San Diego, Padre

Diego could have a massive inferiority complex, being overshadowed
by its giant neighbor to the north — like a redheaded stepchild,
but it doesn’t. No need to — the beauty and attractions have
so much to offer.

We discovered San Diego while driving down from that sprawling
metropolis above, our buddy Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo
found it by sailing up from Mexico.

Portuguese by birth, Johnny C. was
working for Spain on a find-a-shortcut-to-Asia gig when he cruised
into San Diego harbor in 1542 and dubbed it San Miguel. Though he
failed rather miserably on the Asia route

routine, he “found”
a whole bunch of California. We’d been encountering his endeavors
all along the coast. In fact, the National Monument in his honor
declares that he “GAVE THE WORLD CALIFORNIA.”

mention of whether he smuggled the state with him over from
Spain or just lugged it up from Mexico but we strongly feel
geologists should look into that. Archeologists seem to think
several tribes of Native Americans were happily living in
the area before Señor
Cabrillo stumbled upon it on his way to Asia — so perhaps they
gave us California. Either way, they picked a mighty fine spot to
bestow upon the world.
The National Park Service picked an absolutely awesome spot
to erect the monument to Capitan Cabrillo, right on the tip
of Point Loma at the mouth of the harbor. The views are incredible
from the top of the
Point — all of San Diego before us at one side and the largest
ocean in the world on the other. What an inspiring place to kick
off our day.
took a short hike down the trail that parallels the Pacific
coastline in search of the perfect perch for a picnic brunch
. Waves crashed on the rocks as seals sunned themselves and
birds rested
their wings along the shore. We found our spot on an outcrop jutting
into the ocean.
Click for more Zany Park Signs! Munching
our cheese and bread in the shadow of the old lighthouse and
under the watchful eye of a crazy seagull, we scanned the
water for passing whales. Alas, the whales that day were wily
or maybe it was just the wrong time
of year. Aspiring nature photographer Veronica was dying to snap
a pic of a fluke or a spout but it was not to be.

The only break
in the serenity of the wind and waves was the fairly frequent
drone of multiple types of military aircraft on their way to the
Naval Air Station in the harbor. Things are rockin’ down in the
bay — San Diego is the birthplace of naval aviation and home
to one of the largest naval fleets in the world. Nearly every
kind of ship in the service calls this port home, including two
of the ginormous supercarrier aircraft carriers.

beyond the Naval Yards, on Coronado Island, are some pretty
dad-blame fancy digs, the Hotel Del Coronado. Over fourteen
hundred San Diegans turned out for the gala grand opening
back in 1888
and soon after the Coronado was hosting princes, presidents and
prominent people from that place up north that shall remain nameless.

Prince of Wales, seventeen presidents from Harrison to Obama
as well as Hollywood-type royalty have all graced the Coronado with
their presence.

our access to the royal treasury has thus far been denied,
we would not be staying the night. We hoped no one would mind
if we took a stroll around the well manicured grounds. The
trick is to blend in, act like we belonged
in the place. Nonchalant, incognito…how we didn’t get tossed out
we’ll never know.

But seriously
folks — the place is

fantastic and non-royalty are more than
welcome to take look around, bang down a few bucks at the shoppes
or grab a sip or a snack. We bugged out before formal attire was
donned by the fashionista set. We try to avoid seeing people dressed
so uncomfortably — it gets us all itchy.

Click here for our "Sign Language" photo  gallery! We
were dressed more for a trip to the zoo anyway and Veronica
happily noted that she’d have a better shot at filming animals
in captivity.

The San Diego Zoo is an amazing place, no animals in concrete
cages here — that just makes us sad — so it was off to Balboa
Park and its world renown

zoo was buzzing with the news that the baby panda, Yun Zi,
was to be introduced to the public, unfortunately for us,
the following day. No worries, we were just as beside ourselves
at the prospect of seeing his sisters, so first stop…
panda’s pagoda.
they call it Panda Canyon and lucky for us, both Su Lin and
Zhen Zhen were out having a bite of bamboo when we got there.
Only four zoos in America have giant pandas, Memphis, Atlanta, The
National Zoo in D.C. and of course, San Diego. All pandas are citizens
of China, even the babies when they are born abroad, like Yun Zi.
Five of the eight cubs born in the USA popped out in San

the oldest two having been returned to their motherland.

is so much more to The San Diego Zoo than just pandas though,
over four thousand animals from more than eight hundred species
are housed here. And the best part? The animals are well exhibited
— we got to view monkeys monkeying around, elephants exercising
and pygmy hippos swimming from above AND below the waterline. These
guys have room to be who they are and it is obvious they are loved

and taken care of. Really a joy to see.

of the coolest exhibits are the walk-through aviaries in The
Lost Forest, where birds of all sorts and sizes fly semi-free.
Ambling along the raised walkways, they flew over, in front
of and even underneath us. We miraculously managed to avoid
the bowel movement
bombings that covered the area. As far as we could tell we did anyway,
since some of our feathered friends were quite small in stature.
Extreme caution was exercised whilst

looking up.

time was fast approaching as we tried to find our way out
of the forest and soon surmised how it became known as “Lost.”
We seemed to be going in circles and it was getting pretty
dark. After encountering
a few other wandering patrons who were just as disoriented as us,
we trudged on. At one point a gorilla tried to block our progress

was easily dispatched when he turned out to be bronze.

some employee be rounding us up and herding us out of the park?

what was that growl behind us? They don’t let the big cats
out to roam at night and feed on the stragglers, do they?
Is this how they save on Purina Puma Chow? We quickened our
pace as it became full blown dark in
the jungle, listening intently for any rustling in the bushes while
searching for an exit.

The hours of
operation had long ceased by the time we reached what seemed to
be a

main path through the one hundred and seven acres of wildlife.
At least a few dim lamps lit the way. We hurried along it, almost
certain that we felt hot jaguar breath on the backs of our necks.

lights! Gates, buildings, a way out! We made it. Maybe our
ordeal was meant to be part of the adventure. A little fear
certainly added to the OUR great experience of the zoo —
and San Diego can certainly claim
one of the best in the world.

Oh yeah…
and they still have an NFL football team too.

that LA.

David &

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