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Andrew Pollock

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Sunday, 20 April 2008

Four days in San Diego...

...is just not enough time to see the place properly.

I took Friday and Monday off, and Thursday night a week ago, Sarah and I flew down to San Diego for a bit of a "Yay, we've achieved normality" escape.

We'd intended to go to SeaWorld on Friday, vege out for two days, go to San Diego Zoo on Monday, then fly home on Monday night.

Well we did SeaWorld and the zoo as planned, but lazing around the pool never happened, we ended up running ourselves ragged exploring San Diego all day Saturday and Sunday instead.

We stayed at The Dana on Mission Bay, which we picked because it was the closest to SeaWorld. The accommodation was more like a motel than a hotel. There were numerous two-storey buildings across a fairly sprawling area. It had frontage onto what I presume was Mission Bay, and also had a Marina attached to it, so the outlook was quite nice. It also had free WiFi, so we could upload photos throughout the stay. The food offerings were pretty good, and reasonably priced as well.

SeaWorld was really good. It's been a long time since I've been to the Australian equivalent, but I don't remember it as being as interactive. San Diego's SeaWorld had a Bay Ray feeding area, where you could purchase food (small whole fish), and hand-feed the Bat Rays. That was pretty cool. It took a bit of a courage to leave your hand in the water, palm up, with something the size of sardine dangling between your fingers and let these huge rays literally swim right over your hand so they could suck the fish from between your fingers.

There was also a dolphin feeding area, where you could purchase some small fish again, and give the dolphins a pat on the head and then throw them a fish. I really love dolphins, and one day I'd like to be able to swim with them.

The main attraction of SeaWorld is the various shows that they do. I think we caught all of the different ones. The killer whales are just amazing. There were a few different programs where for an additional fee, you could swim with various animals. Dolphins and Beluga whales seemed to be the ones we noticed in particular.

There were a few oddities, though:

The park is owned by a beer company, so there was a part where you could go and get free samples. Two per person per day (I think on the honour system).

At least at the food outlet where we bought lunch (they don't allow you to bring in any food or drink from the outside "for the safety of the animals", so they have a nice monopoly on catering) every kid's meal came in a commemorative Shamu blue plastic lunch pail - whether you wanted it or not. There were two empty ones left on the table that Sarah and I sat down at. The lady cleaning up the tables asked us if we wanted them, and we said no, and she promptly chucked them out with the trash. This just struck me as a terrible waste. They obviously cost money and energy to produce, and they're just going to end up in landfill. They could have been washed and reused instead. I felt this was very hypocritical for a park that was trying to send people away with a message about conservation.

Other than this nitpick, I thought SeaWorld was really great. It was a good size, and it was doable in one day, in their normal opening hours. I guess it'd be a bit slower with kids. Photos from the day are here.

The next two days we spent exploring San Diego. The hotel was conveniently located on an MTS loop, which ran surprising frequently for a weekend (at least compared to public transit in the Bay Area), so we bought day passes on Saturday and Sunday and used it to get to the Old Town transit centre.

On Saturday we explored Old Town, which was a historic preservation of how San Diego looked "back in the day". In the afternoon, we also bought 48-hour tickets for the red double-decker "hop on, hop off" tour bus, and did one of the two loops that it offered.

The next day, we caught the loop in the opposite direction, and checked out Mission Beach, which was probably the best beach I've seen in California so far (although the water was still far too cold), saw some pretty cool alternative accommodation (possibly for next time), and did part of the other loop on the tour bus, getting off at the USS Midway. This massive retired aircraft carrier is permanently moored at San Diego, and for a fee, you can crawl all over most of it. It was very interesting, and gave a good insight into the life of a sailor. We blew a good 4 hours or so here, and ran out of time to see the entire thing (we didn't make it onto the "island" part of the ship, which we were a bit bummed about).

We then caught the trolley back to Old Town, and grabbed a beer at a pub that sold it by the yard glass and half yard glass. We opted for the half yard glass, since the full yard glass seemed a bit unwieldly, and we thought it looked like a hell of a lot of beer, but the half yard glass, whilst also looking like a lot of beer, was only about one and a half pints.

We then grabbed some dinner at one of the very authentic looking Mexican restaurants (they had women out the front, almost on the sidewalk making fresh tortillas on the spot) and headed back home. Photos from our exploration are here.

On the last day, we went to the San Diego Zoo (which every time I read the URL for, I read it as "Sandie go Zoo!").

This zoo is purportedly the best zoo in the country, but it really didn't blow my socks off. We seemed to have a really hard time navigating the place, and spent a lot of the day walking around in circles trying to find various exhibits. It's also in a bit of a valley, so the circles tended to be up and down hills, which was tiring. I really don't think we were very efficient at all in our coverage of the place.

The other thing that I personally found annoying was the cages. The wire was very close together, which made it really hard to take photos, because the camera would keep focusing on the wire, instead of what was behind it. I guess this is why God invented manual focus, but that made it very hard to photograph big cats stalking their cages. The photos we did manage to get are here.

Overall, we had a great time in San Diego, and it seems we didn't really scratch the surface. I'd like to go back again and see Balboa Park, the Gaslamp district, and I thought there were more naval vessels that you could look at, but I might be mistaken.

Definitely a very nice city.

[23:55] [life/americania] [permalink]