Saturday, October 29, 2011

San Diego Tour Guide (Final Day)

Hey There:

So today was the final day of my NY friend's visit to San Diego, since he wakes up at 5:30 in the morning (NY time is 3 hours ahead) he has made it into a habit to walk to Panchita's Bakery (located on C Street in Golden Hill), get his coffee and his Mexican bread. I've lived in several areas in San Diego and always check out the Mexican bakeries, this is one of the few that gets it just right, especially the hot chocolate and the specialty breads like the Rosca de Reyes and Pan de Muerto.

What and where? Watch a football game at Shakespeare's Pub & Grill

Why? First of all, it's always a treat to watch the Brits cheering and singing for their teams and second, this would be a good game, it was Manchester United vs Liverpool. The game started at 4:45 AM (Yes! 4:45 in the morning!) I couldn't get up early enough to get there before it started, but I woke up at 5 AM, we got there by 5:30 and it was so packed that we had to sit in the patio where they put another TV. At my "slight" coercion my friend had bought a ManU t-shirt with Chicharito on it....he's a good friend! And the cool thing is that Chicharito scored the only goal of the match! Man oh Man, I can't wait for the World Cup! OK, OK, gotta focus...back to my tale.

My friend was impressed and even if he didn't understand the game too much, he liked the atmosphere, he got to see the sun rise (I didn't even notice) and by 6 AM the bar opened and he had a Guinness for breakfast!

Several flat screen TVs to watch games


Everyone glued to the screens

What and where? One last stroll at the Harbor

Why? Close to the airport and we had an hour to kill before I had to leave him there, so we had one more stroll and he bought a few more souvenirs.

My NY Friend

By the end of the trip my friend took over a thousand pictures and had the time of his life. Now in his case, everything centered in seeing more Mexican culture, exercising and not loosing his NY time schedule. Which meant more day activities and not a lot of night life. I normally cater the things to do depending on my visitor, if he had wanted to experience the night life, I know of places to go for every night of the week!

Once he left I was extremely tired and spent the rest of the day in bed, but his trip was very fun for me as well. I got to see everything in the eyes of someone who was fascinated by everything and as always I feel so lucky to live in San Diego!

Friday, October 28, 2011

San Diego Tour Guide (Day 7)

Hey There:

Today is a Friday, the last full day of my friend's vacation. I didn't plan anything for this day so we could have a chance to do whatever he wanted.

What and where? San Diego Zoo!

Why? It's THE San Diego Zoo! Even the characters in Magadascar wanted to go there. I have a member pass so I go very often and really, and seriously, almost every time I go I see something new, those guys are amazing when it comes to re-distributing and using all available space. Now, as a member I normally take advantage of all the buses, the skyfari, not to mention the escalators. Why? Because the place is full of freaking hills, very steep ones, which are fun to go down until you realize you eventually have to go back up.

Granted because of my reluctance to walk I sometimes miss some exhibits like the gorilla and tiger one. But this time, my friend Tom and I walked to every single exhibit.....holy crap! Now I remember why I stopped walking all over the place. I was exhausted, but got to see everything.

Money saving tip: If you're a San Diego resident, you might as well take a look at the annual memberships since a single adult ticket costs $40, I remember it used to be more affordable.

Condors, endangered, but getting a second chance thanks to the Zoo's efforts

Elephants getting their pedicure

They remind me of my cats

The polar bears will always give you great pics

According to the tour information, the plant collection at the Zoo is worth
more money than the animal collection.

These giant turtles love to be petted, I've done it a few times
Love these turtles!

What and where? Lunch at Mitsuwa Marketplace

Why? So far my friend hadn't had any sushi, but instead of taking him to one of many awesome Japanese restaurants we have in San Diego, I took him to a Japanese grocery store. That place is so cool, it's a grocery store coupled with with other smaller stores, like a library, a food court, a dishware store and many others. Of course, all the items are Japanese, but there's enough English around the store so you know where to find things. Very cool store and the only one I ever buy packaged sushi from, it tastes very good and it's inexpensive.

Money saving tip: At 7 PM they mark down all the sushi that's left by 50%, maybe you won't find your favorite ones, but you will get lots of sushi!

Mitsuwa Marketplace

My favorite Sushi

Sushi Parfait

What and where? Stroll on Ocean Beach

Why? This area is just awesome, very laid back, and I mean very laid back, lots of drunks at all hours of the day and night, artists, great stores, with a pier where lots of people fish from, a very cool Hostel that's always full of life with people singing on their porch and a dog park nearby. Not to mention all the bars and restaurants, great place to go!

Another reason we went there was to see the flourescent waves, which I believe it's a seasonal thing and somebody explained why it happens, but don't remember now (and am too lazy to Google it right now) but it looks amazing. When the waves crash, the white froth has a yellow fluorescent look, never seen it before.

