A Travellerspoint blog


San Diego Zoo, USS Midway and Old Town

Oct 12, 2013

So Saturday morning we got up bright and early and had a relatively fast drive to the San Diego Zoo, arriving before it got really crowded. We seemed to be making the rounds as they were starting feeding, so we were able to see the koalas waking up and having breakfast, the giraffes having some greens. I mostly enjoyed the zoo. I know they are at the forefront of conservation, but I find as I'm getting older (sigh) seeing animals in the what I took to be small enclosures is a little depressing. The areas for the big cats was rather small. Even the elephant and rhino area. After being at the safari park with it's wide open spaces, this was a teeny tiny bit of a let down. That being said, we really enjoyed seeing the polar bears, hippo, the panda bears (silly baby included), koalas, .

We spent until about mid-afternoon at the park. Then headed for the waterfront to see the USS Midway. Parking was sketchy, and the only place we could find only had an hour time limit, so we just decided to walk and see the Midway from the docks - I think there also was only an hour left to tour the boat - not enough time. We wandered the docks a little, then decided we should head for the 'Old Town.' Parking was a little better here, and it was actually pretty cool, but this was our last day before heading home and we were pretty worn out. And again, we seemed to get there just as things were winding down for the day. Found a restaurant and had a nice meal and watched a pow-wow (there is probably a correct term - maybe it was a rain dance they were doing?) thru the window of the restaurant.

After that, it was back to our airbnb to sort out our packing and prepare for the trip home. No issues driving and dropping the car off at the airport (thank you Hertz). The airport in San Diego was undergoing some renos, so not a lot going on there. Uneventful trip home.

With almost a year gone since the trip and looking back, I definitely want to return to San Francisco, Yosemite, Carmel and do the PCH drive again (but take 3-4 days to do the drive instead of 1 1/2). I am torn on whether I'd revisit LA - there is a lot we didn't get to see, so I could see spending another 3 nights there. I think we saw everything in San Diego. So if I could get in another 4 nights in SF, 3 in Yosemite, 3 nights for the PCH and 3 nights for LA, I'd be content. Sounds doable! It was great having the car, other then LA, traffic was for the most part fine.

Posted by u2traveller 16:09 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Sea World - very entertaining

Oct 11, 2013

So San Diego seems pretty compact. It wasn't too long a drive from the hotel to Sea World. We arrived fairly early and had no problems parking.

We headed over to the Arctic area first to see the lazy polar bears, the beluga whales, penguins - who were adorable of course. There were 5 different shows on as well that day - and they were all timed well so you could get from one to the other. We passed by the dolphin swimming area and watched them for a bit - one seemed very determined to show one of the trainers a flower he found. This is where I start having a hard time. I love seeing these animals in person. (and Darrin even got to touch the dolphin - which he's wanted to do for years after getting shoved aside by mother's with kids at Marineland and missing his chance). But they are so highly intelligent (along with the orca's) and I feel like they really should be in the wild. I'm very torn. Honestly, I believe SeaWorld could still have an awesome park without the dolphins and orca's performing. But we were here, so...off to the Shamu show. We were just at the upper edge of the splash zone, luckily no water came our way...but people down closer got soaked (And really, do you want to be soaked with orca water...hmmm...not so much - what is in the water...eeek). It honestly was a great show - seeing them jump out of the water is awe-inspiring, and the auditorium was packed. The show was maybe 20 min or so.

Then back by the dolphin tank again to watch the antics, and we went to the Pet's Rule show. OK, this was actually my fav - the dogs and cats were all rescue animals - the show was funny and fast moving. There were pigs and birds and I think even a rat! I laughed really hard (and I still can't believe they could train cats to do what they did). The timing was great, and this was actually my favourite part of the day.

Then it was time for the dolphin show, with some birds thrown in. Again - seeing these dolphins jump and flip was really amazing. There is so much to take in...we ended up far near the top. One funny part was when the dolphins were splashing people, and this couple thought they'd be smart and squat right beside the glass to avoid the splash - but they couldn't avoid the big wave of water that came over the top and drenched them...hilarious!

