.
After being beach bums, we headed over to La Jolla Cove to walk around the shops and visit George’s for a dinner. I had the gnocchi with scallops, which was tasty and refined, although our waitress was not the friendliest (insert Mike’s and my inside joke here). Let’s just say she was a little paranoid.
Then we went and watched the sea lions with their pups on the rocks. This picture isn’t the best, but you can see how sleepy and blubbery (and adorable) they were:
We also managed to capture an even better version of our annual ring photo (because Mike is a more skilled photographer). This one takes the cake, me thinks:
For fun, here are our other two annual ring photos:
We went home and watched the Game of Thrones season 4 premiere, because duh. It was the perfect escape from the burning sun and a nice hour of rest. Then we went and caught the last glimpse of the sunset over the Pacific Ocean. We literally watched the sun slip underneath the horizon within seconds. Dozens of people stopped what they were doing to witness the neon orange display, and we got the feeling even locals do this on a daily basis. It was breath-taking, and we didn’t even get to watch it from the beginning! The rest of the night was spent walking the boardwalk and Mission Blvd.
Day 4: Kayaking and In-N-Out Burger
Our last day was still a great opportunity to get another activity in, since our flight left in the evening. We decided to try the kayak cave tour with Bike and Kayak Tours. Coming from multiple ocean-fearing generations, I am proud to say I jumped at the opportunity to do something that scared me. I don’t like the thought of murky, deep waters filled with sharp-toothed predators, nor do I like the word “cave” paired with “earthquake” (something that was constantly on my mind). But I survived with only a few minor freakouts (namely the first wave-breaking, since I was in the front of our two-person kayak, and the annoying swells that wouldn’t die down, which kept us from being able to enter the last cave).
To top off our California trip, I insisted that we partake in the nutritious In-N-Out Burger, which is not available in Colorado. It was worth every darn bite.
It was such a great vacation. San Diego is dreamy.
What is your favorite thing to do in SoCal?