Had to Get Away: La Jolla, California

A vacation doesn’t always have to be a long, elaborate production of plane-ticket-buying, hotel bookings and arranging days off from work. Sometimes, you just have to get away, and anything (and anywhere) can be a vacation, as long as you get out of your comfort zone and have fun. That’s where weekends come in (long weekends are especially vacation-worthy). There is certainly nothing wrong with a staycation, or deciding to use Memorial Day weekend as a time to veg out and maybe barbeque a hot dog or two, but for me, every weekend is an opportunity for another adventure.

On a recent long weekend, with an urge to get out of the city, I booked a weekend getaway to La Jolla. It also happened to be Valentine’s Day weekend, so it was an even better excuse get out of town. La Jolla is a seaside community about twenty minutes north of downtown San Diego. I had stopped there before on previous trips south, but had never spent a significant amount of time there to truly explore the area. After a quick two-hour drive south (with thankfully no traffic), my boyfriend and I were in La Jolla and ready for a relaxing, and fun weekend.

Below is a rundown of my weekend getaway:

Food

Whisknladle – Located on Wall St. next to the more boisterous Karl Strauss, we joined families, couples and groups of friends enjoying a Valentine’s Day brunch. I went traditional and had the eggs benedict, washed down with a sparkling wine drink with lemon and vermouth. Delicious, with a lovely, relaxed atmosphere.

Gelato Frizzante - I admit that I’m a bit of a gelato snob, but the pineapple gelato was refreshing after a day in the sun. The atmosphere with café tables and photos of Italian cities lining the walls almost felt like being in Italy. Almost.

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Herringbone - The prix fixe Valentine’s Day menu left a little to be desired, but the atmosphere more than made up for it. In the covered outdoor seating area, you can wait for your table in an old wooden rocking chair next to a crackling fireplace. The tables in the front are flanked by two large trees adorned with twinkling lights that set a romantic mood. In the back of the restaurant puffer fish are used liberally as decoration, and a giant whale skeleton chandelier hangs above the bar. This is definitely a spot I would like to visit again.

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Elixir Espresso and Wine Bar – I stopped in here early in the morning before my walk on the beach to grab a cappuccino and a bear claw (I figured I’d burn the calories during my walk). Both were delicious, and the bear claw was pretty big, so I brought the other half back to my boyfriend so he could enjoy breakfast in bed!

Sweet & Scribe - I stumbled on this café by chance when the place I originally wanted to go to had an extremely long wait. I spotted Sweet & Scribe and thought I would give it a try. So glad I did. This place is so charming, with a beautiful outdoor seating area and a bright and spacious café/bakery inside. The restaurant is owned by Maeve Rochford who won Food Network’s Holiday Baking Championship, and it’s easy to see why. Although I did not try any of the baked goods, her cookies and cakes were adorable and I’m sure as good as they looked. The menu boasts mainly Irish inspired food, though the restaurant itself gives off more of a French vibe. My quiche was super savory, and the coffee strong, just how I like it. It’s a great spot to grab a treat or a quick lunch.

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Fun

La Jolla Cave – This is one of the coolest (and cheapest) experiences in La Jolla. Also known as the “Sunny Jim Sea Cave”, this is the only cave in California you can access from land. Head to the cave store and pay $5 to enter the steep stairway that leads you down to the water. Watch your head (and your feet, it can get slippery), and make your way down to the viewing platform to watch the waves crash against the rocks. We even had a little seal friend hanging out on the nearby rocks. The coolest part is hearing the waves crash against the cliffs above as you head down. Fun for all ages!

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Seal Cove – Probably the most well-known spot in La Jolla is this area of the beach where the seals like to congregate. Yes, the smell can be overwhelming, but it’s fun to watch the seals in their natural habitat (no need to go to nearby Sea World, because the seals will certainly put on a show for you here.) You can head down to the beach and get up close and personal with them (but keep a respectable distance…no selfies!)

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Windansea Beach – If you’re looking for a day of lying in the sand, this beach is not for you. But if you want a really unique beach experience and don’t mind killer waves, then Windansea is a must. There is pretty much no sand on this beach, so everyone lays their towels out on the rocks just above the ocean. It can be tricky getting down to the water, but if you pick a good spot, it’s fairly easy. This is a surfer's dream because of the aforementioned waves, but use caution when swimming. The waves are strong and the tide comes in quickly. I wasn’t paying attention at one point, and a wave engulfed me and almost pushed me onto the rocks! I had sand in my hair for days…

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Shop

La Jolla Open Aire Market – A sweet little market located in a school parking lot that pops up every Sunday and is very popular with the locals. You can find everything from jewelry, to plants and flowers, and an abundance of fresh fruit and veggies. If you’re hungry, you can grab a snack from one of the many food vendors. I took home two tiny succulents and ate some yummy guacamole and chips.

D.G. Wills Bookstore – On our walk back from the market, I spotted a window full of books so of course I had to check it out. Stop me if I gush too much, but as a writer and lover of books, this place is pure heaven. Brimming with books, old and new, this place is part museum with kitschy items hanging from the ceiling and all over the walls, along with row after cramped row of books. Make sure to check out the used books section located behind the “secret bookcase!” I picked up quite a few books here, but my best find was a Baedeker of South Germany from 1902, which the owner mentioned was a rare find.

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Rest

La Jolla Village Lodge - If you’re expecting 5 star accommodations, this isn’t the place for you. If you like a retro 60’s vibe, free parking, inexpensive, but clean rooms, and a place that is within walking distance of the best La Jolla has to offer, this is the place for you. In addition to all the reasons I listed above, the hotel staff is friendly and helpful, and the rooftop deck has ocean views and a spot to barbeque and eat while you watch the sunset. No complaints here.

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Until next time La Jolla!

DZ