Weekend Trip to San Diego

Back around Black Friday last year, Delta was having a sale on flights from LA to San Diego and since my favorite Italian restaurant is in San Diego (and I just really like San Diego in general) I decided to a round-trip ticket for February.  This is of course a very short flight.  I believe actual flight time is typically around 25-30 minutes.  You basically take-off, climb to cruising altitude, stay at cruising altitude for about 5-10 minutes and begin descending for landing.  However, even though it’s such a short flight, the cost of the ticket is not as low as you might think.

This would actually be the third time I flew round-trip LA to San Diego (not counting transit flights) and so when I saw the price was $99 round-trip (Basic Economy) I knew it was a decent price as previously it’s always been above $100, sometimes around $200.  Now yes, I could always drive down but I hate traffic and parking in downtown San Diego is not cheap so why not fly what is a very short flight an enjoy free food and drinks at the lounge beforehand.

In the past I’ve done a quick turnaround and a day trip but with an expiring free night for a Marriott hotel (from my Marriott AMEX card) coming up I figured I’d make it a weekend trip.  I did invite friends to stay with me but due to one thing or another it ended up being a solo trip.

I took a ride-share from my apartment to the airport to the surprise of my driver who was pretty much wondering where I was flying to with only a backpack.  Now before leaving home I had checked to see what gate I was at and it showed a gate in Terminal 2 at LAX.  After I got to LAX, I breezed through security in Terminal 2 thanks to TSA pre-check and CLEAR and went to check where the gate was before heading to the lounge only to discover the gate had moved…. to Terminal 3.  Unfortunately, Terminals 1, 2 and 3 are not connected airside so I went to wait for the shuttle that would take me from Terminal 2 to Terminal 3.  In hindsight, it would have probably been faster to just exit the terminal, walk over to Terminal 3 and go back through security because it took over 30 minutes to get to Terminal 3 via shuttle.  I also should have double-checked my gate before going through security especially since the gate had been moving around all morning.  Lessons learned.

When I finally made it to Terminal 3, I went to look for the Delta Sky Club (which I have access for with my American Express Platinum card) to get some breakfast and will my reusable water bottle.  There are actually two Sky Clubs in Terminal 3 and from what I have read they are pretty similar.  I’m not sure if I was in the North or South lounge but the one I was in was not very large but had decent food options and self-serve alcohol.  While smaller than the Admirals Clubs I have been to in LAX, the food options were better as they had hot foods such as scrambled eggs, oatmeal with various toppings and a quinoa potato hash that I especially liked.

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After grabbing some food and water, I wandered over to my gate where I discovered I had actually been assigned a Comfort+ seat!  Considering I bought a Basic Economy ticket and have no status, that was a welcome surprise.  Comfort+ is basically earlier boarding, extra inches of legroom and free alcohol.  Of course on such a short flight it did not really matter much especially since the plane was an Embraer 175 which means there are no middle seats.

The flight was short and the airport in San Diego is right by the downtown area so I was on a ride-share to my hotel in no time, just a 9 minute drive from the airport to the hotel I had booked using my free night, the Residence Inn San Diego Downtown.

Residence Inn San Diego Downtown

1747 Pacific Highway, San Diego, California 92101 USA

I was booked into a 1 bedroom suite so I had plenty of space for me and my one backpack.  The room faced the inner courtyard where the pool was and I was on the third floor near the elevator.

The hotel has free breakfast in the mornings and I think something in the afternoon on weekdays.  It also has a pool, fitness center and computer cubicles.  Overall it was a decent hotel although I found the elevator to be placed in a bit of a strange place as you have to walk down a long hallway past some rooms before reaching it.  But otherwise, service was great and they have a free shuttle that can take you I think within 3 miles of the hotel based on first come, first serve.  I ended up using this service to return to the airport the next day since the airport is so close.

When I actually went to check-in, my room was not ready as I arrived around noon time and check-in is technically at 4 pm but I left my number for them to call when it was ready and went to go walk around and get lunch.

In fact, I came knowing this but since the hotel is in the Little Italy area of downtown San Diego, I went to explore the farmer’s market that occurs every Saturday morning to early afternoon.  I had been there once before and bought some fruits, juice and found the greeting card vendor I had bought from last time.  Their cards are really cute and very well priced considering how expensive greetings cards are nowadays.  For every 6 cards you buy, you get 1 free and cards are $3 each.  The booth was called Some of Me and they have a website you can also purchase from here.

After filling my backpack with all my goodies, I headed over to my favorite Italian restaurant Bencotto.

Bencotto

750 W Fir St #103, San Diego, CA 92101

This restaurant is probably a main reason why I keep coming back to San Diego.  I absolutely love the Tagliatelle al Nero di Seppia dish here which they describe as “hand cut black squid-ink fettuccine in a spicy pink sauce with shrimp”.  I get it every time I come and it is always amazing.  The first time I was here was years ago and I come back once every year or every other year and it’s always my favorite place to eat in San Diego.  It has been a while since I have gone here for dinner but back when I did, we always made reservations as they were quite busy.  Recently I have been stopping in at lunchtime and just eating at the bar which is not very busy.

To be honest I always get the same dish so I do not have any other recommendations but I have other friends who come and love their food too so it is probably all pretty good.  The service has also always been excellent here.  And if it’s too busy, they also have a sister restaurant next door with similar items

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After lunch, I strolled around until I received the call from the hotel which was around 2:45 PM and went back to the hotel to check-in.  I hung out in my room for a few hours and then ventured back out for an early dinner at Harumama Noodles and Buns which is walking distance from my hotel.

