Let me just say that to all appearances southern California does appear to be a magical lala land in which everyone is happy all the time, even when they are working. Everyone is fit and beautiful and constantly engaging in any of a wide variety of outdoor activities, from just walking the many amazing trails and admiring the magnificent views of the Pacific coastline , to surfing and paragliding. I was on vacation staying with good friends who personify this laid back California image and who really went out of their way to show me the glory that is SoCal ( thanks so much Beth and Jerry) and while I do realize that gritty reality exists everywhere even in SoCal, vacations aren’t about reality, so I’m just going to embrace my experience and my vision of that magical place and remember it as the Shangri La I saw.
My first impression of San Diego was the quirky hippy neighborhood of Ocean Beach (OB) where B&J live. It’s an authentic-feeling little beach town that has managed to escape the high-rise condos and McMansions so prevalent in many beach communities. There are lots of beautiful homes along the water and down the streets there are these quaint little cottages, some slightly shabby and some well-kept with brightly colored doors and shutters.There is artwork everywhere from painted mural graffiti, to individual expressions of art in yards and on houses.OB boasts a neat little shopping area with bars and restaurants. B&J have found their own little neighborhood Cheers, appropriately named Shades, overlooking the beach, lifeguard station and the pier (longest on the west coast). Of course one can’t talk about the beauty of the place without at least acknowledging the beauty of the people. Surfers and lifeguards, need I say more ladies?
Having just left the sauna that is Tallahassee in August, my second impression was the weather. OMG! Seriously, to walk outside in the middle of the day and be able to actually go for a walk and enjoy the outdoors was, literally, a breath of fresh air. We explored many areas and I was truly awed by the natural beauty of the area. San Diego is on a very hilly peninsula so there are areas of flat sandy beaches that give way to rocky areas that become cliffs looking down on the power and majesty of the Pacific Ocean crashing on the rocks. As you walk ,there are trails down the cliffs to little sandy coves. Walking the hilly streets of OB, there are ocean vistas in all directions and flowers blooming everywhere. Though many of the plants are like those found in Fl, there were also many that were very different and, of course, being a dry area, there are lots of very interesting succulents.
Among the many sites we enjoyed were Point Loma lighthouse with tidal pools and views of the SD skyline, Torrey Pines and Sunset Cliffs, the wealthy town of La Jolla where we saw a lifeguard rescue 2 people (very cool) and downtown SD and pier where the USS Midway is docked, We went to Balboa Park and saw the beautiful gardens there and had a great meal at Prado where I experienced my 1st Moscow Mule (yum) then took the ferry to Coronado Island which is unbelievably idyllic and had a drink at the iconic Hotel del Coronado. If that wasn’t enough, we saw the amazing Tom Petty in concert. He was fantastic! One of the other highlights was a whale watching excursion and actually seeing blue whales feeding. They are magnificent creatures and I will always remember seeing those HUGE (up to 100 ft and 4000 lbs!) animals breaking the surface and blowing a spray of water high in the air as they take a breath.
Two of my favorite experiences were purely vicarious in nature but so much fun. The first was watching the surfers from OB pier.Though obviously a very athletic sport, there is also a calm almost meditative aspect to it. The surfers are so beautiful to watch, sitting quietly on their boards waiting and counting the waves, then a split second decision to go for it, paddling in on the rising crest of the wave then standing and weaving over the surface,flying over the water. How exhilarating that must feel! The second experience was watching the paragliders take off from the glider port at Torrey Pines.There is a grassy slope that leads off the cliff and the gliders would gently skip down the slope as the wind lifted them up and they were off and sailing through the skies back and forth along the coast. All of the brightly colored parachutes were so pretty sailing through the air,it was just mesmerizing.As they came in to land they would adjust the chute, stall slightly and gently touch down, then turn and put the parachute on the ground. To see the look of pure joy and excitement on the faces of both the pilots and the people who paid to ride tandem with them was wonderful. Hopefully B&J will do it before I come back and be able to report firsthand how scary it might be and how worth it to overcome that fear.
Facing and overcoming one’s fear is always a huge accomplishment and would certainly qualify as a lyf moment, so maybe it will have to be an experience on my next visit. Maybe??As for this trip, I have so many moments to remember, we had so much fun, we laughed (Johnny! Johnny listen to me. I come from Florida, the land of rain and humidity! ) and had great conversations. We ate a lot of delicious food ( especially fish tacos), had terrific drinks and watched amazing sunsets and I met so many lovely, lovely people. I will definitely return but until then I will hold dear all those memories and mentally escape to that refreshing ocean breeze as I look forward to autumn in Florida.