If you follow my posts, you already know that I wax poetic about my on-going love affair with Italy. Basically every nook and cranny of the magnificent peninsula and surrounding islands take my breath away. But you probably didn’t know that my second love is San Diego. There are 33 beaches, and 70 miles of coastline stretching from Imperial Beach to Oceanside. There are about 267 glorious days of sunshine per year. No wonder San Diego is “America’s Finest City.”
I love the Santa Fe Depot train station with its glorious mosaic domes. There are plenty interesting places to visit on the way to Los Angeles.
In Little Italy, go to Extraordinary Desserts for the most beautiful sweet treats you will ever witness.
The city has a vibrant Little Italy neighborhood with outstanding restaurants and bars and plenty of gelato and Italian delis. Filippi’s Pizza Grotto on India Street is a Little Italy institution.
Here’s a Video of Little Italy http://youtu.be/beH01nziAIs
Sometimes, when I yearn to be sun-kissed by the hilly landscape of Tuscany or transported to the glistening azure sea that surrounds the majestic cliffs of the Cinque Terre or the Amalfi Coast; I just plan a trip to San Diego.
If all I have is a long weekend, I escape to the www.vino-con-vista.com of San Diego. Did I mention that the weather is always perfect in San Diego? As a college professor, I have the luxury of a Fall Break and believe me, I thank God each and every day for all my blessings.
I always celebrate Columbus Day in what I consider to be America’s Amalfi Coast. I prefer to stay at the Marriott in the Marina District for a number of reasons. I love sun-bathing at the luxurious pool while listening to the soothing sound of the magical fountains as I sip a refreshing Miami Vice from the Tiki Bar. The Marriott is within walking distance of many of my favorite San Diego attractions and it is close to the trolley.
The city is great for biking and the hotel has a bike rental service. I like the food and the view from Roy’s Hawaiian Fusion Restaurant. The rooms have outstanding views and balconies. I enjoy watching the jet skiiers and boating enthusiasts. It’s fun to watch people flying their kites in the park. Gazing at the Coranado Bridge and the sailboats is basically one of life’s simple pleasures. Sea Port Village’s 14 acre outdoor plaza has a beautiful 19th century carousel. Grab a coffee at the Upstart Crow Bookstore and Cofeehouse at 835-C W. Harbor Drive. If you go in the summer, get tickets for the San Diego Symphony Summer Pops concerts in the Embarcadero Marina Park South (behind the Conference Center). The tickets start at $20. For more informationn visit: www.sandiegosymphony.com. I’m saw Michael Bolton and Burt Baccarack in the summer of 2013!
The tenth annual San Diego Wine Festival will be held in the park behind the Marriott Hotel on November 20-24, 2013 at the Embarcadero Marina Park North. What a great “Vino con Vista” venue!! Some of the other festivals held in 2013 include: Taste of Gaslamp (June 8-9), Taste of Little Italy (June 19) Taste of Adams Avenue (June 30), Encinitas Wine Festival (June 1), the San Diego Spirits Festival (August 24-25) and the San Diego Festival of Beer (September 20), and Hillcrest City Fest on August 11th with 250 vendors. On June 15th there was a Carlsbad Beach Fest with water sport challenges. The Festival of Sail is when Tall Ships from around the world dock at downtown’s Embarcadero between August 30-September 2.
There are many other reasons why I like the Marina District. I like to watch the sea gulls strategically capture and devour left-overs from sleeping sun-bunnies. They really seem to love french fries. I wonder if they have cholesterol issues? I adore watching the captivating sunsets from Seaport Village.
I can’t understand why San Diegans don’t celebrate the vistas with the same pomp and circumstance as the daily sunset festivals in Key West.
