San Diego Trip with SAM

Hello Folks! All of this travel I’ve been doing lately is out of the ordinary for me, so forgive me for my sporadic posting schedule over the past month. I thought after each trip that I would have the time to blog the following week, but we had one full weekend after another. Not to mention busy work weeks. I’ll be starting a new, consistent, posting schedule in November and will tell you more about that next week.

Last time I updated, I was awake during the wee hours while on a work trip to San Diego…

Our staff got to participate in an amazing conference hosted by StriveTogether {a Cradle to Career Network connecting communities across the nation to improve outcomes for all kids}. Although we were in workshops the majority of the time, we took advantage of every free moment we had to enjoy such a wonderful city. Before we left, we scouted out a few restaurants and did some strategic planning to max out our time. I mean, it’s not very often {i.e. never} that we get to do staff bonding in Cali!

I’ll spare you the work-related details of the conference, not because it’s unimportant to me, but because it would be a novel. I will say that it re-invigorated my spirit for this type of community-wide, collective impact work. We learned so much valuable information to bring back to our community and I am really excited about what’s to come from Spartanburg Academic Movement and our Partners.

**Side Note: I took a TON more photos than I could fit into one post, so please visit my Facebook Page to see all them all.**

The conference was held at Paradise Point Island Resort, a really neat spot on Mission Bay near SeaWorld. I wish I had more photos of the grounds, because it really was like being somewhere tropical. The California beach bungalow-style rooms were scattered throughout 44 acres of lagoons and lush, tropical gardens.

A little fun fact: Paradise was created by a movie producer who wanted to have a permanent a fantasy-island movie set with an exotic South Seas atmosphere.

Hence all of the tropical and subtropical flowers and foliage.


With over 460 rooms, the place is huge. Some of the bungalows are even on a private 1 mile stretch of beach right on the bay.

bay view

Tuesday {Travel Day}

Our first dinner of the trip was at the resort’s Barefoot Bar & Grill. After traveling literally ALL day, we weren’t up for scoping out the area.  Luckily, the restaurants on site are really good. I had the “Yellow Fin Tuna” {a salad with seared rare tuna, radicchio, cilantro, bell pepper, miso wasabi vinaigrette, and smoked eel sauce} before hitting the hay.

dinner 1


The time change got the best of me and I found myself wide awake at 3:30am San Diego time sharing the last part of my Montana trip with you. When it was finally time for breakfast, we walked back over to Barefoot Bar & Grill for our only breakfast outside the conference center. I enjoyed the massive “San Diego Omelet” {bacon, avocado, mushroom, and spinach} with a side of fresh fruit.


Our first session didn’t begin until 3:30pm, so we had a good chunk of the day to fit in a little site-seeing adventure and lunch outing. After breakfast, we headed to the historic Old Town San Diego.  It is considered the “birthplace” of California and is the site of the first permanent Spanish settlement in the state. We didn’t go into the actual Old Town State Historical Park, but we did at least see the historic adobe buildings and walked around the area.

old town

The rich culture and history are what make the place so intriguing. There are open markets, unique shops, authentic restaurants, and museums scattered throughout a fairly small area. My favorite shop was a Native American one that had beautiful jewelry {duh, my love of turquoise sucked me in}, pottery and fun artwork.

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After wandering around Old Town, we headed downtown to eat lunch at our first pre-planned restaurant of the trip. We found Cafe Chloe {and a couple other spots} through Fodor’sTravel before we left town. It’s a cozy neighborhood cafe in San Diego’s East Village with a French-inspired menu that includes updated bistro classics. And some deliciously fancy “lavender lemonade.”

lavendar lemonade

I chose the “poached eggs with wild mushroom and sage-truffle beurre blanc” {over fingerling potatoes instead of toast}, and it was outstanding. I have to say that these eggs were definitely better and significantly more elegant than the eggs I had for breakfast. I realized I had a lot of eggs that day, but I couldn’t pass on this menu item…

cafe chloe

We finished lunch and made it back to the resort just in time for our 3:30 meeting, followed by a networking reception that evening.


