Friday, June 15, 2012

Beautiful La Jolla and not-so-beautiful hotels

La Jolla, a northern suburb/area of San Diego, boasts some of the most expensive real estate in the country. People called it "ritzy," "the Beverly Hills of San Diego," etc., and many people recommended that we do some shopping while we were there.

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The main shopping area is Girard Street, but we found a lot of shops (and longer-term parking) along Herschel Avenue. I specifically wanted to find the Title Nine shop in La Jolla, which is one of my favorite women's active-clothing stores, but we don't have one in Indiana... so I have to drool over the catalogs and website from a distance. I would love it if I could have one of everything from their store and dress in their style every day.

As I mentioned earlier, we found a great quantity of shops, but I got the feeling that the area definitely caters to the brand-name retail store over the local artisan. I'm sure part of it is due to the cost of renting a storefront there—so national or international brands may be the only ones who can really afford it.

When it comes to beautiful landscapes, though, I found the La Jolla coastline to be the most beautiful we saw.

A group of sea lions—adults and youngsters (the lighter-colored ones in the photo) alike—had staked a claim on the rocky shoreline, and I enjoyed watching them for a while. It may be the first time I've seen wild sea lions outside of a zoo setting, which is always thrilling.
Once you see how beautiful this section of coastline is, it's easy to understand why La Jolla is called "the jewel of southern Calinfornia" and people pay such a premium to live there.

Our day in La Jolla was a chilly one: I don't think the temperature climbed above 65°F, and we never did see the sun. But nevertheless, there were some very brave souls on the beach, wading in the water. I can only imagine how cold it was! Maybe they were from an area like Juneau, Alaska and 65° felt like a tropical day?
That night, we made our way to our hotel in San Diego, where we spent the final three nights of our trip. We chose the Kona Kai Resort & Spa based on its affordable rate, proximity to the airport (especially nice since my flight home departed at 7:30 a.m.), and positive reviews both online and in a guidebook.

Boy, were we disappointed. We laughed about how far we felt from the earlier hotels on the trip!

The location was nice: the hotel was on a peninsula called Shelter Island, which caters to vacationers and boaters. Beaches could be found on both sides of the peninsula, so if the weather had been warm, we might have taken advantage of it.

Our room was at the far end of the property, and while the structure of the building was like any standard hotel (interior hallways and entries) with a covered hallway, it was open-air, and the hallway floor was bare concrete. Which meant that noise echoed.

Inside the room, we definitely felt like discount-rate guests. The amenities included:
  • A window-style air conditioner for the room that appeared to be a 1980 relic and needed a few Fonzie-esque taps to quit rattling.
  • An outlet and separate table lamp that didn't work.
  • A single washcloth for a room that could sleep four.
  • A handtowel for a post-shower bathmat.
We also found it suspicious when we called to inquire about spa services, and were told that 1) they didn't offer manicures and pedicures, and 2) if you wanted to schedule a massage, your selection of appointment times were limited to the hour before or after another guest, since they had to bring in an off-site masseuse. 

But we took all this in stride, figuring the cost savings would be worth it. 

That was until 12:30 a.m., when we needed to call the front desk and complain about our noisy young neighbors, whose conversation we could hear every word of. And again at 6:30 a.m., when the smoke alarm in the room went off for 10 seconds or so, and the front desk brushed it off and said we shouldn't worry about it.

That evening, I complained to the manager and got us switched to a new room. The manager was very accommodating, which we appreciated, and he waived our parking fee for the duration of our stay. We definitely felt like we'd received an upgrade when we got to the new room—from an interior, carpeted hallway entry—and found four washcloths, a bathmat, working outlets and lamps, a newer and quieter air conditioner, and three decorative pillows on each bed (instead of just the two standard sleeping pillows).

It was certainly a stay to remember. 

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