Keeping a secret isn’t easy for me.  So when I tell you about all of San Diego’s best kept secrets you’ll know why I’m so thrilled!  First of all everyone knows that San Diego is the vacation playground for the world.  The weather, the seashore, the shopping, and the southern California cuisine makes San Diego something special.  But there is no better feeling than going to a vacation paradise and discovering amazing hidden secrets that are surprisingly delightful at every turn!

SECRET #1

The Westin Hotel in the Gas Lamp District is a serene retreat smack dab in the middle of the city.  It’s right next door to Horton Plaza, one of San Diego’s most prestigious multi-tiered outdoor shopping malls. This comfortable and spacious retreat has the best kept secrets in the business.


Book the Westin Gaslamp Quarter

 The Westin Gaslamp Quarter Hotel holds
the secret to an amazing guest experience.



Is it the amazing harbor front views from one of their rooms on the 25th floor?




The Westin Lobby is high tech.

Or perhaps it’s one of the revitalizing amenities of their signature heavenly beds or spa-terrific invigorating heavenly bath?  It could be that it’s so close to Seaport Village, Little Italy, the Harbor Front, the San Diego  Convention Center, Sea World, and the Zoo that seeing the sites is so easy and fun.

Some would guess it’s the quietness and luxury of one of their 430 guest rooms that are so beautifully appointed. Is it their Zen-like decor that is so inexplicably serene and tasteful?  Would it be their new Pinzimini restaurant? (More on that later.)  It could be that it is an extraordinary landmark in the San Diego skyline that has a spectacular crystalline design that stimulates all of your sensory experiences.  It just might be doing laps at sunset in their outdoor pool on the third floor veranda overlooking the city’s landscapes.

While all of these amenities are privy to each guest, the secret weapon that made our stay so outstanding at this hotel was the memorable staff!  Everyone goes out of their way to assist you in a courteous and gracious manner, sunny San Diego style.    They are genuinely interested in delivering happiness to everyone that walks through their sliding glass doors to this beautiful hotel!




Lovely Westin rooms hold the secret to a great night's sleep.


A bit tired from traveling, my daughter and I decided to stay at the hotel for our dining experience.  And we were delighted with our choice! This is where we found Pinzimini Restuarant, The Westin’s secret to fine dining, cocktails, and modern Tuscan-style entrées, as well as small plates with antipasta, pizza, pasta, and paninis. —




Enjoy favorite beverages at the beautiful bar.

We were graciously seated at their outdoor patio and greeted by our waitress, Kimberly Spring, a beautiful blond and energetic young woman who loved her new job and let it show.  She had just moved to San Diego and was excellently trained in the art of serving a beautiful meal.  She presented us with two Blushing Belini’s, soaked in strawberries, Absolut, vanilla, peach schnapps, and champagne.  My daughter and I loved the golden pink hue of the beverage, but when we raised our glasses in a toast and took our first sip, we were astonished by the explosion of tingly flavors that tickled our palates and tantalized our taste buds.  The clinking of the glasses amidst the city sounds, embraced by the sea mist night ,was just the right start to our amazing dining experience.

The restaurant features Italian-inspired cuisine prepared by Executive Chef JoAn Kosowski, who was trained at the Culinary Institute of America in upstate New York. Her culinary career is extensive and she has worked at many venues in Hawaii, including The Ritz-Carlton Mauna Lani, and Manele Bay Resort, while later moving to work as a Sous Chef at Raffles in Singapore.   We learned that at Pinzimini her signature mark is to create dishes that have intense and distinctive flavors.  Everything is freshly prepared with care, beauty, and simplicity 




Wall art relaxes and refreshes.

We were anxious to try the best appetizer on the menu.  Kimberly, without hesitation, recommended the Veal Porcini Meatballs.  “Oh, my,” we both exclaimed when our forks presented the tasty morsels to our mouths! Chef Kosowski’s cooking style was magnificent.  The combination of the yellow onion, garlic, basil, oregano, thyme, and portabello  mushrooms with ground veal, dipped in egg panko breadcrumbs, flavored with Dijon mustard, ketchup, and expertly seasoned with salt and pepper heightened my appreciation of meatballs to a Michelin rating!  Kim suggested that we pair our appetizer with a 2009 Pinot Noir — Lincourt — from Santa Rita Hills, California

The grape was light and delicate, bright red and fruity, well balanced with a smooth texture and just a slight suggestion of sweetness.  The marriage of spices, aroma, and flavors between the meatballs and the grapes was an alluring start to our evening.

We were then presented with arugula and goat cheese with berries and balsamic vinaigrette on a crusted asiago cheese bread lightly toasted on each side. My daughter’s Margherita pizza with tomato, fresh mozzarella, and basil, was delectably appetizing. My grilled chicken Scalloppini with asparagus, wilted spinach, arugula, tomatoes, and fresh mozzarella was delectable.  We topped the evening off with their Ricotta Berry Tart.  The fresh berries with the savory taste of ricotta cheese cake was savory.  Thank goodness we had better manners and refrained from  licking our plates!  Gleefully, my daughter and I gave a Bellini toast to Pinzimini Restaurant and bestowed upon Kim and Chef Kosowski the Jetsetters Magazine's five diamond award for dining!




