Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Howdy, Old Town San Diego

I’ve lived in California almost three decades, and this was my first visit to San Diego. I still can’t believe it took me this long, especially since San Diego is reputed to have the best gardening climate in all of California. The winters are mild and so are the summers, especially along the coast. The city of San Diego has an average of 201 days above 70°F, according to Wikipedia.

We had just three days in San Diego during our spring break vacation so we only scratched the surface. But what a surface it is! The waterfront is stunning, Balboa Park a jewel, but my favorite spot was Old Town, parts of which are now a State Historic Park.

The San Diego Presidio, established in 1769 on a bluff north of what is now Old Town, was the first European settlement on the west coast of the the present day U.S. The first of the California missions was built the same year on the same bluff, and by 1820 a small pueblo had sprung up below. In 1850, California joined the United States and the pueblo remained the heart of San Diego. That all changed in the 1860s when Alonzo Horton began to develop what is now downtown.

150324_SanDiego_OldTown_025

Agave salmiana in front of the Pedrorena-Altamirano House

Today, Old Town is a vibrant neighborhood of historic buildings, museums, shops, and restaurants. While it has its fair share of tourist traps, it felt surprisingly authentic and down to earth. And there were lots of interesting plants to see, including many succulents. I loved it.

150324_SanDiego_OldTown_044

Agave salmiana in front of the old Assessor’s Office

150324_SanDiego_OldTown_005

Dragon trees (Dracaena draco) and yucca

150324_SanDiego_OldTown_006

Dragon trees (Dracaena draco) and yucca

150324_SanDiego_OldTown_017

California pepper tree (Schinus molle)

150324_SanDiego_OldTown_020

Behind the old San Diego Union building

150324_SanDiego_OldTown_039

One of several courtyards in the Old Town State Historic Park

150324_SanDiego_OldTown_028 150324_SanDiego_OldTown_029

150324_SanDiego_OldTown_007

150324_SanDiego_OldTown_027

Ho hum, another clump of Agave attenuata

150324_SanDiego_OldTown_009

…flowering even. Who am I kidding? They may be common as dirt in Southern California, but I like them.

150324_SanDiego_OldTown_030

Another California pepper tree (Schinus molle)

150324_SanDiego_OldTown_037

150324_SanDiego_OldTown_032

Giant aeonium on top of a barrel

150324_SanDiego_OldTown_040

150324_SanDiego_OldTown_035

Lovely place to sit

150324_SanDiego_OldTown_043

Oops, another Agave attenuata

150324_SanDiego_OldTown_013

Church of the Immaculate Conception in the morning…

150324_SanDiego_OldTown_023

…early afternoon…

150324_SanDiego_OldTown_085

…and early evening

150324_SanDiego_OldTown_026

Church of the Immaculate Conception from Casa de Aguirre across the street

150324_SanDiego_OldTown_088

If shopping is your thing…

150324_SanDiego_OldTown_083

…there’s plenty of opportunity

150324_SanDiego_OldTown_016

You can even buy succulents to take home as souvenirs!

150324_SanDiego_OldTown_014

Not to mention (faux) talavera pottery

150324_SanDiego_OldTown_015

Authentic talavera has an inscription identifying the manufacturer, the location and often the artist. Don’t pay talavera prices for fakes!

150324_SanDiego_OldTown_045

More Mexican pottery, some of it very nice

150324_SanDiego_OldTown_046

I’m not sure what to think of these creations. They do prove that tillandsias are hot.

150324_SanDiego_OldTown_047

This sign made me smile. Howdy back atcha!

150324_SanDiego_OldTown_049

I took me a second to realize that this is a prickly pear. Where I live, they pollard trees; in San Diego they pollard cactus.

150324_SanDiego_OldTown_048

Presumably the poor opuntia above had once looked like this proud specimen…

150324_SanDiego_OldTown_078

…or even this more recently groomed one

150324_SanDiego_OldTown_050

Yes, I know, another Agave attenuata, but those foxtail-like inflorescences are like catnip to me

150324_SanDiego_OldTown_081

Cactus-like euphorbias are common in Old Town

150324_SanDiego_OldTown_051

I assume this is Euphorbia ingens

150324_SanDiego_OldTown_052

I agree, this is a very photogenic spot

Hands down my favorite spot in Old Town was the Fiesta de Reyes plaza. Several restaurants and over a dozen small shops are nestled inside this cozy corner. The plantings here are exuberant and succulent-centric, just what I like. The next time I’m in San Diego I’ll have dinner here, and it won’t even matter if the food is just mediocre (not saying that it is) because the location ticks all my boxes.

