Monday, June 30, 2008

San Clemente Vacation, PART TWO

[read part one below first :) ]


Sea World day! Jules, T, Pipsqueak and I spend the morning purchasing park tickets online, getting directions to the park, and packing diapers, changes of clothes, sunscreen, cameras, lunches, snacks, water, sunglasses, and enough STUFF for an entire day o’ fun in the sun! We then head down to San Diego for just that!

We arrive at Sea World around 11. First on the agenda, the Sea Lion show! Just outside the stadium there is an exhibit of seals and sea lions, so these are the first animals we see. Pipsqueak goes crazy! When we leave to get a seat in the stadium, he cries, “More seals! More seals! Arrr-arrrr-arrr!” (his seal sound). Adorable. We watch the show, and Pip learns the word ‘sea lion’ in addition to ‘seal.’

We head to the freshwater aquarium, where we see fish of all shapes, sizes, and colors, in addition to turtles, frogs, and even electric eels! Then it’s over to the dolphin show, where we eat lunch and watch the pigeons while we wait for the show to start. Our spirits our high and our enthusiasm is over-the-top. Pip joins in on the fun and raises his arms in the air with a hearty “Woo-hoo!” every time we or someone in the audience cheers. He claps with a loud “Yay! Yay!” whenever there is applause. Pipsqueak is delighted to see the dolphins jumping high into the air and learns the world ‘dolphin.’ When the show is over, he cries “More dolphin!”

The Shark Encounter is the next stop on our map. We enter a dark building where we see a pool of small sharks swimming eerily around. As we go further into the building, the sharks get bigger. We descend into the depths of the building and are greeted with creepy Jaws music just before we enter a clear tunnel, where there are huge sharks swimming all around and above us. I look up and can see the underside of an 8-foot-long shark’s mouth; he has several rows of short jagged teeth, all pointing in different directions like a serrated knife. The hairs on my arms stand up and my heart is beating fast. It is truly amazing! It is very exciting even though it does take me a few minutes to regain some composure…!

We decide to go on the log-ride/roller-coaster hybrid next. Jules and T wait in line while Pip and I go to see the penguins. Pip greets them with a nice loud SNORT (as he always does, I believe because the beginning of the word ‘penguin’ resembles the word ‘pig’…). They are cute little things and sometimes I forget they are actually birds, and not mammals. I always lump them in with seals and otters and the like because of their silly antics. Watching them, at eye level, in the water, I notice they do resemble ducks. We also spend some time watching some animals that look like baby Orcas but I can’t be sure what they really are. I get back to the line just in time to see Jules and T get on the ride. When they return, I am able to avoid the line and swap places with Jules (thanks to the park’s “Child Swap” system), and join T on the ride. The ride is a little lame, but mostly fun. I get absolutely drenched!

We walk over to see the seals, Beluga whales, and Polar bears next. Pipsqueak is amazed when the whales swim right against the glass where his hands are pressed, and asks for “more touch whale?” and I am amazed by their absolute whiteness. They are big and beautiful animals. What Pip loves most about this exhibit, though, are the seagulls that appear when it is seal-feeding time. He goes absolutely wild.

Next we go to touch the Rays. I have done this before, both at the Florida Aquarium and at Dana Point last summer when we were visiting San Clemente, but I am still shocked by how smooth and slippery they feel. Slimy almost. Pipsqueak can’t reach any rays but has an absolute ball just splashing in the water. He is drenched!

We watch the dolphins and Orcas swim for awhile while waiting for the Shamu show stadium to open. We are waiting at the gates when they do finally open, and we head straight for the front and center. We sit in the second row, right in front of the platform where the trainer and Shamu will undoubtedly be doing several “tricks.” As we wait, we start to doubt our decision. We are in the proclaimed “Soak Zone,” and as the sun goes down and the temperatures cool, we are not so sure we want to get soaked anymore. But then the show starts, Shamu swims out and jumps out of the water, and our seat is perfect. We can see everything, every move, every breath. It is amazing. Shamu surfaces onto the platform directly in front of us. We feel the water from the blow-hole. We see the interactions between the trainer and the animal. I love being so close. The show is fun, the tricks are unbelievable, the animal is beautiful. Then the splashing starts! I can’t even describe how it is to be splashed by the tail of a whale. It’s not one big splash like you might think it might be. It comes in waves, one giant splash followed by another and another. Pipsqueak is terrified of getting wet, so I cover him with my body and our bag. He stays mostly dry, but I get showered over and over again. Not a centimeter of me is dry. It is now freezing! But watching Shamu and the trainer as they do their show directly in front of me is so worth it. The ending is phenomenal.

Drenched and cold to the bone, we decide to do what any logical person would: we head for the rapids ride. The line is not very long so while Jules and T go for the ride Pip and I wait on the bridge and watch the rafts go by. The sun is mostly down and the air is cool; I am cold and chattering, Pipsqueak is dry and warm. T comes to wait with Pip, and I join Jules on the raft. Jules and I are shivering before the ride even begins. Every chance there is to get wet, I do. The water is cold, I feel like a crazy person, but the ride is fun. After, we take a few pictures and head to the car. Though we haven’t yet seen the turtle exhibit or the salt-water aquarium, we just may be experiencing the early stages of hypothermia and need to get someplace warm. We hurry to the car, change into dry clothes in the parking lot, and turn on the heat as we drive into San Diego to find someplace to eat dinner. It is 7 pm.

We get slightly lost looking for downtown San Diego. Finally find downtown but can’t find a decent restaurant. Find the gaslight district but are severely disappointed. There are very few Asian restaurants, which is what we decide we want to eat, and the one Thai restaurant we find, while affordable, informs us by a door sign that it requires advance reservations and strictly enforces a dress code! We do not have reservations, and we are certain that we our dress would not be in line with their code, so we move on. We find the Little Italy portion of San Diego, and to me this sounds divine, but since my sister is diabetic and must limit her carbs, we drive right through. Finally, at 8:30, starving, cold, and tired, we bid adieu to San Diego, all but cursing at it, and drive back to San Clemente, where we order take-out at the local Thai restaurant, a tried-and-true favorite. We get home and I put a sleeping Pip in bed, change into dry clothes, and ravish food that has never tasted quite so good before!

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