San 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.
Although 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.
No 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.
We 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.
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.
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.
Just 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.
Edward, Prince of Wales, seventeen presidents from Harrison to Obama, as well as Hollywood-type royalty have all graced the Coronado with their presence.
Since 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.
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 facilities.
The 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.
Actually 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 Diego, the oldest two having been returned to their motherland.
There 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.
Some 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.
Closing 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, but was easily dispatched when he turned out to be bronze.
Shouldn’t some employee be rounding us up and herding us out of the park?
Wait, 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.
Look, 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.
Take that LA.
David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com