Tuesday, June 2, 2015

San Diego and Its Neighborhoods: Different and Yet, The Same

The view from La Jolla. Are those sea lions out there?

On my recent trip to California to celebrate turning 50, one of the places I wanted to visit was San Diego, mostly because of its reputation for "perfect weather." To me, perfect weather is sunny everyday, but not too hot (i.e. not above 80 degrees) and not humid. This is the opposite of Chicago-area summer weather, which is often grey, and often very humid.

Cute little roadside Mission around Desert Hot Springs
Leaving Palm Springs, I drove East to San Juan Capistrano, in order to make a stop at the famous mission there (to be discussed in a later post), and also because I didn't want to simply take the fastest route, which seemed to backtrack through the Los Angeles area. On my way to and from San Diego, I wanted to be able to see different sights.  Then I drove on to my hotel, which I'd booked, after much weighing of ALL possible options, in La Jolla, right on the water.

The view from my hotel room! I am a very lucky girl!
I found San Diego a little tricky to understand/navigate at first. The city is huge and sprawling, and it has many "neighborhoods" which are treated as if they are separate towns, but are really all still part of San Diego, the city. Each neighborhood/town has a distinct personality, different sorts of businesses and different types of beaches. Beaches, shopping and restaurants were my priorities of places to visit during my three days in the area.
The Pantai Inn in La Jolla

The pretty, little bohemian chic hotel I chose for my stay in the San Diego area was a bit pricey for me, but I was able to take advantage of a 30% off sale featured on their website, and I really wanted to stay someplace right on the water. The Pantai Inn is rated very highly online, so I decided that would be my splurge for the trip. It was well-worth the money! See my TripAdvisor review here.
Two snoozing sea lions on crumbling concrete steps at La Jolla Cove.

I headed down to the water immediately. The "beach" in front of my hotel was not really accessible to me - you had to carefully navigate slippery cliff areas and rocks to get down to it. There were a few young and fit people down there, but I chose to walk a bit down the road, through a pretty cliffside park and over to La Jolla Cove. This postage stamp-sized beach had stairs to take you down to the water, and some veteran sea lions just lounging about. The tide was coming in strong, so it was fun to watch kids and adults alike squeal with delight as the cold, salty water inched its way up onto the sand, and crashed against the boulders that littered the beach. It was crowded but not too bad, and there were also a lot of kayakers and snorklers enjoying the water. Of course, the weather was my ideal, but the water was very cold - too much for me to swim in, since the air was only about 70 degrees.
An adorable cliffside cottage in La Jolla.

After about an hour at the beach, I drove around La Jolla to look at all the pretty houses in all different styles, from cottage, to modern, to Spanish style, all jumbled together on top of each other along the unsteady (signs posted everywhere said so!) cliffs. Parking was very scarce so I didn't visit many of the interesting businesses I passed because there was literally nowhere to put the car. But I did enjoy the scenic drive.

It's a steep drop down to the water from cliffs in La Jolla.
After a while, I decided to drive to dinner in the Gaslamp Quarter of downtown San Diego, an area touted as "can't-miss" by many tourism blogs and books. All of the neighborhoods seem to be connected by the main highway, so as I explored them all, I spent A LOT of time on said highway.All the highway driving time started to get to me after a while - this city is very much about the SPRAWL! But I have to admit, the highways themselves were a lot prettier than the ones around Chicago.
(to be continued ....)