The drive into the Greyhound parking lot offered a view on homeless people and impressive architectural buildings in the background. Although it was bright afternoon, I felt a bit uneasy walking past all these people sitting on the side walk. There are a lot of them downtown and therefore I tried to avoid walking around on my own at night. But this being said, that was the only negative part about San Diego. Actually, I LOVED everything else, the beaches, the zoo, the food, the people I met and that there always seems to be some kind of event.
The people at my hostel were really friendly and gave me good tips on what to do. I dropped off my bags and walked the few blocks to the Gas Lamp District on 4th and 5th avenue. There are loads of restaurants and bars and of course the old fashioned looking street lamps. I reached the San Diego Conventional center, which is huge! I found a stairway to walk to the top and then came down at the sea front. A little along the ocean I found Seaport Village. That’s basically a tourist village with shops and restaurants but it looks really cute. A little more along the harbor I then spotted the huge navy ship that is parked there. It’s a museum and you can go on it. Right next to it is a cool statue from the famous WWII Times Square kiss.
By that time I was hungry and so I went back into town to the Mexican place my hostel recommended to me. Pokéz (on 10th Ave& E Street) is a funky place filled with art. The portions are huge and everything is under 10$!!! And of course you receive free chips with salsa. In addition, it was the best Mexican food I’ve ever had. I went back twice to try different things and loved it every time.
In the evening, I enjoyed the cool evening breeze on the rooftop of our hostel with a group of Germans. They invited me to come out with them and another girl from our room tagged along too.
First, we went to the bar ‘Shout’ on 4th Street. There was a stage with a giant piano and someone playing and singing on each end. The audience could request songs and everybody was singing along. The atmosphere was great!
Afterwards, we went to the bar/club around the corner on 5th. A DJ was playing electronic music and someone was rocking an electric guitar to accompany him. It was awesome!
Once we were back at the hostel, I thought it was kind of funny that all the girls were in my room. It was like having a pj-party with friends instead of sleeping in a hostel dorm.
The next morning I took the 1 hour bus ride to La Jolla with one of the German guys. Bus trips only cost 2.25$ per trip or 5$ for a day ticket. Somebody I met on Fiji had told me that there were leopard sharks in La Jolla at this time of a year and you could swim with them. The beach and water was very crowded with snorkelers and people in canoes but we found a tiny bay off to the side of the main beach. It was a bit scary to just swim out there without snorkel gear but we wanted to find the sharks. When we spotted the shadow of the first one, I thought that was quite exciting. When after that two, three shadows followed and started to circle below us I started to doubt whether they were really not dangerous to the swimmers. We swam back to the beach, where someone was nice enough to lend me their snorkel mask for a moment. I returned out there and then actually got to see the sharks. They weren’t as big as their shadow 🙂 But that was a cool experience!
Afterwards, the Germans headed to the airport to fly to Mexico and I took the bus to go meet my couchsurfer. Again, I was so lucky with who I landed with. He was a great host and it was more like staying with a friend than with a complete stranger. Eric had to work the next day but in the morning, he first walked me into San Diego Zoo. He has an annual pass and can always bring a second person for free. Lucky me 🙂 The zoo is quite beautiful and there are a lot of animal species. I enjoyed watching the giraffes, elephants and polar bears. The koalas were very active in the morning, however the pandas were asleep. The zoo is huge and after walking everywhere, I was quite tired and it was pretty hot too. I took bus nr. 7 to go back into town and have lunch in an air-conditioned place and then took the bus back to El Prado in Balboa Park.
The houses in a Spanish style architecture are beautiful and there are ponds and a rose and cactus garden. A place to return to and just relax.
Then, I went back to the apartment to meet Eric. He took me on a motorcycle ride to Coronado Beach and then the sunset cliffs. From there we had a beautiful view over the ocean and down on surfers.
The next day, I returned to the La Jolla area but this time to La Jolla Cove. It really is a small beach in between rocks but the even cooler thing is all the seals that are right next to it on the rocks and sometimes swim over to the beach to swim with the people in the water. There were loads of people because they were also all snorkeling for leopard sharks.
I took the bus to pacific beach and then started walking along the beach towards Mission Beach. There were many surfers and I wished I could go surfing too. Along the road, there were also cute beach shops and bars. It looked like a mellow version of El Arenal in Mallorca.
Somewhere between the two beach towns, I also placed my towel on the ground and jumped into the waves. After that nice refreshment, I was cooled down enough to have a look at the Belmont Park amusement park.