It’s an easy stroll over to the Port of San Diego. I like the USS Midway Museum with the longest-serving US Navy aircraft carrierod the 20th century. At the museum, you can “relive 50 years of world history by walking in the footsteps of 225,000 Midway sailors” on Harbor Drive. There are 27 restored aircraft. For more information visit http://www.midway.org
Visit the “Greatest Generation Walk” that commemorates military heritage through art. My favorite WWII commemorative statue “is “Unconditional Surrender.” This romantic 25 foot statue of a sailor kissing a nurse by J. Seward Johnson always makes my heart skip a beat.
The Marina District is also appealing because it is within walking distance to Horton Plaza, the Gaslamp District and Little Italy. These are some of my favorite San Diego destinations. Take some time to explore the bay on a Hornblower Cruise. I like the “Sights and Sips” Sunset Cruise. Pay for a reserved window seat when you purchase your ticket.
My “Vino con Vista” San Diego adventure began in the Gaslamp District with a local wine event at the House of Blues. Exhuberant dancers enjoyed the DJ’s classic Prince tunes. I was glad they were pouring Pinot Noir because I can be such a wine snob. We meandered over to the historic Grant Hotel at Broadway and 4th where a female San Diego attorney named Lynn Schenk broke the gender barrier at the Grant Grill restaurant in 1971. The sign at the entrance said “Men only until 3:00 pm.” The Hotel is celebrating their 100th anniversary. Long story short, the place was recently refurbished as an elegant Starwood Property and serves as a testiment to the Glory Days of San Diego. The live music was enchanting.
The Gaslamp District has 94 historic buildings that have been lovingly restored. Businessman Alonzo Erastus Horton spent $264 for 800 acres in 1867. These 16 blocks eventually became the Gaslamp Quarter. You can schedule a two-hour walking tour of the Gaslamp at the Historical Foundation at 619-233-4692. There are over 200 restaurants, bars and night clubs with a vast array of Happy Hour options including: Altitude Sky Lounge, Chianti, Currant, House of Blues, Hard Rock Hotel and McCormick & Schmicks.
The next day, I had the good fortune of having lunch on the sun-drenched patio of the Hotel Del Coronado which is one of my favorite hotels in the world! I am also a big fan of Wentworth by the see near Portmouth New Hampshire.
I usually take the Coranado Ferry from the Broadway Pier behind the Convention Center when I want to visit Coranado. I put my bike on the ferry and ride down Orange Street to my final destination. I love the view of the skyline from the Coranado Ferry Landing. Technically, the Silver Strand connects Coronado to the mainland so it really isn’t an island. It is technically an isthmus because it is attached to the mainland at the southern end of Silver Strand State Beach and is connected to Imperial Beach
The beach at Coronado in front of the hotel is definitely the best beach in San Diego! Have brunch at the Hotel del Coronado’s Crown Room on Sunday at 1500 Orange Avenue. . You won’t be disappointed in this Victorian gem brimming with history.
I love the California Historic Landmark’s photo montage of the 1959 film “Some Like It Hot.” The hotel was featured in the classic film with Marilyn Monroe, Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis. It reminds me of the pictures of “La Dolce Vita” that adorn the walls of the Hotel Majestic in Rome. I like all the cute retail-therapy shops on the lower level. One of the jewelry stores had an adorable ruby slipper necklace that I had to work really hard at resisting. I grabbed a business card just in case I changed my mind when I got home about the necklace. Although our plan involved feasting on one of the restaurant’s famous Ruben sandwiches, we realized that they had changed the menu. I ordered some delicious seared scallops instead. The breath-taking views of the beach, the Pacific Ocean and hilly peninsula of Point Loma reminded me of Mondello Sicily. If I win the lottery, I’m moving to Ocean Drive in Coronado or maybe I’ll move to La Jolla so I can be Mitt Romney’s neighbor.
