San Diego and Los Angeles

In July of 2022, we celebrated our 12th wedding anniversary on a trip to San Diego and Los Angeles.  Still a bit unsure of the Covid situation, we decided against flying to Europe and masked up for a plane ride back to California.  San Diego was great; LA was tolerable.  Paul returned with Covid; I somehow returned without it.

It’s May 2023 now; well into a very new year.  I’m just allowing myself some time to write about this.

The truth is that I’m exhausted.  My daily grind continues to fuel my excuses for not writing (I know you are tired of hearing this), while also disrupting my sleep schedule and wreaking havoc on my mind. I’ve had a lot to say about this trip, but I’ve been too tired to tell anyone.

We flew into LAX out of Newark on United.  Blinking exit signs and flustered flight attendants did not reassure us that we were not going to die as our plane dropped and shook and belly rolled through hell (hell is located somewhere just below Chicago).  It is widely known that I don’t handle turbulence well and always rely on Paul to be the calm voice of reason.  Yet even he was sure we were going down, and the sheer horror of realizing this was almost enough to kill me.

As you can see, we made it.  The remainder of the flight was smooth and my view of the Rockies from the window seat helped restore my faith in United Airlines and refuel my desire to live an adventurous life again.

I don’t believe I was thinking logically when I booked a flight to LAX and a train to San Diego for the same day, and by this point in the trip I was questioning my ability to make wise decisions.  A cross country flight and a near death experience were just the beginning of this fun-filled day of trains, planes, and automobiles.  

Upon arrival to LAX, I booked the tickets for the Fly Away bus on my cell phone at the nearest outlet, while Paul watched suitcases circulating at the luggage carousel.  As I navigated the Fly Away website, I barely noticed that I was being backed into a corner by a Louis Vuitton bag eloquently embroidered with the name “Bizzy.” It wasn’t until his fan base began to incessantly repeat his name that I realized that this baby (me) might be backed into a corner by a celebrity.  I took note, booked our tickets, and Googled his name after being shoe horned into my bus seat for a long ride to Union Station.  It turns out, “Bizzy” Bones Hyland is a point guard for the Denver Nuggets, and all I have to say is this: Add him to my list of airport celebrity sightings.  This makes two after Alec Baldwin.

We were super excited to take the Pacific Surfliner Amtrak from Los Angeles to San Diego.  If we could, we’d take the Amtrak everywhere, as we absolutely love the comforts of train travel.  While we waited for the train, we took some time to explore Los Angeles’ Union Station.  Since we were ravenous for food and something cold to drink, we were overjoyed to discover Homebound Brew Haus, a beautiful Dodger’s loving brew pub tucked away in the the front of the station.  We ate every bite of our Nachos Machos with adobo chicken and enjoyed some cold mugs of beer before boarding our train down to San Diego.

The Pacific Surfliner takes you on a beautiful journey down the coast of Southern California.  It’s a lovely way to get from LA to San Diego and back again, as long as they aren’t experiencing signal issues.  Since we were new to this rail line, we didn’t know that this can be fairly common, and watched as the Pacific Ocean churned serenely on one side while the automobiles on the other side whizzed passed us. 

Our day of travel that started at 5AM Eastern Time would take us until 10PM Pacific Time-10:01PM to be exact. That is to the minute of when we actually landed on bar stools at the Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina, ravenous for a proper meal.  Thankfully, the kitchen closed at 10PM, but a kind bartender kept it open until 10:01 to get our dinner order through.

The Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina is an incredible place to stay in San Diego, especially if you love the resort life of “pool, drinks, food, repeat.”  It is located right on the water adjacent to Seaport Village and within walking distance to the Gaslamp Quarter.  We made a pact that we would sightsee each morning and save the afternoon for relaxing by the pool.  Most importantly, tacos were my top priority, and I was sure to eat a lot of them.

Each morning we would wake up and walk along the water to a cute little coffee kiosk called Spill the Beans.  We’d order some lattes and stroll along Seaport Village taking in the sights and sounds of the fish market and assorted vendors setting up their shops for the day.  Seaport Village is a bit of a tourist trap, but its convenient location allowed for easy access to the ferry and getting around.

We are very happy that we decided to take a full harbor tour of both the North Harbor and South Harbor on Flagship Cruises.  While it seemed a little corny at first, it was extremely informative with a tour guide who was well educated and knowledgable regarding naval battle ships and the naval base.  The tour guide even made me a homemade ring for getting one of his questions correct.

On our anniversary, we took the ferry to Coronado Island to rent some bikes and cruise around the island.  We basically biked the entire perimeter, stopping to take photos and gawk at the ritzy landscape of the Hotel del Coronado.  We stopped for a beer at Coronado Brewing Company and then headed back to our hotel for an afternoon in paradise.

While I did eat a lot of tacos, I’m pretty sure I failed at finding the very good ones.  The most memorable and most delicious find of them all was at Carnitas’ Snack Shack-Embarcadero.  The grilled Baja fish tacos with green cabbage, pico de Gallo, and poblano cilantro cream all piled high on a corn tortilla was the best fish taco I encountered on the trip.  I’m sure all the taco aficionados of San Diego think this is completely lame because I certainly could have gotten out more while I was there. The truth is, I really just wanted to sit next to the pool most days which limited my time for taco exploration.

