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San Diego: An absolute delight

San Diego: An absolute delight

Our World | On 14, Jul 2011

Think west coast of America and the first locations that spring to mind would probably be San Francisco or LA, but almost certainly not a city twinned with Edinburgh; I speak of course, of San Diego.

I have just returned from an inspection trip to San Diego, which was sponsored by a number of hotels, AlliedPRA and British Airways (we were looked after like royalty). Actually, it was a FAM trip, but as I have a pending booking for an incentive/factory visit there next year, I went in order to fully understand what on earth I’m really selling!

I loved it…a little big city (although actually it is the 8th largest in America), with cool inhabitants, a beautiful coastline and where nothing is located more than 20-30 minutes from ‘down town’.

So what does San Diego have that other cities do not? Awesome weather for a start; maybe you will share my thoughts on an ideal climate – perhaps mid 20’s (that’s mid 70’s in old money), long sunny days (and I went in what they call “June Gloom”….I’ll give them gloom), not too humid, not too dry. That’ll be San Diego for you.

So now you have to fill those days in the stunning weather, I’d suggest chilling out on one of the 70 miles of beach, or try your hand at a bit of surfing (warning… the water is deceptively chilly, think Cornwall and you’re on the right track). Perhaps visit the zoo or safari park for a back-stage tour, hike in the hills or even take part in a spot of competitive sailing around the harbour and maybe see the resident seals, dolphins or whales.

As I was looking at the destination for work, I think it is pertinent to point out that there are now direct daily 777 flights from Heathrow with British Airways…so a smidge over 10 hours and you are there, same day, ready to party! The airport is located just 5 minutes from down town San Diego, so pretty much wherever you are staying, you only have a short airport transfer to contend with! I also need to make special mention of the Passport/Immigration people here – they were friendly and very courteous, which was a great way to start my visit and I genuinely felt ‘welcome’ to America.  The city is applauding BA for connecting them to the rest of the world and it shows.

There are hotels to suit all, from stunning lodge style properties with acres and acres of grounds to explore, to more familiar chains located in either the city or one of the resort areas. They have their fair share of independent hotels too, very cool boutique properties overlooking the ocean; you get my point. In all honesty, the hotels that we saw really cover all bases, so certainly don’t worry about finding the right one for your group.

What I also liked about the city was the fact that the historic heart (Gaslamp Quarter) is very easy to walk around; it feels small, lively and very safe. Nightlife was excellent without being ‘too cool for school’, the prices were decent and they have a bit of a drinking culture (probably something to do with being close to the California wine lands and a huge number of micro-breweries). Be warned though, San Diego suffers the same curse as the rest of California; you cannot legally buy a drink after about 2am, so there is a bit of a scrum for taxis at ‘kicking out’ time!

The city has a huge number of local neighbourhoods (some 52), all with their own personalities; which makes it a little hard to get your head around the geography (but then again, I’m learning to fly micro-lights and I cannot get to grips on the geography round my house, so what the heck would I know!). The benefit of these districts is that you genuinely feel as though you have a huge variety on your doorstep, which not many US cities can offer.

It should also be noted that there is a lot to do in the city that you can’t really do elsewhere – you have Mission Bay Park, the largest man-made aquatic park in the United States; there is the little fact that San Diego is home to the largest naval fleet in the world, which adds a certain point of difference; you could even hold a function on a decommissioned aircraft carrier if you feel so inclined!  You also have various Marine Corps institutions in the city such as Miramar (think Top Gun) which is a very unusual venue in which to hold an event. How does dinner or drinks in the officers’ mess, complete with tour of parts of the base by a flying instructor suit? Honestly, be you male or female, everyone gets something from this type of venue; the thrill of climbing a ladder to check out the military hardware and the sheer scale of this ‘live’ air base leaves you a little dumbfounded. I mentioned the zoo / safari park already, but they have to be ‘checked out’, they are wonderful, and have an immense world-wide reputation. No American city worth its salt lacks shopping possibilities and San Diego is no exception, something for every depth of pocket.

We were hosted on this particular event, but since then, I have already put the idea of San Diego forward to a couple of clients because, I can honestly say, if you want to see another face of America, you absolutely have to get yourself on that direct flight from London to San Diego – jump in, the water’s lovely (er, not really, but you know what I mean!).

Chris Clarke

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