Seeing San Diego

On Tuesday we spent the afternoon venturing south again, this time right down to San Diego and first stop was Old Town San Diego State Historic Park

The earliest indications of people living in San Diego date back 9,000 years. They called themselves Kumeyaay. With the arrival of the Spanish settlements in 1769, many Kumeyaay retreated to the hills. The original town of San Diego grew up at the foot of Presidio Hill, in the area which is now Old Town San Diego State Historic Park.

The location was not ideal, being several miles away from navigable water. In the late 1860s Alonzo Horton promoted a move to “New Town”, several miles south of the original settlement, in the area which became Downtown San Diego.

The state historic park commemorates the early days of the town of San Diego and includes many historic buildings from the period 1820 to 1870.

The park was established in 1968. Old Town San Diego State Historic Park preserves and recreates Old Town as it existed during the Mexican and early American periods, from its settlement in 1821, through 1872 when it lost its dominant position to Downtown.

Five original adobes are part of the complex, which includes shops, restaurants and museums. But for all it’s historic preservation it is best described as a tourist park with “Ye Olde Shoppes” alongside stands of mexican wrestling masks, tie-dye shirts and other paraphernalia that would look at home in at a park like Disneyland – a fun place for travelers to pass through and families to visit

Then it was time for lunch and we headed to the “Old Town Mexican Cafe” for some traditional mexican tucker (tucker = australian slang for food)

As we waited for a seat in the bustling restaurant we watched old Mexican women expertly rolling and cooking tortilla’s to be hot and ready for eating with an amazing array of accompaniments.

I let my hosts decide (Mexican has become a staple food in their diet as it has for many Southern California’s) and they settled on a burrito dish with pork and beans with a tasty spicy salsa

It was all happening – there was even a token singer serenading gobbling clientele .

Then we headed to Balbao Park and honestly i didn’t know where i was, everything around me made me feel as if i was in Barcelona but here i was, in Southern California! Balboa Park is a 1,200 acre (4.9 km²) urban cultural park in San Diego. Placed in reserve in 1835, it is one of the oldest sites in the United States dedicated to public recreational usage.

It contains a variety of cultural attractions including museums, theaters, gardens, shops and restaurants, as well as the San Diego Zoo. Most of the buildings are in the Spanish Colonial Revival style , a richly ornamented eclectic mixture of Spanish and Latin American architecture. No wonder i initially thought i was in Barcelona!

We ventured out onto an overpass and looked back into San Diego – i couldn’t believe how many flags there were flying above the buildings. I thought they were just residual of the 4th of July holidays but they infact fly all year round and there have been more and more since 9/11

Back in the park we wandered through the gardens

and then along the El Prado promenade

Along this boulevard are many of the park’s museums and cultural attractions, including the San Diego Museum of Man, the San Diego Museum of Art, the Museum of Photographic Arts, the San Diego Art Institute the San Diego Model Railroad Museum, the Natural History Museum, the San Diego Historical Society, the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, and the Timken Museum of Art and many more such things. As it was late in the afternoon and many were closed or closing we decided just to wander around, enjoying the relaxed, leisurely vibe and the sun even came out for a while so we made the most of it and bought some snow cones

As we sat by the fountain eating our snow-cones, watching friends chat and children play i figured – these people have leisure pretty well sussed out.

We then headed into down town San Diego and made our way to the Hyatt Hotel to take in the view from it’s 40th floor lounge.

We looked south down passed the bridge to Mexico, the Tiajuana slums

in stark contrast to the resorts and luxurious homes on Coronado Island (one of the most expensive places to reside in the United States) The city became a major resort destination in 1888 with the opening of the Hotel del Coronado.

Whilst one half of the island is residential the other is occupied by the Naval Base Coronado complex. It is one of only two Navy amphibious training bases in the United States. NAB is approximately 1,000 acres in size and is composed of the Main Base, training beaches, California least tern preserve, recreational marina, enlisted family housing, and state park. The average on base count of all personnel, military and civilian, at any one time is 5000 permanent and 7000 students, reservists, and transients. Coronado is also occupied by the North Island Naval Air Station

After our drinks we headed down into San Diego’s trendy Gaslamp Quarter.

Its main period of development began in 1867, when Alonzo Horton bought the land in hopes of creating a new city center closer to the bay, and chose 5th Avenue as its main street. After a period of urban decay, the neighborhood underwent urban renewal in the 1980s and 1990s, and is today an energetic business and entertainment district.

We wandered around a few blocks enjoying the almost cartoon like architecture and funky sounds floating out of the pubs and restaurants with names like “Rock Bottom Brewery” “Analog: Good Food Strong Drinks” “The Tipsy Crow” and many other classics. Still full from lunch we settled on a tapas style dinner from the Asian fusion restaurant Osetra. YUM. We had a great meal of sashimi and other sea food delicacies but the boys were sure to leave just enough room for…

A compulsory visit to the Ghirardelli Ice-cream and chocolate shop.

Whilst in Australia you’ll more commonly find gelato stands with selections of fruity sorbets as well as the creamy staples, all you get here is cream cream cream! When we walked in the smell of hot chocolate syrup engulfed us as we watched trays of ginourmous banana sundays topped with a mountain of whipped cream and drowned in chocolate syrup. I must admit, the visual was enough for me and i settled for a complementary square of chocolate as the boys hoed in.

This photo says it all!

After all our adventures and with full stomachs we crashed into the car and the boys and i slept all the way home


1 Comment

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One response to “Seeing San Diego

  1. sally

    Lovely to catch up on your travels. What an incredible contrast it must be to India. LM

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