Greetings from San Diego, CA
Maryland born and raised, I've always been proud to be an East Coast girl. Although I hadn't actually been out west (until recently), I had no problem shrugging off the popular saying "West Coast, Best Coast." Haha, good one! I'm Mary from Maryland, after all.
Fortunately, I'm able to call Annapolis, a charming metropolis surrounded by water, home. Nothing compares to sunny days spent on the Chesapeake Bay, picking Old Bay encrusted crabs, and cruising down Coastal Highway on vacation. The only real downside is having wait all winter for dreamy days like that.
I appreciate being able to experience all four seasons, but for some unfair reason, summer days always fly by while the winter months drag on and on. Of course. Technically, Maryland winters are more mild than northern East Coast states. But, our winter stands no chance against the perfect climate of Southern California.
Sunny skies, warm temps and water everywhere -- is it just me or does SoCal sound like a "Maryland summer" all year round? Missing the summery exposure, Brady and I escaped the brisk January weather by booking a trip to San Diego, CA.
After years of binging House Hunters on HGTV, California has been high on my bucket-list of places to visit. When Brady's brother accepted his dream job and relocated to San Diego, we were so excited for him! Thanks to Mac's cross country move, our chance to cross California off our list became a reality.
For four days straight, I could not put down my camera! (Definitely the reason I'm in so few of these photos.) In awe of the seaside cliffs, abundant vegetation, unique marine life and Spanish-influenced architecture, this trip was a photographer's dream. I wanted to capture it all!
In North Park, I encountered the most picturesque wall. This showstopper, a living installation of plants, was practically begging to have it's picture taken. What can I say, I'm a succa for cute walls! (Intentional succulent pun.)
On our nicest day, Mac, Brady and I went in search of the infamous La Jolla seals. Just a few miles away from Mac's apartment, we decided to take a leisurely walk along the deep blue Pacific instead of drive. We had the right idea as the sidewalks were busy with people of all ages. From family outings and site seeing tourists to couples jogging with their dogs panting along in tow, it seemed like everyone was outside enjoying the sunshine. Multiple times, I had to remind myself that it was January!
Eventually, we made our way to La Jolla Children's Pool. This tiny cove is protected by a concrete barrier, making it the ultimate "Seal Sanctuary." Sunbathing the day away, these lazy mammals seemed unfazed by the crowds of people curiously watching from above. We don't even have seals at the Baltimore Zoo in Maryland, so it's pretty crazy to see them out in the wild so casually.
In Annapolis, it's nearly impossible to find a place that sells acai bowls, a tropical smoothie topped with fruit and other yummy toppings like granola, coconut shavings and honey. And it's a real shame because these colorful bowls are as tasty as they are pretty. California, on the other hand, has countless spots to grab an acai bowl. From casual coffee shops to sit down restaurants -- they're everywhere! Acai bowls are a Southern California speciality. So obviously, I refused to get on a plane to go back home without having one for breakfast.
On a morning spent in Ocean Beach, I found the answer to my acai bowl prayers. Yup -- that's an acai bowl inside a pineapple. Easily the best $10 I spent all weekend! According to their website, Rum Jungle Cafe was the first to introduce acai in 2002, way before the superfood trend began. If you can't tell from the photos above, these guys don't mess around.
AJust a block off the beach, we decided to enjoy our acai bowls by the water. On our short walk from the cafe to the sand, we were stopped by so many people dying to know where we got our "pineapples." One by one, we were awkwardly approached. (But, do you blame them?! I would have asked, too.) Turns out, we discovered an awesome spot some of the locals didn't even know about.
Unless you know to look for it, you could easily walk past this trail and never notice. The Ho Chi Mihn Trail, a hidden local gem, is wedged between two mansions on an affluent neighborhood street. When Mac, Brady and I decided to go hiking on a whim, we had no idea what was in store. These goofballs even wore khakis...
Despite being unprepared, the trail itself was pretty incredible. Naturally maintained by local surfers, this challenging hike leads the adventurous towards Black's Beach, a secluded surf spot, along the edge of steep, sandstone cliffs.
While most people choose the beach below as their final destination, the boys decided to continue climbing to gain a higher vantage point. (And I cautiously followed, freaking out only occasionally.) Thanks to erosion, this extremely slippery portion of the climb was the most strenuous. Our ascent was slow and rigorous -- definitely not an activity recommended for the faint of heart. But, once we reached the peak, the panoramic view was breathtaking. (Edit: Lack of breath due to beauty. Also, steepness.) Rewarding? Absolutely.
Just minutes away from Downtown San Diego, Balboa Park, America's largest urban cultural park, is seriously swoon worthy. (That makes it bigger than Central Park in NYC!) Home to 15 museums, performing arts venues, gorgeous gardens, winding trails and the world famous San Diego Zoo, it's a sight worth seeing.
While admission to the park is free, most exhibits are not. Instead of splurging on ticket fees, we opted to stroll through the open promenade and take in the lush scenery. The grounds are landscaped beautifully and even if you're not a huge fan of architecture, the elaborate Spanish Colonial buildings will wow you. With over 1,000 acres to explore, there's so much to see and do.
My favorite area of the park was the Spanish Village Art Center, a colorful plaza of tiny, historic cottages where artisans set up shop. From photographers to print makers, jewelry designers to metal smiths, 37 galleries serve as a community for 200 of San Diego's artists.
It took 21 years, but it's official -- these toes have touched the Pacific Ocean for the first time! If that statement doesn't inspire wanderlust, I'm not sure what will.
From the top of the Ho Chi Mihn Trail, we could see the Scripps Institute of Oceanography Pier, one of the oldest and largest centers for ocean research, off in the distance. Wanting to check out the local landmark, we decided to stop at Scripps Beach on our way home.
Soaking up the sun and giving our legs a rest, we watched surfers shred waves and enjoyed the light breeze. Only a sunset could have enhanced our view.
Speaking of sunsets... Each evening, we watched the sky change hues until the sun faded out of view -- something I rarely go out of my way to do at home. As dusk approached, neighbors stepped outside to do the same. Congregating by the coast, I was amazed by how many Californians make a point to watch the sun go down each day. It was a pretty inspiring sight to see, totally embodying the laid-back lifestyle I had grown to love so much.
Until next time, California...
(And finally, a big shout out to Mac for being the greatest tour guide, set of wheels and roof over our head. You made our trip to California gnarly, bro. We hope you had as much fun as we did!)