Christmas in the Sun

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December 25th 2015
Published: January 1st 2016
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R: Christmas Eve was our first day in the city. First things first, we skyped into the Christmas Eve drinks in MK. Then, we started out by exploring the gas lamp quarter (it has electric lighting now!) which is a fun area full of bars, restaurants and shops in a "historic" style. Historic in America generally means anything before 1997. It's quite sweet and has changed a lot since my last visit in 2007. We took a stroll across the convention centre to the water front - it's not the sea though, San Diego bay is protected by a large spit called the Coronado. Along the waterfront is the seaport village - a little community of Spanish style bars, shops and and restaurants. We thought it about high time for a Margarita in the sun. There is also an Embarcadero with some tall ships along here - but we didn't have time to explore those.

C: When we arrived in San Diego, the first job was to buy our Christmas food. Americans definitely have a two-tier shopping system. Walmart is cheap, but doesn't have much, unless you want to buy enough Diet Coke for a football team and is very
Christmas DinnerChristmas DinnerChristmas Dinner

Nearly perfect...
busy. Not a pleasant experience but we did manage to get most of the basics. Then they have smaller supermarkets - much nicer, more interesting food but ridiculously expensive. We treated ourselves to a few bits from there too though the concept of party food is also lost on Americans. Anyway we loaded up and so were ready for Christmas.

On the day itself we headed to the city cathedral in the morning. All the buses, trams and uber run on Christmas so getting around isn't a problem. Most restaurants and bars are open too so after church we wandered into the downtown and had a look around. So much busier than anywhere would be in England. After a Christmas Starbucks (Roger even gave up on his usual Americano for a more festive peppermint mocha!) we headed back to the apartment. We decided to eat later in the day so that we could Skype the family at a sensible time but in the evening Roger made a fantastic feast that was 95% as good as it would have been in the UK. He even made bread sauce from scratch as you can't buy it here and we finished off with the Christmas pudding and brandy butter we had managed to get in the British shop in Santa Monica. As a nod to American Christmas tradition we also had a pumpkin pie.

R: On Boxing Day (which isn't a thing here) we headed for Balboa park, a monument to Spanish colonial architecture on a hill, filled with Japanese, rose and cactus gardens, botanical house, the worlds largest outdoor organ, and the famous San Diego zoo. The weather was stunning, so we hung about until it started to get a bit cold, then headed back to town. I had a bit of a further stroll about and saw the gas lamp district light up.

That evening we had tickets for the San Diego Gulls v Ontario Reign Ice hockey match. This was an AHL match, not NHL (the premiere league of ice hockey) - San Diego aren't that far ahead. We went into it knowing that SD had won the last few encounters. It was a good match - the teams were pretty evenly matched in terms of possession, but shots on goal was heavily in favour of Ontario. The rest we understood as best as possible - we didn't have Gareth (my normal Ice Hockey guide) with us to explain the rules. In fact, we had no one next to us to ask, as the guys that sat down next to me were loud and proud of the Gulls and the lady in front who had young children asked them to be quiet - so they got louder, then moved... The match ended 4-1 to San Diego after several fights and bloodshed on the ice. We noted that the girls that had been skating round and collecting the loose ice (in skimpy tops and short shorts) were replaced by a fat man in a polo shirt and baseball cap when it came to clearing up the blood.

Next day, I went off to the Old town state park. San Diego was originally another Missionary location, and this was the site of the old Pueblo (village) and mission, before it moved upstream due to a lack of water. (In all our travels here there is a recurring theme of pioneers and missionaries relocating after poor initial choices of locations). Now it's quite a fun museum piece with restaurants and dance performances. After that, I headed on a bus to Pacific Beach and walked down to Mission beach, which is a couple of miles walk. The area is full of bars and restaurants - if it weren't late I could have easily stopped for a beer to watch the sunset. A girl followed me down the beach with a Selfie stick. I have come to hate these contraptions with a growing passion. Instead of watching the scenery she was recording herself walking down the beach. She only stopped to detach it have it so she could ask me to take photos of her jumping on the beach. Some days it's nice to see the view as well as capturing your face in front of it...

Next came the Mission brewery tour - the closest of the craft brewing movements breweries to our appartment. Craft brewing is exploding in the US and you can see why... The standard American beers taste like water! There are 250 craft breweries in the San Diego area, most of them just focusing on IPAs as the weather is so hot they generally go for hoppy beers. Anyway, the tour was sparsely attended so we all got double or triple tasting portions which was great while having a look around the relatively new brewing equipment (the brewery was mothballed during prohibition and the name was only brought back by a new owner in the early 2000s). I stuck around for a chat with the tour guide and other participants afterwards and managed to order an 8% beer that had been aged in a Bourbon cask.

For our final day we had a few chores to undertake but we also took the bus out to be spit (Coronando, for those who have skipped to the end) and the posh and pretty little town around it. It's a long beach from one end to another so we only walked a bit of it, but it's great views and the Hotel Coronando is quite special to visit too. We got chatting to loads of people on the bus - I don't know what happened but suddenly we got pounced upon for our accents. The weather clouded over, so we headed for the cinema and saw the latest Star Wars, having managed to avoid any spoilers up till then.

And that was Christmas in San Diego.

Additional photos below
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Cactus garden

Balboa Park

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