So a few days ago we dipped our toes into the giant museum and history center that is Old Town San Diego. Or so we thought. As it turns out State Park and Museum is apparently synonymous with "store" and "mall" and there is only the one place with a whole bunch of history (McCoy House) and we already went there.
It was our last day of vacation. I wanted to fill it history and learning more about the past of San Diego as we only really got a taste here and there the last couple of days. I thought, for some completely unresearched reason, going back to finish what we started in Old Town with our visit to the McCoy House would be a great way to do this. Old Town San Diego. It is all a museum right? We can learn there. So I advocated for us to visit this place. Alas, what we found was very cute, and perhaps quite historical in the same vein as "reenactment" or "recreated" but definitely not a full-on educational museum type experience.
Old Town San Diego is just that, a recreated version of the original old town that once sat at this location in the mid to late 1800s. Old Town was eventually abandoned for you guessed it, New Town, down closer to the water with the creation of the grid and major investment of the same fellow whose genius idea it was to hold a tract of government land for City Park (which would become Balboa Park in 1914). Ironically, today, Old Town too is a park. A State Park designed for historical family fun, eating of "Mexican Food" and shopping.
There are little treasures of history here and there interspersed among the "family fun" eating and shopping like this Carriage Museum and the Stagecoach Museum by the one donkey.
There were also historically accurate stuffed narwhals and this lovely family fun device. Cookie Monster made a rare appearance to join in the family fun times.
In general Old Town is a very nice tourist destination perfect for some safe, unoffensive family fun with a tiny side of history. Once you leave the general "park" are Old Town continues at a pace that resembles tourist trap – we got a little sucked in.
The ketchup with salsa and canned seafood concoction above was literally the worst ceviche presentation (and flavor) I have ever seen. There really had to be ketchup in it based on the flavor profile. We ordered an extra side of chips and salsa so we could attempt to stomach it. Even worse, we were sitting at a place called the Tequila Factory, Jeremy of Arizona was very excited to try some house made Tequilas – but it turns out they don't make Tequila, they are just a hotel restaurant with really bad food.
We escaped the tourist trap to do a little more exploring of Old Town neighborhood and to find some actual real Mexican food outside of the tourist area. But first Jeremy and Dan explored the historic graveyard that featured a number of young men who were hung as a result of being on the wrong side of an uprising, misunderstandings, or possibly and actual crime.
This historical and holy site in California was unfortunately desecrated for the purposes of building a railroad through it early on in the 20th century, and eventually became San Diego Avenue, the actual street that cars go on through the heart of Old Town. So, as I stood on the sidewalk for San Diego Avenue, searching for an authentic Mexican restaurant on the internet while the boys explored the cemetery, I looked down to notice that in semi-recent history the city of San Diego decided to mark the resting places of those who were paved over.
It was definitely time for tacos, or something resembling a real food lunch/dinner. El Agave, a high end authentic place of cocina de mexicana finally appeared on Google maps for us to go to. Just South of Old Town El Agave is still a "museum" it just has many walls of water filled bottles that used to hold Tequila, so it can be a Tequila Museum and restaurant at the same time.
We were delighted to find real mexican food on the menu, include corn truffle ravioli. "Excuse me sir. What is a corn truffle?" I asked. "Well, it is when the corn is allowed to go moldy and the mushroom grows on it. It is scraped off and turned to food. It is an acquired taste." I was tempted, but there was ceviche, poblano mole enchiladas and many types of tacos.
It was all very good and filled with flavor and good textures. We also had the restaurant all to ourselves – which was awesome as there were lines out the doors at the places in touristville – and they were missing out on real flavor as we had the last formal meal of our vacation. Tonight would just be eating snacks and odds and ends from our Mexican grocery store over purchase as we organize our suitcases and review our photos from the week and laugh at the memories created together. Until next spring.