Empty Lily Ponds and iPad Burgers

Day Two! Let’s do this!

Monday started out a lot faster and earlier than Sunday. My alarm was set for 7AM and I somehow still beat it. Only by a few minutes… but still! Damn you, East Coast! I got the day started with a shower, SportsCenter, and some journal writing before running off with Bethany.

Breakfast was first on the list of Martin Luther King Jr Day plans, as is probably the case for most people. The girl and I rocked breakfast at Snooze. It’s a little trendy hipster breakfast/brunch place up the street from the hotel. And apparently where everyone wanted to eat breakfast on Chocolate MiLK day. So we grabbed a menu, hopped in line, and waited it out. With it hovering near 70 degrees at 9AM, we opted for a table outside. Because apparently that’s something you can do in San Diego… eat breakfast outside in January.

Sticking with the apples-in-my-breakfast theme, I went with the Bobbin’ for Pancakes. The description is “Dunk into a plate of buttermilk pancakes filled with caramelized gala apples and topped with brown butter, candied pecans and lemony whipped cream.” Tell me you aren’t jealous? SO GOOD! And what’s even better is that our table neighbors had a well-mannered dog who did tricks. The waitress brought him some bacon and he’d hold it on his nose. Color me jealous. Harper can’t do that one. And our other neighbors, a mom and young daughter who had hipster glasses, were planning a trip to the tide pools and had a ridiculously amazing time trying to pronounce sea anemones.

It was a already good day and I hadn’t even made it past breakfast yet.

The reason for the early start was because today was the San Diego Zoo day! (!!!!) As the regulars know, I’m a sucker for zoos. Animals make my day better. Guaranteed. If I’m bummed, take me to a zoo. It’s an instant fix. I had always heard good things about the San Diego Zoo. Honestly, it was the main driving force behind going to San Diego and not somewhere else. And they’ve got pandas! Somehow, my ex-high school buddy/current-young 30s buddy is a zoo-fiend too, so she had a membership and a free pass for me! I have the best trip luck ever!

First stop on the trip? Orangutans. The volunteer made it a little creepy though. She was talking about the group (pack? herd? troop? gaggle? I have no idea what multiple orangutans are called) of them when she put her hand up on the glass. Then she started moving her fingers as if she could feel his (her?) hand. So weird.

SD Orangutan

But gorillas? I love me some gorillas! I could watch them for hours. Especially when they’re being classy like Miss Spread Eagle below. They’re so fascinating. And cultured enough to cross their legs after flashing you.

SD Gorillas     SD Gorilla SilverbackSD Gorilla Uncouth     SD Gorilla Class

Next stop on the list was the Asian Passage portion of the zoo. A talkative otter chirped at everyone staring, in between nibbling on carrots. Red pandas (which are the world’s cuddliest looking live animal ever) were lounging in their tree hammocks. And then the giant pandas! The entire reason for getting up early, scarfing down breakfast, and being at the zoo in the morning was to see the pandas.

SD Panda Lounging     SD Panda Munching

More specifically, the 6 month old baby panda Xiao Liwu, who recently made his public debut! He’s out from 9:30 to 11:30 every day, so there’s definitely a line. It took more than hour to get in for less than 5 minutes but it was super cool to see something very few people get to see! And I got more time to catch up and reminisce about old high school stories. The baby boy was camped out in the trench, so being tall helped me get some awesome pictures. Then momma got tired of him down there, so she went on a baby panda retrieval mission. Too cool!

SD Baby Panda Chilling     SD Panda Momma SD Panda Retrieval     SD Panda Cuddle

So now, I’ve seen the two pandas in Memphis, the two in Washington DC, and the four in San Diego. All that’s left are the four in Atlanta and I can cross all twelve giant pandas in the US off the list. And if I’m feeling ambitious, there are three in Mexico City and later in 2013, two that will split time between Toronto and Calgary. Did I mention animals make my day better?

With that out of the way, we just wandered from there. We stumbled onto these ugly pig/warthog things with horns growing into their face, tiny monkeys with mohawks, and this girl who was not-so-graciously sleeping with her mouth wide open. The only thing missing were the snores.

SD Horned Pig     SD Mouth Breather

There was a tiger super close to the glass gnawing on a huge bone of something that was probably living not too long ago, some lazy hippos lounging around, looking not so hungry, hungry, and warthogs with terrible amazing comb-over hairstyles!

SD Tiger     SD Combover Warthogs

They’ve got three polar bears too! One of the animals I remembered most from going to Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia growing up was their one polar bear. So we watched them for awhile. It must have been close to feeding time because one of them kept backing another away from the zookeeper door. And finally, he got put in timeout.

SD Polar Bear Fight     SD Polar Bear Timeout SD Polar Bear Shaming

From there, it was off to Africa. I tried guessing every. single. antelope. that looked like something my step dad shot in Africa. And I was wrong every. single. time. So much so that a guy walking in front of us turned around to make a buzzer noise at me for being wrong so many times. Go me! We watched an elephant be hand fed fruits and veggies while it got a pedicure.

This little guy was trying his hardest to hide in the bushes, while his buddy was looking straight at me until I pulled out the camera. Paparazzi unwelcome!