After lunch, we went to the Cabrillo National Monument on the southern tip of Point Loma and paid hommage to the Portuguese navigator Juan Rodriquez Cabrillo who landed here on September 28,1542 when he anchored his “San Salvador” ship. This is agreat place to watch the sunset! I never knew about the sandstone cliffs that surround the tide pools and precious pre-historic fossils in Point Loma, but they definitely peaked my interest. Tide pools are generally found on rocky shores that are covered and uncovered daily by ocean tides. They are best viewed at low tide when you may see an array of sea like including sea stars and urchins.
As I gazed at the fourteen foot structure of Cabrillo, I was magically transported to the “Monument to the Discoveries” in Lisbon that honors the 500th anniversary of the death of Prince Henry the Navigator with Magellan, Vasco da Gama and other notable Portuguese explorers lining the concrete prow of a caravel. I heard the sweet serenade of Fado music and envisioned the Manueline Belem Tower that protects Lisbon’s harbor. I remembered that I was in San Diego when I saw the lighthouse, North Island, military ships and the skyline. Senior Cabrillo looks like he was kidnapped from the monument in Lisbon. In Point Loma have a burger at Slater’s 50/50 at 2750 Dewey Road. One of my favorite lunch is Point Loma Seafoods at 2805 Emerson Street.
We drove past the Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery that was named after a Union General in the American Civil War. The tombstones made me think about my travels to Normandy.
Then I thought about how much I missed my Dad. I remembered that someone from the army called me the day before his funeral to tell me that they were sorry to hear that they had lost another one of their WWII brothers. They came to his funeral and presented me with a folded flag and gave him a proper 21 gun salute. It brought tears to my eyes. Weeks after his funeral, I received a certificate from the White House. President Bush signed a document that stated The United States of America honored my father’s memory. It says: “This certificate is awarded by a grateful nation in recognition of devoted and selfless consecration to the service of our country in the Armed Forces of the United States.” I presume that the daughters of many beloved fathers buried at Rosecrans and other military cemeteries received the same document.
It was time for us to check out the newly-renovated Bali Hai Tiki Temple at 2230 Shelter Island Drive. Bali Hai was a famous show tune from Roger and Hammerstein’s 1949 musical “South Pacific.” The venue was lavishly adorned with maps and Polynesian artifacts. We sat at the bar for another incredible “Vino con Vista.” Instead of wine, I opted for a Polynesean cocktail that was so strong that I had to dilute it with orange juice. I felt it was too early in the day to get hammered. I’m starting to sound like Ernest Hemmingway; most of his tales revolve around cocktail hour.
That evening, we went back to Banker’s Hill overlooking Balboa Park where the San Diego Zoo is located. We watched the 1937 film “Captains Courageous” based on a 1897 story by Rudyard Kipling. In the film, a young Spencer Tracy serves as a heroic role model for the arrogant son of a wealthy tycoon played by Freddie Bartholomew. Rudyard Kipling‘s heart-warming tale is about vices and virtues. Spencer Tracy is a Portuguese fisherman who teaches the child about respect, valor and love. This tear-jerker is a must see for the over-indulged pre-teen in your family.
The weekend was filled with festivals. We walked over to the Saturday morning Mercado in Little Italy. I love the fresh flowers, farm-fresh produce and wide array of merchandise offered at this weekly event. Smilin’ Jack was playing Italian songs on his accordion. When you go to Little Italy, make sure you try some of the Happy Hour Venues. I like the Glass Door Restaurant and Lounge for a Vino con Vista overlooking the Bay. San Diego’s vibrant dining scene has more than 7000 options. There are also plenty of food trucks including Mangia Mangia Mobile and Miho’s Gastrotruck. In Little Italy dine at Bencotto Italian Kitchen at 750 Fir Street or Prep Kitchen for Happy Hour.
