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(This arti­cle may or may not con­tain affil­i­ate links. What does that mean?)

This is more than just a trav­el sto­ry. It’s a love sto­ry that takes place on the road. Its lat­est chap­ter took place dur­ing a fam­i­ly trip to La Jol­la Shores, Cal­i­for­nia. It’s a tale of two fam­i­lies who used to live in the same town and spent a lot of time togeth­er. But now, these fam­i­lies live on oppo­site sides of the country.

family travel with good friends

Great fam­i­ly friend­ships are hard to estab­lish. The hus­bands, wives and kids all must con­nect. That’s a lot of mov­ing parts. So when our friends, The Stein­bergs, who are that per­fect fit, moved to Michi­gan from Los Ange­les so Adam, or Steiny, could accept a ten­nis coach­ing posi­tion at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Michi­gan, we were sad. Though, we told them we were hap­py. Because that’s what friends do. Last March, Steiny planned a trip to La Jol­la Shores to have his team play in the Pacif­ic Coast Men’s Dou­bles Cham­pi­onship at the La Jol­la Beach and Ten­nis Club, the site of where Jim­my Con­nors, John McEn­roe and Arthur Ashe played in tour­na­ments before they went pro. When Steiny’s wife, Casey, decid­ed to fly in at the end of the week with their 7 year old daugh­ter, Mia, we decid­ed to join them. Now, Mia is like a damp wash­cloth on the fevered fore­head of my two hot-blood­ed sons, 7 year old Knox and 9 year old Kaleb. Knox is for­ev­er try­ing to woo his old­er lady friend into pay­ing atten­tion to him while she struts around Kaleb, the slight­ly old­er boy who puts a sparkle in her cheek.

 

family travel love

Some things nev­er change

 

Steiny booked a room at the ten­nis club’s sis­ter prop­er­ty, the La Jol­la Shores Hotel, con­ve­nient­ly locat­ed next door and on the beach. The Kel­logg fam­i­ly, who’ve owned the La Jol­la Beach and Ten­nis Club since 1935, built the hotel in 1970. We want­ed to keep it easy and had nev­er been to the “Shores” — as the locals refer to it, so we reserved a room there through Hotels.com.

 

La Jolla Shores Hotel

 

We drove south on the 101 fol­lowed by the 405 from Agoura Hills on a Fri­day, which can bring ter­ror into the hearts of sea­soned free­way trav­el­ers. We man­aged to avoid com­plete grid­lock by pulling our boys from school at lunchtime and dri­ving as fast as reg­u­la­tions allowed past LAX, Long Beach and into Orange Coun­ty when we ran out of snacks and our Har­ry Pot­ter DVD was no longer work­ing to sup­press the grow­ing mutiny from the back­seat. Minus our lunchtime, it took about three hours. Our room was on the ground floor of the north side of the Aztec inspired build­ing with red tiles cov­er­ing the roof and spa­cious arch­es con­nect­ing the patch­work of open-air court­yards. We had a bal­cony view of the gen­er­ous sandy beach before us and Kel­logg Park, sev­en acres of pris­tine beach­front play­ground, donat­ed to the city of San Diego by Flo­rence Scripps Kel­logg, beside us. In the morn­ings, we would see black-clad scu­ba divers buzzing around the park in var­i­ous states of pre­pared­ness, volu­mi­nous tanks strapped on backs or wait­ing on the grass.

 

Kellogg Park La Jolla Shores

 

After rush­ing into each oth­er’s arms, the kids jumped into the pool and we adults only man­aged to get them out for din­ner with promis­es of a hot tub dip when we returned.

La Jolla Shores Hotel

recon­nect­ing

 

We asked the front desk for a fam­i­ly-friend­ly restau­rant rec­om­men­da­tion and they told us about Galaxy Taco, with­in walk­ing dis­tance. The streets around the hotel are in dis­ar­ray with con­struc­tion so it’s best to walk around, plus you get the ben­e­fit of the crisp ocean air and get­ting the wig­gles out of your lit­tles. We did­n’t make reser­va­tions, so the only table avail­able for imme­di­ate seat­ing at was out­side. We passed a few fes­tive­ly clad skele­tons cel­e­brat­ing Dia de los Muer­tos, Mex­i­co’s Day of the Dead hol­i­day, beneath some bright, mul­ti-hued plas­tic flags. The host­ess seat­ed us around a long table, anchored with heat lamps cast­ing a reas­sur­ing warmth.

 

Galaxy Tacos La Jolla Shores

nev­er a dull moment

 

Then, the wait­ress, unbid­den, brought blan­kets, just in case.

