As the eighth sunniest city in the US it’s no surprise that waking up in San Diego feels a bit like waking up in a tropical paradise…
On the first (official) day of our ‘Californian Road Trip of a Lifetime’ (CRTOAL, for short) we set out to explore two famous San Diego sights – the Hotel del Coronado and the San Diego Zoo.
We started at the Hotel del Coronado, the favoured resort of the toast of Tinseltown in the 1920s. It’s not hard to see what drew the rich and famous (including Charlie Chaplin, Clark Gable and Mae West) because ‘Hollywood’s Playground’ is gorgeous from its red roof right down to its perfectly white, sandy beach.
Even the stunning, wood-paneled lobby has an old-school Hollywood feel!
With blue skies and the calming sound of waves lapping at the shore it’s a wonder any of the guests find the willpower to leave.
From the Hotel we headed inland to Balboa Park to see the place that draws more than three million visitors every year – the San Diego Zoo. I know people have strong opinions about zoos but I really respect the fact that the San Diego Zoo is committed to conservation and was a pioneer in the use of open-air, cageless exhibits that recreate the animal’s natural habitats making them feel as much at home as possible.
We started our visit with a ‘Skyfari’ which took us up and over the zoo to see the animals and San Diego skyline from on high.
^ A quietly contemplative moment for this fellow.
The beauty of the Skyfari is that it takes you through to the back corner of the park which is much less crowded, allowing you an opportunity to escape the huddled masses in order to get a clear, up close view of these beauties:
There was clearly some sibling disagreement happening over what to order for lunch!
This guy was hilarious – he was standing like this for ages just calmly helping himself to the ‘good’ leaves while his friends watched on enviously.
The day was gloriously sunny (but when are they not in San Diego, really?) and we wandered through the exhibits at a leisurely pace, taking time to visit with everyone.
^ A classic instance of:
Elephant 1: ‘Play with me play with me play with me!’
Elephant 2: ‘No.’
This was the first day I really put my new camera (a Nikon D5300) to the test and I was so impressed with the clarity and focus I was able to get with the manual settings. Don’t get me wrong, the iPhone is great and I’ve taken some awesome shots on it over the years but I never would have been able to get pictures like these with a point and shoot!
^ I wanted to take her home with me but G suggested she might exceed the weight allowance on our BA flight. Spoilsport!
We then entered one of my favourite bits – the ‘Koalafornia Adventure’! Has there ever been a more perfect pun? I doubt it!
I’ve never seen so many koalas in one place and they were completely adorable as they snoozed in the shade.
After I was finally able to drag myself from the koalas we wandered through the Savannah.
And then we came upon these two:
Not the usual pairing you’d expect to see but apparently the science of befriending cheetahs and dogs is something the San Diego Zoo began 30 years ago when their zoologists noticed the calming effect dogs could have on cheetahs, lowering stress and even improving their quality of life! The pair are introduced when they’re very young and a bond gradually grows until they’re best buddies. Amazing!
At this point we were flagging (the zoo is seriously huge so bring your comfortable walking shoes!) so we stopped for a reviving – and oh-so-healthy – snack of nachos and cheese and hot dogs. When in Rome…
With a final visit to some feathered friends we had seen pretty much everything and were eager to head out to continue the adventure.
We hopped in the car and headed north to Laguna Beach. More to come next week!