Some up front info:
Dates: March 10-25, 2014
3 nights, Glorietta Bay Inn, Coronado
3 nights Borrego Valley Inn, Borrego Springs
3 nights Embassy Suites, Palm Desert
3 nights Embassy Suites, Temecula
3 nights Torrey Pines Hilton, Torrey Pines
Despite many trips to central and northern CA, we had never been in southern CA except to pass through LAX. Wanted to discover a new environment. Usually prefer quiet, natural, scenic places over commercialized areas, lively nightlife and crowds. So our preferences and feelings about various areas may be quite different from other readers.
March 10-13: Glorietta Bay Inn: 4.5* Good location, clean, well kept, nice breakfast, $10/day parking
Arriving at SAN late morning, we were a bit surprised how easy it was to reach Coronado via Rt 5 or THE 5 as all roads seem to be referred to in CA. Leaving 6 inches of snow on the ground behind in NJ, it was wonderful to see and feel the thick, bright green grass at the Del. Ahh, warmth.
Glorietta Bay Inn was so comfortable and the staff seemed to go out of their way to be friendly and helpful. Our room wasn't ready with our early arrival, but we didn't care. It was just great to sit out in the sun drinking lemonade and munching cookies. Breakfasts out on the patio each morning were also a treat. Wondered why we had what looked like an upside down strainer on each table, but soon realized it was to protect food from the birds. One seagull swooped right down and grabbed a whole, unprotected pastry at the table next to us.
When we asked where/how we could get on the beach near the Del, the hotel clerk said "Well, just walk on." He couldn't believe it when we said that would be impossible in NJ without paying or having a beach badge. Took a long walk one morning until I reached the navy base property. My tax dollars at work wouldn't allow me to use the beach.
Visited zoo for most of day. Since DH has walking problems, we started with free (well, it was part of the $84 Sr admission for two) tram tour. Even if walking isn't a problem, I'd recommend this tour as we had a great, very informative driver who regaled us with amusing facts. Felt food/drink prices absurdly high, and we're used to NYC and DC prices. $5 for any drink. Enjoyed the zoo and particularly learning about the elephants' care. Of course, the pandas were a treat.
Drove out to Point Loma and Cabrillo Nat Monument. Windy, but great views back to Coronado and SD. Tide pools disappointing. Despite some recs. by fellow Fodorites, we were very glad we chose Coronado over Sunset Cliffs as it seemed much more convenient and easy to navigate.
Now our meal selections may seem totally boring, but chose to do easy walk to Brigantine's each night and take advantage of their outside patio. Great fish selections, which is what we wanted given the location. Lots more places to try next time.
March 13-16: 5* Borrego Valley Inn: Absolutely fantastic! Blended right into desert environment, spacious, clean room, private patio behind room and courtyard seating in front, excellent breakfast, friendly, helpful staff, close to park and town. www.borregovalleyinn.com
Before heading out of town, spent half day at Balboa Park. Could definitely picture myself visiting here often, if I lived in the area, or serving as a volunteer docent both here and at zoo. Sadly Botanical Garden was closed on Tuesday and outside flowers were just coming up. While DH waited on bench in park, I did a quick run through adjoining craft and art center with many galleries. Again, could spend more time there.
Headed east on The 8 and into Julian, which I believe is at over 4,000'. After "summer" in SD, desolate rocks along 8, we hit what we called, "Spring in NJ" in Julian. Daffodils, lilacs, azaleas and those tender, bright green leaves on trees. Had thought of staying here one night, but did take this Fodorite rec and moved on to Borrego Springs instead.
This is the desert! Or a desert, as we found out during our our next 6 days of exploration. Wow! The early morning light had me searching around the inn for the "perfect" shot of sun and shadows. After a hearty breakfast of frittata, yogurt parfait, assorted breads and juices, we headed to Anza Borrego Desert State Park Visitor Center. Since we met many Californians who had never heard of this park, just an FYI note: The acreage of this park is about half of the entire CA state park system. It surrounds the town of Borrego Springs.
Prepared with water, hats and sunscreen, we set off on the Palm Canyon Trail, which led 1.5 miles to a Fan Palm (the only native palm in CA) oasis. DH just went a short distance before realizing that it would be too difficult for him, but I journeyed on over a fairly easy trail. Looking around at the rocks and scrubby, drab plants, I thought to myself, "WHATEVER made you want to hike in the desert?" However, the further I walked, the more absorbed and fascinated I became in what I was experiencing. No, due to the drought, we didn't encounter the masses of wild flowers, we had hoped for when making our original plans. However, when viewed closely, almost every plant had some kind of flower. Some very small or nearly the same color as the plant, but still fun to discover. The ocotillo plants amazed me the whole time. To think they can bloom and grow/drop leaves up to 6 times a year was crazy.
Since the outside atmosphere of the inn was so lovely and peaceful, we enjoyed takeout salad suppers for the three nights we were there along with our wine relaxing overlooking the courtyard. Even had a visit from the only road runner we saw on the trip while sitting there.
I had become addicted to desert hiking! Took off through Hellhole Canyon today. DH again did a short distance before turning back, but although we had agreed on a time I would return, I luckily and surprisingly could call him to extend my return by a half hour several times. Easy, almost flat hiking. Temps mid 80's and of course comfortably dry.
Lots of art in town, including an art show that filled Christmas Circle, the main crossroads in town and SkyArt mentioned on Day Seven. They seem to have many cultural events scattered throughout the year. So glad I didn't heed the advice to spend less time here. Hiking was great, but even if not doing that, for us anyway, it was a different environment and would be a wonderful place to just relax if we had had more time. Borrego Springs is an International Dark Sky Town, but unfortunately, there was a wonderful full moon out during our visit, so the millions of stars that I saw on photos were not visible.
To be continued:
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Some up front info: