California Dreaming: Sunny San Diego

After Paris, it was beginning to feel like the next trip was all too far away. I was DYING to book a week in Morocco but as Rich and I had broken up, I was down a travel buddy and no one else seemed to have the time.

Luckily for me, a work trip was on the horizon…

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(April 2013)

As I queued in line at Heathrow airport, one of the flight staff stopped to check my booking number and came back with a boarding pass – free upgrade to business class – the week was already off to a good start!

15 hours later, I arrived in San Diego feeling exhausted and just about energetic enough to pull my big red suitcase off the turnstile and head to find Lynsey, my friend and work colleague, who was joining me on the trip. The plan was to spend the week in San Diego seeking out the perfect venue for our upcoming conference in September. Sounds easy right? But firstly we had to navigate the freeways in a rented car, on the opposite side of the road, in the middle of the night…not for the faint-hearted! I’m not going to lie, that first night, I felt like I was taking our lives into my own hands.

Thankfully we arrived at the first hotel in one piece and checked into our private suites, complete with Jacuzzi baths, a welcome bottle of red wine and some chocolate truffles…it was almost too much!

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The next morning, once our first meeting was over, we headed back onto the I-5 (freeway) for our second meeting of the day. Although we were there to work, with the sun beating down on us and the music blasting from the car radio, it almost felt like we were on holiday. After months of feeling gloomy and miserable, just one morning in the sun and I felt revived and more positive than I had in a long time, clearly the sunshine agrees with me.

After our third meeting, it was time for a break and some lunch. We asked one of the hotel concierges for a recommendation, then headed along the coastal road to the little village of Del Mar, where we stopped at Jake’s – right on the beach – for a delicious range of appetizers to share. The food was mouth wateringly good and the setting was beautiful. If we could have stayed there all afternoon we would but a busy schedule beckoned us from our seats and we headed back to the car.

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Day one of back-to-back meetings complete, we were exhausted but decided to head over to Cardiff by the Sea – a small surf town in the North County, to check out a potential restaurant for one of the conference dinners. As we pulled the car over to side of the beach, I threw open the car door, slipped out of my shoes and ran along the warm sand to dip my toes in the (albeit freezing cold) ocean. I’m sure Lynsey was wondering if I had lost it a little at this point but I was just so excited to be away from the hustle and bustle of real life. We headed to the restaurant which wasn’t really suitable for what we had in mind but still, it would be rude not to stop for a drink right? So we ordered two coronas and sat on the roof terrace, taking in the last rays of the day and feeling peaceful and happy. Despite the jet-lag and packed itinerary, I don’t think I had stopped smiling all day and Lynsey was equally taken with this sunny paradise!

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Flashpackers in SD

A couple of days in, we were pros at navigating the freeway and had relaxed into driving on the opposite side of the road. I’d taken on the role of chauffeur whilst Lynsey figured out directions (not my strong point). Each night we stayed at a different hotel – Hyatt Regency La JollaLa CostaHyatt Mission BayHyatt AviaraEstancia La Jolla and L’Auberge. Each one was more beautiful than the next and definitely not the kind of places we could usually afford but we quickly acclimatised to being spoilt, especially as each hotel was trying their best to impress.

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Estancia was definitely the winner for me, the whole feel of the place was amazing – relaxing, Mediterranean / ranch style décor – exactly my kind of place, but L’Auberge came a very close second with its ocean views and close proximity to Del Mar’s cafes, bars and boutique shops.

Downtime in San Diego

By the time the weekend arrived, the combination of jet-lag and our hectic schedule meant that we well and truly needed a break but unfortunately our body clocks had different ideas. So, at 7am on Saturday morning, we packed up the car, took a little detour via Starbucks and headed back up North to Torrey Pines State Reserve. At this time of year, the sky is a little overcast and grey in the morning and there is definitely a chill in the air, but by now we were used to this and so donned our jumpers, scarves and sandals and took a morning stroll along the (almost deserted) beach.

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Next, it was time to head back to Estancia, this time to check in for our Saturday night stay. We couldn’t have chosen a more perfect location for our ‘day off’. We threw our bags in the room, swapped our jumpers for bikinis and headed down to the pool to relax. Being typically English, we decided to wait an hour before putting any sunscreen on (this was the first bit of sunlight we’d seen in months, so definitely not our smartest move!) An hour in and we swapped poolside for bar-side as we headed to the on-site ‘Mustangs and Burros’ restaurant for a cheeky Corona, salsa and chips and a yummy quesadilla. (Still no sunscreen).

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By 4pm, as you can imagine, we were well and truly sizzled. We headed indoors to do some work before getting ready for our night out, only to realise that four hours of sunshine had turned us into two little lobsters – definitely not the look we were going for!

Our ‘big night out’ in San Diego was soon swapped for a more sedate dinner for two at a low key Italian in La Jolla Village, dressed not in our best partying outfits but instead in whatever showed the least amount of rosy flesh. To say we felt a little stupid was a massive understatement!

Sunday morning, still burnt to a crisp, we decided to check out more venues before heading to Downtown for a stop at the mall. A couple of hours in, the retail therapy had certainly turned our moods back around for the better but our credit cards had taken the fall, and so it was time to give them a rest and head for lunch.

Wanting to get off the beaten track, we decided to head to the surfer town Encinatas where I’d been assured I’d find a hot surfer guy (thanks Monique). Unfortunately the surfers must have been making the most of the waves because there wasn’t a hottie in sight but the (mammoth sized) salads and ice cold beers certainly hit the spot.

California dreaming 

It was then time to head to L’Auberge, our final hotel stay for our last two nights. By now, I’d fallen in love with the bright blue skies, wide open spaces, fresh sea air and happy vibe of everyone we met.  I was already working on convincing Lynsey of the benefits of me working from San Diego instead of the London office. If nothing else, the trip had been a welcome escape from our usual routine but most of all, it had served as a reminder to me that I need to start thinking about moving on from London. Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty I love about this city but being able to head to the beach after work and feel so completely relaxed – it reminded me why I had fallen so in love with Australia all those years ago.

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On our penultimate night, I worked on my pitch to Lynsey over a delicious bottle of red (courtesy of our contact at the hotel) as we sat in Sbicca – a trendy café/bar just over the road from the hotel. By now we were well and truly overwhelmed by the American sized portions in every restaurant and hotel and so we ordered our own version of tapas from the list of appetizers – fresh mussels in coconut sauce, mini bruschettas and Korean beef lettuce wraps, followed by strawberries and ice cream for me and red velvet cake for Lyns. By the time we’d finished the wine, I think I’d almost convinced Lynsey that I should move out to SD, now I just need to find a visa/American husband!

Next trip…

As usual, the only thing that could pull me out of my glum mood when I got back to London was to book another trip. So, Morocco is finally confirmed for September and I’m also keeping my fingers crossed for a birthday getaway in a few weeks time!

We’re heading back to San Diego for the conference in September, if anyone has any tips on places we should head to in our down time, I’d love to hear them!

Top spots in San Diego

Torrey Pines State Reserve for a morning stroll.

Sbicca – for breakfast, lunch or dinner in a laid back café/bar – don’t forget to try the popovers!

Jake’s – lovely spot overlooking Del Mar beach (yummy food)

Del Mar in general was just one of my favourite spots – nice cafes, bars and boutique shops

La Jolla Village – Check out Eddie V’s restaurant for gorgeous ocean views

Passing through downtown? Try out Craft and Commerce for beers and yummy food.

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  1. Pingback: Je n’ai pas l’amour Paris! | Only Chasing The Sun

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