We hopped on the Trolley in Little Italy that transported us to the Art Festival in Old Town where I found the perfect blush-colored pearl bracelet to wear to my son’s spring wedding. Then for about $20, we took a cab to Prospect Street in downtown La Jolla. I had to re-visit the historic La Valencia Hotel and climb the stairs at George’s at the Cove for a panoramic shot of the Pacific Ocean. George’s Chef Trey Foshee serves contemporary California cuisine with breath-taking views. There’s even a rooftop terrace. Another interesting dining option in La Jolla is Nine-Ten at 910 Prospect Street inside the Grande Colonial Hotel. Chef Jason Knibb’s seasonal cuisine is served in an elegant dining room. I love the pink La Valencia Hotel in La Jolla on Prospect with the hand-painted murals
We walked over to the Art and Wine Festival on Girard St. The festival was a school fundraiser. Wineries from Temecula were pouring $3 tastings. I found it interesting that the public school on Girard Street was located at the intersection of the Maserati Dealership and the Ferrari Dealership. That spoke volumes about the demographics in La Jolla.
Plan to attend the La Jolla Music Society Summerfest between July 31 and August 23, 2013. La Jolla has an annual festival of the Arts between June 22-23. I wanted to attend the Gourmet Festival in Del Mar but we didn’t have enough time. If you have time, check out the Museum of Contemporary Art in La Jolla Village where Nancy Rubins’ large-scale, nautical inspired artwork adorns the museum’s west side.
One of my favorite Fall Festivals is in Little Italy. I love this annual Columbus Day celebration called “Festa” in Little Italy.
Live music permeates the neighborhood as the chalk artists work their magic on five- foot square sections of Date Street. Some of the chalk art is incredible!
Litte Italy reminds me of Cefalu Sicily with the historic tales of tuna fisherman, cute shops with imported Italian ceramics and charming outdoor Italian restaurants. I had some flavorful gnocchi from Buon Appetito’s food booth.
I made my mandatory trek to Fillippi’s for pine nut cookies. They offer the perfect blend of almond paste and pine-nuts. I was too full to order a Caprese Sandwich at Mona Lisa, one of my favorite Italian stores on India. Have a perfect expresso at Caffe Italia at 1704 India Street. There’s a summer Film Festival in Amici Park Amphitheater on Saturday nights in the summer at West Date and State Streets.
In the evening, we went to Island Prime on Shelter Island and I ordered a yummy Ahi Tuna/crab meat appetizer that was drizzled with a balsamic infused apricot flavored glaze. It was just the right mate for my Cadillac Margarita with Gran Marnier. I savored the combinaton as I admired the billion-dollar views of downtown San Diego at night. The cruise ship was parked in the Port and the configuration of the ship’s red lights resembled the Golden Gate Bridge.
Then it was time for some “Smooth Jazz” at Humphrey’s at 2241 Shelter Island Drive. . I loved watching the people on the dance floor move to the rhythm of Marcus Anderson’s sexy saxophone. The passionate tatooed drummer was getting a cardiac workout.
Humphrey’s Concerts by the Bay is a great venue for dinner and a show during the summer months.
No weekend in San Diego would be complete without visiting the Gaslamp Quarter. Go to Bice at 425 Island for an outstanding Happy Hour. Everyone loves Searsucker with Top Chef Brian Malarkey’s grand slam at 611 5th Avenue. I absolutely love the Grant Grill at 326 Broadway inside the elegant US Grant Hotel.
If you have extra time, there’s plenty of biking, hiking and walking trails. Go to Balboa Park, Lake Miramar, or the Grasslands loop if you want short and flat terrain. Balboa Park is the site of the 1915 and 1935 international exposition.
I think my next book will be “Vino Con Vista San Diego.” Fortunately, my research will involve many return trips to my favorite American city. How appropriate that the local flowers are “Birds of Paradise.” If you wand to browse an event calendar visit http://www.sandiego.org/events
Dr. EveAnn Lovero writes Travel Guides @ http://www.vino-con-vista.com
Mark your calendars for the San Diego Wine Festival in November. Here’s a YouTube Video overview that you might enjoy http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dPmEnsU3LsY
- 8th Annual San Diego Bay Wine and Food Festival 2011 (vinoconvistablog.me)