San Diego 2016: Old Town San Diego

After we left the Mission San Diego de Alcala we headed downtown to Old Town San Diego, located adjacent to Presidio Hill, underneath the bluff. For the first several decades, residents preferred to live within the Presidio walls or just outside, for protection from other Europeans or hostile Native Americans. By 1820, the threats had decreased, and San Diego residents were choosing to live at the base of the bluff in what is now Old Town San Diego.

The problem with the site of Old Town San Diego was that its location was several miles from navigable water, so supplies had to be brought overland from Point Loma several miles away. In the 1860s, residents began abandoning Old Town in favor of New Town (where the current downtown is now) because of its proximity to shipping ports.

We were hungry when we arrived after touring the mission, so we found a Latin American restaurant called Berta’s which offered cuisine from several Latin American countries. Renée had a wonderful Mango Avocado salad, a Chilean empanada and a glass of sangria, and I had Chilean Pastel de Choclo with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. The sun was shining and it was warm – we enjoyed just sitting outside and having our meal.

Me sitting at Berta's among the Hibiscus flowers

Me sitting at Berta’s among the Hibiscus flowers

 

Renée's Mango Avocado salad at Berta's - YUM!

Renée’s Mango Avocado salad at Berta’s – YUM!

 

The gorgeous Hibiscus at Berta's

The gorgeous Hibiscus at Berta’s

After lunch, we walked across the street to the San Diego State Historic Park – a collection of historic buildings built between 1820 and 1872, when New Town took over in dominance. The park contains five original adobes, a schoolhouse, blacksmith shop and a stable, among dozens of other buildings. Some are reconstructions. We enjoyed wandering around in a rock shop that was originally the Assayer’s Office, and toured some of the different displays in one of the adobe homes and other buildings.  We even sat on a wooden donkey!  The real donkeys didn’t want to come over and talk to us…  The entire park is free to visitors, and there are living history demonstrations too.

The Assayer's Office - there was a wonderful rock shop inside

The Assayer’s Office – there was a wonderful rock shop inside

 

One of the original adobe homes at Old Town

One of the original adobe homes at Old Town

 

This little bird was singing his heart out at Old Town

This little bird was singing his heart out at Old Town

Nearby, there are other historic sites that are not part of the San Diego State Historic Park too. I could have spent a couple of days just wandering around Old Town San Diego, checking it all out. I wish I had more time! It is nice that Renée has a similar appreciation for historic sites, so I didn’t feel like I needed to rush. I would have loved to have seen the Whaley House Museum that is nearby. I will certainly have to return…

The Old Town General Store

The Old Town General Store

 

One of the shops at Old Town San Diego - an interesting combination of items.

One of the shops at Old Town San Diego – an interesting combination of items.

 

The Colorado House at Old Town San Diego

The Colorado House at Old Town San Diego

 

Renée posing with the jail - they didn't let you go inside though...

Renée posing with the jail – they didn’t let you go inside though…

 

Renée had to be back at the hotel before 2:30 that afternoon for a meeting for her conference, so we left Old Town San Diego and headed back to the resort. I took the opportunity to get in some pool time. Angela and Allysa had to head out to the airport to fly home, while I was staying one more day. I enjoyed some time just laying by the pool with my book and my travel journal. And then I spent some time walking along the beach and collecting some shells.

That evening Renée and I went out to dinner at the Pacific Beach Fish Shop with a coworker of hers (my former coworker) who had also flown in for the conference. We had lobster lumpia, fish tacos, and beer. I swear I would be there all the time if I lived there…  It was all so delicious!

Our meal at the Pacific Beach Fish Shop - to die for!

Our meal at the Pacific Beach Fish Shop – to die for!

Book Review: The Wild Vine

Have you ever heard of the Norton grape? I had, but I knew nothing of its history. I only knew that there are a few Michigan wineries that grow it and produce wine made from Norton grapes. But I was about to become a lot more read on the history of the Norton.

The Wild Vine, by Todd Kliman

The Wild Vine, by Todd Kliman

Kliman tells the story of the discovery of the Norton grape, a hybrid created in the 1820s by Dr. Daniel Norton. It is special because it can withstand the humidity and punishing storms of Virginia and Missouri, not succumbing to the rot that so many European wine grapes do. It allows Americans, for the first time, to believe that the United States can produce wine to rival Europe.

The Norton grape almost disappeared entirely during Prohibition, when wine growers were forced in large numbers to pull up their vineyards or face the wrath of government agents. When Prohibition ended, winemakers in the East were not quick to rush back to their former occupations, and by the time new wineries were created in Virginia, the Norton was seemingly nowhere to be found. In the 1970s, against all odds, Dennis Horton discovers that some bootleggers have a small patch of Norton growing, now almost wild in Missouri. He brings it home to Virginia.

