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.

See My City: Point Loma, Part I

As I sit down to write this, I'm not sure I can fit everything that I want to feature about Point Loma in one post. To my surprise, what seemed to me like one sprawling suburb is actually a real highlight of the city of San Diego. It is packed with so many things I love - history, architectural diversity, coastal views, repurposed building sites, shopping, and great food. Where do I even start?


The beginning seems like a good place. Point Loma is where "California began" when Portuguese explorer Juan Cabrillo landed here in 1542, the first European to do so. A monument to Cabrillo stands on Point Loma, but for those that are less into dead explorers and more into beautiful lighthouses, I would recommend heading straight to the Old Point Loma lighthouse.

The lighthouse was built in the 1850s, although its geographic location and the infamous marine layer rendered it ineffective not too long after that, and a new lighthouse was built in a different location. Fortunately for us, this beauty has withstood the elements and is open to the public. The simple exterior is complemented by an interior that is restored to what it might have looked like in the 1880s. And the star of the show inside? The mesmerizing staircase.

And the views surrounding the lighthouse are absolutely lovely - not to be missed. During winter months, you may be lucky enough to witness the Pacific Grey Whale migration from this vantage point. (Mid-January is peak migration for all you whale watchers out there.)

Sunset Cliffs Natural Park

So let's talk about the views. As a peninsula, Point Loma offers spectacular views of both the San Diego Bay and the Pacific Ocean. The Sunset Cliffs are named as such for the dramatic cliffs that drop to the ocean below (and, being westward facing, for offering that iconic sunset view). But since photographing sunsets isn't really my thing, I'd rather show you some of the daytime highlights of the area.

The waters off of Sunset Cliffs on Point Loma are well loved by the San Diego surfing community.

The waters off of Sunset Cliffs on Point Loma are well loved by the San Diego surfing community.

A natural arch in the cliffs has become a popular spot for those brave (or crazy?) enough to jump from the top of it into the ocean below. This photographer doesn't necessarily condone such behavior (!), but we did get a little adrenaline rush from watching them do it.

Liberty Station and Public Market

After all that surfer gazing and cliff jump viewing, there's no better place to unwind than Liberty Station. Once the site of a naval training center, the area now houses retail, event, and commercial spaces. The developers envision Liberty Station as San Diego's Town Square, and the urban planner in me gives them loads of credit for what they have done to achieve this. Repurposed facilities with open spaces, a diverse retail and commercial mix with entire sections dedicated to the arts - the future is promising as this site continues to grow.  Here are some of my favorite spots (I really tried not to make them all about the great food that you can find here, honestly).

And that leaves one last topic that I want to highlight (so far) about Point Loma - the historic residences. I will save that for another "See My City" post as it deserves its own space. And if you made it this far, you probably deserve a breather anyway, so I'll sign off for now.