Friday, July 31, 2009

Day 5 - Marilyn Was Here...

It was Monday.  Another beautiful day on the bay, as I was fond of saying every morning.  While everyone was headed off to work that morning, I took joy in knowing I wouldn't have to go back to work for at least another week and two days.  The feeling of vacation freedom was really setting in...especially since Robb's first day of the conference was today. 

That left Amy, Erin, and I to wander the area Robbless...

We set out under full California sunshine in search of a bus stop that would take us to our agreed upon destination for the day.

We found the wrong bus stop, thanks to the ladies at the visitor's center, but the bus driver was nice enough to take us one stop down for free so we could catch the right bus.  That would have NEVER happened in Chicago.  Yet another thing that made me want to stay forever.

But...we were off!

Can anyone tell me where we are?

Maybe this graffiti will help:

It says, "Children of color not safe in Coronado."  That  I thought Coronado was supposed to be all glitz and glamour and military boys...but this?  Hm...

There's more of what I was expecting!  Apparently we just had to get further still made me wonder about the backstory on that graffiti. 

Everything about the island was ritzy.  Even the bank!

And can't you just imagine Wally and The Beav strolling on down the street as June kisses Ward goodbye and waves to her family from the doorstep?

It was a little like stepping back in time.  I almost forgot where I was until I saw this:

The beach at the Hotel del Coronado literally took my breath away.  I stood there for a good thirty seconds just beautiful--this photo could never do it justice.

It became my new life's goal to stay here once in my lifetime...perhaps in a private villa with a personal pool?

Or maybe in the hotel itself, a famous landmark where every president since it was built has stayed.

You may recognize it from Travel Channel specials about haunted places...or maybe from Some Like It Hot, voted one of the funniest movies ever made, and starring Marilyn Monroe.  Either way, I know I'll never be able to afford a room there...

I mean, look at the lobby!  Again...shorts and t-shirt made me feel out of place for a bit, but then I realized I looked about fifty times better than some of the people in there.  Like a reader said, you're never out of place in San Diego in a t-shirt and sandals.  I was coming to find that out.

We explored the hotel a bit, entering a beautiful courtyard by accident:

We headed to the front of the hotel, where no one looked at us like we didn't belong, not even when I posed with the sign.

But just for good measure, I kept saying, "I can't believe we're actually staying here!"

And while we were making our way around to the beach in back again, I started hearing this really loud noise coming from the sky, so, I looked up.  Every second I expected a low-flying plane to cruise by, and yet the noise kept getting louder and louder.  Finally...

That would be a plane we got the pleasure of seeing take off during yesterday's bay tour.  They told us it was the second largest plane the U.S. builds, second only to Air Force One.  And here it was again, going in to land.  So loud! 

When it had passed, our eyes fell to the beautiful hotel again.

Apparently this tree is one of the only of its kind in the states.  It's a dragon tree...I think...and it was used as a backdrop in the same Marilyn Monroe flick.  I remember seeing it then.

But that was nothing compared to the beach...

Oh, the beach!

I could have stayed there forever...luckily, although I didn't know it then, I'd be revisiting this beach later in our trip.

It was ta ta to Coronado, though, as we decided we were all really worn out and wanted to chill at the hotel for a bit.  Constant sightseeing can be tiring!

We bid farewell to the hotel, and I said I'd be back some day to stay.

We'd come over on the bus, but we wanted to take the ferry home.  So, we bused it over to the ferry terminal on the other side of the island and stopped for Cold Stone.  YUM!  The cake batter remix is to die for.  You know what's NOT to die for? 

Pickled sharks as souvenirs...eww.  This gift shop had so many odd things in it I could have stayed all day...but the ferry was leaving, so we got on!

We were heading towards the mainland when we turned, and I got a little nervous as we headed for the naval blockade, a floating barrier we would never get through.  And then...I see this:

That little Navy tugboat is moving the barrier so we can get the military zone?!  I didn't know what was happening, but I pictured the boat exploding or us being held captive or something...and I only got more nervous when we were told we couldn't take pictures.

So here's what you missed:

A ship with a basketball hoop on the back deck.
An aircraft carrier.
Navy boys.

Really, that's it.  We just picked some people up at a dock in the base and headed back was a quick trip to shore, where they tied the boat up.

And we disembarked less than a mile from our hotel.  No need to take advantage of this:


About six o' clock Robb got home from the conference (it was a long day for him), and he and I headed out for In-n-Out Burger.  I couldn't stay in California and not have that!  The girls opted for...something else...saying they could get fast food back at home.  They had no idea what they were missing.

They missed this gorgeous sunset.

And this.

Yum!  What a meal.  What a day!  I'd had enough high-class stuff on Coronado; I needed my roots.  Bring in the fast food.  And the day ended with a smile.


