Bryan and I just returned from an absolutely wonderful, and much needed vacation to sunny San Diego for four nights and five full days. From day 1 I was instantly more relaxed and at ease than I have been in months. This led to what felt like a lengthy vacation and retreat from daily life. Here is a look at how Bryan and I kept ourselves busy…or not so busy.
We had an early morning flight on Thursday morning, meaning an early morning wake up call for us, and a shortened amount of sleep prior to the trip. But by 5:15 am we were out the door and on the way to the airport. Our travels were smooth sailing and after a 2.5 hour flight and a 15 minutes ride to the car rental center in San Diego we were in our rental car for the weekend and setting north to Pacific Beach. We checked into our hotel, the Beach Haven, right in the heart of PB, and were able to occupy the room early. We set forth to explore the boardwalk and the beach shortly after noon. After a short orientation, we found Oscar’s Mexican Seafood, which was a huge win, and scored some cheap but super delicious battered fish and shrimp tacos and enjoyed those outside in the sunshine.
After lunch we changed into beach-going clothes and made our way north for Bryan’s tour of years past. We first drove through La Jolla, stopping at the cove to get out and see the seals on the beach and the cliffs. We kept driving north, next to Torrey Pines. At Torrey Pines we laid out and napped on the beach for a while before setting out on foot along the beach and then up the cliff onto the nice trails, taking in the expansive views. This was somewhere that Bryan went a lot during his time in San Diego. We got back to our car and Bryan showed me his old office and apartment in Del Mar before circling back south and driving to the top of Mount Soledad. We thought about taking in the sunset but clouds were settling in and we still had a good while to wait out the sunset.
We drove back to our hotel to change for dinner and set out by foot for some place good. We settled upon the low-key but homey Italian restaurant called Alta Marea. The service staff was super friendly and after placing our order Bryan went to go get a bottle of wine at the local Ralph’s as the place was BYOB. Upon arrival of our burrata and tomato salad and fresh green salad, we knew we were in for a lot of food. The salads themselves were gigantic, but fresh and delicious and gone with a side of the fresh homemade foccacia bread basket. Next arrived my lobster pasta and Bryan’s lamb pasta, both with homemade noodles and somehow we finished those off as well. Literally stuffed to the gills we were brought the bill and were very pleased with the price for everything. We set back for the hotel, somehow finding room to split the peanut butter explosion from Coldstone on the way home…because we were on vacation.
We woke up Friday morning with not much on the agenda. We walked the boardwalk and contemplated a few breakfast spots but so full from the night before we mainly wanted a good coffee. We found the Krazy Kat, near our hotel, for the perfect iced Americano and shared one of their Brazilian pastries that was much like a quiche but with shredded chicken. It was a good bite to fuel the morning. We rented beach cruisers for $10 each and set out on the boardwalk, heading south to Mission Beach, then cycling around Mission Bay, venturing out on Fiesta Island before realizing that would be too long of a ride and circling back before finding our way back to PB. We locked up the bikes to get a giant but delicious tropical fruit and coconut smoothie to take to the beach and relax our tired legs after the 15 mile leisure ride. Shortly thereafter we returned our bikes and changed for dinner at the hotel.
Friday night was a little impromptu. We headed to Balboa Park but got there after much of the museums were closed. We still enjoyed walking around the park and seeing all of the cool buildings and plants. We realized that we were starving and set out to a burrito place that was featured and raved about on the show Man vs. Food; Lucha Libre in Mission Hills. We ordered a surf and turf burrito and a steak and vegetable burrito to share, got a side of chips, marveled at the delicious salsas and then demolished the HUGE burritos when they arrived, sharing them both. Probably the best burritos of my life; no rice or beans but stuffed with meat, cheese, avocado, fries (!), pico and veggies. OMG. We both were delighted and full upon leaving and headed to Sunset Cliffs in Ocean Beach to take in the sunset from there. We managed to get a parking spot and find a fairly secluded spot to take in the sunset. It was a gorgeous one. We drove back to PB, parked and then walked to the Baked Bear to sample more ice cream, this time in the form of ice cream on take of a fresh baked brownie. The ice cream was superb and we were satisfied, and once again stuffed, before heading back home for my prized sleep.