Now, thanks for a few dedicated winegrowers, Norton has made a small comeback and is being produced again. Kliman’s book documents the history of the grape, its near extinction, and its remarkable comeback. This book marries two of my favorite subjects – History and Wine. His writing style will have you rooting for the underdog, the little grape that could… You’ll have to be on the lookout for this book, and a Norton wine!

Amavi 2014 Sémillon

Tonight I’m drinking the Amavi 2014 Sémillon.  According to the winemaker notes on Amavi’s website, it:

smells like: honeysuckle, orange blossom, lemon zest, wet stones
tastes like: granny smith apple, grapefruit, honeydew melon
mouthfeel: refreshing acidity, rich & balanced structure
drink with: rich fish & shellfish; spicy dishes

Varietal(s): 85% Sémillon, 15% Sauvignon Blanc
Vineyard(s): 46% Les Collines, 29% Seven Hills, 25% Goff
Appellation: Walla Walla Valley
Oak Program: 100% neutral French Oak

amavi-2014-semillon

I paired mine with some leftover Étouffée from our fabulous local Cajun restaurant.  It goes nicely with the spice of the dish.  It is perfect for this hot summer Pacific Northwest evening!

I could have sworn that I had some photos of my visit there last summer, but I can’t seem to find them, so you’ll just have to check out their website to see how amazing their setup is.  If you go, sit on the deck.  Trust me, just do it…

Happy Sunday, I hope your week gets off to a good start…

 

San Diego 2016: Mission San Diego de Alcala

The Mission San Diego de Alcala was the first mission founded in Alta California, in 1769 by Father Junípero Serra. The location of the current mission is the second location, having been moved to more fertile soil five years after the mission was established. The original site was on a bluff overlooking the water, where the Presidio was located (there is a park preserving the site, but no original historic structures remain), so it is aptly named Presidio Hill. The Presidio was also founded in 1769, a few months earlier than the Mission.

The front of the Mission San Diego de Alcala, California's oldest mission, founded 1769.

The front of the Mission San Diego de Alcala, California’s oldest mission, founded 1769.

Colonists began arriving shortly after the mission was built, but sadly, there was an uprising by the Native Americans, who killed the priest and two other people and burned the mission.  It was rebuilt at the original site as a fireproof adobe, but in 1774 it was moved 6 miles inland along the San Diego River to ensure a consistent water supply.  Like other missions from the time, it was destroyed periodically by earthquakes; in this case earthquakes struck both in 1803 and 1812.

Most of the current mission was rebuilt in 1931; at that time only one wall of the mission remained, and the rest was a ruin. The mission has a self-guided tour, where you can walk through the priest’s quarters, the church, the garden and a smaller chapel. The tour was interesting, as there are several informational signs detailing what life was like for the priests and the Native Americans living at the Mission.  It is an active Catholic parish, so if you want to go inside the chapel, you do need to time your visit so that it is not during Mass.  Or, alternatively, you can attend Mass and experience it in this beautiful historic church.  The Mission San Diego de Alcala is designated as a Basilica, or a church of historic significance.

A view of the Mission church

A view of the Mission church

 

The altar in the Mission church

The altar in the Mission church

The garden was beautiful, with lots of blooming flowers, including several interesting colors of Bougainvillea.  The mission also has two historic bells in the bell tower with a description of the history of the bell. I love reading about the little details of a place. The three small bells on top are copies of originals. The large bell on the bottom left (in my photo taken from the garden) is an 1894 recasting of the original Mater de la Rossa bell. It is the largest of the two larger bells, weighing 1200 pounds!  The bottom bell on the right is from 1802, and weighs 805 pounds.  It is amazingly intricate with a crown motif on the top.  The cross at the top of the bell tower is made from timbers from the original Mission.

What a unique color of Bougainvillea!

What a unique color of Bougainvillea!

 

A gorgeous Hibiscus flower at the San Diego Mission.

A gorgeous Hibiscus flower at the San Diego Mission.

