I'll take any excuse to make a weekend out of something. So when my friend was getting married in San Diego on a Monday, I drove down on Saturday to spend the weekend on the beach, getting a nice base going on my summer tan. I imagined I'd stop somewhere and grab a smoothie of the tropical sort, lay out my beach blanket and pop in my ear buds to listen to my favorite podcast while the sun shone down upon me for hours on end. It was going to be great.
And per usual, things did not go as planned. Having been a resident of Southern California for three years now, I should have anticipated that June Gloom may make an appearance. June Gloom didn't like the idea of a beach weekend, and instead it chose to keep the beach shrouded in clouds all afternoon, allowing the surfers to enjoy their solace in the water as the beachgoers clung to the shore with blankets wrapped around their shoulders. So instead of sitting (and likely shivering) on the sand, I took the opportunity to wander Ocean Beach.
I grabbed a latte at a new coffee shop on Newport Avenue and perused the many antique stores. There were vintage coffee tins turned succulent planters, mid-century bar carts waiting for a home in Palm Springs, and more pieces of vintage jewelry than I could have admired in a day. I eyed some vintage teacups and saucers that I ultimately passed on, but instead headed back to my hostel - USA Hostels Ocean Beach - with an Ella Fitzgerald album in my hands.
I want to address the fact that I stayed in a hostel simply because I think everyone should stay in hostels more. Especially when traveling solo - it's such an incredible way to meet people and make new friends. I had dinner and beers with Jenny from Manchester, who was spending a year traveling the world by herself. I bonded with an Aussie over our love for the Cleveland Cavaliers - so much so that we continued Snapchatting each other during the (unfortunate) NBA Finals series. I took part in the hostel-led bar hop that took us from bar to bar on Newport Ave. I had an incredible time - traveling by myself but surrounded by so many - and spent $28 doing it.
In the morning, I woke up just in time to catch the tail end of the free bagel breakfast at the hostel. I put away a plain one with plenty of cream cheese and sipped my coffee as I began to plan out my day. A quick search on my phone told me that San Diego's Old Town was just 15 minutes away, and since historical attractions are right up my alley, I decided to go. I headed back to my room and said my goodbyes to my new friends, and headed to Old Town.
Expecting some kind of shopping district housed in old buildings, I was entirely surprised and impressed and to learn that San Diego's Old Town is in fact a living museum. Sure, there are shops - but in the cigar shop, the gentleman at the counter is wearing suspenders and sporting a handlebar mustache. There's a mariachi band playing in the plaza. There's a tinsmith, and a candle maker, and a potter. It's like stepping back in time to see what San Diego may have looked like in the late 1800's. In fact, visitors can meander La Casa de Estudillo - one of the first houses in San Diego that's now a museum open to the public.
Though the entire living museum was incredible, what amazed me most was the potter. An older gentleman, you could easily tell he was a master of his craft. He'd mold a bowl, or pitcher, or vase from a mound of clay in less than three minutes, then use a wooden stick, or broken plastic fork to draw flowers, or cacti, or patterns of waves on his new creations. He wore a thick whitish-grey mustache that curved upwards with his infectious smile as passersby complimented his work. After sitting and photographing him for several minutes, he asked me if I'd like to take one of his pots for free. I of course jumped at the offer, and after asking my name, he inscribed "Mandi" into the back side of the pot, with the date 6/4/17.
A tangible memory for a trip that's worth remembering; though it's the intangible memories - times with new friends and passersby - that make the trip worthwhile.