San Diego and Tijuana

The drive from LA to San Diego was not bad at all (surprisingly) and we got to our airbnb by mid-afternoon. Since it was the last part of the trip where we would all be together we decided to treat ourselves and spend a little extra money to get an airbnb in the middle of Gaslamp Quarter—the fun lively center of San Diego’s nightlife. We were on the same block as a large nightclub called Fluxx and within walking distance of a ton of different bars and restaurants.

After settling in, the boys went out to explore and ended up at a bar called Werewolf. I stayed behind to take a nap and call my mom. When I met up with them again hours later, they had moved on to a Mexican bar called La Puerta. They were having some kind of Happy Hour and most of their drinks and food were half off. The boys were all drinking $3 dollar beers which they couldn’t remember the name of. They kept saying something along the lines of “desky-toes” or “dosquitos.” After staring blankly at them for a few seconds in confusion, I finally laughed and asked “You mean Dos Equis?” Somehow they had been managing to order beers all night while pronouncing it completely wrong. I could only imagine the bartender chuckling under his breath. I explained to them that Dos Equis is a Mexican beer whose Spanish name translates to “two X’s,” which is the beer’s logo. They had the famous commercials with The Most Interesting Man in the World, which later became the meme “I don’t always do ____, but when I do I ____.” The boys knew the meme but never realized where it came from.

Dos Equis Meme

La Puerta had photos on the walls of lots of famous artists and musicians like Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, and Amy Winehouse. At first we weren’t sure of the connection until we realized they were all members of the 27 Club, a group of celebrities who all died at the age of 27. We ate dinner there and had some delicious street tacos and quesadillas (which James pronounces “ke-SAY-das”). I ordered a blended mango margarita and let the boys have a taste to prove to them that margaritas can be delicious and fruity and you can’t even taste the tequila, unlike the pitcher of margarita we had our last night in San Francisco. They agreed it was a huge improvement.

The next morning the boys set off to explore the USS Midway, a giant retired aircraft carrier which has been converted into a museum. You can take an audio tour of the Midway, which would take upwards of three hours if you were to do the whole thing (most people don’t). There are wax figures and many of the rooms are set up as they would have been when the ship was operational. There’s even audio piped in of drills and moaning in the dentist area of sick bay, and a surgery patient whose chest moves up and down as if he’s breathing. Up on the top deck you can also explore the various military airplanes.

At the park next to the Midway there is a large statue of the famous photo of a nurse and soldier kissing at the end of World War II. James and Glenn had fun re-enacting it.

I stayed behind and worked on the blog while the boys were at the Midway since I had done it only a year before with my parents. I also played music on its deck once on a band trip years before in high school. It’s definitely a San Diego must-see, but generally once is enough, and I wasn’t in the mood for a third time.

The boys let me know when they had finished and I met up with them at the waterfront for lunch. We went to a place called Carnitas Snack Shack, which I had been to with my parents the year before. I had the most delicious burger I’d ever eaten at Snack Shack’s other location the year before and so I told the boys and we all ordered the same. It was still a really good burger, but not on the same level as the first time I ate it. Perhaps it was because it was the other location.

On our way back from the Waterfront we stopped by Werewolf to see if they were showing the Manchester United game. We split up again, with the boys going to watch the game while I stayed at the airbnb and continued to work on the blog. I met up with them again later at an Irish pub called the Dubliner. I enjoyed getting Guinness on tap and the good music they played there. After a little bit we decided it was time for dinner and found a place called the Kebab Shop. They were delicious and even gave Sean a free kebab when they mistakenly made his order twice.

Kebab Shop Smiths

After dinner we went to the bar next door, called the Knotty Barrel. Their service was a bit slow but the drinks were good. That night when we got back we watched Forgetting Sarah Marshall together, since Sean had never seen it all the way through.

The next morning I dropped the boys off at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park and went to a nearby Starbucks to continue working on the blog. The Safari Park is generally deemed a little more exciting than the San Diego Zoo itself, though both are great. At the Safari Park you can ride a tram and get a tour through the vast open fields of animals, much like a real African safari tour. There you can see zebras, giraffes, hippopotamuses, rhinoceroses, and various other animals. There are also plenty of exhibits in the park you can walk through, just like a regular zoo, and see animals like cheetahs, lions, tigers, kangaroos, lemurs, etc.. It’s a lot of fun and the boys really enjoyed it.

Kangaroos Safari Park

Sean knew he wanted to get a tattoo during the trip and so he and I went out together that afternoon to explore tattoo shops and get a price estimate. We ended up deciding on a nice shop in Ocean Beach called Chapter One Tattoo and made plans to come back later in the week. That night when we got back Sean wasn’t feeling well and thought he might have a fever, so he and I stayed in and binge-watched Queer Eye while James and Glenn went out and explored the nightlife.

