Posted in My Travels

San Diego Zoo and La Jolla Tide Pools and Caves Day 10


Day 10!  

It was another day of leaving our hotel in bathing suits because we had a big day lined up.  First, we hit up the Donut Bar for breakfast. We read online that this was the place to get unique donuts…and that there is always a line; and yup, there was definitely a line when we showed up.  My husband went to grab us coffee, at Achilles Coffee and Starbucks nearby, while the girls and I waited in line for donuts.  The wait was about 25 minutes, but the people watching in the area was so abundant that the 25 minutes flew by fast!  The place inside was adorable, and the amount of donuts on display was something else!  There were your average donuts, of course, but also some creative ones like a grilled cheese donut!!

Also, just something I noticed… The donut money is pretty lit in San Diego because the owner had a Ferrari out front with personalized Deadpool and Donut Bar advertising all over it.  (Who knew!?) 

We grabbed our order of donuts and took off for our next destination, where we were going to enjoy those fried babies!  Oh where were we off to?  Well, THE SAN DIEGO ZOO!!  SANDIEGOZOOOMG!! <– That was my tagline the whole morning.  I have been dying to go to the San Diego Zoo since I was a kid.  It’s the work-home of Joan Embery, guys!! JOAN EMBERY!!  

Hmm, I don’t feel your excitement.  Do you know who Joan Embery is?  Well, professionally she is the goodwill ambassador for the Zoological Society of San Diego, but my memories are that she was the only “guest” I cared about watching on The Late Night with Johnny Carson.  She would bring on some of the coolest animals that I had ever seen!! And that those animals would make Johnny and his guests squirm, made it fun!  

We took the donuts, coffee and our kids to a seated are right across from the zoo inside Balboa Park.  The donuts were delicious!  The perfect start to this fun day.  After we wolfed down those donuts we trekked right over to the zoo. We had purchased the tickets before leaving for this California trip, and mapped out where we wanted to start, to make the most of our one day there. We walked in, took a hard left towards the Skyfari.  This is a sky ride from one side of the park to the other.  It is super fun, and a great way to cool down.  The aerial views from the Skyfari were fantastic; you could see inside a lot of the fenced in areas.  Super cool!

After the Skyfari we walked down to the polar bears while stopping at each African animals along the way.  The polar bear exhibit was so great.  We got inside the area where you can see them in the water.  They spent a lot of time just chilling above, so all we could see were their chubby bums.  Once in a while they’d dip their head in or bite at some food that was chained underwater.  Once we walked to the exterior of the pool we could see them up close. through the glass.  They were playing with one another, swimming around and floating. Their floss like white fur outside the water was so fluffy!

From the polar bear we took a walk down the hill towards the hippopotamus.  At first I thought the animal was alone leaning on a small rock, but as soon as I walked to the right I saw the rock was a baby hippo!!  Aweee!  We back tracked to the entrance of the hippos to make our way to the panda bears.  Now, this is the part of the zoo I have been dying to see since we made these plans.  We have never seen a panda up close before! My gosh how cute and CHUBBYYYY!! We saw a mother and son panda, who were so docile and happy just being.   I wanted to jump into the area with them to lounge with them, scratch their bellies and feed them some bamboo.  But I was told I couldn’t go in with them.  Bummer.

From our visit with the pandas we walked up the hill towards the entrance to the treetops.  This zoo is just the coolest place!  We got up to the top, then went to check out some birds and an ape exhibit to the left, then went down an incline to cross the bridge.  We ended up right outside the elephant area, well, right outside a refreshment stop.  We grabbed slushies for everyone, except Mum and Dad’s were vodka soaked.  🙂

So, I love elephants.  They are such a beautiful, smart and bold animal.  This was my favorite part of our zoo trip.  The space was beautiful, and the elephants seemed so happy.  They had two Asian elephants and two African elephants.  They were doing their own things, eating, scratching, frolicking, uhm, poopin’.  haha   We spent a lot of time in this area watching them all.  There were other exhibits peppered around, but it was an elephant sanctuary really.

After we exited the elephants, we made our way up the prairie towards Australia to see the koalas.  This was another stop that we enjoyed.  Koalas are absolutely adorable!! They are so furry and slow paced.  They were climbing up their poles that were laced with eucalyptus.  Munch, munch, munch, snooze.  I swear each lil koala would be awake and asleep in seconds.  They were also chunky, I just wanted to squeeze them!!   We took a walk through Africa before exiting the zoo.  We saw a lot of beautiful animals, and learned so much.  I wish this zoo was closer!

We were all a little munchie, but we had another destination before heading back to the hotel, so we had to make a stop to an In and Out Burger.  We had to!  Their burgers and fries were too good to pass up, and I even had a Coke!  I never drink soda, but man a fountain Coke is hard to pass up in the heat.  Mmmm mm…  soooo good!

