Back in June, Simon and I took off to the States for a week and we shared our time between LA (as seen in this post) and San Diego. Today I’m sharing with you what we got up to in San Diego, not to mention our incredible hotel, The Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina.
It took us roughly 2 1/2 hours to drive from LA to San Diego on a weekday evening. It’s quite a pleasant drive, mainly along Interstate 5, although not all of it coastline driving, it’s still very appealing to a British eye who’s sick of the sight of the M25. If you’re planning on driving yourself let me fill you in on the toll roads. We were very confused about these as our car rental place, Avis, didn’t give us any info on what they were and how much they cost at all. Basically a toll road is not what you’d expect, it’s not a road with toll booths but a road with a special fast lane, located on the far right which you can use for a charge. This charge varies depending on the time of day and the length of your journey but if you need more info, visit this site where you can calculate your toll charge and see which routes have a toll lane. Most rental cars will be fitted with a special little grey box which is fixed to the windscreen, theres a section which flips out for use in the toll lanes and you will then be billed by the car rental company so you don’t need to do anything. We left during rush hour so we decided to use the toll lane so we could get to San Diego as soon as poss and relax for the rest of the evening. Another useful lane which they have in the States is the Car Pool Lane. This is for cars with more than one person and again is located on the far right. During rush hour these lanes are super handy as most of the traffic tends to be one person per car commuters, and we just whizzed past them all as they were stuck at a stand still.
Where to stay
Our hotel, The Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina was situated right on the Marina. We pulled up in ‘Bumblebee’ (yeh remember the bright yellow car from LA? He’s still with us) outside the hotel, and were greeted by the Valet attendants who quickly whipped out our luggage and thankfully hid Bumblebee in the hotel’s multi-storey Valet parking lot. The lobby in this hotel is huge and as we entered there was a buzz of people, they were hosts to some sort of conference, but we were checked in within 5 minutes and whisked off to our suite in the South Tower. To view this hotel from the outside, it looks like a giant mirrored mirage towering out of the ground amidst a sea of super yachts. We were staying in an Executive Suite on the 24th floor with a view of the Marina, but the city view rooms are equally as impressive, because boy is that one heck of a skyline (sorry London!). Our suite was incredible, spreading across 448sqft with a generous lounge area and balcony and a separate bedroom with en suite. Admittedly it was only once I climbed into bed that night that I really came to to appreciate this hotel. The bed was like sleeping on a cloud, never have I slept so well in my life, and even Simon commented on it which is really saying something. We sunk into a down topped mattress, with the most luxurious linen sheets and that night, I slept a solid 8 hours. Jet lag? What jet lag? We were so inspired by this one bed that when we got home we spent a small fortune on replicating it, down duvet, down mattress topper, down pillows….down heaven!
The beauty of being in a suite on the 24th floor is that we had our own executive lounge where we could go for breakfast, and don’t even get me started on the breakfast, I just dribbled (literally) thinking about it…I’ll leave you with 2 words: crispy, bacon. No seriously though, the breakfast was incredible. Simon had been moaning that he hadn’t had a proper American breakfast while we were in LA so when he caught sight of a buffet filled with said crispy American bacon, scrambled egg, muffins, sausage patties and of course pancakes, he was happy as Larry. Of course for those of you that wish not to fill your arteries with fat (whatevs) there was a colourful selection of fresh fruit, pastries and cereals. We were out exploring during the day but they did also have a slot for lunch nibbles and a little something in the evening if you were feeling peckish.
The pool area is surrounded by palm-trees-a-plenty which is exactly what you want when being anywhere in Cali. There’s a rather convenient bar and separate seating area if you want a break from the pool, or if you just was to sloth all day, pool bar staff will come and serve you directly from your lounger, hurrah! On site is also a rather impressive gym, which naturally I went no where near (obvs) but at least it’s there if you want it but what I did think was pretty amazing is that you can request a yoga matt and in your room there are several yoga programmes to select on your TV. Yoga is one of the only forms of exercise that I actually enjoy so this was pretty handy for me. You can also hire sail boats, power boats and jet skis directly from the hotel or if water sports aren’t your thing why not hire one of the fun bicycles, preferably the one where you can sit out of sight of the person in front, while they do all the work…those are the best kinds fyi 😉 If all round physical exertion isn’t your cup of tea then just go and hide in the Spa, they’ve got the lot; body wraps, facials, mani/pedis, massage and mens treatments.