SD Diva Antelope

Next up was feeding time… for the humans. There wasn’t enough time for real food at lunch most days on the trip, so we rocked smoothies and (everybody gets) a churro! Everyone else was eating too: the criss-crossed giraffes, the hyenas with crazy teeth, and an Asian animal that looked like a badger crossed with a skunk. It looked to be carrying around a tattered rag… until further inspection showed it to be a former rabbit. Let’s just say he thought it was delicious and worth showing off. Mmm! Scrumptious!

SD Giraffes     SD Hyena

And with that, we peaced out. It was a solid animal-filled 5 hours and I’m fairly confident I saw almost every animal there was to see. I’m chalking it up as a success since I saw a baby panda, a polar bear being shamed into timeout, and I managed to find places my friend had never been. There’s never a bad zoo trip.

The zoo is in Balboa Park, so we took a stroll to see if anything looked entertaining. Judging by the map, there are tons of museums there. But nothing sounded exciting enough to spend money on. One of them had both a skulls exhibit and a chocolate exhibit. Not real sure how you coordinate those two at the same time… but hey, I’m not judging, California.

The disappointment for the day came by way of the lily pond in front of the Botanical Garden. The moment we left the zoo, I just heard about how the lily pond is one of the best pictures to take in San Diego. So clearly, it just made sense that the pond was completely drained, roped off, and being worked on. Sunday was ruined by the lack of a huge New York statue in San Diego. Monday was ruined by an empty lily pond. Worst. Trip. Ever!

So we gave up on Balboa and headed north to La Jolla. Another super rich place but it definitely had a cooler vibe than Coronado. We went to check out the beach and stick with the animal theme to scope out the seals and sea lions. Ironic that on MLK Jr Day, the seals and sea lions still were segregated. The seals were hanging out by the people on the beach and the sea lions were crowding the rocks on the other side of the point. Different hang outs and water sources? It’s 2013 guys. I thought we were past that?

Seals Overhead     Seals Head On

After the seals, we set off on another trek for a Starbucks (stop #2, if you’re keeping count… it’s about to get crazier…). The people here were unique though. On the way to Starbucks, we passed a guy dressed in his Navy whites and his soon-to-be/most-recent/not-really-sure bride hanging out in their car on the side of the road. On the sea lion side, we saw a guy in a wet suit and swimmer’s cap jump in the water and swim at least half a mile out before completely losing track of him. A girl in a wet suit thought she was hidden and stripped down to her underwear to change clothes without realizing everyone on the sidewalk above could see her. A high school water polo team taking pictures on the rocks. And the Navy guy and his fiance/wife showed back up on the rocks with a photographer.

I’m a people-watching pro!

Did I mention I've got an iPhone 5?

Did I mention I’ve got an iPhone 5?

Since it was getting to be evening, we grabbed a spot on the sea wall and watched the world. The waves were crashing. Dolphins started swimming by. And the sun set on the Pacific to end the day. I could have sat there forever. It’s funny how everything seems more magical away from home. I’d never think to just go sit outside and watch the sun or stare at the stars here in Charlotte. Yet there I was in California, taking in good ol’ Mother Nature.

La Jolla Almost Sunset     La Jolla Sunset

Once it got too chilly to sit outside any longer, we packed up and headed back to San Diego for real-food time. We were just winging it, trying to find some place local for burgers, when Bethany remembered this place nearby she hadn’t tried – Stacked. On the way in, it was hilariously awkward. She had mentioned how far apart we were Sunday night, then how we actually sat and stood near each other during the day. And that “by day four, you might actually touch me on the couch” JUST as this random guy walked by (that sounds sketchy, even before rereading it…). At least awkward conversations make for amazing blog entries later, right?

Stacked was amazing though! Every table had its own iPad and you ordered and paid for everything through it. The only reason they had people working was to seat customers, cook the food, and bring the food from the kitchen to the tables. The app was super cool too. You could customize anything you wanted. Build a burger and pick what type of bread, lettuce, sides, condiments, whatever on it. Want to add onion rings to your burger? Just slide the picture over. Want to put bacon in your mac & cheese? No one’s stopping you. Need a refill on your water? Just add it to your order and send it to the kitchen. So super easy and amazingly fun! It did make me question whether or not to leave a tip though. If a tree falls in the forest and no one’s there to bring it to your table, does it get a tip? More restaurants should do this!

And since it was night again, clearly there were no plans. So we busted out a classic and movied it up again with Zoolander. It had been way too long since I’d seen it, which only made it funnier. You can never go wrong with Ben Stiller and Will Ferrell comedies. Especially when you’re with people who can quote them.

Day Two was a good day. Animals at breakfast. Animals in San Diego. Animals at the beach. A sunset. Burgers. Zoolander. There’s really not much more to life than that…

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3 Responses to Empty Lily Ponds and iPad Burgers

  1. Karen says:

    I am officially jealous! San Diego is on my list of places to visit and I love Pandas! Can’t believe you got to see the new panda. How cool is that? I loved all your pictures especially the close up of the polar bear.

    Sounds like you rocked San Diego!

    • Thanks Karen! I was just telling my friend how much I loved that polar bear picture. I’ve got one of it further back but pieces of the people hovering around it kept showing up in my pictures. San Diego is definitely worth the trip if you ever have the chance.

      • RMJinAK says:

        I love your description of the zoo and all of your experiences. It brings back memories of the visit we made a few years back. I do not remember the lily pond in Balboa Park so it didn’t make much of an impression on me.

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