Two months in San Diego

San Diego was the ideal place to spend the first couple months of 2020. The weather was nice and we found lots to do. The best part? We were closer to home and loved sharing our place with company!

Downtown life

Our two bedroom apartment was in downtown San Diego, just a couple blocks from Petco Field. There were plenty of restaurants nearby when we didn’t feel like cooking.

Gaslamp Quarter

We were a couple blocks from San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter, which is well known for its nightlife. Our gym was located here and it’s where Frank got his ice cream fix!

Waterfront

San Diego’s beautiful waterfront was a short walk away. On Saturdays, there is a fresh fish market on the pier.

Neighborhoods

We enjoyed exploring San Diego’s other neighborhoods, too. Each had its own feel and personality. Two tram lines stopped just behind our apartment, providing easy access around the city. Weekly farmers markets provided an extra excuse to visit.

North Park

Funky and colorful, North Park has a relatively small Thursday night Farmers Market.

South Park

I’ve previously mentioned South Park’s awesome shawarma truck and chocolate shop but the area has much more to offer. It’s a cozy neighborhood of restaurants and retro shops. I got a kick out of its mini-Target, which looks like a former Wisconsin Kohl’s Food store.

Hillcrest

We were frequent visitors to Hillcrest — great restaurants, a movie theatre and a lab for Frank’s blood tests. Several blocks long, the Hillcrest Farmers Market is the place to be on Saturdays. Frank’s favorite was the Philly cheesesteak and each week, we stocked up on cartons of the unbelievably tasty kefir yogurt! How can something that delicious be good for you? (I wish it was available back home!)

Little Italy

Our favorite area (go figure) was Little Italy. We enjoyed some wonderful meals at the Busalacchi restaurants, which brought back fond memories of Frank’s Teamster days. In addition to Italian grocery stores and restaurants, Little Italy has its own Saturday Farmers Market. And where else but an Italian barber would Frank go for a haircut?

Balboa Park

In the middle of the city is the twelve-hundred acre Balboa Park. The historic urban cultural park is home to green spaces, gardens, an art center, museums and San Diego’s famous zoo. We visited several times as it is ginormous and there is so much to see!

Coronado Island

Point Loma Liberty Station

Liberty Station is a mixed use development on the site of San Diego’s former Naval Training Center. It features an arts district, a food market/restaurant court and a Women’s Museum.

Sights and mini road trips

San Diego Mission & Old Town San Diego

Faye, Frank and I took a trip back in time to a historic mission and Old Town San Diego. Built in 1769, Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcala was the first of twenty one great California missions, marking the birthplace of Christianity on the west coast. Since it was Saturday, we decided to catch Mass by crashing a wedding! Old Town San Diego is a bit kitschy but worth a quick stop.

Cabrillo National Monument

Eddie drove us to Cabrillo National Monument. Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo led the first European expedition to explore what is now the west coast of the United States. The skies were clear and we saw some beautiful scenery. Pam also wanted to stop at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, which was very impressive (over 100,000 gravesites). We ended the afternoon with sunset at Sunset Cliffs Natural Park.

Dana Point

The four of us traveled up the coast to visit Frank and Eddie’s friend Jim O’Neill. Jim and his wife Kathy have a lovely home in Dana Point.

Balboa Island

Another trip with Eddie and Pam to Balboa Island. It’s a charming area and it was fun to see residents proudly flying their college colors.

Road Trip to Rancho Mirage

Frank and I took a road trip to Rancho Mirage in Coachella Valley. Our friend Bud Selig was speaking at a Writers Conference and we went to surprise him. It was a beautiful ride through the mountains. The festival itself was amazing. Writer/historian Doris Kearns Goodwin interviewed Bud. Afterwards, we had the privilege of meeting her.

Tijuana

I had zero interest in heading across the border from here until I received this email, “I’d like to go to Mexico to get migraine meds. Would you have any interest in driving to Tijuana with me on Saturday?” Sounds like an adventure, I thought, and it was.

The “Best” Eats

Who doesn’t love going out to eat? While one of many reasons we stay at Airbnbs is having the ability to cook and keep fresh food handy, a big highlight of traveling is exploring local restaurants. Once in a while, we’ll stumble across a great find but random picks can often disappoint.

With so many choices, how do you find the good places? From the best coffee to the best bakeries to the best ethnic restaurants, recommendations from locals are our go-to source. I also keep a running list garnered from various travel articles, plus suggestions from friends. Local newspaper and magazine websites are pretty dependable and I like Eater.com. TripAdvisor is handy abroad but back in the States, I’m not a fan.

Yelp? Although our niece Emily works for them, I rarely, if ever, follow their suggestions. Until today.

Our friend MJ forwarded an article about Yelp’s Top-Rated Restaurant for 2020, located right here in San Diego. Michelin-star rated? No. Fancy white table cloths? No. Classically trained chef? No. With a perfect 5-star rating over 500 reviews, Yelp’s #1 restaurant for 2020 is . . . a food truck. Selling shawarma. And who doesn’t love shawarma? We headed to San Diego’s South Park neighborhood to check out Shawarma Guys.

Set up in the parking lot of his buddy’s liquor store, the owner, a former cell phone salesman, serves up to 900 plates a day with the help of his family. The service is friendly. The prices are cheap.

And the food? Frank and I ordered a chicken and a beef shawarma plate. Portions were large and accompanied by tasty sides of rice, hummus, pita and tabbouleh (bonus for me: no cucumbers!). Meat was tender and flavorful. We switched a couple times, having a hard time choosing a favorite. We did agree on one thing though, as far as shawarma goes, it was one of the best. We’ll be back.

As a footnote, we stopped at Eclipse Chocolate Bar & Bistro, also in South Park. Travel + Leisure magazine named theirs “America’s Best Hot Chocolate.” I had the dark chocolate Masala Chai. I’d have to say, it was pretty, pretty good.

San Diego Women’s March – Power in Unity

On January 18, I joined thousands of women (and men and children) at Waterfront Park to support women’s rights. The theme was “Power in Unity.” In addition to inspirational speakers, there were many booths with helpful information on mental health, domestic abuse, trans rights and the like. Being an election year, volunteers were registering voters and advocating for candidates. It was a powerful experience and so invigorating! I hope the energy continues through November!

Happy 2020 from San Diego!

Frank and I begin this new year and the new decade in sunny San Diego. After six months in a cozy(?) 250-sq. foot apartment and dreading the impending Wisconsin deep freeze, it was high time to “get outta Dodge.”

Our California apartment is comfortable and spacious, located in the heart of San Diego. Within walking distance is most of what we need. For anything farther, there’s a trolley stop right behind our building. It’s so liberating not to need a car. We joined a club so Frank is back swimming and in his happy place. Both of us are looking forward to a couple months of relaxation, rejuvenation, exploration and visitors(!).

If you’re reading this and have any San Diego area recommendations, please send us a message!