San Diego-ho-ho

When I was 11, 20 seemed really old. After the mysterious teenage years that were still to befall me, 20 was the age it all ended and people became proper adults, right?

Now that I'm 3 x 11 plus the number you first thought of then take off a few for good measure, 20 seems very different. You see (some of you may know this but some of you won't): my 20-year-old self came to San Diego and lived here for a year as an exchange student. I therefore have a lot of affection for San Diego, and have come back to visit several times since then, but never for as long as this current trip. So it's only now that I'm truly realising how little I really got to know San Diego at all as that 20-year-old Scot who spent her teenage exodus in southern California.

Of course, much of this city I'm seeing afresh this time round because my focus these days is on how to occupy two toddlers in between wiping the clods of dirt from the back garden off their faces and prising the iPad from their surprisingly strong little hands. First stop: Balboa Park, an absolute cornucopia of culture. This beautiful big parkland is home to an array of museums, as well as featuring pretty outdoor cafes, fountains and walkways. Oh, and it is also home to the largest outdoor pipe organ in the world (sealed away in the shot below). Who knew?


We started our exploration at the San Diego Air & Space Museum. It seemed to be far more about air than space unless you bought the special space exhibition ticket (which we didn't), but that was fine because the planes were what we were there to see. They also had a good kids' zone where little ones could experiment with air flows, gear cogs and computer games.




After a short lunch stop we decided we felt brave enough to tackle two museums in one day (completely refuting a point I made in a previous post) and so we went on to visit the smaller (no pun intended) San Diego Model Railroad Museum. Young Master H was particularly intrigued by this one and could happily watch the little engines go round and round, so he and Mr H actually popped back for a second visit another day shortly before closing time as they offer $2 tickets in the last fifteen minutes - bargain!


The following day I insisted it was time we started making our place feel a bit Christmassy, so we toured a few shops until we found a cheap but cheerful wee tree and some simple lights and decorations and had a jolly lovely time putting it all together. I genuinely think this is my favourite tree that I've put up in my own place to date: the small string of white twinkling lights give a warm glow to the sparsely furnished living room (great when renting with toddlers but it does mean the place doesn't ever feel luxurious), and the patches of baubles all grouped in small conglomerates round the bottom third of the tree make me smile as I recall the glee with which our two children properly helped with the decorations this year for the first time. It doesn't look much in a photograph (mind you, I never think Christmas tree photos look anywhere near as impressive as they are in real life), but having told you all about it it would be cruel to deny you a visual.


One of San Diego's most upmarket suburbs is La Jolla (pronounced "Haw-ya"). If the name sounds vaguely familiar, it's mentioned in the Beach Boys' song, 'Surfin' USA': "All over La Jolla, at Waimia Bay...". Anyway, helpfully some seals have also taken up residence there so we visited them for a low-key afternoon the day after we'd done all our decorating.



We had looked into staying in La Jolla but the properties are all rather grand and much bigger than we need, so instead we're staying in an area called Pacific Beach but on the side of the bay in a part called Crown Point. Our house here is all on one level, something we've come to realise is really helpful when travelling with young children, but the winning feature was the fully enclosed back garden. The kids play there for a while almost every day, and I can dry wet shoes and untumblable (if it isn't a word it should be) clothes in the sun - yay!

Pacific Beach (PB) is an area I rarely visited as a student because it's full of bars and I was one digit off the magic 21, but it's fairly central so its location, along with the availability of both the beach and the bay, made it a prime choice for this trip. We did head up to the beach one morning, but while the weather is still delightful (20 degrees and clear blue skies almost every day), it's more scramble-along-the-sand and run-along-the-shared-path-narrowly-avoiding-a-collision-with-a-cyclist kind of weather, so we tend to stroll along the bay walk and head for the parks.





And on the way back home we're treated to some killer sunsets.


Even when framed by our colourful Christmas lights above the kitchen window.


While we're on the subject of lights (I write this post as I go; can't you tell?), Americans are known for being rather into decorating their houses, so one day when we came back from the park quite late we strolled round the block to take in some of our neighbours' displays.



And so many houses proudly display the American flag too.


That about wraps up our first week in San Diego, with perhaps the exception of a trip to the tide pools at Point Loma. Mr H looked for creatures, Master H looked for good stones to throw (and had a minor meltdown when I tasked him with only throwing stones that he could pick up with one hand), and Miss H looked super cute.




Coming up: Old Town, more dinosaurs, and the USS Midway.


Most read posts

What to pack in a baby's hand luggage

Top 10 toddler 'tainment on a plane

Travelling with two toddlers: single or double stroller?

Moving to California: how to apply for your California driver licence

All play and no work

Christmas away from home

Oh, Canada

A Californian Christmas

Trains and boats and planes - and wagons

Farewell, Los Angeles