The first I ever heard of La Jolla was when my mother went there for a psychology conference focusing on the studies of Carl Jung. It was during the Hippie generation and mother embraced a lot of that culture. So, I expected to see a community built on those values. I was only here for a weekend and these are just my first impressions.
La Jolla (La-HOY-a) stretches out along Southern California’s western coastline, just a brief drive north of downtown San Diego, and about 30 miles north of the Mexican border. It’s famous for its small cove and its beach, surrounded by residential homes perched on its cliffs. Its fame also includes surfing, snorkeling and scuba activities. Free public parking is very limited — mostly found on the street. There is a strong ecological movement, so it’s a haven for sea lions, sea gulls, and various fish. There are many important restrictions imposed by the (California Coastal Commission) as to what and when to bring floating devices (surfboards, boogie boards, kayakers, inflatable mattresses, etc.) to the beach, so it’s best to check the regulations first before you head out to paradise. Sorry, no dogs allowed in the beaches. I did see several surf boarders and a swarm of kayakers huddled in the waters. As is typical in California, there is a war between the free-spirited locals who access the beach and water for fun, and the conservationists who wish to preserve it.
Did you know it isn’t called a city or even a town? The locals call it a Village. From the hotel staff to the man-on-the-street, there didn’t seem to be a consensus of what was unique about this place (other than the imposing cove) they call home. There weren’t any famous landmarks except maybe the local library or the museum. No one seemed to be aware of the artifacts discovered throughout La Jolla over the decades, indicating that the Native American La Jolla Band of the Luiseño Tribe settled along the shoreline nearly 10,000 years ago. The actual name of La Jolla is also a mystery among town historians; whether it comes from the Spanish word La Joya (which means the jewel) or from the La Jolla Band term Woholle (meaning hole in the mountains. The mystery continues with others claiming that the Kumeyaay Native Americans coined the name Kulaaxuuy (land of holes). With no historical records or documents, the history of La Jolla remains mudded, so mudded that it would require more than my weekend stay in the village to reach an understanding.
I later discovered that there were actually quite a few celebrities who had lived or once-lived in the Village. Why didn’t any of the long-time residents of La Jolla not even know about their famous neighbors? Maybe it’s because the Village is mostly residential and wealthy residents commonly covet their privacy. Actor Gregory Peck was born in La Jolla, and political commentator Tucker Carlson was raised there. Spiritual writer Deepak Chopra ran his “Center for Well Being” in the Village, and Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel was a life-time resident. Novelist Anne Rice (“Interview with a Vampire”) moved there from New Orleans, while one of my favorite mellow songwriters, Michael Franks, also made it his home-base. Utah senator Mitt Romney bought a $12 million La Jolla vacation home in 2008, and the first female astronaut Sally Ride lived above the cove before her spectacular explosive death on a rocket ship. And, one of Musicdom’s hotest artists, Alicia Keys, lives there as well.
Larry, who drives a shuttle bus and has lived in La Jolla forever, in an impromptu interview about his hometown.
They have one major commercial downtown area they call the Village where businesses and (mostly) restaurants and other tourist destinations are located. The University of California, San Diego, also the site of the La Jolla Playhouse and James’ Place restaurant is about half an hour away. When I browsed through the local newspaper, I noticed that real estate agents boasting of their multi-million-dollar sales comprised much of the advertisers. Houses averaged in the five-million-dollar range. If you own a house in La Jolla, you’re instantly part of the exclusive Rich and Famous.
Each house had its own personality. They weren’t track housing common to middle class society. I loved the magnificent variety of trees. Apartments looked small and expensive. Parking at night might be a problem here. The homes along the cove are architectural delights. Almost all of which have glass walls to enjoy the beauty of the crashing waves. A few were undergoing major renovations. One seemed to be fortifying the stilt foundation it has been perched on.
Walking along the side roads towards the Village from my hotel, I observed the houses below me and I’m guessing from the dusty cement structures along the main road, these owners have lived here forever — part of the old rich. The white flat-roofed houses were staggered along the cliff and weren’t particularly flashy but “location, location, location” made them expensive. At the Village, I noticed quite a few flashy low-riding sportscars parked by the mall. Due to the pandemic, many of the restaurants had outside extensions where young professionals chatted in their fashionable summer attire.
I enjoyed the flat and 3-dimensional artwork in the high-end galleries. You know there has to be a market for these shops to survive. The antique wooden intricately-decorated Athenaeum Music & Arts Library, located in the heart of La Jolla, proved to be a highpoint. I had a fascinating conversation with the knowledgeable librarian who seems to enjoy her work. The shelves were lined with faded books that begged me to ruffle through their pages. I was the only outsider in that huge building. There was a music room where the UC San Diego Music ensemble gave a concert just a few days ago. Also, it’s well worth the short one-mile drive to La Jolla’s Mt. Soledad National Veterans Memorial for a view of the only memorial that honors veterans, living or deceased, from the U.S. Revolutionary War to the war on terrorism today.
La Jolla. It’s the expensive beach cove of America. If you want to observe the vacation home of the quietly rich and famous, this is it.
We stayed at the La Jolla Shores Hotel. It’s a long-established beachfront hotel. You literally see the pounding surf waves a hundred feet away from the building. Judging by its architecture, it was made in the 1980s. It isn’t a sparkling high-end hotel but the rooms are decent. The bathroom fixtures are of an earlier era. The location of the electrical outlets didn’t account for the Internet technology so they weren’t conveniently located. The food was as good as expected. The staff was very friendly and full of smiles. I was especially glad to have (free) complimentary shuttle service because I walked about two-miles from the hotel to the Village and I was too tired to walk back. Aside from beach sports, tennis, ping pong and golf are a favorite pastime. It’s a great place to hold an overnight wedding party or a weekend retreat.