Category Archives: Travel

Summer of San Diego!

balboa park(Museums in Balboa Park)

It is a funny thing, living in a vacation destination. Although I pass by the Sea World tower each day during my shuttle-ride to the lab, I am most often oblivious to the tourist attractions and natural wonders by which we am surrounded. In discussing how to spend our non-BBQ time during this Fourth of July weekend, The Bat and I got to discussing all of the San Diego attractions that, as residents, we have never taken the time to see and/or experience. Our list grew quite fast and the idea of a summer blogging project bloomed along with it.

east county (Looking out over the arid farm country of East San Diego county)

June was a hectic month – what with constant birthday parties, family gatherings, Whole30 restrictions and work schedule changes. I am very happy to put those days behind me. Luckily, July has opened full of sunshine and, thus far, much more relaxing. So, in the interest of living in the moment and soaking up what the city has to offer – I am officially declaring it The Summer of San Diego. I want to play tourist in my hometown and see what makes San Diego “America’s Finest City.”

alesmith (Beer tasting at AleSmith)

There is no time like the present to really explore the nooks and crannies of San Diego. After 7 years in Boston and 4 years in Paris, I can easily make lists of things I never took the time to see and do (Glass flowers, anyone? Or wine tasting in the French countryside?).  I do not want to take this city for granted. To that end, no project of mine is complete without a list. So, without further ado – here are more things than I could possibly fit into the next 8-12 weekends. Of course posting them here holds me somewhat accountable and provides excellent blog fodder as the summer moves along.

la jolla cove(Sea Kayakers in La Jolla Cove)

Let the games begin!


San Diego Zoo

San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Sea World

Legoland (I want to go this summer, mainly for this)

Belmont Park


Historical Landmarks:

Cabrillo National Monument

Mission San Diego

Old Town San Diego – Food and Tours!



Balboa Park:

–       Museums (so many, and free on Tuesdays)

–       Botantical Garden

–       Concert at the Organ Pavillion

–       Play at the Globe Theater

–       Japanese Friendship Garden

San Diego Botanical Garden

Picnic at Kate Sessions Park

Tidepools at Sunset Cliffs

Hiking at Torrey Pines

Palomar Mountain Observatory

Anza Borrego Dessert (might have to wait for flower season next spring)

Camping/Hiking @ Idyllwild



Watch San Diego Padres baseball game at Petco Park

Play Disc Golf at Morley Field

Surfing Lessons (?)


Sea Cave Kayaking in La Jolla Cove

Watch (do?) paragliding at the Torrey Pines Gliderport

Del Mar Horse Races

Sailing in the San Diego Harbor


Food/Drink as motivators:

Beer Tasting (at one/some/all of the booming craft breweries in the area!)

Julian Road Trip and Apple Pie

Sunset cocktails at the beachside bar at the Hotel Del Coronado

Farmers Markets



The Stuart Collection

Dr. Seuss Collection

Fallen Star


Beyond San Diego:

California Missions Road Trip

Joshua Tree National Park

Big Bear Lake

Wine Tasting in Temecula

Wine Tasting in Santa Barbara/Santa Ynez

Catalina Island

Six Flags Magic Mountain

Train to The Big A for an Angels baseball game

ucsd teddy (“Bear” on the campus of University of California, San Diego)

San Diegans (and visitors), tell me what I have missed, but must see!

Friends (or other bloggers?), let me know if you want to get in on the fun and join me on any of these adventures!

The list is long (and somewhat overwhelming), but it is so exciting to realize how much fun there is to be had in my own backyard!








Weekly Travel Theme – Peaceful

santa barbara train(From Amtrak Coast Starlight, looking out at the Pacific Ocean, north of Santa Barbara, CA)

I am most at peace around flowing water. I do have to wonder if this evolved from being brought up in a beachside community or, possibly, being raised by an avid surfer. Either way, I can sit alongside a river or overlooking a beach, and watch the water for hours on end. When things are particularly tense in the rest of my life, watching (meditating along with?) this continuous, repetitive, unaltered ebb and flow allows me to truly exhale and let the stress go.

grand canal(The Grand Canal, Venice, Italy)

If I had my way, I would never again live more than 15 miles from the Pacific Ocean – inhaling the salt air deeply and listening to the waves pound endlessly against the shore is rejuvenating  Something about that power, the wind in my hair, and the wild, untamed beauty of the Pacific always sets things right.

