Old Town State Historic Park
San Diego’s beginnings
First housing the community which settled beneath the hilltop Spanish fort – or Presidio – which followed the founding of the San Diego Mission in 1769, and the centre of San Diegan life during California’s Mexican period, the half-dozen adobe structures of Old Town State Historic Park provide an interesting if not always satisfying glimpse into the city’s back pages.
With the exception of the marvellous 1827 Casa de Estudillo, which housed the commander of the Presidio, the more successful restorations – usually filled with entertaining historical debris – are the wood-and-brick buildings erected in the years between the advent of U.S. rule (1846) and the late 1800s, when the new San Diego emerged 6.4 km away on the bay side – the present Downtown.
Be sure to call at the visitor centre for the free and informative map, without which the layout and history of the park are difficult to comprehend. Especially at weekends, be prepared for large crowds: the park’s shops and the restaurants which line the adjoining San Diego Avenue are extremely popular. Another busy spot is Bazaar del Mundo, a likeable though very sanitized version of a Mexican street bazaar on the park’s northern edge, with a colourfully-tiled courtyard ringed by souvenir shops, Mexican food outlets and, at weekends, often filled by the sounds of live mariachi bands (http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=663).