Travel: San Diego 2010

Although I had a conference to attend during the week I was there, San Diego turned out to be a great trip. This was the first time I’d ever been to southern California (aside from Tahoe, but that doesn’t really count since we stayed in Nevada) so I wanted to make the most of it. Right off the bat, while making my way to the hotel, I was stopped by a huge section of downtown that had barriers re-routing traffic. There were people everywhere. I had to stop and see what was going on, so I parked and walked toward the crowds. Little did I know it, but I stumbled on the San Diego Mission Federal Art Walk – an annual free art display where hundreds of artists set up booths in the streets of several city blocks near/in Little Italy.

After getting some kettle corn and looking at tons of art, it was time to finally get to the hotel. I knew I wanted to take a surf lesson and get into the cold pacific ocean. With the help of the hotel concierge, I was at the surf lesson in no time. The instructor at Surfari was really cool, he got me up on the board and surfed – however I clearly need to hit the gym because my arms were getting tired really quick. The water was 57 degrees and I got really cold when I took a break on the beach – I was really thankful for the 3mm wetsuit! my instructor gave me a recommendation to go to the South Beach Bar and Grille, a short drive away on Ocean Beach (more on this in a future post). I went to watch game 6 of the Stanley Cup playoffs (we lost to the Canadiens) and had an assortment of tacos for dinner.

One of the most frequently recommended things to do is go to Balboa Park. This outdoor, pedestrian-friendly, nature-loving park has all kinds of old architecture that house the museums in the park. They are all spread across the “main street” called el prado.

They have a beautiful open-air arboretum (sp?) that contained flowers and plants that you can freely walk around and see pitcher plants, orchids, and other tropical/subtropical plants.

There is a ton of flowers and cool cacti on the park grounds, but my favorite tree was this crazy windy cactus:

At one end of the park is a huge outdoor amphitheater that has seating for at least 1000+ people (including the steps and the knee-wall behind the seats). This where I stumbled upon the California Western School of Law Graduation – or rather, I arrived right after the ceremony ended and all the students, faculty, and family were walking around mingling and drinking their punch and eating their cupcakes.

I may have helped myself to the free punch and cupcakes too.

and they may have been delicious.

For one of the days, I made sure I set aside a few hours to spend at the USS Midway, an aircraft carrier that was moored in San Diego and stripped then turned into a huge museum and memorial to the 45 year old diesel carrier. New aircraft carriers (Nimitz class) are nuclear powered, making the Midway an awesome tribute to the past. When I arrived on the flight deck, where they have all the planes, I noticed there was an unusually high number of Vietnamese families there. I didn’t know what was going on until I reached the center of the flight deck:

I had inadvertently arrived at the 35th anniversary of Operation Frequent Wind on the Midway. This was a mission that helped evacuate Americans and Vietnamese out of Vietnam during the Vietnam War. This also helped make some of these refugees citizens here as well. It was very cool to hear personal accounts from the Vietnamese refugees, recalling the details of their evacuation. I stayed for the ceremony, then afterward went up in the control tower and through all the cabins below. They have volunteer veterans who have either served on the Midway or on another aircraft carrier to talk about the catapult and recovery system in depth. All the volunteers were really helpful in pointing out interesting things of the aircraft. They even have the helicopter that retrieved the Apollo 13 recovery pod (below). Definitely worth the time (and $18) to see!

A colleague recommended I go to La Jolla Cove and check out the harbor seals. I have never seen a seal outside of the zoo so I grabbed my camera and went straight there. I was surprised to find a whole group of 150 or so seals laying out in the sun. they were all lounging and couldn’t be bothered by the dozens of onlookers.

When you visit, you’re able to walk down some stairs to the beach in order to take more pictures of the seals. I started taking pictures of one in particular, and I think it saw me. and wanted to get closer. It ended up moving towards me kind of fast, and I kept shooting as it got closer. a “friend of the la jolla harbor seals” yelled down to me that I should back up and move off the beach for my safety. I think the seal just wanted to say hi.

One of the last stops I had was in Coronado, which no one told me involved driving over a HUGE bridge that was at least a mile long and went up a few hundred feet above the water (or at least that’s what it seemed like). My destination was the Hotel del Coronado, where I had been told was very picturesque and had plenty of beach to shoot the sunset. Upon my arrival, I saw not one, not two, but 5 weddings along the 3/4 mile stretch of beach I walked.

The one right in front of the hotel (above) appeared to be managed by the Coronado. there were greeters that kept your shoes for you as you walked barefoot to your seat in the sand, a buffet table manned by one guy, and a cutting station (for presumably roast beef?) with another guy in a tove. There was a bar rolled out on the sand among all the tables for the guests to sit at. The hotel laid out beach chairs around 2 fire pits and prepared the fires for the guests to lounge around after dinner. This was one swank way to have a wedding! They had two photographers moving about the ceremony armed with the familiar Canon line of 24-70 L, 70-200 L, and the 17-40 L – pretty “standard” for wedding photography. (and one of them was preggo!)

Another wedding also caught my eye. It was a smaller gathering nestled between two sand piles. The thing that caught my eye was a very familiar sight: a photographer running around the ceremony shooting pictures as much as she could. It appeared from her clothing and equipment that she was not a professional photographer. I sat and listened to the ceremony a while, keeping mental notes of how this photographer is moving and what she is trying to capture. With her 20D, 430EX flash, and 18-55 or 18-135 IS lens, and her limited mobility (sand is hard to run on!) and limited angles, I decided to help her out and shoot a handful of frames that she was not capturing. I remember while I was shooting my first wedding, I wish I had a second person to help with some shots I had no chance of getting (mostly the back-of-the-room type coverage. After the ceremony, I approached the photographer and gave her my flickr site where the couple could download and share the shots I took. Here are James and Jennifer – my impromptu informal beach wedding couple:

San Diego was a great place for activities, food, and sightseeing. I’ll post about the food next time, but I thought I’d leave off with some tips for traveling solo:

– use the hotel concierge. they may be able to provide you with maps and advice on what time of day is best for doing certain activities, and it’s free!

– do you have a hobby/sport group at home? I bet there’s something similar where you’re traveling (IE a running club or a meetup group), this was a great way for me to meet some people and get recommendations for things to do

– make a list of things you definitely want to do and set out to do those things but don’t over-crowd your schedule. take some time to enjoy things you like to do that aren’t necessarily unique to the city. I found a hookah bar that was a cigar bar, hookah bar, coffee shop and tea house all rolled into one – with free wifi. I think I went to Tabac twice to enjoy some hookah while catching up with the updates from the east coast.

To see the rest of the San Diego pictures, check out the Flickr Photo Set.

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One Comment

  1. Gloria Sarmiento
    Posted May 8, 2010 at 3:21 am | Permalink

    Wade,

    Your pictures are spectacular!! I love the picture of the newlywed on the beach. I feel like I just took a trip to San Diego!! You are very talented. Thanks for sharing.

    Gloria

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