First day in San Diego, weather cool in the 70’s but sunny. Nice day to go to the coast, right? We hop in our rented car (a steal at $70 for the three days we need it – holiday weekend rates in a business destination again!) and head up to La Jolla and Torrey Pines State Park.
This is the only place in the world where Torrey Pines grow. There were more many years ago, spread out over a larger piece of land than this park, but with cattle ranching and farming, the pines were disappearing. Disappearing, until, sometime in the 1890’s, some concerned tree-loving Californian conservationists convinced the state to buy this property and preserve the pines. There’s an old lodge converted into the State Park headquarters and lots of trails from the top of the hill through the pines to the bluffs and down to the beach. It’s the day after Thanksgiving and the trails are busy with families and groups of friends, all here for the natural beauty. We find a little squirrel guarding the steep cliff, just daring someone to challenge (or feed) him.
We climb down to the ocean, wind around a narrow walkway, and we are on the wide, seaweed-strewn beach just below the famous Torrey Pines Golf Course. My shoes, as if by magic, immediately come off and my toes are happily squishing in the dark sand. Morgan climbs the cliffs above, wanting us to join him, but all the cliff trails are going the wrong direction. A little miffed, he climbs anyway. Back on the beach, a group of seabirds skitters in and out with the waves. George finds some graffiti which he thinks describes him. Around some rocks, we find some folks sunning… nude… oops, time to turn back.
On the way back to the hotel, we drive through La Jolla proper, looking for the famed harbor seal and sea lion populations. There’s a nice promenade along the cliffs right in town that links the two, but the only places to park are along the street and there’s not a free spot in sight. Just as we’re about to give up and call it a drive-by, we see someone pulling out right ahead. Success! It’s close to the Children’s Pool, a little cove with a beach built for the kids, but taken over by the seals. They look like huge stuffed sausages and honk- bark whenever another seal steals into their territory. The confrontations are fun to watch – fighting, barking, sausages rolling and scooting to find the best place to sun.
About a 15 minute walk the other way we find the sea lions. We can hear them way before we can see them. They seem to bark for no apparent reason; maybe it’s just for the sheer joy of it. They live in a part of the shore protected from boaters and easily take over the place on the rocks, in the water, everywhere. We poke around the nearby tidepools, searching for urchins and rock-covered anemones.
Back to the room for a quick refresh and then Thai food for dinner. Here’s my latest discovery: Groupon for travel! For those of you who don’t know Groupon, it’s a company that offers super-reduced prices on local businesses (spas, restaurants, dance lessons, tours, specialty stores, you name it). When you sign up at http://www.groupon.com/r/uu1757403 (use this link and I get credit), you receive one deal per day by email and if enough people sign up for it, you get it. I’ve found great deals on spa treatments, a food tour of Virginia Beach (yum!) and photography services for super-low prices.
Here’s the travel deal: Groupon is alive and well in many other US cities, including San Diego. Just a few days before we left, I took advantage of a restaurant deal close to our hotel – pay $25 for $50 food credit – printed out the coupon, and the upshot was a great meal in a different neighborhood for an awesome price. Love Groupon!