Imperial BeachAs most of you know, each of us separately is very detail oriented and maybe even a little anal, especially when it comes to travel and planning.  Combine us, and you have created a monster.  Usually our travel planning is very well thought out, and we know weeks ahead of time what things we want to do and see, a rough amount of time to allot to each one, and the most efficient method of getting to them all without feeling rushed and allowing time for the inevitable hiccups.

Imperial BeachThat being said, this has by far been our least planned and most haphazard trip to date.  We certainly did our due diligence getting rough ideas of high-level things that we would both like to do, but other than searching TripAdvisor, Yelp, and looking at Bing Maps, we decided (or just didn’t decide, as the case may be) to show up in San Diego and wing this trip.  Having grown up in Southern California and done many work-related trips there since, I knew enough of the geography and options to feel confident that we could find enough to keep us occupied non-stop.

Imperial BeachColette had a meeting in Carlsbad on Thursday, and since I have alternate travel allowance with work (I can fly anywhere that is as cheap or cheaper than flying to my "home" city, and if it’s under $500 nobody checks anyway) we decided to spend a long weekend enjoying some natural Vitamin D and ocean salt spray. 

Since we’re both frugal (aka "cheap") travellers, normally I use hotel points for the hotel and Avis free weekend coupons for the rental car.  This time I found a Ramada for 4 nights in Carlsbad for $166.92 including all taxes and a midsize rental from Budget for 4 days for $78.15 including all taxes through Priceline.  With prices that cheap, it didn’t make sense to burn the frequent flyer points.  I’m normally not a huge fan of the Ramada, but we could see the ocean from the third floor, it had a pool with a hot tub and a fountain, and a nice hot breakfast was included, so I think I will add them to my list of allowable properties for budget travel. 

Imperial BeachThe car was another story, and on the opposite end of the scale.  While it was functional and clean, both front shocks were destroyed and the front right shock clattered terribly at anything over 50mph.  I’m pretty sure that a very disorganized pack of gerbils were providing the locomotion power under the hood, and there was no input to plug in the Zune for audiobooks and music.  Oh well, I guess that’s what you get for $12/day plus tax.  The San Diego airport Budget location is certainly getting a bad Yelp from me for this one.

Sea Lion at La JollaEven with a late night flight in on Thursday, 6:30am on Friday morning comes easy when the biological clock is set two time zones ahead.  After a quick (hooray for free breakfast) bite to eat, we headed a few miles up the Pacific Coast Highway for a morning walk at South Carlsbad State Beach.   It’s no wonder why people who live in California and Florida live so much longer – they’re always outside doing active things!  It’s very encouraging to see how many of the geriatric set are out strolling or biking or simply enjoying the natural Vitamin D.  Carlsbad is a fairly affluent area, and this is very evident by the pretty people who are out and about early on a Friday morning instead of being stuck at the 9 to 5 like most working stiffs.

Sunset at Ja Jolla CoveOne of Colette’s co-workers also stayed in San Diego over the weekend, and we decided to meet her for lunch.  Although we had planned on Mexican food (hey, we ARE in Mexico Norte!), Tanya suggested that we dine oceanfront instead of staying inland in Chula Vista where she was staying.  A quick Jimbo-GPS trip west to the coast, and we ended up at Imperial Beach.  Not a terribly wonderful beach, but a nice long pier with a small seafood restaurant at the end.  Perfect.  The Tin Fish served up fresh fish, and relatively cheap – especially considering the premium that the location demands.  It never ceases to amaze me how quickly time passes over good food with good folks.

After dropping Tanya back off in Chula Vista, we travelled north through San Diego to La Jolla

Sea Lion on Buoy in San Diego HarborSea lions have gathered for many years at the La Jolla Cove, and despite my many trips to the greater San Diego area I had never seen them. 

What a treat! 

Big ones, little ones, fat ones, speckled ones, it’s amazing the multitude of sizes and colors that they come in. 

Since dark was approaching quickly by this time, we decided to stick around to enjoy the sunset, and what a prime sunset we were rewarded with. 

Cockpit on sailboat JadaWhile we have enjoyed many gorgeous sunsets over the Gulf of Mexico, nothing compares to a Pacific coast sunset!

Saturday was the big day – whale watching!  While doing a bit of pre-trip research, I stumbled across a sailing excursion going out on Saturday from the San Diego Harbor aboard the wood sailboat Jada

The price was certainly reasonable, and the opportunity was not to be passed up. 

Grey WhaleCaptain Dave and crew are efficient, knowledgeable and friendly. 

While motor-sailing out to sea isn’t our preferred method of forward propulsion, being under sail doesn’t allow the necessary speed adjustment and fine maneuvering necessary to track and stay close to whales. 

It didn’t take very long once out of the harbor to find our first whale – a single Gray Whale off the port side.

 Grey WhaleEveryone scrambled to the rail, cameras in hand, to capture the moment. 

This whale was skittish though, and after surfacing several times, arched his back (a sign of an impending deep dive), and didn’t surface again within our sight range.

IMG_1897.sized[1]The next sighting was even better – two grey whales travelling together, with evenly spaced surface intervals and a predictable trajectory. 

We were able to stay with them for quite some time, until one surfaced within 50 feet of the ship and was spooked off.  What a great experience!

 

IMG_1910.sized[1]Captain Dave spent some time educating everyone on board about the Gray Whales migratory patterns, how they travel and mate, and a wide range of other whale facts that provided a definite value-add to the entire trip. 

On the sail back into the harbor, he regaled us with stories of whaling and how ships in the ancient days would load up with rocks at Ballast Point after dropping their cargo, 

The last bit of excitement on the way back to dock was an America’s Cup raceboat coming out of the harbor under full sail. 

Amazing.

Hotel Del CoronadoBeach at Hotel CoronadoWe got back to the dock around 3pm, and decided to run down to Coronado to see the Hotel Coronado since I had also never been there. 

The beach in front of the hotel is typical Southern California quality, but with more far more tourists than what we prefer. 

On the way north out of San Diego, we stopped and picked up some sushi and microbrew and headed to Del Mar to catch the sunset. 

Sunset at Del MarAnother spectacular Pacific sunset sitting on the cliffs overlooking the beach. 

Life is good.

Del Mar SunsetVery good.