New Orleans has its French Quarter, DC has its Georgetown, and Philly has its South Street. Likewise, San Diego has its Gaslamp District (but much cleaner than the aforementioned). This historic section of the city is now full of night clubs, bars, restaurants, and shops. Parking can be difficult to come by in this area but we eventually found a spot a few blocks from Dick's Last Resort which is located in the Gaslamp District. We spent some time wandering the streets and the shops before eventually making our way to the restaurant.
Dining at Dick's is anything but a normal experience. We walked in and found napkins, straws, and paper all over the floor. There were long wooden tables, some of which hadn't been cleared yet. There was a nice live band playing everything from Marvin Gaye to the Rolling Stones. Traci and I stood around trying to figure out if we were supposed to seat ourselves or wait to be seated. I finally ask a waiter who was busy figuring out a bill at the register. I was stunned when he rudely replied in a very surfer dude voice, "Hey, can you give me a minute here?"
At the same time, Traci had asked a waitress who was walking by and she said she didn't care where we sat. She told us we could sit in the bathroom for all she cared. In turns out all this was part of an act. The waiters and waitresses go out of their way to be abrasive. They were constantly yelling out orders, banging pails together, and making goofy hats. Our place mats consisted of paper torn from a big roll. People at other tables were tearing off pieces and throwing them at each other. Even the waiter joined in at times.
As advertised, the menu consisted of seafood, ribs and chicken but you had to be able to decipher the wacky names. Traci and I weren't hungry enough to eat whole entrees by ourselves this late at night so we skipped over the Pork Bonerz, Half-A-Chicky, and other items and shared an order of Fry'd Shrimpies. Our delicious meal was served in two metal pails - one for the shrimp and one for the fries. Surfer Dude was our loud obnoxious waiter. He was actually a nice guy despite my first encounter with him at the register. He was quite busy that night trying to serve a large bachelorette party, a birthday party, and a group of people at the end of our table in addition to us. After our meal, he came by and apologized for not bringing our food sooner. Truthfully, Traci and I were enjoying the band and didn't notice any delay in receiving our food. However, he insisted we accept two free Dick's Last Resort souvenir drinking glasses as reconciliation. We thanked him and headed out into the chilly night.
It took us a little longer to get back to the hotel because we couldn't remember where I had parked the rental car. After searching and debating the location, we finally found the car where I parked it four blocks away. I'll admit. Traci was right about the location. I thought I had parked further away.
I was really upset with myself Friday morning. While planning this vacation I had searched the internet for discounts to the attractions I knew we'd be visiting. I was proud of myself when I found a coupon on www.mousesavers.com for $8 off per ticket of the San Diego Zoo's "Best Value" package. The problem was I printed the coupon and left it at home! The guy at the front desk of our hotel said he would go to the website and print me a new copy. However, when he went to the site he told me he couldn't find any coupon for the San Diego Zoo. We resolved to the possibility that maybe the coupon was no longer being offered. I wished I had looked over the desk at his screen because when I looked it up myself two days later I found the coupon. The guy did not choose the correct menu item. Anyway, I was able to get $2.50 off each of our zoo tickets using my AAA membership which reduced our total cost to $59 instead of $48 if I had had my original coupon. Oh well, at least I saved a little money.
Our "Best Value" ticket package to the world-famous San Diego Zoo enabled us to do the bus tour and ride the ariel tram. We never got around to getting on the ariel tram but we did do the bus tour. The tour is a narrated 30-minute orientation ride on a double decker bus around the zoo. One of the workers told Traci and me the best seats were on the top near the middle because the bus driver always tries to center the bus anytime she stops at an attraction. Truthfully, we could have done without this orientation tour because the zoo has directions posted all over the place, we were given maps when we entered, and there are plenty of staff all over the park to lead you to the animals you want to see. Our Denny's Grand Slam breakfast we'd eaten earlier had begun to kick in near the end of the ride causing both Traci and me to start bobble-heading while we were attempting to fight the strong urge to take a nap.
The San Diego Zoo is quite hilly but wonderfully shaded with exotic plants and trees from all over the world. Most of the animals we saw that day were sleeping. However, we did spend quite a while watching the golden-bellied Mangabey monkeys take turns grooming each other.
at the world-famous zoo
giant panda napping
The most popular attraction is the giant pandas exhibit. In fact, you have to wait in a maze-like line as if at an amusement park to get a turn to walk by the enclosure. There are zoo staff there to keep the line moving. One of the pandas was napping while the other one was chomping on bamboo sticks.
We spent about 4-hours walking around the zoo. Afterwards, we took a look around Balboa Park. While we were there, I saw one of the coolest forms of art I've ever seen. No, it wasn't in any of the park's museums or artist stalls. Up in the sky were four jet planes coordinating their exhaust smoke to write advertisements in the sky. They did this with such precision it was mind-boggling.
jet exhaust sky writing
We didn't spend much time in Balboa Park. Traci and I had to get back to the hotel to get cleaned up and spiffed up. We had dinner reservations to celebrate our 11-year wedding anniversary. When planning this vacation, I had originally chosen a restaurant called Star Of The Sea. The reviews I had read said it was perfect for romantic dinners. Well, when I went online a few days before our trip to make a reservation, I read a notice indicating that the Star Of The Sea restaurant had decided to close its doors after over 40 years of business. Darn! Fortunately, we had a Plan B. One of Traci's co-workers had suggested we try a restaurant called The Prado. Continue...