Over to see the sea lions - you could buy sardines to feed them...and as soon as they saw you had fish they'd start honking. One in particular would just sit on his rock and be so loud he got fish every time. Some of the others you could drop the fish down as they'd come right to the wall - they'd climb it if they could! And you had to watch the birds - apparently they'll snatch the fish out of your hands if you aren't watching. We had been going to skip the sea lion show as it had already started and there was nowhere to sit, but we stood up at the top and watched. And we were glad we did. It was a 'murder mystery' and was quite humourous. Again - the tricks that these animals are trained to do was amazing.

So it was a pretty full day at Sea World. We stayed until about 4 pm then decided to head down to the amusement park on the waterfront. Not a lot of people around, but we did squeeze in a game of mini-golf, which we haven't played for a long time. By this time, we were starting to get a little hungry, so we decided to head for the gaslamp quarter...where we couldn't find a parking spot to save our lives after driving around about a 6 block radius. And honestly, nothing really jumped out at us as 'need to see'. So we decided to find our airbnb for the night.

That was a different experience - the people we stayed with had 2 dogs - a shepard mix and a Great Dane and four birds - 2 umbrella cockatoos (one of which had pulled his feathers out, so he was in rough shape) and a military macaw (green) and a scarlet macaw, who all had the run of the house. The macaws were a little more standoffish, but the cockatoos only wanted love. They'd climb your pant leg, and tuck their head under your chin so you'd scratch the back of their necks. They also liked earrings, and if one decided the other was getting to much attention, they'd start pecking at each other, usually while standing on your shoulder. It was quite interesting. I like birds, not so much the mess that goes with them (you had to watch your step). And the military macaw did decide to come on my arm the morning we were leaving, he just didn't want to get off and gave me a nasty bruise when he grabbed my forearm when I tried to have him go onto a dresser...that didn't go away for almost 2 weeks! Lesson learned...use the spray bottle!

So, we went and had a quick meal, then back to the house to rest up for the zoo the next day, or last full day of vacation.

Posted by u2traveller 16:09 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Off to the Safari Park

Oct 10, 2013

After a half decent sleep and another meh breakfast, it was off to San Diego and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, which is actually about 45 min outside the city. It took us maybe 75 min or so to get there from Anaheim...and we got an early start, arriving around 10:30 or so. I figured we'd spend maybe 4-5 hours there so we could find our digs in San Diego...well, it turned out longer then that.

I'm always a little torn about zoos and water parks. I love to see the animals, but think of how much, maybe not better, but less boring life would be if these animals were in the wild. They certainly have things easy, and it's great for endangered animals, but seeing some of the lions in a small cage kinda makes you feel sorry for them. The Safari park was actually great because the enclosures are quite large, and the huge open area is great for the giraffes and antelope, etc. But some other places kinda make me feel bad knowing they could be out with miles to roam. Anyways, I'm always a bit torn...

So into the park. First entrance in you could go thru a cage with some neat birds. One thing I will say, I guess because we were there in Oct, some of the little shopping kiosks were closed...and some of the smaller food kiosks, only the 'stores' were open for souvenirs. So basically we looked at when there were shows on and tried to plan accordingly. they also have some areas set up where they bring out an animal and do a talk about it. You can get up close and learn some neat stuff. We watched a talk on the Civet Cat, a Military Macaw and another animal that I can't think of the name for the life of me! Then it was off past the water birds - egrets, pelicans, flamingos to check out the gorillas. They had a nice set up with the photos and telling the relationships to each other. When we got there, they were just throwing in some fruit and veggies for them, so they were pretty active...and impressive. Thru another exotic bird area and to the Lemur walk - where you go right into the cage with them. They pretty much ignore you...two of them walked a few feet past us - cool to watch them...

