Saturday, May 9, 2009

An Englishman in San Diego - Birthday, Beasts, Burritos, Backstage and Beer

The fifth day of our San Diego vacation was also the day my four-year-old daughter turned five. This day was all about her. We spent the day at the world-renowned San Diego Zoo. I remember being excited to visit this zoo the last time we were here, because I had heard so much about it. I also remember being very slightly disappointed, perhaps because my expectations were set so high by what I had heard. San Diego has been at the forefront of many advances in zoology, such as breeding programs and animal enrichment (providing enclosures, items and activities to stimulate their minds and bodies). The facility itself seems just a little old-fashioned compared to some of the other zoos I have been to. Nevertheless, I do recommend a visit if you get a chance.

For my daughter's birthday dinner we went to Fred's Mexican Cafe in The Gaslamp Quarter. This area of San Diego, with its bars, restaurants and trendy shopping, is full of activity, especially during the evenings. Fred's Mexican Cafe is a lively bar and restaurant, offering Mexican favorites with a healthy California twist. It is also the place that my daughter, then two years old, first discovered a love for Mexican food. During our first visit here, I remember her asking our server for "Mexican Food" when asked what she would like to order. When pressed for what kind of Mexican food she would like, she got quite agitated, asking for "Mexican Food" again. We ordered for her that time. This time, there was no such confusion. My daughter confidently asked for a black bean and cheese burrito as we sat out on their front terrace, watching the world drift by. Fred's combination plates are a good way to sample a range of different Mexican items, and they have draft Dos Equis Ambar, which is always a good thing. The food is delicious and ideal for the budget-conscious.

That marked the last day of our stay at The Dana Hotel on Mission Bay. On Sunday, the sixth day of our vacation, we had to move hotels. First, we went to SeaWorld again, this time for a behind-the-scenes tour. We visited areas not usually seen by the public, including the medical facility and places where they rehabilitate sick, injured and orphaned animals. We saw pregnant dolphins, kept in quiet areas away from the public, and we saw birds such as flamingos and parrots, which have jobs as "animal ambassadors" for SeaWorld.

We went straight from SeaWorld to the Sheraton Hotel & Marina, where my wife's conference was being held. It is a lovely hotel, with luxurious rooms, and our room came with a balcony overlooking the marina. However, it is also on an artificial island (built on the by-product of dredging the shipping channel around the San Diego Coast), which means they have a captive audience for their overpriced restaurants and bars. Guests either pay inflated prices, or pay for a taxi to take them to a more reasonably priced location. While the bar offered a good selection of local brews on tap (I greatly enjoyed Stone Pale Ale), I was paying nearly twice as much for the pleasure than I was at our previous hotel.


Cindy said...

How does one get to go behind the scenes at Sea World?

Graham said...

@Cindy - you can book these tours right from the SeaWorld website:

You can also book them from the booking office inside the park.

It's definitely worth it.