In the planning stages of Leti's California trip, it took some persuading to convince her of the virtues of San Diego and Los Angeles. Of course, I had many more a pleasant thing to say about the former, but nonetheless she was easily convinced it would behoove her to visit both. We flew down to San Diego first, accompanied by my mom, aunt, and grandmother.
We always stay at the Navy Base North Island on Coronado, and they've made some excellent upgrades including a pool and a rooftop terrace. The hotel's best feature, its beachfront location, is as glorious as always, providing us with many impromptu walks along the water.
We did have one complaint, however. Our first night we checked with reception to find out that the continental breakfast ends at 9am, and so we planned to wake up in time for it. What felt like just a few hours later, my mom shakes me awake, saying, "Kelly! Breakfast ends in 10 minutes!" So we all throw ourselves out of bed, pull on some clothes, and head towards the elevator. At this point I check my phone, which says it's just around 7, propelling me into a profound sense of confusion. I tell the girls about it, and our fellow elevator-riders confirm the earlier time. The alarm clock by the bed was set to the wrong time, and we had awakened early and rushed to breakfast unnecessarily. We laughed it off and enjoyed a jump start to the day. We decided to memorize the lag on the clock and compensate for it. Still, the next morning I had the opportunity to feel like I was in Home Alone 2, because my mom shook me awake once more and called out, "Kelly, we did it again!" This time, however, I had learned to double check, and in reality it was before 6am, because the clock's delay had increased! Letizia and mom decided to get up anyway, but I shrugged them off and rolled over, cursing alarm clocks, which is not what one should have to do on vacation. We couldn't stop chuckling about it all trip.
Our first day out and about I decided I wanted to provide my group with a decidedly authentic San Diego experience, so we headed to the rather unsavory National City to enjoy some savory treats at Marisco's German Taco Truck. I had wanted to visit the truck in Ocean Beach, but the glory and the downfall of food trucks lies in their very mobility: sometimes they simply up and move on you. In the end, still, National City provided a much more colorful experience.
Above, you'll find my Portuguese grandmother trying to come to terms with her unusual lunch option (photo credit: Letizia Nardi). My aunt jumped right on board, and having immediately found a large, tattooed Mexican man whose lunch she found enticing, she approached him and asked about his meal. They hit it off, having both lived in Livermore, CA, and he told her all about his taco, even agreeing to give her a bite. While the rest of us gaped on, my aunt was just excited to know what she wanted to order, and her new friend was happy to promote the truck. He just shrugged, "This way you ain't got no doubt." Well said.
All the while Letizia looked on in wonder, trying to imagine how she could be so lucky to have ended up at a taco truck in National City, CA. Go figure!
Next we headed to Balboa Park, where we walked off our tacos and took in the lush landscape.
We took our customary ferry ride from Coronado to the mainland and enjoyed seafood at the The Fish Market along the embarcadero.
Our next day was dedicated to La Jolla, where we enjoyed the scene from atop the city's beautiful cliffs and wondered when the next earthquake would come and topple the million-dollar mansions. We also stopped for hand-decorated ice creams.
On our way back, we stopped by UC San Diego so I could show Letizia my university. It was nice to revisit the school, although I had an impending sense of deadlines while I was there and was relieved to step off the premises. Mostly, I just wanted to show her Niki de Saint Phalle's Sun God statue, the fraternal twin of one in Paris that we had seen on my visit in the spring.
No visit to San Diego would be complete without a visit to my favorite restaurant, the quaint and semi-haunted Creole Cafe in Old Town, right next to the Whaley House. We chowed down on Shrimp Creole, Macaroni & Cheese, and Gumbo while one of the owners regaled us with personal ghost stories. Later that weekend, as Letizia, my mom, and I were relaxing on our balcony talking about more encounters of the third kind, I stirred up my stories about Margaret, the villa's ghost. Just at the climax of my last story, while all of our hairs were already on end, we heard a glass fall and shatter in the kitchenette in our room. We all screamed, my mom bravely went to investigate, and Letizia now officially believes in ghosts. I never expected Margaret to follow me all the way to California, but since we're friends now, I guess it's ok.
While taking our time-honored photo at the Del, we got interrupted by an Asian girl who wanted to take a picture with us. She planted herself in the middle of our group, put her arm around my mom, and smiled for the camera. Sorry to disappoint, but this one's just of us. Maybe when facial recognition software is more advanced, we can locate the partner photo from our new friends on the other side of the world.
That afternoon the fam headed back north while Letizia and I jumped on Amtrak to Los Angeles amidst a variety of characters, including a woman who almost missed the train due to her Botox appointment, and a chance run-in with a friend from college, perhaps compelling Letizia to believe I'm more popular than I am.