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The southernmost city of California may not be as famous as Los Angeles and San Francisco, but is nonetheless definitely worth a stopover of several days. The city counts great museums and a bustling nightlife with lively bars and gastronomic restaurants especially in the Gaslamp Quarter. But this harbor city is also a place where you can enjoy beautiful beaches and a relaxing pace of life, especially in La Jolla just north of the city which is a luxury destination. Finally, while based in San Diego, you will have the occasion to visit a variety of wineries throughout the County.

Balboa Park

Just minutes from downtown, this cultural destination combines the beauty of Californian nature with 15 museums (including the cutting edge Museum of Photographic Arts), several performing arts venues (including the famous old Globe Theatre) and, not to be missed, the world famous zoo. Much of the stunning architecture and landscaping are the heritage of two Expositions held in San Diego: the 1915-16 Panama – California exposition commemorating the opening of the Panama Canal and the 1935-36 California Pacific International Exposition held to boost the local economy during the Great depression. 1549 El Prado, San Diego, Tel.: + 1 619 239-0512, www.balboapark.org

The Bed & Breakfast Inn at La Jolla

Listed as a Historical Site, this Inn was built in 1913 and is one of Irving Gill’s finest examples of the “cubist” style of architecture. All the 15 graciously decorated guestrooms are unique, but all boast old world charm. The Inn is a block from the beach and from the Museum of Contemporary Art’s main location (http://www.mcasd.org). The gourmet breakfast, served in the original dining room, is in itself worth the stay! 7753 Draper Avenue, La Jolla, Tel.: (00-1) 858 456-2066, www.innlajolla.com

Hotel del Coronado. Built in 1888 and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1977, the legendary Hotel del Coronado is located on Coronado Island and is worth a visit to breathe a little history as well as take advantage of the ocean breeze. Visited by celebrities, dignitaries and U.S. presidents, the Del has become a living legend, it also served as the backdrops of various scenes in Some Like it Hot, the Billy Wilder comedy shot in 1958, starring Marilyn Monroe. For a quick stop, enjoy wine, cheese and chocolate tasting at ENO Wine Room. 1500 Orange Ave, Coronado, Tel.: +1 619.435.6611, www.hoteldel.com

Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcala

Founded on Presidio Hill in July 1769, this is the first of all the Franciscan establishments in California. After having burned down, the mission was relocated in 1774 to its present site, six miles inland, along the San Diego River to assure a good water supply. You can visit the mission which overlooks San Diego’s historic Old Town, the museum and beautiful gardens. Services are held daily in the original mission chapel. 10818 San Diego Mission Rd, + 1 619 283-7319, www.missionsandiego.com

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 <!  :en  >4   San Diego<!  :  >Vesper Vineyards. Young couple Chris Broomell and his oenologist wife Alysha Stehly only make wines from locally grown grapes under two brands: Triple B Ranches, made from grapes produced on their family property, and Vesper, using grapes purchased to various local producers. They do not limit themselves to any varietal: Merlot, Syrah, Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc…all reflect an expert hand in winemaking, great intuition and a true love of the land. 15030 Vesper Rd, Valley Center, CA 92082, Tel.: + 1 760 749-1300, www.vespervineyards.com

Access to Ladies & Wine

Orfila Vineyards & Winery. Large tasting room, beautiful surroundings and wide variety of high quality wines distinguish this winery located about 30 minutes north of San Diego. Only 15 miles away from the Pacific, the vineyard benefits from cool ocean breezes and morning fog. Rhône style varietals dominate with Syrah, Viognier, Marsanne and Roussanne, but Orfila also produces other varietal wines, including a beautiful Sangiovese. Justin Mund is the talented and inspired winemaker of this respectable winery anyone in the area must visit. 13455 San Pasqual Rd, Escondido, Tel.: + 1 760 765-0102, www.orfila.com

