Oliver is…

He that hath a beard is more than a youth, and he that hath no beard is less than a man

…done with San Diego

After Las Vegas I returned to LA for a few more days, stayed in my first proper motel and ate nothing but sandwiches and microwavable meals. I then boarded a bus to get to San Diego, a place I didn’t particularly fancy going, but went nonetheless, and — here’s a spoiler — it was my favourite American city of the trip.


It’s hard to put my finger on why I like some cities more than others. San Diego easily trumps LA. Melbourne’s better than Sydney. Edinburgh’s nicer than Glasgow. Chiang Mai tops Bangkok. It may be partially down to size, with me always opting for the slightly smaller option, being turned off by the mega-office high-rises, liking places that I can easily walk around and not being in the midst of a crowd everywhere I go.

It’s also nice to have a bit of history, I think. Glasgow was bombed loads during the war (wasn’t it?) while Edinburh’s full of old tenements (which are much preferable to soulless office towers or rising hotels). Sydney seems to have replaced a lot of older areas with shiny, glass facades while Melbourne seems to have a lot more of its colonial buildings in tact. In San Diego, not only did I stay in the Gaslamp Quarter, which markets itself as ‘the historic heart of San Diego’, but there was easy access to an old style town as it would’ve been a couple of centuries ago and a Spanish-style (Mexican-style?) village by the marina. LA was just a mess.


I also like efficient, and kind of cheap, public transport. Sydney was okay, but ridiculously expensive. Edinburgh’s messed up the trams catastrophically but its buses are still loads cheaper than Aberdeen, for example. San Diego was great in this respect. A light rail went by the coast to many of the major stops and at one of its ends (I didn’t go the other way) was the major bus hub. You could use the same ticket on both so you didn’t get ripped off just for getting to your bus. LA was a mess that was hard to get around.

San Diego also had a nice balance to things. Its centre was full of bars and restaurants with a nice range of places to choose from, not necessarily all copy-and-pasted chains. Being about half an hour away from Mexico, it definitely had some great Mexican restaurants, although I foolishly didn’t make the trip to see the border. It also had beaches close by and although Coronado Beach was spoiled because of the flight route overhead, there were others to choose from that didn’t have jumbo jet noise effects.


Being on the coast meant it also had sea life. One beach, La Jolla, is famous for its seals, and is closed to humans at some point in the day to let the seals come in to sleep. I got bored waiting for this to happen, but it was fun watching seals occasionally come up towards the beach to have a look to see if it was empty yet. I also went on two blue whale watching tours. I got the second free because the first was so bad and although I still didn’t get to see the world’s biggest mammal, we did see a pod of around 400 playful dolphins which was pretty amazing.

Whenever I talk to people about California and how great San Diego was, no one seems to have gone. They all tell me instead how great Santa Barbara or San Jose was and how I definitely should’ve gone there. I shouldn’t have, though, I should’ve gone to San Diego.


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