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San Diego Bay view from Hyatt

“Dude,” said Kate, gazing disbelievingly out of the upper deck window of our Pacific Surfliner train. “Best train ride ever.”

She was right. The Southern California seascape was gorgeous. Sparkling blue seas and rippling white waves stretched endlessly across our view as we drew further away from Los Angeles, and closer to San Diego. An hour later, as the Surfliner rolled slowly towards the Santa Fe Depot, our hearts somersaulted in excitement. We were officially in San Diego.

Our hotel room at the Manchester Grand Hyatt had the most breathtaking views of the bay. On our first night, we met up with some of my family and had the best authentic Mexican food I’ve ever eaten (San Diego is right next to the border of Mexico). As we walked off our burritos, Kate firmly intervened before I shelled out $30 for a CD album of a Mexican pan-flute band. (This is why she’s my rock.)

Oh, San Diego! We rose early in the mornings to the beautiful view and had healthy, leisurely breakfasts made up of açaí bowls and superfood smoothies. We lazed by the pool under the sun and nibbled on fresh Greek mezze platters for lunch. Happy sigh . . .

At night, the sleepy, sun-soaked city came alive; the buzz of the Gaslamp Quarter beckoned. As fate would have it, we immediately bumped into three Londoners, with whom we lamented England’s exceptionally crap World Cup performance.

Terrifying skirmishes with a feisty Latina girl and an accidental dance-off later, the gents walked us back to our hotel. We had pizza and frozen yoghurt with them another night before bidding them farewell on their roadtrip. They were a hoot and a half. (Miss you, lads!)


We spent our penultimate day at Coronado Island, getting our Marilyn Monroe on at Coronado Beach (where the iconic Some Like It Hot was filmed, back in ’59). At night, we arranged to meet Kate’s Irish cousin, Niall.

As our Uber drew up to the pleasant boulevard he lived on, Kate was slightly anxious. “Last time I saw Niall he was doing homework on Christmas day,” she told me. “What if it’s really awkward because we have nothing in common?”

Turns out, we had nothing to worry about. Niall and his twenty-eight wild Irish roommates, all chaotically stuffed into a broken 2-bedroom bungalow, chewed us up, chugged us down, and puked us back up. The only words I can use to explain the night are: cops, Four Loko, and homeless shelter.

At 4am, we found ourselves recovering at a 24-hour iHop. “Well,” said Kate, spearing a piece of pancake with a shaky fork. “I don’t reckon Niall does homework on Christmas anymore.” Then we looked at each other and laughed until we cried.

Mel Legarda

Melissa Legarda is the founder of illumelation. She has worked as a travel blogger, creator and writer since 2015, and has collaborated with well-known brands worldwide. She has helped over 1,100+ students improve their travel photography skills since launching her creative courses. Her mission is to encourage and empower others to travel and create more. Find her on Instagram.

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