Category Archives: San Diego

I met a guy who lives in Tijuana, but works in San Diego

My last trip to San Diego was a little unusual for me. I stayed at some different places and met different types of people. Keep in mind that I live in Los Angeles. We are not near the border, so what goes on near the border is a bit foreign for us. We’re aware of the drug war, but are hours away from it. However, people who live in San Diego belong to a culture of people who go back and forth across that dangerous border.

So, I checked into my hotel. I start gabbing with the staff. The guy I was talking to worked in San Diego, but lived in Tijuana. He drove across every day. He said there was no particular problem with traffic for him. He goes in the fast lane since he has a special pass. I asked him if it was dangerous with the drug war. He said he didn’t feel any danger just as long as you avoid the dangerous part of town. He said that you could get shot by gang bangers in San Diego. I feel safe in most parts of America, but feel that Mexico these days is deadly. To him it is home. And he is not even Hispanic!

Then we started talking about prices. He said that you can get a middle class apartment for about $300 there or live like a rich man for $1000 per month. I like those prices. But, I’m not about to risk my life to save a few bucks! But, once again, to him, it is safe, and he is used to crossing the border daily. Hmmm…

La Jolla, CA — a pleasant place to stroll and browse

I am a frequent visitor to La Jolla California. It is not just that I like to see how the top 1% live, I find it healthy and rejuvenating being there. I love walking around at night and going to the small shops and galleries. People are very friendly there, and I seem to make new friends there from time to time too!

Where to stay.
I have stayed at many of the hotels in La Jolla. I found that I sleep better at the Best Western than the other hotels and wake up earlier as well. I love the little chocolates they give in the rooms upon arrival, and depend on the apples they keep in the lobby! They have a very nice staff, and it is relaxing just to be there! It seems to capture the ambiance of the sea and dolphin energy even though they are a few blocks farther from the sea than many other local hotels. A paradox to ponder!

The Grande Colonial Hotel is a very stately place to stay with a nice classy bar on the main floor. Service is excellent and it is in the middle of all of the action as well.

La Valencia hotel has some exquisite dining and wines to drink. You will enjoy its traditional Hacienda style architecture and convenient location. They sometimes have fancy set dinners at their restaurant for their gourmet visitors. This might qualify as being the classiest hotel in the neighborhood.

What to do? Start at the beach!
La Jolla is a neighborhood of cafes, beaches, restaurants, art galleries, and friendly people. I have never had a bad experience visiting there. The question is what to do, and when to do it? For me, a quick jaunt to the beach is an absolute necessity for emotional reasons. You can see dozens of seals (sea lions) swimming around and basking on the rocks. They are adorable creatures. I typically start my day with a short walk to the coast and walk around the beach, see the sea mammals, soak in the ocean’s healing energy, and then go about my day. My chiropractor says it is good to walk barefoot in the sand, so find a sandy part of the beach and take your shoes off and walk back and forth. It is truly therapeutic! Additionally, the beach is nice place to go after sunset for a quiet atmosphere to enjoy with your significant other!

Ice cream anyone?
You have a choice of Haagen Daz (my favorite), Cold Stone, and multiple gelato places. One place even has designer ice cream bars with very unusual flavors for unusually high prices! No trip to La Jolla is complete without a small helping of ice cream.

Coffee houses!
The most popular hangout is “The Living Room”. Coffee, Hookahs, food, and desserts. All under one roof. My favorite coffee stop is to have mocha at Aroma Cafe near Fay and Prospect Street. They have a very unusual menu of American, Italian, Cajun, and Mid-Eastern foods and even have unusual dishes like Coca Cola Chicken! I always enjoy dining at Aroma no matter what time of the day it is.

Art Galleries
There are many to choose from. Just walk down the side streets off Prospect and you will be bombarded with art. My favorite is a little gallery with nature pictures. You can get small cards with photos of animals you can take home for a small price!