Patio seating at the premier Pinzimini Restaurant.


With our palates satiated, we retired to our room and discovered the next great secret at the Westin Hotel.  The quietness of their rooms is blissfully appealing.  For being a downtown hotel, you couldn’t hear a peep from other guests, or the disruptive sirens that often interrupt a blissful night’s rest.  Our spacious room was 20 x 10 feet.  The walls were covered in an opalescent creamy pearl hue with a sandy gold hint of grass cloth.  It felt beachy elegant.  There were two five foot windows with grass cloth window seats that overlooked the Bay Harbor and the city views.  The gold and taupe blackout curtains made taking an afternoon nap delicious, while the warm and embracing creamy white sun screens gave the room the sunny San Diego excitement!  The Heavenly Beds were covered with a white duvet and checkered comforter with satin accented squares.   The look was elegantly pristine with the lush comfort of home.

The restful elegant room decor, the yummy restaurant experience, coupled with the memorable and gracious staff is a secret worth sharing.

SECRET #2

Located just 15 minutes north of downtown San Diego, the secret of La Jolla's seven-mile stretch of beautiful coastline property is shared with one of the world’s greatest international theatre scenes.  The La Jolla Playhouse, which is housed on the University of San Diego campus, high on the hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean, is known for it’s brilliant and innovative productions of classics, new plays, and musicals, including 70 world premieres.   They have merited over 300 major honors, including 35 Tony Awards, that included The Jersey Boys premiere.  It was founded in 1947 by Gregory Peck, Dorothy McGuire, and Mel Ferrer.

Walking through the campus amidst the scent of the the tall eucalyptus trees and the damp grey sea layer of La Jolla air, we attended the matinee performance of The Iliad, by Denis O'Hare and Lisa Peterson, based on Homer’s The Iliad, translated by Robert Fagles and directed by Lisa Peterson. 




The trendy La Jolla Playhouse.

The play is about a storyteller who takes you to the front lines of every war in history, reliving humanity’s unshakeable attraction to violence, destruction, and chaos; an old poet shuffles onto an empty darkened stage in a heavy coat and hat lit by a single spotlight. The drama begins.  He’s there to tell us  about the Trojan War.  By the looks of him, apparently he’s been telling this story since the time of Homer.  (Wonder what he did to tick off those gods to play this kharmic debt!)  His story is a sweeping epic that conjures the passion and rage of the gods and goddesses in ancient Greece. Henry Woronicz, as the aged poet, is compelling in his performance as he communicates the sadness over the consequences of man’s addiction to war.  But it’s Henry’s humor and endearing forgetfulness in the telling of this sorry saga that truly keeps the story alive on so many levels.  This is a profound piece of drama that builds to the crescendo of just one provoking idea:  What if Achilles didn’t wait to set aside his rage until the end of the war?  What if he had that "aha" moment before the inhumanity and carnage took place?  What if we could learn from Homer’s observation that rage can be set aside, if only for a moment?

These thoughts could never be explored if they weren’t ignited by Henry Woronicz’s passionate performance to relive the horror, the anger, the angst, the loves, and the mystery of Homer’s Iliad.

Although the play is solely the work of a one man performance, a dramatic interlude is exchanged between the poet, who is joined (on a platform midway down one aisle), by solo string bassist Brian Ellingsen, playing the haunting music by sound designer Mark Bennett. Brian’s hands skillfully skittered down the strings.  It was a secret hiatus from the sound of the spoken word.  The soulful sounds of the bass sent chills of loss straight to my bones.  As he played the strings to a frenzied sound, the war raged aloud in double fortissimo  Then the  strings erupted with unfurled emotion as he pounded on the instrument with the heel of his hand,  creating his own personal battlefield.  The single string sound of the bass mixed with his passionate performance, bludgeoned places in my heart that words could never touch. The memory still haunts me. 

The Iliad is perplexingly entertaining, dramatically convincing, and captivatingly real. The expertise of  the directing, staging, and lighting compelled by the stellar performances of the poet and musician created a epic afternoon of entertainment  that even Homer would have enjoyed!

SECRET #3

Enjoyment abounds in telling secrets!  The next one is really a doozy!

So here goes . . .


Click to Book The Pearl Hotel

The "bling" of the Pearl Hotel shines brightly!




The Pearl's modern decor is comfy & luxurious.

What does a Beta fish named Bruce Lee, bingo, shag carpet, the movie Grease, Meatloaf, Marie Antoinette, and $99.00 all have in common? Give up?  It’s The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma, San Diego.

