I had lunch with some friends the other day.
In fact, let's be frank. I had lunch with pretty much the entire readership of this blog. I mention this because the general consensus among said readership was that this tortuous tale of my travels in America has been too horrific to this point. I'm causing people stress with my tales of running out of petrol on freeways, involvement in major transport staffing issues and forlorn attempts to find anything interesting in Los Angeles beyond Angelina Jolie in Tomb Raider.
So, as much as I argued that bad news makes for better comedy, I found myself agreeing to write something a little more uplifting this time around. Fortunately, that will not prove as difficult as you might imagine as we move on to the San Diego leg of this manic, stateside mayhem.
San Diego is a wonderful, wonderful place and I always knew that it would be. A few years back I had a regular Saturday night slot on the radio in San Diego. I never moved beyond the back bedroom of our modest bungalow in Thatto Heath, yet via the gift of telecommunications I became a regular contributor to a show called Inside Soccer (pronounced Sacker, naturally). All of which came in to being as a result of some pre-get-a-proper-job ramblings I used to write for a very fine footballing website called Squarefootball. I believe you can, if you are so inclined, still find some of my pompous pontification on all things round ball at www.squarefootball.net.
Which shameless plugging has taken me off track slightly. Back to San Diego. It's Saturday morning and we have planned a trip to the zoo. San Diego zoo has a reputation as one of the best zoos in the world, and it did not disappoint. Just a few hundred yards on from the Pacific Inn we managed to get on an accessible bus to take us the short distance to the zoo. This after failing miserably to find any 'hat' tea in Wendy's or an instantly forgettable cafe a few doors down. After passing the obligatory beggar (this one was reading a novel and barely acknowledging any passer-by, half-hearted at best) we ate breakfast at the instantly forgettable cafe before heading back out to the bus stop.
The number seven bus drops you off right outside San Diego zoo. You do not have to get off while the driver has a 20-minute break, and you do not have to listen to a mad person phoning the bus company to complain about her two dollars. You just sit there and take in the beauty of San Diego for around eight minutes, and then you get off, totally without incident. Well, we did that day.
I have to have one complaint, so here it is. After queuing for quite a few minutes outside the zoo we were eventually informed by the woman at the kiosk that we had to pay for one ticket now, and then go over to another desk to acquire our free 'carers' ticket. Yes I object to Emma being referred to as a carer but yes I also want to get into the zoo as cheaply as possible and some time in the next Millennium, so I let it go. We trundled over to the other desk, had to queue again for as much if not more time than we had originally, before finally getting the goods.
San Diego zoo is utterly massive. There are maps all over the place but it is still something of a maze. It might have looked quite daunting to some, but we had just spent three days wandering aimlessly around Los Angeles. This was child's play by comparison. Now, I can appreciate that not everyone is completely taken with animals so I shall not be going through the whole 'and then we saw some giraffe, and then we saw some elephants, and then we saw some lions' thing at this point. Let's just stick to the highlights. The things you can't see at just any old zoo. Koalas, polar bears, giant pandas, macaques pulling poo out of each other's bottoms, strangely wild mountain dwelling cats, huge wild dogs that howl when some joker outside the pen starts thinking he's Teen Wolf.
Truth be told, most of these animals do little but eat and sleep, but I remain fascinated by them. Koalas are especially adept at eating, barely regarding visitors as they munch their way through tons and tons of ucalyptus. One stirred briefly when a zoo-keeper had the audacity to enter it's pen and start liberally squirting water all over the food supplies. His eyes followed her with deep suspicion for a while, before he decided just to get back to the eating. As for the pandas, so popular are they that you have to join a lengthy queue to be able to see them, and are then promptly walked through, conveyer belt-style. We were there long enough to note that they don't seem to mind sleeping with their arses in three feet of water.
We got lost several times but spent a spectacularly pleasant day watching these aswell as a whole host of other animals doing not very much of anything. Lions, tigers, elephants, giraffe, rhinos, exotic birds, reptiles, apes, monkeys, zebras, deer, camels. I'm doing that list thing I said I wouldn't do but you get the idea. There is so much to see, so much ground to cover, and a day goes by almost in an instant.
Back at base we ventured out for dinner at a place called Mimo's in a region called Little Italy. The hotel receptionist, Pete, had told us that there was a variety of restaurants in Little Italy but as we had suspected, most of them seemed distinctly Italian to us. Not that this detracted from a superbly agreeable evening gorging on cheese lasagne and chocolate cake (and the obligatory wine). We sat in a heated area outside and watched the good people of Litttle Italy, San Diego go about their Saturday night business.
It was a GOOD, NICE day all around.