Fine Dining
There are endless choices of places to dine for every budget. Prospect street has infinite choices, but Fay ave has many more if you go a few blocks South. You can get French, Italian, Sushi, American, and many other types of cuisines. Famous restaurants include Steakhouse Azul at La Jolla, Crab Catcher, Eddie V’s, Amaya La Jolla, and La Valencia is very fancy as well. I enjoyed Tapas and “tinto” (red wine) at Ibirico Bistro on Prospect. A nice place for budget travelers is Bubba’s Smoke House BBQ. The brisket sandwiches are smoky and amazing!

If you go across the highway to downtown La Jolla, there are a few amazing restaurants near the Hyatt. Fleming’s Steak House has the best burger anywhere as well as great steaks and seafood. Cafe Japengo has great Asian Fusion. Truluck’s has fancy seafood. Which place is my favorite place to eat? I have had only one fancy meal in La Jolla because I normally eat in other parts of town when I am in San Diego!

Bars & Wine tasting
There is a small olive oil shop that has wine tasting as well. It is called We Olive & Wine Bar. I tried a few of their reds which all had the characteristic of having strong flavors. I experienced cranberry notes, walnut notes, and other distinct flavors. I am more partial to fruity or “big reds”, but it was an interesting experience in any case. Loved their map of wine growing regions in California. You would be surprised at how many valleys there really are here! There are many bars in La Jolla. The classiest is at the Grand Colonial. But, you can drink wine at the tapas restaurant, sushi places, or anywhere else in town as well. Flemings (a few miles inland) has an amazing wine selection as well. For those who are serious about fine wines, there is a very nice place that is about 45 minutes from La Jolla. If you go up to Rancho Santa Fe (you will get lost in the hills if you don’t know the area) you can find an excellent selection of fine wines at Delicias. The other option is to go to Downtown San Diego where there are more choices of places to go wine tasting.

“I’ll be right back” — he said: A travel story

I was in La Jolla. For those of you who frequent my blog, you will know that I travel to San Diego County often to revive myself. It revives my health, sleep schedule and spirit. My psychic told me that a goddess named Usha lived in La Jolla 10,000 years ago and the entire area is blessed by her divine vibration. She loved the seals and she loved the coast. It is still wonderful to this day! How does a goddess in prehistoric America get a Hindu name? Not sure — maybe the Hindus got around more than we think on Atlantian modes of transportation beyond our comprehension. Anyway… getting back to the story.

During one of my nightly walks around La Jolla, in my quest for ice cream, good conversation and relaxation, I was having a conversation while eating my Swiss Vanilla Almond. We were talking about wicker furniture, and then I mentioned my problems finding .net programmers. The guy who I will call “Frank” at the neighboring table interjected. He told me all about his programming background and he wanted to be a project manager. We talked for about half an hour. He told me he wanted to give me his card. And then he uttered the words,

“I’ll be right back.”

Sounds like something Arnold would say in The Terminator. I got nervous when he said that. Would he really come back? His car was only 50 feet away. Why was I having this reaction. In any case, he came back and gave me his card. We talked for four more hours. Then, the next evening I met him at the same place and we talked for another hour.

A few days later, I talked with my psychic — yeah, the same guy who told me about the goddess. Never a dull moment with him. There is always a fascinating story to be told. I never know if the story is completely true, but the stories always have some bearing on reality and are always interesting. The psychic told me that I knew Frank in a past life. We were war buddies. We were in a battle situation together taking in some hostile fire. He had to go for a few minutes to get something. Unfortunately, I never heard from him again in that life. He wandered off and was killed minutes after I last saw him. His parting words before he was killed were:

“I’ll be right back”

Now, I know why I got so nervous when he said that he would be right back. The last time he said that he got killed. What an amazing story. Most of us are completely unaware that the people we meet in daily life might be people we knew in past lives. I met a guy in New Mexico who was my mother in a past life! No wonder he gave me food for free even after his restaurant was closed for a party!

San Diego County — it is more than the zoo and Sea World!