The next day we took a trip down to Mexico. Tijuana and San Diego are so close that they’d almost be considered the same city if it weren’t for the border. We parked in a lot just by the border. We knew it was possible to walk across the border from there, but heard reports from friends and online that it can be a confusing and strenuous walk, and that once you’re across you’ll probably have to pay for a taxi anyway to get to the center of the city. We decided not to risk it and took a bus which left from the parking lot instead. It was only $10 each for a round trip ticket, but it was cash only and we had to pay immediately. The bus was too crowded for us to sit next to each other, and when we approached the border the driver shouted tons of instructions in Spanish, throwing in an English sentence every once in a while. We all had to get off the bus and fill out a customs form and then go through security. The whole process was extremely confusing and not as intuitive as you might expect.

Once we got through security (which was more basic than most concerts I’ve been to) we got on a different bus. It took us to another station, which we thought was as far as it went, until another smaller van came and picked us up. This took us to Avenida Revolucion, which is the central touristy street of Tijuana, and dropped us off in front of a Tequila shop. The owner of the shop spoke English and greeted us as we got off the bus. He pointed to a sign which had the pickup times and told us to be back there 15 minutes before whichever time we wanted to go back.

There were plenty of restaurants with people out front greeting us and telling us about all the deals we would get if we came in. We figured why not? So we went into one of the first ones we came across, a bright green painted place called Escape. It was pretty empty inside, with a wide open dance floor on both levels and fresh paint by the stairs. Our host led us up to the rooftop and gave each of us a giant sombrero to wear.

Sean and James got beer, while Glenn and I ordered margaritas. Little did we know it was two-for-one happy hour, so Glenn and I each ended up with two margaritas as well as a shot of tequila each. We also ordered tacos and nachos, but the place was a bit of a tourist trap and the food was only alright. The tacos hardly had anything on them besides the meat itself, although the meat was seasoned very well and was pretty tasty.

After lunch we explored the streets and went into a couple markets as well as an old cathedral. There was art and murals everywhere, including some giant milk cartons. Glenn bought himself a poncho with the Virgin Mary on it, and Sean got a fanny pack from the same shop. We stopped back there later and I got a Mexican blanket for my brother. The man who worked there was easy to haggle with and dropped his price if it looked like we might go somewhere else. We found another shop that had lots of different t-shirts with cool Aztec style designs on them and James ended up buying a shirt. The lady there was really nice and gave us a bunch of stickers for free.

After all our exploring we killed the last bit of our time at a nice rooftop bar called Cine Tonalá. They were really nice and not a cheap tourist trap like Escape had been. I ordered a couple of mojitos there and they were incredibly delicious and refreshing. From the roof we had a great view of the Jai Alai stadium just down the street. There was a cool photo of people playing soccer over the border on the wall.

The ride back to the border was a lot more straightforward than the way there had been, and although they left us at the border we realized it was super easy to walk back to the parking lot from there. That night Sean wanted to check out a bar he had heard of called Trailer Park After Dark, so Sean, Glenn, and I went out while James took a night in to recover. The bar had a white trash trailer park theme, with picnic tables and lawn chairs and actual small trailer homes to sit in. The barstools were even made of old shopping carts, and they had Trailer Park Boys playing on TV screens. The bathrooms also had medicine cabinet mirrors with funny themed things inside.

After we had a few drinks there we went to the Tipsy Crow, which was a bar James and Glenn discovered the night they went out when Sean wasn’t feeling well. They had table games like Connect Four which we played a few rounds of, then we headed downstairs where the dance floor was. I had already drank a lot in Tijuana that day, and by that point in the trip my money was dwindling so I didn’t drink much that night. They weren’t playing my kind of music and it’s hard to be the only sober one on the dance floor so after a while I decided I was over it and decided to call it a night. Sean wasn’t too far behind me, and Glenn came not long after that.

We spent the next day at Old Town San Diego, which is the oldest settled area of San Diego and still looks like an old missionary town straight out of a western. We explored the old-timey shops and visited the Carriage Museum, which has an old Wells Fargo carriage as well as other fully intact wagons and carriages from the time period. There was also a Tobacco shop with tons of different cigars and a room to smoke them. There were even people dressed up in costumes from the 1800’s. We ate lunch at Casa Guadalajara which had some of the best Mexican food of the trip. The boys hadn’t heard of Old Town before we went and I think they were surprised at how big and interesting the area is.

That night Sean and I had plans to see one of his favorite bands, American Football (yes, that’s their name), at the Observatory North Park. We all met up with my friend Dennis for dinner at a Chinese restaurant called Chop Suey, just down the street from the Observatory. Dinner was good, although the boys were disappointed they couldn’t get curry sauce, which is apparently a thing at Chinese restaurants in the UK.

The Observatory North Park

After we ate we headed over to the bar which is connected to the Observatory. We got ID’d at the door and then a second time when we walked up to the bar. When Sean mentioned we had just been ID’d at the door the bartender was a bit of a dick and threw each of our cards back at us after checking them without saying anything. Then he pretty much ignored us for the rest of the night and let his coworkers serve us instead. Granted, Sean was the first person to walk in and he looks like he’s 14, but there was no reason for the bartender to react like he did. The beers were a bit overpriced, and when Sean and I tried to go into the show we were forced to leave our drinks behind, go to a different entrance and get wristbands before going back into the bar and retrieving our drinks, which seemed a bit unnecessary. Security also confiscated all my pens from my purse for some reason.

