It is bitterly cold in New York this week, which makes it to perfect time to remember warmer times and places. I mentioned my California trip on this blog a few times last year, but I never quite got around to sharing many pictures of it. I’m feeling especially nostalgic now because for my first three years here, I spent MLK Jr. weekend in San Diego with one of my best friends. Last year I went in June instead as part of a larger California visit, and this year she’s visiting me in March, which is exciting! She’s only been to visit once since I moved here as her PhD program keeps her very busy.

But I am kicking myself a little for not scheduling a trip. We’ve had a mild winter up until now, but the claws have come out, and San Diego is just so lovely all the time. The weather was always in the sixties during my January visits, and we usually spent at least one afternoon sitting and reading in the sunshine and another visiting one of the many outdoor attractions of San Diego.  We also spent a lot of time watching movies, especially Jane Austen adaptations and whatever TV show my friend has decided I should watch next. (She has very good taste.)

If you ever find yourself in San Diego with a day to spare, consider checking out the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Located a ways outside the city, it’s different from the famous zoo (which is also definitely worth a visit – I went a few years ago and enjoyed wandering around). For one thing, it’s huge – 1,800 acres. The zoo is only 99 acres. For another, there’s a huge range of “safari” experiences you can choose to follow. My friend and I mostly walked, except for a tram ride which went around one of the enclosures, so we were tired at the end of the day, but it was totally worth it. If you’re a bit leery of zoos, know that this one has a really great mission: “San Diego Zoo Global is committed to saving species worldwide by uniting our expertise in animal care and conservation science with our dedication to inspiring passion for nature.” Their goal is to end extinction. And at the Safari Park, the animals really seem to have a lot of space, which is something I appreciated after the other zoos I’ve visited.

And some of the animals are RIGHT THERE, like these flamingos. I’m pretty sure there was only a wooden fence separating us from their pond.


Or this deer — we were walking along a path and happened to notice it crossing into the brush and away. You can just see its back leg and tail as it disappears.


The gorillas were a bit farther away. There was a deep ditch, almost like a moat, between us and them, but in person we could spot the tiny baby gorillas.


We even got a glimpse of Pumba’s brother, a warthog, hanging out with some zoo employees who were telling us all about him. Here he is, lying on his side. Can you spot his tusk?


The lemurs are in a special enclosure. You can walk through and visit them, but make sure to shut the door tightly behind you so they don’t escape!


A view of part of the park from above, just to give a little perspective!


The Africa Tram! It travels around a large enclosure while a guide points out the many animals visible from the tram.


I’m pretty sure this is an adult antelope and its baby, but if I’m wrong, let me know!


A rhino, resting. I remember hearing about the plight of the white rhino on this tour, and I was sad to hear that one of the zoo’s white rhinos (possibly this rhino?) died last month, meaning there are only five left, all in captivity.




And because I can’t resist, three giraffe pictures. They were almost my favorite part of the Africa Tram ride. My favorite part, which I couldn’t quite capture on my camera, was a few animals (maybe wildebeest, but I can’t remember) taking off at a run across enclosure for no apparent reason, and all the other animals pausing and then following them. I’m not talking about one or two other animals — it was dozens. Herd instinct, perhaps?



After the tram ride, we visited the lions, who were resting.



And then we stopped by the elephant enclosure – just in time to see a young elephant get his tusk capped!


We poked our heads in the petting zoo…



…and rounded out our visit by visiting the new tiger enclosure. One of the tigers (I think his name was Teddy) was new and got fed through the fence by a zookeeper who explained to us the work she was doing with the tiger to get him trust and obey her.


On our way out, we each purchased a souvenir — for my friend, a stuffed elephant, and for me a stuffed tiger. And we did spot one last friend on our way out — this wandering turtle!

Hope you’ve enjoyed this glimpse of California sunshine — I know I needed it! And I may or may not have looked up last minute airfare prices for flights to San Diego… Too expensive, unfortunately, so I’ll have to find some warmth here in NYC!

What’s your favorite winter getaway, and what do you do to think warm thoughts when you’re stuck in the cold?