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Trip Report 7-DAY SOJOURN IN SO. CAL

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The origin of our short jaunt to Southern California was some American Airlines FF miles in our accounts. Our totals allowed for a domestic flight, so we decided to utilize them for a get-away over Easter. week. Award seats being restricted, one area which appealed to us, and which was available for mileage usage, was San Diego. Although we’ve explored the city several times in the past, our aim this trip was to enjoy the coastline from La Jolla to Laguna Beach. With the almost 800-mile California coastline, only sections can be appreciated on any trip.

Wednesday, April, 12, 2017 TRAVEL, SAN DIEGO EMBARCADERO
BALBAO PARK, LA JOLLA
Spring had made a surprise early arrival, and the flowering trees and bushes were beginning to show off just as we were preparing to leave. We hoped that they would hang on until our return.
Rising at what seemed the middle of the night, we were off by 5 AM for our 7:50 AM flight to Dallas-Ft. Worth. Traffic was light; Fast Park was an easy drop-off for our car.

Always aiming to arrive early, we had time for a shared omelette breakfast at “The Local”, a nice restaurant at CVG in Terminal A, which we normally do not visit.

Flight is about 2 hours to Dallas and then a short layover before almost 3-hour flight to San Diego. Tom enjoyed his conversation with his seatmate, a Canadian guy who was a new USA citizen from Toronto. He had lived in Laguna Beach and was familiar with the area, and offered a few tips.
Both flights were smooth. The planes seemed either new or had “upgraded” interiors. San Diego Airport seemed larger than what we remembered, and it seemed like a long walk from our arrival to baggage and then another walk to a shuttle bus outside the terminal, for the 10-minute ride to the Rental Car Terminal.

With our Costco reservation, ($233. Per week) the Budget agent asked if we wanted a Camry or a Dodge Charger! The decision was a no-brainer!! We enjoyed the black “muscle car”. Leaving the rental area, there was a convenient pull-over spot to set the GPS’s, find satellite, etc.
Within minutes, we were heading for our 1:15 lunch reservation at the Fish Market, overlooking the bay.

The area around the restaurant has tons of metered spots, but they were all taken, given the overflow from the next-door neighbor, the USS Midway Ship, and the Bob Hope Memorial Park. Even the valet was full. But the Ace Valet guy was good enough to give Tom a special wait for the next valet opening ($10 with restaurant validation).

It was a gorgeous day with cloudless blue skies and sunshine, but the wind along the water made our decision to enjoy a window table inside instead of eating outdoors. Our friendly waitress Mandi introduced us to local Firestone 805 beer which one of us enjoyed along with a Sapporo draft beer. We enjoyed their clam chowder and shared a black cod meal. A nice introductory experience to the San Diego area.

Following lunch, we roamed the park area just outside the Fish Market, taking in the iconic 25 ft. WWII statue of the sailor kissing his welcoming girlfriend and enjoyed having a look at the historic USS Midway, permanently docked on San Diego Bay, and serving as a museum. We were happy that we had explored it on a former trip as it was mobbed.

Another point of interest on the Embarcadero is the memorial to the performer Bob Hope, who entertained the servicemen of all branches in WWII. On the plaza, there are fifteen life-sized bronze statues, each representing a serviceman from a different conflict, arranged as if they are attending a Bob Hope Show. And Bob Hope’s voice singing and entertaining is piped over the area.

We were liking our new Garmin, following the demise of our former one on our last driving trip. Interesting how many long driving trips we’ve done both in the US and in Europe with nothing more than road maps, but now tend to rely on our trusty Garmin.

Although the city of San Diego wasn’t intended to be our focus for this trip, we couldn’t resist the fifteen-minute dive to visit Balboa Park, home to fifteen major museums, including their famous San Diego Zoo, several performing arts venues, and lovely landscaped gardens. Our aim was to re-visit the El Prado pedestrian walkway which features highly ornamented Spanish-Renaissance style buildings, originally constructed for the 1915-16 Panama-California Exposition to commemorate the opening of the Panama Canal. A short visit would enable us to take in the beautiful architecture, and the outstanding landscaping, highlighted with flowers.