 

Galaxy Tacos La Jolla Shores

now that’s service

 

The food was a mar­vel. Fresh com­bi­na­tions of com­plex fla­vors for the adults and healthy, sim­ple sta­ples for the kid­dos. The tor­tillas were a won­der, fresh and warm. Def­i­nite­ly worth the carb calo­ries. The drinks were cre­ative and a great wel­come after our free­way dri­ve. We eat a lot of fish so the first thing I ask is if it’s farmed or wild, as farmed fish are raised in ways that can be unhealthy. We were delight­ed to find the own­er and chef, Trey Fos­hee, is known around San Diego for being a pio­neer in using organ­ic, local ingre­di­ents and sus­tain­able fish. The kids fin­ished off the night squeez­ing into the promised hot tub with some col­lege ten­nis play­ers who sud­den­ly real­ized they were much more tired than they had thought and emp­tied the steam­ing water one at a time. La Jol­la Shores Hotel has two great restau­rants, The Shores and The Marine Room, one casu­al the oth­er upscale. They have a great break­fast buf­fet at The Shores, which the kids dove into the next morn­ing, while the mom­mies tried to appear healthy with their Green God­dess smooth­ies and Spa Omelets. Ocean views wrapped them­selves around the restau­rant through Panoram­ic win­dows. Beach life pho­tographs, by local artist Andy Rice, were breath­tak­ing in their simplicity.

 

La Jolla Shores Hotel, The Shores Restaurant

a room with many views

 

Out­side, we saw groups of peo­ple surf­ing, snor­kel­ing, scu­ba div­ing and even kayak­ing, as the “Shores” is the only beach in San Diego that is des­ig­nat­ed as a boat launch. We, how­ev­er, opt­ed to eschew these nor­mal­ly entic­ing activ­i­ties, even ignor­ing the close prox­im­i­ty of options like Sea World and Legoland. Instead, we opt­ed for the sim­ple plea­sure of walk­ing along the sand to near­by Scripps Pier. Water explod­ed beneath run­ning feet and we took fre­quent paus­es to inves­ti­gate var­i­ous pock­ets of sandy interest.

 

La Jolla Shores

life with no distractions

 

family travel la jolla shores

dab­bing along

 

An impromp­tu soc­cer game mate­ri­al­ized on the way back, lines drawn in the sand, cones serv­ing as goalie posts, lit­tle legs fight­ing for vic­to­ry. Some­times the small­est things are the biggest things in life.

 

la jolla shores beach soccer

 

Lat­er, we all went to lunch at a place rec­om­mend­ed by a local who said we could­n’t leave the San Diego area with­out eat­ing at Board and Brew in Del Mar. Not know­ing what to expect, I dressed in an upscale, Del Mar appro­pri­ate day out­fit, sassy pumps includ­ed, and was sur­prised to find a super low-key, order at the counter, shack-like deli as our des­ti­na­tion. The sand­wich­es made up for my ini­tial con­fu­sion and it was anoth­er carb wor­thy experience.

Del Mar Board and Brew

 

Steiny took us to the world famous La Jol­la Beach and Ten­nis Club after lunch and the kids got to see the Michi­gan ten­nis team in action. Sev­er­al tour­na­ments are still held there year­ly, includ­ing the Hard Court Ten­nis Cham­pi­onships and the Grand­fa­ther-Grand­son Ten­nis Championships.

 

la jolla_beach and tennis club

Hard Court Cham­pi­onships pho­to cour­tesy of KPBS

 

Walk­ing around the adobe col­ored walls, which bor­dered por­tions of the indi­vid­ual courts, we found our way to the 9‑hole pitch and putt, behind the courts, where our future golf cham­pi­ons showed off their stuff. That night, the front desk pro­vid­ed us with the num­ber of a rep­utable sit­ter ser­vice so the par­ents could get out for an adult din­ner. We chose The Hake based on their great Yelp reviews. We were greet­ed with a open, mod­ern lay­out and enough shad­ows and wood to make it feel like a night out. We set­tled at a high, round cock­tail table so we were able to speak close­ly and share a vari­ety of dish­es. We enjoyed the grilled octo­pus, wild tuna car­ni­tas, beet and aspara­gus sal­ad. Then we shared the Seared Opah and the Mus­sel with the Dai­ly Catch, plus all the side dish­es because the por­tions were on the small­er side and for some rea­son, even though there were four of us, the sharable plates came in pieces of 3 or 5. The drinks were excel­lent though, with alco­hol vari­eties I’d nev­er heard of, which were patient­ly explained by our wait­er, who was also more than hap­py to mod­i­fy any exist­ing dish to our specifications.

 

La Jolla Shores - The Hake

adult time

 

When we came back, all was qui­et in our hotel room and the sit­ter had a report card for each child and the marks were great, which was pleas­ant to hear and made me wish she lived clos­er. When it was time to leave, we were so glad to have made the trip. Even with Face­Time, there’s noth­ing like face­time. Lit­tle Mia had lost some of her lit­tle since we’d seen her last but the kids did­n’t miss a beat and melt­ed into each oth­er like no time had passed. San Diego is one of our favorite cities and we loved chill­ing in La Jol­la but the com­pa­ny is what made our vis­it unforgettable.

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