Salerno. This is a family owned and operated winery at its best. Herman, whose Italian accent still comes through, shares his passion for wine and opera and will showcase his singing talent while pouring some of his estate produced wines. Both he and his wines are full of character and personality. His Ruby Cab produced from a clone UC Davis developed seems perfectly suited to this particular terroir. 17948 Hwy 67, Ramona, Tel.: + 1 760 788-7160, www.salernowinery.com

Menghini. Let us be clear, this is not the place where you will sample the best wines of San Diego County, but it may be one of the most enticing visits nonetheless. A winding dirt road will lead you to a tasting room right next to the stainless steel tanks and the background is an inviting apple orchard. Everything is processed on the premises, Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon. A taste of the deep country side! 1150 Julian Orchards Drive, Julian, Tel.: +1 760 765-2072, www.menghiniwinery.com

Witch Creek. This winery doesn’t use grapes locally grown but sources them from Central and Northern California. But the wines are made there and the quality worth a stop if you are following the coast. Located in Carlsbad, it is the only winery one block from the ocean.
2906 Carlsbad Blvd, Carlsbad, Tel.: + 1 760 720-7499, www.witchcreekwinery.com

Country Cellars. This small tasting room opened in 2007 compensates its small size with an impressing variety of San Diego County wines you may sample or buy. Many of them are hard to sample elsewhere, coming from small producers who do not have a tasting room of their own. Charming country side atmosphere. 4456 Hwy 78, Julian, Tel.: + 1 760 765-0089, www.countrycellars.com

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A.R. Valentien Restaurant

The Lodge at Torrey Pines. Those who will want to savor a gastronomic meal in THE reference in terms of luxury accommodation in La Jolla will not miss a dinner or a lunch in this beautiful restaurant which has a large terrace overlooking the oversized pool and the 18th hole of the highly praised Torrey Pines golf course. The restaurant takes his name from an early 1900’s California artist and some of his original artwork can be admired by diners. The cuisine of chef Jeff Jackson is extremely well executed, not sacrificing flavor and personality to pure elegant presentation. He is one the most dedicated chefs to using local ingredients and the restaurant has been nominated one of the top 10 farm to table restaurants, most dedicated locavore eateries in the US. Superb wine list. To enjoy fully the experience, staying overnight is well advised! 11480 North Torrey Pines Road, La Jolla, Tel.: + 1 858 453-4420, www.lodgetorreypines.com

JRDN Restaurant. This recent restaurant has both a cutting edge urban feel with a stunning interior architecture and a sweet beach side charm with a large terrace where diners can savor great steaks, seafood and locally grown produce for lunch and dinner. The wine list is well composed and features the 2009 33° Bordeaux style red wine blend from Fallbrook, San Diego’s largest winery. 4551 Ocean Blvd, Tel.: + 1 858 270-5736, www.jrdn.com

Saltbox restaurant at the Palomar Hotel

This trendy restaurant set within the hip Hotel Palomar (www.kimptonhotels.com) is perfectly situated to enjoy the Gaslamp Quarter and its vibrant atmosphere. The menu is not that long, but everything is tasty and most items are sourced locally, even the beers. Try the roasted white corn ravioli with lobster butter sauce when in season. Hotel guests enjoy a complimentary glass of wine in the afternoon in the comfortable lobby or by the pool where one can get a chair massage to be in perfect bliss before heading up to one of the contemporary rooms and vast suites with sweeping views of the city. 1047 Fifth Avenue, Tel.: + 1 619 515-3003, www.saltboxrestaurant.com / www.hotelpalomar-sandiego.com

Linkery. Located in the upcoming and off the beaten track North Park, this informal restaurant opened since 2005 is dedicated to providing excellent food produced locally, if not homemade when it comes to the gourmet sausages for example. The roasted green beans with pickled red onions are outstanding. San Diego County wines and beers are also well represented, such as the 2011 Vesper Vineyard 100% Mourvedre rosé with a beautiful light pink hue, rose petal nose and delicate texture. 3794 30th St., San Diego, Tel.: + 1 619 255-8778, www.thelinkery.com