vacation

Vacation Recap Part 4 (AKA: The Grand Finale)

Or the Grand Finally. However you choose to read that.

Here we are at the end of my little trip to San Diego. After a long day of walking in Balboa Park (that counts as exercise, right?) we went back to our hotel to put on warmer clothes and wander around Pacific Beach for a while. Don’t feel too bad for us, it wasn’t too cold, just a little chilly (like low 60’s) when the sun started to set each day. When we were walking back from dinner Saturday night we passed this great gourmet ice cream sandwich shop called “The Baked Bear“. It was a cute hipster dessert joint with a reclaimed barnwood wall, white subway tile, and a few industrial touches. Right up my alley.

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Custom Ice Cream Sandwiches from The Baked Bear San Diego

They had the most delicious cookies and ice cream sandwiches. It was kind of like the Chipotle or Subway of ice creams sandwiches really. You chose your bottom cookie, your top cookie, and the ice cream you wanted in the middle. They also had waffles, brownies, and cookie bowls. There was even a double decked sandwich option which I’m surprised my husband didn’t order. He’s kind of obsessed with cookies.

Truth.

Truth.

My husband got a red velvet cookie, a chocolate chip cookie and mint chocolate chip ice cream. I got an M&M cookie and a funfetti cake cookie with cookie dough ice cream. Calories don’t count on vacation. That’s what I’m sticking with at least.

Sometimes I take really great pictures of inanimate objects.

Sometimes I take really great pictures of inanimate objects.

After enjoying some hipster music and ice cream, we walked to the end of the Crystal Pier. This pier is actually a hotel. There are several cottages right on the pier that can be rented out and lived in. Literally over the ocean. Someday I’d love to stay there. We took a few pictures and head back to the park on the cliff by our hotel that over looked the ocean.

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Ocean through a small hole on Crystal Pier

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Wide open ocean at the end of Crystal Pier!

We watched the sunset one last time. I was determined to take in all of the warmth I possibly could! I got a few more shots of sunset with my fancy pants camera this time. It just got prettier and prettier the lower the sun fell.

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After sunset, we went back to our hotel room to decide on a restaurant for dinner. We ended up going back to the same restaurant we went to on the last night of our Honeymoon a year ago. Po Pazzo in Little Italy was so perfect last time, we knew it was a great dinner, good service, and cozy atmosphere. Guaranteed. I put on the long sheer skirt and another new top I got from Forever 21 on Saturday, did up my hair and makeup too. I felt beautiful. It had been a long time since I pulled a nice outfit together (even had a place to wear a nice outfit for that matter) and feel like I looked as good as I felt.

 Sorry for the poor quality. They were so accommodating and even turned the lights up for us to take a picture!


Sorry for the poor quality. They were so accommodating and even turned the lights up for us to take a picture!

Back at the hotel, we packed and hit the hay early because we had an early flight out. (I thought I’d have to work Wednesday and wanted to be home on Tuesday! Go figure!) Getting to the airport went a lot smoother than getting out of the airport Friday night, thank goodness. Our flight was very on time and I felt like we hardly had to wait at all at our terminal. The flight home was awesome. We had the best crew of flight attendants I’ve ever had on a flight. They were making all kinds of jokes and even complimented my Ironman shirt. When we took off from San Diego, the last thing they said was “Good -bye sun”. Arriving in Chicago they announced “Welcome to Chiberia”. They made the transition home so much more bearable. Props to you Southwest Airlines!

All in all, one of the best vacations I’ve ever had. We were intentional about savoring every minute of it, enjoying all the sunshine and warmth we could possibly wrangle. We didn’t eat super healthy (or super bad either, our portions were reasonable), nor did we workout much. That’s okay though. I did all the hard work here at home so I could truly relax and enjoy vacation. And I did. Since this is a fitness blog, I feel I should also mention that while I was still 4 lbs over my goal weight, I didn’t gain a single ounces on vacation. I think the key was enjoying food in moderation, being active when I could be (running the morning I wanted to run, walking everywhere), and not stressing about it. 

