Today is my birthday. At 26, I’m happy to say
- I have a wonderful spouse. Things aren’t always perfect and I think we’re always exploring what marriage is to us vs what everyone thinks it means, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
- I have a great job that I think I’m getting a lot better at a place I’d never thought I’d end up doing something that wasn’t even a thing a few years ago. I’m lucky to have gotten in this position.
- I’ve traveled to other countries and can also now say I’ve been on the East Coast and the West Coast. It’s a personal belief that seeing other places and experiencing other ways of living enriches life.
- I have 3 nephews and I love them all to pieces. I’m excited to get to watch them grow up.
- I love my friends deeply. They’re awesome people and I really think that at this point a lot of them will be sticking around for a long time. Whether they want to or not.
- I can admit that I am so far from knowing everything, but I do have an arsenal of things that I am sure I do know a thing or two about. And I am not afraid to talk about it.
Side note: I’m so much younger than people I work with that I don’t often tell people my age – I don’t want it define me one way or another. But for today, I’ll let you in on it.
Similar to my posts about New Orleans, I split San Diego into two posts also, so come back tomorrow for part II. I honestly didn’t get to try all the food I was hoping to – we didn’t even get to stop an In and Out Burger! Still, the mix of being on the ocean and so close to the Mexican Border gives San Diego tons of good options.
Our first night there though, we actually ventured away from both of those things and ended up at a Japanese Ramen restaurant Yakyudori Yakitori & Ramen.
Yakitori is a kind of meat skewer, sort of. And comparing this ramen to the 10 cent packs in the grocery store is like comparing real brick oven made pizza to a Tostinos Pizza Roll – not the same at all. My ramen came with pork and a boiled egg and it was so good. The flavor was a really unique one, something just a little different than anything I’d tried here before.
I loved Lucha Libre so much we ate here twice during the trip. It’s got some unique tacos but the place itself is really unique. Everything is decked out in lucha libra (Mexican wrestling) decor. They have this crazy decked out “champions” booth you can sit at by making reservations online. And, maybe my favorite thing, the fountain drinks didn’t just include soda – they had Horchata, agua frescas and whipped pineapple and orange drinks too. And this:
I have no pics, but we also enjoyed the Coronado Brewing Company. We only got beer and pizza, so I can’t speak for anything else, but both were great. They offer the beer in a variety of sizes, so you can sample a few smaller sizes if you want. I loved getting to try local brews like this, and I’d highly recommend drinking some of the local brews in San Diego.
We also stopped at Deluxe Dogs while in Coronado. While they weren’t the best hot dogs I’d ever had, they were probably in the top 5. Plus, the lady that owns the place was super nice. Try the lemonade – we had a passion fruit flavor that was so good!
We also stopped at Cafe 222 for brunch and ordered some of the Peanut Butter and Banana stuffed French Toast – a favorite of Bobby Flay. This little place had so much good stuff on the menu. It was worth the short wait, and I would come back here in a heartbeat.
We rounded everything out with a dinner in Little Italy at Filippi’s Pizza Grotto. You enter the restaurant through a little market, and it is as legit as it looks. We each ordered an entree but could have easily split one. It was a hard choice between the entrees and the pizzas, which looked amazing – we only went with the pasta because we’d had pizza a couple nights before. They make the raviolis in house though, so if you go for anything besides the pizza, get those. Or, go with someone and share a pizza and raviolis!
I know we missed some places, but hopefully we’ll get to go back some day.
Yesterday evening we got back from our vacation in San Diego. I still wish I was there. It was perfect – great weather, great food, tons of stuff to do. It was my first trip to the west coast and I adored it.
We got there in the morning on Thursday (thanks to it being 2 hours behind us) and spent the first part of the day walking around Old Town, which was really cool. It’s a mix of historic buildings and little shops that sell some tourist-y things, some food, drinks, etc.
