explorations | san diego pt. 1: downtown

I needed this trip. Just as I’ve needed every single pause in my reality, when friends visit for a day or when I drive out to another city just to purge myself of the parasitic elements of my home region. Nothing like watching the wind blow over the wings of an airplane, and feeling eager to land amongst the lights below, to help reclaim some semblance of joy, even if the purity of the sentiment lasts only a weekend.


The nights leading up to my departure, I felt sick. For a good duration now that’s been my misshapen trend: wake up in a smiley sort of mindset, plow through the day, go to bed with a churning gut and brain, the latter at an even higher velocity. But the Thursday prior to leaving, when the last of my very few belongings were tucked into the faithful green paisley backpack my mom made me a couple of years ago (and whose straps snapped twice in Sweden), I managed to maintain the morning. When Friday rolled around I woke up at 7am, spooned some oatmeal with cherries into my mouth, last-minute opted to forego foundation and brow powder, and prayed to the weather gods that the massive squall would pass Tampa Bay either before my departure from the apartment, or after.

I’ve never driven myself to TIA, and despite the initial worry of getting haplessly lost finding the economy garage & a quick pelting of blinding rain on the freeway, the ride was peaceful. I listened to my Spotify playlist – entitled “songs I actually want to hear” – and wondered if it’d be cloudy in San Diego. When I parked at the garage I snapped a photo of my level, aisle and number. I found the shuttle without a problem. I witnessed a girl panic over losing her wallet. I inwardly breathed a sigh of relief because I wasn’t that girl, or any of the people frantic over forgotten pieces or certain unknowns, and things were going smoothly. For once I felt like I was succeeding at taking myself on an adventure without my marbles scattering every which direction.


My sister picked me up in a rented white Chevrolet Spark, and we sped up and down the hills of San Diego alongside cars wheeling God-knows-where and twinkling nightlights carving out the shape of the horizon. I was fraught with weariness. Travel saps me of energy. And of course, as every traveler should be on the opposite end of a four-hour flight, I was hungry. We checked in to our accommodation and immediately found the nearest In-N-Out, the somewhat legendary burger slinger of California. I’m sure the burger was relatively close to average, if not a bit above, but my rumbling stomach perceived it as the most delectable edible fireworks imaginable. We passed a couple hours sipping Blue Moons on the lovely gazebo of Hang’s Air B&B property, which I’d give five thumbs up if I had that many arms. Her and her husband greeted us briefly, and I can’t say enough good things about how clean and wonderful the room proved to be.

In-N-Out wasn’t the culinary highlight of the trip, of course. Saturday morning we shrugged into stylish little dresses and traversed seven flights of stairs to RoofTop 600 at Andaz for $12 bottomless mimosas, huevos rancheros and Nutella pancakes. This was after pre-breakfasting on a warm chocoalte chip bowl and flavored lattes at a small cafe on the city outskirts. In Seaport Village I licked coconut cream and rich chocolate frosting off an almond-dusted cupcake. I realize now how much sugar I consumed, and I also recognize that I don’t really care. We all need some extra sweetness occasionally. Or often. Or all the time.

IMG_3349IMG_3353IMG_3416IMG_3424IMG_3439IMG_3486Saturday was our fullest day. We ducked down the streets of the Gaslamp Quarter after breakfast, scratched our heads at a mysterious going-on at Petco Park, meandered along Harbor (me fangirling at the Convention Center and, subsequently, the fact that Comic Con happens there) and found with relative ease Seaport Village tucked away by the water. We spent most of the afternoon shop-hopping at Seaport, where my sister bought a neon yellow San Diego hoodie; we noshed the aforementioned decadences at Frost Me Gourmet Cupcakes and grabbed nachos and pizza from the little diners folded away in the eastern corner of the plaza. A magician was at work before us and some other performers meandered in thereafter. We took photos by the welcome sign, headed back into the city and prevented full-on crashes with simple pours from Skybound Coffee + Dessert Lounge.

Nighttime in the Gaslamp is joyous to see. I’m a sucker for watching lights play on the street like illuminated children. We marveled at multihued carriages led by bikers with thighs probably made of adimantium then stopped at The Hopping Pig and let our talk get darker for awhile as the sun set, diving into a difficult topic but leaving it on the bar after we exited. Much of our time we spent silently observing like outsiders usually do. We melded with and separated from the masses who seemed to know much better where they were going than we. Both of us were sleepy and let ourselves get swept by the blinking and humming and whispering. We broke off from the walkway and had burgers at a small unassuming lounge. At some point one of us remembered that our parking pass expired at 8:30. A guy in the parking lot wanted to buy the remaining time, but whizzed off upon being informed that only a half hour remained on the ticket. 12 hours for $10, by the way, is not a bad deal for downtown parking.

Here are some downtown highlights. Seeing that we only had that single day to wander the neighborhood, this list is short and concise. The Gaslamp and the harbor area are chock full of sights, smells, tastes, and sounds. San Diego is so vast and interesting, you’re bound to find something you love. In my case, I happened to love almost everything, including two little neighborhoods outside of downtown that will be the topic of another blog post!

  1. Rooftop600 at Andaz
  2. Skybound Coffee + Dessert Lounge
  3. Burger Lounge
  4. The Hopping Pig
  5. The Tipsy Crow
  6. Crazy Goose
  7. The San Diego Convention Center
  8. Frost Me Gourmet Cupcakes
  9. Upstart Crow Bookstore & Coffee House
  10. San Diego Trading Company – for souvenirs
  11. The Carousel at Seaport Village


Instagram: @venturingeast



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