I guess it’s really back to real life now! Soon, there will be regular posts about regular things. It will be awesome! Stay tuned.

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Vacation Recap Part 3

Monday, our last day in San Diego. I was hoping to get a run in when I woke up, but I was seriously tired and a little bit sleep deprived/jet lagged still. The weather was a perfect 7 and sunny so we decided to take advantage by spending our day in Balboa Park. I had actually only been to Balboa at night so it was new experience for both me and my husband. After we found parking we gravitated toward the Bea Evenson Fountain. I couldn’t remember the last time I saw I fountain with running water. It was beautiful. A turn to our right and we were looking down El Prado. My husband said it reminded him of Disney World, so here he is giving me his best Disney pose:

El Prado at Balboa Park, San Diego

El Prado at Balboa Park, San Diego

After that, we tried to take a selfie with my fancy pants camera, and for the first and only time on our vacation, someone offered to take our picture for us! So we  have one nice picture of us without giant arms.

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I immediately went into professional – amateur photographer mode after this. There was so many pretty buildings and parks! We walked down El Prado, through the Palm Canyon, around to the Spreckels Organ Pavilion, then spent some time by the Lily Pond. Here are a few of my favorite shots (Please don’t judge, I just got my DSLR 6 weeks ago):

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Casa del Prado, Balboa Park, San Diego

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Massive tree roots in the Palm Canyon Garden.

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Written on a fallen palm tree. Only in California…

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Lots of little fish in the Lily Pond (no lilies yet though!)

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I couldn’t resist feeling the grass under my bare feet!

After a quick picnic lunch in the sunshine, we headed to the Botanic Garden building. There was so many gorgeous flowers and trees. I took tons more pictures:

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Palm branches against the “ceiling”.

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Tulips! We won’t see those here for another 2 months!

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No idea what this is, but the veining and texture of the leaves was so interesting.

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Little puddle of water in the middle of this plant.

Last stop was the Spanish Village Art Center. It’s home to 37 working studios/art galleries. It was really just a neat place to walk through and marvel at the creativity of others. We saw a kaliedescope made of flowers. You turned the planter and the shapes that moved in the view finder were the flowers! And the stone walkways were painted all sorts of bright colors. I was already told I was not allowed to do this in our backyard when we (eventually) put a patio in. Bummer. There was live music too. Just a really neat place.

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A sweet entrance to a jewelry studio.

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Flower kaleidoscope!

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Painted walkways. Probably even prettier with the twinkle lights on at night!

I’s so glad we decided to explore Balboa Park. It was a relaxing, refreshing day. I was hoping I’d squeeze in the other events from our day, but since we did so much on our last day, I don’t think I can adequately tell the tale of our finale evening. I hate to break my promises, but it looks like the Grande Finale will have to wait one more day. I will promise, however, that once these vacation wrap ups are finished, I’ll be back to my normal posting content. I’m getting into a new routine so things could get interesting!

Vacation Recap Part 2

Hand painted crosses fill a wall of a shop in Old Town, San Diego

Hand painted crosses fill a wall of a shop in Old Town, San Diego

After our busy Saturday in sunny San Diego, I was pretty tired waking up Sunday. We had a little breakfast in our hotel room and then decided to check out a local church that had been recommended to us by a friend of ours with California roots. I also had a friend who went to The Rock Church back when he was in college and I was visiting San Diego for the first time. He loved it so we gave it a try. I remembered the “old” Rock Church that met in an elementary school auditorium. I was shocked when we pulled up to a huge building and long lines to get a parking space. There were hundreds of people walking toward the main building and I started to get a little excited. It was so cool to know that God has grown this church so tremendously! Once we found a parking spot (near the back of the lot because we needed space for “the beast”), we headed down the street to the church. You could feel the eagerness and joy of the congregation walking toward the entrance. Once inside, we were in a very dark, very large auditorium with three levels of seating. The first two levels were already almost packed even though the service had only started 3-4 minutes earlier. We found some seats and stayed standing for worship.

