In the morning, we got up, finished packing, and checked out of the hotel. Three nights was our longest stay in one place! It didn’t really feel that long at all.
We stocked up on coffee in the lobby and got on the road to San Juan Capistrano, where we had a date with the Amtrak station. One thing we’d learned and yet refused to accept is the Google Maps (or Google navigation) just isn’t that good in California. We got lost a lot, and Capistrano was no exception. We ended up driving all over the damn place, which was really stressful since we had a train to catch.
We finally found our way there, and parked in the ramp. They had long-term spots there that weren’t too expensive, so we were happy about that. We grabbed our carry-on bags, which just had a change of clothes and other necessities, and locked the rest of our luggage in the trunk.
I had never ridden the Amtrak before, at least not since I was a kid in Chicago going to visit my grandma in Milwaukee. Matt had taken the City of New Orleans years ago, but neither of us was entirely sure how it worked. We found a conductor on the platform, and he told us where to wait to board. We had standard tickets, not first class. You know, we’re not fancy.
When we heard the train coming around the bend, I was almost jumping up and down with excitement. I’ve wanted to ride the Pacific Surfliner since the moment I learned about it.
We boarded the train and found an open seat. The windows were configured in such a way that the view wasn’t perfect, but it was still pretty amazing. We headed off, and the conductor came through and punched our tickets. After a while, we decided to go check out the cafe car.
The view there was much better, so we stayed there until the end of the line. The staff working there was hilarious, too… they were mostly interested in smack-talking each other about their fantasy football teams.
We’d decided to take the train from San Juan Capistrano rather than Union Station in LA because north of Capistrano, it pretty much just follows the interstate, which is well inland. Starting where we did, we got just the section where you’re riding along the coast. I’d heard the views were spectacular, and that was absolutely true. We didn’t leave the ocean side until about La Jolla, heading into Old Town San Diego.
We headed back to our seats shortly before arriving at the end of the line, Santa Fe Depot in San Diego. Even pulling into that historic building was fantastic. We walked around to the other side, and found our friend April waiting there to pick us up. She had big plans for us!
April’s friend Dave had come along, because they’d been talking for a while about how he wanted to rent a boat and go sailing again, because it had been a while. April knew that Matt and I would never turn down a chance to go on a boat, so we were thrilled with that arrangement.
We drove out to a boat rental shop on Mission Bay and they made arrangements. It was a little chillier than I’d expected, so I bought a cute blanket they were selling in the shop. (I probably would’ve bought it anyway. Who’s a sucker for nautical stuff? ME.) Then we headed out to the dock, where we saw this amazing thing waiting nearby. I want to own it. (That’s a grill in the center, in case it wasn’t obvious. It has a gigantic sunshade that goes over the top, too.
While it had been overcast when we left LA, because bad weather was approaching, there was nothing but blue sky in San Diego. It was gorgeous.
There was a bit of difficulty sailing out of the harbor, but Dave got back into captainship quickly. Our instructions were to sail under the bridge into Mission Bay, since the opposite direction would take us right out into the ocean. Nobody needs that in a 20′ sailboat.
The center span of the Mission Bay bridge is just barely tall enough for the sails to pass under. It was nervewracking.
Then there was just sailing, and it was perfect. They’d brought banh mi sandwiches for everyone, so we had lunch on the boat. April is the best.
Bally had a good time, too, I think.
We couldn’t stay out long because the place closed before sunset, but it was really nice to get out on a boat again. Also, these dudes were hanging out in the harbor when we got back.
Also, there’s this seagull riding a jetski. I laughed about this forever.
After our sail, we decided to go get drinks before dinner. They took us to an awesome little dive bar called the Aero Club, which, to Matt’s great delight, had an absolutely massive whiskey selection. Like the shelves went all the way to the ceiling, and we spent a ton of time speculating as to how they’d get up there if you were to order from a bottle on top. (Later we found out the answer: they have a stepladder.)
We hung out there talking for a while, and another of April’s friends joined us. Then we decided it was dinnertime, so we walked down the block to Starlite. (You’ll just have to go look at the photos on the website to see how amazing it is.) We had an excellent meal there, and since we spent so much time discussing beer, decided to organize a beer exchange program with them. San Diego is pretty spoiled when it comes to great breweries.
Then it was time to go check into the hotel, so April and Dave dropped us off at the Urban Boutique Hotel in Little Italy. We said goodbye, and went inside. The place was super-cute and in a great location for walking anywhere downtown. Unfortunately, the room had some issues. Like no toilet paper, and the cable was wired wrong so the TV didn’t work. I didn’t discover til the next morning that the shower didn’t work, either. NOT OK.
We dropped our stuff off and headed back out to get a post-dinner drink before bed. It was still really nice outside, and walking through Little Italy was great. (I hadn’t seen much of that part of town before.) We walked down to Richard Blais’ restaurant, Juniper and Ivy, and got seats at the bar.
The place was really nice, and even though it was late, the restaurant was still full. (That’s one of the things I love about the coasts… it’s not weird to go get dinner at 10pm.) We hung out there for a bit, and then decided to walk down and see the Embarcadero before heading back to the hotel.
That end of downtown is immediately under the flight path for planes landing at the airport, so it was pretty awesome to see jets coming in that low over us. We walked down the hill and saw a couple huge yachts with parties in progress, and a very eager pedicab driver waiting to give drunk people rides home. We looked at the museum ships along the waterfront, and then walked back to the hotel and called it a night.