I recently returned from an 8 day trip that took me to California with my beautiful girlfriend. We decided to visit San Diego, CA because I had a friend there and had never been there and she had been there before and enjoyed it but had not done much besides go to the beach. We had a great time overall and would probably go back to visit as there was much we did not get to see.
The best part about this vacation was the fact that we did not spend very much money, both of our tabs ran up were close to $1,000. This was due in no small part to having a free place to stay at my friend Paulie’s in downtown San Diego, my parents helping pay for the rental car, and using my reward points from my credit card to help pay for our flights. Other than our 5 hour delay from Denver to San Diego and the delay and bumpy flight from Denver to Minneapolis the travel experience was great. Because we are both military we got to the front of the security lines, upgraded to “Zone 1” which has extended leg room and because of the delays got free in-flight television twice. Travel throughout our vacation was great as well, we rented a Chevy Aveo for our first 5 days, great gas mileage which was a great advantage because we covered a lot of ground the first few days.
The hotel we stayed at the first night was amazing, if you ever need to stay in San Diego and have some cash to spare check out the Solamar, it is downtown and they allow you to bring your pets. Great service, great feel and atmosphere, extremely comfortable room and everything was clean and fresh. We woke up the next day and drove up to LA, where we checked into a hotel that was nothing like the one I just described, never stay at the Hollywood Inn Express in Inglewood, CA. (both hotels were found using http://www.hotwire.com which I would recommend to anyone for great value and prices) If you want to see my review for either of those hotels you can talk to me.
We quickly left our stinky hotel room to head down to Hollywood . We walked down Hollywood Boulevard, it was a little chilly and a long walk to where we were trying to get, so we stopped into a small restaurant/bar for a couple of cocktails to warm us up. We set back out on our destination to see Marilyn Monroe’s hand prints. It was somewhat disappointing when we got close to the Chinese Theater and saw they had the whole theater blocked off for the premiere of “Casa de Mi Padre”, Will Ferrell’s newest movie. From what I heard Ferrell was not even in Los Angeles for the premiere, so not only did we not get to see the hand prints, we did not get to see Will.
We headed slowly back to the car, took some pictures along the way and headed to LA Live. I had done a presentation in a Facility Management course in college on the Staples Center and had included LA Live in the project. Needless to say as an avid sports fan I was eager to see the place. We got there and saw that when there are no events going on (there was a Clippers game being played at the Staples center, but that did not cause any excitement outside of the arena) the place is just a bunch of neon signs and bright lights. We did eat at ESPN Zone, the first I had been able to eat at (I had tried to eat at the one in NYC but it had recently closed for business). After this short excursion to LA Live we headed back to the hotel.
The next day we drove back down to San Diego and along the way got to check out some of Riverside, CA via a side-trip to see one of my girl’s friends she had met in her Air Force training. Along the way we got to eat at Jack in the Box for the first time, which to me was just another fast food place. We got to drive through a pretty landscape from Riverside back to San Diego, where we checked in at a small hotel in Chula Vista, CA. Shortly after checking in we headed to the nearby Naval base to check out the ships and see what the base looked like. We spotted a Bruegger’s on base and that was our breakfast spot for the next few days. From the Naval base we headed back to the hotel and then out to Phil’s BBQ, which I had seen Adam Richman visit on Man Vs. Food on the Travel Channel. The portions were huge, the food was fantastic, and the prices were great. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys barbecue at all. It is no wonder it is top ten on http://www.yelp.com for the past few years. It was a big surprise to be seated next to one of my best friends from college (University of Minnesota) at the restaurant when we had made no plans to meet there. This is the same guy who’s studio we stayed at the last few nights of our stay. After a short conversation and introductions my girlfriend and I headed back to the hotel in order to rest for the big day ahead of us.
We awoke the next day and headed to Bruegger’s and then to the train station to prepare to board our train which would take us to a wine tour we had book through La Jolla Wine Tours. I will spare most of the details, but will say that the tour comes highly recommended for couples and non-wine connoisseurs. That night we went to a local Mexican food place with one of the other couples we met on the tour and had a great time. The whole day was a lot of fun. The next day was St. Patrick’s Day, and because it was raining we did not do much other than go downtown somewhat later in the night. We started at a place called Wet Willie’s which was a great place to get a drink. They have beer and liquor, but their mainstay are the number of daiquiri’s they have pre-mixed and ready to serve on request. They have many different flavors ranging from normal such as Mango and Strawberry to more exotic such as Attitude Improvement and Shock Treatment. Another place that comes highly recommended, whether you like frozen alcoholic beverages or not. We left this place to travel to the Shouthouse, a dueling piano bar a few blocks away. Here was where we met up with my friend and his entourage and had a great time. I had been to the Shouthouse in Minneapolis, MN and this version was just as fun albeit a little smaller. By far my favorite St. Patrick’s Day yet.
The next day we decided to try to find some beach territory to get some pictures along the ocean. We had not hit up the beach yet because the temperature was in the 50’s and 60’s our entire vacation. We decided to take this enormous bridge we had seen earlier in the week to see where it led to and ended up on Coronado “Island”. Highlights for us of Coronado was Cafe 1134, a place I found courtesy of Yelp, and the Vintage Theater where we saw 21 Jump Street.
After dropping off our rental and being picked up by my buddy we just relaxed the rest of the night, ate some food we had purchased at the commissary near Riverside. Monday we had originally planned on visiting the zoo but the weather was not cooperating so we put that off until Tuesday. Monday was a lazy day as we just walked around downtown, took in the sights and ate some local cuisine. Dinner was great, I had a Rottens Chili “Chooch” Burger at Sloppy Joey’s, which does not have the burger or any burgers on their menu but they are connected to Nicky Rottens next door, and you can order food from either menu at either restaurant, and it was very good. It came with a mountain of sweet potato fries I did not finish because we had ordered fried zucchini slices for an appetizer. They also have a burger challenge which you can find at http://www.nickyrottens.com.
The next day we got up early and visited the Broken Yoke Cafe, not the one Adam Richman visited during his trip to San Diego, but a branch of the same company. We split a veggie omelet with hash browns and a biscuit and got a small bowl of fruit on the side. Portions were huge and it was plenty to split between the two of us. The biscuit was probably the biggest I had ever seen and the fruit was fresh, not from a can or bucket. Not much to say about the zoo except the pandas and koalas were not out, which were two of the few animals neither of us had ever seen that were at this zoo. We got picked up by my friend after the zoo experience and headed back to his place, woke up early the next day and headed back to Minnesota. All-in-all it was a great trip and one I intend to make again.