We had wanted to visit the Museum of Art to view their special exhibit focusing on Venice, but, unfortunately, the museum was closed on Wednesday. We did visit the Botanical Museum in a unique building constructed of wooden lath, which featured many exotic tropical plants. We made sure to have dessert at “The Prado at Balboa Park”. Cappuccinos and a shared dessert of chocolate Mousse hit the spot.

Following that brief but delightful visit to the El Prado area of Balboa Park, we were off to our hotel destination, Hotel Empress in La Jolla. This hotel had been recommended to us by office personnel in a Delray Beach, FL condo where we had enjoyed a two-week winter escape in February. The office manager there was originally from Laguna Beach and had a few restaurant recommendations for us.

As we pulled up to the Empress Hotel, what a coincidence to be greeted by the bellman, Michael Harmon, a guy from the Delhi neighborhood of Cincinnati, our home. We engaged in lots of Cincinnati talk, having frequented so many of the same places. He is moving back to our city soon, so who knows but that we’ll run into him when we’re back in town.

To take advantage of sunset on our first evening, we had made a reservation at George’s at the Cove which was a pleasant ½ mile walk down Gerard to Prospect St., two of the main streets of La Jolla. Having booked a reservation paid off! The place was teaming with guests. The hostess, who was from nearby Indiana, gave us a primo seat for the evening sunset show.

Although George’s has an interesting menu, we were still feeling quite satisfied from lunch and that dessert at The Prado. A 394 draft for Tom, wine for Margie, some shared nachos, together with grilled octopus for Tom and a Caesar salad topped with multiple shrimp for Margie fit the bill for dinner. The view was the highlight.

Returning to the hotel after the sunset meal was pleasant as the many galleries and other expensive venues we passed were attractively lit. Walking home, we realized our tiredness, even though it was only 8:30 local time. Our 3:30 AM rising this morning EST, and now “gaining” three hours on PST, was catching up.

The Empress Hotel staff had upgraded us to a lovely large room with a partial view of the ocean. The Hotel is clean, shower and bath is newish, internet works well, it’s well-managed and the staff are exceptionally friendly. It’s just that the rooms are a bit “tired”. A big plus is that it’s walkable to Prospect St., the main drag, where the most desirable hotels and restaurants are located, along with the expensive galleries, jewelry and clothing boutiques, and other miscellaneous stores. The Empress Hotel has a convenient location with a much friendlier price than some of the hotels right in the downtown, so it served our needs for this extra get-away.

We were in bed about 9, intending to be up at 7 AM to take advantage of the ocean coast. Wow! A wonderful first day!


Thursday, April 13, 2017 Del Mar Beach; evening in La Jolla

Up at 7, to the 3rd floor “garden room” for a very basic breakfast. As one former guest had written, the breakfast was “enough to get you going.”

Upon arrival at the Empress Hotel, Michael had explained the rules for utilizing street parking, thereby avoiding the $26. valet charge. To take advantage of it, Tom had to move the car from its free overnight parking spot to a new location to take advantage of the one or two-hour day parking.
We’re out by 10, noting the yellow chalk mark on the driver’s side rear tire indicating that the city is checking.

We’re off to enjoy the La Jolla coastal area with the sun, seals, and walkways along the rocky coastline punctuated with scenic beaches. We enjoyed the beautiful coastal houses and twisting roads along the route as we ventured south. The sandstone cliffs which edge the La Jolla Cove, together with the harbor seals, consume a good amount of time. Already we’ve shot a slew of pics.

Our plan for the day was to travel north through beautiful Torrey Pines, home of the well-renowned golf course. We would travel the Torrey Pines Blvd., which passes through the campus of the University of California San Diego to Del Mar for our 1:30 lunch at Jake’s Del Mar Restaurant. We arrived early and parked across the street (2-hour limit for $5) planning to enjoy the beach and walkway which goes for quite a stretch along the coast. Benches are available and the sun feels great as it is another gorgeous day in paradise. Many beach-goers are taking advantage of the weather.

In Jake’s, we have a great seat looking out onto the Del Mar Beach. Each of us has a great fish chowder. We ordered wine, and, for our entrée, we shared a “Seafood Pot”, finishing with cappuccinos. Our waiter Ashley told us about a $10 discount at Duke’s in La Jolla, (where we had discussed having dinner). We called Duke’s from Jake’s and Evelyn, the girl whom Ashley had referred to, answered the call and we “sealed the deal” for 6:15 PM dinner, making sure to save the receipt from Jake’s.