Then, it was time to get some dinner. For that, I went to Old Town San Diego. It’s most likely a tourist trap too but it’s still nice to look at all the Mexican style houses. Of course, I had Mexican food but it was nowhere near as good as at Pokéz.
Later in the evening, Eric and I went to a bar in his neighborhood, were I got to meet some of his friends. Most of them are couchsurfer hosts/surfers too and therefore were really cool and welcoming. We didn’t stay too long though because we had to leave early the next morning, to drive to Mexico with some other couchsurfers from San Diego. We decided to go winery hopping and to a wine fest in the evening and then surfing on Sunday. This all sounds like great fun but in order to have time for this, we had to say no to a horse race and a free Counting Crows concert after that or to go sailing with another group of couchsurfers. I asked Eric, whether I just happened to come on a really busy weekend but he replied that it was always like that in San Diego.
Crossing the border into Mexico was easy. The only thing you have to know is that you should get an extra insurance for the car before leaving the US. We went to get the insurance at a drive-thru office right in front of the border. It seems that in the US there is a drive-thru for everything, even the wedding chapels in Las Vegas.
The wine tastings were the most expensive I have seen on my whole trip but at least the scenery the wineries were in and the buildings were impressive.
We had completely overfilled tostadas for dinner in a Mexican restaurant in Ensenada. After that, we had delicious coffees and smoothies in a really cute café. They had a nice rooftop with comfortable but non-matching chairs.
And then it was time to go to the wine street festival. That was really cool. There were loads of booths where you could buy food or wine or sangria and at least 10 different stages with music or dancing in the halls where the wine barrels were stored.
Once we were tired, we luckily still remembered in which street we parked our car and then were even luckier to find a campsite right on the beach. It was great to sleep in a tent on the beach again.
Just a few kilometers up the road in La Fonda, we found our surf spot the next day. Eric had a second board for me and even a rashie too. I needed that against the cold of the water. I stayed in the white water for a while but then went out to the bigger waves too. However, the intervals were quite big and so we mainly relaxed out there in the clear water. Then, Eric and I surfed a perfect wave together until we reached the beach. After that, the water became a bit rougher and after being in there for three hours, our feet were almost frozen.
We drove back down to La Mision, where we bought a coconut with fruit and shrimp in it. That was delicious!
The trip back into the US took a bit longer, since we had to wait for an hour at the Tecate boarder. At least there were some vendors that sold food and I had the most delicious Churros of my life.
Back in San Diego, the fun wasn’t over yet. It was city fest in the gay neighborhood. There also were some vendors and a stage with DJs and almost naked dancers. The music was great and the whole street was dancing. At some point in the evening a really good looking (also shirtless (seems to be mandatory here)) guy came to talk to me but it quickly turned out that he was only interested in Eric. Some of Eric’s other friends from the bar were there too and we had a really good evening. I felt at home in this town.
The next day, I walked a few blocks up 30th street to go to Unique Nails. After all that camping in Australia, I told myself that at some point I really needed to do something for my nails and here was a salon that offered a manicure and pedicure for 15$!! The Asian lady worked really hard too and I even received a short but heavenly foot and hand massage.
Then, I walked back to the house and packed my things, since I wanted to take the night bus that evening. But before that, we went to Pokéz again for dinner. One of Eric’s friends came with us too. He just moved to San Diego and would be living with Eric for the next few days until he found his own place. There at dinner, I suddenly started to feel really dizzy. All the signs pointed towards a heat stroke and so I first of all tried to cool myself down with ice cubes. Unfortunately, that didn’t help enough and there was no way I could travel on a night bus. Luckily, Eric convinced me to stay another night and so I spent the rest of the evening out on a blanket on his front lawn, in the cool evening breeze with cold towels on my head. I should have listened to the signs of my body throughout the last few days but there just was so much to do that I didn’t stay in the shade enough.
Luckily, I felt better the next morning and we took a second attempt in driving to the Greyhound station. This time, I boarded the bus and thanks to two bags of ice, weathered the 7 hour journey to Las Vegas without any problems. I wasn’t the only tired person with a red head on the bus. I think the heat here really is extreme at the moment. Later in my Las Vegas hostel, three of the people in my 10 bed room told me that they had just recently had a heat stroke too.
Well, I learned a lesson but apart from that, San Diego was so perfect that I kind of wished I hadn’t had to leave yet.