San Diego with Daniele

San Diego with Daniele

Daniele and I finished our California Coast Trip with four days in San Diego. He had been here before for a two week nursing exchange, but I never had. We were here Saturday November 18 through Tuesday the 21st.


We arrived in San Diego pretty early, our first stop was Mission Beach. It started to rain a little bit, but we walked around and enjoyed the views anyway. There were women setting up support tents for one of those big breast cancer walks, but we didn’t see any runners/walkers yet.

(Mission Beach with some rain)

Our next stop was Sunset Cliffs, which are very pretty! At this point the rain stopped, but we found the ladies in pink walking and running for breast cancer awareness. I of course think that is amazing, but disturbances make Daniele a bit nervous.

(Kait at Mission Cliffs. Can you tell I woke up early?)

Next we went to Cabrillo National Park were we saw the Cabrillo National Monument, a beautiful view of the city and a light house.

(Daniele and Kait by the Cabrillo National Monument with downtown San Diego in the background)

At this point we could go to our hotel, which was right by Old Town, so we went there. Old Town San Diego is both a neighborhood and a State Park. It commemorates the early days of the town of San Diego and includes many 19th century buildings. We started off with lunch at Casa da Guadalajara, which I thought was pretty good, Daniele thought it was a bit touristy. We walked through the mini-town and some open buildings. Including Casa De Estudillo, where it seemed to be some type of special day and there were people in period costume, many doing hand crafts, like spinning yarn.

(Girls dancing “Baile Folklorico” in Old Town)

(Women spinning yarn in Casa De Estudillo in Old Town)

In the afternoon we went to the Gas lamp district. We saw Market, Broadway, and the Waterfront where there were old ships and there was a sailboat race going on, America’s Cup World Series it seemed. We hit up a happy hour special at a place called Current for dinner, it was really delicious.

(The Maritime Museum of San Diego)


We gave all of Sunday for seeing Balboa Park. We knew there were free Ranger tours, but they changed the time to later in the day, so after we checked up on that we saw a bit on our own first. We saw the Lilly Pond (reflecting pool), the Botanical Building, The Moreton Bay Fig Tree (really, really, huge old fig tree), the Zoro Garden, an open market in the SD Theater, and the Butterfly Garden.

(Lily Pond in Balboa Park)

(Lilly Pond and Botanical Building in Balboa Park)

(In the Botanical Building in Balboa Park)

(Moreton Bay Fig tree in Balboa Park. Planted in 1914, it now has a girth of 42 feet, a height of 80 feet and a canopy of 145 feet.)

(Butterfly Garden in Balboa Park)

After we saw all of that, Daniele wanted to skip the Ranger tour, but I’m so glad we didn’t! We saw so much more, and what we covered again, we actually learned about this time. Our ranger was the best possible guide for the park, not only did he know the park inside and out, it was his life, he cared so much about these plants and buildings that it made every thing he said interesting.

He told us a little about the history of the Old Globe Theater. It was built in 1934 as a copy of the one in Chicago, which in turn was a copy of the Old Globe in London. He also pointed out the more interesting a rare plants as we walked around (I’ll save most of them for Picasa). He told us that most of the creatures swimming in the Lilly Pond, including the dozen or so turtles I saw, are not supposed to be there and are all dumped pets. Besides some of the places we had already been, we also saw the Alcazar Garden, which had an English Garden design, and the Japanese Friendship Garden, which is undergoing heavy expansion at the moment.

(Coffee Plant in Botanical Building in Balboa Park)

(Alcazar Garden in Balboa Park)

(Japanese Friendship Garden)

Most of the buildings in Balboa Park were quickly constructed for the two World Expos held in San Diego in 1915 and 1935. These Expos were almost like World Fairs and hoped to attract some of the attendees of the larger Fairs. Some of the buildings are lovely originals. Many more were build at the time to be temporary buildings and ended up beings used way past their intended longevity. At some point the city had to carefully renovate what are now historic buildings, that were made from materials never meant to last. The project is now almost done and looks great.

