To celebrate the end of 2015, we traveled to south California, looking for the sun.
Thanks to El Nino, the Berkeley winter was cold and rainy, something we were quite not used to.
So there was no better way than to head toward La Jolla, a lovely seaside town with an immaculate sand-white beach, near San Diego.
Discovering La Jolla
La Jolla Shores Hotel
We indulged ourselves by booking a room in La Jolla Shores Hotel, literally located on the beach and with all the nice commodities : sea views balconies, hot jacuzzi, and inside pool.
La Jolla Village
During the day, we visited La Jolla Village, a small seaside and bourgeois town. Row of high palm trees bordered its sunny streets and white washed villas. The walk along the waterfront was very lovely, the seawater turquoise.
With these clear and sapphire waters it’s no wonder that La Jolla means “Jewel” in Spanish.
As always, sea lions played the locals stars in Children’s Pool, a natural alcove where they piled on rocks to warm up. La Jolla coastline also sheltered many natural coves and underwater caves, that you can visit. The largest one is Sunny Jim Cave, that you can only access from “the cave store”, aptly named.
La Jolla Beach
La Jolla Beach is a long strip of white fine sand, bordered by palm trees and baywatch cabins (they remind me of the TV show). Mostly frequented by families, La Jolla Beach is also a surfers spot.
On the 1st of January, we assisted to a surprising event : the first dip in the sea of the year ! A large and courageous crowd of swimmers gathered to take the plunge together. It was fun to watch.
San Diego coastline is celebrated for its numerous great beaches, especially the ones in Torrey Pines State and National Park. Halfway, we made a stop at the unusual Salk Institute, a biological studies center built by the architect Louis Kahn. The concrete building reminded me of French architect Le Corbusier, whom L. Kahn fervently admired.
We finally watched the last sunset of 2015 in Torrey Pines State Park, sublime.
San Diego really is a family-oriented location, with its seafront, sunny weather and numerous amusement parks, SeaWorld being the most famous. Downtown San Diego also offers many activities to do and sites to see. Sunglasses on, we explored first San Diego’s historic district, Gaslamp Quarter.
In the 19th century, it was a rough place filled with saloons, brothels and opiums dens. Renamed Gaslamp Quarter and restored in the 70s, it is now a lively and touristic district with many restaurants and chics bars. Only the 19th-century-style streets lamps, nightclubs and few “adult entertainement shops” serve as a reminder of the district earliest days.
For the most part, San Diego is like every large American city : recent, lots of concrete, large squared avenues, high buildings. Fortunately, the seafront promenade, many parks and various districts (Little Italy, Oldtown, East village etc.) give a unique charm to the city.
Seeing so many bodybuilders and (fake) blonds joggers in San Diego, made us think that maybe the saying was true about South California being more shallow…
After strolling around the Marina and the touristic Seaport village, we explored a small part of the huge Balboa Park, a sanctuary to many museums, theaters and popular attractions.
As well as the Palace of Fine Arts of San Francisco, the different pavilions – of kitschy neo-hispanic taste – of Balboa Park were built during the Panama – Pacific International Exhibition of 1915-16. The temporary structure in stuc were so popular that they were replaced later by a more permanent architecture.
Balboa Park is truly gigantic (it is twice as big as Central Park in New York!) and is home to the famous San diego zoo as well as others exceptional venues, such as the Spreckels Organ Pavilion or the Old Globe theater, modeled after the Shakespeare’s Globe in London.
In the late afternoon, we visited Coronado Island, where is located the namesake hotel, easily identifiable with its wooden architecture and red turrets. Coronado Hotel is mostly known for being the background set of “Some like it hot” , the movie with Marilyn Monroe.
On yet another sunset ended our pleasant short trip in San Diego.
Only a few hours driving from San Francisco, La Jolla and San Diego are definitively great destinations for idle activities on the beach or for active holiday between friends or with family.