Friday, October 30, 2015

Summer Road Trip: Days 11-13 - San Diego

June 2-4

May gray, June gloom.   That’s the weather pattern in California (particularly in Southern CA).  Good to know (and avoid) if you’re planning a beach vacation.  For us, that was not the case, as we tried hard not to spend too much time in one spot (leaving sunbathing, beach-relaxing, or lying by the pool outside of the question).  After all, this was a road-trip.  And I was “driving”.  Doing so in typical high-speed fashion.  With plenty of pictures along the way, just to be able to remember it all later ;-)

Speaking of that, let’s see how much I do remember:

We arrived at our rental (VRBO this time) just in time to catch the sun dropping into the Pacific.  Drove down to Ocean Beach pier as the big red glowing ball of fire was disappearing beyond the horizon.  And whether it was that setting, projecting hues of orange, gold, and amber all around, the panoramic views from the top of the hill, the refreshing scent of the lemon tree in the back yard, or the crisp, cool, salty evening air, we immediately fell in love with the place.  An hour later, also fell in love with a whole in the wall by the beach that dished out the best tacos in the area [personal opinion]: Mike’s Taco Club. 

Let me stay on that for a minute.  San Diego is known for fish tacos.  Well, Tijuana/Baja is, but what’s another 20 miles?  Let’s just stay on this side of the border….  Clearly there is no shortage of amazing taco places in SD.  But if you ask any of the locals, the best will come from a ragged food truck, or a whole in the wall, a place that cares only about food quality and tradition, not appearance or trends, or what not… We found that in Mike’s Taco Club (not sure where Mike came from, as this was clearly a Mexican-run joint) and ate there every day.  We had a couple picky eaters in the group, and even they were drooling over what came out of that tiny “kitchen”.  I’m even salivating as I type this… I’ll come back to tacos (as I did a lot of research for is) but know this: if the place looks run down, unpretentious, but there’s a line out the door, stop in for a bite.  There’s a very good chance you’ll love it!

Next day was spent at the Zoo.  Best I’ve seen by far.  Kids had a blast.  So did the grownups.  Top notch facility, service, personnel, you name it.  A solid 10 all around. 

Back at the house, drained after all the walking, we enjoyed another round of tacos from Mike’s hole in the wall.  Oh, yeah!  

Gravity?  What's that?
USS Midway was on the itinerary next day.  Impressive tour, equally impressive aircraft carrier.  Years ago I visited the Yorktown in Charleston, SC but that one dwarfed in comparison.  Midway was at some point the largest in the US fleet.  That’s no longer the case, but still holds quite a few records.  Active for about 47 years, was commissioned just as WWII was wrapping up, saw action during Vietnam, and served as the Persian Gulf flagship during Desert Storm, shortly before retiring.  
Put aside a few good hours for the tour.  You won’t regret it.  And do opt for the command center guided tour.  Smaller group, but worth the wait.

After the tour, head over to the Gaslamp Quarter for a stroll.  Plenty of watering holes, dining and shopping options.  Lively in the evenings, especially.  Or head over to the Old Town for a more Mexican setting.  Nice area.  Well preserved in some sense, well “tourist-ized” as well [is that a word? probably not].  We stopped in for a margarita at Casa de Reyes.  Make that two!  I hear the place gets hopping in the evenings, with live shows, mariachi bands, the whole bit… Food’s probably not too bad either, although there are better Mexican food options in SD.

Speaking of food… Tacos for dinner again.  Yep, you guessed it.  Mike’s.  We had lunch earlier at a recommended seafood place (Blue Water Seafood Market and Grill; an actual fish market that also serves food).  Yeah, fish was fresh.  Great actually.  But the tacos… Meh… Which brings me to the earlier point.  And the justified daily dose of Mike’s Taco Club.

And since I seem to keep gravitating towards the topic, here’s a bit of my research into it:
  • For fish tacos: Mariscos German, Bahia Don Bravo, Roberto's Mexican Food, Kotija Jr. Taco Shop, Puesto Mexican Street Food, Pacific Beach Fish Shop, Oscar's Mexican Seafood, PB Fish Shop
  • And a few more: Hapi Fish, Fat Fish, Fish 101, South Beach, Brigantine, La Puerta, Rudy's
  • Ceviche: Puesto (d-town), George's at the cove (LaJolla), Finch’s Bistro and Wine Bar (La Jolla), Wet Stone (Bankers Hill), Finch’s Bistro and Wine Bar (La Jolla)
  • For a “grandma-style” authentic Mexican hole-in-the-wall that everyone is raving about: Las Cuatro Milpas.  Unfortunately we ran out of time before I could try it L. Always save something for “next time”, I say, just to justify coming back…
In wrapping up, no visit to SD is complete without a stop by Hotel Coronado (known to many as “The Del”).  If not for the nostalgia of “Some Like it Hot”, then for the architecture and history behind it (when it opened – in 1888 – it was the biggest resort in the world!)

Unfortunately, June gloom was in full force that morning.  Which combined with an arid landscape and a bit of traffic, made for an overall “gloomy” drive to Vegas, our last leg of this whirlwind Nevada-California-Nevada road trip!

Next stop:  Vegas.  And Grand Canyon.

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Links to the rest of the itinerary:

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