It was right outside the conference center overlooking Mission Bay and was beautiful.


And so were we.

SAM Staff

When the reception ended, we headed to our second pre-planned restaurant of the trip — The Fish Market. This informal restaurant is a waterfront landmark in the heart of Downtown, right next to the USS Midway Aircraft Carrier/Museum.

uss midtown

Their specialty is fresh fish and shellfish, so I got the “Catalina Swordfish” with a side of “Basil Grape Tomatoes” and “Steamed Vegetables.” It was absolute fantastic. I was skeptical about swordfish since I’ve never been brave enough to try it, but it was delicious.



Thursday we were at the conference center all day, including breakfast and lunch {and a variety — meaning I had to try each one — of fresh cookies at snack time}. We got to hear from some pretty impressive folks from around the country. Again, I’m not getting into the conference details, but StriveTogether did a bang-up job of keeping this very easily distracted gal entertained and engaged.

That evening, we visited our third pre-planned restaurant of the trip — Juniper & Ivy. This was my doing. I wanted to try somewhere hip, and this place didn’t disappoint. They offer “refined American food with left coast edge courtesy of acclaimed chef Richard Blais.” You might recognize his name as the winner of “Top Chef All-Stars” if you watch Bravo…

The interior of the place was buzzing with energy, and the decor and layout is creatively planned with insane attention to detail.


As is the menu. They offer some wildly inventive snacks {appetizers}, raw {raw food obviously}, pasta, toast {things on toast}, small plates, and plates. I chose a snack {“Kurobuta Pork Meatball,” rhubarb marinara / wild onion pickle},


a toast {“Carne Cruda Asada,” quail egg / cojita / jalapeño},


and a small plate {“Slow Roasted Beets,” Bartlett pear ricotta / Marcona almond / miso honey vinaigrette / living kale}.


Of course, we had to try a couple of desserts. We all shared the “Yodel” {devil’s cake / white chocolate / hazelnut brittle / hot chocolate}

dessert 1

and the “Caramel Chocolate Mousse” {buttermilk, cocoa nib, meringue}.

dessert 2

I loved both desserts, but the yodel was my favorite. I went completely overboard with the amount of food I consumed, but every bite was totally worth it.


The conference ended around 2:30pm, leaving us just enough time to squeeze in a quick visit to the San Diego Zoo and the last pre-planned restaurant of the trip before we had to be at the airport to catch the red-eye home.

The zoo is spectacular, and I wish we had had more time to enjoy it. However, we did manage to breeze through almost every exhibit. Some of my favorites are the anteaters {I think},

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the kangaroos,


and the giraffes.


Y’all know I went crazy with the pictures, so be sure to check out Facebook to see more animals that caught my eye.

Our final pre-planned restaurant was Barrio Star, an authentic Mexican soul food joint.

barrio star

Inside, the atmosphere is great. It’s funky but inviting at the same time.

barrio star 2

Since all of their tortillas are hand pressed from freshly ground corn, I got an order of the “homemade corn tortillas with jalapeño butter,” a side of “organic steamed greens” {which happened to be kale}, and one “salmon taco” {wild blackened salmon, thai slaw, pineapple, jicama salsa, chipotle aioli, cilantro lime sauce}.


Everything was so fresh and full of flavor, and we all equally enjoyed our meals. It was a favorite of the week for sure.

We scooted in one art gallery that caught our attention on the walk back to the car. I can’t remember the name of the artist of the top of my head, but I love the colors she uses.


We didn’t have to sit too long in the San Diego airport, but I have to say it’s one of the nicest airports I’ve ever been to. They even had a frozen yogurt place where you can pick the toppings yourself, which I definitely had for dessert…


Blurred together with lots of sleep and TV watching, hence no post until today.

Last Weekend

John had his 10-year reunion at Wofford College, so we got to spend time with his good buddies and their families all weekend and had a blast! I didn’t take any photos except one from the fraternity house to send my mom to show her what a good sport I was being.


It really was a great weekend.

This week I’m working on prepping for a new posting schedule starting next week! I’m excited to tell you about it, and excited to quit procrastinating and get myself organized. Have a good one!