I get a sense of toe-curling excitement when I can escape the city and immerse myself in nature. San Diego offers several perfect options, with beaches and ocean just a bus hop away.
La Jolla, correctly pronounced ‘la hoya’, claims the most Northerly part of San Diego and is perfect for a retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city. But all is not as calm and peaceful as it on the surface appears. It’s actually a hot-bed of contention, with the key suspects in this drama being…wait for it…harbor seals.
Children’s Pool is a small sheltered beach and swimming area in La Jolla. A local philanthropist built the protecting sea wall and donated the area to the public as a safe area for children to swim way back in the 30s. All went swimmingly (see what I did there?) for over 60 years until the harbor seals took a fancy to the pool.
Having decided in the 90s this was a far more up market location to hang out in, the seals have been at the centre of a local divide ever since. Boot the seals out and risk disturbing their natural breeding patterns, or go without a safe place for kids to bathe? And so the battle continues, with the seals for the time being having the upper hand.
If the seals are aware of the upset their presence causes some, they do little to show it. In fact, they look rather pleased with themselves, with several courting what I would definitely describe as smirks.
They are so cute though that you could almost forgive them anything. Anything apart from their toxic smell.
Seeing them in zoos or on a windswept rock does not prepare you for the utter stench of seeing them in a confined cove. I don’t like seafood at the best of times, with the smell even in a supermarket regularly triggering my over-sensitive gag reflex. Imagine then, if you will, my reaction to the smell of fish that has been eaten and digested by a seal and deposited in great heaps all over the sand.
To get even close I had to wear my jumper over my mouth and nose. People looked at me strangely -but it was either that or deposit my lunch amongst the seals (and I’d just eaten a nice Thai lunch which I was keen to hang on to). If you happen to visit, take a walk along the sea wall rather than going onto the beach, the breeze from the ocean helps to take the edge of the seals’ unpleasant toilet behaviour.
The cliff tops in La Jolla are equally lovely to see, they are alive with sea birds and sweet-scented flowers. An idyllic escape indeed. But you don’t need to take my word for it, you can take a look at some of the snaps I took when I was there: http://s1213.photobucket.com/user/mangotree_80/story/16025