We had switched our car to Jake’s valet service for the meal, and then were off to the Village Plaza for a remembrance visit from about 10 years ago. In the late afternoon, it is not so lively as we had remembered, but has a wonderful view of the Pacific from the upper terrace. We stopped briefly and then decided to head back to La Jolla before the traffic got too busy.

Rush hour seems to start a bit earlier than we’re used to. It’s about 4:30 and a half hour ride back to the Empress Hotel via Torrey Pines Blvd. The timing for the overnight free parking is perfect as monitoring ends at 6 pm and resumes tomorrow morning at 8 for one free hour.

We stopped in the hotel for a little freshening up for dinner before trekking the ½ mile to Duke’s. We are happy that we made reservations was there is a 45-minute wait. We chose to eat just inside from the outdoor patio, thinking that it would be a shield from the cool breeze. Even though the table had a decent view, we soon realized that our table was in a breezeway, and did not have the advantage of the heaters only a few feet away on the patio. So…lesson for next time. Be seated on the patio.

Margie had ahi which was prepared to perfection, while Tom had the “two-fish” special, one of which was excellent, but the other dry. Our $10 discount was applied. We left with mixed feelings.

We learned the origins of the name “Duke’s”. Duke Kahanmoku assumed legendary status in two sports: swimming and surfing, where he won numerous medals, including Olympic gold. The restaurant, with its Hawaiian flare, offered an appealing menu, but a warmer spot would have made the experience more enjoyable. On a less breezy evening, the second-floor open terrace would be a desirable spot.

Back to the Empress Hotel via Gerard St. where the store fronts are more interesting and the glamour quite outstanding. We have more Cincinnati discussion with Michael and Shamus at the front desk and decided to reserve the Monday night before we venture back home. Considering the coastal traffic, we wanted to be closer to the airport, and have a couple more hours to enjoy the outstanding coast in La Jolla.

We enjoyed our day, especially having had a good sleep which stood in bold contrast to yesterday’s fatigue.


Friday, April 14, 2017 Northward to Laguna Beach; Mission San Luis Rey,
San Clemente Pier, Evening in Laguna Beach

Today the plan was to begin our drive north to Laguna Beach, with a stopover at the Mission San Luis Rey near Oceanside. We would spend the weekend in Laguna Beach where we’re looking forward to meeting our friends, Tom and Tracy. On Monday, we’ll return to La Jolla on evening there before saying farewell to So. Cal.

The La Jolla coast is so beautiful that, before leaving, we enjoyed it for a while, taking a few more pics of those interesting seals at the cove. Then we headed north via I-5 North; exiting at Encinitas for a mid-morning break where we discovered the attractive Lotus Café and Juice Bar. Nice and enjoyable local flavor of a coastal town.

After that welcoming stop, we headed north via the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) to Oceanside, and then we detoured about 6 miles off the PCH to Mission San Luis Rey. Since the missions played such an integral role in the development of California, if we’re in the vicinity of one we make a visit.
It was Good Friday and the regularly scheduled noon Mass did not take place. There were quite a few people in the chapel observing the 12-3 PM sacred time. Also, due to it being Good Friday, the office and museum are not open. However, we were quite satisfied to enjoy the imposing view of the sprawling white building atop the hill, take in the chapel, view the refreshing grounds and see the cemetery with the famous Pepper Tree, said to be the oldest in the country. The mission is a well-preserved building and still holds retreats. Because of its size, it is referred to as the “King of the Missions.”

The rose garden was outstanding, but could be viewed only from the perimeter, as the paths were reserved for retreatants, several of whom were walking in the garden.

Moving on north, we traveled I-5 passing through Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton which sprawls across more than 125 acres of coastal and mountain terrain and is used for military training.
One highlight of the day was a lunch stop in San Clemente. We set the GPS for the Fisherman’s Restaurant and Café…right on the pier. As we wove down the intricate little streets, we were happy to be led by the GPS and arrive at the beautiful pier of San Clemente. We were lucky to find parking on a hilly street near the pier.

