Before last weekend, I have never been to San Diego even though I have lived 8 years in California. Well, I have officially been to San Diego in many occasions but I don’t count them like proper visit to the sunny city.
I have visited Sea World many times and I went once to the famous San Diego Zoo. But inside a thematic park it is really difficult to get a taste of a city. That is why this past weekend I decided to visit some of the most famous neighborhoods of this border city.
My first stop was Old Town. Yes, I wanted to see where everything began or as the posters all around stated: the birthplace of California. The park preserves the first European settlement in the West Coast. Father Junipero Serra founded the San Diego de Alcala mission (first mission in a chain of 21 missions that were vital for California’s Colonization) in the area. Later, a Mexican community was established around 1820. In 1846, the United States flag was raised in the Plaza de Armas (Main Square in Old Town). The state of California established Old Town State Historic Park in 1968 to preserve the heritage of the area.
We arrived early and had breakfast in the area. I started to like this place right away. Where are you going to find a big breakfast plate for 3 bucks? The idea was to have a walk around the Old Town neighborhood and around the Historic Park. Our initial walk thru the neighborhood gave us a hint of what was coming ahead. Old adobes, colorful paint, bright bougainvilleas, spiky cactuses and Mexican atmosphere perfumed the air.
Once we entered the Historic Park, we got involved in the atmosphere. I should have put on my boots that day. This was a real town so there are all sorts of buildings that were used for different purposes.
For example, there is the Mason school which is the oldest school in the San Diego country. I took a look inside the building and was able to observe the wooden chairs and the board where the Pledge of Alliance to the United States was written with chalk. The most interesting object was a cone hat with the word dunce on it. I thought this was something only seen in movies but apparently teachers used to punish kids using that hat.
This is where you needed to go if you where sick.
And there are always the people who get in trouble. Therefore, the town had its own courthouse.
If there is a courthouse, there has to be some sort of jail. In this case, they had a small cell. I took a look inside the cell and let me tell you that it’s really small. I felt sorry for the guys who were locked there at any point. I am sure they had a bad time in there (not the greatest place to be if you are claustrophobic).
Some of the buildings have been converted to businesses. However, these are not typical stores or places to eat. The charm, history and character are still there. Take a look at the outside and inside of this coffee shop.
The baristas were so nice. They offered us free hibiscus and spiced tea samples. Yum!!
You can also take a look at private residences like the Casa de Estudillo (Estudillo is a last name). This was one of largest houses in town and it was built in the typical style of the time (L shape).
There are tons of decrepit (but interesting) doors and windows to discover.
Fascinating gardens to admire.
Shopping and dining areas for all tastes.
And let’s not forget about the churches. Because there cannot be a colonial town without a church. This one is outside the Historic Park.
For some reason, you cannot think about the Old West without thinking of burros. There were some in the park to add to the feeling. I mean live burros …
dead burros (this one looks like Donkey from the Shrek movie).
Why you should visit this neighborhood and park (or why this place rocks!):
- The entrance to the Historic Park is free.
- The park preserves tons of old buildings that you can visit (and most of them have exhibits).
- There are free walking tours offered (go to the visitors center to find out the times). The Cosmopolitan Hotel also offers a free tour of the property.
- There are period demonstrations (ex. Blacksmith demonstrations).
- There are people dressed in period costumes.
- There are multiple food and shopping options.
- Tons of ghost roam the area (read my story about this)
- You feel like you have entered another world.
In summary, I don’t know how I have missed this place for so long. So close and so far at the same time. Don’t worry San Diego, I will visit you again. I mean I will visit you again soon.
For more Phot Friday Fun, visit Delicious Baby.