Most of the buildings are replicas – it seems like a lot of them burned down in the 70s. We walked around a lot and then sat in the middle of the park area to eat a soft pretzel and drink some of the best root beer I’d ever had. This would be a great stop for anyone with kiddos too.
On Friday, we hit up the world-famous San Diego Zoo. It was huge.
Seriously, so huge. It was pretty cool because they’re a botanical garden and a zoo, so there were beautiful plants and trees everywhere. And they had practically every animal in the book – pandas, polar bears, koalas, lion, tigers, and the list goes on.
I’m no expert, we only went the one day, but a few tips from what I learned:
- Download their mobile app – it has a handy map included that will tell you where you are in real-time
- Bring water, snacks and sunscreen. Lots of sunscreen. But also lots of snacks – that’s one great thing is you can bring in your own food and drink. We brought reusable water bottle and refilled it along with some trail mix, beef jerky, etc. It’s typical theme-park type food with the price tag to match.
- Park admission gets you a free tour on the bus, free use of the express buses and a free ride on the Skyfari Aerial Tram. These things are not only really helpful to get around the park, but also really informative. And the Skyfari has a great view of the city!
- Get there early. It opens at 9.
We spent Saturday morning at La Jolla Cove and then headed over to Coronado Beach. La Jolla was so cool – there were Sea Lions (or seals?) and Pelicans everywhere! Just hanging out. The water was freezing so I watched from a distance, but Gabe jumped right in. At one point a Sea Lion swam maybe 4 feet from him and did this crazy spin jump in the air. They flip and stuff sort of like dolphins.
The Coronado Bridge has a beautiful view of Downtown. You can also take a trolly to the Island, and then there are tons of shops and restaurants to check out before/after the beach. (Go to Fuzziwigs Candy and the Coronado Cluster. You won’t regret it)
The Hotel Del Coronado is also on the island – it’s where Frank Baum wrote 3 of the Wizard of Oz books and where Some Like it Hot was filmed. I’m sort of a nerd and I love seeing icons like this, which was great because there were plenty in San Diego.
For example, we made a special stop on the campus at the University of California at San Diego just to see the Geisel Library - named after Dr. Suess himself.
We spent the last full day there at Balboa Park. The park is home to (obviously) a regular park but also so much more – all the city’s major museums, a historic organ, a Japanese Tea Garden, a Botanical Garden and even a Ripley’s Believe it or Not. We walked around the park, rode the free Tram around and listened to an organ recital for free. The architecture of all of the buildings was really neat.
And we ended the day in Little Italy. It’s near Downtown and the Gaslamp Quarter so it wasn’t too hard to find, but it was absolutely as cute as it sounds and had blocks of delicious sounding restaurants. We only got to try one (more on that later) but it was so worth it.
San Diego did seem to have pretty good public transportation in the city, but we rented a car and I’m glad for that because of how much time we spent in the outlying parts (La Jolla and Coronado). There is a ferry to Coronado from downtown SD though. Our hotel was a little bit north, making it cheaper, but if you didn’t want to rent a car I’d recommend staying near downtown. For such a large city, it was really easy to navigate.
We picked a great time of year to go too, because the weather was perfect and nothing was too crowded yet. I felt like it had the laid back vibe I was expecting from the West Coast, but then again maybe I’m just projecting.
For part two, which largely covers food, click here.
You can read part one of my New Orelans trip here – sans food.
It’s safe to say the food in New Orleans is amazing. The only time I deviated from seafood was breakfast and the one time I ordered duck – which still swims, so I mean..
I’m not sure if it’s strange to have a whole separate post about food, but I feel like in a lot of areas it’s a reflection of the culture and the place you’re visiting. That’s especially true in NOLA.
Of course the first stop was Cafe du Monde. It’s earned it’s reputation – the beignets were amazing, definitely the best I’ve ever had. They only serve beignets and some coffee/hot chocolate, so you you know they’re doing it right. It’s open 24 hours and is positioned for great people watching. Bring cash, they don’t take a card. The napkin dispenser you see in the photo is all the menu they have.