150324_SanDiego_OldTown_054

150324_SanDiego_OldTown_056

Aloe ‘Fire Ranch’

150324_SanDiego_OldTown_053

I’ve seen many things, but this is the first time I’ve seen an agave on a wagon!

150324_SanDiego_OldTown_057

A metal mariachi band may be kitschy, but who can resist…

150324_SanDiego_OldTown_058

…where there are so many succulents

150324_SanDiego_OldTown_061

150324_SanDiego_OldTown_062

150324_SanDiego_OldTown_063 150324_SanDiego_OldTown_064

150324_SanDiego_OldTown_065

150324_SanDiego_OldTown_066

150324_SanDiego_OldTown_069

150324_SanDiego_OldTown_071

150324_SanDiego_OldTown_072

150324_SanDiego_OldTown_073

150324_SanDiego_OldTown_074

150324_SanDiego_OldTown_075

I bet the margaritas are really good at Fiesta de Reyes!

Related posts

2015 Spring break trip to San Diego

18 comments:

  1. Nice to view tourist San Diego through your camera's eye. It looks very pleasant and attractive, not too crowded. I've been thinking about those pollarded opuntias. Do you think they removed the "leaves" that had graffiti on them so they looked better? The sad looking one by the lamppost looks recently groomed.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Your explanation makes sense. I saw a lot of graffiti on prickly pears and agaves.

      Delete
  2. It is beautiful!!! I love many of the views! thanks for taking us along. That euphorbia sitting alone in front of that white wall is perfect.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. San Diego would be the most perfect location for a Garden Bloggers Fling. Dreamy climate, dreamy location, and I'm sure many wonderful private gardens to visit.

      The photo of that euphorbia against the white wall is my favorite image of the entire trip :-).

      Delete
  3. I haven't been to Old Town in years! Thank you for the tour...will have to got there next time I visit my Mom : )

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's how it is for me with tourist attractions in our area. Until this year I hadn't been to the State Capitol in Sacramento in 15 years, and it's only 20 minutes from my house!

      Delete
  4. No wonder this city earns so much praise and is a favourite of a couple we know here! And it's nice too that your posting is almost congruent with Loree's which just reinforces how beautiful this city is :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There is so much more to explore beyond what we were able to see. I'm already thinking about doing a solo trip later this year.

      Delete
  5. Oh, these photos are wonderful! (The birding in San Diego County is awesome, too... I really need to plan a trip south.) Tijuana is also a good shopping destination, though the last time I was there, the wait in the north-bound line at the border seemed endless.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It used to be so easy to cross the border, but those days won't ever come back. I remember walking across the Rio Grande in El Paso to Ciudad Juárez in 1992 with nothing but a driver's license and coming back with bags full of pottery and a bottle of tequila, LOL.

      Delete
  6. I spent many an evening playing pinball at the Oldtown Tavern, and it would surprise me to find it was still there. Dinner was always at Casa del Pico, if we were feeling comfortable with the cash flow.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ever saw anything spooky going on at night? We did a ghost tour on Tuesday evening, and Old Town is a hotbed of paranormal activity!

      Delete
    2. I guess my OldTown experience pre-dates the ghost tours, just like my Sedona experiences pre-date the vortex !

      Delete
  7. I'm glad you're enjoying the sights. I haven't been down that way in ages and my last 2 trips were all business - I'll have to bend my husband's arm and wrangle a trip soon.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You should! I can highly recommend the hop-on, hop-off trolley tour. It takes you to many destinations all over the city.

      Delete
  8. Andrew and I never made it to Old Town proper, we only drove through late one night. I did spend quite a bit of time there when I visited with my brother years YEARS ago. Your photos are a great reminder.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It looks like a nice place for dinner or drinks. Lively restaurants and bars.

      Delete
  9. the one thing I love about your blogs is that you always include pertinent historical link. I love San Diego. I tried to convince my husband to move there when my son went to college at ucsd. ( in the 90') . thanks for sharingthis beautiful town.

    ReplyDelete