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Published: November 30th 2014
North of the border
The Mexican border fence(on the top of the hill in case you are wondering), has to be seen to be believed.
So, I think I left you heading back from Pisa after a few days. Normally returing home from a trip isn't such a good thing, however this time I wasn't too upset to be returning back to England. Arriving back on the Wednesday afternoon from Italy, I had a quick turnaround before heading back out of the country the next morning.
Bags repacked I headed to Heathrow to get a flight to Dallas then connecting to San Diego to visit my brother for a few days. My flight was via Dallas not because I had some long held ambition to visit the home of the Ewings, but I actually managed to get some flights on my long collected BA airmiles, so the indirect flight was tolerated for its cheapness and the fact that it was business class, oh poor me. It was also the start my new way of documenting my holidays, instead of the usual '#Selfie' I decided I would '#Ginnie' and share photos of my gin and tonics around the world with my friends.
As you can imagine, the flight was lovely and all was going to plan until I got off the plane at Dallas, I
Tijuana bull ring
The city is so close to the border, you can hear the roar of the bulls
had no idea how huge Dallas-Fortworth airport was and clearly the couple of hours between my flights wasn't enough for the joy of American immigration and for the first time ever, I missed a plane, shocking. I only missed it by about 5 minutes, picture me running full pelt down the terminal just to arrive at the desk just as they close it, I was not amused, especially as the next flight out was delayed as well. Suffice to say my arrival in San Diego that day was not to schedule and by the time big bro picked me up and checking in to the Lafayette hotel, there was time for a quick drink in the bar and then bed time, after all I had been up rather a long time.
The next morning after a good sleep, we headed for breakfast in Ocean Beach, one of the many beach areas around San Diego, I did spare a thought for those of you who were working hard as I sat eating my breakfast gazing on the Pacific and watching the surfers enjoy the waves. After a post breakfast stroll along the pier in Ocean beach (so many piers in
Ride 'em cowboy!
Check out that horse's backside, rather large, perfect for its previous life as a circus horse.
California) we decided to take a two hour cruise around San Diego harbour. Having been to San Diego quite a few times now, we were sort of running out of tourist activities to do as I've done the majority now, but the harbour cruise is one I hadn't yet done. The first hour takes you around the North bay of San Diego, and the second hour, you guessed it, the South bay. If you haven't been to San Diego before, you may not be aware of the fact that it has a huge US Naval base there (think Top Gun), but the presence of this makes it a very interesting place to visit if you enjoy a good bit of military hardware. The south bay is stacked full of ships of various types, aircraft carriers, hospital ships, stealth warships, very impressive indeed and very interesting to cruise around, almost makes you want to join up as they have the best toys to play with and makes you pleased we are on the same side as the US...
The weather in California was HOT and so after the cruise, it was time for a quick dip in the hotel pool.
Miss Coco and I, living the Western dream.
After over a year of Chinese lessons, one of the best things I've learnt is Chinese for jeans, 牛仔裤 (
Niúzǎikù) literally translates as 'Cowboy pants'.
I'd stayed in the Lafayette hotel on a previous trip to San Diego, but since then they had refurbished it and now the pool was a hangout for local hipsters. Apart from being one the palest people there as per usual, I also seemed to be the only person there without a tattoo, they are very popular indeed, I almost reached for the felt tip pen to design my own.
The following morning we got into the car and headed north to Laguna Beach and then to Newport Beach, in the heart of 'The OC'. Both areas had some fantastic houses and Newport Beach has a really cool little ferry to take your car across over the lagoon. Unfortunately I was a bit lazy with my camera at this point and was just using my phone to take pictures, and said pictures were spoilt by me not realising I had suncream all over the lens, so I'm afraid there aren't any nice pictures of the ferry to share on this blog, I'll let you Google it. That evening we headed to visit my brother's friend Carolyn in Carlsbad, I've mentioned her hospitality in previous blogs and this time was
no different, as always she put on an amazing dinner party in my honour in her fabulous home, always a welcome treat.