Then it was off to the safari ride...it was about 30 min long, and we got lucky when one of the cheetahs came out for a walk by. Elephants, giraffe, ostrich, antelope, oryx, rhinos (including a baby!). That was very neat and afforded some great photo opportunities. Back by the lion cage - we just missed the big fella walking around, but one of the females had her head up and was watching. Quick visit to the elephants, then we had to hurry back for the bird show back by the lemurs. That was quite entertaining...some of the birds flew very low over your head, they brought a few up close to look at, and the secretary bird was so awesome! Back over to watch the elephants and then over to see where the tigers were. That area is a work in progress and the tigers were right against the wall almost under the walkway, so it was hard to see them. Then it was time for the cheetah run! Even tho we got there 20 min early, it was still crowded around the viewing area. We managed to find a spot by the fence, but really couldn't see the whole run - which lasted all of 10 sec - we saw maybe the last 3 sec of it. They did the run twice (which they don't always do - depends on the cat) and it was neat to see how they interact with their 'dog' buddies (all the cheetahs have one - apparently they really are 'scaredy cats' and everyone has a dog companion that was rescued from a shelter. Very cool. And if you have lots of cash to drop, you can get really up close and personal with the cheetah in a fenced area where you sit and they bring the cat in and talk about the animal.

By this time, we had about an hour til the park closed (5pm) so back to see the elephants one more time (they were on the way out) and wandered thru the 'domestic' animal area and went in with the goats. We left just around closing, so what we had thought would be a 4-5 hour trip ended up being 6 hours - but we got our money's worth!

So then we had to find our hotel. We'd had an airbnb booked, but she double booked and we had to find a hotel for the first night. With the GPS, it wasn't hard to find, and once we dumped our bags, the front desk told us there was a shopping mall about a 15 min walk away. So since it was too late really to go into town (about 6:30), we decided to walk to the mall and have some supper and do a little window shopping. I still can't get over some of the malls in Cali with the open skylights and open air eating courts - I guess I'm just used to rain and snow. It was a more upscale mall with lots of pricey shops, so after eating, we wandered for a bit then back to the hotel to rest up for our busy day at Sea World the next day (and to do some laundry)!

Posted by u2traveller 16:07 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Disney Day - not just for kids!

Oct 9, 2013

So today was Disney day. I was a little skeptical, since we are grown people with no children in sight. But why go all the way to California and not visit Disney? I had a few people who have been to the Florida Disney say...'oh no...you don't need kids to enjoy it! Adults enjoy it too!' Welllll, we did enjoy it, but I can see how having kids along would make it much more fun (and this coming from someone who is not a fan of children...maybe I'm just bitter because I would have felt dumb going on the Dumbo ride myself...lol).

So, we got up, went and had a very hotel breakfast - cereal, cinnamon buns that you can nuke, toast, fruit...you really shouldn't complain when it's included, but it was underwhelming compared to some of the other free breakfasts where you could make waffles and there was hot food like eggs/bacon/sausage...oh well, but we're going to DISNEY!

So it was about a 10-15 min walk to Disney (the California Adv Park is right across the road from Disney if you wanted to make a few days of it). The weather report for the day called for rain - after having a spotless weather record so far...so the question was...rain coat or umbrella? I felt if it got warm, I didn't want to have to carry my trench around, so umbrella it was. We had prepurchased the tix online, so it was a pretty smooth entry process. And it was all dolled up for autumn/Halloween. They do an amazing job with the decoration - the leaves/pumpkins/bales of hay/scarecrows/etc...autumn is one of my fav times of year, so I loved the décor. I can only imagine how lovely it would be at Christmas. So first stop in is Main Street, USA. Our first experience was the Abe Lincoln animatronic robot or whatever - that was cool (and creepy too). Very lifelike...

So we wandered thru the shops, but who wants to carry purchases around all day...we can do that when we leave...let's hit Tomorrowland! First ride was the Star Tours...about a 20 min or so wait. Now, I'll start by saying I hate things that jerk around/simulators (still have visions of going to Crystal Palace in Moncton, NB many moons ago, going on a simulator that encompassed flying/roller coaster and other herky jerky-ness...and feeling sick and getting a horrible headache)...but hubby wouldn't go in alone. The lead up was fun - it's like you're in an airport and the droids are talking to you...R2D2 and C3PO included. Then onto the simulator for herky-jerky neck pain inducing ride. Our FIRST ride was this...I just can't handle these things - my neck was pretty achy, but at least my head didn't ache. After that torture was over, we wandered Tomorrowland a little more, seeing a neat display about future tech in households and all the Iron Man suits. After that, we did the Finding Nemo submarine ride (which was basically a 10min retelling of Finding Nemo, except very loud, enclosed and dark.) Onto the monorail for a pass around the park, then it was time for a quick lunch and off we went to...brace yourself...It's a Small World. Wow - they lineup moved fairly quickly, and it is very sedate...but those little singing dolls are a leeetttle bit horror movie-ish...lol. The rain had mostly held off with only a few sprinkles while in Tomorrowland. So we headed for Toon Town...and it started raining pretty good for about 10 min or so. Toon Town is something that def would appeal more the children, but again, the buildings and surroundings were pretty interesting. We didn't do much here other then walk around for 5 min and try to keep dry.

