San Diego Food and Fun

Opportunity knocked with great rates the weekend before Christmas. My honey was fed up with the cold again in the mountains of Idaho after a few negative degree overnights. He found hotel rates in the Gas Lamp to be at one of the lowest points we’ve ever seen so we escaped for a few pre-Christmas days of sunshine and San Diego food and fun.

Our location of stay was highly rated on the net. The four star Horton Grand Plaza was deeply discounted in this quiet pre holiday window plus we had a VIP discount on Hotwire available, points kickback on our Chase card (remember to take advantage of the points boost you and I both get for signing up here: and a nice kickback via Rakuten (formerly Ebates), another account that really puts $ in your pocket from online shopping that I recommend: All discounts totaled made for a great rate at this boutique hotel with a cool history. The hotel was moved brick by brick to this spot on Island Ave so the building could be salvaged and its 1800’s history could live on. Check out the full story on the hotel website. With a ridiculous rate well under $100 we indulged and stayed in the Grand Room which allowed luxurious space and featured sitting room, balcony, kitchenette and fireplace. Typically we are highly reviewed 3 star hotel regulars. When we upgrade ourselves we really analyze the stay to see what value it brings. As is the case so many times, if not for the incredible steal of a deal we just would not see enough value in this room, say during the height of the summer baseball season. But, if this is your customary spending level, wow what a location! All the restaurants and nightlife the Gaslamp has to offer including Petco Park and the proximity of the harbor are right outside the door. The room was comfortable and nice but…If I was paying the typical premium rate, I would be disconcerted by poor lighting in the bathroom, lack of “real” cups and glassware, absence of a full length mirror, low quality hair dryer and extremely poor sound insulation. (Yes I know it was built in the 1800’s but come on if you’re going to go to the expense of moving the whole thing invest a little so patrons don’t have to listen to every single foot step and TV from all sides!) Television quality was low, although there was one in the sitting area and above the mantle in the bedroom. The timer on the gas fireplace ticked so loudly and the flames barely jumped taking completely away from the ambiance it could have offered. There were no phone charging ports, not the end of the world but one of those little amenities that makes a difference to travelers today and an easy fix and the outlets and one light switch were so loose they may have been a fire hazard. The grout between the once beautiful bathroom tiles was broken to the point the tiles were completely loose. Tissues were available only in the bathroom and for such a large room this was just odd. No napkin or towel was stocked in the kitchenette either. The bed was cozy but the room was certainly not equipped with premium bedding or towels. The shower was hot yet could stand a raise on the shower head but alas the holiday price and location were supreme. The staff was friendly and helpful as well so while I’m not complaining about the stay I am pointing out what would lead to our dissatisfaction if we were paying the typical room rate (about $280 a night) this room would come in at. We once again can validate the value we find in 3 star accommodations that we research to have higher than average reviews. The combing of the reviews for what you truly value is the key. Again, at the right price we would not say no to the Horton Grand Plaza but it would certainly have to come in under the $100 price point for us to consider it in the future.

Live entertainment was on our to do list for these days as recent travel outside the US had us hungry for some home grown live music and comedy. The hubster caught sight of a show being advertised at the Belly Up. One of those opportunities we could just not pass up. Fee Waybill and all original members of The Tubes were doing a small tour including this location in Solana Beach. We scooped up some lower than face tickets for the sold out show via Stub Hub and traveled by Uber to Solana Beach for some pre show beach wandering and grub. The surfers were taking on the large Pacific waves and although I can’t imagine the level of cold of that water, it sure looked exhilarating.

Finding no eateries located directly on the beach we wandered back up to the 101 and found a beachy hangout with great sports on the surplus of tv’s called The Tidewater Tavern. Happy hour was in motion and we found great beers on tap to enjoy with Crispy Calamari Steak, Fish Tacos and Chicken Nachos. The food was great and the vibe was cool but I must say while I am not an animal hater I just don’t understand how we got to the point that we are condoning them being in our space, especially a public space whose focus is on food and beverage. (And don’t even get me started on the number of them flying now!?!) The coat shaking collie and the pugs with their nails scratching across the tile floor definitely were a negative for us.

The Belly Up was spruced up for the holidays and its a venue that offers lots of site lines. The performance was incredible. Fee did not disappoint and neither did his group of guys. They were spot on in every area. The sound quality was outstanding as were the lights. Fee changed costumes like Cher or Tina Turner would. The energy was incredible and The Tubes delivered like they were still in their 20’s. No dinosaur slurs were thrown around about these guys. Awesomely danceable. So fun!

San Diego was well dressed for the holidays and we were blessed with mostly sun with a couple intermittent showers our last day but we managed to walk the Gas Lamp, the Harbor and Little Italy taking in the Christmas vibe of this port city.

We of course ate in our favorite spot in Little Italy and absorbed the animated traditions of the clientele at both the shop and the restaurant at Mona Lisa. We always find great wine buys in the shop and while the restaurant does charge a corkage it is a mere $12. The restaurant wine list is a fairly limited selection and between that and the dining room prices we always find deals that save us money by carrying the bottle we purchase at the shop to the restaurant. On this night we enjoyed a bottle of Sophia sparkling wine to accompany our antipasto salad, side of meatballs and sausage in sauce with garlic bread followed by a deep, dirty Italian red to compliment our shared veal parmigiana and house specialty pizza topped with ricotta, spinach, red onion and sausage. We are simply never disappointed with service, food quality or value for the dollar in this Circa 50’s establishment and happily carry away lunch for the following day.

We found an incredible happy hour in the Greystone Steakhouse bar. We made a wonderful breakfast, lunch and dinner from the bites and cocktails menu offered at this beautifully appointed fine dining room on 5th Ave. We settled in with specialty cocktails to accompany our meat and cheese board and then added fresh oysters which were served with a partially frozen mignonette that was incredible. Oysters Rockefeller, crab cake (The absolute best I’ve ever had! So light, yet bulky with crab. It was a magical proportion of coarse ground mustard for the glue that barely held this tasty cake together.) We enjoyed tuna tartare and meatballs to make our meals complete . Every bite was mouth watering goodness. The soundtrack of creative Christmas music and the decor made for a magical pre-comedy indulgence. Comedy Co. was the host for the performance provided by Jessiemae Peluso. The club was comedy show comfortable and the laughs were hearty. Comedy is one of our favorite forms of entertainment and this girl, although raunchy, was quite hilarious.

We stopped one afternoon when we were chilled from a bay walk at Gas Lamp BBQ to watch some football and warm up and really enjoyed the French Onion Soup and Chef’s salad we ordered at this casual and moderately priced spot on Island Ave. The service was top notch as well. We honestly had home runs all the way through this pre-holiday escape.

The San Diego Airport was calm and easy to pass through as we made our way to Boise to be with our daughter, son in law and grand boys these Christmas Days. While our numbers are slim as we gather (no son and fam, no other daughter, no granddaughter, no sister and brother in law, no sister in law, no brothers, no uncles nor aunts, cousins, nieces or nephews) we will hold them all close in our heart and wish everyone we know and care for the capability to achieve abundance through gratitude for the miracles of life we embrace and rejoice in this Christmas season! Watch for our adventures to begin again as we approach the New Year! #cometravelwithme

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