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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Our Free San Diego Vacation

Day One - Legoland
Al and I just got back home from our free trip to San Diego. Yep, you heard it right, our airfare was free, even our hotel and car rental. So why would we not want to take advantage of that? Here are the highlights of our trip... As soon as we landed the San Diego airport, we rode a shuttle to pick up our car rental and then checked in our hotel. We were early and check in wasn't until the afternoon (plus the hotel was fully booked so we couldn't do an early check in) so they upgraded us to a suite! The lobby was nice, and our room was nice, with a separate living room space and two television sets.

We freshened up, ate some breakfast and drove to Carlsbad to check out Legoland. It sounds like a place for lego enthusiasts, but it is for everybody, and the rides are mostly for young children. We walked around the park, amazed at the construction of lego sculptures, some even moving with sound. I also like Castle Hill, where we ate a medieval lunch, and had a huge castle structure. My favorite was Miniland and their replica of the city of San Francisco, of course. When we were getting tired (more like my asthma acting up), we rode the boat cruise to see the lego replicas of some wonders of the world and other structures. Amazing stuff. There were definitely a lot of photo opportunities. Then we called it a day and drove back to our hotel (we should have explored Carlsbad and their village by the sea - sounds like Carmel). Al bought some dinner to go, we ate in our suite, and relaxed just in time for Heroes.

Day Two - San Diego, La Jolla, and Coronado
Our city tour started at the Embarcadero with a nice harbor view of San Diego, passing by the USS Midway Museum, a huge cruise ship called the Monarch, piers, an old ship called Star of India, and this ship that was used on the movie Master and Commander with Russell Crowe. Red streetcars were all around the downtown area, and we passed by the train station with a huge 'Santa Fe' sign on top. Our next destination was the Gaslamp Quarter. They closed down a street for a Veteran's Day celebration (Al said it was some skateboard competition so I'm not sure). But I love the area and they say it's the place to be (the area claims to be the heart of San Diego), where all the restaurants, clubs, and much of the SD nightlife happens. Then we proceeded to Seaport Village, a small shopping village with nice little shops and restaurants by the water. Upon entering the village, there was a Cinderella-type carriage with a white horse. We were tempted to ride, but we were saving money, hehe. We strolled along the village, stopped for some Ben & Jerry's while watching a Cuban busker play his thing. Behind him was a beautifully restored historical carousel where kids can ride (wish we were still kids, hehe). Seaport Village is right next to a park where people just chill and some fly kites. Driving out of Seaport Village was Kansas City Barbecue, where they shot the famous Top Gun scene of Tom Cruise singing 'You've Lost That Loving Feeling'.

We drove past the uniquely designed San Diego Convention Center (it resembled ocean waves) and the newly constructed Petco Park. We also passed by Barrio Logan, which is like Mexican town in SD with a lot of beautiful murals under Coronado Bridge. Then we crossed the bridge which had an awesome view of the San Diego Harbor (you can also see from afar some islands that are Mexican territory). We reached Coronado to get a glimpse of houses that are nice, but expensive. We reached our destination, the Hotel del Coronado, a beautiful historical hotel build solely with wood. It displays much craftsmanship and elegance by Italian cabinet makers. We were amazed at the ballroom structure, something I haven't really seen anywhere. Wish I had my wedding reception there, haha. Our guide gave us a little historical background on who owned it and how it was built and it was all so interesting. It is also by the beach side and the massive hotel structure, I think, would be the prefect location for a nice romantic getaway.

From the hotel, we drove back to pass by Balboa Park. Again, our guide gave us a nice historical background which made me appreciate San Diego even more. He showed us different species of eucalyptus trees and palm trees that were all around the downtown area. Balboa had so many museums that you'll need a whole day just to tour a couple. So far, it was the nicest park I've seen, with the Spreckles Organ Pavilion, Natural History Museum, San Diego Museum of Art, a Japanese tea garden building (forgot the name), etc. The buildings itself are artworks in its own. Too bad we didn't check out the exhibit of 'Dead Sea Scrolls' (a once in a lifetime opportunity) because of time constraints.

We then drove on the freeway to visit a town I wanted to see for a long time called La Jolla. It was a beautiful coastal town with lots of boutique-ish stores around the area. There were a lot of pictures moments and I can definitely say that I want to go back there one day. We passed the Cave Store where you can go downstairs and it will lead you to a cave, Then we passed by the cove called Children's Pool, but you won't really find children there, only seals lounging by the beach (yes, it became a habitat for them. Then we went back to visit Old Town (Plaza del Pasado), where the early settlers and missionaries first established their communities (but they say Point Loma is the real old town of San Diego. Now, Old Town is full of Mexican Restaurants that claim to be the best of the best. We ate at Fred's which was good. I had the lobster tacos, yum! We also took pictures in front of the historical Whaley House, which they say is haunted. After Old Town, we went back to the Embarcadero for our one-hour harbor cruise. It was a lovely cruise of the San Diego Harbor - my favorite was seeing the Navy Seals in action and also the sea lions on a floating deck. We also passed by a lot of Navy ships (one even had a fire drill), submarines, aircrafts, and military airstrips. We also saw the Point Loma Lighthouse from afar. After the cruise, we went back to our hotel and had dinner at Mimi's Cafe. I really liked the food and the service.


Day Three - Sea World
We woke up early to get our continental breakfast (I just had croissants and some sausage gravy with orange juice, while Al had some bagels with cream cheese). We then packed our bags, checked out of our hotel and drove to Sea World, passing by Fashion Valley Mall. It was still early so we had enough time to see all the shows (except the pets show which we skipped). The first show was their world famous dolphin show, where they had some family interaction, a splash zone, and a killer whale named Bubbles. It's kinda sad how the animals are being trained for shows, but I must admit, it is entertaining. Dolphins were jumping high up for spectators to see, and showing their behaviors for people to adore. Afterwards, we went to the sea otter and seals show. The show was a little boring, but the animals were very entertaining. Even though we were avoiding the splash zones, we still got a little bit wet. The next show we went to was R.L. Stein's Haunted Lighthouse 4-D show. This was my favorite, and we still got wet! Haha! Well, it is 4-D. We also saw flamingos on parade, and lots of pooping animals, haha! First, we saw a group of horses and a carriage, and one horse pooped a lot! Ewww! Then while we were eating a nice lunch at Shipwreck Cafe (I had the roasted chicken with jambalaya), this bird (I dunno the species, but closely resembles a turkey) lifted one of its leg up. I asked Al why it was looking at me intensely and lifting its leg for a long time, and he was just looking at it. After a while, it pooped all of a sudden! It was so funny and gross coz we were eating lunch! Good thing we were at the end of our meal.

Also, Al touched string rays, dolphins, and a star fish. The fourth show we saw was the Shamu show. I was excited to see this show since it was my first time to see Shamu (I've seen whale and animal shows in Marine World but they don't have Shamu). It was an awesome show, but it seemed short. After the show, we wanted to take a break and see the views so we rode the Sky Tower which is like a see-through elevator, only it goes really high up, and also rotates! We had a lovely view of San Diego and the harbor. I thought I was going to get dizzy but I didn't. Then we checked out the right side of the park that featured arctic animals. We rode Wild Arctic and it was a cool, short ride. This ride lead to the viewing of white beluga whales, walruses, and a polar bear, my first time to see them. We also checked out the Penguin Encounter which featured different types of penguins. I was especially amazed at the huge ones! Then we ended out Sea World visit around 4pm so we can have enough tme to return our car rental and then the airport. We were tired but we had a lot of fun. I wish we can stay longer though. I really like San Diego, but I'm just not sure of the air quality in some areas.

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