A Wandering Widow Post
“Coming back is the thing that enables you to see how all the dots in your life are connected, how one decision leads you to another, how one twist of fate, good or bad, brings you to a door that later takes you to another door, which aided by several detours–long hallways and unforeseen stairwells–eventually puts you in the place you are now.”
Ann Patchett, What Now
A few days after I visited San Francisco, I decided to head out for some long overdue girl time. Hello, sunny San Diego! I lived in this beautiful seaside city for eight years, and it felt a bit like coming home. You know being a tourist is never high on my list, but compromising with the bestie, who had never been to San Diego, made for some interesting outings. And it’s true, you can never really go home again. So much had changed since I lived there 14 years ago, that I was seeing most of my old stomping grounds for the first time. It’s amazing how much you can see and do in four short days.
The Wandering Widow
Live Now. Dream Big. Love Fierce.
Click here for my San Diego photo album.
One of the things I love about San Diego is the ability to get a direct flight from Boise. We checked into the Hard Rock Hotel, right in the heart of the Gaslamp Quarter as soon as we landed. If you’re going to stay in the city, this is a perfect location. The rooms are fantastic, as are the service, wifi, and amenities. Where else can you check out a Fender guitar or an old school record player for your room? Drinks poolside at Float was the perfect way to start our rock star trip, with an amazing view, generous drinks, and a pool party.
Walking the Gaslamp Quarter is the best way to scope out the many dining options available. We had brunch at Rustic Root, home of the best Crab and Fried Green Tomato Eggs Benedict on the planet. Be sure to sit upstairs on the patio to enjoy the view of the farmer’s market below if you’re there on a weekend.
The big loop will take you to PETCO Park, the Convention Center, the harbor, and Sea Port Village. Need a break? Stop in at Roy’s for drinks on the patio and a view of the yachts.
While you’re there, be sure to make dinner reservations at Nobu, located on the ground floor of the Hard Rock Hotel. Nobu is famous for his Iron Chef role, but he is a mad genius when it comes to Asian Fusion cuisine. I had the best meal of my life there and, since I’m an international foodie, that is saying something. Everything I sampled was better than what I’d just got done declaring as the best thing I’ve ever had in my mouth. The combination of flavors was beautiful, and I fell in love. I would have married this meal and had its babies, it was THAT good. (My mouth is watering just thinking about it.)
Beach Day! We took the ferry to Coronado Island for less than $5, something locals never do. But what a view of the skyline from the water! After a 20 minute walk into town we reached the Hotel del Coronado. We spent the day at The Del, dining, drinking, and lounging on the beach. For those of you who like old movies, The Del is where they filmed Some Like It Hot with Marilyn Monroe.
That evening we continued our beach theme with a trek out to Pacific Beach (or PB for locals) to have dinner at Waterbar. (PB is a short $20 Uber ride from the Gaslamp Quarter.) After our ocean front meal, we strolled to the end of Crystal Pier to watch the sun set over the pacific. It was a bit chilly, so bring a sweater if you decide to do this. (Do it!) We didn’t see the famous green flash, but I never saw it when I lived here either, and am convinced it’s something the weathermen made up to get us to pay attention to them.
After Ubering back to the Gaslamp Quarter we had a nightcap at Lou and Mickey’s, a beautiful old bar that’s been in the Gaslamp since the 40s. The white coated waiters and the dark hardwood bar transport you back in time, when life was a little more elegant. Definitely worth a stop for drinks, if not one of their famous steak dinners.
We started our morning with a stroll through Balboa Park to look at the historic buildings from the 1915 Panama-California Exposition. Unlike San Francisco who tore most of theirs down, San Diego’s World’s Fair buildings anchor the heart of Balboa Park.
If you’re already at the park, be sure to have lunch at the Prado, where you can dine al fresco next to bubbling fountains. A perfect break after climbing 152 stairs to the top of the tower at the Museum of Man (worth it for the panoramic views of the city).
Memories in Marble at Miramar National Cemetery
When I take time to think about it, my grief journey started years before I heard the word cancer, I just didn’t know it. We didn’t talk about those things back then. Before anything else, San Diego is a military town. The last time I was here I was married to a Marine Corps Drill Instructor. After 9/11 I saw lots of names scroll through the evening news casualty updates of kids that he’d trained. I saw names of friends, and saw my friends become widows. I became obsessed with that list. It wasn’t until I moved to Idaho, where that roster only mattered if the names were Idaho kids, that I was able to finally distance myself from it.
That Marine Corps DI and I stayed in touch over the years, eventually rebuilding the friendship our relationship was based upon. I was heartbroken to learn that he, too, became a casualty of his military service. The year before Dad and Dan died, Russ became a PTSD suicide victim. (Yeah, I lost the three men I loved most in the world all in a two-year time span. Don’t ever tell me I need to think positive. I do a pretty damned good job of staying positive, if I do say so myself.) And while I typically avoid cemeteries and graveyards, this was one I had to visit while I was in town.
When I lived in San Diego, this cemetery didn’t exist. It wasn’t dedicated until 2010. It was surreal to be sitting at his grave, hearing the fighter jets buzz overhead from the air station next door, our last duty station. Despite being new, there were already rows and rows of marble headstones. I wasn’t prepared for how emotional it would be. That afternoon I learned how soft and smooth marble is to the touch, and how sharp the names are when they are of someone you loved, and how loud your voice is when it echoes off marble rows.
Padres Game at Petco Park
As long as I’d lived in San Diego, I never saw the Padres play live. I kick myself for that now. I can only imagine what it would have been like to see the great Tony Gwynn running across home plate. But, there’s no time like the present. Petco Park had just finished construction when I moved away so it was fun to tour this amazing baseball stadium. Just like the song says, nights are better under neon or stadium lights.
With a late afternoon flight, we had time to take in a few more sights on our last day. From the Gaslamp, we took the green line on the red trolley to Old Town for $2.50. After touring San Diego’s version of Williamsburg, we enjoyed lunch and the best margaritas in San Diego. If you like ghosts, check out the Whaley house museum. Take photos of the dining room to see if you can see the dog under the dining table. (And then send me a photo since I couldn’t see it.)
On your way back to the Gaslamp, make a stop in Little Italy for a walk about before your ticket expires. Little Italy is home to fun cafes, restaurants and shops. Back when I lived in SD, the Trolley only had one line, so it was cool to see how much it’s grown. It’s clean, cheap, and easy to use.