San Diego, CA Sept 2015

It was another homecoming trip to Southern California! I wasn’t born in San Diego, but darn close to it, about 60 miles north of it. I am drawn to the ocean and it is because I learned to walk on the sandy beaches. But more about that later.

We stayed at the Manchester Grand Hyatt and had a view of the bay. It looks like there is another hotel going up next door. The view probably won’t be the same three years from now.

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My camera has a good zoom and I was able to snap a couple of pictures of people enjoying the bay.

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Dinner the first night was at Cafe Sevilla in the Gaslamp Quarter district. I recommend taking a cab, it will be MUCH cheaper than paying for parking! I had empanadas and calamari. I could have done without the empanadas but the calamari was good. Folks had the paella and they both said they had had better. The sangria was lacking authenticity too. Overall, not a bad experience, but I guess we got the best of what a touristy restaurant has to offer. I did enjoy the ambiance though.

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Our first full day entailed a ferry ride to Catalina Island. In the 18+ years I lived in SoCal, I never went, as an adult anyway. There is debate amongst my parents whether they took me when I was a child. Even if they did I didn’t remember it so I was excited to see it now!

We got to the Dana Point harbor early so I had time to take some pictures. This was a house overlooking the harbor, I bet they have spectacular views!

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My favorite sound of all time is a cat purring. My very close second favorite sound is that of a sea lion barking. I heard that unmistakable sound and immediately starting scanning the water. There were a couple of small sea lions swimming around the old boat and I managed to snap one or two pictures of their heads bobbing through the water.

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Our boat arrived and we headed out to sea with a fond farewell from a sea lion and cormorants.

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Normally I can get pretty good shots through windows, but these windows had a thick coat of salt water, hence the strange tint that I was unable to correct correctly in Photoshop on this house literally clinging to the cliff’s edge.

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 It was about an hour and a half ride to Avalon, one of only two places to dock on the island.

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One of the first things we did was take a bus tour of the island. I’ve been on tours with really good tour guides, some really funny guides, and some not so good guides. This tour guide/bus driver was in a category all her own. She was very surly, very sarcastic, knew it and didn’t care! She honked at several golf carts and even blocked one from leaving the golf course because it was driving somewhere it wasn’t supposed to and the sheriff was on his way! It was a bumpy ride (in more ways than one), but the views were unbelievable!

I guess I should back up and talk about the golf carts. Because it’s an island and the only way there is by boat or helicopter, there aren’t a lot of cars on the island, but there are plenty of golf carts. If you are a resident, there is a 14 year waiting period to bring your car to the island, hence the golf carts! Or, if you must have a car, an autoette is another option.

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 Most of the rest of the “historical” stuff our guide talked about we either couldn’t understand because she talked so fast, or her microphone was crackling. So we just laughed where we thought appropriate and enjoyed the views.

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I have no idea what kind of bones (are they bones?) are hanging from this dead tree, but I thought it was interesting/creepy.

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I did manage to hear that this used to be a casino and I think I heard it has the largest round ballroom.

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We sputtered up the hill and that’s where the views got REALLY good!

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The town is, overall, pretty touristy, but it’s cute.

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We had a quick lunch at the Avalon Grille, I had the ahi tuna burger and it was AMAZING!

Our next adventure was a glass bottom boat tour and the views from the pier were spectacular too.

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The water was so clear and blue! We didn’t see a ton of fish on the glass bottom boat tour, other than the ones that showed up for the fish food the guide dumped in the water.

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On the way back from the feeding grounds, we were allowed to stand up and I got some good shots of the cove/bay/marina (I’m not a nautical person, I don’t know the difference).

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Did I mention it was “touristy?”

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After the boat tour we had some time to kill before the ferry arrived to take us back to Dana Point so I walked around, took some pictures, and bought a souvenir.

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Catalina is home to a lot of Garibaldi fish, the official state fish of California. I thought they were buoys because they weren’t moving much, but those little orange things are fish!

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The ride back was pretty with the sun setting behind us. The captain stopped the boat at one point for a couple of whales, but all we saw was a tail and I wasn’t quick enough with the camera so I had to settle with pictures of the clouds and water.

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The next day was Roger’s Gardens in Newport Beach and dinner in Laguna. But we stopped in San Clemente on the way up. Man oh man is that a beautiful place! The story goes that I learned to walk on the beach. Not the one that we stopped at, but very close by. It certainly felt like home!

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Dinner was at The Cliffs and it was a nice experience. I had the halibut and it was cooked perfectly! There was a lot of cloud cover so there wasn’t much of a sunset, but the view was still very nice.

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The next morning I got up and drove to Tourmaline Surf Park. Yes, I was the only one not wearing a wet suit, but I didn’t care. I always forget how much nicer the Pacific Ocean is compared to the Atlantic. The water is super clear, the sand is flat, and there aren’t massive amounts of tiny, broken shells to cut your feet on! The only downside is the seaweed. Once you get past the panic and terror that there is a fish or shark swimming past your leg, the water is wonderful!

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We were going to drive up to Newport Beach in the afternoon, but as the driver during the whole vacation, I decided I didn’t want to drive an hour and a half up north, through rush hour traffic again, so we decided to drive around and see some of the sites San Diego had to offer.

We started at the Cabrillo National Monument.

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This was our hotel.

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Pelicans, sea lions, and boats.

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Coronado bridge and Hotel Del.

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As distorted as this fully zoomed in shot is, it kind of reminds me of a painting.

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The great big blue.

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We then drove to Sunset Cliffs, one of my favorite places in San Diego.

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Dinner was at an old favorite, Claim Jumper. No view, it wasn’t on the beach, but my chicken tenders and fries were good. We didn’t order a slice of their famous chocolate motherload cake, but we did get a slice of Italian lemon cake. I was stuffed! Even though dinner wasn’t on the beach, we still managed to catch the sunset on the way back to the hotel.

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Our last day in San Diego was pretty low-key. We had lunch then went across the street to Seaport Village and boarded a “seal” for a land and sea tour of San Diego. The seal is the cousin to the “duck,” which is a converted military vehicle. The seal was built specifically for touring by land, then by sea ;-)

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There were a ton of signs that said DO NOT FEED THE BIRDS but our captain did anyway.

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I thought there would be more of a land tour, but it was more of a tour of the bay, which turned out just fine because we saw lots of seals!

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A bird took a ride on the roof.

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So this is really cool. This is the Shipboard Antenna Model Range, part of the Navy Electronics Lab. When the Navy builds a new ship, they first build a scale model of it, put it under this arch, it spins around, does some neat electrical or magnetic magic to it, and they are able to pinpoint where the antennas should go on the ship.

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Another “seal.”

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The Navy uses this facility to train dolphins and sea lions for several different types of under water salvage and bomb detection exercises.

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Other naval boats and aircraft.

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Crazy lady dancing.

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Skyline and more boats.

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After we exited the water, the captain pulled over to check the wheels for seaweed and sure enough, there was some attached!

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Dinner was at the Pacific Coast Grill in Cardiff-by-the-Sea. I had the Baja wedge salad and the Cardiff Reef sushi roll and they were both delicious!

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I am DEFINITELY going swimming here the next time I’m in San Diego!

The sunset on our last night was the best one yet!

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The clouds sort of made the sun look like a face.

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I happened to be on the correct side of the plane as we took off and got some awesome aerial shots.

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It was another wonderful vacation in San Diego! Can’t wait to go back home!

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