72 Hours in San Diego

San Diego is lovely this time of year. A sentence easily uttered on any day, as the weather in SD is basically perfect. Except for an unexpected rain shower that lasted only a morning while I was in town. It’s good for California’s never-ending drought, yet amusing given the city only really sees 10 days of rain per year. I guess I brought my soggy Pacific Northwest roots with me.

I’ve been to San Diego for various reasons over the years. Conferences, family vacations, but now that I hang my hat in LA I foresee SD and I becoming more closely acquainted. It’s spread out, which for a carless Uber super user like me isn’t ideal, but each neighbourhood has it’s own charm and backstory, which makes the community pretty special as a whole. Microbreweries your jam? Look no further. Live music? In abundance. Scuba diving from the beach? You’re on.

It would be easy to stay and hang in San Diego for several days, weeks even. But if you’re tight on time, there are a few spots that shouldn’t be missed.

Gaslamp Quarter

The best place to call home base, if you’re looking for easy access to other neighborhoods by day, and lively merriment by night, is the Gaslamp. It’s also home to hundreds of conference bunnies looking to let loose and stag/stagette parties puking their way around the clubs, but if you can somehow see through all that, there’s a lot of good bits too. Live music is off the hook in this hood, with so much local talent to speak of. Union Kitchen & Tap has an insanely good guitar player who roams the resto, serenading the patrons on Friday nights. The Casbah is arguably the best live music venue in town, with a mix of big names and up-and-comers on the bill. If you fancy a boogie, and something a little trippy, follow the psychedelic stairway adorned with original art by Denisse Wolf to Vin De Syrah. You’ll swear Alice is just around the corner…or maybe it was the “drink me” potion (read, boozy dark and stormy) you just drank. End your evening with a nightcap at the slightly-hipster-but-not Tipsy Crow. It may be the only speakeasy left with street cred on 5th Ave. Hunga bunga the next morning? Stop by Café 21 – it just might save your life.

Coronado Beach

If soft, white sand that sparkles with shiny gold flex as far as the eye can see appeals – um, of course it does – then you cannot come to SD without spending a day in Coronado. Its vastness and pristine shoreline make for a dreamy afternoon, especially when pods of dolphins decide to dot the surf, jumping playfully through the waves, just 10 feet offshore (we may have lucked out). With warships in the distance and one of the biggest naval bases in the U.S. only a few miles away, you can’t help but call on the ghost of Goose or hope that an impromptu beach volleyball game – tapered jeans and all – will unfold before your eyes. Permission to buzz the tower. If you’ve really lost that lovin’ feeling, swing by Kansas City BBQ – where some of the most memorable scenes from Top Gun were filmed – for some brisket and a cold brew.

La Jolla

A quick 15-minute drive north of the Gaslamp sits the picture-perfect town of La Jolla, complete with monstrous Spanish-style villas and mansions that seemingly sit vacant until their wealthy owners are in town on hols. It’s touristy, but not to a fault. Start off with brunch at Crab Catcher, and request to be seated on the patio overlooking the cliffs that melt into the brilliant blue bay below. Being a good Canadian girl, I’m partial to caesars, but their bloody mary comes close, garnished with a giant crab claw. Walk off your mimosa buzz by heading straight to La Jolla Cove Beach to take a selfie with one of the resident sea lions. It’s also an epic spot to scuba dive off the beach. My husband – an avid diver – jumped in and had a swim alongside sea lions and harbour seals while I stayed beachside and snapped pics. Follow the sea wall south for several more hidden coves and beaches, to avoid the turistas.

Oceanside

You always need to leave a little something for next time. An excuse to make your way back to places you love. During our train ride home, which tickles the seaside until you’re far north of San Diego, we passed by Oceanside, a quintessential beachside village complete with a good surf break off the Oceanside Pier. As we finished our wine, watching the surfers fade into the pink horizon, we plotted our next trip south.

Stay classy, San Diego (sorry, couldn’t help it).

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Restless in WeHo

A lot of people come to California for sun, surf and sandy beaches. For those of us visiting from cooler climates, it’s a quick escape to dryer days and warmer nights. Palm trees, paparazzi and celebrity sightings aside, Los Angeles has many layers beyond the tourist trail and well-beaten path. It’s hard to visit this town without viewing it through a completely different lens each time. She’s not a generic city, but rather an ever-evolving mess of culture, conspiracy and color. All hail the cities of the world with some element of grit and imperfection.

Having just spent 3 weeks in West Hollywood, I can report to you first hand that there’s no sleeping there. Not really, anyway. Sure, the street I was camped out on was lovely and quiet and lined with blooming trees and songbirds. More peaceful than the home I came from, situated in a much quieter city in comparison to buzzing LA. But the energy wouldn’t allow me to slumber. There was no drifting off in this otherwise quiet corner south of the Sunset Strip. There’s too much to do. Too much to soak in.

First off, there are fruit trees flourishing everywhere. I’m not sure if these mile-high godsends of shade are meant to be harvested by the general public, but there were no signs stating otherwise. Why let a perfectly ripe lemon or banana go to waste? And the mansions that line these streets aren’t what you would imagine in this overzealous zip code. Sure, they’re grand in stature and design, but most have been sub-divided from the luxurious castles they once were and turned into multiple rental suites.

I can’t seem to visit WeHo without being drawn to the intrigue and glitterati underbelly that exists at the famed Chateau Marmont. Can’t do it. Call me seduced by celebrity if you must, but it’s the history of the joint that I find irresistible. If only the tormented spirits who haunt the hotels dark and twisting corridors could talk. Maybe they can, depending on which psychic you talk to (and there are plenty). This time we spotted the gorgeous Rose McGowan donning a pixie cut and a cute Prada shift.

Pool parties are part and parcel when staying in West Hollywood. Not just for the people watching or sipping cocktails among social climbers, but because it’s so damn hot. Hollywood can get sticky, even in the dead of winter, so take my advice and seek out a pool situation. SkyBar at the Mondrian and The Standard both allow non-guests to hang by the pool and use the towels and loungers, if you’re spending a bit of cash on booze and food. The Standard has a $30 USD minimum per person, which is easy to burn after a few poolside Pimm’s cups.

Live music is probably what lured me to the Hollywood Hills in the first place, and it’s certainly my reason to return. The House of Blues on the Sunset Strip books everything from A-list rockers to up-and-coming musicians and tribute bands. The Viper Room seems to have an otherworldly list of talent each night, as every time I go, I’m floored by some band I’ve never heard of. Whiskey a Go Go is not for the faint of heart, but if you can handle the crowds and are looking to channel the ghost of Jim Morrison, by all means – walk on through to the other side.

Once you’ve recovered from WeHo’s nightlife, head straight to Melrose. Not because the broad who inspired the schwing at one time fictionally resided here, but because it’s the perfect mix of high-end designers, mom-and-pop shops and savory eats to cure your hangover anxiety.

Start with a stripped down – literally – rock shirt purchase from Joseph at Yonada. Not only does he carry every concert T you could dream of, his regular clientele range from Kirk Hammett of Metallica to Zayne, formally of One Direction. For the gals, he’ll snip, tear and shred your T to perfection, creating a custom fit not found at your run-of-the-mill chain store, all for $25 a pop. After Joseph has transformed you from weary tourist to a sycophant with street cred, turn the corner and follow the Where the Wild Things Are street art towards Maison Richard for the best French fare in the neighbourhood. Cap off any Sunday on Melrose sifting through endless tables of kitsch and one-of-a-kind décor at the Melrose Trading Post.

If stargazing – of the celestial variety – is your jam, join the legions of tourists and locals alike to the Griffith Observatory. The night we ventured to this iconic white dome that darts out over the Hollywood Hills, the moon was obstructed by clouds. So the operators of the giant Carl Zeiss telescope were forced to turn the massive apparatus slightly west to catch a crystal clear glimpse of Jupiter and the three moons that surround it. It was one of those pinch me moments.

Speaking of the Hills, hiking is where WeHo gains points, when comparing it to the coast. The Cahuenga Peak trail to the Wisdom Tree was my favorite, but for an easier trek, try Runyon Canyon but don’t drive there. Take an Uber from your hotel, as you’ll never find a place to park.

Finally, back to where WeHo was born, the gay district is fun and fabulous and crawling with fit, young people living it up. Where else can you get male go-go dancers during happy hour?

The coast is what tugs at my heartstrings, but WeHo has definitely caught hold of my soul.

All I wanna do, is have some fun.
Until the sun comes up over Santa Monica Boulevard.

– All I Wanna Do, Sheryl Crow

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