(California Tower, Museum of Man, and and Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park)

(Daniele on El Prado in Balboa Park)

After our Ranger Tour we wondered around the park a little more. We first found the “International Cottages” which are a series of little houses each representing a different nation. Lucky for us, on Sundays they all open their doors and offer regional goodies; we didn’t even need lunch! After we went to the 1935 Cactus Garden, which was really cool! Balboa Park has like the world’s biggest cactus collection (don’t quote me on that! I think the ranger might have said it). We also went to the Rose Garden-Inez Grant Parker Memorial, which I think would be a very nice place to stay and read or have a picnic lunch. We found the Desert Garden after that . I’m not sure why this is different from the Cactus Garden, but I liked it better. At this point we had seen all the gardens we wanted to see, but as we were leaving we heard some organ music playing so we headed to the Spreckles Organ Pavilion (the Ranger told us a little about it earlier) and sat in on a few numbers. The ranger had also told us that all the Museums in the park are free today. Opening hours overlapped with daylight hours and it wasn’t exactly what we were looking to do, but it was too good to pass up so we hit up the SD Museum of Art real quick before they closed. Probably too quickly, because I don’t remember much of it.

(House of Pacific Relations / International Cottages in Balboa Park)

(Inside the House of Ireland in the House of Pacific Relations / International Cottages in Balboa Park)

(1935 Cactus Garden in Balboa Park)

(Rose Garden-Inez Grant Parker Memorial in Balboa Park.)

(Kait in the Desert Garden in Balboa Park)


Daniele really, really wanted to go to Tijuana. He pointed out how close it was. I wasn’t exactly thrilled, heard Tijuana was kinda a dump, but I had never been to Mexico. I’ve been to Canada, Italy, the City of the Vatican, Spain, France, Great Britain, Switzerland, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, Austria, Germany, and Costa Rica; but never Mexico. Who doesn’t want to cross a boarder and add one to their nation count when it’s just 15 minutes away? He had already been to Mexico on a vacation a few years ago, so I don’t know why he wanted it so bad. I generally get my way whenever I want it, so I try to give Daniele little things. So we went to Mexico.

It was in fact a very short drive down. Even the large boarder control on the highway between San Diego and Tijuana just waves you in when you go south. As soon as we crossed the boarder and for miles after, we saw the traffic the other way to come back to the United States. Being optimistic (and delusional) we figured people must live in Tijuana, where it is cheaper, and work in SD, where there is more money, and we are looking at morning rush hour traffic that will clear up.

Also as soon as we crossed the boarder, my phone stopped working. That is when I started to be unhappy. Trusting Daniele to navigate lasted for about 90 seconds before I accepted roaming charges. Then we didn’t even know where we were going, but we found something like the historic center and I found another car with CA license plates to park behind. But then, wtf?! There are three men swinging hammers on the sidewalk outside my window. Is this a thing? It takes me a minute before realizing they are just bored shoe cobblers. But we need to pay the parking meter, I don’t have any pesos! This was so incredibly poorly planned. Just because we are 15 minutes from the US doesn’t mean anything. This isn’t Europe for goodness sake!

The parking meter, and everyone we met that day took US Dollars, so at least there was that.

Daniele and I walked around the area. We didn’t see any other Americans and we only spoke Italian, both to each other and to any Mexicans we met, who if asked we said we were Italian. Speaking Italian to native Spanish speakers is how we got around Costa Rica it actually works pretty good for getting a basic point across.

The people we passed were staring at us/me so much I felt incredibly uncomfortable. This was worse when we went away from the more crowded main square area or when I took out my big ol’ “I’m not from around here” DSLR camera.

We did a decent little walk. We started by Parque Teniente Guerrero, walked to the biggest church we saw at Benito Juarez y/o Segunda & Av C. This area was pretty crowded. We walked down Santiago Arguello, where there were lots of restaurants, each with a guy outside desperately trying to get us to eat there. We crossed over a pretty dry river bed, where you could see gypsies (are they still gypsies if they are Mexican?) camping out on the river bed from the bridge. On the other side of the river the town felt even worse. Things were newer over here, but cheaper, and abandoned. Like maybe the city had expanded quickly or undergone a gentrification project that didn’t have the underlying economy to support it. I don’t know enough this city to say.

(Church in Tijuana, Mexico at Benito Juarez y/o Segunda & Av C)

(Men trying to get us to eat at their restaurants on Santiago Arguello Tijuana, Mexico)

(Gypsies living on the dry river bed.)

(Across the River)

At this point I fully made up my mind that I didn’t like it here and I wanted to go back to the United States. We had lunch at a place that probably would not have met health codes in the US, but that’s what Daniele likes– more rustic somehow implies better, more authentic food.

We then found the car and headed back. Only this time we couldn’t just drive through. We waited for hours in the line to reenter the US. On the highway, between cars, people weave about trying to sell everything you can imagine. Everything. Water bottles, churros, Statues of the Holy Virgin, blankets, ice cream, you name it. Some of them have freaking huge carts that are almost impossible not to hit while avoiding the children juggling for tips on your other side.

When we finally reached the end, the man at boarder control, who I couldn’t tell if he was representing the US or Mexico just asked me all these weird questions about if I liked Tijuana/Mexico and I would consider leaving Daniele. It was completely random and a bit inappropriate. Definitely wasting the time of everyone in line behind me.

With what was left of our day we went to Imperial Beach and them Coronado Island (the little island in the center of San Diego).

(Imperial Beach)

(Daniele and Kait in front of downtown San Diego on Coronado Island)

That evening we met up with my cousin David who lives out here. I got to be the second family member after his mom, to see his apartment. Then we got some pizza at a pretty good place. In his neighborhood. He lives up in Northpark (north of the park), it’s a hip area with lots of bars and restaurants.

He also filled me in on why we were one only “gringos” in Tijuana. What is more common knowledge if you live close to the boarder (or are just better informed than I am) is that the US’s drug war in Columbia has driven a lot of drug traffic to Mexico. It is a poor country with the drug business one of the few ways to make a living, making it very dangerous. I had heard about problems with kidnapping in Mexico years ago, but not recently. And when I expressed concern earlier to Daniele, his view was that these would not be problems right by the boarder. Dave let us know we were both wrong, it is still a huge problem, and ESPECIALLY near the boarder. He used to go to Tijuana to see a doctor if he needed (between insurance providers), but now no one does that anymore, it’s just not worth it.


We wanted to go to either the Zoo or Sea World while we were in San Diego. I was leaning towards the Zoo since I know the one here is so famous, Daniele wanted Sea World since as he said “we have a Zoo in Rome”. I won since the prices for the Zoo or Safari Park are $42 each, while Sea World is $73 each. We chose the regular Zoo over the Safari Park because the Safari is like 40 minutes North and we were flying out this same night.

It was a great choice in the end because the San Diego Zoo is AMAZING! Even Daniele loved it. Besides the fact that it is huge, the climate allows them to keep basically any type of animal. It was mostly families, but we were not the only grownups there without kids. However being there without kids we were able to get there at opening, see every last exhibit, and just have time to take the sky tram to the end and back before they were shoeing everyone out the doors for closing. I loved it so much! I took a million pictures, 137 of which are online, separate from the rest of my SD photos because I know not everyone is into that.

(OK, just one picture! I can’t resist! The rest are here.)

My cousin Dave was able to meet up with us again for an earlier dinner before we had to get to the airport. We had some yummy west coast Thai food one last time before I said good bye to my cousin and California. Then we got on our redeye full of good memories and Happy Thanksgiving wishes from Dave for the rest of the family.

All of the pictures I took in San Diego and Tijuana are here:

The pictures from the San Diego Zoo are here:


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