They say science can take you places. For me, it happened quite literally when I got a chance to visit the States. Long story short, a work-related conference turned up in California, thus, giving me a chance to have a splendid time in the United States. The venue of my conference was San Diego, the eighth largest city in the USA on the Pacific coast of California, known for its idyllic climate and flawless beaches. The idea of this place itself gave me a feeling of euphoria. What made this already perfect plan even better was that a friend from work going to be on this trip too. We started planning months ahead, browsing through web pages for every little detail we needed to know to make the most of our time there. Our travel itinerary also included a night halt at NYC, adding onto our heightened excitement levels.
The Big Day
The month of January had in store the awaited voyage with fairly cold weather predictions, so we were loaded with warm clothes for the journey. We took off from IGI airport, New Delhi, with our flight scheduled at 1 am (my first flight ever!), and despite being a sleepy head, we sleep evaded us for a better part of the flight. It took us desperate 13 hours to reach New York. All snow-clad and frozen, the city looked like a leaf taken from a movie scene.
It was a chilly morning in NY when we landed. We had a good 10 hours to kill before our connecting flight to San Diego and we decided to step out briefly to catch a whiff of this dream destination. Stepping out of the airport gave us a reality check on the bone-chilling cold and we returned to the cosy safety of the airport, munching around and lounging for the next six hours. The weather continued to play truant, messing with our onward travel plans. Due to the bad weather conditions, we had to land in Ontario and take a bus to our destination. The city was lit at 3 am in the morning as well but I was eagerly waiting for the sun to come up to witness the ocean and docks that we just passed by. Thanks to planning ahead of time, we managed to book our stay at the Super 8 Hotel, which was the closest to the conference venue. Upon checking in, we instantly into our room to make up for countless hours of travelling.
Next morning, we headed to the venue after a generous breakfast buffet at the hotel. The weather was pleasant and considerably warm with the clear sky and bright sunshine welcoming us, typical palm trees at each corner of the street and the US flag outside most buildings.
After a long day of work, we sneaked out to explore the place around. This area was the Hotel Circle where you had every possible hotel on the street side. At walking distance, we had Fashion Valley, a hub of around 200 stores including international fashion houses and stores like Bloomingdale’s, Prada, Macy’s, JC Penny etc along with some popular food joints. I used this opportunity to shop for some (actually a lot of) of Bath and Body works products, and yes, of course, Ghirardelli chocolates. Afterwards, with the evening still heavy with a calm summery feeling, we grabbed a pizza from California Pizza Kitchen, which turned out to be a disappointment topped with mushrooms and felt like 27 dollars down the drain.
We woke up to another bright sunny day the next morning and made it off to a good start with a sumptuous breakfast of blueberry waffles with maple syrup, muffins, toasted bread and fresh fruit at the hotel. Later, we grabbed the city map, tourist guide booklet and local metro maps from the reception and hit the road with some serious exploration on the agenda.
The locals use the MTS (Metropolitan Transit System) that includes trolley (more like our metro) and the local buses for their daily commute. We got a compass card to access the MTS, which cost us a mere 15 dollars for 5 days of unlimited travel. Quite a steal compared to the astronomical cab prices.
The city offers a wide variety of beaches, so we figured that’d be the ideal place to start exploring San Diego and aimed for Mission beach. We studied the map and finally got into the green line trolley, changed into a bus from one stop at Old Town that took us near the beach area. Then, working along our GPS, we walked a few miles only to discover we were lost in a neighbourhood also called Mission Beach. It didn’t help that I was wearing fancy footwear that left my feet crying out for help after all that walking. We finally took an Uber to the beach.
Finally, we made to the beach, but it all proved worth the effort we had taken to get here. The beach area was dotted with rental shops providing scuba diving equipment, surfing boards, bicycles, also many restaurants and bars. It was the most crowded touristy beach because of its location and oceanfront amusement park, Belmont Park, just around the corner. We saw quite a crowd taking a dip in the water, so we quickly ran toward it, excited to make a good splash. But the water! It was revoltingly cold. I wonder how all these people seemed to be having the time of their life here.
After playing with the waves washing over at the beach, we grabbed some snacks around the corner and took a bus to our next stop, La Jolla Shores. It took us like an hour to get there. We were hoping to catch the sunset but it was almost sundown by the time we made it. Still, we managed to catch a mesmerizing view of the sky splashed with an orange-yellow glow. The calm and breezy ambience added a touch of perfection. It was one of those moments one wishes could last forever. We took a long stroll cherishing the pleasant evening by the seaside and headed back after a happy day of beach hopping.