On the Monday, my brother had to head back to work, so I decided to hire a car and do a bit of exploring and a few activities. I picked up my beautiful Chevy Sonic and thought I'd head off a few miles north of San Diego to La Jolla to have a go at kayaking. I've been to La Jolla before and have driven around San Diego before as well, but this time I didn't have a map or Sat nav, big mistake! It is only when you don't have a map you realise how bad signposts in California can be. La Jolla should have been a 20 minute drive, after half an hour the wrong way up an interstate I had to turn around and finally found my way there after about an hour or so, this could have been a record in the time it takes to get there. Finally I manage to get there, find the kayak place and even find a parking place, this is when I started to miss public transport
Anyway, I signed up for a sea kayaking trip to see the caves of La Jolla, two hours of sun and surf, my poor frizzy hair. The first challenge was to get the kayak over the breaking surf and luckily it being most people's first time, we all got pushed out over the waves so it wasn't quite as bad as Tom Hanks in 'Castaway' (of course further into the trip, I had a bit more of a 'Castaway' experience). Once over the surf we re-grouped and then headed towards the cliffs and the seven caves of La Jolla. Kayaking was a lot of fun, a bit tiring on the arms but there was plenty of resting time as we stopped to look at the sharks (only Leopard ones though) and the California State fish, the Garibaldi fish, which are bright orange and easy to spot, also La Jolla was where the creator to Dr Seuss lived, his house overlooking the ocean on the cliffs. Returning back to shore was a lot of fun as you have to ride the surf in, that was a lot of fun and I managed not to fall off my kayak,
The Getty Centre
I refuse to write 'Center.'
some of the other people weren't quite so skillful. I decided to stay on the beach a bit longer for a swim and realised swimming on a surf beach isn't very practical and almost got knocked off my feet, time to head back I thought. After a few more wrong turns I got back to the hotel and headed off to my brother's for a BBQ.
The following day I'd booked a horse ride 'down Mexico way', not quite in Mexico, but almost. The ranch was right next to the fence that runs along the border between the US and Mexico, I hadn't realised there was such a thing and when you see it, it is quite amazing. After the previous day's navigational nightmares I thought it best to set off with plenty of time to get lost, fortunately I only made a couple of small mistakes and arrived in good time for my ride. The ranch had many other animals as well as the horses such as llamas and camels, but luckily I was on a horse, Miss Coco, for the ride.
I had never ridden on a Western saddle before so I was keen to give
it a go, and boy, it is so much more comfortable than the English ones we have here. You also feel a lot more secure with the large stirrups and the pommel to hold on, I was converted within about 5 minutes to the ways of the West. The ride took us along the Tijuana river basin to the Pacific Ocean, sandwiched between the Mexican border and a US Helicopter airbase, just as well Miss Coco was a very placid mount, otherwise I could have been in trouble. Walking along under the baking sun, my guide explained to me how she and her horse used to ride in a horse show called 'Cavalia' and following on behind I could see why her horse would have been suitable, it had the largest, flattest behind I'd seen on a horse in a long time. I guess this is one of the qualities you need in a circus horse, especially if you are standing on it as it canters around the ring, impressive. As we walked along the dusty road we reached the end of the fence and the ocean, Tijuana is right over the border and you can see the old bull
ring and the rest of the city really easily, the fence finally dips into the ocean, all a bit bizarre. After an enjoyable, but very hot ride, on our return our horses got a well deserved shower, I was in need of one too but had to head back to the hotel for mine, that's if I didn't get lost along the way. A final dinner with my brother, then it was time to pack up as the next day I was heading north to catch a flight out of LAX.
Driving in California is sometimes a lot of fun, but not so much when you have to drive through LA, not my most favourite pastime. As my flight out wasn't until later in the evening, I drove up from San Diego, made a bit of an idiot of myself trying to get some petrol then headed to the Getty Centre on the north of the city. The centre is free to visitors, but naturally you have to pay about $15 for car parking to make up for it. Still, it has a cute little train that takes you up the hill to the centre and the views over
LA are great from there. The centre has a lot of famous works of art, sculptures and some lovely gardens and is well worth a visit. Also, as it was so hot, the air conditioning was a welcome relief. I had thought about driving into Hollywood but the lack of Sat Nav put me off and the Getty Centre was straight off Highway 405 and that I could manage. I wandered around for a while enjoying the gardens and art and the smog over LA, the city is so vast, it is a bit crazy when you look at it from the edges.
Before I headed off to the airport, I took one last drive to the ocean, Santa Monica this time, the end of Route 66. Also it has yet another pier, but is a pretty town, if town is the right word as all the areas just seem to merge into one in LA, just one big conurbation. As the sun started to set, I sat in traffic for about an hour and then made it to LAX all ready to board my flight to my next destination...
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