To access the pier, there is a stairs and passageway under the tracks of the Amtrak Surfliner which we had taken up the coast to San Juan Capistrano a few years ago.

Sipping a beer at the bar made the wait at the Fisherman’s Restaurant seem short, and we were happy to score an oceanside seat for our bowls of spicy clam chowder and a shared seafood fettuccini. Great place with the waves lapping beneath the deck and a beautiful beach and with surfers enjoying the absolutely gorgeous day.

Finishing lunch, we scurried to the car as the $1.50 per hour meter was ticking away quickly. San Clemente Pier, with the Fisherman’s Restaurant and Café, is definitely a place to revisit.

Traffic was heavy on this Friday mid-afternoon…so it was onward northbound to Laguna Beach. It seemed like more of a drive than the roughly 65 miles from La Jolla.

Laguna Beach began as an artist colony, and its reputation as an artists’ mecca is alive today. Its downtown area is pedestrian-friendly, lined with art galleries, clothing and jewelry boutiques, specialty shops and restaurants. In addition to the natural beauty of the ocean coast and the coastal canyons, Laguna Beach has its share of cultural opportunities. This trip, our interest in Laguna Beach was mostly the natural beauty of the beach and surrounding bluffs. Museums would be of interest in less pleasant weather.

We arrived at the Laguna Brisas Hotel around 4 PM, and easily checked in. The hotel is on the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH), a busy thoroughfare. Our 4th floor room has a view of the ocean across the terrace walkway in front of the rooms. $20 to park in the hotel, but that is a welcome thing here. We chilled out for a while before freshening up for our 7 PM dinner at the Nirvana Grill, one restaurant which had been recommended.

The atmosphere of the Nirvana Grill is classy, with a menu to match. After our more than ample lunch in San Clemente, we relaxed for more than a few minutes with drinks. Then we each ordered French onion soup, and a salad with perfectly sautéed scallops. Both the ambience and the food were special. We finished our meal with cappuccinos.

Again, we had experienced a full day, from the enjoyment of the coast in La Jolla, to our coffee stop in Encinitas, to the Mission San Luis Rey, to lunch in San Clemente, and capped off with a light meal at the Nirvana Grille.

We headed back to Laguna Brisas Hotel for the evening, not realizing that our headlights were not on automatic. A concerned driver in a car next to us pointed it out. Rental car. . .no manual. No obvious switch. So, we pulled over to search for the headlight controls. More frustrating when we’re tired.
Another busy but satisfying day.


Saturday, April 15, 2017 Laguna Beach Downtown; Lunch with Friends Tom & Tracy
Evening trolley overview of the PCH through Laguna Beach

Our anticipated event of the day was lunch with our friends Tom and Tracy who were traveling from their home in Pasadena to meet us. We rose at the usual 7AM time and were off to breakfast at 8:30 AM.

Breakfast at Las Brisas Hotel is considerably better than at the Empress Hotel…eggs and sausage available. We brought our meals up to our 4th floor outdoor sunny area, where the tables with umbrellas made it comfortable. A delightful location to enjoy the ocean across the way, surrounded by the plants and flowers on the terrace.

It’s another wonderful day in paradise! We crossed the PCH and walked down to the water. About 11 AM we decided to take advantage of the free trolley to “downtown”. Our plans were to meet Tom & Tracy at Nick’s Restaurant near the town center at 1 PM. The trolley stop was one block from our hotel and would avoid the hassle of parking.

Broadway and the Main St. Beach are intersected by PCH where the crowd and excitement is centered in Laguna Beach. The beach boardwalk is next to the Historic Laguna Hotel where we checked out the splendid view from their restaurant as well as their outdoor patio. From the restaurant, the boardwalk area circles around the beach area.

A protest was in progress in the park calling for President Trump to release his taxes. A couple hundred+ participants were waving signs, and cars passing on the PCH were honking in support.

We headed over to Nick’s early for our lunch meeting with Tom & Tracy, wanting to enjoy a glass of rose’ at their large rectangular bar. The place was alive!