Our next stop was to Nicholson Point / La Jolla Tide Pool area.  The plan was to check out that one spot then go to the hotel, but instead we got to the tide pools then explored the whole way down seeing the Children’s Pool, hiking up a cliff, and walking all the way to Shell Beach where we ended up seeing caves.   I want to say that trek was about a mile, but not a straight one because of the turns from beach to cliff/walking path.

This area was the most beautiful sight.  Really, what a special place.  There were tide pools, cliffs, caves, seals, pelicans, lots of waves, sea moss and so much to look at around us.  At this point, the sun was starting to come down, so the sands glowed a warm gold and the ocean was glimmering like a dream.  Our girls were having a blast splashing in the waves then walking in the caves or looking into the pools.  My husband and I had fun doing that, too!   When we exited the top of Shell Beach it spilled out onto a big park.  There were so many people around getting ready to enjoy their nights on the beach.  I loved seeing everyone.  San Diego is hyper diverse.

Our first 24 hours there, and I was in love with everything that we were seeing.  ESPECIALLY THE BEAUTIFUL WEATHER!!!

After we explored the beaches, we headed to our hotel to soak up more sunshine! The sun was still hot, even though it was starting to set more.  We got at least an hour of sunshine time.  Once the sun set we hit up the pool area again.  The kids went to swim with my husband, because they like the abuse of being thrown around by a 6’3″ monster! And, well, I stayed in the hot tub!  Ooh the heat of the hot tub was perfection.  While in there I got to meet some nice people. Once they disappeared my husband got in. We got to have a lot of alone time to talk.  He is a great conversationalist, and I love hearing his point of view of things we experience together.

I also loved that he reminded me that it was time to eat and how he wanted a burrito.  hahah  So we got out of the tub to run to get ready for dinner.  By the time we got cleaned up we realized how late it was, so we went to grab take out again.

Where?  THE SAME PLACE AS LAST NIGHT! haha  It was too good to pass up!  And one of my vacation goals was to eat a lot of burritos while in San Diego.  This time we ordered a few more dishes to try.  Holy glutton over here. But it was worth every calorie.  EVERY ONE.

Before we knew it again, it was almost midnight, and even though our last full day in San Diego would be a relaxing one, we wanted to get to bed.

What a fun day!!!

Next up…our last days, 11 and departure, in San Diego.

And yes, I had to update the look of my blog …again. The phone viewing feature was confusing some people because it was starting the page with the menu rather than the actual post.  This is much cleaner now!  Woo!

Posted in My Travels

Our First Day in San Diego Day 9

About five years ago, we had mapped out a whole different California trip than the one we actually took. We planned landing in San Francisco, spending a few days road tripping in a vintage convertible all the way down the coast. Hitting all the major attractions and cities along the ride then stopping in San Diego for a few days. We even planned out a whole new trip a second time, two years ago, going in reverse up the coast in a giant SUV from San Diego to Seattle!!  But. Such is life and as other travel opportunities arose, we had always postponed this California trip.  Then when my husband brought it back up last year, I was not going to let it go by again. We just went for it, editing it down to what we really all wanted.  So if you have been following along, or not, we came up with landing in LA then driving with stops to San Diego, in a normal SUV!

Absolutely happy that we got to make this trip happen this year. And this trip allows us to go back to California to finish our original plans.

Notice that San Diego was always a destination point?  Well, go look!  I have dreamed most of my adult life about San Diego; even if I had never been before. Weird, I know, but there has always been this draw.  Maybe because my genes are direct from Sicilian, where it’s hot, desert-like weather combined with the ocean and an easy going-ness?  Who knows, but I think it may be due to the fact that I am growing tired of Boston’s ten minute Summers, and fifty year Winters.  I mean, who needs this much time out of the sun and in the gloom!!??   Not this bird!!

Ok, I will stop sounding like I am 75yo.  :)~

Day 9!  Woo! We made it to San Diego!

We sadly left Anaheim at 11AM.  We said goodby to Disneyland and made a bee line straight to La Jolla, which was an hour and a half away.  We knew our room would not be ready, but we took off in our bathing suits with hopes that we could make it to enjoy the beach.  My husband is such a sweet person, he changed all the drive coordinates this whole trip so we could drive along the coast (EVEN ON OUR LAST DAY DRIVING TO THE AIRPORT! I know he is pretty awesome). He even took us on a fifteen minute drive after we got to La Jolla just to see some of the ocean.  Explanation… Where we were driving the whole time was not vistas of the ocean so much, but of cliffs as high as buildings! The ocean was in the distance, but the cliffs were so impressive it didn’t matter where the ocean was.  IT WAS SO COOL!!  Everything so far was perfect, and I already felt so at home.

