Nov 052012

Sorry, have been slow to update after last month’s San Diego trip. Before we move on, here’s a little (OK, not so little) photo summary of that trip.

We flew into LAX because of an amazing Virgin America sale. The drive down took about two hours, but we broke it up by meeting Vera’s uncle at the Birch Aquarium in La Jolla. It’s a smaller aquarium, but that worked out well for a quick stop with a 3-year-old.

At first, Vera was a little weirded out by the fish. The aquarium’s many hands-on kid activities eventually won her over. This touch tank was photogenic but only a semi-success — Vera wasn’t going anywhere near those weird ocean animals, though she was willing to grab Mama’s finger to wield as a poking tool.

The aquarium also offered an aerial view of La Jolla itself. Vera’s grandmother used to work at the Scripps Institute, on the right side of this photo, so it was fun to see a bit of family history.

Day Two was spent at the San Diego Zoo.

Vera was in a mood, and frankly so was Mama. We forgot to rent a stroller at the entrance, and someone didn’t want to walk. The first half of the visit went badly, but eventually we made our way back to a central area with lots of animals and the day picked up. Even the grumpiest kid can’t resist wild animals. This bear was my personal favorite. Mauling potential aside, don’t you just want to give him a hug and a scratch?

Vera loved the giraffes. They were close to the fence, and very cool about receiving visitors.

Vera begged to try her hand at her own animal photography. I eventually gave in, nervously clutching the camera strap and praying nothing would get dropped. Her first effort actually turned out pretty well!

Coolest sighting of the day was this cheetah, out for a walk with her special friend. The dog companions keep skittish cheetahs calm when they leave their enclosure or interact with strange people.

On Day Three, we headed to Coronado Island. My mother visited many years ago and loved it enough that she hung a painting of the Hotel Del Coronado in our guest bath. So I was quite excited to finally see the famous Victorian hotel in person.

I certainly wasn’t disappointed. What a beautiful place. We wandered around for an hour or two, enjoyed the ocean views from the outdoor patio, and downed iced coffee and a cream puff as big as Vera’s head.

Coronado is an island, so we assumed there were beaches. But we didn’t expect the hotel to boast such a great beach, or the day to be quite so warm. We weren’t prepared with swimsuits or anything beach-y, but we rolled up our pants and made the best of it.

We jumped around in the shallows, Vera yelling “I’m so EXCITING!” over and over again. Took a few hits from larger-than-expected waves, but what’s a little water and sand in your pants in exchange for such a happy adventure?

Day Four = last day. Since we were visiting family, I didn’t do much San Diego research before the trip. Luckily, two happy accidents pointed us toward the makings of a great day.

On a timely tip from the blog The World is a Book, we started by exploring Balboa Park, a 1200 acre home to lush gardens and beautiful Spanish Renaissance style architecture. (The San Diego Zoo is technically in Balboa Park, but on zoo day we never made it beyond the parking lot.) We didn’t have time to explore the many museums clustered throughout the park, but we did have a great time riding the free trolley for an ersatz tour.

I was particularly taken with the Botanical Garden. Talk about a feast for the senses — it was green and lovely, it smelled nice in a plant-y sort of way, and there were even the sounds of a flamenco guitarist filtering in from outside. I was ready to move in!

Thanks to a friend’s glorious Instagram photos, we also discovered Extraordinary Desserts just in time to visit their Balboa Park location on our way out of town. We’re dessert lovers for sure, and this place was just as extraordinary as the name promised.

We acquired some very rich tortes, plus a giant bowl of ice cream for Vera and a boxful of other pastries to take on the road. (Did I mention we’re dessert lovers? ‘Cause we’re dessert lovers.) There was one tragedy now remembered in our family as “ice cream elbow,” but Vera soldiered on. Having a giant bowl of ice cream helped on that front.

In all, a 5-hour flight and 2-hour car drive were quite possibly insane for a 4-night trip. At least in a family with a 3-year-old and one sickly grownup. But we had a great time, made some new memories, and best of all Vera got to spend time with an Uncle that she’s now crazy about. Worth it!

Apr 292008

Well, it’s official.  We’re back from our honeymoon.  Let the long years of married life begin!

Our honeymoon started in San Francisco.  We took a few days to see the city (best tips: ride the city’s 1940s streetcars, and check out the food stalls at the Ferry Building) and met with several friends, including the lovely and talented Mrs. Eggplant.

Unfortunately, I was under the weather part of the time, and Mr. T had to go to one dinner without me.  He took this pic to show to the other couple, lest they accuse him of having made up the whole wife thing:


After picking up our one-way rental car at the Oakland airport — oddly, much cheaper than if we’d picked it up at SFO — we headed down the coast to Santa Cruz.  Which was mostly a one-night stopover for 2 local attractions that I wanted very badly to visit:  First, the elephant seal rookery at Ano Nuevo State Reserve (not a super-telephoto lens; we were really that close to the elephant seals!):


…and then the giant redwood trees at Big Basin State Park:


Our next 3 nights were spent in Monterey.  Actually, in the next town, Pacific Grove — a charming little town with a dramatic rocky shoreline.  Mr. T and I are trying to figure out how we can relocate there ASAP!


We’re nuts for animals (says the person with 5 pets), so of course we adored the famous Monterey Bay Aquarium.  The Aquarium is justifiably well-known for its otters and its penguins, but just about every exhibit was memorable.  For example, the jellyfish were psychedelic:


And this huge tube of anchovies swimming in a circle was oddly mesmerizing (and tasty!):


We tried to go whale watching one day — a longtime dream of Mr. T’s — but sadly the boat had to turn back because of HUGE waves in the bay.  But on our way south through Big Sur, we fulfilled one of my own longtime dreams — riding horses on a beach:


As for Big Sur itself, nothing to say except SPECTACULARLY GORGEOUS!  By the end of the day, we were actually blase about stunning vistas.  (“Oh, hm, another dramatic green cliff dropping into the turquoise sea?  Been there, seen that.”)


(Bixby Bridge, built in 1932)


(McWay Falls, in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park — the waterfall path was closed, but there is this dramatic view from the highway above)

There aren’t many many places to stay — at least many affordable ones — in Big Sur, so we overnighted in Cambria, just south of Hearst Castle.  The next day, we toured the Castle itself.  I’m not usually big on “fancy building tours,” but everything from the setting to the house to the decorative details were absolutely amazing.  I’m now fascinated with William Randolph Hearst and can’t wait to read his biography.


Last stop, L.A.  We didn’t do much city touring, but did spend an afternoon wandering Santa Monica and attended a taping of Real Time with Bill Maher.  (And we finally got to try the famous In-N-Out Burger, but I’ve got to say these outsiders didn’t understand the hype.  DC’s own Five Guys is so much better!!)

In a world with unlimited time and funds, my dream honeymoon might have been Bali or the Greek Isles.  But all in all, we really enjoyed our time in California.  It was beautiful and relaxing, we didn’t have to travel halfway around the world to get there, and it didn’t cost a fortunte.  Which is not to say we can’t go tropical someday, but I’m rather glad we tackled something a bit lower-key just after the wedding….

Is anyone else staying in the US for your honeymoon?