Friday, April 03, 2015

Hanging Out With the Seals of San Diego

We had initially planned on arriving in San Diego on Thursday, a day before Lydia's mom and sister. Our flight plan was messed up beyond repair and Southwest put us up in a hotel in Phoenix for the night. Why not? They also gave us $400 in travel vouchers which we immediately spent on trips to occur later this month. Free travel vouchers don't last long with us these days.

On Friday we drove the rental straight from the airport to Torrey Pines State Reserve. For some reason I expected a basic wooded area, but this park was pretty amazing. The beach was nice and had an eye catching mixture of black and yellow sand.

Lydia's crew.

There were big wads of seaweed sitting in the sand that we (ok, mostly I) found noteworthy. After a nice walk on the beach we drove up the hill to the welcome center.

At the visitor center they had quite a collection of cacti and other fun plants that I don't see much.

We continued on into La Jolla and had lunch. Lydia's mom and sister are both doing the vegan thing so that was an interesting twist to the culinary part of the trip. So we walk into a place that is part cafe and part yoga something studio and order off of the chalk board menu. I don't know what brought it on but I got this feeling of personal growth or growing up or something. This place was pretty "out there" and I can remember a time that I would have disdained the place as being too hippie but I ended up having a great meal.

One of the first things I saw was a pregnant lady in yoga clothing with her belly hanging out, which had a large intricate henna tattoo inscribed on it. Welcome to California.

I had a couple of really good portabella mushroom tacos, with really interestingly textured homemade shells and a smoothie with different berries and other good stuff in it.

We popped into the local Goodwill for the heck of it then headed to Children's Pool Beach for something completely different. The draw at this beach is the seals. As we approached I wondered if maybe we had come at the wrong time of day because I didn't see any seals at all. As we got nearer though I could see their little heads popping up among the waves. There were a few babies struggling against the tide which were particular crowd favorites.

After hopping up on a few rocky... rocks we found where 10-20 seals were taking naps in the sun. They were fun to watch even while sleeping. One looked like she was having a dream because her little flippers kept flapping against the rocks. If we were too loud one might briefly open its big eyes and turn its head in our direction but it would quickly doze off again. They didn't seem bothered by our presence in the slightest.

The babies were like little slippery pillows with a head. With a painful amount of cute they seemed to be almost as bad at moving in the water as they were on land. We briefly considered taking one home. At the very least we could have borrowed one and let it live in the hotel bathtub for a couple of days.

If you can think of one good reason "seal dreaming its swimming" shouldn't be a 24 hour tv channel then you sir are a monster and I bid you good day. Good day to you sir!

As we were about to leave we witnessed the most pathetic scene like ever. This baby seal was trying to get to its mother but it just sucked at moving so, so badly. The waves were too strong to swim over and it just did not have the legs, knees, elbows, or really any useful body part to move on land. It just mewed and struggled. I just wanted to pick the damn thing up and walk it over there just to end the suffering for both of us.

The real stick-in-the-eye of it all was that its sibling was over there with the mom, just gobbling up all that milk. Really just going to town within eyeshot of its limbless and hungry crying sibling. Maybe if a hawk or something came and snatched the hungry one this could have been sadder. I think that's the only way. Or if Hungry made it all the way over there and the mom was like "you're adopted" and then the hawk swooped down. I'll have to think about it.

We gawked at a stranger's wedding nearby for a bit.

Well it would be hard to top that but we definitely tried. I drove the rental to Balboa Park and we had a nice stroll. Balboa fits into the same story as St. Louis' Forest Park where a world's fair type thing was held and they decided to keep a lot of the buildings. Both the 1915–16 Panama–California Exposition and 1935–36 California Pacific International Exposition were held at the park. The Panama one was held to celebrate the opening of the Panama Canal, to which San Diego was relevant because it is the southernmost port on the west coast and was suddenly much more important to all the ships using the Panama Canal from the east coast.

Anyway we'd come late enough that the numerous museums and attractions were all closed so we finished up our walk, dropped the luggage and some people off at the hotel, and then returned the rental car and took the metro back. One night of parking at the hotel would have cost more than the car cost to rent so it seemed like the right call.