We rolled up to the La Jolla Shores Hotel.  This hotel is very pretty, and in such a convenient location, close to the smaller downtown area of La Jolla, and with parking beneath the building.  It is built in the Spanish style, most likely in the 70s; lots of brown tiles, fountains, piazza in the middle. It was also located right on the ocean.  The view was spectacular!  As soon as we arrived, we checked in (rooms not ready) and ran straight to the beach.  Ahh that sand, how much do I miss it!

We got into our rooms not too long after we hit the beach.  So we each took turns to check it out and put some stuff away.  We finished up at the beach at around 7PM, then went to hang out at the pool/hot tub for a bit.  The pool was a real decent size, and the hot tub was fun.  The kid swam a long time, and my husband and I sat in the hot tub.  Which was so hot that I didn’t want to get out. The jets were in the perfect spots, the timer was over 15 minutes for sure and all the kids stayed away. Man, I miss that hot tub.

One of our traditions on beach trips is to eat a meal on the beach if we can.  Keeping it casual. We grabbed some drinks from a local liquor store then take out from the Taco Stand in downtown La Jolla.  This place rocked and was hella-busy!  We got a mix of  burritos and tacos.  Everything was amazing, so big!, and their salsa was one of the best I have had in a long time.  Totally a must eat spot when you are in San Diego..we know there are a couple of locations in the area.

This day turned to night so quickly!  We were having such a great time laughing and snuggling up that before we knew it the clock said midnight.  So, off to bed we went. We had another big day ahead of us!


Day 10 is next where we go to San Diego and La Jolla Cove, probably my favorite day of this whole trip.  🙂  San Diego is a beautiful place.

Posted in My Travels

Victoria Beach, Crystal Cove Beach and the Big Disneyland Reveal- Day 6

Hey Everyone!

Day 6! I loved this day so much…the beaches and THE BIG SURPRISE!  We drove from Laguna Beach to Anaheim; telling our kids it was “on our way to San Diego”.  Don’t you go north to go south? :)~  Well, they had no idea what direction we were going, so it worked for us.

Before Anaheim we did make two stops. One to Victoria Beach to see the Pirate Tower, and, one to see the cliffs and tide pools of Crystal Cove/State Park.  Laguna may be the most beautiful beachy place on American soil.

Victoria Beach/Pirate Tower

We got straight into bathing suits and water shoes before breakfast because our first stop of the day was to Victoria Beach, south five minutes from our hotel.  A quick FYI- you will need to pack water shoes to walk most of the beaches we visited this trip. These are no places for flip-flops as they’ll get wrecked guaranteed.

Victoria Beach is down an obscure set of stairs in a residential area. So there is some searching for it, but this website I referenced in my research earlier in the Summer definitely helped us find it. Well, his lens perspective seems wonky now that I have been there and looking back on his site, but he tells you were to go, address included.  There are a lot of stairs, and the parking is on the major street a block or two away, which is also a highway. Though it was free for two hours. So depending on your activity level, you may need to look into this area further if you need assistance with path ways.

The second you hit the beach from the stairs the views are picturesque. Truly beautiful.  The beach is rather large, which wasn’t expected.  You are facing a long-span of beach to the left and cliffs to the right. We had seen a lot of locals hanging out and walking towards the left, so of course, we went right.  Wow, JUST WOW!  We started off our walk along the surf.  The water was so blue, looked lushly weighted as it was rushing over these volcanic like rocks.  It seemed like a dream, really.  Then to the right we saw another gathering of rocks, a man-made wall and there was the Pirate Tower!  Super awesome!

The Pirate Tower was constructed for a former senator at the beginning of the last century as a walled in spiral staircase, but was adopted later by the next residents and the neighbors with pirate lore. It is nestled in the cliffs by what looks like a built out area where people had made a wading pool of some sort.  Then to the right beyond the tower were a collection of jagged rocks that housed the greenest sea moss and tide pools.  The tide was active, and the waves rolling into the cracks of the rocks would fill up the basins created between the rocks and exploded out on the outer side. it was absolutely beautiful mayhem. The booming sound of the waves surfacing above was spectacular!

Crystal Cove State Park

From Victoria Beach we headed to Crystal Cove State Park.  I hadn’t researched much about this location. Only learned that they had a huge state park with a natural beach that had various entrance points, some tide pools and a large beach.  During our last afternoon on Laguna’s Main Beach we looked up this area just to get a handle of what’s to see, how to get there.  Well, this was way more than we expected.

We went into the state park via the Pelican Point entrance, parked in lot 2. Parking is $15. Now, this is a little fuzzy, but I think this lot was for the Reef Point part of the beach.  The walk from the parking lot to the beach was magnificent.  You aren’t really sure what is waiting for you as you park. The lot is surrounded by desert like spaces and to get tot he beach you walk to a boarded walking path. It really looked like a desert.  Along the way there were signs by the conservancy explaining what wildlife is in the area, like coyotes, and the ‘dry’ vegetation, and what not to do, like do not touch or take anything from the beach that is protected.  This means things like NO taking shells, and, NO touching sea life.  Reading the last sign there is when we noticed a purple hummingbird in a sparse tree. Super cool to see such a colorful animal in a dead environment like that.