Next day, after a long tiring schedule at the conference and a lunch full of healthy salad, we planned on heading out for the dinner to a place called Little Italy in Downtown area of San Diego.
The place was all lit and packed with numerous brewpubs, cocktail bars and patio cafes. This time I had put on my comfy shoes and was happy to hop around. It was a pedestrian-friendly neighbourhood, with indie music venues around every corner. We walked around to take in the ebullient vibe of the place, taking in the aroma escaping the different kitchens on the way. Finally, we settled for a cosy little place to grab dinner and decided to undo the previous pizza disaster. Fortunately, this time, the pizza met our expectations and we were glad to have found the just the right way to round off a long, hectic day.
Day four was all about touristy things. The destination for the day was Coronado Island, which is the Naval Air Station Centre. The place is famous for its white sandy beaches. And another thing that thrilled us was reaching there by ferry. The highlight of our travel was the bus journey that took us on Coronado Bridge along the San Diego Bay, which stands at an elevation of 200ft, giving us a magnificent panoramic view of the city.
It was a quiet, laid-back beach with white sand literally sparkling under our feet. The beach wasn’t crowded, and adjacent to it was the Hotel Del Coronado, a Victorian-era hotel that is landmark unto itself. It was an unbelievably grand structure brimming over with iconic architecture and rich history. After savouring our time at the beach, we headed back to the ferry landing, making sure we did not miss this ride. The place had quite an eclectic mix of adorable boutiques, cafes, art galleries and shops. One could spend hours exploring these quaint outlets, each with a distinct character of its own. The oceanfront looked enormous, and with the setting sun, it was hard to take off our eyes from the scenic view of the city. We hung around to watch the sunset and finally hopped on that long-awaited ferry ride.
Back from the island, we landed in the Seaport village, another popular spot the bay known for its shopping and dining avenues. We strolled along the waterfront, visited some souvenir shops and spent some laidback time unwinding after an action-packed day.
Day five, being the last day of the conference, was quite hectic. Just after noon, we sneaked out to the Fashion Valley Centre for some shopping. We just couldn’t resist the bright sunny days and clear skies the city offered, so we strolled around the place a little. The day ended in a lavish dinner gala that gave a chance to doll up, groove and binge of some irresistible food.
The next day was our last in the city, and unlike the rest, we woke up to overcast skies and light drizzle. Be that as it may, we still had to go around the rest of the unexplored areas of the city, so we headed to another destination – the Ocean Beach area, situated on the north of Point Loma. This small vintage beach town had a friendly hippie vibe, with tons of good places to eat at. Heading to the beach we passed by pretty little porch houses lined along the street, feeling the cool breeze coming from the sea on your faces.
While the beach was hidden behind tall stacks of sand, one could smell the ocean water in the air and a beach pier on one side hiding a stunning sunset among the clouds was the cherry on the cake. It was a mesmerizing view with the dark clouds over and the sun peeping through. The oceanic view held us spellbound and we didn’t realize the weather getting rough with huge sea waves crashing through the rock cliff we were standing on.
We headed up to the town after it sunset. The houses along the streets were now lit with dim fairy lights, giving it a nostalgic warm wintery feeling. All and all, San Diego has a lot to offer to anyone willing to explore. A welcoming city with enchanting natural beauty, city attractions and a lot of stunning beaches.
Our days here passed by in a snap of a finger, but we still had a night at New York and that kept our holiday spirit soaring. After a long 9-hour flight, we finally landed in NYC and headed straight for our hotel in Manhattan. We checked in and freshen up as quickly as we could, and were back on the city streets in no time to make the most of the limited time at hand.
The place had a whole different vibe than California, moving at a dizzyingly fast pace. Our hotel was just around Times Square and in minutes we walked to the midtown section. The streets were loaded with people walking, skateboarding, dancing, painting, singing, with pretzel carts lining every pavement. The buildings were touching the sky and every corner was occupied with people – locals, tourists and families out for a walk – glistening neon boards outside clothing stores, pubs and clubs and seemingly familiar places to eat at. I could remember all the times I had seen this place on TV, the coffee shop from F.R.I.E.N.D.S, the pub from HIMYM, the empire state building scene from Sleepless in Seattle, Vanilla Sky. It was here all right here in front of me.
We flew back home the next day, bidding goodbyes to the enchanting skyscrapers and streets. The US has so many amazing experiences to offer that a week-long trip cannot even cover the fraction of it. Even with so much left to see, this trip to the States was a beautiful, memorable experience, a lot of which cannot be defined in words.