San Diego, California
This year has challenged my travel planning skills – the ability to research a new location with minimal turn around time, the patience to be flexible and not attached to the itinerary, the creativity to find opportunities in places I had not previously, the resolve that the fast paced and jam packed days are not required to have a full experience, and the balance of learning how to safely travel during a pandemic for myself and those around me.
We were really happy with the adventures both big and small for summer 2020. The fall felt like it could be a bit more precarious as flu season kicked in and I expected COVID cases to be back on the rise. I can never let a birthday go by without a trip so I had to start thinking outside the box. Originally, we had plans to go to Hawaii – plans that were originally rescheduled from April – but Hawaii was still closed with no announced reopening. I had made rough draft itineraries for national parks like Zion and Yellowstone but something did not feel right about forcing those. California had recently come off the list so I started looking into a Napa/Sonoma and Yosemite – but the fires did not look promising for a smooth trip in that part of California. I was running out of options with the limited time we had to make plans.
And then it hit me. We had still not visited our Beer Christmas buddies / Boston turned San Diego (Lauren and Ben), and San Diego was still uncharted territory for us. We could not wait to fall in love with San Diego as they have, not to mention spend a week of quality time together! Not a bad way to spend a birthday.
Logistics for this trip were a bit different. We were staying with our firiends so we had to create our own bubble ahead of our arrival. We minimized activities and quarantined as much as we could leading up to the trip in addition to all getting COVID tested. We also had conversations ahead of time outlining our practices – we were all taking COVID precautions very seriously.
Our flight experience on Jet Blue was wonderful and quite a relief to have a smooth travel experience.
I have to be honest, after all the things canceled in 2020, missed opportunities, and limited interactions with family – seeing our friends as we arrived was really one of the most happy memories for 2020. It was one of the first times since March we felt normal and forgot for a moment the year we were in. It was obvious within minutes this week was going to be therapeutic in so many ways.
After stopping at their beautiful condo to drop our things and shake off the travel, we ventured out for food. Since this was a last minute trip, my Google Maps was full of stars that I had not yet vetted. The benefit of traveling with locals means you get all the insider details that high level Google searching may miss. This first spot, however, comes up on all the San Diego guides – The Taco Stand.
Though a simple, straightforward name, it remains one of the best taco places in San Diego. Since the weather is always perfect, we decided to grab take out from here, a few local cans of craft beer from Modern Times, and head to Rose and Cactus Gardens in Balboa Park for our picnic.
We ordered a bunch of tacos that included tons of different sauces to choose from and most importantly, churros. On the taco front, Kevin was in heaven – we do not eat Mexican food often and to have these authentic tacos were a treat. The churros put all churros I have had in the past to shame – these were perfectly fried and coated with lots of sugary goodness, complete with dipping sauces.
After walking through the gardens, we hopped back in the car and drove out across the bridge to Coronado. The view from the bridge was a treat – sweeping views of the downtown as well as the many naval vessels docked. With beach chairs always at the ready, we headed straight for the beach. Back home it was starting to creep into sweater weather but here we are toes in the sand soaking up the sun.
We passed the famous Hotel del Coronado and I had to stop – it looks exactly like the Grand Floridan in Disney World. And not even that they look similar – they look the same! Turns out the Gran Floridan was based off of this very resort – fun fact!
It was hard to recall the last time we just “sat on a beach and relaxed” – even before COVID our adventures were jam packed to suck every ounce of life out of a trip – this was a treat. Pelicans paced the shoreline as the sun began it’s decent into the ocean. Ok San Diego, I get it, you are awesome.
Outdoor dining is never an issue in San Diego (they will survive the COVID winter!) and we were very excited to see what the food scene had to offer. Tonight we had reservations at Trust for cocktails and tapas. I had every intention of writing a full fled review but I ran into a new problem – the QR codes for the menus when a menu is constantly changing. I did not take a screen shot and only realized when I went to write a post that the menu online was completely different! Usually a take a picture of the physcial menu when I do dining reviews so it did not cross my mind to screen shot the picture on the phone – noted for future self!
Overall, we can definitely recommend this spot – creative dishes, unique flavor combinations, and fun presentation. Our cocktails were very well made and the tapas style allowed for us to try many different dishes. One thing I noticed here was that even though it was small plates, they offered a long list of choices (which is why I was shocked to see the menu completely change over!) so you can cater to many different preferences. They lean on the spicier side but even so, I was still able to enjoy many of the dishes.
I have to say, I was pretty impressed to have sat upright to the end of the meal – we had the first flight out in the morning from the east coast and with the time difference it was wayyyy past my bed time. But the best way to beat the jet lag is to immediately force the conversion so I think it worked. We were just so excited for this entire week!
One of the benefits about traveling west is the ability to feel fully refreshed at 5AM – it was incredibly peaceful to wake up with the sun and fit in a workout. A surprising perk with COVID has been virtual exercise classes which has now enabled me to continue classes no matter where I travel (shout out to Pack Attack).
My friend made breakfast and it was completely picture perfect – just look at this Shakshuka! We were not worthy. Slap that on some sourdough and we were fueled for the day.
After freshening up, we decided to head into another area of town – Little Italy! Full transparency, everyone knows I am all in on Italian food but the real reason for our journey here was the Salt & Straw I found on Google Maps – ALL IN. What a dream to live so close to a Salt & Straw. Anyway, Little Italy was adorable! Decorated with lights and flags, every restaurant sprawling into the side walks and streets.
