A vacation is when my wife and I go to the city for the weekend, leaving the kids at home to spend time with grandma.
A trip is when the kids come along.
The two usually don’t really intersect, except for this week’s family trek to San Diego, or as little C. calls it, Sandy Lego.
We set out with a pretty loose agenda over the course of four days. Legoland and the San Diego Zoo were musts for the kids. The rest of the time, we decided to play it by ear and hang out on the beach near our hotel in Coronado. That turned out to be a pretty good idea.
This vaca-trip left us all warm and fuzzy, mainly because there was something for everyone.
C. and A. loved Legoland. There’s no doubt about it: The park is a big ad for Legos and Volvos. But that’s not a bad thing. The place seems to have a European sensibility to it, with a good mix of rides, fountains for splashing and water cannons for shooting stuff. We were there on a pleasantly warm day, and despite a decent crowd, I didn’t feel the kind of claustrophobia I tend to get at other theme parks.
The next day we went to the zoo, a hilly, lush gem in Balboa Park. The last time I was there, it was just me and L. Those were the days long before kids. In the eight or so years since that last visit, the place seems to have become even more kid friendly, with plenty of animal statues that pretty much beg to be climbed upon. It was a muggy day, which slowed our crew down. We rode the gondola, which gave us a spectacular aerial view of the park and the city skyline. We rode a mega-escalator that helped us get up a big hill with ease. We also took a tour bus where the driver pointed out that elephants drop about 300 pounds of poop a day. The kids were in awe as one of the elephants did its business just as the bus passed. It sort of put changing diapers into perspective. I realize I have nothing to complain about.
The highlight was back in Coronado on the beach. I have a special fondness for this place, where my grandma first brought me in the late 70s for a stay at the Hotel del Coronado. This time, we stayed at a place across the street and just a five-minute walk to the surf. This is a place unlike any I’ve ever been. The beach is a little slice of heaven with Navy facilities to the north and the south. The result is that a light, afternoon snooze on the silky sand is often interrupted by screaming Navy jets coming in for a landing and helicopters thumping overhead. Just offshore, hulking, gray Navy ships pass by on their way out to sea. Playing in the waves and marveling at the military hardware overhead and offshore was great fun for all of us. One evening, we heard what sounded like heavy gunfire coming from naval training going on to the south. I like my vacations with a little dose of danger nearby.
One of the best times of the day for me was getting up a little before 6 a.m. to run on the beach just as the sun came up. The firm, moist sand and the pounding waves made for fine conditions. On the first day, it was just me, a few joggers and beach combers. The next day, the Navy was out there running in formation. Those in training were getting the butts chewed out by somebody in charge, and I was glad I was just a passerby.
On the last morning, A. and I got up early hoping to spot more Navy folks running on the beach. We didn’t see any, but A. was happy just collecting shells and building a sand castle as the sun came up. It was a nice moment, watching him enjoy himself on the same beach where I wandered as a boy.