This hotel literally had everything we needed, including a resident Starbucks in the lobby (#winning) and I’d like to thank all the staff there for their hospitality and for making our stay so enjoyable.
What to do in the city
The hotel was in the perfect spot for exploring the city. We started our first day by walking along the the sea front, there are a few shops, bars and restaurants until you reach a huge naval ship which is now the USS Midway Museum. We cut up into the city to start exploring the different areas starting in Little Italy, a quaint Italian quarter lined with Pizzerias and other Italian eateries. It’s also home to the GoCars, hilarious little yellow cars, not dissimilar to something out of Whacky Races which you can hire to explore the city, guided by talking GPS. Priced from about £25 I would definitely advise doing this, it’s so much fun you you get to look like a prize idiot in a helmet razzing along inside an angry bee.
The Gaslamp Quarter of San Diego is also a pretty cool spot. This area really comes alive at night and appears to be the social hub of the city. It has a New Orleans vibe about it and is the most historic area of the city now filled with restaurants of every kind, shops, hotels and Art Galleries. It’s also home to Petco Park, the stadium for the San Diego Padres major league baseball team. We were gutted there were no games on while we were there but check here to see their upcoming home games to tie in with your trip. A baseball game is high on our list of things to do during our US road trip in August/September so fingers crossed we will see at least one game somewhere.
Where to eat
Simon really should be writing this section because there was one restaurant in particular that he loved (like borderline obsessed over), so much so, we went there twice; Joe’s Crab Shack. Now if you really want to go to an authentic crab shack, this is the place to go. Don’t like crab? Don’t worry, me either, I can’t eat any form of seafood but I had an amazing chicken club sandwich whilst Simon tucked into, well, crab stuff. Just the decor of this place is unlike anything we have in the UK, this place is proper America.
As I mentioned earlier the Gaslamp Quarter is full of every kind of restaurant you could imagine so if you want a hard decision to make then head over there. Along the sea front you’ll find seafood style restaurants with a view, but we also stumbled upon a Pizzeria and a surf shack style bar & grill. If you head further in to the city around the baseball stadium (Petco Park) you’ll be spoilt for choice with sports bars, these were my faves as I can sit and surf the wifi, eating as much fried food as I can stuff in my face whilst Simon is happy watching a multitude of sports across roughly 100 giant screens. My faves being Bubs at the Ballpark and SD Taproom which has the most amazing buffalo wings and if you’re a beer lover you’ll find 50 beers on tap and over 100 craft bottles to choose from.
Outside the City
The city of San Diego is a pretty cool place to be but this is California and so I wanted to see beaches, lots of beaches. So on our second day we went in search of sandy shores, and there ‘shore’ ain’t a lack of them, haaaaa! Our first stop was Mission beach, probably the most well known of the beaches and the place to be for surf bums. With rows of shack style street food outlets and restaurants it’s pretty perfect for grabbing a spot of lunch. Mission beach is a surfers paradise and just off the beach itself are surf lodges galore, so girls if you’re single…this is the place to hang out 😉 If you keep walking along Mission beach you’ll find it merges with Pacific beach, which is not as crowded and you’ll find the cool kids hanging out here, it’s such a Californian cliche and I love it.
Slightly further north up the coast is La Jolla Cove. If you think of yourself as some kind of David Attenborough like me, you’re going to want to visit this place! La Jolla Cove is home to the local Sea Lions and Harbour Seals and chances are (unless there’s rough surf/really bad weather) you will see them and even walk amongst them. La Jolla cove stretches pretty far but the best spot to see them (you’ll probably smell them first) is from the Cave Store down to the Childrens Pool (see map here). To get close to them you’re going to be walking along a lot of rocks so bare this in mind when choosing your footwear for the day. If you’re going to San Diego guys, I really can’t encourage you more to visit La Jolla, it’s such an incredible experience! If you’re looking to eat whilst at La Jolla you have to go to Georges, nothing beats that view and it’s been votes San Diego’s best restaurant, just go, you’ll soon see why.