Sunset on the beach at Carlsbad, California.
Time sure does whiz by when you're busy. This year, I have been unusually busy. You all know that I've been neck-deep in Civilization V for about a year now writing strategy guides. I've also had a lot of home maintenance and repairs come up (but there's always so much more to do). I've been working on a stressful project at work. And my social life has also been surprisingly busy.
I was also recently stung by a scorpion in my home. The little bastard crawled up my pant leg and got me 3 or 4 times on the shin and inner thigh before I was able to kill it. Scorpion stings are really painful! That was not a pleasant morning. But supposedly I took it "like a champ".
Little bastard stung my leg 3 or 4 times!
I ended up sitting with a pack of ice under my leg the entire day. If I removed the ice, my leg would instantly feel like it was being stabbed with flaming hot pokers. Fortunately, I had a pain reliever to help me sleep, and the pain was mostly gone by the following morning.
I do not recommend a scorpion sting, no matter how much you want an excuse to take a three-day-weekend!
At least now I know that I'm not allergic to the sting of the common desert scorpion!
Beach view from the hotel.
Anyway, I had some time off of work the following week for a vacation, and I feel that it was well-deserved.
The original plan was to go camping in Yosemite, but my girlfriend and I had to scrap that plan on account of the park being on fire.
So instead, we decided to take a relaxing trip to the California beach at her favorite vacation spot: Carlsbad, California. No, not the one in New Mexico with the cave; it's the one half an hour north of San Diego..
I've never been to Carlsbad before, and I'm not a huge fan of the beach in general, but it was a very pleasant place to spend a week. We had a nice room in a hotel just across the street from the beach. The weather was comfortable - in the high 70's with a breeze - which is a great relief from the heat of the desert!
If you're ever in Carlsbad, California, I highly recommend three food establishments (in no particular order):
Harbor Fish Cafe is a great place for some comfort sea food. They have great fish tacos as well as fish 'n' chips, and their fries (chips) are well-seasoned. The cafe is right along the beach on Carlsbad Avenue, and depending on what time you go, you can get a great view of the beach and maybe even a sunset.
Pizza Port is a chain restaurant (with several locations throughout California) that makes their pizzas from scratch when you order them. The place was always exceptionally busy every time we were in the area, but if you are willing to wait for up to an hour, you will be treated to some of the best specialty pizzas that you'll ever come across! There's also a bar with sports on the television and an arcade if you need something to kill the time. Just make sure somebody saves your seat!
Pizza Port's Carlsbad specialty pizza with artichoke and chicken is one heck of a tasty pizza!
And when it comes time for dessert, nothing beats Subzero Ice Cream & Frozen Yogurt. The restaurant is also right along the beach on Carlsbad Avenue, and it's a great way to cool off after a day on the beach. Like Pizza Port, this place makes the ice cream from scratch, but it's not what you think. They don't make it at the start of the day and put it in the freezer. In fact, they don't have a freezer! Instead, they mix the raw milk and cream with the liquid flavoring and your choice of toppings, and then flash-freeze it with liquid nitrogen right before your eyes. The results are pretty damned good, and you have your choice of full fat ice cream made with milk cream, moderately-fattening custard using egg yolk, or low-fat frozen yogurt.
But we didn't spend all our time bumming on the beach eating pizza and ice cream. We spent two days driving to San Diego to visit the Safari Park and Sea World.
Sea World is overly-commercialized, but it is still a fun way to spend a day. I haven't been there since I was a young kid, and since then, they've added roller coasters and other amusement park rides. Their dolphin show also seemed a bit too much like a childish Cirque du Soleil with too many people dancing in weird costumes. It's great for kids, but lacks substance.
That's where the Safari Park comes in. It's still pretty commercialized (half the place is just gift shops and restaurants), but it feels much more like a zoo and much less like a carnival. The attractions are more geared towards education rather than theatrics.
Of course, the quality of the Safari Park experience is partially dependent on the animals. If they're awake and active, then it's a much more interesting and enjoyable experience. If they're all napping or hiding away in some nook of the enclosure, then you might not feel like you got your money's worth. Fortunately, most of the Safari Park's exhibits had excellent visibility of all areas of the habitat. So even if the animal was sleeping, you still have a very good chance of seeing it. Not terribly exciting, but it's better than not seeing the animal at all.
Giraffes at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.
The African safari tram tour is guaranteed to give you a good view of a lot of exotic animals. There's a large, wide open valley on one side of the park on which all of the herbivore savanna animals have mostly free range. Giraffes, gazelles, rhinos, and more are plainly visible in this habitat. The park is even currently home to two of the extremely endangered northern white rhinos - only seven of which are believed to exist in the entire world!
Both parks are exhausting. You do a lot of walking around! So it was nice to come back to the hotel and relax on the beach. We even tried boogie boarding, which is also something that I've never done before. It's a lot of fun when the water is reasonably calm and the waves are steady. But one day, the water was particularly rough, and we both got tossed around quite a bit! We ended up with quite a few cuts, scrapes, and bruises, not to mention swimsuits full of sand and lots of mouthfuls of salty sea water.
So instead of continuing to let Poseidon beat me up, I spent the afternoon catching up on some reading while my girlfriend tried to get in as much swimming and boogie boarding as she could.
Sunset boogie boarding is a fun way to unwind after a day of walking around an amusement park.
We both had a great time, and I can't wait to take another vacation with her. Maybe next time, we'll make that camping trip work.
I don't usually write about personal details on this blog, but after a long year of writing Civ strategies and ranting about Silent Hill, I just wanted to take a moment to remind my readers to make sure they put the keyboards and controllers aside every now and then so that you can go out and do things. Live life. See the world - even if it's just the small chunks of the world in your region.