California is renowned for being home to wineries, a stunning pacific coastline and plenty of bohemian cities dotted throughout. It is the wealthiest state in the US and has an economy that is larger than many countries multiple times it’s size. In short California is a huge success story, and San Diego, well that’s where it all started.
What surprised me the most about San Diego was how much I liked it, I am not a fan of Los Angeles, and had heard that San Diego was similar. It isn’t, in fact it couldn’t be more unlike LA. So. When deciding what we’d do I was a little unsure and approached the task with a slight air of negativity. A kind of, we’re here so we might as well do something.
First of all hotels in San Diego are expensive by Western standards. A double room will cream you upwards of $60 per night, with the cheaper places on hotel circle just off the I-8. Connected by highways you can get around the city in no time at all with a car. Downtown parking is about $6 per day so highly affordable.
Being a naval city there are tonnes of naval things to do and feeling we were somewhere with a rich wartime history that’s where we started and was generally the direction of what we did, starting with Point Loma light station. As Americans tend to, they take an English word and americanise it, a light station is obviously a lighthouse. But what was special about Point Loma is a few things. First of all it is set in Cabrillo national park, a stunning yet small jut of land out into the pacific offering gorgeous panoramic views over San Diego on one side, and the pacific on the other. What makes Point Loma special for most people is not the fact it’s an old gunnery littered with artillery, bunkers and a quaint lighthouse, but the fact it is on the migration path of blue whales. Every December through May the worlds largest mammals make the thousands of miles journey from the arctic circle to the warm waters of Baja Mexico passing right past Loma point in the process. Due to the position of the point and it’s proximity to the pacific it makes for one of the best whale viewings in the country and serves as a spectacular moment of witnessing one of the worlds greatest mammals as they cycle through their lives.
Out of whale season the point offers a place to hike through history on well kept trails. You can also bird watch, look out over the naval base, hunt for lobsters and star fish in the tide pools and be completely at one with nature. For just a $5 entrance (or free if you have the annual national park pass like us) you could easily spend a day wandering through natural beauty as though you were the only people in the world and completely abstract from one of the States largest cities. And that is what we did. Jack and Toby regained their brotherly love for each-other and Jack revelled in taking Toby under his wing and spending time with him. They ran, jumped, skipped, fell over and laughed and as I looked on at two of my boys I ached for Charlie and Abi to be with us. For though the day felt so amazing, it felt so incomplete.
After we had spent all our energy on Loma Point we headed for a stroll round old town. Thinking it was like the old town in Orlando, Jack was genuinely destroyed when there were no rides there but instead an old Mexican cum American town from the 1800’s. A national monument, it is immaculately kept and filled with volunteers in olde style dress applicable to whatever role they are playing. The kids absolutely loved it, visiting an old school, watching the blacksmiths at work and buying 1850’s candy, whilst snooping around a completely restored Wells Fargo, jail house and so much more. It was nothing like I’d expected and by this point I’d decided I loved San Diego and the kids were in agreement.
But Jacks favourite thing we did in San Diego was an amazing, no, fantastic museum we went to that was like no where else in the world we’ve ever been – USS Midway; a huge aircraft carrier now decommissioned, yet completely open to the public and full of former naval officers and sailors who now volunteer to answer your every question. It takes a day to walk around it is so big and takes you through 65 different stations from actual planes and helicopters in the hangar on on the main deck to where the sailors slept, ate, had briefings and even got locked up of they committed a crime whilst at sea. It is without doubt the best modern museum we have ever been to and the kids absolutely loved exploring the maze like ship which really is like a city at sea. Toby absolutely loves “hairpins” and was elated at when he could sit inside the cockpits and pretend to be flying around. But most of all it was somewhere unique for us, somewhere different. Somewhere where we could all just be kids, I found myself secretly pretending to be Maverick and loved every minute of it.
We had one last adventure in San Diego and it began with a hike down a seriously steep cliff face to a beach secluded from everywhere. Blacks beach is renowned for a number of reasons, set at the foot off a huge sandy cliff it is cut off from everywhere unless you actually want to be there, and for good reason. And we had good reason.
To get there you head up to Torrey Pines national park and to the glider-port. From there you take the trail down to the beach, it is the one nearest the entrance to the glider-port, there are warnings not to descend as it is unsafe, but its quite safe if you watch your footing. The steep descent took around ten minutes, and suddenly you step out from the gorge and look out onto a quite rugged yet beautiful beach. Within seconds Jack tugged at my arm “dad, that guy is naked” as he pointed to a guy with it all hanging out walking along the sea line. Naturally he was sniggering, even Toby was laughing from his back carrier into my ear. We were on not just a gorgeous beach, but on the largest nudist beach in the United States. Now, I have to admit, I would go nude no problem and so wasn’t there to be a pervert, just out of curiosity and I knew the kids would have a laugh about it. We walked about a mile along the beach and just about every person naked was male which put a downer on things, and the naked women we did see had huge giblets and super grey bushes.
We left the beach up the second (and much steeper) trail up the cliff and it brought us out at the far end of the car park which was perfect. I had the back carrier on and it was fairly difficult, but Jack bounced up like he was walking on air.
Jack still laughs now about Black’s beach, and I am still haunted by what is to come both for my own anatomy and that of a silver surfer I one day end up with.
After leaving the San Diego area we headed north towards Los Angeles and I realised that I hadn’t come across any foreigners at all. And it surprised me, but then I remembered how I had approached San Diego with an almost dismissal that was completely unjustified. I’m not sure just what I loved the most about the place, whether it was how relaxed it was, how beautiful it was, how great the attractions were or just how easy a city to be in it was. But I can say now with an absolute certainly, I was wrong about San Diego, and when we left knowing we’d likely never return, I felt a slight tinge of sadness.