EVERYTHING OLD IS NEW AGAIN
When you live in Tucson, you take travel to San Diego for granted. But mostly those are summer trips. “San Diego is Tucson’s beach,” we say, when people tease us about being too far from the ocean.
Ask anyone how far away it is, and they’ll say 7 hours, or maybe optimistically 5 1/2 hours. In the West, distance is measured in hours on the road.
I want to share three new-0ld things we found on our Thanksgiving trip to San Diego–a hotel and its neighborhood; a new development on an historic strip of land; and a stop along the way.
On the somewhat boring drive across some bare desert between here and there, it somehow seems normal to stop when you see a flying saucer on a roof, particularly when you have three young boys in tow as we did years ago. That would be the Space Age Restaurant at Gila Bend, Arizona. (I grabbed the picture here from the Best Western Space Age Lodge site.) Delighted to see that it looked the same as it did 40 years ago, we pulled in. Inside, I realized everything was new. Turns out it had burned down and been rebuilt, only better. Astronaut murals, shiny red booths, and turkey dinner with all the trimmings for $10.95 (in 2009!).
In San Diego, since it was not beach weather (tell that to all those surfers off Point Loma) we headed to the Gaslamp Quarter. Situated between the bay and downtown the area was, in the 1860’s, the happening place for commerce in San Diego. By the time we were visiting with our children, it was an area to stay away from. What was happening in the seedy neighborhood ran to $5 hotel rooms, porn shops and loan sharks. However the area has rebounded with restored Victorian buildings, restaurants like Aqua 2 (due-ay) partner to a Florence, Italy restaurant,and bars like The Field whose owners imported its dark 2-foot-high stools,wall-wide bar back and everything else from Ireland. The new Petco Ball Park borders Gaslamp, and from Hotel Indigo, where we stayed, you could look down into the field.
Hotel Indigo, the newest brand of the IHG Hotel group, who operate Holiday Inns, Intercontinental and other brands, wows customers with its chic but friendly air. Sometimes in super modish hotels I get the feeling that I need to submit my wardrobe to some arbiter of style before I can register–I’m not hip enough and they KNOW. But here the atmosphere is fun and casual in the midst of drop dead gorgeous touches. Tables in lobby that look like bleached coral reef and tables in rooms that look like tree trunks. Color combos in the room–chocolate brown/ hot pink/purple. Local artist’s work based on nature.
Wood laminate floors in the spacious rooms are easier to keep clean when you have dogs as guests. Oh, yes, the hotel is friendly to dogs, too. A water dish and a dish of treats sit by the bellman’s desk outside. But then that is par for the course in this neighborhood where we saw people walking dogs everywhere, water dishes outside many store and cafe doors, and wonder of wonder–no poop on the sidewalks!
Huge window walls in the lobby slide open to allow natural ventilation and save on heat and air conditioning. Materials were selected because of their eco-friendliness. Fire pits in the roof-top terrace are lined with recycled bits of windshield glass. A “live” roof puts plants on top of the hotel for insulation. This and many more innovations won this hotel the coveted LEED certification.
While in San Diego, I paid a nostalgic visit to the Naval Training Station, where my eldest son, and thousands of other young men took basic training. But like the Gaslamp Quarter, the area has undergone drastic changes and I’ll tell you about it next Tuesday.
Ooops! Forgot the Disclaimer. Not that anyone really pays any attention. Hotel Indigo hosted my stay for two nights in the hopes that I would write about them some time. We liked them so much, that we extended the stay on our own dime. So that’s a 2/3 deal?