I have to say for a Monday night it was mobbed – luckily California (somehow) is just as strict (if not more) with their mask policies so everyone had them on. We did a lap before settling on Civico 1845 for dinner with only a short wait to be seated. What was cool about this spot is while it does authentic Italian food, they also have a vegan menu!
I ordered the lobster ravioli and it was mediocre – I do not know why I keep ordering this dish but when they are good they are so good but if they are not they are just meh. Kevin ordered the garganelli with gorgonzola, sausage, and porcini mushrooms in a saffron sauce and I am pretty sure I ended up eating half of his dish it was so so so good.
Everyone enjoyed their meal but ultimately for me, it was a means to an end… Salt & Straw. Lauren and Ben had not heard of them and honestly, we had not until we started traveling to the west coast to visit my brother in San Francisco. It was so fun to be able to introduce them to the joy of Salt and Straw. As always, I enjoyed a heaping scoop of chocolate gooey brownie. What a treat to end the day!
Another beautiful sunrise morning in San Diego! Today’s breakfast treat was avocado toast two ways – they even bought these beautfil microgreens to really give it that $16 California price tag.
On the way back we decided to stop back at Torrey Pines at the glideport to watch the paragliders and the sunset. Unfortunately, there were no gliders on a Tuesday afternoon (do not think for one second I did not consider taking one for the team) so we simply relaxed as we watched the sun plunge into the ocean. These sunsets are just spectacular and it is so amazing how impressive and unobstructed these are on a daily basis.
We had one more mission this evening and that was to experience fish waffles and Korean style ice cream at Somi Somi. Taitaki are fish shaped waffle with filling such as custard, nutella, red bean, and more. There had a deal to get one of each so we got to try them all and we also each got a bowl of ice cream. The unexpected bonus with the ice cream is you can get whatever toppings you want for free! Most of them were cereal based so it was really fun. I think the taitaki that “won” was the nutella followed by the custard but the cheese came close as well. Ice cream for dinner? Not too shabby.
On our way back to to house, we saw an In-N-Out Burger up ahead. We mentioned it jokingly but before we knew it we were in the car line – so crazy and spontaneous (ha)! These guys have the COVID stuff down to a science – they take your order while in the line of cars, away from the building, then there is a window to pay and get your food. Late night snack – complete! Guess who was the only one who ordered bread? (me me me) That’s a wrap Tuesday!
Another beautifully perfect morning! Does it get old having this paradise every day? The answer every time I asked was always no. Since we need food on the go for today, we stopped at LIV Juice Bar and Smoothies for breakfast smoothies and sandwiches for lunch later in the day. This place was amazing and everything we got was delicious so highly recommend!
Today we were starting our mini adventure to Joshua Tree National Park! Out first stop along the way was wine tasting in Temecula Wine Region. This area is very close to San Diego and makes for a great day trip!
Read about our afternoon wine tasting in Temecula Wine Region here!
In order to get to Joshua Tree before sunset, we headed straight to the park from wine tasting.
Read about our two days at Joshua Tree National Park here!
After some fantastic morning hiking, we started the journey back to San Diego. Originally, we had plans on making a few stops at Sultan Sea and Julian (famous pie!) but the hours in the day were not in our favor. It was obvious on day one that we would not be able to see everything and there would be plenty to fill return trips to come.
We took the rest of the day to relax in our favorite way possible. Sat on the deck, popped some wine and beer, enjoyed a gorgeous cheese plate spread, and ordered take out from Veganic Thai Cafe all while solving the problems of the world. Just the best! Thankful for Thursday, another great day.
Our last full day in San Degio! This morning we headed up to La Jolla for some early morning kayaking, downtown exploration, and tidal pools.
Read about our afternoon in La Jolla here!
After a fun day at La Jolla, we headed back to the house to freshen up before dinner. We were not that hungry since our lunch was enormous so we chose to hit up University Heights for the rooftop brewery, Kairoa Brewing Company.
That’s right, a New Zealand brewery! Sigh, it takes us right back – we just adored our trip there are are still itching to return as soon as possible. Anyway, a short wait afforded us a table with a view of the sun set. When we sat down, a quick look around we spotted a dozen dogs! Love how dog friendly this place is. And the vibe is so chill, we really loved being up here. We ordered drinks and some food – salmon ceviche and smoked lamb fries – and we were content.
For our final act of the night, we needed one last visit to Salt and Straw before heading back east. I was a bit sour about how small my first ice cream scoop was and I did not want to miss the chance to fix that so I ordered a double scoop in a waffle cone. Too…much…ice cream. I got what I asked for.
Good night, San Degio!
A lazy morning while we packed our bags and got ready for our departure. One place I had wanted to try all week was back in University Heights – Pop Pie Co. We took a short walk there to get breakfast and food for our travel. Another New Zealand inspired location – all those pies!
Goodness we ordered a bunch of stuff – I got the mushroom and leek quiche for now and the veggie pot pit for the plane – both were amazing. Kevin got the steak and ale pie and then we split the a salted honey pie. All the noms! And was quite a treat mid flight to sneak in under our masks.
This trip was therapeutic in so many ways and with a week to fill, we had plenty of time to explore and relax. Due to COVID, San Diego proper was not completely open so it allowed us to explore many areas around the city but there is still so much to do. Needless to say, we will be visiting again and look forward to discovering more about San Diego!