As the path goes to sand, you can walk to the left or straight.  First we went straight; saw a panoramic view of below.  WE WERE SO HIGH UP ON A CLIFF!  Then we went down to the beach on the other path walking along the cliff.  This path was fun, but if you have mobility issues I believe there is a paved path from another parking lot I saw online.  The path went from flat, to steep, to a gnarly wooden staircase that basically broke off onto a huge mass of rocks.  We loved it! The rocks were jagged, scattered and cracked like no where I had ever seen before.  Everything looked and felt like a desert, but with ocean water feet away.  So unexpected.

There was a twelve-foot uprooted tree/drift wood that was laying across a section of the rocks.  The waves were gracing over the rocks slowly, leaving tide pools of all types of creatures behind.  We saw minnows and other silvery fish, crabs and hermit crabs, snails, and we even got to see a huge sea slug!  He was about 5 inches long, black, and fluttering like seaweed from beneath whenever the water floated over him!!  We had never seen one of those before. SO COOL! (I am still giddy re-living this right now!)

We ended up looking around the rocks for an hour or more, there were so many tide pools around as it went to a large stretch of beach/sand.  When we looked down the beach we realized we were the only people there!  We walked down to the left side to set up our site with towels and snacks, then went right into the water.  We swam around for an hour or so, then got our things together to hike back up the cliff to our car.

This was the most surreal place I had ever been.  It felt like I would go there often if we lived nearby. I also think this was the most typical Californian location…natural, rugged, beautiful, hot. Authentic in every way.

Surprise! Trader Sam’s and Downtown Disney

Our kids definitely knew beforehand that Anaheim was home to Disneyland, and a stop for us along our drive in So Cal. So, naturally they did ask if we were going to the Disneyland parks.  Which we fake explained no; how we couldn’t afford going this leg of the trip, but since we were so close to the city we’d spend a night so we could go to dinner and shop around Downtown Disney.  The reality was that we were in Anaheim for three nights, going to the two parks for a full day each.  Our plan was to take them to the park instead of breakfast that first day to really stun them.. but..

We arrived at the Indigo Hotel Anaheim around 3PM.  This location was spot on perfect for this leg of our trip.  It was a ten minute walk to Disneyland, if that.  We jumped right to swimming because it was so hot and humid there.  The pool and hot tub were pretty decent, and we got to hang out in the cabana with some drinks, which was pretty and relaxing. From the pool area you could see the back of the Guardians of the Galaxy ride!  Super fun.

When we got on the elevator from the pool the girls noticed an advertisement that shared the price of Disneyland tickets per day for both parks, and all the combo ticket prices.  Our kids were like “woaHhhh” when they saw it.  Which made us reply, “I know, right?”. And that little seed of doubt, ‘maybe my parents couldn’t really swing it’, shadowed over their faces. WHICH WAS PERFECT!!  mwuahahaha! :}

At Trader Sam’s we got to sit on the deck, which was perfect.  The weather was now breezy. The tiki torches were all ablaze, and they had a live Hawaiian band playing, who were excellent!  All the elements just right for Polynesian food and cocktails outside.  We ordered a ton of stuff by the way, and I mean A TON.  It was all so good! plus. My husband has food allergies that can be a bummer for him when we eat Asian food, so when we find a place that doesn’t inundate us with it he goes overboard sampling. Like the five dishes of gyoza/dumplings he ordered.

During dinner the girls talked further about Disneyland, which we couldn’t help as the entrance to Disneyland from the Disneyland Resort was literally in our view.  Like it is huge and lit us up!  So.  The reveal came out by chance around the service of dinner.  We had a few cocktails in us, a lot of gyoza, so when our oldest daughter started to compute how much going would be out loud, I replied, “I know, now add another day to that because Disney California Adventure is across the way, right?”.   So she factored that in.  Our daughter was floored just knowing how much two days cost there.  This was so great!

So, my husband said to her, “Don’t forget to add in snacks, drinks and meals. Then it gets crazier.”.  She looked at her sister all disappointed, “how much does food cost then?”.  I motioned to her, like, see why we can’t go?  My husband and I looked at one another all sly like two awesome parent foxes.  Then with our internal dialogue we telepathically spoke like, “so that bright Disneyland sign for the entrance is making me want to tell them so bad! You too, right?”.  He obviously said yes.  🙂 I mean, telepathically..   Just as quick as we smiled to one another, I turned to the girls and replied,  “Super expensive. Then there is Starbucks and all the Pixar Fest themed food that is around that I would need to see and eat.”  Then I took a sip of drink as my husband said, “I have been dying to see Carsland. And ride Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride again.”.  My reply came out so fast. “I know, me too. So just imagine how much fun tomorrow is going to be!”, turned to our kids quickly, ” Hey. I brought your Minnie Ears, you know.”.