If you are visiting San Diego from another metro, you have probably heard of Sea World, Legoland, The San Diego Zoo, the Wild Animal Park, and the beaches in San Diego. These are all wonderful places to visit. But, San Diego has a wealth of other travel possibilities for those with an open mind. If you do an initial trip to San Diego, you probably want to do everything on “The A list”. But, I find it relaxing and rejuvenating to visit San Diego regularly, so I have developed a repetoire of other things to do!

A drive in the hills
San Diego has many hills to drive around in. It is fun to just drive, and see the scenery. The wealthy town of Rancho Santa Fe is conveniently — well, actually inconveniently located in the hills east of Solana Beach which is North of Downtown San Diego. You can see beautiful hillscapes, multi-million dollar homes, and even have a nice meal up there. Don’t forget to purchase some racing grade gasoline for $10 per gallon at the top of the hill.

A drive to the mountains.
Don’t go in the winter or early spring. I made this mistake and got caught in a blizzard in March just miles from the Mexican border. The mountains near Julian have many resorts and places to go hiking. Not the best place to be in a horrific snow storm, but great in warmer weather. There is a place that makes home made pies near Julian too! There are other mountains. Palomar Mountain State Park is another great mountainous region in Northeastern San Diego County. There are many orange orchards on the roads near there. After returning home, I had dreams about oranges! Further South From Julian is Cuyamaca Rancho State Park.

A walk through Old Town
I wrote another quick article on the salient features of Old Town San Diego. There are many small shops, eateries, ice cream places, Mexican restaurants, galleries, and more, not to mention the historical state park and the haunted Whaley House! Old Town is small, and parking is not always easy, but at least manageable. In two hours, you can extract a lot of enjoyment out of this quaint and wonderful neighborhood!

A hike at Torrey Pines
One of the most popular beach areas in San Diego is at Torrey Pines. This is about 30 minutes North of Downtown. Once again, parking is a nightmare, but you can pay $12 or $15 to park in the paid section. You can walk along the beach, or enjoy a hike up the hill and enjoy the rare species of trees called Torrey Pines. These trees are so wonderful, they named a chain of banks after them! There are many hiking trails to choose from with great views of the ocean.

A walk through Encinitas
Encinitas is a little quirky town where yoga is popular and unusual restaurants abound. It doesn’t take long to walk from one end to the other, but you can enjoy many small shops, restaurants and more. I enjoyed cardamom gelato at a small shop there called Bubby’s gelato, and cardamom ice cream is now my favorite flavor! East Village Asian Diner is another favorite of mine with great dumplings and stone pot monk bowls. There are many places to get smoothies and fresh juice. Don’t neglect sticking your head into Whole Foods either. On my most recent village to Encinitas, I sampled some Jamaican food at Jamroc 101. The beef patties were fantastic and the spicing was perfect!

Oceanside is a fun place!
They often have street fairs at Oceanside. Maybe I lucked out, but when I was just passing through, there was a street fair with fun people and lots of foods to try. You can visit the beach there as well.

Going down to the border
I drove around the border region just to do it. There is a little state park near the border. I drove down near there. The ground is a bit more muddy down there it seems. There is a hill on the border where I was driving, but as I drove further, I started seeing the tops of tall buildings on the other side of the border. I began to feel like I was in Tijuana. I got a very bad feeling. The drug war makes TJ a very dangerous place. I drove to the 5 where I could overlook the border crossing. I was very cautious not to make a wrong turn and end up in the wrong country! If you want to see a foreign country without technically being in it, a drive near the border can give you an experience to remember.

Botanical Gardens
This hidden and neglected gem is near Encinitas. It is not huge, and not anything to compare to the zoo, but if you want a nice walk in a beautiful garden, you will get an hour of pleasure. I’ll leave the rest to experience!

Infinite Golf Courses
I don’t play golf, but if you do, there are dozens of golf courses in this county. You will never run out of golf courses!

The food court at the La Jolla Mall?
Enjoy great shopping and a really unusual food court at the mall in La Jolla near the 805. The food court features Teriyaki much better than any other place I have been to. Korean hamburgers — bulgogee style? Amazing! You can get Indian, Indonesian, Thai, and many other types of food at this food court as well. If you have never been, visit, and enjoy all of the free samples that will be offered to you!

