Trip Start Mar 08, 2008
9Trip End Mar 28, 2008
Map your own trip!
Show trip route
Where I stayed
Porto Vista Hotel
Its funny how a little thing like a time change for daylight savings can upset your entire plans for the day. That's what happened when we left for San Diego. After the clocks were moved forward 1 hour for Pacific time (or specific time as its known these days) we overslept and then took too long checking out in the morning such that we left later then expected en route for our first destination - Pacific Coast Plaza. This a mall, or shopping centre (more like shopping experience) just south of where we were staying, that is one of the biggest malls in the state and certainly the biggest for the area. The idea in heading here was to experience some more local culture - after all life is pretty tough for everyone in the OC. The plan was to walk around, shop, listen out for some "shop girl conversations" that take in the language of the area, "Oh my God!", "Oh my Gosh!", "like what-ever".
Soon after we arrived in America however it became clear that Vaughan didn't necessarily have all the right things for the trip. And so this trip to the mall turned out to be more a necessity as we went through all the big 4 department stores. Sears, Macy's, Bloomingdales, Nordstroom - with prices increasing as we went through each of them as well as the music classing up each time (Nordstroom had live classical piano!). Once we saw prices for things 1/3 of what we'd pay in Australia we were hooked and the next thing we knew 4 hours had passed and we needed to make tracks. So we hit the highway and headed towards the beautiful city of San Diego, arriving 2 hours later then expected. This meant that we missed half an afternoon of planned activities and needed to reschedule the 2 days we had remaining.
Situated just 15 miles north of the US-Mexico border it may surprise many of you when I tell you this is the 2nd largest city in California. Its LA-San Diego, San Jose and San Fran in order (note in my last email series I had 3 & 4 mixed up and I apologize for the stress this may have caused). Its also the 8th biggest city in the USA (after NY, LA, Chicago, Houston, Phoenix, Philadelphia & San Antonio). The city doesn't necessariy have the same feel as San Francisco (which is packed with tourists) or the bigness & busyness of an LA but its easily one of the nicest and most relaxed cities I've been to in this country
I had wanted to come to this city ever since I came down to Seaworld on my last trip and did a little feedback session with this girl upon leaving. Feedback is the process of analyzing and criticing what is good and bad about something and then using this knowledge to plan things better in the future. It is particularly uncommon around Christian circles nowadays so that volunteers aren't offended and stop doing things that they may be doing badly to begin with so that they can never improve (rant over). At Seaworld however they wanted to improve and the last question I was asked - "How long are you spending in San Diego?" received a response of "I'm not - I'm heading back to LA" got a strange sort of reaction from the question askerer. She sort of made an "Oh" and seemed offended I wasn't staying. I asked her if I was missing out and she said I was and that it was a beautiful city and if I get a chance I could here. So here I am.
We entered San Diego with the Top Gun soundtrack playing in the car, something I'm sure many of you would do if you came here (Danger zone being the song & title of this episode). Not only the setting for Top Gun but also another classic movie, 'Anchorman', I re-watched both of them before coming here as part of my trip preparation. I'm glad I did. I had no idea how prominent Top Gun features into the culture of this city. San Diego has the largest milatary presence of any city anywhere in the world. The city is home to most of the US navy, it has a nuclear submarine base and numerous other barracks and installations in the area. Indeed it is wierd how the paranoid Americans publize prominently what they have on offer here. It also has the busiest single lane airport in the country. This little piece of trivia I knew before coming but this has been repeatedly endlessly. On our first tour we were told it was the busiest in the country, then we're told it was the world! Our hotel was just under the flight path and when you walk the streets planes can be flying in not much more then 50 feet above your head. We were staying in little Italy, an area so named because it is so small if you blink you might miss the 10 Italian restaurants the locals are so proud of (certainly not a patch on Lygon st), but also so named cos if the buildings were tall the planes would hit them.