They looked at us confused. It was noisy from the band and all the people (it was slamming!).  Then it registered and they FREAKED the eff OUT!  Like literally got the whole deck excited along with us!  It was so awesome!  There were tears, screams of joy, hugs, disbelief, and just odd noises; and that was just from me…  😛

So happy how it went down! Because the rest of the dinner we talked about what we researched for them, and oddly HOW MUCH THEY KNEW about the parks’ rides!  Those are definitely my girls.

Dinner at Trader Sam’s was fun otherwise too.  The cocktails even We had some interesting drinks like we shared the uh ah. This was fun but not my favorite.  It came in a castle shaped tiki cup adorned with sugar cubes and cinnamon.  Our waitress lit the rum soaked sugar cubes and we all took pinches of cinnamon to sparkle in the fire as she chanted something.  It was super fun.  Then I got the piranha pool which was strawberry and blue curacao slush (in a piranha tiki).  My husband got the hippopotomaitai (no tiki mug), and the tiki tiki tiki tiki tiki rum (you know you all just sang that!!).  I grabbed the piranha tiki cup as my sole souvenir of my trip.

We walked Downtown Disney as we planned.  I wasn’t exactly impressed with this area, but our girls were ecstatic, so that got me going.  We walked into the downtown area to find a band playing; who were real good!  We walked into each store trying on all the Halloween ears one could get their hands on. All the decorations up for Pixar Fest were so clever.  They had modern art topiaries at each seated area set to each Pixar film with alternating Pixar music piped in softly.  My favorite character made of bushes was Edna Mode though, her topiary was hilarious.

We huddled together as we watched the fireworks display that was visible from over at Disneyland.  It was so great from our spot!  Also, another live band was playing in the restaurant nearby, which made for great fireworks music.

We ended our night walking back to the hotel.  It was that close!  This was a pretty rad busy day, a great day.

Day 7 up next, our first visit to Disneyland!

Posted in My Travels

Laguna Beach Day 5

Hey Everyone!

Ahh Day 5!

We had planned day five as our first full day of doing nothing.  No driving. No sightseeing.  Just beach bumming all day long and eating! It was my husband’s birthday, and we let him choose the itinerary.  We definitely needed to have a beach day together.  

I woke up the earliest; set all the birthday decorations up as quietly as possible.  Which means, I fumbled everywhere but was quiet enough that no one heard me.  🙂 I’m clumsy.  Then I snuck out of the room to the balcony to let everyone wake up on their own. The morning started off grey, though we were assured by the front desk crew from the night before that the sun would make its way through by mid-morning.  I heard my husband wake up then the two chickens followed.  They were rambunctious, shouting birthday salutations. They were so excited to see the decorations; it was a sweet way to make our favorite man in our lives feel special, and a great start to our day together.

We grabbed breakfast at the Orange Inn next door to eat on the deck outside of our hotel building. Our hotel had a super cute area set up with decking and flowers/succulents with glass fire tables and big comfy seats. This was a great way to start the day! hahah

As we were eating the sun came out!  Ahh, the glorious Southern California sun.  It is cheerful, bright and HOT!  Woah, Mamma, it’s hot! And I loved it! Definitely have to say that I could move to So Cal, if I was a millionaire that is, and be extremely happy with the weather.  Everywhere we went the locals would share how it didn’t rain much or how it was always sunny.  I felt like they were all trying to send me a message of not leaving.  :)~    But alas, my kids are too little. I am way too poor, and I will just have to deal with the Atlantic Ocean maybe two months out of twelve. hahah

We spent all day at the beach.  The kids really enjoyed the active surf there. Or I should say getting thrashed by the waves. Some waves rolled in at 15 feet!  Super awesome. We had access to boogie boards from the hotel, which we figured would make it a little bit easier to maneuver the waves, but not really.  Everyone had more fun jumping the waves, getting carried to the sand, than anything else.   We got lounge chairs on the furthest point to the right of the hotel, which was perfect.  A nice family sat near us, who were very friendly and we shared a lot of stories.  Our room was so close that we didn’t need a cooler, just ran up for a new drink whenever we needed one. Which gave us a moment to cool off too.

It was a perfect day.  🙂

After being at the beach for five hours, we hit up the hot tub and pool area for an hour or so before our dinner reservations.  This pool space isn’t that great, I mean, you are on the beach literally from the other side of the wall so the pool doesn’t have to be all that great!  Though the hot tub was HUGE! The kids ended up having a great time swimming as they were the only ones for most of our time there.  I had fun too.  That hot tub was so hot, that I think it melted the salt off my skin way easier.