They sang the same songs our home church sings, and the musicians played them the same way, but there was a different sense of intensity and passion. These people were free to raise their hands and sing loud. Our home church is way more reserved and I’ve always hated it. I don’t know if it’s just my own perspective or if it’s really the norm for our church culture, but it’s usually not normal to let lose during worship, to raise hands freely, to shout, and dance. Some people do, but they seen as hyper-passionate and maybe just a bit nuts. There in the dark, singing “my God is might to save”, and “praise the one who paid my debt and raised this life up from the dead”, I found severe joy. I had failed in so many ways: I lost my job, couldn’t complete my 35 workout commitment, struggled once again with binge eating and flirted with depression. But the truth had never been so clear – God had saved me already, and would continue to save me. I could trust him and have joy despite my circumstances.

The rest of the service was nearly as good. The message was solid, and I loved that they always knelt to pray and that there was a call to prayer at the end of the service. These people know that there is strength in weakness and power in prayer. I don’t know that I live in that reality even on Sunday mornings. It was definitely refreshing and I’m so glad that we made time for church on vacation.

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Flags in the wind outside Casa Guadalajara

On to the less sappy stuff: After church we headed to one of our favorite places in San Diego, Old Town. It’s a neighborhood/tourist attraction that looks like a early Spanish colony. Tons of cute stucco and adobe shops decorated with brightly colored flags line several streets. There’s a park where mariachi’s play, and a few hidden souvenir shops flea markets. We ate at a busy Mexican restaurant (over rated), then did a little shopping. We had bought friendship bracelets at a South America Imports store while on our Honeymoon in San Diego last year, so we each bought another this year. This time we got matching chickens. I just happened to be wearing my bracelet from last year too!

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After our trip to Old Town, we went back to our hotel and grabbed our beach blanket and headed down to watch the sun set. Even with clouds, it was beautiful.

Breathtaking!

Here’s the part we were really looking forward to: AMC Theater La Jolla. They have reclining theater seats, a restaurant and a bar. We were pumped! We had snacked on crackers and leftovers for dinner, so we stopped and smuggled some candy into the theater, although it would’ve been cool to take advantage of the theater amenities. So get this, we were able to reserve our seats when we bought our tickets online. We got the best ones in the theater and they were still open when we got there. There wasn’t anyone really checking for seat reservations, but I’m sure we could’ve booted someone out by showing them our stubs. We saw the only decent looking movie playing at 9:20 on a Sunday night – Lego Movie. It was hilarious. The parts of it I caught at least. The seats were so comfy and the theater was so warm (because when it’s 60 degrees out Californians crank the furnace up) that I found myself dosing off a few times. I still enjoyed myself. It’d be great to have a theater like this near us; I’d have to go to earlier shows though to stay awake!

Putting your feet up is encouraged at La Jolla’s AMC theater!

After the movie, we basically went back to the hotel and crashed. Two jam packed days and we were just exhausted. Probably a little jet lagged too. When our movie got out at 11:30 California time, it was 1:30 Chicago time. Way past my bedtime! The next day would be our last day and it was just as good as the first two.

Stop by tomorrow for the thrilling conclusion to this three part vacation recap saga!

Vacation Recap Part 1

View of Crystal Pier and San Diego beyond from Palisades Park in Pacific Beach

View of Crystal Pier and San Diego beyond from Palisades Park in Pacific Beach

I just love San Diego. It never gets old. The weather is nearly perfect year round. The food is fantastic. The sunsets are breathtaking. Traffic is better. People are nicer. I’ve vacationed there 5 times now and even lived there for a summer. Every time I’m there, I fall a little more in love. This time was no exception. This actually may have been one of the best trips to San Diego I’ve ever had. It was off to a rocky start Friday evening…

Because of 40 mph wind gusts (that tore off our front storm door Thursday night) our flight was delayed. We left around 5:20 for our 7:10 flight that was delayed until 8:05. By the time we got to the airport, our delay had us leaving at 8:45. With over two hours to kill at the airport, we got dinner, people watched and had a little fun moving from one gate to another. We finally boarded our plane around 9:15 and took off around 9:30. The wait stunk, but the flight was actually the smoothest we’ve ever had and it was nice and quiet on the plane since it was late and most people were reading or sleeping.