When Tom and Tracy arrived, we had a heartfelt reunion! Our seating at an outside table near the front sidewalk was perfect for this gorgeous day. It didn’t take long to fall into ‘catch-up” conversation. At Tom & Tracy’s recommendation, we shared an order of their fave appetizer of lightly fried deviled eggs with bacon. . .delicious! Of course, a little wine enhanced the experience.

The halibut sandwiches which Tom and I had were tasty, and large. The accompanying fries were good, as well. Tracy had a grilled steakhouse salad and Tom an original rib eye sandwich. The food was excellent, but the highlight of the meal was the lively conversation.

The waitress graciously agreed to snap a picture of us, before we walked across the street to the historic Laguna Hotel with its Ocean View Bar and Grill, to later return to enjoy the pay-off as winners of the contested mai-tai bet with our Xavier Musketeer’s beating their Arizona team to enter the Elite Eight NCAA tournament.

Before enjoying the said mai-tais, we did walk a bit on the boardwalk, witnessing all the beachgoers making use of the beautiful day.
It was then time for those mai-tais! Unfortunately, when we attempted to sit at the outdoor patio of the Laguna Hotel, it was filled. But we enjoyed the inside area, with our non-stop conversation continuing.

Since Mai-tai Tom was making good on our bet, it seemed only fitting to gift him with an XU sweatshirt. And, in case they hadn’t seen a recent article in Vanity Fair about the Queen’s pet corgis, Tracy seemed to like the copy we brought for them.

Noticeably, as three of us were imbibing our super special mai-tais, Tracy refrained, no doubt preparing to be the responsible driver. We felt so appreciative to Tom & Tracy for their generosity in traveling from Pasadena to Laguna Beach to meet us, but those corgis were waiting for them. We had the privilege of meeting Frankie and Remi when we enjoyed the Rose Parade with them in 2016.

We walked the block up PCH to their parking garage which they fortunately located ($10) and bid farewell about 5 PM as they wanted to minimize traffic concerns. It took them about an hour to drive to Laguna from Pasadena and then another half hour to get into Laguna given the heavy volume of traffic. California is wonderful, and a lot of people know it. So it seems that everywhere one travels, especially close to the coast, traffic is a major issue.

Parting ways, having had a delightful visit with Tom and Tracy, we walked a bit on the Main St. Beach boardwalk. After a while, we spotted a little restaurant which looked perfect for a cappuccino. We were seated at their outdoor porch facing the beach. The name of the restaurant and bakery, C’est La Vie, described our mood. After such filling meals at lunch, we knew we wouldn’t need any dinner, and we were correct. The cappuccinos and cheesecake were perfect.

It was about 6:45 when we boarded the trolley to complete its loop up the hill, around the Heisler Park area, which we later visit, and back through downtown to the other end of the circle, several miles down the South Coast Highway at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. It was an interesting overview of the extent of the main thoroughfare of Laguna Beach on the PCH.

The Bluebird Canyon Road trolley stop was right at our Laguna Brisas Hotel. By then, it was totally dark, the perfect time to return to our hotel following another fulfilling day. We felt like we had been gone from home longer than four days, and that was a good feeling!


Easter Sunday, April 16, 2017 Newport Beach, Huntington Beach,
Balboa Peninsula, Easter Dinner

Up at our usual 7 AM after 9 hours of sleep…” Happy Easter”!
Rosie, the lady who was responsible for the breakfast, was fun to dialogue with, and told us that today we had omelettes and bacon “because the Lord’s Day is special”. Again, the outdoor table just outside our room was a great breakfast location.

As we were about to leave Las Brisas Hotel for the day, we asked the front desk person about Canyon Road for a venture up in the hills. She explained how to climb Laguna Street, which turns into Park St and goes to the “Top of the World” for a splendid view. The 12-minute ride up the twisty road was rewarding. Besides the view, we were surprised to see so many houses as we made the climb. Several churches and schools are located on the way.

Then we were off to Newport Beach which, to our surprise, was only about 4 miles North on PCH. We continued onward past Corona-by-the Sea and Cove State Park until we reached Huntington Beach which we had assumed was too far north for us to visit on this vacation.

Again, one key challenge is parking. For our mid-morning coffee, we took what was convenient: a little restaurant, where the 24-minute parking spot meant Tom moving the Muscle car to a meter location for another hour of parking. This extra time allowed us to peruse the pier area and walk a few of the crowded streets.