Saturday was our day to check out of the hotel in PB and check into the Ritz in Laguna Niguel. We woke with the sun and walked to Krazy Kat again for just coffees this time. Delicious and enjoyed for awhile in the sun on their sidewalk! We packed and hit the road with a stop at Jamba Juice for a free breakfast, thanks to mystery shopping. We enjoyed the breakfast sandwich, smoothie and acai bowl before driving the hour north to Laguna. Travel was smooth and we arrived early to the hotel. Our room wasn’t ready but we were eager to explore the hotel. We set out to do so and marveled at the views and the fanciness of the place. We walked down to the beach and along the beach before getting the text that our room was ready. We checked into our ocean-view room around 1:30 pm and it was approved by both of us. After settling in, we changed into swimsuits and headed for the pool. Bryan ordered a margarita and we shared the hummus and pita plate while enjoying the sun and our books for awhile.
We had reserved a tennis court for 5 pm and played for about 45 minutes for the first time this year with rental rackets. Bryan barely eeked out the win. We cleaned up in the hotel for the night and headed to the hotel bar, 180Blu, for drinks and to watch the sunset. I ordered a virgin coconut mojito and Bryan the tamarind margarita (not virgin) and we took in the spectacular 180 degree views and the live guitarist and singer. This was a good start to the night.
After sunset we left the hotel and headed to Laguna Beach for dinner reservations at Driftwood Kitchen. We had oceanside views from our table but now in the dark it was only the crashing waves that we took in. We semi-shared the whole fried branzino with a ponzu sauce and shishito peppers and the raved-about lobster carbonara. Both were amazing but the carbonara was really out of this world with a ton of lobster for a decent price. After dinner we drove back to the hotel where Bryan got a manhatten from the bar to bring back to the room and we slept with the doors open to listen to the crashing waves.
Sunday morning was another sunny morning and to start it off we headed to the hotel restaurant Raya for brunch. Again, seated with ocean views, I ordered the crab chulupa (like a benedict but on a chulupa instead of muffin) and Bryan the huevos rancheros. Both dishes were plentiful and beautiful and gone. I had my prenatal massage at the spa next while Bryan somehow digested enough to go for a run on the beach and follow that up with weights in the fitness room. My massage was nice, as was using the little luxuries inside the spa for a good hour after my massage ended. We met back up to sit and read on the veranda for some time. Both of us were feeling super lethargic. We decided to explore Laguna Beach some more and set out midday. We shopped around at the cute stores and art galleries, found a candy shop, walked the beach park and then headed back to our hotel.
Sunday night included room service dinner that was absolutely a perfect way to spend our last night in Southern California. We were delivered blankets to keep warm on our balcony and our dinner was delivered about 15 minutes before sunset went down. Bryan enjoyed the wagyu steak special and me the miso black cod. Beer, wine, salad and rolls to compliment. The whole table was rolled out onto our balcony amazingly. Dessert came in the form of ice cream and cookies later in the night and we really just enjoyed taking the whole luxury treatment in.
Monday arrived as our last day and a cloudy day in California. I attempted the free yoga class but hated it, left for the fitness center for my own short little workout before cleaning up once more with the spa facilities. Bryan went for another, longer, beach run himself. We packed up and checked out at 11 am. We found a sandwich shop nearby the hotel for fuel and then drove back south to San Diego and Balboa Park. It was a good day to spend in a museum and decided on the Air and Space Museum. We enjoyed the museum for some time before walking around the park again. It was chilly and we were again surprisingly tired so we headed to another Oscar’s Mexican Seafood restaurant on the way to the airport. Three happy hour $.99 fish tacos for each of us and I tried a cup of the steamy fish stew. The tacos were so fresh and again delicious and the fish stew was chock full of shrimp, vegetables and octopus and warmed me up.
We didn’t have anything else to do so headed to return our car and get to the airport. We were there three hours early and realized there was an earlier Alaska flight to Seattle that we could get on for $25 each. We had used miles for this flight anyways so we decided to take it and had the whole back row to ourselves. We got home two hours earlier than planned, with enough time to semi-unpack, get a snack and still get to bed at a decent hour.
This was a near-perfect vacation and one I will remember for a while. The ultimate in R&R.