When you live in a virtual paradise, it’s hard to imagine going anywhere else for a summer family vacation. This is why we at Edible San Diego are so fond of exploring the magical destinations nearest to our hearts and often less than an hour away. Of all our favorite spots, there is perhaps nothing dreamier than packing up the little ones and settling in for a quick getaway to one of the nation’s most historic and well-preserved hotels in the Jewel by the Sea.
An eye-catching woman sits in the center of a garden terrace, her image captured in a hand-painted tile mosaic portrait with the look of someone who’s spent a lifetime taking in the pristine view. Contradictory to common belief, it’s the color of her dress that lends to La Valencia Hotel’s nickname, the Pink Lady, not the soft coral hue of the stucco façade against the luscious backdrop of succulents, florals, palm trees, and an ocean-blue sky.
Being here brought back quixotic childhood moments spent languishing in a swarm of mosquitoes by a lake in central Minnesota, reading about La Jolla and always pronouncing the hard J until I moved to San Diego and found out I’d been saying it wrong. Nonetheless, the short and dreamy vacay was far better than I could have imagined.
Our room was at the top of the west wing, a 110-year-old building originally established in 1909 as the Hotel Cabrillo and later acquired and added on to the property in 1956. The vintage room size almost felt minimalist, but also practical and luxurious with contemporary features and comforts. Always a sucker for nostalgia, the black-and-white photograph of Gregory Peck (only one of the many famous past guests) perched on the wall above the bed reminded me that we don’t make places like this anymore.
After checking in, exploring hallways, taking a trepidatious journey down an ancient stairwell, and ogling over architectural details, we sauntered into The Med. La V’s main dining destination with pictorial views of the coastline was serving their Saturday afternoon tea with all the frills. The event was a first for the youngest member of our family getaway, but the tower of petite sandwiches, macarons, and cakes was enough to lure his attention away from a handheld gaming device.
A mere few minutes’ walk away, the Pacific called to us for an early evening stroll. We enjoyed the breeze on top of the bluffs at Ellen Browning Scripps Park, where we watched the crowds of sea lions sunbathing at La Jolla Cove. It was the perfect place to lose track of time.
We found ourselves back at The Med making the most of the view from the terrace for dinner. A kids meal cleverly presented in a bento box complete with cheeseburger, fries, salad, and fresh fruit kept the little one happy. The adults feasted on chef Alex Emery’s seasonal fare of veggies and hummus, a cheese and charcuterie platter, stuffed leek with pea velouté, tiger prawns with chorizo, and a succulent New Zealand rack of lamb with polenta, Brussels sprouts, creme fraiche, and a Cara Cara orange purée.
Temperatures dipped a little as the sun settled into the horizon. Attentive servers and bartenders made sure we felt right at home by wrapping us in blankets, turning on the heat lamps, and sharing photos and stories of the many gorgeous sunsets they’ve witnessed working there over the years.
For dessert, we opted to head across the street to Bobboi for waffle cones filled with stracciatella (vanilla chocolate chip) and vanilla hibiscus gelato before nestling down early for a cozy sleep.
In the morning, we made our way back to the shore in time for tide pool exploration at Shell Beach, followed by a hearty brunch of shrimp chilaquiles back at the hotel. As for the rest of our staycation, though we had plans to shop and eat our way through the many attractive stores and restaurants in La Jolla Village (like I would have undoubtedly done before I had a kid), they lost out to good old-fashioned family time and a lazy day by the pool.