Escaping the hustle of La for the relaxed, beautiful waterfront and historic park of the heavily latin influenced city of San Diego.
After spending a few days in Los Angeles my girlfriend and I were desperate for something a bit more laid back. San Diego with its temperate climate, long stretches of beach and water fronts and its cultural appeal seemed like the perfect place to escape to. We headed down to the heavily Latin influenced city looking to find more than a simple stop off between sea world and the zoo. What we found was a friendly and relaxed place with a gentle beauty and style all of its own.
What We Did
There are undoubtedly a thousand things to do in San Diego but we were looking for something a bit more sedate after the rigours of LA so we decided to follow the waterfront for the morning. San Diego is definitely a city defined by the water around it and by following the road around the sea you will come across much of the charm of the place. Our first stop was down by the historic ships. Here there is a genuine tall ship and also a submarine. The ship used in the film Master and Commander is also held in this area. This provided a nice introduction to the city and as it was fairly early there were few people about. Just standing in the sun watching the joggers go by started to ease the hectic nature that LA has bestowed upon us. Along the front here there are also a number of statues such as the one of the man doing a hand stand (see pictures).
We continued on to the area just off Harbour drive which has the USS Midway Museum docked just offshore. Here there are a number of statues to commemorate service men returning home. The most famous of these is the statue entitled “Unconditional Surrender” which sees a sailor and nurse embracing and was commissioned to mark the end of world war two. A short distance away from this is a much smaller but equally beautiful bronze piece which shows a sailor returning to his wife and children. This area is somewhere anyone with interest in history should visit, but even if you aren’t interested in war it is still a very moving and welcome addition to the waterfront that is well worth visiting.
Moving away from the waterfront we headed to Balboa Park. This is very close to the zoo but we decided to take a stroll in the midday sun around the lovely park itself. It is set in an old Spanish colonial style with grand buildings and statues of El Cid giving it a distinct and charming personality. There is also an impressive outdoor bowl style performance area, some stunning fountains and a small Botanical garden which is a sea of greens and exotic plants. The Botanical building itself is incredible and opens out into a walk past shallow long ponds filled with lily pads, fish and turtles. With the sun shining it seemed a perfect way to while away a few hours and always offered up something new to see.
In the early afternoon we headed down to the Seaport Village area to get lunch and found the excellent Seaport Village Deli. Walking a short distance to the left of the village gives an excellent view of San Diego’s iconic bridge and allows you to eat lunch in a more open and green area by the bay. On this day there was an arts and crafts market on and a rally for classic cars which all helped add to the character and fun of the place.
Trips out to tour the bay can be taken from near here and are around twenty five dollars a person for an hour. A two hour long trip can also be taken which shows both the north and south sides of the bay. We decided to take a one hour trip which gave us a chance to see the city from a different perspective. Along the way we watched sea lions lazing on the dock side and even had dolphins come and bow surf along with the ship. I would highly recommend anyone visiting the city to take at least one boat trip while you are there.
Our final stop of the day was at the Coronado Hotel. It seemed a shame not to look at the world renowned building where the rich and famous go to hide away. The hotel is accessible to public and you can look around inside if you wish. With the sun always out though it is my advice to walk through the hotel to the amazing white sand beach which stretches a far as the eye can see. The crystal clear waters, blue sky and perfect sand seemed a fine place to spend our last moments in San Diego which had turned out to be a remarkable place and one I will happily return to whenever I can.
Where to Stay
We stayed at the Sheraton Hotel in Mission Valley. The hotel is located on the outskirts of San Diego near the highway and has a large amount of restaurants and shopping estates near it. Not the prettiest of locations but the hotel itself provided excellent service and very comfortable and spacious rooms. The main area of San Diego can be reached from here by a twelve dollar taxi ride or via the combination of a bus and train which is very straight forward.
Where to Eat
In our exploration of San Diego, both along the waterfront and around the hotel we found some very good places to eat. In the Seaport Village, amidst the junk food and ice cream there is a very good place to get sandwiches and wraps by the name of the Seaport Village Deli. In order to reach it you simple need to walk straight through the seaport village area until you reach the water and it should be near the building out in the sea on stilts (see pictures). The food here is both excellent for a lunchtime option and also very reasonable with most options around ten dollars.
When we first left the hotel we weren’t particular confident in finding anything decent to eat. However, there are a whole host of different places in walking distance as well as a supermarket for those wanting to eat a little cheaper. Two places we came across are well worth a look. Both are almost next to each over and can be reached by leaving the hotel and walking left for about five minutes.
The first place you will come to is the Mission Valley Café. This is a classic American style restaurant and a place that many of the locals come to. On the nights we stayed at the hotel the place was always busy and it delivers good value honest food. The clam chowder was especially good and everything comes with dinner bread. Be warned that the portion sizes are huge.
Just next door to the mission valley café is the unassuming Fuji sushi bar and grill. We weren’t expecting that much for this place when we went in but the sushi here is absolutely amazing. It is more expensive than the café with each dish of sushi costing around eleven dollars but it really is not to be missed out on. The baked salmon roll was one of the best things I have ever eaten.
Mission Valley Café
967 Camino Del Rio South
Fuji Japanese Steakhouse and Sushi
911 Camino Del Rio South