Harumama Noodles and Buns

1901 Columbia St, San Diego, CA 92101

The reason I chose to eat here is because of the cute character buns they serve.  They also serve other food items such as ramen and other dishes but I came looking for cute buns.  I was here pretty early for dinner so the restaurant wasn’t very full but it rapidly filled up as I was eating.  By the time I left most tables were full though bar seats were still open.

Since I only came for the buns, I can only talk about the buns.  They had quite the list of regular buns and the special character buns.  Even for the character buns they had both savory and sweet but probably more sweet.  Since I was only one person, it was pretty hard to narrow down my choice to just two types but since each order comes with two buns, 4 was the maximum I could possibly eat and even then it was a lot.  I honestly like savory foods more but I ended up choosing two sweet versions because I thought they would be cuter…

I ended up ordering the current special edition which were shaped like koalas and filled with strawberries and cream.  I didn’t really care for the filling but they definitely looked like koalas and I think they donated to one of the Australia charities when you ordered it.  For my other order, I got the polar bear which was filled with red bean and tasted like what you would expect of a red bean bun.

The buns were super cute but the price was a little high at $7.50 per set.  The taste was average so if you are looking for some amazing tasting buns, this might not be the place (though there were many other buns to be tried) but if you are looking for cute pictures, you cannot go wrong here.

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After dinner, I stopped by a convenience store to buy some water and snacks and spent the rest of the night in the hotel.

In the morning, I planned to go to Morning Glory for some souffle pancakes but I do not really like eating only sweet foods in the morning so I grabbed some scrambled eggs from the free hotel breakfast first before heading over to the restaurant (once again within walking distance).

Morning Glory

550 W Date St, San Diego, CA 92101

I had been researching online to see where I wanted to get brunch and decided on this place because they had interesting cocktails and SOUFFLE PANCAKES.  I never got the chance to have them when I was in Japan and I have been really wanting to try some.  When I got to the restaurant which I believe was around 8:00 AM (they open at 7 AM), there was already line for tables and they were saying the wait was around 30-40 minutes.  Since I was on my own, I just sat at the bar which had quite a few open seats still.  The restaurant was interestingly decorated and there was a lot to look at.

I ordered my souffle pancakes and also a cocktail called the Sakura Bloom.  The cocktail incorporated Japanese vodka, lemon, Nigori, honeydew, sparkling jasmine tea and egg white.  It was an interesting drink thought I’m not sure I would order another.  The souffle pancakes were fluffy and delicious though I wish they had done more for the presentation as the plate was pretty bare.  Considering the menu mentioned the pancakes would take as long as they take, they came out quite quickly, even faster than the American breakfast my neighbor ordered around the same time.  Next time I want to go and try something more savory though.

 

When I was walking to and from Morning Glory, the sky was cloudy and dreary but there was no rain.  However, around lunchtime when I was considering lunch, it had started to rain and I decided to just do a quick pick-up while the rain was relatively light just in case it got heavier.  I considered ordering from Bencotto again but decided to try their sister restaurant, Monello, instead as I have never eaten there.  I tried there spaghetti neri con polipo which is a black squid-ink spaghetti with mildly spicy lobster bisque sauce and sautéed octopus.  While this was also very tasty, I think I still prefer my dish at Bencotto more as I prefer the thicker noodle and the shrimp.

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As I mentioned earlier, I took the free shuttle (which I reserved in the morning) back to the airport and wandered around the shops for a little while before heading over to the Delta Sky Club.  I already saw that my flight was delayed so I settled in at a table with my tablet.  My flight was supposed to be flying in from LAX airport but had not even arrived there yet when I first arrived and the airport in San Diego.  Luckily, I had access to a Sky Club where they had sandwiches, macaroni and cheese, salad, soup and other food items.  This lounge also had a bar and bartender.

 

Eventually, the plane made it here and we boarded haphazardly.  Because the gate agents were trying to get everyone boarded quickly, one of the agents announced that any passenger with only one item that could be stored under their seat could start boarding but then forgot to inform the other agent also scanning boarding passes so some people were let on early and others were turned away and it was a bit of a mess.  I think it would probably have gone faster if they stuck to the normal procedure.

After everyone was boarded, the pilot announced that it may take up to another 40 minutes before we could push back and there were some angry passengers.  We were already delayed by perhaps 45 minutes to an hour and now we would be even later and most people had connections in LA.  Personnally, I was indifferent since LA was my final destination and I had nothing to do at night anyways.  Plus, we were on an A319 with a seat-back entertainment system so I just plugged in my headphones and started the movie Parasite which just happened to be up for multiple awards that night at the Oscars and later won Best Picture.

Originally I had not planned on watching anything since the flight was so short but with the additional delay I figured I would give it a shot.  However, we ended up pushing back a little earlier than expected and then after landing, the delay to the gate was not too long (I’ve waited up to 40 minutes before at LAX on the tarmac after landing).  I ended up only making it through half the movie.  The flight over, though short, had a LOT of turbulence and was essentially a short bumpy ride.  Luckily for some of the transit passengers it seemed like LAX in general was having a lot of delays so their connecting flights were probably delayed too since there was less grumbling when we landed.  Overall, we were delayed by 1.5 hours and flight time was 29 minutes.  Oh well, at least I got a free meal at the lounge.

Even with the delays getting back to LA, I would definitely do this again.  I still prefer sitting on a plane versus sitting in traffic driving back.  However, the only thing I would do differently is bring friends with me so I can try out more dishes and maybe actually leave the Little Italy area to explore the rest of San Diego.  Guess I should keep watching those fares to San Diego…

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