I want to remember every single detail of my trip to California. It was, for sure, the vacation of a lifetime. My family isn’t much for “relaxation” on vacations — as you’ll see, we tend to go, go, go. However, I still managed to read ten books, relax on the beach, and spend quality time with my family.
San Diego is unlike any place I’ve ever seen. We stayed in Mission Beach, where people seem to live a consistent outdoor lifestyle. From our deck, we could see volleyball players from the early hours of the morning until long after the sun went down. Every morning, we watched boat after boat head out into the Pacific, and every evening, we watched them come back. We were fortunate to stay in a house that’s pretty much right on the beach, near the inlet at the end of the boardwalk, and we were blessed with beautiful weather and views all week.
But before we got to the house, we spent a night in a hotel in (what I think is) downtown San Diego. We flew in, rented a HUGE van (one of those fifteen passenger vans, as there would be nine of us), checked into the hotel, and went for a walk down to the water.
Where we stayed was definitely a city atmosphere. I was almost too tired to notice, though. We got to see a gorgeous sunset from a restaurant on the harbor called Anthony’s Grotto. While we were waiting for our food (I got awesome fish and chips with rice pilaf), I noticed a waiter bringing a rose to a nearby table. The girl at the table smiled as she accepted her rose, and her date nodded appreciatively. I pointed it out to my mom and whispered, “I bet they’re going to get engaged,” as a quarted surrounded their table and sang a trio of love songs.
At another nearby table sat a man in an obvious disguise, taking pictures of what I thought was the sunset. As the quartet was singing, he came and stood behind me. I realized he was taking pictures of the couple. He explained to us that the couple had been all over the city that day. In each location they went, the boyfriend planned little romantic “pop-ups.” Right before dinner, he had proposed to her and she had accepted. The photographer had been following them all day, wearing different disguises, making sure he captured every moment for the couple.
After dinner, we went back to the hotel and crashed; for us, it was feeling pretty late.
The next morning, we had some time to kill while waiting for our extended family’s flight to get in. We decided to check out the Gaslamp District, which is architecturally gorgeous and a includes very interesting assortment of shops. We wandered in and out of stores, staring up at the historical buildings above us. One of our more interesting purchases was a suitcase that we ended up dragging around the city with us — my mom’s suitcase had broken on the flight over, so she bought a new one. Her new suitcase holds twice as much as the old one, which was incredibly helpful in all of the shopping we did on the trip.
Before we went to the airport to pick up our family, we needed to go food shopping. We quickly discovered a problem, though; much of the parking in San Diego is either street parking or underground parking, and our van did not fit into parking structures. We ended up parking in an iHop parking lot, sending Kylie and TJ inside to be “paying customers,” and rushing through grocery shopping. Then, when we got to the house, we discovered another problem; our van did not fit in the garage. And street parking was very, very sparse. My mom and aunt had a whirlwind afternoon that day. They had to rush back to the airport — in all of the excitement, we accidentially left my aunt’s suitcase at the airport — and then run around exchanging the van for two small SUVs that would fit in the garage.
The house we stayed at not only had spectacular views; it was a spectacular house! The ground floor had one bedroom (mine), a living room (where my brother and two cousins dragged some mattresses and made use of the couch, turning it into a man-cave), and a bathroom, along with direct beach access. The second floor had three bedrooms (my aunt and uncle in the master bedroom, my sister and mom taking the other two), and two bathrooms. Each room on that level had a balcony; the master bedroom overlooked the beach, and the other two overlooked the street and inlet. The top floor had a bedroom (where my grandfather stayed) with a street view balcony, a bathroom, a huge open kitchen/living room/dining room area, and yet another balcony. Overall, the house was amazing. The family that owns it still sometimes lives there, so it’s very homey — the furniture is worn and extremely comfortable, and there are family photos all over the place. We all felt incredibly comfortable and at home the whole time.
The next morning, we went on our first outing to Balboa Park. There is so much to see and do there. Our first day there, we went to the San Diego Model Railroad Museum and the San Diego Natural History Museum. I especially enjoyed going through these museums with my grandfather, because he likes to take his time. I found myself taking my time, too, and really seeing things. I have a new appreciation for model towns/railroads, and I learned a LOT at the Natural History Museum.
The following day, we went to the Midway Museum. The museum itself takes up the majority of a retired aircraft carrier, so it’s huge. It took us the better part of six hours to get through, and we were moving pretty quickly. We started up on the top deck, and fortunately had a beautiful day to walk around.
Walking around below the deck was … confusing, to say the least. Luckily, those who put the museum together made it easy for us to find our way around. The other thing that was neat is that majority of the volunteers are veterans who spent most of their military careers on an aircraft carrier. They definitely knew a lot about the ship, and had many intersting stories!
After the Midway Museum, we needed a relax day. Some of the group went shopping, while the rest of us stayed home to read and hang out. Once the group was together again, we headed to the beach, parking ourselves right down by the water. I’m used to the Atlantic Ocean, so the warm temperature of the Pacific was a nice surprise. I was also happy that I could walk a lot further out in the Pacific. We spent the afternoon getting beat up by the waves and laying in the sun.
Going back to our go, go, go routine, we spent the next day at the San Diego Zoo. The zoo is MASSIVE, and somehow, much of the walking is uphill. I was excited to see animals that I’d never seen in a zoo before, and I wound up sitting in front of a glass wall, befriending this awesome monkey:
The day after the zoo, we went to La Jolla for the morning. As soon as we stepped out of the car, we were overwhelmed by the smell of seals. The seals were right over the railing, down the rocks, from where we parked.
We spent the trip to La Jolla wandering around, shopping, and relaxing. After that, we went back to the house and went to the beach again. My brother and cousins decided they wanted to dig a huge hole — and they certainly succeeded!
And then we buried them in it…
On our last busy San Diego day, we went to Balboa Park again to go to the Museum of Air and Space and the Automotive Museum. Again, I learned a lot and enjoyed wandering around the museums.
The next day was our last full day in San Diego, and we decided to spend it hanging out and packing. We also went back to the beach, and the boys dug yet another hole:
My brother is STANDING in that hole, and he’s 6’1″. So. Pretty deep.
It was a bittersweet last night; we weren’t ready to leave the beauty of San Diego, the perfect beach, and the cozy house, but for those of us who were heading to Disneyland for part two of our trip, we were getting very excited. With our alarms set for 4 AM, we put the finishing touches on our packing, and went to bed.
Once again, I really think that San Diego is unlike anywhere I’ve ever been. The atmosphere was new for me — I’ve never been in a place that demands so much outdoors time, but I enjoyed it immensely. While I’m happy to be back on my familiar couch at home, I do miss sitting on the well-worn, giant sofa reading a book and looking at this: