Tag Archives: San Diego

Las Vegas and San Diego 2020

Well, I’m a bit late writing this. Like six months late. Better late than never, right?

This last winter we decided to leave the frozen tundra and spend some time with friends in Las Vegas and family in San Diego. Back in 2019 we did the same, except we went to Spain, and we missed the worst of winter. It was fabulous and we were trying to repeat our luck this year.

We weren’t so lucky missing the worst of winter BUT we still had a great time. This is easily a trip I could see us making every year. We were able to see a few amazing national parks during the flight and it really was a treat.

First we went to Vegas and the weather was perfect – no higher than the 80s and absolutely wonderful in the morning and evenings. We had a chance to hit up some new restaurants and eat some amazing donuts. Las Vegas has a LOT to offer on the food front. We went hiking in some of the local parks and it was awesome – no one was around in the early mornings and we truly had the parks to ourselves. I get the feeling people come to Vegas for activities other than eating and hiking so we really enjoyed watching the alpenglow at sunrise and sunset completely alone.

Most amazing part of wandering around was when we stumbled across Mt. Charleston, the local ski resort. First, we had no idea it snowed enough to create a ski resort, and second but most important, people were having picnics in the snow. Now, when I saw they were having picnics in the snow I’m not saying all the people were wearing snow gear and sitting near snow. No, these individuals literally were in street clothes and shoes and were sitting in the snow or hanging out in snow piles enjoying picnics. It’s not like one or two people were doing it either, there were hundreds. There must be some novelty to snow.

After a brief few days in Vegas we left to visit family in San Diego. The second half of the trip was equally amazing. Just like before we enjoyed great company and wonderful food. We wandered around San Diego at sunset and sunrise, much like Vegas, and really enjoyed seeing the world come awake and go to bed. Sunsets at Ocean Beach are flat out amazing and seeing the sunrise over downtown San Diego was wonderful too.

We walked quite a bit more and went to different parts of San Diego, like Pacific Beach, just to explore. Of course, we still went to Bronx Pizza, quite a few times, simply because it’s the best NYC style pizza outside of NYC.

Overall, we had a wonderful time and were very fortunate to have had great weather, great travels, and most importantly, great company.

Enjoy the photos!

Chris W.

 

 

San Diego 2018

I think it’s impossible to not love San Diego. Perfect weather, great food, wonderful sights, friendly people, and loads of sunshine.

The trip was off to a great start when we flew over the national parks we visits in the spring – Zion, Capitol Reef, Arches, etc. The parks were impressive enough from the ground so having the opportunity to see the parks from the air was nothing short of amazing.

Then, things became better.

Jac has family in San Diego, who are always wonderful to visit, and they happen to live near the beach. A short walk brought us to great restaurants, wonderful beaches, and extremely interesting people. We took advantage of our time in San Diego to get food that is hard to get in Minnesota – good classic donuts, Asian foods, NY style pizza from Bronx Pizza, and some great vegetarian food. I had something I’d never heard of: nitrogen charged coffee. I loved the coffee. It tastes a lot like a Guinness and since I don’t drink anymore it’s the closest thing I’ve had to a beer since drinking beer. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear as though this coffee related innovation has made it to Minnesota so I’ll have to deal :/.

We were in San Diego during the July 4th holiday so we had a chance to see the Big Bay Boom fireworks. We had an absolutely incredible view of the fireworks because I found a random stranger willing to let us use her deck overlooking the bay. I had spent quite a bit of time looking for a good view of the fireworks and continually struggled to find a viewing location not overrun by people. The fireworks show is one of the largest in the nation and attracts people from all over the country so it was no surprise I had a hard time. In desperation I decided to use Google Maps / Google Earth and Airbnb to find an Airbnb host with an unobstructed view of the bay. I sent out a few requests and we were lucky a woman agreed to let us use her deck. She was so kind, asked for nothing in return, and had a $5mil view of the bay. We saw the best fireworks we’ve ever seen and is easily one of the greatest experiences we’ve ever had. 

I miss traveling greatly, especially visiting lesser developed areas of the world. I feel an energy in open-air markets and communal gathering spots that is missing in developed countries. I thought it’d be great to visit Tijuana since we were close and had heard good stories. We decided to hire a tour guide since we had never been to Tijuana and don’t speak Spanish. We were completely surprised – we had great food, had a great time, and our tour guide was fantastic. Our guide was about our age, grew up in San Diego, went to college in San Diego for a liberal arts degree, and decided to move to Tijuana for better opportunities. Instead of entering the rat race for low wage type jobs for generic liberal arts degrees in the US he decided to start a walking tour business in Tijuana. Rent is cheap, food is incredibly cheap, and tourists are happy to pay $100 day in and day out for walking tours. While $100ish/day is nowhere near a livable wage in the San Diego area it is a phenomenal wage in Tijuana.

I’m an early riser and California is two hours behind central time so I was a really early riser. I found great enjoyment in drinking a pot and half of coffee while staring at that ocean and watching the world wake up. As others in the house woke up I further found great conversation and company. Complete relaxation.

San Diego-ians complain a lot about the “sunshine tax” with the high cost of living in the area. Wages for engineers in the area aren’t a whole lot different than wages in Minnesota but housing is way, way, way, way, WAY, more expensive. A one bedroom one bathroom apartment in San Diego is about the same, if not more, than what we pay for our entire mortgage, interest, insurance, and property taxes for a three bedroom, two bathroom, 2,000sqft house in a desirable neighborhood of the twin cities. Folks kept on telling us that we were lucky to live in a place with cheaper housing but I was quite to point out that they have a “sunshine tax” and we have a “quality of life” tax because going outdoors five months out of the year hurts our face due to the cold. No wonder things are cheaper here, why would anyone sane move here?

All-in-all, a wonderful trip. We had a great time and enjoyed every moment. Hard not to love San Diego :).

Enjoy the photos!

Chris W.

San Diego Big Bay Boom 2018

The San Diego Big Bay Boom 4th of July celebration was unlike anything we’ve seen before. We love fireworks, we’ve been to a lot of fireworks shows across the world, we actively seek out fireworks shows, and we’re really happy we had a chance to experience the San Diego Big Bay Boom.

We were extremely, extremely, fortunate to get help from a stranger; we came across an individual willing to share their amazing and unobstructed view of San Diego Bay just so we could see the incredible fireworks show in all of the show’s glory. Had we not received help from the stranger I’m sure our experience would have been severely diminished. 

The fireworks show is large, four barges fire off fireworks for 18min across the bay and are synchronized with music. We were close enough to the fireworks to feel the ‘thud’ and hear the ricochet of explosions around the bay. There was an immense amount of fireworks used on the four barges during 18 minutes show and it was a visual delight. The backdrop of the San Diego skyline and the reflections on the water made the show all that much better. The Big Bay Boom is probably the best fireworks show we’ve ever been seen.

This fireworks show is up there with our incredible, yet random, fireworks experience in Quebec City and Happy Valley Racetrack in Hong Kong. For the Quebec firework show our Airbnb host asked us if we wanted to ‘see some fireworks’ and brought us to a cliffside overlook of one barge in the St. Lawrence Seaway firing fireworks for 25 minutes. To date, that firework show was the longest show we’ve even been to and had some beautiful displays during the 25 minutes. The second incredible fireworks experience occurred at a horse race track in Happy Valley Hong Kong. With tall buildings looming around the track we were surprised to witness a fireworks show in between races. We were standing near the horse track and it seemed like the fireworks were exploding right next to us. While nowhere near as long as the Big Bay Boom or the Quebec City fireworks show, the experience was amazing simply because it was so close.

The Big Bay Boom was truly astonishing. We’re so happy we had a chance to see the show unadulterated from a perfect viewpoint.

Enjoy the photos 🙂

Chris W.

California 2016

We spent almost three weeks in California traipsing across the countryside hiking and enjoying the sights. We’ve been to California a few times in the past and always had a lot of fun so we figured we’d switch it up a bit and spend some time in other parts of the state we’ve never visited, like: LA, Highway 101/Big Sur, the Eastern Sierras, and San Diego. There were a couple of stops like Yosemite and Kings Canyon National Park that we’ve visited in the past and we still found a lot of fun during this visit.

This is our first big trip since we’ve returned to the US. We thought for a long time about where to go on holiday – back to South Africa, Japan, Eastern Europe, etc.? Ultimately, it came down to the fact that we really like California, we hadn’t been there for a while, we would get to do some incredible hikes, and we were reasonably sure the weather would be good. It’s one thing to go to new and exotic places and it’s an entirely different thing to show up when the weather is good, and be rested, and healthy. We knew it was unlikely we’d get food poisoning in California and it’s only two hours different from our time zone so we figured we had all our bases covered. It ended up being a great choice!

We had our breathe taken away by the shear beauty of the Eastern Sierras. We stayed near Crowley Lake, south of Mammoth Lakes, and had an amazing time hiking to various lakes and lookouts while immersing ourselves in stunning mountain scenery. Unlike the Western Sierras, the eastern side had far fewer hikers and were just as stunning. We were very fortunate to see the beautiful mountain flowers too, we thought we missed the flowers but we had amazing displays on many different hikes. It wasn’t just the hiking: we found a very neat bakery, Shea Schat’s Bakery, and our little town near Crowley Lake had a gas station that made delicious pizza! All-in-all, our time in the Eastern Sierras was the highlight of the trip. In the past when people asked me where I would life if I could live anywhere in the world and I would always say that I would live in the Pacific Northwest, of course. Well, I’m not too sure about that now, and it’d be hard to choose!

We had no idea there were so many things to do around Mammoth Lakes. On top of hiking: the cones, the springs, the pumice, the view points, etc.

We had a very fun time in San Diego and think highly of the city. The compactness and quirkiness make for easy travel and fun experiences. It was awesome to get authentic cuisines in San Diego, food we only wish for in Minnesota, all while having perfect weather every single day. We stayed with family in San Diego and learned a ton about the area and the recent history. While the food and weather are pretty much perfect it’s pretty hard to swallow the insane cost of housing. I think San Diego will remain a fun place to visit :). We look forward to returning and seeing some more of the sights and surrounding areas including Juarez, Mexico.

I’ve mentioned it a few times but we managed to find some amazing food in California. Bronx Pizza in San Diego, Red’s Donuts in Monterey, OB Noodles in San Diego, Christy’s Donuts in San Diego, Schat’s Bakery in Mammoth Lakes and Independence, the pizza place in Yosemite Valley, the great food in LA’s farmer’s market, fresh mangos, and the delicious Thai food from Thai Patio in LA. We were VERY lucky to have fantastic food throughout the entire trip and it was great to have authentic food. It’s hard to get good asian food in Minnesota and, surprisingly, there aren’t many good donut places in Minnesota which is amazing considering all the other incredibly unhealthy food we’re so proficient at making!

That said, I’m not sure about the hype over Highway 101. It’s a road that follows the coast and, sure, it’s pretty, but that’s about it. We drove the highway over two days and had a moderate amount of fun. Hearst Castle was neat and so were some of the other sights on the route. We made a stop in the strange Danish town of Solvang. It’s a lot like Leavenworth, a strange German town in Washington. We thought the ‘pancakes’ from Olsen’s Danish Village Bakery were OK and didn’t really find much else interesting.  I think my opinion is deeply formed by my experiences growing up in a tourist town / area and I don’t think I’d ever do it again or recommend the drive to anyone. A notable event did occur during our drive on Highway 101: we continued our streak of seeing / being near disasters while being completely unaffected. The Soberanes Fire started close to the highway so we stopped to watch some planes drop fire retardant and then we carried on. It was the next day or so that the fire became very serious; the highway was closed, people’s homes burned, and people died. As of today, seven weeks later, the fire is still going. During our travels we had tragedies like this occur where we escaped unscathed: the human stampede in Shanghai, earthquake in Santiago, bank shutdown in Greece, landslide in Nepal, volcano in Iceland and so on. I’m happy we’re both OK but I would love it if these tragedies stopped occurring during our travels. Harbinger of death and/or disaster is not a title I enjoy.

Enjoy the photos!

Chris W.