SONY DSC(Private beach front, Coco Palm, Maldives)

Yet, after several years living alongside rivers, I have also come to appreciate the quiet solitude that can be found watching life flow by. The river always provides a cool breeze to soothe one’s brow on a hot day and a stopping place alongside to take in the view (or a jog) downstream or to set up an impromptu picnic at dusk.

honfleur at dusk(Harbor-side dinner at dusk, Honfleur, France)

When Ailsa posed her Weekly Travel Theme of “Peaceful”, bodies of water on (around/in) which I have traveled – in all moods – and found peace came to mind. Here are some of my favorites.

french riviera(Overlooking the Côte d’Azur while driving from Nice to Monaco)

windmill spotting 2(Windmill spotting while on a small canal outside of Amsterdam, Netherlands)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA(Sunset at Playa Hermosa, Costa Rica)

tiber(Dusk settles over the Tiber River, Rome, Italy)

omaha beach(Contemplating freedom while looking across the English Channel – on Omaha Beach, Normandy, France)


seine(Notre Dame Cathedral and Ile de la Cité as seen from a Seine river cruise, Paris, France)


big sur(Bixby bridge, driving southbound on California Highway 1 through Big Sur)

Weekly Photo Challenge – Pattern

kelp tank(Kelp Forest)

After my work trip up in the San Francisco Bay Area ended a few weeks ago, The Bat and I decided to make a road trip out of the return. Rather than hop on a commuter flight and zoom back to San Diego, he and his brother journeyed north, picked me up, and we spent the next four days working our way down the state, seeing the sites, friends and family along the way.leopard shark(Leopard shark – a common sight in several tanks – and aptly named)

Our first stop was Monterey – only a few hours out of SF – and home to one of the best aquariums in the world (not to mention some amazing food and a great Comfort Inn). Photos from the Monterey Bay Aquarium seemed a fitting submission to this Week’s Photo Challenge from The Daily Post.

This week the theme is “Pattern” and nowhere is the effect and functionality of patterns more apparent then when seeing animals in their (semi-) natural habitat. Patterns can act as camouflage, to attract mates or distract predators. Only in the extraordinarily unique environment of an aquarium can we see those patterns that set apart the creatures of the sea.

EelsThere were several species of eel on display, all of which were blatantly patterned – better to hide within the rocky nooks and crannies, I suppose.  sand eelseel1eel2

Sea Dragons: There was an extensive seahorse/sea dragon exhibit. The sea dragons in particular captured my attention and imagination. Covered in fins and protrusions that looked more like kelp than animal, they were mesmerizing to watch.seadragonseadragon2seadragon3

Jellies: My favorite exhibit, without a doubt, was “The Jellies Experience”, which was one of the most complete jelly collections I have seen, all set to some pretty rad disco funk. I could honestly watch jellyfish for hours – moving at different speeds, in haphazard directions. Several species were heavily dotted or striped, I would guess to mimic the reflection of the sun. Seeing all these creatures close up really drives home how nature finds a way to fend for herself, often in beautiful and unpredictable ways. jelly1jelly2jelly3jelly4jelly5

French Friday – Bateaux Mouches

bateaux mouchesClichés do not become such without reflecting some truth, right? This is certainly the case when it comes to seeing the sights in Paris. It may be exhausting to wait in line and wade through crowds, but can you really say you have ‘done’ Paris if you skip out on the Louvre, Notre Dame or the Eiffel Tower? There are just some places and views that need to be seen for oneself.pont alexandre and grand palais (Grand Palais and Pont Alexandre III)

I had always taken the “eh, it’s for tourists” attitude when it came to the Seine river cruises. These barges boats, filled with hundreds of tourists, zoom up and down the river day and night, dodging bridges, commercial vessels and lighting up the city with megawatt spotlights after the sun goes down (never stare directly into the light – trust me). Several of the companies even offered multi-course dinner cruises for (what I considered) extortionate prices – not only had I heard that the food was utterly mediocre, but I also couldn’t fathom sitting inside a boat, facing a table full of food when the perfectly lit skyline of Paris zoomed by alongside you.under the pont alexandre (Pont Alexandre III, from below)

However, as my time in Paris was growing short this summer and I was deciding what things I could not miss before leaving, several friends reassured me that taking one of these rides – either at dusk or after the sun went down – was a must-do. It is such a different perspective, they told me, to see the city from the river – to view it as a bustling port of sorts – and realize how central the Seine is to the identity and function of the city itself. houseboat(Houseboats moored on the Seine)

I had my chance when family came to visit in late July. After (too) many hours standing in line for the Eiffel Tower (something else left for those last days), it was wonderful to get on our barge-like motorboat, soak in the last rays of late-afternoon sun and see the city as I never had before. We chose to stay away from any variety of dinner cruise (because of the aforementioned price and distraction) and decided on the Bateaux Mouches based on personal recommendations. We were not disappointed – it truly was a different, even more beautiful city when seen from the Seine. Especially as the sun dipped deeper into the sky and the clouds spread out around us.assemblee nationale (Assemblee Nationale)

For a fun Friday frolic, I’m including an armchair tour here. Enjoy! orsay(Musée d’Orsay)

louvre(Louvre spotting)

waves(Waving from the tip of Ile de la Cité)

pont neuf(Pont Neuf, from below)

notre dame front(Notre Dame, from the front…)

notre dame back(…and from the rear)

quai front(Paris quai-front housing)

dancers(Dancers practicing river-side)

hotel de ville(Hôtel de Ville)

paris plage(Late afternoon Paris Plages – the summertime ‘beach’ next to the Seine)

another(We are not alone – a passing Bateaux Mouches in front of Pont des Arts)

invalides(Sun setting as Les Invalides peeks over the railing)

eiffel tower(And, of course, we end with the monument to rule them all – the Eiffel Tower)