We decided to do a tour of the Old town to begin our first day. However a POD stuff up meant that instead of waiting for the tour bus at one of the well marked Orange signs, it turned out to be an Orange reflector and 30 mins of doing nothing ate into our time once more. Still we ended up in the old town, a tribute to the first Europeans coming to San Diego in the late 18th century. The girl checking us in thought my accent was very cute (couldn't say the same about her) and she personally escorted us onto the tour bus. Our tour guide, Torak, was named out of something from a Star Trek episode. He claimed it was a viking name. Vaughan believes he is playing the Cheers game and playing funny buggers with the names and trying to see who buys it. The tour was good for putting us onto a 'duck' type tour of the harbour and so we blew our money and left this early to head into the water. As we were treated to majestic and breathtaking views of San Diego bay, a POD of dolphins (probably wanting to meet me) followed our boat around as we saw all manner of top secret army vessels. We saw nuclear submarines, battleships sailing out and had numerous military installations pointed out to us. At the end of the tour our guide recommended a trip to the USS Middway an aircraft carrier from World War II and he pointed out the Top Gun bar, the place when Cruise sung 'You've got that lovin' feeling' to McGillis. We went there for dinner, its exactly the same place inside and I'm sure we're now the envy of all you top gun fans. FYI dinner was absolute crap and was bought out on paper plates with "silverware" of plastic knifes and forks. I guess this is payback for all the times I've made people eat off the same things at Trivia nights I've run. We were lucky not to experience food poisoning from this place but these are the risks you take.
The USS Middway is an aircraft carrier built for WWII that never saw action in the war as it took too long to build (by the time they finished building it the war was over) but was in service for 47 years. It is a fascinating place as you gain a glimpse into the conditions of serviceman on board the ship. There was so much to running a ship of that magnitude and so many little things they had to think of to make things run smoothly. We basically went on this because we were unsure when we'd next be able to go on an aircraft carrier. Top Gun again featured prominently on this ships, Danger Zone can be heard blasting out as you go through the hanger deck (its in a video) and jackets from the movie can be purchased here as well as various other top gun souvenirs.
My last day here was spent in the beautiful Balboa Park. This place totally blows you away. It is set admist a large parkland but is essentially a series of 18th and 19th century buildings in the style of Spanish colonial architecture. Everything is seperated by paved sidewalks, fountains and abudant amounts of flora and fauna. With attractions interspersed by water fountains, gardens and other pretty bits and pieces I was blown away by the beauty and relaxing ambiance of this place. The locals are also about walking their dogs, going for jogs (not so many fat Americans in southern California - they're in the cold north!) My first stop was San Diego Zoo. Famous for the Pandas, and site for the final scenes of Anchorman (although I can confirm they weren't actually filmed here but were in an old LA zoo) this is one of the finest zoo's in the world. A quick tour got me orientated and then I was off to see the very cute Panda's. They were playful and active and many good shots were taken. I didn't have alot of time and so stuck to all the big animals as I hate little ones, so it was tigers, big cats, camels, jabba the elephant (a star wars fan must look after him), llama type things and the Kokomodo dragon for me. Indeed the highlight of my visit, besides the Panda's was my very first corn dog experience. This is a hot dog cooked in a corn batter and served with fries, I'm hungry just thinking about it but it was delicious.
After this I went to the Aerospace museum which was essentially a glorified tribute to how great Americans have been in this field and neglicted to mention much of what anyone had done in any other country. It also missed Amelia Airhart and only mentioned women in the context of airhostesses. Interesting. Still I met an American computer nerd there who convinced me to try a flight simulator of an World War II plane that I continually crashed. Upon leaving I found myself in the midst of tour groups of mostly fat Americans trying to negotiate the park and completing what appeared to be some Amazing Race type thing. They were so bad at it and were continually getting in everyone's way I just wanted to yell out the answers. Around the same time I found a Japaneese Tea garden and desperate for tea tried to order but was soon surrounded by these groups of fat Americans completing the question - 'how many varities of tea does the tea garden serve'. They were all running around annoying everyone trying to work out the answer yet it says on the big sign out front that 43 varities were served and they all missed it. I tried to order a regular tea but this was difficult as they tried to sell me one of the 43 varities, and then an Iced tea, and then I had to chose my milk.
The end of our time was spent at a Mexician restaurant, not far from the Horton Plaza. An amazing outdoor mall type thing that has just about everyhing you'd want. The guy serving us at the restaurant called us Amigos and Vaughan was able to compare first hand how much better the Americans are at Mexican food compared to Austrailans. I took him to one in Melb before he left so he could release for himself how crap Mexican food is in Australia compared to over here. It only took 1 meal to make my point.
Signing off in the words of legendary Ron Burgendy himself, 'you stay classy San Diego' (& thanks for stopping by).
POD WATCH - Maybe Baby
We have decided to name our GPS unit 'Maybe' after the character in Arrested Development. Primarily this is because we're never quite sure if we're going to get to our destination and also so that we can say 'Marry Me' whenever she speaks (only fans will get this). She gets the occassional thing wrong our Maybe cos American freeway exits can be in close priximity and her accuracy seems to be within 300 metres. We're starting to second guess her, so maybe is the way to go.