I am not sure what anyone else’s experience is with the Pacific Ocean swimming, but I have only swam in it twice in my life… Costa Rica and this trip.  In Costa Rica, I didn’t think the water felt different.  It was refreshing, yet warm.  Just perfect.  Not that it isn’t in California, it’s that just walking through Venice Beach a few days earlier (we had walked along the shore and let the kids splash around), the salt from the water was visible and a nuisance on my skin.  Also here in Laguna, I felt that the water was overall saltier than normal.  Like it left a film of salt on your skin that you could feel, grainy, that had to be scrubbed off.  Anyone else?

We got ready for my husband’s birthday dinner out!  I had made reservations for the Driftwood Kitchen months in advance.  The restaurant was beautiful.  A nautical theme as you walk in, which gives way to a bar that overlooks the dining room.  The dining room is a beautiful glassed in deck along the ocean.  The location was perfect, too; two minutes from our hotel room door!  We started off with drinks and roasted Brussels Sprouts.  Yes, that is my favorite food. Yes, I know it was his birthday not mine, but he ate most of them!  Then he got the lobster spaghetti a la carbonara.  I ordered the grilled chicken.  Our oldest the butternut squash gnocchi and our youngest the chicken and fries.  Then we surprised him with cake.  Everything was very good.  We had a great night on the closed in deck with the sunset.  My husband was very happy with everything, all day.  That is all I could ever ask for.

Oh, one thing.. We had sat next to a table of older folks, who were like ten years older than us or so. No kids, just four sun burned adults. They were tipsy, loud, but super funny about it.  They were singing some 80s songs throughout the night, between themselves and what not, not for the restaurant or anything. BUT, because I am way too friendly, I talked to them on our way out.  We had a great time talking then I made a reference to the singing.  Well, then I made a request randomly for Toto’s Africa, and one of the guys actually sang it for me!! And he was great!  So awesome.  I never laughed so hard with a stranger.

Overall, I would say this was a fantastic day with beaching, good food and laughter. Our kids had a great time talking about all their favorite parts of our trip so far…but the best was yet to come!

Day 6 is up next..our drive from Laguna Beach to Anaheim, with two truly amazing stops along the way!


Posted in My Travels

From LA to Laguna Beach Day 4

Day 4

This day was super hot. For me to say that means it was a true scorcher! The kind of day that leaves you sweaty just standing there.  The sun was strong, and the concrete was smoking hot. In other words, my favorite kind of weather!

This day was August 19! We were celebrating our first date anniversary, and decided to replay it with a coffee date, like that we went on in 1996. Just in a different city, an almost seventeen year marriage, a mortgage, and two kids under our belt. 🙂

My husband took us to Verve in downtown LA.  This place was pretty swanky in an interesting part of town. It looked like an up and coming area; reinvented for the hipsters. The coffee was great, and our pastries were pretty good, too. We enjoyed all the folks hanging out there with their dogs, and even got to watch a fashion shoot across the street.

As soon as we finished breakfast, we swept up the girls to head to our first destination along the way to Laguna Beach. An art installation in the city of Watts, The Watts Towers.  This is a place my husband and I never got a chance to see on our last trip to LA so we made sure we squeezed it in on this trip.  So glad we did! What an awe-inspiring sight!

The installation is currently under renovations but there is so much of it still exposed to see. It is so large, I wasn’t expecting how big it was. The intricacy of the spires and decorations left me with so many questions.  Especially where it is, in the middle of a neighborhood.  The story behind these towers is simple yet complex. The simple side of it is that they were created from steel and mortar, adorned with various items like shells, glass, porcelain, anything really, created all by just one guy. One!  A small Italian immigrant man, Simon Rodia, who lived in this spot in Watts.  One day he had an epiphany to start building a large structure for people to visit, so he did.  The plot of land changed hands many times after he was older; first selling it to his neighbor. His house inside even burned down, but now the structures belong to the city as an artistic treasure.  Which it is. A definite must see!

From Watts we started on our path to Laguna.  We decided to change-up the map to ride along the Pacific Coast as much as possible. This ride was amazing!  We got to see Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, and tons of coastal state parks.  Along the way, around Corona del Mar, we happened upon our favorite candy shop of all time, See’s Candies.  So, of course, we had to go in to get a ton of chocolates.  The folks inside gave us so many samples to try that I swear I gained five lbs during this stop! I know, I could’ve said no, but it’s See’s Candies! C’mon! We bought a good-sized box of our favorites to share before we got to our hotel, but we didn’t even put a dent in it.

Laguna Beach, guys, is the coolest place.  After driving down oceanside Highway 1 through their center, which was filled with art galleries and shops, we arrived to our hotel, the Pacific Edge. We were just blown away.  We had booked a room in the ocean front building, ocean facing, and it was way more than we could have expected from its website.  Standing on our balcony, the view was literally an oceanic postcard. The soothing sounds of the waves was something dreams are made of… My gosh it was truly dreamy.