Downtown San Diego — what to do and what to expect!

I am a frequent visitor to the San Diego area. But, I mainly go to meditate and hike at the beach. I typically spend a lot of time in Encinitas, La Jolla, and Old Town, but not so much time downtown. Downtown San Diego is similar to other downtown areas in other metros. There are a higher concentration of French restaurants and steak houses than in other areas.

Dining and art downtown!
During my last visit to downtown San Diego about a year ago, I found that parking was not so easy to find unless you were willing to pay for it. I spent $10 to park for about two hours in a paid lot. I researched places to eat ahead of time. I browsed through the names of the restaurants. Nothing seemed to tempt me like the Tapas place. So, I went there. I enjoyed a tapas meal at Sevilla that consisted of many smaller dishes including a lamb empanada, meatballs, seafood tacos, wine and a few other dishes. They seem to have changed their menu, so the dishes I had no longer exist. But, as a general rule, Paella Valenciana is the most traditional dish that is a “must try”. After my enjoyable meal, I strolled down the street and enjoyed many very unusual art galleries. There is also wine tasting downtown. I didn’t do any, but if you plan ahead, you can research where to go and what to try!

Balboa Park: Museums, Gardens, Parks, and more!
San Diego has a wonderful part of town where there are parks, museums, and their world famous zoo. This is roughly a mile and a half North of the Financial District downtown. Parking here can be a nightmare, so come when nobody else wants to come or after they leave! If you just want to go for a nice two hour stroll, there are many choices for places to walk. You can walk around the gardens near the museums, and you can also go on the other side of the road to where there are jogging trails in the dirt.

Gardens
I am a huge fan of gardens, and enjoyed strolling through the rose gardens. There is also the Alcazar garden, Palm Canyon, Desert Gardens, Old Cactus Garden (behind the recital hall), the Japanese friendship garden, and Australian Garden, and a Lily Pond. These gardens are not aligned in an organized fashion, so you might have to walk around a bit to find them all. Good luck!

The “cultural area” near the United Nations Association has mini houses from different countries in the world. If you go at the prescribed time (sorry, I don’t know when that is), you can eat foods from those countries, see some art, and get other information. It is fun, but not a very thorough way to “see the world”.

Museums
First of all, the traditional Spanish architecture of the museums is so amazing, that people come from all over to savor its beauty. Marriages take place in the parks near the museum almost daily since it is so breathtaking there. You can enjoy the Air and Space museum, Automotive museum, Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego History Center, Timken Museum of Art, The San Diego Museum of Art, Mingei International Museum, San Diego Art Institute, San Diego Natural History Museum, The Reuben H Fleet Science Center, San Diego Museum of Man, a variety of Theatres,

Cuisine
I enjoyed several very pleasant meals at Prado. They have a nice selection of wines by the glass, innovative desserts and many interesting dishes on the menu. The patio in the back is huge, and is a very relaxing place to have a meal with family, friends, or dining solo.

Spanish Village Art Center
No visit to Balboa park is complete without strolling through all the dozens of galleries at the Spanish Village Art Center! There are many galleries with Spanish themes, San Diego themes, as well as many that work with glass. Enjoy!

To sum it up, visiting downtown San Diego is fun, but parking is a nightmare. Sea World and the San Diego Zoo are famous, and you should visit both. But, there are many other parts of San Diego County worth visiting too, so don’t neglect the other magical activities you could do.

Old Town San Diego: The good, the bad & the paranormal

Old Town San Diego

I am a regular visitor to Old Town San Diego. It is conveniently located near the 5 and 8 freeways just north of Downtown San Diego. There is a lot to do in this tiny neighborhood. The irony is that people come there mainly for Mexican food on San Diego Ave. I visited several Mexican restaurants on that street, and it was far below average. However, there is some very interesting Mexican food tucked away near Congress & Twiggs at Rockin’ Baja! What to do?