We had dinner at an interesting Mexican restaurant and then called it a night.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Leave the Gun... Take the Cannoli

We made a trip back to St. Louis to see the families and also to see The Godfather with live orchestra soundtrack at Powell Hall.

The show was pretty rad but unexpectedly I think the live performance part was better at The Matrix. Godfather was rocking that awesome mandolin but Matrix just had a lot more going on, like a harp, eerie violins, and a freaking choir. Plus I think Godfather had a lot more spans of absolute silence.

Anyway Powell Hall's concession stand always has fancy made up cocktails with names that refer to the movie at hand. 

Lydia had never seen Godfather (un-American) so I made her drink enough coffee to kill a Colombian to keep her awake. It was a success. Seago and Margaret were also in attendance.

Monday, March 16, 2015

The Trip Out of Mexico

On the last day of our trip we returned home and absolutely nothing of consequence occurred. I did get some sweet shots through the plane window though.

We had one last clean, fast, cheap, non-taxi bus ride to the airport.

The check-in people made us fill out those silly paper tags even though we had our own tags plus the airline's baggage sticker things.


And down we went. Over and over.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Alligators and Cinderella in Mexico

We had yet another really good lunch at a restaurant called Labna's which upped the Mayan street cred ante by having a building shaped like a pyramid. We were the only people in there so the waiter was especially nice. I guess the custom in Mexico is that it is rude to bring the bill without the guest first requesting it, even if they are clearly finished eating.

Labna's earned us additional legit tourist points because the food was not only Mexican but specifically from the Yucatan Peninsula.

Lydia's sangria seemed suspiciously like someone just poured some wine on top of some lemonade in a glass.

To start with we had papadzules: "corn tortillas stuffed with boiled eggs bathed in pumpkin seed sauce". We just shared one entree after that: poc chuc, "grilled strip of pork with local condiments and served with sour Yucatecan orange, chili/tomato sauce and steamed beans." I had an interesting sweet/tart drink made from the spinach-like chaya leaf with a shot of anise flavored xtabentĂșn to top it off. 

Outside they were already readying the mini cars for another night of festivities.

Well this was the day that our zero planning finally caught up with us. We went to the bus station to book passage to the famous Chichen Itza but were told the trip was like four hours long. The pyramid would be closed by the time we arrived.

Inside the bus station.

We attempted to salvage the remainder of the day by booking a trip to Puerto Morelos, where the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System almost touches the shore. The idea being to get some snorkeling done even though our SCUBA dreams had been scuttled. Well we got all the way to the beach and found that the rental shops had recently closed.

We caught a bit of a baseball game while walking towards the beach.

When you see a "Caution! Alligators" sign that has clearly been bitten in half it is time for you to move your ass. 

I did what I could for this little boy fishing nearby by yelling "every man for themselves!" as I jogged past. Poor little bugger. I'm a hero though.

At this point we were road weary and needed to stop for an emergency margarita and regroup.

Cutting our losses, we went back to Cancun city for another great meal. This time it was much closer to the style of Mexican restaurant that Americans are accustomed to, with lots of colorful things hanging from the ceiling and a roving mariachi band.

To finish the day we decided to risk our souls by entering the tourist trap hell called Cancun Island. It was sort of Vegas feeling with just a long straight strip of road completely flanked on either side with gigantic resorts.

We went to a mall to see Cinderella and I almost threw up in my mouth when I saw the chains. So many chains. Hooters, Hard Rock, Harley Davidson, Senor Frogs, Chili's, and the largest Bubba Gump Shrimp I've ever laid eyes on. I thought back to the lady with the sparkly cowboy boots who'd vacationed at the same place 20 times in a row. I thought to myself: this is what happens when you never grow up. This is an adult ordering from the kid's menu of life. What a horrible place this is.

Whew, things got real there for a second. Anyway I enjoyed Cinderella a lot more than I expected with the help of two actors from Game of Thrones and two more from Downton Abbey.