Dave and I just returned from a fabulous week in Southern California to catch up with his daughter, a college buddy and some of our travel mates. We put many miles on our rental car (and bikes) as well as a few inches to the waistline. Dave and I both lived in California briefly (me in Encinitas, him in Napa) and it was great to be back, even for such a brief visit. The weather did not disappoint and the scenery was pretty fantastic too.
We arrived at LAX bright and early Thursday morning and proceeded to retrieve our rental car for the short drive to San Diego to catch up with Katie. She wouldn’t be available for a few hours so we set Waze to take us to Oceanside to arrive just in time for lunch by the harbor. We arrived at the Oceanside Harbor and had a few minutes to stroll the tiny boardwalk before sitting down for a huge lunch at Rockin’ Baja Lobster for chilly beers, nachos and tacos. The portions were really, really big, and we barely rolled out of there. We walked up to explore the beach scene and snap a few pics before starting back down the road.
Instead of jumping back on I-5 we took the scenic route along Carlsbad Blvd to take a quick detour through Encinitas, where I lived briefly in the 80s. Encinitas is still the quirky boho town I remember, and the Self Realization Fellowship was swarming with visitors. We parked and took a quick peek at my old apartment, which hasn’t changed much and actually looked pretty good. We tried to find the stairs leading down to the beach but alas, my old brain couldn’t remember the way so we bagged it and went back to the car.
We finally arrived in San Diego and made our way to our apartment in the Gaslamp Quarter. It took a few double-backs to find the building and locate parking near by. We were not very happy to learn that the elevator in our building was not working and we had to haul our luggage up to the 5th floor. We laughed because we know this will be the first of many such experiences over the next five months so we better learn to just roll with it. The apartment was stylish and clean and despite the elevator fail, we were happy with our place.
After settling in, we wandered around “our” neighborhood and checked out some of the bars. We found friendly service everywhere we went, and had a few pints in the Tipsy Crow next door. It was time to meet up with Katie for dinner, so we walked a few blocks to Double Standard for some amazing pizza. Dave and I were still so full from lunch, but we managed to put away half of our pizzas and were happy to give Katie some take-away for a midnight snack.
Everyone was pretty tired so we called it an early night, and Dave and I made the climb – 80 steps in case you’re wondering – to our apartment for some much needed shuteye.
Dave and I weren’t quite adjusted to West Coast time and were up super early on Friday. We had dinner reservations with Katie later that night so agreed on an early brunch so we’d be hungry again at dinner time. We learned our lesson from the day prior. We found a fantastic brunch spot called Werewolf and were seated immediately. Bloody Marys and Mimosa were needed stat, and both were delish. Werewolf is a fun spot with interesting décor, friendly servers and awesome 80s music playing nonstop. Dave got the Quesadillas Huevos Rancheros and I got Chilaquiles Roja with chicken. Both were AMAZING… we could not stop smiling and crooning over our food!! And somehow my mimosa glass never emptied thanks to the excellent bar service – I counted four mimosas for all of $5.95… best deal of the whole trip 🙂
We wandered around town and checked out some of the charming shops until it was time to meet up with Katie. She scooped us up and we took a short drive to Coronado to check out the Hotel del Coronado (The Del) where we stopped for refreshment and a snack, and marveled at the perfect day.
We parted ways with Katie so she could go home and get ready for dinner while we did the same. An hour or so later, we were on our way to her apartment in Point Loma to scoop her up for dinner at the Pamplemousse Grille in Solana Beach near Del Mar. What a dining experience… one of the best I’ve had in a long time, which is saying something! Katie and Dave ordered a la carte but I went all-in on the black truffle tasting menu which was, well, wow. Each course was topped with shaved black truffles and was pretty much to die for.
As you can imagine, once again we were so full we could barely function so we drove Katie home and after a visit with her, made the drive back to our apartment in San Diego.
We got an early start on the road to meet up with Dave’s college buddy Roy and his wife Holly at their beautiful home in San Juan Capistrano where we’d be spending the night. On the way we stopped in Laguna Beach for brunch and found another gem in town called Nick’s Laguna Beach where we once again stuffed our faces with delicious food before taking in the town of Laguna, which is chock full of galleries and boutiques. We stopped to visit Las Brisas, a restaurant perched on a cliff with breathtaking views of the ocean and beach. It was hot and crowded at Las Brisas so after one cocktail we headed back to the car. We made a quick stop to check out a beach at the end of Diamond Street that Roy recommended and it was a real highlight.
We said goodbye to Laguna and headed to San Juan Capistrano to meet up with Roy and Holly where we received a warm welcome to their beautiful home. It was Belmont Stakes day so after a quick tour we settled in to watch Justify take the Triple Crown which was very exciting. We changed in to our swim suits for a quick pre-dinner dip and Dave and Roy caught up on their college days and the trouble they stirred up during their youth. Roy kept us entertained with his stories, and shared some of his amazing travel experiences with us. We hope to catch up with them on the road one of these days!
We headed in to town for dinner and explored the Los Rios Historic district – very unique – and ended at the Rancho Capistrano Winery for a relaxing meal and an absolute mind-blowing singer. Her name is Anesha Rose and I’m pretty sure she would give Adele a run for her money! Check her out – you’re welcome.
It was hard to leave Roy and Holly’s gorgeous compound, but our gals in Marina del Rey were waiting for us, so we decided to get down the road. We couldn’t leave San Juan Capistrano without checking out the Mission and of course, eating! I don’t think either of us knew what to expect at the Mission but we were both blown away by the beauty of the gardens and remnants of the Mission buildings. It was the highlight of our trip in regards to the sights we took in, and I’m really glad we stopped.
We arrived in Marina del Rey around 3 and after a frustrating check-in to our apartment (all my fault) we finally connected with our girlfriends and travel mates for happy hour cocktails and dinner at Gjelina off Abbot Kinney. As always, we had a lot of laughs catching up, and of course making our plans for the following day. No one was up for a late night so we headed back to Kristen’s for a nightcap and called it a night.
Dave and I headed in to Venice Beach to grab brunch before catching up with the ladies, and spent some time strolling the famous boardwalk, walking the pier and of course, checking out Muscle Beach. We met up with KC and Dawn at the bike rental and spent the entire day cycling around Venice and Santa Monica. We stopped at various spots for snacks and drinks, and attempted to check out Chez Jay, which unfortunately was closed (apparently preparing to tape footage for Goliath). We eventually found our way back to the bike rental shop and walked to our apartment in the Marina to get ready for dinner at Blue Plate Taco in Santa Monica where we met up with Liz. We gorged on fresh margaritas and crunchy tacos (aka crusty per KC) and drove back to KC’s for nightcaps and chatter. Dawn had an early morning flight so we headed back to our pad for the night.
DAY SIX – LAST DAY:
Dave and I had a red-eye from LAX and had the whole day to continue to enjoy the Marina del Rey area. We had brunch at Killer Shrimp before catching up with Kristen. We initially planned to spend the day kayaking in the Marina, but after another feedbag and a few mimosas, we decided a pool day would be the perfect end to our trip. KC set us up in the pool at her condo and we enjoyed a leisurely day in the perfect SoCal weather. After a few hours, we cleaned up and ran out for apps and pizzas at South End before it was finally time to head to the airport and close the book on a really fun week.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this recap of our trip and if you’re thinking of visiting SoCal you’ve gotten some ideas for an amazing vacation!
Until Next Time!