See My City: Why I Love San Diego

June marks our one year anniversary of living in San Diego. I've written before about how surprised I was to have taken to this city - and California in general - so quickly. I'm a midwestern girl with fair skin who wears SPF 80 to the beach and doesn't like to swim in the ocean (honestly, I need to see to the bottom of whatever I'm swimming in). How on earth was I going to fit into San Diego? Well, it turns out San Diego is more than just sunshine and a beautiful coastline. So to celebrate one year of loving this city, I'm sharing the most surprising things (to me) about San Diego.

The Architecture

My favorite thing about exploring San Diego is the discovering all the different types of architecture that exist here. From La Jolla's European-inspired neighborhoods to the cottages of Coronado, the South Park Craftsman to the Bankers Hill Victorian, and Balboa Park's Spanish Revival structures to the Salk Institute's stark modernism, there is something for everyone's architectural taste in San Diego. And I'm determined to find all the best examples of each.

The Restaurant Scene

The two food-related things I was most excited about eating when we moved to San Diego were tacos and In-N-Out. And honestly, a year in, I could still eat both of those once a week. But the food scene here in San Diego is SO much more sophisticated than I could have imagined. You only need to do a casual wander down India and Kettner Streets to get a sample of how diverse and how good the cuisine here is. From vegan (Kindred and Cafe Gratitude, I'm looking at you) to seafood (hello Ironside), to ramen (Oh, Underbelly) to Italian (Cucina Urbana, I love that you are my neighbor, and Buona Forchetta, I love hearing you speak Neapolitan while I devour my pizza), high end (that's you Herb & Wood) to fast casual (and your sister Herb & Eatery), the food in San Diego is superb and we are absolutely spoiled for choice. The best bonus: the restaurants are beautifully designed!

The Coffee Culture

I have previously written about the coffee culture in San Diego, but it already needs an update because I keep discovering new gems. I have yet to meet a coffee shop in San Diego that I didn't like - there is something about each that I enjoy. Across the board, the coffee itself is top notch (though nearly every San Diegan has a strong opinion about which is their favorite - Dark Horse Roasters is a perennial fav). Again, the designs of these spaces are gorgeous - go to Holsem for the clean, modern lines, to Cafe Bassam for the old school vibe (and one of my neighborhood gems), to Moniker Coffee for the cool vibe (and tiles) and to Communal Coffee for the friendliest baristas (not to mention that it's an insta-dream). And for all my matcha-lovers, you can't miss Holy Matcha.

The Love for Local Businesses

The incredible small business retail community - with so many owned by women! - has to be one of my favorite discoveries about San Diego. Patronizing these businesses is an absolute treat for me. Not only are the taste levels of these shops incredibly high, but the owners and staff are always friendly, knowledgeable, and oh-so personal, and its those touches that keep me coming back. I will be sharing more about these shops in a separate post, but a special shout out to Thread + Seed, Gold Leaf, Dutch, Green Fresh Florals, En Concordia and Pigment for always providing a truly special shopping experience.

The Classic Cars

If anyone follows me on Instagram, you may think that my attention is drawn to cars solely for the 'gram. But, if you know my family, you know that I'm surrounded by car-talk 24/7. My husband is a car fanatic and my daughter owns over 100 toy cars. With my contribution of classic car photos, we are 100% a car family. I had no idea that San Diego would be such a car city, but I am surrounded by beautiful classics that are so often ideally parked. I do a little happy dance every time I spot one. (If you are in town and want to do some solid classic car hunting, skip the beach in Coronado and wander the streets. There are SO many good finds. Contact me - I'll take you!)

See My City: Bankers Hill

This edition of See My City is one that's close to home because it IS my home. We live in the Bankers Hill neighborhood of San Diego, so named because it was historically an affluent area and home to many of the city's wealthy families. Today, it remains a primarily residential neighborhood that enjoys easy access to Balboa Park, Little Italy, and Hillcrest.  Amidst the historic homes, craftsman bungalows, and high rise condominiums, there are some great gems in the neighborhood that deserve to be highlighted.

But let's start with the homes.

The HH Timken mansion, in the Queen Anne Victorian style (1887).

There are some lovely examples of Victorian architecture in Bankers Hill. The Timken mansion at the corner of First Avenue and Laurel is one of the finest. Built in 1887 for inventor Henry Timken, it remains a private residence. And although the tall hedges keep you from enjoying a full view of the home, you can always get a closer peak through the gates as you walk past.

The first photo above is the Britt House (1887), which was the most expensive house in San Diego at the time it was built - a whooping $3000. It is now a wedding and event venue called Britt Scripps Manor.  (Located at Fourth and Maple, Bankers Hill, San Diego.) I'd love to schedule a tour just to get a peek inside! The second photo is of the Long-Waterman House (1889), again in the American Queen Anne style. Fun fact - it has been owned by the same family since 1897. (Located at 2408 First Avenue, Bankers Hill, San Diego.)

And while neighborhoods like North Park and South Park may be the epicenter of the Craftsman-style in San Diego, we have a few great examples in Bankers Hill, as well.

Now let's get to some of those neighborhood gems, and let's start with coffee (because you should always start with coffee).

A true Bankers Hill icon, Cafe Bassam serves some of the best coffee in the city, and its eclectic interior is a feast for the eyes. There's a reason why it feels like you are enjoying your latte in an antique shop - because you are. The cafe started as a store, and after customers raved about the coffee they were served while they shopped, the owners opened up the cafe, and I'm so glad they did.  Cafe Bassam, 3308 Fifth Avenue, San Diego.

For a more modern approach to coffee, visit the recently opened West Bean Coffee on the corner of Fourth and Laurel. The bright and airy space was a welcome addition to the neighborhood in 2017, and the fact that a perfect flat white is just steps from my front door makes this caffeine addict very happy.

After you have had your coffee, how about a little bit of shopping? Bankers Hill does not have many retail options, so when Thread & Seed opened in 2017, it was a breath of fresh air. The shop sells a selection of well curated items from beautiful kitchenware to food to clean beauty products. It's a wonderful shop, and one of my favorites in the city. (Come to think of it, recent gifts from my mom, my husband, and my best friend have all come from here!) Thread & Seed, 2870 Fourth Avenue, Bankers Hill, San Diego.

Since shopping can work up an appetite, you should know where to go for the best meal in Bankers Hill.  Hands down, Cucina Urbana is the star of the culinary scene in the neighborhood. And while I only ever order the squash blossoms and bucatini, everything here is delicious. Trust me - I've tried everyone else's food!

Cucina Urbana, located at the corner of Fifth and Laurel in Bankers Hill.

One last gem to share with you:  the Spruce Street Suspension Bridge. Located near the intersection of Front and Spruce Streets, the suspension bridge spans Sessions Canyon. It's not for the feint of heart - it wobbles ever so slightly and the floor of the canyon is 70 feet down, but it's a truly lovely spot. We had family photos taken here to remind of us of the special opportunity we have to live in Bankers Hill.