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So far, he has spent much of his time walking around the city, as he is planning to do after his stint at the coffee shop, mp3 player in hand.

He’s covered a lot of ground this way, he says.

“I have been to the Maritime Museum, [and] I have been to the USS Midway,” he says. “Tomorrow, I’m going to go to the Zoo with a few friends. I’ve been walking around a lot. Just the harbor, city center.”

Jennifer, though she has not seen as much as Matthias, is also enjoying her stay in San Diego. Though she’s only been here two days, she’s gotten to see some of the sights.

“[I] went to the beach, went out drinking last night,” she says. “We [know] a few people [here], so we went to their house and had a bonfire on the beach until the police came. They were just driving around anyway, but my friend was up there talking to them, and they said, ‘Look, we’re going off in half an hour so just stop everything for half an hour.’ They were really nice. They were just making sure no one was drinking or smoking on the beach. So you had to knock back your drink really quickly and shove it in the bin before they saw you.”

After her beach experience, she’s planning on seeing what the city has to offer, along with her traveling companions.

“We’re probably going to do one of those tours around, just see San Diego, bits and pieces,” she says. “And our friend from college is living up on Pacific Beach, so we’re going to go visit them for a few days. They’re here on the J-1 visa. [A J-1 visa allows aliens to stay in the country for a period of two years as “exchange visitors,” provided they have a sponsor, such as a family they are working for, a private employer they are working with, or a university they are studying at.] So there’s five of them and they’re working in ice cream parlors, and there’s one working in retail, just bits and pieces [to] keep them going for the summer.”

Though often staying only for a few days, many visitors try to pack as much as possible into their trips to San Diego. Popular destinations are the standard tourist fare — SeaWorld, Coronado Island, Old Town, and the like — and are largely enjoyable for travelers.

Ayala liked SeaWorld in particular.

“Going to SeaWorld was an amazing experience,” she says. “I’ve never been to something like that because we don’t have big tanks with fish; we just have dolphins in Eliat, which is in the southernmost point in Israel, but not killer whales and not that stuff. That’s cool.”

Katherine and Craig, 29 and 30, respectively, are also planning on keeping busy. They are visiting from Manchester, England. They chose to dine out in the Gaslamp on their first night and decided on taking a harbor cruise for their second. For their third day, they are going to the zoo and the beach. They are staying at the 500 West Hotel for $100 a night.

The two of them, like Katherine from Germany, are doing an around-the-world trip. Craig, a plumber, sold his house to finance the trip. So far, they have been to India, Thailand, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, and Fiji.

For their trip to San Diego, Katherine and Craig used a Rough Guide travel book, which, Katherine laments, was not particularly useful.

“It doesn’t tell you a lot about San Diego, but it just tells you the nickname is San D’Ego because everybody’s got a chip on their shoulder [and] thinks a lot of themselves,” she says, waiting in line at the International Visitor Information Center. “But we haven’t really seen that.”

Others have used guidebooks as well. Matthias prefers a series published by Lonely Planet, and the Dublin crowd uses one they cannot remember the name of, while others prefer to search on websites like Google and the official page of the San Diego Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Some, like Joe, who is an Englishman traveling from Austria, scoff at many of the travel publications available. Lonely Planet (which is owned by the British Broadcasting Corporation) in particular, which has a website complete with travel blogs and feature articles, is quite popular among travelers, but this does not sway him. “I make a point of not reading Lonely Planet,” Joe says. “[It] is just a load of rubbish. Lonely Planet is the anesthetization of travel. They have useless maps that are immediately out of date. Who needs a book that lists the price of a meal? It changes every year. It’s a load of guff, carrying around a [book of] prices for restaurants.”

Joe, who teaches math in Austria and describes himself as being “twenty-plenty,” came to San Diego on a recommendation from a few friends he made in Madrid who happened to go to San Diego State University.

“I thought it was the sort of place you could find big fish that jump out of the water and play with dolphins or something,” he says, tongue-in-cheek, of San Diego. “Erotic swims with orcas and stuff like that.”

He flew with Zoom Airlines, which has been making nonstop trips to San Diego from London as of June of this year (the first flight was on the 20th). He paid, he claims, “too much” and would have flown into Los Angeles if not for the direct flight.

“[The airline] is okay,” he says, “but it’s a pretty crap aircraft. It’s all in Spanish, ‘salida’ this, etc., so I think they must have bought it from Liberia.”

At the moment, Zoom flies both Boeing 757s and 767s; the average age of each aircraft, according to airfleets.com, is just shy of 15 years. A one-way ticket — at economy price, booking a month in advance — costs anywhere from 23 to 218 pounds ($46 to $436.50, according to Yahoo! Finance’s currency converter), depending on the time of departure.

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Ollie Sept. 20, 2008 @ 10:33 p.m.

I've got one in the pipe. Don't know when it's comin' out. You gotta ask HMF Editor Grimm.


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