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A Salsa Dancer's Experence in San Diego

By Marques Gunter
Posted Nov 6, 2005

On the plane back to Indy
     I sit in the middle seat on a coach flight back to the Midwest. Packed like a sardine, my laptop bag and today's leftover dinner are between my feet, a digital camera and MP3 player are in my lap and a laptop is sitting on the tray in front of me. It is 1:00 am and most of the passengers on the flight are already asleep. I would be also, but when you are 6' 3'' flying coach, finding a somewhat conformable position to catch a short nap is next to impossible. I power on my laptop, crank up the volume on my MP3 player and toggle though pictures on my digital camera in preparation to write about my experiences in San Diego. It was a short trip lasting about 4 and half days, but my traveling companion and I made the best use of our time. As most of you already know, I am a local salsa addict and salsa dancing will be covered in this article, along with other activities. If you are like me and are just interested in San Diego's salsa scene, navigate the topics below and select the topics relating to salsa dancing (Café Sevilla, Marriott and the dance studio). If you are interested in the full experience and I hope some of you are, then get ready to enter into my world. Don't worry, I will keep you entertained.

My traveling companion
     Let me first introduce my traveling partner, Trudi. She was born and raised in Hungary and has been living in the States for the last 10 years. While she is not a salsa addict, she has taken a few salsa lessons at a local dance studio and can handle herself on the dance floor. We work for the same company and we both were in need of a vacation. So we decided to plan a trip to San Diego. Why San Diego? It is the West coast, and has beaches and women - need I say more? We worked together on planning the abody_textda, but she selected most of the day activities, while I selected the salsa clubs with the help of a San Diego Salsa guide.

San Diego Zoo - Thursday Afternoon
     Even when I was a kid, I was never into zoos; if I wanted to see animals I would just watch the Discovery Channel. We were told to come in the early morning or late evening when the animals are most active, or as I would say the most entertaining for our personal enjoyment. After waking up late (due to jet lag) and utilizing the mass transit system, we did not arrive at the zoo until early afternoon. Most of the animals were napping. Watching tigers nap was not a highlight of this trip, but there was a big bird of prey eating the carcass of a small rodent which was somewhat amusing. The baby koalas were awake and very active; they put on a good show for us. I have seen a hippo on TV, but when I saw one is person, I realized that hippos were huge! After taking a closer look at the picture of the hippo and myself, I notice a slight resemblance (my little brother always told me that I was adopted). If you want a scenic view of the zoo, for an additional fee you can ride the sky-tram. The view of the zoo was my favorite experiences; the sleeping animals came in at a close second. It was a beautiful zoo and what a better way to admire it all than from a couple of hundred feet in the air.

Café Sevilla Restaurant (Gaslamp District) - Thursday Night
     We decided to kill two birds with one stone and have dinner at the restaurant where we planned to dance later that evening. Café Sevilla is a traditional Spanish restaurant located in the heart of the Gaslamp District in downtown San Diego. If you find yourself in San Diego and looking to give your lady a romantic evening, Café Sevilla is a restaurant that will fulfill that desire. I ordered a glass of red Spanish wine, tapas and desert. The food and service was excellent. If you are a diehard chocolate fan, I would highly recommend their chocolate mousse for desert.

Café Sevilla Latin Night - Thursday Night
     The first floor of Café Sevilla is the restaurant, but as you enter the basement, you enter into a different setting. Every Thursday night, there is a live salsa band. It was only a four or five person band, but that did not stop them from putting on a good show. The majority of the time, they played salsa music. There was good sized floor and I was told by a local salsera that the floor was excellent for spinning. The dance floor got crowed in the late hours. Could this be the perfect recipe for a great night of salsa dancing? Unfortunately not; as I danced with the ladies, I encountered an overwhelming number of beginner and virgin salseras. Throughout the night, salsa music dominated, but the place just kept reminding me of the Jazz Kitchen, a local Latin venue. I made a couple of rounds looking for experienced dancers with no success. It was not until later that evening when a few couples appeared on the dance floor that showed some serious talent. I waited for their male partners to release them after the song ended, but with no success. Either the guy would keep her on the floor for two or three songs, or within 30 seconds of being let go, she was picked up by another guy. I cannot blame them, when there are only two or three ladies on the floor that can follow. Not to state the obvious, but the over-crowed dance floor overcame any AC that was pumping through the vents; do not wear your nice shirts. All and all Café Sevilla Thursday's Latin night was OK at best. I was told that Wednesday night is better; the floor is not as crowed and you will find more experienced dancers. Maybe next time I will check out Café Sevilla on Wednesdays.

