I’m finally going to catch up on my blogs from the rest of my time out, and while it may take a while, I’ll get there. This one is going to be a long one, because San Diego turned out to be a huge part of our trip, and one of the places that springs to mind as soon as I’m asked where my favourite place was, so I apologise in advance, but I didn’t want to miss anything out.
After leaving Los Angeles, Caitlin and I headed down to San Diego for a few days. We have, in the past, experienced an American thanksgiving and it was terrible, we were in a less than satisfactory hostel and the ‘celebration’ they put on was just a borderline food-poisoned meal. Suffice to say, when we knew we were going to be in America over thanksgiving for a second time, we decided we wanted to try to have a more successful day. After checking out lots of hostels online, we came across a small independent one that had great reviews, International Travelers House, and decided to take a chance on it. I can’t quite explain how that chance was one of the best we could have taken! We arrived at the hostel, greeted by ‘hello’ in every language you can think of, painted up the stairs, and cheerful guests and staff. ITH has a vibe about it that I’ve not really experienced in hostels before. Everyone is there to meet people from around the world, experience a new place and mostly, just have fun. Within minutes we were chatting to a group of people and already knew we liked it there. The hostel organises lots of free activities that bring the group together, all for free, such as nights out, hikes in nearby La Jolla (a beach and a cliff-top with beautiful views and the most amazing imprints in the sand from the waves), trips to the local farmers market, taco Tuesday, games night, etc. Dinner and breakfast are also free and time to meet the group. In some places, and with some people, this might be too much, but it just worked here and I can’t quite say why. But we loved it, a lot! We had crazy nights out (I may have drank a cocktail out of a cowboy boot in one of the western themed bars, but I managed to stop myself getting on the mechanical bull!), laughed every few minutes (to the point where Im glad I have waterproof mascara otherwise I would have looked a mess!) and met some great friends from all over the world, who I know we’ll stay in contact with.
On one of the early nights out there was a lady getting people to try Wild Turkey whiskey shots. I don’t normally drink whiskey, and remember trying my dad’s and pulling faces at the taste. But, this lady was giving away free T-shirts and bottle openers and being a budget traveller, I just had to have the freebies! It worked out well, I wore the Wild Turkey T-shirt for the rest of the evening and found a new favourite drink, whiskey, cranberry and lime. The slightly crazy antics of the next few nights, along with the whiskey consumed provided me with my new nickname, Whiskey Girl. As for San Diego itself, it’s a very laid back city with great weather, so I can see why people want to live there, the night life is great fun, and we certainly tried out a lot of it! There is a duelling pianos bar there, which we loved. The idea is, two pianists sit opposite each other and the audience requests songs, of any genre, from any time, and if they know it, they play it and chat and joke and get members of the audience up to join in, it’s good fun and it’s amazing the talent these people have, it made me want to take piano lessons (add that to the growing list of things I want to do!). We sung-along to everything from Billy Joel to Katy Perry and loved it so much. The Californian sunsets are generally all pretty amazing in winter, there is just enough cloud cover to show off the different colours of the sun as it sets and we weren’t disappointed in San Diego. There is a place called sunset cliffs, where there are some beautiful houses lining the road (wouldn’t mind that view!) and then a lookout point over the sea and the sunset..a perfect place to drive to on one of the hostel activities. But before heading there, we popped to a bar overlooking the harbour for a Bali Mai Tai, and not just any mai tai, this place claims to serve the strongest mai tai in the world. We all laughed it off and thought ‘when in Rome and all that’ and ordered a round of them. Wow! With no mixer, only a variety of different spirits, they weren’t joking about it being strong, but it still tasted good. One drink down and we were all best of friends, giggly and even having a bit of a photo shoot before heading to sunset cliffs. As we got out of the car, I was trying to be helpful, I let everyone out and closed the door behind them before stepping backwards.. not realising that we had pulled up alongside a short car railing and subsequently I took a bit of a tumble! After the mai tai, I found this hilarious and couldn’t get myself back up because I was laughing so hard, and instead of coming to help me, my lovely friend Caitlin laughed and took photos, isn’t she nice?! Thankfully it was only my dignity that was hurt this time. If I’m honest, I chilled out more through the days on this part of the trip, partially due to hangovers, partly just because I could! One favourite memory from a lazy day was most of us squashed into the living room watching Pitch Perfect in Spanish, and still loving it even though we couldn’t understand it! But when I did head out, I loved it. Balboa park, is a large park area near to downtown, filled with museums and galleries and a cute little Spanish market village. I visited a photography exhibition there and especially liked some of the photos from local school kids showing their impression of San Diego, it’s inspiring to see how creative children can be when given the right tools and support. Unfortunately, after an eventful 5 days, out time in SD came to an end, we had a flight to Las Vegas already booked and we couldn’t change it. So we said our goodbyes and headed off the airport feeling a bit sad, sore from laughing and a bit drunk still if I’m honest!
