San Diego

California’s Second-Largest City, A Laid-Back City Renowned For Its Ideal Climate, Impressive Beaches, & Benchmark-Setting Zoo


The USS Midway at sunset. Harbour Drive in San Diego Bay. April 16, 2013

I had heard from more than one source that San Diego, the southern Californian city renowned for its ideal climate, impressive beaches, and benchmark-setting zoo, was a nice city. It is. Although it has a population of almost 1.4 million, making it the second largest in the state of California & the eight-largest in the entire US, it somehow manages to ooze calm, its laid-back approach meaning it’s a much more enjoyable experience of a city than Los Angeles, its (much) bigger, busier & more impersonal northern neighbour. I enjoyed the 2 days I’ve just spent here, my last few days, for now, in the US. But before I cross tomorrow over the nearby border into Mexico, here’s a little of what kept me busy for the last few days I’ve spent liking likable San Diego.

Harbor Drive || Ships & Sunsets

The Star of India on Harbor Drive, San Diego, California, USA. April 16th 2013.

The Star of India on Harbor Drive. A full-rigged iron windjammer ship, it was built in 1863 at Ramsey in the Isle of Man, one of the British Isles in the Irish Sea. After a full career sailing from Great Britain to India and New Zealand, she became a salmon hauler on the Alaska to California route. Retired in 1926, she was not restored until 1962–63 and is now a seaworthy museum ship home-ported at the Maritime Museum here on San Diego’s Harbor Drive. The oldest iron-hulled merchant ship still afloat & none other than the world’s oldest active sailing ship makes her, and not surprisingly, both a California Historical Landmark and a United States National Historic Landmark. Harbor Drive, San Diego Bay, San Diego (map-pointer-icon), southern California, USA. April 16, 2013.

A section of USS Midway at sunset on Harbor Drive in San Diego, California, USA. April 16th 2013.

San Diego has a strong military presence; it’s home to the Pacific Fleet of the United States Navy. This is a picture of a section of USS Midway at sunset on Harbor Drive. A former US Navy aircraft carrier, the Midway is now open for tours and houses a collection of former naval aircraft on her expansive flight deck. Guided tours and displays offer the public a unique look into the life aboard a powerful, old warhorse. San Diego, southern California, USA. April 16, 2013.

Running on Harbor Drive in San Diego, California, USA. April 16th 2013.

Running on Harbor Drive in San Diego, southern California, USA. April 16, 2013.

Petco Park || Home of the San Diego Padres

Outside Petco Park, the home of the San Diego Padres Baseball Team. San Diego, California, USA. April 16th 2013.

Outside Petco Park, the home of the San Diego Padres Baseball Team. The Padres were not in town when I was so I didn’t get to see a game. I would have liked to, even if they are one of the worst teams in baseball (& they are, this year at least). Notice the two kids in the bottom-right posing the for the picture, something I didn’t notice at time of capture. They are both positively beaming. Cute. San Diego, southern California, USA. April 16, 2013

A statue of Tony Gwynn, the greatest ever San Diego Padre, outside Petco Park, the home of the San Diego Padres Baseball Team. San Diego, California, USA. April 16th 2013.

A statue of Tony Gwynn, the greatest ever Padre to wield a bat, outside Petco Park, San Diego, southern California, USA. April 16, 2013.

San Diego Zoo

San Diego for me was always going to be about its world-renowned zoo, where I spent the best part of today.

Checking out the King Cobra housing in San Diego Zoo. San Diego, California, USA. April 17th 2013.

Checking out the King Cobra housing in San Diego Zoo. San Diego, southern California, USA. April 17, 2013.

I like animals. I like natural history. The travel bit is not the important bit. The travel bit is what you have to do in order to go and look at animals.

– Sir David Attenborough

San Diego Zoo, located in the city’s Balboa Park, has built something a reputation that marks it out as possibly the world’s premier zoo. It encompasses over 100 acres of displays & habitats. Animal shows run constantly and there are creatures on display here that aren’t visible in any other zoo on the planet, or so they claim. Definitely worth a visit, but you need a full day (or more) to really do it justice.

Partly submerged in San Diego Zoo. San Diego, California, USA. April 17th 2013.

Partly submerged in San Diego Zoo. San Diego, southern California, USA. April 17, 2013.

Same Same
San Diego Zoo was awesome and I can see why a lot of similar establishments the world over try to emulate it. That said, I felt a bit removed from some of the zoos most popular inhabitants, a consequence of being maybe just a little too spoiled over the years. The elephants? They were cool, but I just wanted to jump into their enclosure and hug their trunk, just like I did at the Elephant Safari Park in Bali, Indonesia. The bad-ass snakes? Instead of just laying there I wanted to see them do something cool right in front of my eyes, just like they did at the Snake Temple in Penang, Malaysia. Monkeys? They swung here, swung there, as monkeys do. But I wanted to get right up beside them, just like I did most recently in the Sacred Monkey Forest in Ubud, Bali. Likewise the orangutans. Having already seen them swinging from the trees in a Borneo jungle meant seeing them from behind glass wall this time around was a bit of a letdown. The tigers? Everyone seemed to love the fleeting, far-off glimpse they got of the lone tiger I saw as it pranced around its pen. I wasn’t amused and wanted to get right in there with it, just like I did in Tiger Kingdom in Chiang Mai, northern Thailand. And I didn’t even visit the koala zone, content with having made freinds with some of the residents of the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary in Australia. Yep, I guess I’ve been spoiled.

OK, so my visit to San Diego Zoo wasn’t a total bust. I did like the pandas, even if I had seen them before (in China, way back in 2004), and even if they did nothing more than lay around eating, which, being honest, is all they are pretty much programmed to do.

Snack time on the Panda Trek of the Panda Canyon zone of San Diego Zoo. San Diego, California, USA. April 17th 2013.

Snack time on the Panda Trek of the Panda Canyon zone of San Diego Zoo. San Diego, southern California, USA. April 17, 2013.

The polar bear was also cool (no pun intended), even if it was a tad weird to see a polar bear sunning itself in the heat of a San Diego late-April afternoon.

Viewing a polar bear in the Northern Frontier zone of San Diego Zoo. San Diego, California, USA. April 17th 2013.

Viewing a polar bear in the Northern Frontier zone of San Diego Zoo. San Diego, southern California, USA. April 17, 2013.

However, the highlight of my visit to San Diego Zoo was this guy, Ndjia the gorilla.

A gorilla in San Diego Zoo, California, USA. April 17th 2013.

I had never, and in so far as I could recall, been this close to a gorilla before so it was cool when the male seen here – Ndjia is his name, date of birth December 31, 1994 – played up for those of us viewing him from behind the protective glass wall. And with this awesome creature just a few feet from my camera it was probably the only time during the day that I was appreciative of that wall. San Diego Zoo, San Diego, southern California, USA. April 17, 2013.

A final capture from here in sunny San Diego.

A plane coming in to land at San Diego International Airport as seen from Laurel Street. San Diego, California, USA. April 17th 2013.

San Diego International Airport is less than 10 minutes from downtown San Diego. The descent into the airport from the east is remarkably close to downtown buildings, making for great photo opportunities among the residential streets of this district of the city. Laurel Street, San Diego, southern California, USA. April 17, 2013.

Adios
I’m leaving tomorrow but I’m not flying out of San Diego. I’ll be going the short distance (30 kilometres or so) south of the city to the international border crossing with Mexico, destination Tijuana ahead of a few months of travel through Mexico and further afield to Central America. Best brush up on my Spanish.

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