Thursday, July 30, 2009

Day 4 - A Threeeee Hour Tooouuuurrrr...

Now that I've got the Gilligan's Island theme stuck in your head, we're off on day 4 of my vacation blog.  Today is all harbor views and little news...

Since my friend Amy had no luck fixing her camera yesterday, she decided to just buy a new one, so it was off to Horton Plaza.  It's an outdoor mall that was relatively close to our hotel...and when I say outdoor mall, I don't mean a shopping center or a glorified strip, no.  I mean a full on mall with escalators and everything, but not indoors.

Five levels.  All of them full of anything you could want (at way higher prices than you'd find them in Illinois...but such is the way of vacation).  I can hear you asking me already, "But what if it rains?"

It doesn't.  They get 7 to 10 inches of rain A YEAR there.  Yeah...paradise.  Just like I said. 

So, we were off to Ritz camera, where we also had no luck.  Amy ended up buying some disposable cameras from a drugstore and we were on our way, but not before passing this thing on the way out:

Yes, my's a vending machine for Proactive Solution, the skincare drug regimen...and here I thought the iPod vending machines in Reno were odd...they've got nothing on this one...

We also tried Office Depot, but...why bore you with an hour and a half of sitting around an office store...blah.  After that, though, we were off!  Finally!

Earlier, we had bought tickets for a two hour harbor tour...and it was the best $20 I spent the whole trip.  No exaggeration at all!

We went South first, seeing the skyline,

The Coronado Bay Bridge,

There's a 90 degree turn in there, folks.  Or so they say.  They had to build it that way to make the bridge long enough to get federal grant money to build it.  Before, the only way to get there was by ferry, or by driving up the Silver Strand highway...but that's about 40 miles out of the way.  Gorgeous!

They also took us by the Naval shipyards, where they build aircraft carriers and battleships from the ground up.

Your tax dollars hard at work...

Along the way, they were telling us all about everything that could be seen.  Seriously.  It was like, information overload...but it was all so interesting!  f you're in the area, splurge and take the tour.  It's so worth it.

On our way back in from the first leg of the tour, I got a great view of our hotel:

There we are...coral and teal, just like Pearl's diner uniform...Our room was on the back side of the leftmost tower.  Still a great view.

We stopped to pick up more people, and then we were off again to the north half of the tour.  I thought this half was way more exciting, but we were there on a day where they were having boat races in the harbor, so...

After they led us by the sea lions and pelicans... was mostly boats...

...and one boat full of homos that totally waved at me when I took their photo...

If you're ever curious whether or not a boatfull of guys is a gay boatfull of guys...just wave.  *flaps wrist in the wind*

They told us all about the military end of Coronado island, and they took us past the naval submarine yards, which they said they weren't allowed to tell us much about.  That's so secretive and cool...but it didn't make for great you might have guessed from all my photos of boats.

And then it was back to the harbor for a great skyline view:

You can see our little hotel all the way on the left of that photo...just let of the boat.

When we got back, we were greeted by hordes of these:

Pedicabs, them what you will...the drivers were still all foreign and hot.  Seriously...the only reason we never rode one is that we never had cash on us.  But...eye candy, for sure.

Since Amy was sunburnt on the tops of her feet and in some bad pain, complete with headaches, she went back to the hotel to take a nap.  We had to go register Robb for the ESRI conference, the whole reason we were there!  So...Erin, Robb, and I walked to the train station.

I thought this photo was SO California...

All the palm trees and a little custom painted pink smart car...

After a trolley ride and a short walk, we arrived!

The convention center is kind of beautiful and kind of hideous...a week from when this photo was taken, it would be mostly set up for San Diego ComicCon...something we missed by one day.  Boo.

After all the registering and browsing the bookstore and whatnot, we decided to see the area a bit...

That's Erin next to a HUGE plant (aloe?) for scale...seriously...ginormous.

We ended up here:

PetCo Park.  Home of the (then) last place Padres.  It was a neat little park within the park, where apparently they charge $5 for seats during home games and play away games up on the giant television screen for free.  Neat!  We wantedt o come back and see a game, but we never ended up doing that...

Gosh...this post is starting to feel a little long...and the day was, too, at that point.  We wanted Amy to meet us at Seaport Village for dinner, so we walked. 

There was this:

Random bikini girl...

And this park filled with water that was kind of cool...

The dogs loved it, at least!

And at last we arrived!

Amy wanted to visit yet another camera shop, where she actually bought a nice new camera.  While she did that, Robb and I watched this:

Sidekick to...

The Great Murrugun!  And yes, he is actually swallowing a sword in that photo!  Apparently there's a video on YouTube of him doing that behind an X-ray...ick.