After Toon Town was Frontierland...the decorations here were very cool. Lots of pumpkin scarecrows, farmstead type décor - sunflowers, hay bales. And the Dios de los Muertos display was so bright and colourful! I believe the signature ride for FT was closed for upgrades or repair so we basically wandered around, checked out the shops, then went to get on the steam boat that went around a man made lake. The rain started up again while we were on this ride (well, not really a 'ride' - nothing exciting about it!) and when we went up to the New Orleans section, it was raining pretty good again. (All in all, the rain mostly held off, with a few brief showers). After passing thru New Orleans (which was probably my favourite section) we walked by the Haunted Mansion - no way was I going thru that! Not one for being scared. We did do the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, which I had some trepidation about, mostly for naught. Again, the lineup was maybe 20 min (benefits to going in the middle of the week), and there was a part right at the start where you go downhill really fast, but pretty much after that it was sedate. But I think it was one of my favs - the animatronics and the scenes and set up was very very well done. It was like playing - 'spot Jack Sparrow' - lots to look at and take in. Def a winner.

We also took the old steam train around the park as well...it made a few stops along the way at the main entrance and a few other stops if you wanted to get from one side of the park to the other without walking, but we just did the loop and enjoyed the view. So it was getting on to late afternoon (the park closed at 6pm...yes...6pm! that day). We go over to the tropical area (sorry, forget what it's called) and Darrin spots Indiana Jones Adventure ride. The sign at the front says wait time was about 45 min. I really didn't want to go on this ride (it 'warns' you if it's scary or not) and wasn't sure about the wait time. In all, maybe it was a 30 min wait, and you are moving mostly the whole time, and there is lots of stuff to look at on the way. OK, I almost killed Darrin for taking me on this ride...herky jerky, fast moving...it's like you are in a jeep tearing thru Indiana Jones land...there is air puffing in your face, little mists of water blowing in your face, lots of noise, giant snakes and much neck-snapping turns. Not impressed, but Darrin enjoyed it. I may have even screamed once!

So that was pretty much it for rides we wanted to do (or not wanted to do, in my case). I had been sent on a mission to find a certain Disney character shirt for a friend, but no luck a all...guess Eeyore is not popular. We had about an hour to kill so we went back to Main St and looked around there, waiting for the 'parade' at 5:30...which consisted of all the characters going by in cars waving at everyone, while the people inside the costumes are sure as hell glad that another day is over. I felt this need to buy something...anything...but just didn't feel like I'd wear any of the shirts (or if I liked it, didn't want to pay). Coffee mugs weren't doing it...nothing was, but I felt this urge to shop! Finally, as we were heading for the gates, we were stopped and asked if we would do a survey...so Darrin went and did that while I hung out at a little kiosk...and lo and behold...one of those vinyl family things you see on the backs of people's cars...but there was a dog with Mickey Mouse ears! So thinking of my pup at home, that was my one purchase at Disney and I left satisfied. (And not much poorer!). We were there til basically 6pm and the
rain was starting up pretty good again as we walked back to the hotel. Luckily,
Darrin had his hood and the umbrella kept me mostly dry. no fireworks that night - not sure if they weren't scheduled or because of the rain.

