San Diego, California

San Diego, California

8-12 June 2022

We were excited to reach San Diego and to see the Pacific Ocean for the first time on this trip. It’s a beautiful city with lovely parkland and beaches. As we headed west, accommodation was getting more and more expensive so we opted to stay in an Airbnb in a suburb rather than in a hotel in the centre. We stayed in a compact but very nice studio apartment in North Park which is a trendy area with lots of nice coffee shops and bars.

Of course, the first thing we did when we reached San Diego was to go to see some stand-up comedy (at the Mad House in the Gaslamp Quarter). Always a great way to find out about an area though in this case there were almost more comedians than audience members which made for a slightly tense evening! We mainly went out to eat and drink in North Park where we found excellent cocktail bars and restaurants for dinner and brunch (bacon and eggs for Richard and wonderful mexican breakfasts for Jo) and, hooray, a ciderworks, Bivouac Ciderworks. Sadly in the Gaslamp Quarter in the centre of San Diego we saw again the extent of the homelessness tragedy in the US. We would see this on an equal or greater scale in the West Coast cities we visited in the US and also in Canada.

We stayed two days in San Diego; on day one we hopped onto the Old Town Trolley Tour which was a great way to explore the city and on day two we visited Balboa Park.

Old Town San Diego State Historic Park

The Old Town San Diego State Historic Park is a great place to learn a bit about San Diego’s history. It has a number of restored historic buildings and museum exhibitions which you can wander around and you can also watch live demonstrations (such as the blacksmith at work) and live music and peruse the food and drink and souvenir stalls and shops.

We learnt a bit about San Diego’s rich history which has had an influence its culture and food today. It was originally a village populated by the Kumeyaay First People. The first Europeans landed in the 16th century and it became California’s first Spanish settlement in 1769 before becoming a Mexican settlement for the early part of the 19th century and then part of America in 1850.


Is it an island or peninsula? Coronado is a land-tied island meaning that it is connected to the mainland by a spit. The last time Jo was in San Diego (for work in 2018) she took a little taxi boat over to Coronado. This time we were on the trolley tour so crossed the bridge but, either way, it feels like you are going on an island holiday as it has a distinctly different feel about it compared to San Diego. The main attractions are the Hotel del Coronado along with the stunning beaches and the lovely little shops and restaurants. We visited two excellent exhibitions:

  • Uprooted: The Story of the Japanese Americans of Coronado – this exhibition outlined the experiences of Japanese Americans from their immigration in the early 20th century through internment during World War II and post-war resettlement. Their often challenging experiences and terrible treatment during the war was presented alongside exploration of the Japanese-style garden landscaping such as the beautiful Japanese tea gardens.
  • Ice House Museum – this museum was filled with photos, artifacts, memorabilia related to the history of the magnificent Hotel del Coronado “The Del”. Most famous for featuring in the 1959 film Some Like it Hot featuring Marilyn Monroe, Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis but frequented by Hollywood movie stars of yesteryear (Charlie Chaplin, James Stewart, Bette Davis, Katherine Hepburn) and numerous presidents and movie stars to the present day.

We checked out the inside and outside of the hotel and then walked across the beach to the shore for Jo to have an obligatory paddle in the sea!

Port of San Diego

There’s lots to see in the harbour area of San Diego. A number of impressive and historically significant vessels are docked there including The Star of India, the world’s oldest sailing ship still in operation, and the USS Midway, a historical naval aircraft carrier and now a museum. We didn’t visit the ships but admired them from land as we strolled along the front.

The trolley tour also took us through other areas of San Diego including the Gaslamp Quarter with its Victorian architecture, Little Italy and Balboa Park (which we visited the next day).

Balboa Park

What a beautiful oasis in the city – 1,200 acres of parkland and gardens, museums and the San Diego Zoo. We didn’t visit the Zoo but we we spent a perfect Sunday afternoon pottering around the gardens and the museums housed in the beautiful buildings. Stark and thought-provoking was a photographic exhibition entitled This Empty World at the Museum of Photographic Arts at the San Diego Museum of Art which envisioned a world overwhelmed by development, where there is no longer space for animals to survive. 

After a lovely few days, the next day we left San Diego on the next leg of our trip – driving approximately 2,500 kilometres, not including diversions, up the west coast of the US from San Diego to Seattle. The first stretch was from San Diego to San Francisco on California Highway 1 – The Pacific Coast Highway.

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