No longer hungry, we strolled around looking for a place to eat.  We had fish and chips, shark tacos, and some other stuff at Buster's Beachhouse Grill and Longboard Bar where the food was amazing and the waitstaff was hot.  Our waiter was talking to us about sunburn, seeing how red we all were, and he just hikes up his shirt and shows us his tanline (lower than his belly...).  It was kind of awkward, seeing as how he was standnig RIGHT next to me...but he was funny the whole night...good waiter.

And now I'm craving fish and chips smothered in malt vinegar again...or a hot waiter...I don't know anymore...

But the day was over.  And I took one last picture before we hiked back to our hotel.


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Day 3 - Don't Stare Directly Into the Pale...

Our next day we had decided to hit the beach, but before we could do that, we had to remedy a problem that came up the day before.  My friend Amy had dropped her camera at the zoo and broke it, so we had to go find a camera shop.  The hotel recommended a little shop in Little Italy, very close to the hotel we were in.  So, off we went into the big city!

(That's the view from our balcony.)

There was a lot to see, from beautiful grottoes... huge, brightly colored buildings.

It was a great place to be in the morning bustle on a Saturday.  And I never even had to wonder why it was so busy down there, because four steps into Little Italy proper...

...we ran smack into the middle of a farmer's market!

It was a buffet of tents full of pastries and fruit, breakfast type stuff for those of us who hadn't eaten breakfast.  I looked at the pastries, but since we'd eaten crap the day before, I wanted fruit.  And what better place to get fresh fruit?!

We bought two oranges and a white peach.  They were AMAZING!  Seriously...the best fruit I've ever had.  The orange was so juicy it made a puddle when I peeled it.  And it was so juicy I made a puddle when I ate it.

Shortly thereafter we found Nelson's Camera and the crazy guy inside who was such a great local personality that we hung out and talked to him for a half hour or so about random stuff.  He told us about some local stuff we'd have never known about on our own.  We'd be visiting one place later that evening--but I'm getting ahead of myself.

We caught the train to the bus depot and the bus to our destination for the day:

Mission Beach!!!

It is a beach with an amusement park close by, complete with old an old wooden coaster, The Giant Dipper.

But the sand was calling us, so we left the coaster for another day (unbeknownst to us--another story).

It was a bit crowded, which I was thankful for.  It left a lot of other people for the beachgoers to look at besides me and my neon pale skin.  Despite my best efforts, I hadn't become tan in the least before leaving for vacation.  Boo.  And you won't get the pleasure of seeing any of the three photos I took of my terribly pale self, sadly.  One of them didn't turn out; another looks so awful I can't even think about posting it; and a third is good, aside from the fact that it looks like I have gonna put that one up here.

Anywho...moving on quickly.  Let me show you something to take your mind off of that unfortunate mental image...



and, of course, BOYS!!!

This last one was teaching this girl to surf.  I met her while I was out in the ocean, and I asked her how it was going.  She was from Alabama and hadn't ever surfed before.  She asked if I knew how, and I was sorely tempted to tell her yes, but I just smiled and said, "I'm from Chicago...we don't HAVE surf."  For it being her first time, she was doing really well!  And her instructor?  Let's just say that if he'd been teaching me, I would have been to distracted to learn a thing...

So, after all the sun and surf,

we decided to head back to town and grab some dinner.  The camera guy had told us about the best place in Little Italy to get food, so off we went!

We showered the beach off, not noticing how burnt we all were quite yet...and headed out to get some chow.  Swimming makes me hungry, without fail.

Fillipi's Pizza Grotto was this little hole in the wall place I wouldn't have thought about going into had it not been recommended.

When we got there, a line was forming out the door and down the sidewalk.  If Ollie's Frozen Custard here in town has taught me anything, it's that when people line up for food, it's gonna be worth the wait.

So wait we did.  Once inside, though, we found ourselves at a little deli counter:

It was torture for those of us who were starving and LOVE cheese.  Argh.

But we finally got seated and fed, and let me tell you something:  TOTALLY WORTH IT!!!!!

Seriously.  It was the best food I've had in a REALLY long time, and the best lasagna I've ever had.  HUGE portions and great waitstaff.  It was simply wonderful.  Afterwards, we all were slipping into pasta comas, so we decided to walk to another destination the camera guy suggested.

It was a beautiful sunset stroll.

And we found ourselves at the Hyatt (don't ever stay there...they apparently hate on the gays)...

I immediately felt out of place in my shorts and t-shirt, especially considering the bride and groom in the gargantuan lobby of this amazingly beautiful hotel.

We sprinted to the elevators before anyone could discover we didn't belong there, and it was a surprisingly short trip to the top floor bar/observatory.  We spent an hour or so enjoying beautiful views of the harbor...

...and the city.

Simply gorgeous.

It was a spectacular way to end a wonderfully tiring day.  Little did we know how sunburnt we would feel in the morning...