So if you’ve been following my blog (yeah, yeah, I know you haven’t), then you know that I am not the biggest fan of California. Of course, since the Universe likes to have fun at my expense, after writing a blog post about it, I ended up having to travel to a work conference in San Diego.
Well, personal preferences and politics aside, I did not hesitate to take advantage of the trip, and when I was not busy learning about project management and billing processing, I was exploring the sun-shiny west coast town.
I mean, I had to. One mention that I was heading in that direction, and everyone’s immediate response was, “Oh, I LOVE San Diego. Here’s a list of twenty things you must do while you are there.”
So explore I did. Especially the coffee shops.
My conference took up the first half of the week and was located in the Del Mar region, so upon my arrival and before the welcome festivities, I decided to make a trek over to the Torrey Pines State Beach. I had walked about a mile from my hotel and was angrily wondering why the hell I decided to walk to the beach without sunscreen and in jeans, when I saw the most beautiful thing that I could have imagined: Bird Rock Coffee Roasters.
The place was completely packed, without a free seat in sight, but I was desperate for something cold to drink and a break from the heat. (Well, I got one of the two. I often forget that other states don’t need air conditioning quite like Texas does, so inside was the exact same temperature as outside.) By the time my iced latte was pulled together though, a seat had opened up, and I spent the next half hour people watching and reading. Not only was the coffee delish, but the beach vibe was just so perfect for the location. If I was needing some help to get into the California state-of-mind, well, this place did the trick.
Oh, and the beach was nice too. 🙂
As for the coffee at my conference…ugh. Sometimes not even a five-star resort can get it right.
Once the work portion of my week was complete, I moved my belongings to a hotel closer to downtown, one with an awesome view of the bay, and then headed in the direction of Balboa Park with the intention of stopping by Cafe Bassam on the way. (Of course, when I arrived at the cafe, I was again cursing myself as I did not learn from my trek to the beach that walking on a sunny day without sunscreen and in jeans is a terrible idea.)
Upon arrival, I was not impressed. The cashier was less than inviting, and the place was almost completely empty. Again, there was no air conditioning despite the heat, and the menu was a little confusing. I mean, eggs sounded yummy but not for $9. I was extremely hungry and thirsty though, so pushing my apprehension aside, I ordered some coffee and the eggs and sat down in a corner, trying to meditate on the smooth voice of Frank Sinatra playing from the speakers. At least, the music was good, I told myself.
I really shouldn’t have worried about the eggs. I have no idea how they cooked them, but with a layer of cheese on top and toast and jam on the side, they can only be described as delicious and well worth the money. After eating, I felt much more at ease among the funky nicknacks that filled the space and actually left feeling very relaxed and ready for a full day of exploration.
I’ll admit that this isn’t your standard coffee shop, and the vibe is a little off, but I can now see why everyone recommended a visit. The food should not be missed.
The next day, I planned on heading to Old Town and then Coronado Island, but first, I meandered into Little Italy to try out Lofty Coffee Co., which I accidentally found when I was trying to navigate my way to Cafe Bassam using Google Maps.
I always find the best places by accident.
This location was super busy when I arrived, but man, the vibe is not to be beat. It’s more of a coffee patio than a coffee shop as a majority of the seating is open to the street and uncovered, but the space is so well designed that it retains a degree of coziness even without the walls. I saw such a variety of people at this shop: students working away on their homework, families grabbing a quick bite together, high society ladies with their Pomeranians, and bicyclists making a quick pit stop. The staff were also super friendly, making conversation with me about my reading choice for the morning (To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee).
As with Bird Rock Coffee Roasters, this is a shop that can easily get you into the California, sun-shiny state-of-mind. The coffee is not to be missed (I even grabbed a bag of beans to bring home with me) and neither are the croissant sandwiches. If I ever return to San Diego with friends or family, this is the first place that I am going to drag them to.
The next day, I was scheduled to fly out of San Diego, but I first had to make one more visit to a nearby coffee shop: Portal Coffee Co. Only pastries were being sold at this location, but you are guaranteed great tasting coffee. Located on the Pacific Highway, just across the street from the Waterfront Park, sitting outside is a wonderful spot to people watch and read, and I felt like it was the perfect place to spend my last moments in San Diego before dealing with the insanity that is the city’s airport.
To be honest, San Diego exceeded my expectations. There is much about California that I question, but with the coffee and sights that the city offers, I can see why so many people love to visit. I would happily visit again.
Until next time,
The one and the only Pookachino