So we got back to the hotel and had to decide on supper. There are lots of restaurants in the area, but we had passed Cheesecake Factory the night before and that kinda stuck in my brain. It was only a few minutes walk, and by this time the rain had passed. We've never eaten at CF before, and had only seen it on 'The Big Bang Theory' (there aren't any at all where we live...or even nearby)...well, the place was HUGE! There was a bit of a wait for a table, probably 20 min or so...they gave us a little pager that would go off when our table was ready. It was quite crowded in the front area...but we grabbed some menus and had a look. I was boggled by the huge selection...there were two pages alone of cheesecake! But after looking, I had my heart set on chicken and biscuits and gravy (something I've never had before as a meal...I had these things separately before of course, but I also wanted some potatoes and this came with). Darrin had a chicken penne something or other. When we got to our seat, they give you a menu and a separate one that shows you calorie count (which should be law everywhere)...guess what? My meal had 2100 calories! I near died, but I wasn't going to change my mind. And in the end, I could only eat 2/3rds of it, so really it was 1400 cal...lol. Til I added on the cheesecake to go - lemon raspberry...OMG. I'm not a huge cheesecake fan, but I took it back to the room and ate it an hour later - it was divine! So with a full belly, a long day at Disney and a towel stuffed under the door to mute the street noise, it was off to bed!

Posted by u2traveller 16:07 Archived in USA Comments (0)

LA mash up

Oct 8, 2013

So we had a lot of little things to try and squeeze in today as that evening we had to head for Anaheim for our visit to Disneyland the next day....but first...

Rodeo Drive. We were there around 9am...managing to score a parking spot right on the street. Of course, some of the shops were just opening, and many others were preparing to open - probably 9:30-10. We had no intention of going into any of the stores but we had an hour on the meter, so we walked around the area, doing some window shopping, admiring the fountain and the really cool building designs/facades...and up to what I think of as the top of the road...wait...isn't there supposed to be a Welcome to Beverly Hills sign here? Oh yeah - it's behind a green fabric covered chain link fence while they redo the landscaping :( So I managed to get a picture of it thru a hole in the fabric, but not very impressive or picturesque when surrounded by piles of dirt...sigh. Not even a celebrity sighting, tho truth be told, a famous person could walk right by me and I'd probably have no clue unless they were surrounded by paparazzi. We stayed with someone in Bangor who had Stephen King as a neighbor (he lived 3 houses away) and Darrin went up to the gate and I took his picture from across the road - I wouldn't cross over to get closer - I think they get tired of gawkers and I don't want to be a gawker - he did have a really cool fence tho, it looks like a giant spider web! Anyways, back to this vacation...

So we decided to visit La Brea Tar Pits next - we spent about an hour here...Tues must be the day that the schools visit because there were a few groups of rugrats running about. It was pretty cool to see the skeletons/fossils - just the shear number that they find is amazing. We didn't got to the area where they do the actual work - I guess you can go see if you can find it. And you can really smell the asphalt odour and see the bubbles outside at one of the small 'pits'. Lunch time, so we ate at Johnnie's New York just a few minutes wander down the road. I had a delish turkey Panini and Darrin had a chicken parmesan sandwich. They were quite busy, but we were given these yummy pizza holes or something - round pizza dough with pizza sauce for dipping. Needless to say, it was a little early for us to eat such a large lunch, so we ate half and took the rest to go and had it for supper that night when we got to the hotel.

So then it was off to find Grauman's Chinese Theatre and the Hollywood walk of fame. Well, there was an awards show setting up and they had half the street blocked off (I believe it was the MTV Latin music awards or some such thing). Parking was hard to find...we tried a lot but it was full and ended up finding a space on a side street - the bad thing, I'm assuming because of rush hour, you could only park there until I can't rem if it was 3 or 4 pm, but we only had about an hour before we had to get out of there. So we hurried up to the Walk of Fame and started checking out the stars...I saw lots of ones I recognized...Johnny Depp, Tom Cruise, Kermit the Frog...lol...I was hoping to find one for U2, but no luck - we didn't have time to do the whole thing. We also spend 15 min or so checking out the hand and footprints immortalized in front of Grauman's...Jimmy Stewart and lots of 'old school' actors, as well as our fav '80's action heroes Bruce and Arnold and Sly, as well as Johnny Depp and Christopher Nolan. We didn't have time to go into the theatre and if memory serves, it was a little pricey. Lots of places along the way if you wanted to do one of the stars homes tours - every few feet you would be accosted by people selling tours...no time again...maybe next time. As you can imagine, it was a very touristy part of the city - lots of t-shirt shops and tacky trinkets.

