Despite being in LA for 11 years, I didn’t know what a traveler’s paradise is San Diego. Although, just 1.5 hours drive from South Orange County, this drive on any Saturday takes 2-3 hours. There has to be a reason! San Diego is popular for the ‘World famous’ tourist attractions – Sea World, San Diego Zoo and the Wild Animal Park. But relatively less known ( at least oblivious to me ) is a side of this southern CA city that is equally fun to visit.
Drive from LA to San Diego is a testament to the saying, ‘it’s the journey that’s important not the destination’. Driving South on 5 freeway along the Pacific Ocean, stopping at vista points, outlet shopping at Oceanside, the wilderness of Camp Pendleton and being stones throw away from a nuclear reactor are all part of ‘San Diego Experience’.
On a warm summer afternoon in 2010 we arrived at the aircraft carrier USS Midway parked at the San Diego harbor. It has three levels that are open to visitors: Upper Deck, Engineer level and Main level. We walked about the main level which offers a window into the lives of the sailors. It houses the cre
w bunkers and officer’s quarters, also it has the anchor room and flight preparation rooms. One has to see the matchbox style bunkers to believe it!! We skipped the engineer room and went straight to the upper deck. Not least since that level is not blog worthy but because my interest lay elsewhere.
The most interesting deck on the ship for me was the Upper deck where 10-15 planes are parked. You can walk right up to these planes, touch them, even sit in cockpits of some of them. It’s awe inspiring being so close to these war-machines. Most of them are from 1950-60s but some are recent too! My favorite is the sexiest of the lot, the F-16 (made iconic by the movie Top Gun). Right on the heel is F/A-18 Super Hornet another awesome jet. ‘A bit of trivia: F’ stands for fighter i.e. Air to Air. ‘A’ for attack or air to ground. F-16 is therefore a fighter, F/A-18 on the other hand is designed to fight and attack. One can even visit the carrier’s bridge, also called the island.
Besides the jets, what makes this my favorite desk is that its ‘outside’, it’s out in the open. There is plenty room to just wander about, sit on benches along the edge, and enjoy the view; views like: USS Ronald Regan parked at the Naval base, city of SD and the harbor in general.
The weather and the view made me thirsty for a chilled beer and the Sea Shore village, about 2 blocks away, is the right place to get it. There is plenty of street entertainment at the village, bike rides, ‘rickshaw rides’ not to mention outdoor eating options. The Greek joint here is not shabby at all but to enjoy the weather, we chose the Fish Market, to sit on their outdoor patio. It completes the Midway experience with beer in hand and sunset on the horizon; It was a Corona moment.
Other Things to Do: If you have enough time, check out ‘Cabrillo Monument’. It’s out just outside and high above the city giving a bird’s eye view of the city, its harbor, naval base and amazing sunsets in the Pacific Ocean. Remnants of its past from WWII are open to visitors. So is the cemetery for fallen soldiers. One can also visit the tide pools at the beach front. My only complain: door to the park close at 5pm. So get there in time.