The world’s strongest Mai Tai
Yep, that’s me after the ‘Mai Tai fall of 2013’
After a couple of days in Las Vegas, we were missing San Diego and all the people we had met, we specifically planned our trip with lots of flexibility just in case we really liked somewhere or were ready to move on a little sooner than expected, and this felt like the perfect time to make a change to the schedule. We hired a car in Las Vegas, drove across the border into California and along some of the most peaceful roads you can imagine (I would not want to break down there, it could have ended pretty badly), listening to various radio stations as they tuned in and out (a particular favourite song was Honky Tonk Badonkadonk!) stopping off at Joshua Tree national park (great trees and views, very cold and windy though, so it was difficult to stand and watch the sunset) and then Palm Desert. This is somewhere that was recommended to me when we were planning the trip and I can understand why. It’s such a peaceful city, with a small town feel, the streets are all lined with palm trees and twinkling lights in the evening. We decided we need to recover a little there and found a great juice bar to stock up on vitamins and nutrients before a chilled out day at the Living Desert Museum, wandering through the desert and seeing some if the animals and trees that live there, I loved all the different types of cactus, they look so interesting and just make you want to touch them.. is that just me?!
So, after our mini road trip, we arrived back in San Diego, to pick up where we left off. Unfortunately some of our new friends had left while we were gone, but we met the new guests straight away at dinner and realised it wasn’t going to be all that different. Our first day back was quite a girly day, shopping, manicures, gossip and chats over coffee then wine, it felt like coming back home after a trip away and catching up with people! Nothing changed with pub crawls and nights out, new places and new people but same laughs and fun! We explored San Diego a little more through the days this time, making an effort to see daylight! The harbour area is beautiful, with huge naval ships and small (but expensive) yachts and boats, green lined streets and a massive statue based on the famous Times Square Kiss, it’s quite impressive. There is a small village near the harbour with independent stores and a cafe/bookshop, I could have spent hours in there between the books and cakes and coffees! After managing to tear myself and my friends away, we wandered down to the shore to watch another beautiful sunset. It’s days like that which remind me how great travelling is. On a final day in SD, we headed to Coronado Island..which isn’t actually an island, but that’s what it’s known as, because it’s mostly separated from the mainland and has a cut off, serene feeling to it. A great place to visit and walk along the beach, watch sunset, chill out in one of the bars or cafes, or hire a bike and cycle around. The neighbourhoods had a lovely, homely vibe to them, somewhere to raise kids who could play out in the street but be close to the ‘big city’ for the culture and entertainment that it can offer. Another exciting thing about going back to San Diego, we were there at the same time as Jay-Z and somehow managed to get tickets to see his show. I’ve seen him before, but loved it again and it’s always interesting seeing how crowds from different areas or countries react to music and events. I have to be honest I was expected crazy rowdiness from the Americans, but they were quite tame in comparison to some shows I’ve been to. As it was December when we were back in San Diego, we were able to see the Christmas decorations and visit the local Christmas markets and choir performance at Balboa park. I wasn’t feeling especially Christmassy but it was nice to see the kids putting on their festive show and get into the Christmas spirit.
One of many beautiful California sunsets
The ITH gang
After extending our bed bookings in the hostel more than 3 times, because we just weren’t ready to leave (and consequently trying out most of the rooms available), we finally had to leave the hostel and SD before we ran out of time to fit everything in. I honestly wasn’t ready to go and felt extremely sad leaving this place that had instantly taken us in and felt like home nor was I ready to leave the amazing, hilarious, caring people that we had met, but I had to. I absolutely left part of my heart in San Diego and have no doubt I will be back there again to build more memories and meet new people who will change me a little, just as those I met this time have.
Sad to be leaving SD!
Should we go back to SD for a few more days, we have the time and we did love it there and we’re so close…?
This image pretty much sums up our time in SD