Our stop in Laguna was not just to hit the upscale beach, it was my husband’s birthday the next day.  We planned a beachy birthday to celebrate.  Doing whatever he wanted to do, which was relax a lot and go out to eat.  It was a great idea after being in LA and what was coming up after this.  The only odd thing about this beach was that it wasn’t a very large span of beach from the edge of the buildings to the surf.  Though the surf was the best my kids played in because the waves were huge; the ocean was so active!  We spent a good long time on the beach before heading out to dinner.


We took a few looks around the center for a fun place to eat.  We had done a little research beforehand so we knew we wanted to go to one of two places. We checked on their wait times, and opted for Tortilla Republic.  SO MUCH GOOD!  The salsas were delicious, not spicy, just delicious.  The kids got the kids enchiladas.  My husband got the carnitas, and I got the chicken enchiladas.  Everything was so good, but that dish of carnitas might have been the best carnitas we have had in a long time.  The drinks were pretty great, too.  We got a few cocktails; top shelf margarita, a luxe margarita, a pineapple mojito and a cerveza.

I left there so full, but of course, this crew wanted an ice cream.   Luckily, we had seen a gelateria a few doors down.  We walked over and the line was out alley way of the building!  I honestly did not have even a taste, but the ice cream looked amazing. They had signs everywhere stating it was authentic gelato, and there was a swarm of people  waiting.  It had to be good, right?  The consensus from my family? That it was amazing!  So glad!

After this we took a walk to grab some snacks and wine for the next day to have in our room. Checked out some windows of the art galleries as we headed back to the hotel.  We got to our room feeling so relaxed and happy.  Such a great feeling. My husband and I hung out on the balcony for a little bit.  Listening to the waves crash as the moon lit the ripples of the ocean.  Seriously, it was so beautiful it seemed fake!


Day 5 coming up with the best lazy beach day ever and the big man’s birthday!

Posted in My Travels

California Hot Spots that Valeria Must See – 2018 – La Jolla, San Diego Edition

Hello WordPressLand!

As I mentioned in the two posts before, this whole trip is along Southern California. We hit up LA for a few days then drive down to Laguna Beach.  From Laguna we drive up to Anaheim for a couple of days, and then finish off down in La Jolla, San Diego. 

San Diego is the second largest city in California, and crazily enough the eight largest in the US! I did not know that till I started doing research either! San Diego is known for its beautiful weather, the Zoo, its wildlife, beaches, and for the foodies out there, a hot spot of amazing food.  And if you are into Mexican food, like myself, then I guess this is our city.  It is a mecca of good Mexican food, and so close to the Mexico border.

So YES!! LeTzzGO!

We are planning a handful of days in the San Diego area, staying at the La Jolla Shores Hotel. We figure this is a great spot to feel like we are on a beach vacation, yet just close enough to take advantage of the downtown area.  I did get a lot of good tips from some of you on FB about San Diego, and I have added them to the list below.  Thank you btw!  I always appreciate the conversation and if anyone else has recommendations, please don’t hesitate to message me.


California Hot Spots that Valeria Must See

La Jolla, San Diego Edition
La Jolla Shores – This is a mile long beach where our hotel is situated; so it’s a no brainer to check it out.  It is stated as the best beach in the area and looks like a perfect place to bum around like I plan to do!  🙂


La Jolla Cove– This is supposed to be one of the most photographed beaches in California. It just looks beautiful as it’s surrounded by cliffs and there seems to be a ton of seals and sea lions who like to take housing along the rocks.


The Cave StoreThe Cave Store is the entrance point to the Sunny Jim Cave, one of many caves in the area.  The pictures look amazing, and it seems like a fun place to start on our cave explorations.


Shell Beach This place looks super cool.  This beach is situated at the bottom of a cliff where you have to take stairs down towards.  This beach is known for its tide pools that are home to some amazing sea creatures.


Children’s PoolThis is an area of beach that was initially built up for, you guessed it, the children of the area.  They placed retaining sea walls so the waters would be less aggressive, safe for children.  BUT as soon as the sands built up in the space the Harbor Seals took it over!  And we need to check out these chubby guys up close!
San Diego ZooEver since I was a kid I have been dying to see the San Diego Zoo!  This is the number one zoo in the world with over 3,700 different animals! One of which, I have never ever seen in person before, the Giant Panda. The cutest animal to exist.


Seaport Village on the Harbor – This is a large waterfront shopping area along the harbor that seems like a fun place to spend an afternoon.


Little Italy San Diego is supposed to have the largest Italian neighborhood in the country, and naturally, that means I have to go.


