Chance discoveries are the best.  I was in San Diego last week visiting friends.  For the first couple of days I stayed in Del Mar.  Sometimes it really does seem like life is just better in California.  The stretch that includes Del Mar, Cardiff, Encinitas, etc., is great.  Laid-back, and everywhere you look people are out surfing, running, and biking.  I love watching the surfers.  This has been said a million times by other people and more eloquently, but surfing seems like a combination of sport, philosophy, and meditation.  I envy their approach to life, or at least their approach to their surfing rituals.

I’m veering away from the main topic already in what is going to be a short blog entry.  I decided to spend a couple of nights in downtown San Diego.  I’ve been to San Diego many times, but I can’t remember spending time in the Gaslamp Quarter.  I didn’t love it.  San Diego is a great city, and listening to (eavesdropping on?) nearby bar conversations, it sounds like people are optimistic that San Diego is just getting better.

But again, I didn’t love the Gaslamp Quarter.  Probably my fault for not having done any research before the spontaneous jump to downtown.  So I wandered north.  It surprised me how quiet things got between downtown and Hillcrest.  I didn’t venture west of 5th and 6th Avenues really, so I have a pretty limited perspective.  Things pick up quickly, though, as you move north towards Hillcrest.

That’s a pretty good walk, from downtown to Hillcrest.  Uphill!  I was hungry and thirsty, so I decided to check out this place called Pappalecco.  I’m glad I did.  It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but once you step through the door, you realize, yea, this place seems cool.  And very Italian.  Right there, on display, are Italian sandwiches and gelato.  I don’t eat much meat, but I find it hard to resist simple Italian sandwiches – bread or rolls, prosciutto, tomatoes, mozzarella…The two people working the counter were very friendly, launching into Italian with some of the customers.  There’s a small seating area outside, but I think the place to be is at their espresso counter or the inside tables.  It did seem a little dark, though.

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I had a prosciutto sandwich and a Moretti.  It was great.  I’d definitely go back.  I looked them up online and was surprised to see how extensive their website is in terms of discussing Tuscany’s cultural heritage and their philosophy on bringing some of that to San Diego.  Cool stuff.

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A glutton for punishment, the next day I did roughly the same walk.  Started craving food and drink at about the same spot, but this time I checked out The Brew Project, a little neighborhood beer joint that had an inviting patio area.  Had a great beer there and some tasty shrimp ceviche.  Good service, too.

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I have to include a photo of a cyclist who made my day.  I was walking by the Del Mar racetrack and decided to grab a photo of the fairgrounds.  It was going to be a wasted photo, the kind you would not have taken back when you had to pay for film.  It was a distance shot with a camera not made for it.  If anything, I should have crossed to the other side of the street.  Better yet, come back at night.  But as I looked to my left, I saw a bunch of cyclists heading my way.  I decided to see if I could set up for a shot of the fairgrounds and capture a bunch of blurry cyclists racing by.  I didn’t get that effect, but I think I scored something better.  This biker was obviously very aware of his surroundings.  Since he seems to be game, I’ve added him in.  If he’d been giving me “the finger”, I’d take that as an obvious sign that he did not want to be in my photo.

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I lied.  Not done yet.  Had an awesome veggie sandwich in Del Mar at a place called Board and Brew.  I’m not a great food photographer.  This photo makes the sandwich seem excessive.  It wasn’t as excessive as it looks here.  It was delicious.  I was very hungry.  Arrived late the previous night and skipped dinner.  I also saved half for later!

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