So I’ve been telling you about my magical trip to Los Angeles with Virgin Holidays. After our fantastic foodie tour of East LA and a stop off to explore Temecula wine country, we headed to our final destination, San Diego. We arrived quite late in the afternoon from Temecula and went straight to our hotel, the gorgeously colourful Kona Kai Resort & Spa, before quickly popping to our rooms to freshen up before going straight out to dinner. We only had a very limited time in San Diego and were determined to make the most of it, so our foodie day in San Diego strictly started the night before with a visit to Liberty Station, before returning to properly explore the next day.
After a long day travelling, we were keen to have dinner somewhere lovely and laid back, and honestly there couldn’t have been a better choice than this friendly, modern Italian. Opened in March 2017, the restaurant has some of the friendliest staff and I’ve ever met and also some of the best food. At night, the pretty outside terrace is lit with welcoming, twinkly lights and the interior is really vibrant with a trendy, industrial vibe. We filled our table with authentic pizzas, wine, delicious pasta dishes and fresh seafood and dived in, sharing food, stories and much laughter. We all agreed it was one of the best meals we had on our trip. Fabulous.
The next day we were up bright and early to make our way back to Liberty Station. The former US naval training centre has now been converted to a fabulous venue full of shops, cafés, restaurants (including Officine Buona Forchetta, right by the entrance) an arts district, gardens, beauty salons, health centres, fitness centres and loads more. We started our morning with a visit to Moniker General, a gorgeous, industrial chic coffee house and general store which is actually a collective of businesses with 10 brands all under one roof, and has some seriously stylish clientele. The minimalist aesthetic is beautiful (they don’t sell anything that’s not beautiful or useful) and I loved the term ‘urban warehouse’, which really encompasses the feel of the whole place. If I lived in San Diego I’d be in there every day.
Just across the road, you’ll find Liberty Public Market, another of the old Navy buildings transformed into a huge indoor market full of great food and drink options, selling everything from cocktails and craft beers in the old mess hall, to lobster rolls, artisan cheese, ice cream, amazing cakes and much more.
After exploring Liberty Station, we made our way to La Jolla, a gorgeous, upmarket seaside community, where we visited Galaxy Taco, famous for its Cali-Baja cuisine. San Diego is so close to Mexico that obviously the cuisine is heavily influenced by the flavours of the area. Galaxy Tacos, owned by celebrity chef Trey Foshee, offers fresh, healthy Mexican food and is just a short walk to the beach too, so after scoffing our delicious tacos and sipping a margarita (it would be rude not to), we wandered down for a little ‘sand between the toes’ time.
After a quick diversion to see the famous seals at The Children’s Pool, we waved goodbye to La Jolla and set off for downtown San Diego for our final visit of the day.
You and Yours Gin Distillery was founded by Laura Johnson. The 25 year old completed her senior thesis about distilling, but when she didn’t get hired by any local distilleries, she secured her own funding and opened a distillery of her own.
We spent a lovely afternoon at You and Yours, sipping Laura’s fresh, modern Sunday Gin and Y&Y Vodka, and trying some of the cocktails on offer. Production is done completely by hand (even sticking on the labels) and the distillery places a great deal of emphasis on sustainability, even down to using the ‘heads’ (a by product of the distilling process) as cleaning products. What a cool place.
I loved San Diego. It’s definitely on my bucket list to return and really explore the area properly. I loved the people and the laid-back vibe of the place. I really wanted to make my Top Gun dreams come true by visiting Oceanside (where Kelly McGillis’ house was located – remember the scene when Tom Cruise roars up on his motorbike?). Sadly, it’s fallen a little into disrepair, so maybe it’s best I just keep it in my head. If you fancy a bit of Top Gun action though, Virgin Experiences do a Top Gun air combat experience (from £258 if you’re brave enough).
Where to stay
We stayed at the lovely Kona Kai Resort & Spa, a colourful resort with a laid back vibe with its own marina, right on Shelter Island. Rooms are comfy with spacious, modern bathrooms and amazing coconut and mango toiletries that smell divine. If you’re not conducting your own foodie tour of San Diego, you can explore Shelter Island on one of the resort’s beach cruiser bikes, or rent stand up paddle boards. In the evening, you can sit outdoors next to one of the firepits, sip a drink and even make your own s’mores. It’s a heavenly place to stay.
Fancy a similar trip?
A seven night tour of West Coast USA with Virgin Holidays, including Virgin Atlantic flights from London Heathrow direct to Los Angeles with four nights at the Andaz West Hollywood with room only accommodation and then a further three nights at the Kona Kai Resort and Spa in San Diego, costs £1295 per person.
The small print
The price is based on two adults travelling and includes car hire and all applicable taxes and fuel surcharges which are subject to change. Virgin Holidays is a member of ABTA and is ATOL protected. To book: 0344 557 3859 or visit one of our individual retail stores or one of the 110 stores located in Debenhams and House of Fraser stores nationwide or visit www.virginholidays.com.
Many thanks to Louise and everyone at Virgin Holidays for the fabulous trip