“The Christian version of the Hajj should be to San Diego. It’s Eden. Perfect in every way.”

At least according to my Kurdish cab driver who’d recently moved here with his family from Phoenix.

I asked him how he felt about Kurdish independence and his enthusiasm nearly caused an accident. He can’t wait for the Kurds to break free from the Iraqi government, which is “full of useless wastes of space.”

Based on my short ride with him, he has a much stronger grip on his opinions than  California’s traffic laws.

Why not go fly a kite in San Diego?

Why not go fly a kite in San Diego?

Anyway, he’s right. San Diego is as close to perfect as a place can get. Cool sea breezes add fan-like comfort to already balmy temperatures. The landscape and geography are ideal. And the manmade additions are clean and neatly organized. Oh! And the people! Let’s just say I stuck out like an ugly, sore thumb among these beauties. I had flashbacks to Bondi Beach around every corner.

If it sounds like I’m overselling the place, it’s because I should.

The waterfront is worth a panoramic photo

The waterfront is worth a panoramic photo

While this wasn’t my first trip to San Diego, it was the first in which I could really enjoy myself.

My last visit included surprise surgery. It was a few years back and, on my flight out, I noticed a strange pain in my mouth. The next morning, I woke up with a swollen cheek that stretched to the Pacific.

I did precisely what anyone would do when suffering from such an affliction: I went to the concierge. Naturally, he knew San Diego’s best oral surgeon and, for a $10 tip, got me an immediate appointment. I had the right concierge. Turns out, the guy had special access because the surgeon had worked on his cleft palate.

I’ll spare you the gory details, but the issue turned out to be a peanut that wound up where it shouldn’t have. I finally learned to chew thanks to this too-late-in-life lesson.

In any event, my most recent trip to Eden involved neither dental exams nor peanuts.

It did, however, involve four hours of exploration between landing and a meeting.

I began with lunch on the waterfront. When dining alone, it’s difficult not to observe (some might say “eavesdrop on”) one’s fellow diners. In this particular case, there was a giddy little family who ordered several rounds of liquor drinks. They seemed most satisfied with the strength of the “Long Island Iced Tea” that Mother got. The topic switched to Dramamine before Son offered a loud and animated prayer expressing extreme gratitude for those who prepared our food, most especially our bartender.??

Was this the Hajj my Kurdish cab driver spoke of?

These converted vessels go on land and water.

These converted vessels go on land and water.

When they looked ready to pass out, I sought out further entertainment. I found a Seal Tour, which is like the more established Duck Tours, but without the quacking. You still may not know what these are, which is truly your loss. Enterprising individuals in cities with waterfronts have modified WWII landing craft that are capable of driving on city streets and then becoming boats. And, for a modest fee, they offer tourists like me guided journeys of their fine communities.

I was ready to tie up the vessel if they needed a first mate.

I was ready to tie up the vessel if they needed a first mate. Although, thankfully for my fellow passengers, they did not.

Making a fool out of oneself is encouraged and I, naturally, obliged by wearing one of the paper pirate hats provided with the fee. I brought it home as a souvenir and plan to whip it out for cocktail parties and such. The tour is also an opportunity to learn many irresistibly useless facts:

  • San Diego hosts 190 cruise ships every year
  • San Diego has one of the largest “Little Italies” in the United States
  • Camp Pendleton hosts 21,000 Marine Recruits every year
  • San Diego County has more endangered species than any other County in the United States.

Now you know!

Yes. That's an Aircraft Carrier. The USS Midway.

Yes. That’s an Aircraft Carrier. The USS Midway.

San Diego is a gift. And I’m glad I got to unwrap it. Even if it was only for four hours.