Pic taken from the Hostel website, looks very cool and always full of people

This is from Cafe Bella inside a Quickstop...the food was very good!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

San Diego Tour Guide (Day 6)

Hey There:

Today is Thursday and the first morning I didn't have to pack so we headed out of the city to....Julian!

What and where? Shop, eat and stroll through Julian, CA

Why? It's a great place for a day trip, get out of the city, go through the mountains and a long winding road until you reach a town created back in the gold mining days. In Julian you can actually experience the seasons with the trees changing color in fall, with snow in winter and warm summers. It's also well known for it's pies which you can find in several grocery stores in San Diego.

I've been there several times, and one of the shops I always go to is Julian's Cider Mill where I always buy apple boysenberry cider, sesame sticks and whatever else that looks tempting.

Money saving tip: I've eaten in several places and for the most part the prices seem steep and the food is OK, nothing great. So far the place I've found the best deal for lunch is at Apple Alley Bakery where you can get soup/salad, half sandwich, a bag of chips, a pickle and a slice of pie for $10, you pay extra if you want the pie a la mode and the drink is not included. But it's still a good deal and even though it doesn't look like much, the food is very hearty and you leave very satisfied.

As for the shops, a lot of them have tourist prices, I can understand it for handmade or antique items, but some things cost way too much. But on this trip I discovered Pistols and Petticoats, located on a second floor. In this shop you "Go back in time to the old west in this unique gift store. You'll find items from the parlor to the boudoir reminiscent of old saloon days"...and it's true, the items are so cool, very western, kinda metal, sexy and cheap!!! What made me drool was they're selection of carnival masks, with the cheapest at $2, which was a beautiful mask that only covered the eyes, to the most expensive one at $30 which was a full face mask with lots of peacock feathers. Too bad I couldn't take pics inside the shop, but I did take pics of what I bought. This time I was lucky I only took cash, so I was limited in my time, I'll be sure to get there with my card!

This is what I bought at Pistols and Petticoats

What and where? Shopping and Gambling at Viejas Casino

Why? The outlet part of Viejas looks so great, with a Native American theme, just walking around it is great, but even if you don't want to you'll end up shopping. I've found great deals, I always like to stop at Anna's Linens can't beat the prices. Click here to check out the stores.

But if you want a bit of gambling then go inside the casino, which looks like any other casino, lots of red, lots of lights, slot machines, blackjack tables and of course, the buffet. We both played on the slot machines but lost very quickly (I only put in $7).

Money saving tip: none....go crazy!

What and where? Coffee at Lestat's on Adams Avenue in Normal Heights

Why? One of the few coffee shops open 24 hours, with the walls full of art and all the "interesting" people (to put it mildly), always a great place to people watch and if you're a creative person, you can meet writers, painters, gamers, computer geeks and just plain weird people. When I go I can sometimes write uninterrupted for hours or get nothing done because I'm talking to people until 4 in the morning. Never a dull moment!

You can see a glimpse of my favorite chair

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

San Diego Tour Guide (Day 5)

Hey There:

Today is a Wednesday, the last day I'll be helping with my friend's packing, this time it was the closet. As a last favor to her I volunteered to take the unwanted clothing to Goodwill on my way home so she had one less errand to run. It was unbelievable, she got rid of about 30% of her clothing and that filled my trunk and all the back of my car. Thank Goodness we didn't have to go through her three dressers and a cedar chest since the movers would be taking the furniture with all the contents inside.

Unfortunately, the tiredness of the packing, lifting, bending, driving, talking, cooking, etc took it's toll and today I didn't do a lot with my NY friend. I really needed a rest and he understood, but he still got some sight-seeing:

What and where? Balboa Trails

Why? I wanted him to take a different hike, one that would take him through the park and cactus garden. So I left him at the corner of Upas and 6th Street where the trails start, initially he said he did start a trail, but ended up walking all over Banker's Hill and taking pictures of the buildings, palm trees and everything he found interesting.

What and where? Look at the Chicano Park pillars in Barrio Logan

Why? The park itself has a deep meaning to the community, to make a long story short, 42 years ago a piece of land that had been promised to the Chicano community for a park was on the verge of being converted into a parking lot for a Highway Patrol station. A student walking by saw the bulldozers, asked what was going on and when he found out, he immediately raised the alarm to the community. This was 1970 and at this point the community had seen the bridge divide and displace thousands of families, not to mention the "influx of junkyards, metal shops and other toxic businesses"; so the building of the parking lot was the last straw. Families went to the site and forming human chains prevented the bulldozers from doing their work, while at the same time started planting nopales, magueys and flowers. The community won, created the park and celebrates it every year.