This beach city vintage boutique hotel is filled with personality that includes an over-the-top friendly staff, fun guest rooms($99.00), great food, yummy cocktails, (i.e., the Marie Antoinette . . . Pearl plum vodka, lavender syrup, grapefruit juice, and champagne),  and hot happening events as scintillating as the San Diego sun!  Our stay was infused with their fun vibes for the entire time.

It started with their Wednesday night Dive-In Theatre.  We sat in the open-air bar/dining room overlooking the pool and watched cartoons and the movie Grease on an outdoor movie screen.  The place was buzzing.

Their drink menu alone is worth the visit.  My daughter’s fiancée ordered a Pearl Verdita shot, with sauza blanco tequila . . . pineapple juice, blended with cilantro, mint, and jalapeño; sounds like a south-of-the-border bandito, but he loved it!  Moi, being a French history snob, opted for the Marie Antoinette, and my daughter, who is a Dolce Vita girl, the Milan Tart with Finlandia grapefruit vodka, campari, grapefruit juice, ginger beer, and hibiscus liqueur. 




Dive In! movies.





Hip and way cool foot stools!

What a great way to start off our night.  We nibbled on their cheese course plate with candied nuts, berries, honeycomb, and home made bread. 

The main courses were hardy comfort foods that brought everyone back to eating at Grandma’s house with her shag carpet and home made dinner appetites:  Grilled pork chops with chutney, baby potatoes, and fresh local vegetables, (just like Grandpa grew), stout braised short ribs with parsnip and celery puree, peas and carrots, with a port reduction, (like my Mom’s ),  and meatloaf with garlic mashed potatoes, with a spicy rooster sauce (almost like mine), were the fares for the evening.

Mix all of that with John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John in their leather jackets, singing, drag car racing, and dancing and you have a typical mid-century experience!

Our room was the Pearl’s largest guest room at 300 sq. ft., with a patio/balcony overlooking the pool. Our King platform bed was made of sturdy English walnut with contemporary steel accents. The bed was really comfortable, probably because it was a Sealy Posturpedic Dynasty mattress with a CSS pillow top mattress, with luxurious high thread-count sheets. 




Hip and cool night out for night owls.


Their 41-inch wall mounted LCD television with HBO and high speed wireless Internet was incongruous with the casual '60s  style shag carpet, thick upholstered couch cushions, beryl wood coffee tables, and their vintage table lamps.  The aqua, sky, royal and midnight blues of the custom tile and wallpaper mosaic of an opalescent ocean wave by Michael Soriano illuminated the room.

But it was the fully-tiled free-standing shower and our room pet, Bruce Lee, a gold Japanese Beta fighting fish, that gave away The Pearl’s real secret.  This is a luxurious contemporary resort that is eco friendly, filled with home made quirky fun and spa-pampering amenities.  They have the mid-century morals of taking great care of their guests, along with their community.  You can buy Pearl memorabilia whose proceeds go 
directly to charity.   It’s hip, cool, and sustainably generous to everyone who comes to play and stay!  Don’t keep this one a secret.

SECRET #4

La Jolla Wine Tours Tasty Adventures is one of the greatest secret of all.  I had no idea that San Diego had such amazing wineries!  And La Jolla Wine Tours has captured the market in sharing this exciting secret.




What great vintages . . . Altiplano Vineyard.

It was a five hour tour that delighted and entertained us at every stop.  The first winery we visited was the Bernardo Winery, founded in 1889. What a delightful surprise!  It is the oldest continuously operating winery in Southern California.  We had an hour to explore the art studios, galleries, and artisan shopping in the village, while wine tasting and pairing chocolates!  What a way to spend the day. 

Our tour guide treated us to a delicious cheese/fruit tray and educational lecture on wine tasting.  There’s nothing better tha
n a sunny California day, paired with sumptuous wines and decadent chocolates, topped with shopping in a quaint winery setting. 

Just when we thought that we had tasted the best we hopped into the van and headed towards the Altaplano Vineyard.  This privately owned property is beautiful, cozy, and the owners bring you into their own home and tell you the story of their grapes and the music of making wine.  It’s a great winery in a hidden neighborhood with views of the grapes and mountain vistas that are as breathtaking as their Cabernet Franc, a full bodied wine with berry flavors and a hint of green pepper! 

The Cordiano Winery was the favorite of the tour.  It’s a family winery with fantastic atmosphere atop a beautiful hillside with views where we could see forever.  The ambiance of the outdoor patio immediately made us feel like we were members of their family. I guess it’s because all the family made it a point to come and sit at our table  and tell us their family stories and dinner time jokes!  There are three generations of family that can be found on the patio visiting with each other, making amazing pizzas and serving wine.  Their bread sticks, salads, pizzas, and wine were all  fantastic. 

The sunshine, views, and friendships made for a delightful day.  We didn’t just taste wine that day we made memories.  And you know what they say, “She who lives with the best memories, wins.”

I say, “She who shares the best kept secrets gets to be a Jetsetter!”

— Feature by Janice Wilson, Jetsetters Magazine Hotel and Spa Editor; photos by Janice, and courtesy of the various properties.