When I returned from Orlando in April, I thought I was done with business travel for the year. My job doesn’t typically involve much travel, so 3 trips already was a lot! Then I found out my boss and several colleagues were attending IBM’s big conference in San Diego in May. It was a good opportunity to evaluate some of IBM’s products, as well as do some bench-marking for my team. But, really, it was an excuse to travel!
The conference was on a Tuesday and Wednesday, and I wasn’t about to fly in and fly out without a little R&R. I opted to take a vacation day on Monday; enabling me to fly out early Sunday.
I’d had lunch in San Diego on a day trip from Palm Springs to Tijuana about a decade earlier, but for all intents and purposes, this was a new city to explore. And there was an overwhelming number of options!
First order of business when landing on the West Coast is to find fish tacos! I checked in to my hotel, fired up the Yelp app, and walked over to the waterfront area to Puesto for a beer and tacos. Delicious!
I chose to stay at the Westin San Diego – it fell within our corporate travel policy, and was also affordable for the 1 night I was footing the bill. The buildings were very distinct, so I could always spot the hotel and find my way back! The neighborhood was interesting…on the quiet side, but not in a good way. Very close to the train and military museum, but also next door to a YMCA/hostel with a lot of homeless in the area. I heard drunken shouting very late into the night one night (from one deranged person) The Westin Gaslamp looked a bit nicer and in a great location as well, although quite a bit pricier. My room, though, was great. Everything I would expect from a Westin. Did I mention the free airport shuttle?! Huge bonus in my book!
So, what to do with my vacation day? As much as I also wanted to get over to Balboa Park, I chose a Bike and Kayak tour of Coronado. On Monday morning, I walked a few blocks from my hotel, jumped on the Coronado ferry, and checked in for the bike tour. Turns out, I was the only customer, so I got a private tour. We essentially pedaled around the island, either on bike paths, or wide roads. Not a lot of traffic to worry about, which was nice.
After a few hours on the bikes, we were back at the office and I was informed that I had 2 hours before the kayak tour would begin. So, I went off for lunch and came back for a private kayak tour with the same guide. Any day on the water is a good one, and this was no exception. Although we didn’t really go anywhere, it was nice to see the city from the water, and to paddle under the giant Coronado Bridge.
After some ice cream and a ferry ride back, I was about to turn into a pumpkin, er, go into business mode. The work part of the trip started Monday night with a pre-conference dinner at Top of the Market, which appeared to be a fancier version of the Fish Market downstairs. As much as I sometimes dread networking dinners, after a few glasses of wine and good food, they usually end up being pretty fun. Besides, how many people can say they’ve taken a pedi-cab with their boss and 3 coworkers?
Tuesday would bring a full day of conferences, followed by a cocktail hour at Atmosphere, a bar on the roof of the Marriott Gaslamp. Incredible rooftop!
After a quick dinner at Rockin’ Baja Lobster, (more fish tacos!) it was time for the big concert of the convention. IBM apparently pulls some big names in every year. This year, Aloe Blacc performed to a small audience. I hadn’t heard of him before, but recognized his music when I heard it. The venue was small enough that we were able to squeeze right up to the stage.
After the concert, it was time for barhopping in the Gaslamp District. After a few shots of Jaeger, on top of everything else consumed that night, I snuck out and grabbed a cab home so I could still be fresh for another full day of conferences. Gone are the days of staying out all night and going straight to work the next morning! Mwah-mwah.
Another day of conference sessions, and then an early Thursday flight back to Chicago.
I left San Diego with the same thought I have in most cities (except New York!): “I could totally live here!”