The pillars that hold the Coronado bridge are covered in murals with historical and socio-political themes and are now going through a Mural Restoration Project. Some are already finished and they look truly amazing!

And on a related note, earlier this year I bought a photograph print entitled "Chicano Park" by local artist Candace Van Assche, check her flicker photo-stream and be amazed by her talent!

"Aztec Archer", restoration finished on September 2011

"Undocumented Worker" restoration completed on August 2011

In the distance you can see some scaffolds
18 murals are to be restored

Chicano Park by Candace Van Assche

What and where? Sightseeing at the Coronado Ferry Landing

Why? You can get there two ways, drive through the bridge by car or go on a ferry from the San Diego Harbor, either way you'll see great sights. If you go by car, they have convenient free parking; by ferry it's $4.25 one-way or $8.50 round-trip. The Ferry Landing has very cute shops, several casual eateries and fine restaurants as well. My favorite shop there is Scottish Treasures and my favorite place to eat is Spiro's Gyros, but next time I think I'll try Lil' Piggy's BBQ.

And that was it this time, actually at the Ferry Landing I sat down and told him to go on without me, I just couldn't take another step. On our way back home I bought some ribs and mashed potatoes from Albertson's and I was off to bed, slept almost 10 hours that night.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

San Diego Tour Guide (Day 4)

Hey There:

Today is a Tuesday and while I was helping with the packing I gave my NY friend another cool thing to do.

What and where? Hiking at Golden Hill Trails

Why? It's a great workout, no matter how good gym machines are, there's nothing like actually hiking up hills. I wrote two posts on the #22 Trail which is 4.4 miles and that's the one he completed, see Balboa Trails - Golden Hill Part 1 of 2 and Balboa Trails - Golden Hill Part 2 of 2. The reason I picked this workout for him was so he could have the opportunity to see the normal, every day non-tourist part of the city. He loved it and was a bit sore afterwards!

Money saving tip: If you live in the area, instead of going to a gym just do the trails to keep in shape. In my case it doesn't work as well since I prefer to exercise in the evening and during the winter time change the sun goes down way too early.

In some areas logs are added to make it easier to get up and down hills

And no cars within earshot, it's like leaving the city

What and where? Check out the Maritime Museum

Why? This has been on my personal to-do list for a long time and finally I got to do it. Now this was a great deal, for $14 we got to get into the Star of India, the HMS Surprise which was used in the filming of Master and Commander and one of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, an art exhibition from Gauguin, we checked out some smaller ships and got inside a tiny submarine. We couldn't get into the Russian submarine since it was being used in the filming of a movie starring David Duchovny, I tried to linger as much as I could hoping for a glimpse of him, but no luck there.

Now this is great deal and all, but I doubt I'll ever do it again. I get seriously claustrophobic inside the ships, not to mention the submarine, all I wanted was to get back outside!

At the helm of The Star of India
Never will I complain about my tiny bathroom again

A view of the USS Dolphin submarine.
The Gauguin main exhibition was at the old ferry Berkeley

Amazing view! Even if there wasn't a Duchovny sighting

What and where? Watch Mexico vs Brazil friendly football match at Funky Garcia's in Downtown

Why? My friend Tom is part Mexican and one thing he wanted to do on this trip was to experience more of that culture, without going into Mexico since he doesn't have a passport...yet! So what better way than to watch a FIFA football match, with most people wearing the National team jersey and all of us glued to the TV screens and with big expectations for our team. I mean, we were going against Brazil so I was hoping to an honorable loss or dare I even say it...a tie...but we lost 2 - 1, which was very good indeed, the first half was great, with the Mexico national team giving it all their energy and........OK I need to stop the narration now or I'll write pages and pages on the subject. And about the restaurant, it's pretty cool, we had great service and the food was very good, it has become one of my places to take visitors.

Money saving tip: Funky Garcia's is close to Horton Plaza so you can park there for three hours for free with validation, as long as you get there before 9 PM. Also we were lucky it was Taco Tuesday, which is now a tradition for great deals all over San Diego.

This pic was taken from their website

What and where? A stroll through Seaport Village

Why? Day or night this place is magical, full of unique specialized shops dedicated to selling only hot sauce, or flags, or wooden toys, not to mention the amazing Wyland Gallery. Even on weekends when the place is full of people, there is still a feeling of peace and calm there. Looking at the stores, the ponds with ducks and coy fish, the bay or downtown, everywhere you look is a treat. And the shopping is great, I'm in love with so many of the stores there!

Money saving tip: If you get there after 6 PM it's easy to find a spot on the metered area, so at least you don't pay for parking. Otherwise it'll be 2 hours of parking at $1 with purchase and $4 an hour thereafter. Also, if you are on @foursquare you unlock a VIP shopping pass for shopping and dining.

T-Shirt from The Little Viking Store in Seaport Village

Love this one!