By Brian Fischler
It was back to the road for Ed and me as we headed down the 5 freeway to San Diego. Plenty of traffic of course, but we finally made it to our hotel, the Indigo Gaslamp District, San Diego. If you have never been to the Gaslamp District, put it on your bucket list.
The Gaslamp District is laid out on a grid, so it is very easy for blind people to navigate. There are tons of restaurants and nightlife spots of all kinds. Our first mission in San Diego: get laundry done. Ed and I pack up our laundry bags and head from 9th Avenue, where our hotel is, to 5th Avenue, where we have found out there is a laundry drop off that will do our laundry and return it to our hotel. Yippee, clean clothes!
Unfortunately, Ed and I get to the laundry shop and there are zero employees there. It ends up the employees leave fairly early in the day, and then the laundromat stays open until 2am for individuals to do their own laundry. I am sure Ed and I could eventually figure out how the machines work, but we have a limited time in San Diego and we do not want to waste it spending hours doing laundry. So, it’s back to our hotel to drop our dirty laundry off. We are a little exhausted, annoyed about our laundry situation, and hungry, so we decide to just grab dinner in the hotel.
First off, we need to feed Wesley. The hotel sends up a bowl to feed him and it is the smallest bowl that I have ever seen. I need to break Wesley’s dinner into two portions, and fill the bowl six times with water. Thankfully, my mom helps me place an Amazon order and a new bowl will be delivered in a few days to our hotel in Seattle. After Wesley eats, we head down to the lobby for our dinner. At the hotel restaurant, we are greeted by the most entertaining bartender/waiter that you will ever find at a hotel bar. Mario informs us that we need to have his speciality cocktail, a Mariorita. No clue if that’s spelled correctly, but it is a tequila drink and we order two of them. Mario then sits down with us and reads us the entire menu. He is so much fun and so entertaining! I guess we picked the right place to have dinner. I go with the quesadillas and I think Ed got a burger. We end up having another round of Marioritas, as they are very good. Ed decides after dinner that he will call it an early night, but I decide to head up to the rooftop bar which overlooks all of the Gaslamp District.
We rest in the room and get cleaned up before heading off to a restaurant that has great reviews for its shrimp tacos. Years ago, when I was last in San Diego, I had the best shrimp tacos of my life. That was somewhere on the beach in San Diego but I don’t recall exactly where it was. So we pick a place in the Gaslamp District and head off to 5th avenue.
I get upstairs and find my way to the bar. I have to tell you, the bar stool is the highest bar stool I have ever come across! I actually have to hop up to get onto it. I speak with a couple of people at the bar and they explain to me how phenomenal the sights are from the rooftop bar. I, of course, get my photo taken with the city in the background for my Flight for Sight adventure.
The next morning, we get up and head out for breakfast. Ed had found a breakfast joint a few blocks away that sounded good. We find it and there is a wait, so it must be good. We eventually get seated, and enjoy the outdoor seating and the gorgeous San Diego weather. I get a breakfast burrito and it is awesome.
We head back to the hotel after breakfast, get cleaned up, and prepare to head over to Petco Park, the home of the San Diego Padres. We are catching the Mets again and I hope the Padres kill them, as I do like the San Diego Padres.
We get into the elevator at the hotel and meet a woman who is heading to the game by herself, and she is nice enough to lead Ed, Wesley, and me over to Petco Park. We have a lovely walk to the stadium which is less than two blocks from our hotel.
We say good-bye to our walking mate and get in line to get into the stadium. We have no issues getting inside and immediately ask about guest services to help us get to our seats. We are led to a nice outdoor seating area where we wait a few minutes for our escorts to take us to our seats.
Isabelle and another woman from guest services come over and begin to take us to our seats. Both women are unbelievably friendly. We hit guest services on the way to pick up the in-house radio broadcast device. We then realize that we should probably pick up a beer on the way to our seats, as we have noticed in all the ballparks that the days of vendors walking around and selling things are over. We get our beers and head to our seats. Isabelle and the other woman helping Ed are the best guest services employees we have had in a ballpark yet. I tell Isabelle about our Flight for Sight project, testing accessibility for blind people at MLB ballparks, TSA experiences around the country at different airports, and meeting with different blind people in each city, and she is quite intrigued by it all. I promise to email her my blogs if she shoots me an email. Isabelle is going to San Diego state and is very interested in our findings. The next day, I did receive an email from my new friend Isabelle. Hey, Isabelle! I hope you are liking my blogs!
We get seated and the two gentlemen to my right are great guys. We start talking with them immediately and Ed makes a friend to his left. Is it just us, or are we meeting the most friendly people in the country everywhere we go? We really have been quite lucky so far. We end up talking throughout the whole game with our seatmates. They tell us about some great spots to check out in the Gaslamp District. We discuss rent in San Diego, as I am curious since I may end up wanting to move here one day. Unfortunately, it sounds like the rent in San Diego is the same as NYC rent and more than Astoria rent where I currently live.
We enjoy the Padres thrashing the Mets. (Or at least I do, as Ed is a Mets fan.) Again, we leave the game in the bottom of the 7th, as the rout is on, and we prefer to beat the zoo exit experience. Two gentlemen from guest services come and meet us at our seats.
We begin the walk out of Petco Park and the two gentlemen are equal to Isabelle and the other woman who helped us get to our seats. We even find out there is a ballpark give-away upon exiting the stadium. It’s a steel mug of some kind and we get ours. We think we will be on our own the rest of the way but nope! This is by far the best guest services experience we have had yet, as the two employees walk us all the way back to our hotel. Wow, now that is old school customer service!
We find the restaurant we are looking for and, unfortunately, it is not a sit-down place. Instead, you go through the line and they prepare your tacos, then you find a seat. Not ideal for a couple of blind dudes. We decide to go elsewhere and find another Mexican joint a few blocks away. We get a table outside because it is San Diego and why in the world would you sit inside? We order the margarita sampler pack and place our taco order. These tacos are definitely not the quality I had ten years ago. A little disappointing, but at least the ambiance is great. We wrap up our dinner and head off to a bar the guys who were sitting next to us at the Padres game recommended. We were looking for a bar that was not too crowded, too loud, and played 70s or 80s music. The guys nailed the recommendation as Smoking Gun was exactly what we were looking for. We have a few drinks, meet some of the locals, and have a great time.
We don’t make it a late night as the next morning we’re off to Seattle. Overall, San Diego has been an incredible time and makes up for the disappointing L.A. trip. If you are keeping score, so far in order of best to worst I would go with Houston, San Diego, Dallas, Phoenix, and then way way down, bringing up the rear, my former home town, Los Angeles. And now on to Seattle!
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Listen to the Flight for Sight podcast about San Diege hosted by Brian Fischler: Episode 6 – San Diego, The Greatest Place On Earth, A Conversation with Blake Steinecke here.
Photo Description 1: Brian is on a rooftop at night with Petco Park in the background.
Photo Description 2: Ed, Brian and his guide dog Wesley are at Petco Park. The field is in the background.