Richard Walker’s Pancake House Looks like this is a breakfast place we cannot miss! Not only did I get a recommendation to go but my husband had it on our list of where we are eating!  haha And the owner is from our state, so it’s like a must eat place now that I know.

Well, there we have it, some of our San Diego hotspots to check out. We have a lot more research to do on restaurants and stuff, but I loved looking into all the amazing spots to visit in San Diego and cannot wait for this trip to arrive.  Again, if you have recommendations please hmu!

I have always wanted to visit San Diego, and here I wrote about this awesomeness.  I can’t believe it!  (I just literally said, “YEEE”!) I am so excited for this trip!!  Bahh I can’t stand it!!




Posted in My Travels

California Hot Spots that Valeria Must See – 2018 – Laguna Beach Edition

Hello all,

Here we are on the second installment of ‘California Hot Spots that Valeria Must See’– 2018 .  This is the Laguna Beach Edition.  It sounds so formal, but we all know I am so far from formal.

During this part of our trip we will be spending 2 nights in Laguna Beach, one of which is my husband’s birthday.  What I’d ideally like to do is to make this as much of a beach visit than anything.  Especially after running around in LA for a few days.  Plus, I need to work on a tan because by August I will probably be a smooth cool tint of white linen.  (Yup, I may be the only Sicilian woman who never tans!)

img_2650Laguna Beach is a seven mile stretch of beach between LA and San Diego, and is a huge hot spot for vacationers. Which means there are a ton of things to see and do (and eat) with lots of people around, but what do we go see and do!?  When you look at a map of Laguna, the beaches all collide into one another and look simple enough to walk to but I just uploaded the Laguna Beach app and now I am not so sure.  hahah.  But we will give it a whirl!!

The app is actually really good; it is the Visit Laguna Beach app. You can search hotels, restaurants, shops, as well as find the current weather, maps, surf and tide reports, parking information and an events calendar.  And real estate, for those of us who plan to not come back home.  (I know, my good friends keep hearing me joking about this, though I have never been to So Cal my gut tells me I will not want to come home. haha)

So far, we booked the Pacific Edge hotel, which is on the south end of the beach.  We reserved a room in the reef tower (facing the ocean!!), which looks like a dream. The amenities, and the area of the hotel, look pretty great, and we read that the waves can be heard in every room all day.. which turns me on. Haha. Falling asleep to the ocean is just what I want, folks.

Here is a list of places we discussed seeing in Laguna.  So many of you guys commented and messaged me on FB with recommendations for LA (and San Diego!), I hope to hear some for Laguna Beach, too!


California Hot Spots that Valeria Must See

Laguna Beach Edition


Art Colony/Walk the TownAs I am learning, the art scene in Laguna is its primary draw, and well, it sort of reminds me of my favorite local beach art colony here in Gloucester at Rocky Neck.  And while we are at it we will take a stroll through the town to check out their shops, local restaurants and stuff.


Heisler Park- When I looked up this place my chin literally dropped. The views are tremendous, and it looks like a perfect place to take a sunset walk.  It is an oceanfront park set up along the cliffs with walking trails, gardens, and a marine refuge with tide pools.



Crystal Cove Beach Tide Pools– Researching Laguna is fun, tide pools around seem to be a running theme, and Crystal Cove is supposed to have the best ones.  Feel like we would really enjoy trekking around on some rocks checking out the oceanic wildlife in the pools.


Royal Hawaiian Tiki Bar–  The Royal Hawaiian is a tropical bar with super fun looking tiki cocktails, good menu, and we love that type of atmosphere, so I figured we would take a closer look.  It is a street over from Heisler Park, where I figure would be a great location to take a night stroll along the water.


Thousand StepsI keep coming across this as a must see place, and watched so many youtube videos on how to get there, because there is a catch!  First, this beach is gorgeous, and is the largest in Laguna. Second, there is a large cave at the south end of the beach that can be entered when the tide is out, and basically only then, because then the entrance is exposed but you have to make it back before high tide, or well, you are SOOL.

img_2668Laguna Trolley– Laguna Beach offers a free trolley service, and I love trolleys, so I HAVE TO RIDE ONE!  They actually may come in more handy than I am joking about, because they have two lines of service that hit near or on most of the spots we are looking to go. Also, that app I mentioned earlier, they have a trolley tracker in it so you can see where the trolleys are going.


Driftwood Kitchen– This restaurant is set up along the water, and the views look amazing.  So does the food.  It gets really great reviews, and the photos I have been seeing online are surreal.  


Pirate Tower/Victoria Beach– Happened upon this blog while researching Pirate Tower. Gah, it’s just amazing.  The photographer takes us on a trip to find Pirate Tower on Victoria Beach…and it’s just dreamy.  Thinking my family would love to take a trip over to see the tower, and maybe just explore the beach, I know I would!   


Let me know if you have any recommendations for Laguna.

Next up… La Jolla/San Diego!!!