Weekly Travel Theme – Dance

Besides dancing it out in my own living room after an exceptionally good day, there is not much dance in my everyday life. So, when Ailsa challenged her readers with this week’s travel theme of “Dance”, I was genuinely stuck for a moment. My first reaction was to lament that I’d not reviewed the theme over the weekend, so I could have gone out and found dancers (taking new photos based on these weekly themes, rather than digging through the archives is the next step in this process of bettering my photography). My second impulse was to wish my nieces and nephews were just a bit older, because there is nothing more fun than crazy toddler dancing. Then I started digging – turns out the archives are not as dry as once thought… Let’s Dance:

father daughter discoMy time in Nepal was full of dancing – from this father-daughter dance at the reception of the wedding I was attending (isn’t the bride’s sari amazing?!), to these children dancing in the streets to the sounds of another wedding party walking to the bride’s home in the traditional ceremony of Janti.happy childrenother nepali wedding

Weddings are great venues to catch dancing, in general. These are photos of the first dance from two friends’ weddings I attended recently – the first in Dade City, Florida; the other in Washington, D.C (look at her shoes! I’m still in awe).first dance macaronfirst dance DC

There is nothing more French than doing the Can-Can under the Eiffel Tower on Bastille Day – right? can can

And no one, given the chance, would turn down the opportunity to dance with Dropkick Murphys on stage at L’Olympia in Paris…dropkick murphys

Lastly, there’s this guy. Dancing solo while a clarinet busker tries to make the most of his day in the Montmartre neighborhood of Paris. He doesn’t appear to care about anyone else (especially the stranger with a camera) – he just needs to dance. solo dancer montmartre

Weekly Photo Challenge: From Above

beginning peaksThis week’s Photo Challenge from The Daily Post is “From Above”.  The moderators suggest taking photos looking straight down to as a way to change  perspective for common sights, objects or situations.  Rather than look at something familiar from a different angle, in considering my entry I recalled an occasion in which I had to get above in order to actually see the view in its entirety. above kathmanduIn May 2011 (almost exactly 2 years ago), I had the great fortune to travel to Kathmandu for a friend’s wedding. The week that I spent there is truly beyond description, but on one of the few mornings without a scheduled event, our small group of American friends took the opportunity to get above the city and into the mountains.14 peaks of himilayasOur evental goal was Mount Everest, but along the way we would be taken past 14 of the highest peaks of the Nepalese Himilayas. Here are just a few of the photos I took that day, glued against my tiny, fogged up porthole in the 19-seat Buddha Air flight.snow capped greenOne of the most stunning vistas were those seen when the clouds parted just enough to see the mountains rise all the way from the surface. Usually a river or lush valley ran between green, rugged peaks that rose, continuously, through the sparse clouds and emerged in the blue sky, jagged and snow-capped. planeOne by one, we were all invited to unbuckle our seat belts and join the pilots in the cockpit of our small plane. The view afforded through their windshield was stunning, clear and almost panoramic in scope. everestMy timing was impeccable. As I stepped in between the two pilots, craning my neck forward, Everest came into clear view (that’s it there, the tallest peak on the left). At first, I was somewhat surprised – it didn’t seem so impressive, surrounded by its mountainous brothers and sisters. We flew closer, could see vague outlines at base camp and then it struck me, how far above the Earth and how far away from my everyday reality we were. I felt so small, but my mind and perceptions were open incredibly wide. The whole world was laid out below me, the view was heart-achingly beautiful and none of this could have ever been seen any other way than flying above. vast expanse


Weekly Travel Theme – Benches


Where’s My Backpack has again come up with a travel theme – this week is  “Benches” – that is challenging and open to interpretation. While I recognize the romantic notion of stolen kisses, whispered promises and longed-for meetings that can be associated with any picturesque, solitary bench, it does not appear to be a common theme in my personal photography (at least according to my archives thus far, things may change now that the notion in in my head). I am much more apt to wile away an afternoon people watching at a cafe while sipping a latte than perching on a park bench.


I am, however, a fan of finding the perfect place to enjoy a picnic and have been known to create bench-like space whenever it is needed. I tend to do this quite often, plopping down curbside to munch on freshly prepared snacks at Farmer’s market or (my personal favorite) pulling up a piece of sidewalk just past Venice’s famous outdoor vegetable market in order to dive into that day’s treasure of succulent berries along the canals.

view 2

While perusing the Farmer’s market on our second day in Venice, we chose three baskets of vibrant, just-off-the-vine-fresh berries to take with us for the rest of the day’s adventures. However, once the clock struck noon, the heat of August was settling in and we daren’t take the chance of squishing our treasures as we strolled through the city. Instead, we sat down right where we were, alongside the canal, and dove in. The berries were sun-kissed and warm, bursting with juice that immediately stained our fingers (better than our bags). We marveled at the architecture of the mansions lining the canal, held our breath as a vaporetto, traveling at high speed, almost clipped a gondola full of tourists, and mostly soaked in the views and feelings of Venice.

traffic jam

We paid no attention to anyone glancing our way.  Rather, we happily created our own canal-side space – as comfortable and entertaining as any park bench – soaking in the sunshine, giggling and gobbling berries.