Huntington Beach has a 10-mile stretch of developed beach in the city; their pier at Main St separates the long beach stretch in half. Along the pier are all kinds of shops, snack bars, and mostly other kiddie attractions. It’s a good spot to view the beach activities, including many sand volley ball courts. Huntington Beach is nicknamed “Surf City”. Interestingly, Boeing is its largest employer.

“Funky” was a fitting description for this area of Huntington Beach. Many skaters and bicyclists on the streets and on the 1,583-ft. pier which we did enjoy walking. It’s easy to see why Huntington Beach has become a tourist destination with its Mediterranean weather, and its long beach where fishing, kite-flying, picnicking, surfing, swimming, and other outdoor activities can be enjoyed.

Before heading south, we checked out Duke’s restaurant, the same “Duke’s” which we had enjoyed in La Jolla. The impressive location at the pier with its attractive interior, and seafood menu would make it a nice destination. It being Easter Sunday, the line of patrons was out the door.
Leaving the Huntington Beach area, we knew that we had not done justice to the area. We had not explored the large boat harbor or the downtown area. Always more to do on a future trip.

We turned back south to Newport Beach where we had dinner reservations. En route, our stop at Balboa Beach was disappointing as there was no parking available, so we moved on down the road to Balboa Park (very small) and then Balboa Pier (1-hour parking). The pier is long, and we walked to its terminus where we met a Canadian from Alberta who said his family vacations here every year.

At about 3:45, it was time to head a short way over to Newport Beach for our 4:30 reservation at the Rusty Pelican Restaurant on PCH. We arrived faster than we thought, and were 20 minutes early .
The lobby was filled with waiting patrons, and “walk-ins” who quickly walked out as the wait was over an hour. We were glad that we had booked reservations for this busy Easter Sunday.

Our wait was worth it! We were seated upstairs at a nice, quiet corner table where we enjoyed a magnificent view of the harbor where many yachts were docked and boats were moving about in the calm waters.

Following a few minutes of enjoyment of our drinks, we both had clam chowder. For our entrees, we each had their “flagship” swordfish meal which was excellently prepared. Then a finale of cappuccinos.

Since the distance from Newport Beach to Laguna Beach is only about ten miles, we arrived at Heisler Park intending to enjoy the spectacular ocean views from atop the bluffs which we spotted last night at the north end of Laguna. We had hoped for another great sunset view…only this evening was somewhat disappointing. It was windy and cool as the sun hid behind a heavy layer of dark, low clouds.

We arrived back to the Las Brisas Hotel by 7:40, having experienced a long but fulfilling Easter Sunday.


Monday, April 16, 2017 Heisler Park; Dana Point; Del Mar;
Last Evening in La Jolla

Up at 7 again…same breakfast routine on 4th floor roof terrace of Las Brisas Hotel. We were liking this place more and more as we got used to it. It’s just far enough out of the busy downtown, but with easy access. Checkout about 10 AM.

We drove past Main St. Beach and up Broadway a short distance, where more stores and restaurants are located. Turning back onto PCH, we headed up the hill to see Heisler Park again in the daytime before we headed south back to La Jolla.

Heisler Park is outstanding. . .located on the bluffs around Laguna Beach. The Park is beautifully groomed, colorful with the cactus and flowers gardens galore, with a great walkway along an ocean waterfront. Heisler Park is a feature of a visit to Laguna Beach not to be missed.

We headed south and stopped to view another park on the south end of Laguna Beach, another outstanding area of gorgeous beach with ample fee parking.

Unfortunately, it was time to head southward, with our goal of spending our final overnight in La Jolla.
En route, we wanted to check out Dana Point, a destination for boating enthusiasts. The approach to the harbor at Dana Point was a steep curvy road. Many hundreds of boats were harbored here in the calm waters of Dana Point.

At a stop in their harbor shop, bought Tom a $25 pair of sunglasses to replace his lost pair and gathered info on the boat service to Avalon, the city on Catalina Island. We had stayed there for two days years ago, catching the boat from Long Beach, but this location looked more convenient.

We decided is to have lunch at Dana Point rather than go on to San Clemente and repeat the wonderful experience of three days ago. However, the two restaurants were not very noteworthy; the first was too slow; many patrons waiting and few servers around. So we left to eat next door at Proud Mary’s Restaurant and Lounge. The clam chowder was good but the fish and chips was less than desirable. It was fun to discover another area along the coast, but the experience at San Clemente couldn’t be matched.

We moved on toward Del Mar Beach where we needed a mid-afternoon pick-me-up. So, we parked in our favorite lot across from the beach and decided to have cappuccinos and sorbet at Poseidon Restaurant, next to Jake’s. Poseidon is OK, but has nothing to offer after eating in Jake’s the other day.

In seven more miles, and our last drive through Torrey Pines, we would be in La Jolla. We took advantage of the Shell Gas Station at a convenient corner, and found that we used 14 gallons of gas this whole trip.

Back to the Empress Hotel where we were assigned our same room #500 for a discounted rate of $198…Wow! We liked the staff here, and were happy that we had booked our last evening there.

Tonight, we were looking for a low-key restaurant as we walked Prospect St. About 6 PM , we discovered an attractive little wine bar with a view of the ocean and the sunset…the We Olive La Jolla . It’s a small olive oil retail store with a restaurant/wine bar in the rear of the store…just right for the end of our vacation. We have flatbreads and a glass of wine. Conveniently, next store there’s a Starbucks for a coffee and then across the street a chocolate factory for the carmel/chocolate Easter treat that Margie has been longing for. Back to the Empress by 9 PM.


Tuesday, April 18, 2017 DEPARTURE DAY!

We have been so fortunate with beautiful weather during our stay, that waking up to overcast skies was only mildly disappointing. After doing the last-minute packing, we walked up the street to a popular breakfast restaurant, the Cottage. Being warned that there is often a wait, we were happy to be immediately seated. This was perfect for us. Wonderful menu. We began with their cinnamon coffee cake as we gave our order of eggs and meat: bacon for Margie and sausage for Tom. These were large meals, three eggs accompanied with hash brown potatoes, and two large pieces of toast. The staff seemed to be all Hispanic-extremely efficient and polite. It was a fantastic experience! The meal was perfect to energize us for our long travel day home.

Following that more-than-satisfying breakfast, we checked out of our hotel. We just couldn’t leave La Jolla without one last visit to the coast. Tom, especially, had to enjoy the seals! Even with the overcast, the bluffs along the coast were gorgeous.

We hopped on I-5 for the short drive to the airport, leaving plenty of time for car rental return and security. Both went smoothly, but even so, it takes time to walk with luggage through the return terminal, catch the shuttle to the departure terminal, get the baggage weighed, and go through security.

Happy that we had arrived in plenty of time, we could enjoy reminiscing about the experiences of the past week.

The first flight of our itinerary, San Diego to Dallas, was fine. Once in Dallas, we took advantage of the offer of a concourse golf cart operator to breeze through the long terminal to our correct gate for the flight from Dallas to Cincinnati. We noticed on our boarding passes that the seats we had originally chosen had been changed. We were no longer seated together.

With no one at the agent’s desk, Tom approached to describe the situation. We are American Advantage members, and were booked on their credit card. The agent changed our seats to row 31. Upon boarding, we quickly became aware that these seats were in the very rear, and right next to an engine.

To say that the noise was unbearably loud is an understatement. In spite of having ear buds, and Margie keeping a pillow around her head, it was becoming worse and worse. When the attendant passed, she asked, “Are you doing OK?” Margie replied in the negative! The agent then suggested that we might move up to an empty row. It turned out to be the Emergency Exit row. Margie thanked her profusely. The agent explained that oftentimes when families book, they will move other passengers to allow the family to be seated together.

Up to this point, Tom hadn’t said much. And then he said that this was the same agent who had assigned us these seats at the gate. So much for our continued feelings of allegiance to American Airlines’ value of their Frequent Flier customers.

The remainder of our flight was fine. After de-boarding and retrieving our checked bags, we caught the van to the car park and within a few minutes we were on our way home. It was now after midnight.

After a refreshing sleep, we happily discovered that the flowering trees and bushes, as well as the daffodils, were still hanging on. It had been a wonderful trip, but we were happy to be home.

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