(1) See the state park!
As a first time visitor, you should be sure to take a thorough tour of the Old Town San Diego State Historic Park. See how life was in the 1800’s in San Diego. See some tiny shops in the theme of that period as well. There is a historic court house, a stable, a trolley tour, leather depot, Mexican food, and more! Nearby Precidio Hills has great views, and nice Hacienda style architecture that you won’t want to miss.

(2) Ice cream to be inspired by…
Korky’s ice Cream & Coffee is a fun place to get ice cream. It is not your average place either. They seem to switch their flavors every so often which means that they are never boring! I remember a year ago they had Jackfruit Ice Cream, Birthday Cake Ice Cream, and even Avocado Ice Cream. During my last visit I sampled some Macadamia Ice Cream and saw that they had Bubble Gum Ice Cream — there’s something to chew on! The ice cream is great, but the styrofoam cups have got to go! Porcelein for adults — styrofoam for children!

(3) Lobster bites anyone?
Rockin’ Baja is my favorite Mexican Restaurant in Old Town. But, it is not on the main strip. It is near the parking lot at Congress & Twiggs. They have seafood buckets, tacos of all types, seafood burritos, and great drinks — but my favorite is lobster bites. You get several tempura style bites served with cabbage and a chipotle dipping sauce. I am not sure what their secret ingredient is, but these bites are crunchy, very juicy, flavorful, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they use a little tequila in the recipe.

(4) Shopping to learn from.
There are many little shops you can stick your head in. They mainly sell Mexican souvenirs. But, there is an interesting store on San Diego ave that sells Native American art. There is also a small African heritage mini-museum on Congress street. It has not been there more than a few months, but is an interesting way to spend a few minutes.

(5) Hotels
There are dozens of inexpensive hotels along the 8 freeway on Hotel Cicle North & South. But, if you have the budget, you might enjoy staying in old town instead. Old town is quaint, and is a happy, friendly place as well. There is La Quinta Inn, Courtyard San Diego Old Town near the 5. Then, a little bit closer to the parks there is Heritage Park Inn, Best Western Plus, and the Cosmopolitan Hotel and Restaurant. I have not stayed at any of these hotels yet, but the Best Western Plus catches my eye the most. they have nice traditional architecture and are the closest to the action.

(6) Got Haunt?
Old Town San Diego is one of the most haunted places in America! The historic Whaley House is on the top ten list for “real” haunted houses in California and high on the list nationwide. You can purchase tickets next door and take a guided tour of this house that has a forboding past! One and a half blocks east there is a haunted graveyard as well. Many companies give ghost tours of Old Town, and I recommend taking one if you have the time. I did 16 years ago, and still remember bits and pieces of the tour!

I was sitting in the courthouse of the Whaley House during my recent tour less than a year ago. The couple in front of me wanted me to take a picture of them using their hand-held. I did, and there was a huge orb that distorted their face. How bizarre. I didn’t see anything with my naked eyes, but the camera caught all types of paranormal activity. I wouldn’t call this place “creepy”, but it is filled with spirits! There are at least seven spirits that seem to be residing at this location. Mostly family members of the deceased that used to live there.

Mr. Whaley’s ghost was very friendly with me. I never actually witnessed anything, but two blocks down the road from his house, after the tour, I smelled his distinctive cigar smoke which is his trademark! Then, I discussed his ghost with my psychic. I asked if the cigar smoke was really from that ghost. Then, immediately after we both smelled the cigar smoke. I recently walked by the house a few days ago, and today in my car, I smelled very thick cigar smoke once, and then two minutes later again. According to the tour guide, when Mr. Whaley wants to say hello, you will feel a presence and smell his tell-tale cigar smoke! Casper is not the only friendly ghost around I guess!

(7) End it all with a glass of Cabernet!
There is a very pleasant wine bar on Congress just east of Twiggs. They have a very long list of wines by the glass, and it is a pleasant place to just hang out and spend an hour.

(8) Other restaurants to note
I am a fan of the Latin restaurant (Berta’s) as well as the Old Town Mining Company — both conveniently located near Rockin’ Baja near Congress and Twiggs. Enjoy unusual menus, pleasant service, and some nice artwork too at Berta’s