This was not our first visit to either San Diego nor was it our first visit to Old Town in that city. We used to visit here a couple of times a year while we lived in Southern California. But frankly, I had never given it as much attention as it had probably always deserved. One reason may have been that I never really knew that as part of the the Founding of California Old Town San Diego is actually considered the "birthplace" of California.
San Diego is the site of the first permanent Spanish settlement in California. It was here in 1769, that Father Junipero Serra came to establish the very first mission in a chain of 21 missions that were to be the cornerstone of California’s colonization. Father Serra’s mission and Presidio were built on a hillside overlooking what is currently known as Old Town San Diego. At the base of the hill in 1820’s, a small Mexican community of adobe buildings was formed and by 1835 had attained the status of El Pueblo de San Diego. In 1846, a U.S. Navy Lieutenant and a Marine Lieutenant, raised the American flag in the Old Town San Diego Plaza.
In 1968, the State of California Department of Parks and Recreation established Old Town State Historic Park to preserve the rich heritage that characterized San Diego during the 1821 to 1872 period. The park includes a main plaza, exhibits, museums and living history demonstrations.
Historic buildings include La Casa de Estudillo, La Casa de Bandini, La Casa de Altamirno Pedrorena and the Mason Street School, San Diego’s first one room schoolhouse. Just up the hill from Old Town San Diego Historic State Park, you’ll find Heritage Park where several of San Diego’s most notable Victorian homes have been relocated and authentically restored to their original splendor. Just a short walk down San Diego Avenue is the Whaley House, an officially designated haunted house, the Little Adobe Chapel on Conde Street, the first Church in Old Town San Diego and El Campo Santo on San Diego Avenue, a 1850 Catholic Cemetery.
But let me tell what I do know and love about "Old Town" San Diego, that being the food that you can find there that to me if the best Mexican Food North of the Mexico border. For that reason alone, it was our first stop after leaving San Diego's Lindbergh. One such place is called "Old Town Mexican Cafe Cantina" where we not only saw the ladies hand-making the tortillas, but also the pleasure of Mrs. LZ and I eating those same tortillas. But for me, the best part of this place was finding the best Chile Relleno I have had since moving to the Midwest from Southern California several years ago. We even ate there another time prior to leaving San Diego, just to insure that they had not played a trick on me. But it was just as good as it was the first time I had it there.
There was also the visit to the first one room School House in San Diego (that I mentioned above) and the charming stories about its first young single schoolmarm who came by boat from the East Coast down to South America and then she took a train across the isthmus of Panama (prior to the Panama Canal being built) and then of her taking another ship from that point to San Diego for her new job (there in this school house) that she secured as it teacher from the next some 38 years.
My suggestion is that if you ever get a chance to visit San Diego, you should really visit Old Town San Diego, to get a perspective of how California really started. And by the way... don't forget to have dinner "Old Town Mexican Cafe Cantina"
and tell them that LZ said; "you NEED to try their Chile Rellenos!"
And... if you look closely at that last shot... you'll see Mrs. LZ reminiscing of the "olden days" before I bought her that new washer and dyer a couple of years ago.“Buck did not read the newspapers, or he would have known that trouble was brewing, not alone for himself, but for every tide-water dog, strong of muscle and with warm, long hair, from Puget Sound to San Diego”
~ Jack London