Tijuana, Mexico - Friday Afternoon
     Next on our abody_textda was Tijuana, Mexico. Just south of San Diego, you can cross the boarder and enjoy what Tijuana has to offer, which was not that much. When we got to the downtown district, there were hordes of stores selling everything from CDs, tourist junk and cheap name-brand drugs. We walked for a few blocks and stopped at a local restaurant for lunch. The food was great!! As we ate, we were greeted by small bands that wanted to play a song for us with their accordions and guitars. We just told them all no thanks, not trying to makes this a romantic lunch, and they would have expected a tip afterwards. After lunch, we walked around the shopping district. It did not take long before we got very irritated by store owners trying to convince us to come in their stores and that they would cut us a deal. It only took browsing though a small handful of stores to give you the impression that all they were selling is tourist junk. Junk as it be, I ended up purchasing twp salsa CDs and a chess board made of rock. Yes, I am a sucker, but I did bargain down the price of the chessboard. Sorry to say it, but I will not be going back to Tijuana.

Old Town - Friday Evening
     Old Town, like Tijuana, was not my cup of tea. Old Town did not have harassing store owners; it was just boring. You could say it was boring in an old town kind of way. The only highlights of old town were the skateboard store with hundreds of used skateboards hanging from the ceiling and having a beer at a bar. When all else fails, pick up a beer.

La Jolla Cove - Saturday Morning
     I was really excited for snorkeling at La Jolla Cove. We rented our gear at a hole in the wall snorkel shop. We got into the water and began our journey into the deep. After a couple of minutes, I noticed that my visibility in the water was at best 5 feet. We later found out that the red tide was in. Typically visibility is up to 30 feet. I was somewhat paranoid that a shark could sneak up on me and I would not see the shark until he was nibbling on my leg. You never know it could of happen! After I had my share of snorkeling, I looked around to see if I could find Trudi. I saw Trudi sitting on a rock and reef formation about 100 feet from the shore. I decided to join her and climb on top of the formation, making sure not to cut myself on the reef. As the waves body_texttly crashed into the rocks, we tried to determine why there were so many people snorkeling in a cove where you can barely see your own hand in the water. We were not told about the red tide until later that evening. The waves began to intensify and were crashing on to the rock, spraying us with water. My back was turned to the waves and I did not notice the big one coming at us. Trudi warned me about the waves and I stood on all fours in an attempt to avoid getting knocked off. My plan succeeded! The wave was unsuccessful at knocking me off, but Trudi was not as lucky. She was tossed off the rocks and back into the water. She still had her snorkeling gear on and decided to make her way back to the shore. I joined her and when we arrived to land, we noticed that she had cut her arm when she fell off the rocks. We took care of her cut, dried off in San Diego sun and made our way back to the hotel. The next time I go snorkeling, I will make sure that the red tide is not in.

Salsa Dancing at the Marriott in La Jolla - Saturday Night
     Salsa was on the abody_textda for Saturday night - destination the Marriott. Located in La Jolla, this venue was held in a sports bar inside the Marriott. The floor was hardwood and was able to accommodate the crowd. There was a better selection of dancers than at Café Sevilla. I only recall dancing with one woman that could follow on an advanced level. At least this time I did not run into a handful of women who did not know the basics. Overall, the Marriott has a good assortment of dancers that will not intimidate a beginner or intermediate dancer. As for the advanced dancers looking to push the limits, you may want to shop elsewhere. I would also note that there was a big Latin event going on that night at another location. This may explain why there was not a larger experienced crowd.

Dance with Me Academy - Sunday Morning
After grabbing a quick bite on the Pacific beach (just to say that we were there), we headed back to downtown San Diego. Trudi wanted to shop and I wanted to take a salsa lesson. The studio I selected was Dance with Me Academy, located in downtown San Diego. I arrived 5 minutes late and the class was already in progress. The instructor was teaching was some footwork and I got to working trying to catch up. He spent about 20 minutes going over the footwork that I managed to pick up even with my tardiness. He demonstrated the dance pattern to us and I really liked it. As with most advanced classes, there were more men then women. We had one female student and the assistant to practice with. They were good sports and let us fumble with the pattern until most of us got it. The instructor was kind enough to let me video tape both the footwork and the pattern. It was a good studio; if I had another opportunity to take a class from them, I would.

Corondo Beach - Sunday Afternoon
     Let's save the best for last, shall we? Stop by Coronado Island for a lazy afternoon on the beach. What a way to end a great vacation. Coronado was recently voted the number two beach in America. I have been to beaches in L.A., and none of them could compare to this one. The sand and the ocean looked very clean. I ran into the salty ocean and played like a kid jumping into the oncoming waves. I also tried to surf the waves with my body (minus the surf board). After I had tired myself out in the water, I then began to make sand angels; life just does not get better then this. We were able to find a section of the beach where there were not too many sun bathers, which made taking a nap under the sun a very relaxing and pleasant experience.

San Diego - wow!
     Well there you have it - my vacation in San Diego. It is not a question of if I will go back, but a question of when. I have visited Los Angeles a handful of times and none of them were as pleasurable as this trip. As I draw this article to a close, I would like to give a big thanks to my traveling buddy Trudi. If it were not for her, I would have most likely spent my time drinking at bars, sleeping with random women and salsa dancing (hey, I am a simple man).

Side note, I was kidding about the sleeping with random women comment, really.

Until next time, keep dancing.

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