Tuesday, May 31, 2016



My friend Jean said her sister, Carol, would arrive at the San Diego International Airport about noon on a Wednesday. We decided to meet at the Liberty Public Market (2820 Historic Decatur Road) for lunch—a five minute drive west of the airport. This is one of the new and trendy places in San Diego, located in the northeast corner of Liberty Station, Point Loma.

     Interestingly, the new Liberty Public Market is located in the original Navy Mess Hall, one of the first buildings constructed at the San Diego Naval Training center in the early 1920s. The $3 million project offers more than 24 food and beverage vendors and a choice of inside or outside seating in a renovated historical building with high ceilings and impressive white wooden rafters.

       This is my second visit to the market. The first time was on a Sunday afternoon in April and it was crowded. The lines for food were too long, tables were almost impossible to find, and it was noisy. We did not stay.

     I looked forward to giving it another try on a weekday. It was much better, although seating was still somewhat limited, but the lines were short and there was more time to leisurely appreciate the nearly one-hundred-year-old structure. We found a pleasant long table located inside near the AE Floral shop. Here we could comfortably visit the afternoon away. We took turns heading out to explore the many food choices, and we all tried something different.
I tried the lobster roll ($16) with hot melted butter on a toasted roll with French fries from the Wicked Maine Lobster, it was delicious. Jean had a endless summer salad ($9.50) which was also good. Carol chose the chicken pad Thai ($9) from Mama Made Thai—we all agreed that this was the best. We topped off the meal with great coffee from WestBean Coffee Roasters. I will return for the coffee. You might also wish to taste one of the 24 craft beers on draft or 100 craft bottled beers at Bottlecraft. Wine tasting at the Grape Smuggler is also an option. There are many choices, and I plan to return soon to sample more of them.

This first food hall (or food hall with class) in San Diego is fun, unique, and it even offers a history lesson. While in the large mess hall dining area don't miss looking up to see the 16 ships that were painted on the walls in 1952; they still exist in their original untouched form.
      After a visit to this unique food hall, there are dozens of other places to explore in Liberty Station. In the 1920s the training center buildings were designed in a Spanish Colonial style similar to Balboa Park with colonnades, arches, and towers. The original 300 structures on 550 acres housed the Navy for almost 75 years; during that time more than a million sailors received training here. It was closed in 1997 under the Base Closure & Realignment Act of 1990 and later acquired by the city. It has since been restored and preserved in what has been the largest historical preservation project in San Diego.
      Today, Liberty Station encompasses 125 acres of parks, open spaces, a boat channel to San Diego Bay, shopping, restaurants, a 28-acre arts and culture district, Visions Art Museum, the Women's Museum, the nine hole Sail Ho Golf Club, hotels, schools, church, and around 350 residences.

       It is also home to the USS Recruit; a landlocked “dummy” ship often referred to as “the Neversail.” It was used to train more than 50,000 sailors a year from 1949 until it was decommissioned in 1967. This historical landmark is available for outside viewing only.



Thursday, May 19, 2016



      Airbnb is one of the largest accommodation providers in the world. Founded in 2008, this San Francisco-based company has properties in more than 34,000 cities in 190 countries. The popular website offers a wide range of choices that include rooms, apartments, houses, villas, and castles.

       I started using Airbnb a few years ago when looking for family stays of one week or longer in Australia. I found a number of things about Airbnb to be quite appealing: payment by credit card; a choice of cancel policies that are clearly defined; a 24-hour resolution policy for unexpected issues upon arrival. In addition, each property follows the same listing format that defines the space, amenities, prices, and a general description.

       I just recently made a two-week reservation for an apartment overlooking the Douro River in Porto, Portugal. This is our twelfth stay using Airbnb. So far we have been satisfied with our choices, however, there is always some risk involved. Here are a few things that I have learned along the way:

—It works best for stays of at least one week or when traveling  
    with a larger group. It can definitely save you money, make you
    feel like a local and provide the extra space and cooking facilities
    that will provide that “at home” feeling. However, it takes time
    and patience to use, and there is always, at a minimum, the
    Airbnb service fee if you cancel.

—Decide on your parameters (ours always include free WiFi and a
    private apartment) and then be ready to spend many hours
    perusing the website for just the right place.

—Once you find something of interest, pay particular attention to
    the total number of reviews and ratings—the more the better; 50
    or more is good. Then read them to get a feel for the place and
    pay attention to anything negative for followup. (The owner and
    renter both conduct reviews separately after each stay.)

—Add the price of cleaning and the booking fee into the nightly
    rate, so you are making an accurate comparison when looking at 
    other sites.

—Once I decide that I like a property, I have my husband do a
    review to see if I missed anything. He's good at deciding if the
    location is convenient and is partial to large windows with
    expansive views. A second opinion is always a good idea.

—There is a convenient place on the website for inquiries and
    introductions to the owner. I like to do this, and the owner will
    typically hold it for 24 hours after you express an interest.

—Look for a lot of photos and study them carefully. Many
    properties offer a dozen or more—if there are just a few, I pass
    on the property. Pictures can be deceptive, but you can also learn
    a lot from them.

—Cancellation policies vary: strict, moderate, flexible. I try to
    avoid strict, but I feel that the other two are fair. When I make
    Airbnb reservations my plans are firm, barring an emergency. 
    (For hotel stays and reservations that are easily changed, I
    typically go to Booking.com or direct to the hotel website.)

—Start your search as early as possible, especially, if you are
    traveling during peak travel season.

      Having said all this, I have not always followed my own advice. Here is the website to “Studio mit Blick auf See und Berge.”
One of our favorite Airbnb finds was a chalet in the mountains of Switzerland overlooking the Thunersee. There were only two reviews (good ones), and it was perched above the town on a mountain that could mean a very steep hike to get there. However, the view was spectacular, and the owner answered every question to my satisfaction (we could ride the local bus and avoid the uphill walk). It was still a risk, but one we were glad we took.

       Another excellent place was in Sydney, Australia; it had a balcony, pleasant view, and great host. It was kind of a no-brainer, because it had more than one-hundred reviews with a five-star (best) average. Here is the website to “Central+Surrey Hills+Views.”

       In Melbourne, Australia we rented a comfortable two-bedroom apartment with a great view of the city. “Beautiful City + Park Views + Pool” with its 80+ five-star reviews can be found here.

         One of the more unusual places we rented was a studio apartment at the edge of Capitol Reef National Park in Utah. It overlooked colorful canyons and ridges that dated back 65 million years. We even had a lesson in Triassic paleontology from our delightful host, Bob. Here is                                                               the website.

      What are your experiences with Airbnb? Any favorite places to recommend?

Related My Vintage Journey blogposts:

Tapestry of Utah & Capitol Reef National Park - August 19, 2015
Anticipating a Vintage Journey to Australia - December 6, 2014