We also ate at Emeril’s restaurant NOLA. It was quite a treat, as I went for a work dinner, and it’s not some place I would have maybe ended up at on my own. The food was all great but I felt like my appetizer, dessert and cocktail stole the show. Next time I’d probably just share an entree, or even order an extra app and skip the entree.
We ate oysters a couple of times near Bourbon street – once at Le Bayou (or something similar) and another at Felix’s. Felix’s Seafood was really good. It’s across from Acme Oyster House which I also hear is amazing, and we went one night and they both had lines. The next day Acme had a line but Felix didn’t, so it won out. No complaints here – great oysters, great poboys.
My coworker that I was with and I stumbled across Eat after strolling around Armstrong Park. It’s on that end of the French Quarter, and it was so cute that we put our names on the list before even looking at the menu. Totally worth it. I got a breakfast plate with bacon, eggs, grits, and pancakes with blackberries, and my dining companion got Oysters with Eggs Benedict. We also asked to try their house made apple butter, which they brought out with a huge freshly baked roll.
This place is also BYOB and there’s no corkage fee on the first bottle. So you can bring in champagne and order some of their fresh orange juice to go with it.
The last night was another work dinner and we went to the Pelican Cafe. This was another great meal in the French Quarter, and there was live music as well. The menu includes a Prix Fix option that allows for a soup, appetizer, entree and dessert. No complaints there! The bread they served with it was also soooo good, but hard to enjoy because you don’t want to fill up on it.
My honorable mention if you’re driving from Texas to NOLA is for Crawfish Town USA in Lafayette. I laughed at the name but one look at the menu and I was so glad we stopped. They have a platter that lets you have a little bit of everything crawfish, including their Crawfish Boulettes – little balls of fried crawfish stuffing. I’d never had something like that before, and I wish there was somewhere in Houston to get them. Seriously, this is a must-stop if you’re in that area.
On the way in we also stopped at Old Tyme Grocery in Lafeyette, which was good too, but honestly sort of paled in comparison to Crawfish Town. It’s worth a stop though, if you’re in that area for more than one meal.
So. That’s not including the food we consumed at Jazz Fest (seriously, the crawfish bread is infamous). Houston is on the gulf so I was surprised that the food in NOLA seemed so much different – but it was such a pleasant surprise.
I mentioned that I went to New Orleans last weekend. It was great!! I’m splitting this up into two posts – the second one is just going to be about food. I was hoping to schedule the two posts when I got back on Sunday but I blew a tire on I10 setting my get-home time back a couple hours.
Anyway. We stayed in a hotel close to the French Quarter, so the first day we got there we spent a couple of hours working, but then headed out to do some exploring that evening.
Friday at Jazzfest was pretty miserable, honestly. It was cold and grey and the entire place was one giant mud pit:
That’s just an example of one stage. Almost everyone was going barefoot or had rain boots. I was so glad I grabbed a hooded windbreaker to take with me! I haven’t really gone to a music festival like this so I had some basics like sunscreen, bug spray, and a pair of old shoes but I totally wished I had brought more clothes. And maybe like a pair of yoga pants or something to wear on the grounds.
But Saturday was beautiful. We walked around the city a little in the morning, and then headed back to Jazz Fest in the afternoon.
Congo square inside Armstrong Park was once a meeting place for slaves, and was later the site of the first Jazz Festival.
New Orleans has a lot of really rich history, and it they don’t call it the “Jazz and Heritage Festival” for nothing.
The crowds were so big that I heard several of the big acts but didn’t see hardly any of them. Which was sort of fine with me. It’s interesting too because I think Jazz Fest is really about hearing the music – people bring chairs and set up outside of the big Jazz, Blues, etc tents. It’s clear they can’t see the stage, but they can still hear.
This a shot of the crowd for Fleetwood Mac:
Overall, it was a really interesting city. Bourbon street is quite the site to see at all hours of the day. It was well worth the 5-ish hour drive I think. Come back tomorrow for a post about the food!