Then it was off to find the California Science Center so we could see the Space Shuttle Endeavour...Darrin checked out the map app on my iPad and found a different route paralleling the highway but avoiding all the backed up traffic. We found a parking lot and walked about a block past some other museums (I think the Natural History Museum was there as well - I made a vow a few years ago after visiting NY and Washington that I didn't want to see anymore dinosaur bones for 10 years - La Brea notwithstanding). Free admission to the Science Museum if memory serves. We had about 75-90 min until it closed, so we beelined for the Space shuttle. Watched a video first of it winding its way thru LA to the museum, then into the specially built hanger. We actually spent almost an hour - they have a very interesting display set up about all the space shuttle launches and lots of neat stuff - and Darrin really enjoyed looking at an actual space shuttle. By the time we made it back into the museum, it was about 10 min til closing, so we just decided to go. There was a lovely rose garden outside so we sat and enjoyed that for 10 min while we tried to figure out what to do next. Decided to head into the core of downtown, which wasn't too far off. Found a parking garage and wandered about for about an hour...

...and first stop was the Bradbury Building. Now, I'm not a Blade Runner fan, and hubby really is, but he had no idea the significance of the building, so I was able to surprise him. I had read about it in a guide book...so as we are going in, he's like...'Why are we going in here?' Then he saw - and WOW! Of course it is in much better shape then in the movie (if you've seen the movie, you'd recognize the set). I actually think we were there after it closed (it is now a mixture of offices) but the door was open...we stayed maybe 5 min just to look around the lobby/general area. The security guard just ignored us. So chalk one up for me! Then I had hoped to visit the Farmer's Market, but by this time it was getting on to about 6:30 or so and of course it closed at 5 or 6pm...wandered up the hill to look at (from a few blocks off) the US Bank Tower - which, if you've seen the movie Independence Day, gets blown up by the alien ship - the round building...you know the one I mean - go back and watch the movie! There was a funicular going up the steep hill, but that was closed (I want to say Angel Hill - oops - Angels Flight! Thanks google.) Wandered another block or two to see the amazing architectural gem that is the Walt Disney Concert Hall. I can see how people would either love it or hate it. Kinda modern, but the angles and material just made it very interesting visually. No time to go in...across the road was the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, where they used to hold the Academy Awards until a few years ago. It was starting to get dark, we still hadn't eaten, and still had to make out way to our new hotel in Anaheim. I thought it was going to be a longer journey, but it was only maybe 20-30 min to get there - very little traffic, thank goodness.

So here we are at the Super 8, just a few blocks from Disney...OK, was disappointed in this hotel. We were right above the noisy drop off area over the office, so lots of door/trunk slamming and delivery truck noise. There was about a one or two inch gap between the bottom of the door and the frame, which I think contributed to the noise. The shower head was set so low - if you were a taller then average person, you'd have to duck to get your head wet. Horrible sleep due to the outside noise - the first time I contemplated asking a hotel to move us to the back away from the street...but we had our stuff all unpacked and I didn't want to waste any of our Disney time. The guy at the front desk joked we were getting the presidential suite - well, they must hate the president! And the breakfast was...well...a cheap hotel breakfast. The next night, I stuffed a towel under the door, so that, combined with probably tiredness from our Disney day and being full of supper from the restaurant, we had a better sleep. But anyways - we ate out leftover food for dinner tonight and it still tasted good...and around 9pm I hear this popping - Disney is having fireworks! So we went on top of the overhang/portico area over the office right outside our room (there were patio tables set up) and watched fireworks for - I'm not sure, somewhere between 5 and 10 min. Awesome show - they even had Mickey Mouse shaped fireworks...and happy faces! Me out there in my bare feet...lol. Was hoping they would have a show the next night, but no such luck...maybe because of the rain or maybe they only do them a few nights a week. Well, anyways, that was our excitement and a great way to end a busy day...and get ready for Disneyland!

Posted by u2traveller 16:05 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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