I wasn’t a big fan of the staff, but the concert itself was great. Phoebe Bridgers opened and she was amazing. American Football was even better. They had one of the stage hands help them out on certain songs by playing maracas and the tambourine and he became a crowd favorite. Glenn and James weren’t interested in another concert back when we were buying the tickets so they missed out, but at least they had Dennis to hang out with and talk to in the bar.

That night we argued for some time on what movie to watch, but finally settled on Magic Mike since James had been quoting it the whole trip (“The law says do not touch, but I think I see a lot of lawbreakers out there tonight!”) and Sean had never seen it. It is a truly terrible movie, but I still found it pretty amusing to watch with a group of guys.

The next day we met up with Dennis again at Balboa Park. Balboa is a huge park known for all of its museums. We didn’t end up going in any of the museums though because the boys didn’t want to spend the money. Instead we walked around the park and saw an organ rehearsal and the outside of the Japanese Friendship Garden. We also explored the international houses, which are small buildings with events and information from each country. Sean and I spent a lot of time in the Scotland house, talking about Scotland with the host, who was not a Scotsman himself, but a descendant of one.

Glenn and James were not as interested in geography and instead had discovered the dock-free rent-able Lime and Bird electric scooters. After a while we found scooters for each of us (not an easy task since many had dead batteries or were broken and they were scattered all over the park). We rode around the fountain and various crowded parts of the park, which probably really annoyed all the pedestrians and their kids who we almost ran over. We decided to ride them somewhere for lunch and Sean found a nearby Subway on his phone. The route there was full of steep dirt hills which the scooters definitely weren’t meant to handle and I almost crashed at one point. We got almost all the way there before we realized the subway was on a restricted navy base and we had to turn back. We walked back to our cars and decided to drive to a nearby ramen place instead. The boys had never had real ramen before, it’s a lot better than the cheap packaged kind.

That night Sean had plans to get his tattoo and James and Glenn planned on watching the UFC fights. I had no desire to spend any more time in Buffalo Wild Wings so I went with Sean to get his tattoo after we dropped off James and Glenn. Sean’s tattoo was the dagger from the album cover of The Front Bottom’s album Talon of the Hawk. They are one of his favorite bands and there is a song off of that album with a lyric about getting a tattoo on his right thigh which he’ll probably regret one day, which is why Sean got it on his right thigh. He was tattooed by Gary Dunn who did a great job. As he was preparing Sean’s leg by shaving it Sean joked that now he was ready to go cycling. Gary responded by asking “Is that what this is from? Cycling?” Sean said no, it was just soccer. I, not knowing what they were talking about and thinking Sean had a scar on his leg or something, leaned over and asked “Got what from?” Without missing a beat, Gary looked at me and said “These are not natural thighs.” I couldn’t stop laughing. James and Glenn had been teasing Sean about his giant chicken thighs the whole trip. I guess they weren’t the only ones to notice Sean’s weirdly muscular legs.

Sean's new tattoo

Sean’s tattoo ended up costing less than the original estimate and so he left Gary a big tip. We didn’t feel like going back to Buffalo Wild Wings right away so we explored Ocean Beach for a bit, which is a pretty cute seaside town. We ended grabbing dinner at a nice rooftop bar called Ocean Beach Brewery which had great views of the water. When we joined back up with Glenn and James Buffalo Wild Wings was packed and they had to fight to keep our seats for us. They had been there for hours and spent almost $60 apiece on beer and food and there were still a couple of fights left. Back at the airbnb that night I got Sean to watch one of my favorite movies with me: Across the Universe. I was a little surprised Glenn and James didn’t want to join since Glenn loves the Beatles and James likes musicals but I didn’t push them on it. In any case I think I prepared Sean for the Beatles Cirque Du Soleil show they saw later in Vegas since he didn’t even know a few of the songs until he saw them in Across the Universe.

For my last day with the boys we kept things pretty relaxed. We started the day by hitting up a laundromat before getting lunch at Subway and then going bowling. The only bowling alley in the area was Tavern + Bowl East Village. They were severely understaffed and when our lane had technical difficulties we had to wait forever to get it fixed. That didn’t stop me from totally kicking the boys asses though.

We went to dinner that night at Red Robin and maybe took a little too much advantage of the bottomless steak fries. We had three servings each before we even got our burgers. I also got a Long Island Iced Tea and Sean and I split a s’mores milkshake. I felt like crap afterward. After we packed up and got all of their stuff out of my car I finally had to say goodbye to Sean, James, and Glenn. I kept it together pretty good in person, but may have cried a little on the drive up to meet my dad in LA.

Last night with the boys

It was hard to say goodbye but I had an amazing time on this trip and will never forget it. I was jealous that the boys got to go on to Vegas, but also ready to be home and to have a break from masculine company.

Be sure to check out Las Vegas to hear about the Highland Globetrotters’ final destination, and read the first post written by the one and only Sean Howie!

2 Replies to “San Diego and Tijuana”

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