 

The Bell Tower at the San Diego Mission

The Bell Tower at the San Diego Mission

In the garden there is an area with the stations of the cross, and interestingly they have an abstract representation taking center stage.  If you aren’t familiar with the stations of the cross, they are:

  • One: Jesus is Sentenced to Death
  • Two: Jesus Takes His Cross
  • Three: Jesus Falls
  • Four: Jesus Meets Mary, His Mother
  • Five: Jesus is Helped by Simon
  • Six: Veronica Helps Jesus
  • Seven: Jesus Falls a Second Time
  • Eight: Jesus Talks to Some Mothers
  • Nine: Jesus Falls for the Third and Last Time
  • Ten: Jesus is Stripped
  • Eleven: Jesus is Nailed to the Cross
  • Twelve: Jesus Dies on the Cross
  • Thirteen: Jesus is Taken Down from the Cross
  • Fourteen: Jesus is Laid in the Tomb
The abstract representation of the Stations of the Cross

The abstract representation of the Stations of the Cross

Off the courtyard is a small chapel (La Capilla), with the altar and choir stalls that were brought over from a 17th century Spanish convent. They were amazing.  The stone floor in La Capilla came from Our Lady of Guadalupe Basilica in Mexico City. 

The altar of the small chapel, La Capilla, at the San Diego Mission

The altar of the small chapel, La Capilla, at the San Diego Mission

 

The choir stalls in La Capilla

The choir stalls in La Capilla

 

Some of the Native American artifacts in the Mission museum

Some of the Native American artifacts in the Mission museum

The Mission San Diego de Alcala was beautiful and it was certainly worth a visit to see this historic site.  And it brings my total of California Missions up to 6.  I still have so many more to see!

 

Oliver Gazes

My gorgeous boy is so irresistible!  Happy Wednesday Everybody!

He's such a pretty boy, even if he wouldn't look at the camera...

He’s such a pretty boy, even if he wouldn’t look at the camera…

San Diego 2016: Balboa Park Afternoon

Our server at The Prado gave us a really good tip. She told us about the Imax movie, National Parks Adventure, that was playing at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center. We managed to rush over there and get our tickets just in time for the next showing, and tucked into our seats just as they were starting the movie. It is narrated by Robert Redford and features Conrad Anker, one of the most famous mountain climbers and adventurers alive today. It is totally full of spectacular scenery of our National Treasures. The Prairie Dogs are adorable, and the aerial photography is amazing. It is worth seeing if it is playing someplace you’ll be!

After the movie, we checked out a little shop for some souvenirs, then made our way over to the Japanese Garden. The Japanese Friendship Garden was founded during the 1915-1916 Panama-California Exposition, and has several Koi ponds, Bonsai trees, a Zen garden for meditation, and a tea house (separate admission fee for the tea house). I was a bit disappointed that you could only see the Zen Garden from inside.  I would have liked to sit out in the open air to enjoy it.  We wandered up and down the paths of the two acre garden, and found some cute ducks chillin’ in the lower stream. We just did the garden, but it would be fun to visit a Japanese Tea House at some point in my life!

Angela checking out the Koi at the Japanese Garden

Angela checking out the Koi at the Japanese Garden

 

Some of the Koi at the Japanese Garden

Some of the Koi at the Japanese Garden

 

A view of the Japanese Friendship Garden at Balboa Park

A view of the Japanese Friendship Garden at Balboa Park

The Koi were amazing – big and beautiful and they swam right up to you. I’m sure they were expecting their dinner… I started naming them, because of course I’m just like that. And the bonsai trees were pretty. It takes such talent to train them in those tiny, pretty shapes! We even found a couple of lizards hanging out on the paths. One of them was not impressed that Renée touched him!

My lizard friend at the Japanese Garden. He liked us until Renée touched him...

My lizard friend at the Japanese Garden. He liked us until Renée touched him…

 

My girls at the Japanese Garden. Aren't they adorable?

My girls at the Japanese Garden. Aren’t they adorable?

 

Me at the Japanese Garden at Balboa Park

Me at the Japanese Garden at Balboa Park

After we left the Japanese Garden, there was talk of finding a restaurant that had karaoke (this was NOT my idea). I have to admit that I was a bit relieved that we couldn’t find any place, as I am an absolutely terrible singer… Instead we went back to the resort and walked down to the beach, to a restaurant called Draft. We ordered beers – they have close to a gazillion on tap from all over the country. I had the Bell’s Brewery Amber Ale. And the grilled watermelon salad was to die for. It was so delicious! I hate to admit that I loved it so much that I didn’t even offer to share. I hope you can understand and forgive me… My friends ordered chorizo flatbread, which was also very good, but spicy!

My scrumptious grilled watermelon salad at Draft

My scrumptious grilled watermelon salad at Draft

 

Chorizo Flatbread and Bell's Amber Ale at Draft

Chorizo Flatbread and Bell’s Amber Ale at Draft

Unfortunately, it was cloudy and cold that evening, so the sunset was barely visible, and it was really too cold to sit out on the beach to watch it anyway! So we enjoyed our beer and food at the bar, and caught the tail end of one of the Stanley Cup Finals games.  Hockey isn’t really on my usual list of activities, but I enjoyed it with my friends.  And Draft was a great ending to a good day!