In the far south-west of California not far from the border with Mexico lies the amazing city of San Diego. This was one of our favourite cities – good weather, relaxed and friendly atmosphere, lots of things to do, great transport system. We stayed for a few days in San Diego about 4 miles south from the city centre, however because of the excellent trolley system we just got our day passes and then used it to get around with no problems whatsoever. We visited the Old Town area which is considered the birthplace of California as it was the site where the first Spanish settlement was set up.
The Old Town State Historic Park contains historic buildings, museums, exhibits, restaurants and shops. Some of the things to see were the Seeley Stable Museum which was the Yuma/San Diego stagecoach stop in the 1850’s and now houses a collection of vintage carriages and transportation memorabillia, Whalley House which is a very famous haunted house in the US, the Wells Fargo Museum, and the Church of the Immaculate Conception. We were in October and things were really beginning to gear up for ‘Dia de los Muertos’ (Day of the Dead festival) where family and loved ones gather to celebrate, remember, and pray not only to but with their dead relatives and friends who are said to return to the earth at this time to celebrate this festival with them.
This festival is a Mexican holiday and is observed not only in Mexico but also in other countries where there are large Mexican communities and as San Diego is so close to the border of Mexico (23 miles) you can appreciate why it is celebrated here. Throughout the Old Town we seen elaborately and beautifully dressed skeletons, and the famous painted skulls were everywhere you looked.
San Diego also houses a large Naval Base and is the principal homeport of the Pacific Fleet housing more than 50 ships and 20000 naval personnel. We decided to visit the USS Midway Museum which is an aircraft carrier museum with audio tour and great photo opportunities. In 1945 it was commissioned as the largest ship in the world for a decade and was the first ship to be too large for the Panama Canal. This magnificent ship was used extensively by the US Navy until it was decommissioned in 1992. It was opened as a Museum in 2004 and in 2012 became the first Navy ship museum to host 1 million visitors annually.
We did a self-guided audio tour which takes you up and down the decks on the ship – they have an Adventure Audio Tour and a Family Audio Tour. You can listen to parts of both as you simply type the numbers you see dotted around into your handset and it will give you information on that particular place/area where you are standing. Look out for the Volunteers that are dotted around as the majority of them are former navy and airforce personnel and quite a few spent some time on the Midway when it was in use. These volunteers are happy to answer questions you may have and some of them also do presentations.
We listened to a docent explaining about launching and landing on the flight deck which was really interesting and because you are standing on the flight deck at the time you appreciate the size of the deck, the planes and what little margin of error they had to get it right!!! They also run free guided tours of the Bridge and Control Tower but you may have to queue as they can only also so many people up at a time but it is worth the small wait as the volunteers are good fun and very informative. We spent over 3 hours on the USS Midway and you could easily spend a lot longer on it – kids will love this as its very interactive informative as you can climb onto bunks, climb in and out of some of the aeroplanes and helicopters, learn to tie the various knots, learn morse code, decipher message flags are just a few things to enjoy.
After leaving the USS Midway we wandered down to the Kiss statue – which we thought was amazing. The statue is really called ‘Unconditional Surrender’ and was sculpted by J Seward Johnson Jr. Many people say he was inspired by the historic black and white photograph that was captured on V-J Day in August 1945 by photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt, however this picture is subject to copyright and it is believed that Johnson actually based his sculpture on a similar lesser known picture by Victor Jorgensen taken the same day. iInitially a statue was installed in San Diego in 2007 and was intended to be a temporary display and remained there until 2012. However the community decided to commission a permanent bronze version and the USS Midway Museum raised around $1,000,000 to pay for the statute in a fundraising effort called ‘Save The Kiss’ and the new statue was installed in 2013.
We then wandered down the shoreline to Seaport Village which is a nice little waterfront shopping and dining complex in San Diego with entertainment and live music. It had a nice friendly vibe to it and is a beautiful place to sit and watch the sun set.
From Seaport Village we then walked along to the Famous Gaslamp Quarter which is filled with bars, restaurants, shops and is full of life (especially at night). We found some great places to sit and have a few beers whilst ‘people-watching’ . If you have a sense of humour, dont take offense easily, and want a bit of a laugh then pay a visit to the bar/restaurant called ‘Dicks Last Resort’ . Be warned though – the staff are paid to be as rude and as cheeky as possible!!!! It took about 15 minutes to work this out but enjoyed it so much we stayed there for about 5 hours eating and drinking and enjoying the atmosphere!!
Would we visit San Diego ago……absolutely in a heartbeat!!! Great clean city on the coast with lots of things for people of all ages to do, lovely weather, the Trolley System is very slick, smooth, and efficient and enables you get about easily.