I did love Carnitas Snack Shack shirts, and feel they accurately describe me on most days:

Strolling the waterfront in the evening was delightful. The weather in San Diego is just perfect, and the sunsets were lovely. Of course, we did have our moments by the pool where it got a little chilly. In those moments you could find us like this:

But if you’ve ever had the pleasure of being on a resort-like vacation with me, you know this is my usual look when I’m ready for my daily nap.

After a few sun soaked days in San Diego full of tacos, dips in the pool, and a daily snooze, we hopped back on the Pacific Surfliner to head to Beverly Hills. Our trip back was much smoother with all signal issues resolved, thankfully. Unfortunately, we went from this:

To this:

Yes, this was the sign adjacent to the AC Hotel Beverly Hills where we spent the first half of our stay in Los Angeles. While we may have found a slice of home in the parking lot, we couldn’t find Beverly Hills. This was one of those hotels that uses the name of a place you think your staying in, but is really so far from that place that you really wish you’d paid more money to stay somewhere else. It did have a rooftop, and you could see the Hollywood sign through the glass, but it was closed for a private event about two minutes after we discovered it.

One of the reasons it has taken me so long to write this post (besides my excuses listed above) is because Los Angeles left us both feeling uninspired. Los Angeles is sprawling, and the traffic is absurd. It is practically impossible to walk to anything which made us constantly reliant on Ubers. We had a hard time connecting to this city, understanding its identity, and seeing past all of its moving parts. While we don’t look back on our time in LA with regrets, we don’t necessarily crave going back. Outlined below are some of the good and the bad, with the positive outnumbering the negative in many cases…

  • SUGARFISH Sushi is amazing! We had our first lunch in Los Angeles at Sugarfish Beverly Hills, and it was fantastic. If you ever have the opportunity to eat at a Sugarfish in either Los Angeles or New York City, order the Trust Me menu of whatever size (depends on how hungry you are), and thank us later. I am forever thankful to the person who recommended it to us.
  • The Real Los Angeles Tours gave us a thorough, and we believe, trustworthy, tour of Hollywood. We saw some iconic buildings and explored the Hollywood Walk of Fame. We also realized that Hollywood is not as glitzy these days; exactly the opposite really. While we highly recommend the tour company, we don’t recommend hanging out in Hollywood for long periods of time. It’s a bit rundown, and we can’t say we felt completely safe walking the streets alone. Our tour guide was extremely patient with the people on the street who tried to follow our group and steered us away from those who were inappropriately disrupting our time with him.
  • We discovered one of the best chicken sandwiches we’ve ever eaten at The Honor Bar in Beverly Hills. Part of the Hillstone group of restaurants, Ding’s Crispy Sandwich is served on a perfectly fluffy bun with baby Swiss, sliced tomato, and spicy kale slaw. While we’re not usually ones to rave about a chain restaurant group, we’re about to put Hillstone New York on our list just to get a Ding’s Crispy Sandwich fix on the East Coast. Yes, we’ve already checked and they have it on all the menus.
  • Nancy Silverton’s Osteria Mozza was good, but didn’t meet my expectations. Nancy Silverton is one of the top chefs in the country, and I thought for sure I’d find her restaurant life changing. Unfortunately, it fell short. I usually remember every single thing I eat when something is really good. I can barely remember what we ate here.
  • Our hotel in Santa Monica-Le Meridien Delfina Santa Monica-was a breath of fresh air in a smoggy Los Angeles. It was actually walking distance to the beach and to downtown. We sipped coffee and ate breakfast burritos at Dogtown Coffee, a landmark known for Jeff Ho Surfboards and Zephyr Productions. You can read all about the history of this space here.
  • This Mexican restaurant, recommended by Gaby from is fabulous. It was one of the most memorable meals of the trip. I quote her to affirm that yes, “the burritos are the size of infants” and this Don Antonio’s Super Burrito was one to remember.
  • Father’s Office has one delicious burger. The Office Burger is described as follows: Caramelized Onion, Bacon, Gruyére, Maytag Blue, Arugula. Not only is the food top notch, but the atmosphere is laid back and cool. It’s the kind of place you’d want to spend every Friday night after a long week. Unfortunately, Paul associates this place with Covid since this is where we ate the night before our flight home. He came down with Covid a day later.

He looks pretty good for falling ill just a few days later. Damn burger joint…

Paul came down with Covid symptoms the night we landed. While waiting on the NJ Transit platform at Newark Airport, he was shivering while I was sweating in the 90 some degree heat. Despite all of our best efforts-masks, hand washing, etc., he still brought it home as an unwanted souvenir.

I locked him in The Clubhouse (our spare room) for a few days while delivering his meals and eating every dinner with him via FaceTime. Luckily, his case was mild, and we are so very fortunate that we can say that. So many people who came down with Covid cannot say the same. How I didn’t get it too is still a mystery.

So there it is-San Diego and Los Angeles…finally. My apologies for the long wait.

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