Historically home to the Kumeyaay people, then visited by Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo in 1542 (and claimed for Spain), then settled in 1821 through the establishment of the Presidio and Mission San Diego de Alcalá (1769), then incorporated into Mexico (1821), and then finally part of the United States (1848) – basically put, San Diego has a fair bit of history behind it.
Our first hop off from the entertaining Old Town Trolley Tours Bus was in Old Town itself, or more specifically, in the Old Town San Diego Historic Park – a state protected historical park that commemorates the early days of the town of San Diego. Established in 1969 (and as of 2006 the most visited state park in California), Old Town San Diego State Historic Park is home to many historic buildings that date back to a period between 1820 and 1870.
(In case you are wondering, up until the 1860s, the Old Town area was the heart of San Diego, before it was all but abandoned in favour of concentrating activities at the site of present-day Downtown San Diego, primarily to be closer to the water and thus trade routes.)
The park preserves and recreates Old Town as it existed during the Mexican and early American periods, with five original adobes forming the heart of the complex – one of which being the Casa de Estudillo, which built in 1827 is one of the oldest surviving examples of Spanish architecture in California. It is also considered one of the finest houses in Mexican California.
Other historic buildings include a schoolhouse, a blacksmith shop, San Diego’s first newspaper office, a cigar and pipe store, houses and gardens, and a stable with a carriage collection.
In addition to all the period dress and demonstrations taking place, the park is filled with all manner of restaurants, shops and museums, with many skilled artisans setting up shop and applying their trade here.
In other words, the perfect tourist attraction.
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Johann and I spent a fair bit of time popping our heads in most of the museums on offer, before hopping back on the bus as it headed up through Downtown San Diego on its way over to the impressive Coronado Bridge…