We got to San Diego’s airport a little after midnight California time, about 2:10am Chicago time. We were exhausted but still excited to be on vacation. We got our luggage and called the car rental place because we’d overheard someone saying they were taking a taxi to their hotel because the car rental places were all closed. We had a reservation for a car that was wildly inexpensive, but, sure enough, they were closed. We called our hotel to see if they had any suggestions for public transit or a shuttle. They told us they cancelled our reservation because our credit card was declined. Great! Once we explained to them that our credit cards were replaced a few weeks ago from the Target breach, and that we were in San Diego stranded at the airport, they were able to reinstate our reservation. Whew! They told us that public transit stops at midnight (What kind of city does that??) and that we’d need to take a cab. It was a $30 ride. No thank you! We saw shuttles for Hertz, and called them to get a quote on a rental car. The quote was twice as much as our reserved rental was, but it was still cheaper than taking a cab. So off we were on a Hertz shuttle.

When we got to Hertz, about 1 am California time, there were only two employees and 7 people waiting. It seems they’re the only place open 24 hours and there were a lot of flights delayed. Around 1:30 we got the “economy” car rental we had been quoted over the phone at the airport – a Toyota Tundra. My husband was ecstatic that he got to drive around a beastly pick up truck for the weekend. It was honestly hilarious. Could we have gotten anything more opposite of what we requested? At least they honored our quoted price.

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We got to the hotel around 2am, 4 am Chicago time. Check in was a breeze and our room was just fine. I think I finally got to sleep around 3. I had been up for almost a full 24 hours and yet I woke up at 8am California time the next day. I hoped out of bed like I’d slept for 10 hours instead of 5 and went for a run on the Pacific Beach boardwalk. I could’ve cried when I saw the ocean waves! I did an easy 3 miles and then grabbed my husband for breakfast on the beach. While I was out running he picked up some cereal, milk, bananas, and bowls and spoons. We finished our cereal and I noticed that there was a massive, probably 100 person, yoga class going on in the park on the cliff above the beach. I wanted to join so badly, but I didn’t have a yoga mat, and my husband was anxious to move on with our day. Next time I’ll be there!

Board walk run. This was 1/2 block from our hotel! Gorgeous!

Post run beach breakfast

Post run beach breakfast

We made friends on the beach.

We made friends on the beach.

After a shower, it got cloudy and a little cool. So we decided to hit up Fashion Valley mall. Oh wait, my husband would kill me if I forgot this very important detail – before the mall, we went to In and Out Burger. So good and so fresh! Back to shopping. I had been saving money to go on a little shopping spree at the giant Forever 21 store they have there. My husband went off on his own and got to spend over two hours trying on over 50 items. Since I’ve lost several inches, everything fit! I had so much fun trying on this I would have never looked good in before. I ended up spending about $100 (not bad!) and got 4 shirts, a romper, and my favorite – a long sheer maxi skirt with shorts underneath. Picture of that will be on an upcoming vacation recap.

We decided to go out for a nice dinner that evening. Just down the street we noticed a cool 2 story brewery and restaurant and knew we wanted to check it out. The Pacific Beach Ale House was a major highlight for me. The ambiance was cozy on the roof top deck with glass fencing, twinkle lights, and outdoor heaters. Our server was really sweet and personable. The beer was just as good as some of my favorites from back home. And the food was delicious. If we would have been there for more than 3 days, I would have gone back for sure. After dinner we stopped by another bar that shall remain nameless because it wasn’t all that great. A couple round of a game we like, Blink, back at the hotel and we were ready to hit the hay.

Picture from Pacific Beach Ale House website.

More to come…