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A City of Virtues
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A City of Virtues
  San Diego Travel Tale

by Lorry Patton ...

sandiego_seavillagepiercafe2.jpg A story on San Diego's virtues comes easily, there's so much to see and do. First, located on the southwest corner of sunny California, the weather's always perfect. Then there's the heavenly scenic ocean. It is the ideal location for one of the largest naval bases in the United States, a myriad of water sports and a cruise ship harbor.

Seaport Village, 14 acres of boardwalks and boutiques close to the cruise ship pier, is a replica of the harbor 100 years ago -- although the merchandise in the wooden shanties is probably quite different. It's a fun place for browsing and watching the action in the bay. Just walking distance from city center, the village gets busy during lunch hour, not only with tourists, but with local residents and office workers taking advantage of the tasty treats served in the cafes.

The city's continual revival program has kept downtown looking clean and prosperous. I'm not surprised to learn the number of people living there increases yearly. They are steps from museums, symphony and show theaters, jazz clubs, bistros and year-round outdoor performers. There are lots of department stores, too. Horton Plaza, a shopping maze of several levels and open-air architect, covers 6.5 blocks right in the heart of the city.

sandiego_gaslampquarterhotelhorton2.jpg The latest to get the renaissance treatment is the Gas Lamp Quarter, a 16.5 block section that dates to the close of the civil war. These renewed Victorian buildings keep a touch of the olden day in the city. In sharp contrast to the modern high-rises in sleek shades of silver, bronze and black, nicknamed tool box, because their hexagon, triangle and wedged shapes look like giant chisels and screwdrivers from a distance.

To get a sense of what San Diego was like between the years 1821 and 1872, you have to explore Old Town a state historic park since 1968 and the authentically restored adobes within the grounds, such as Las Casas de Estudillo. The Seeley Stable, a reconstructed building, has a collection of Western memorabilia that includes saddles and branding irons. The flagpole that towers over the town was first raised on July 29, 1846, by a detachment of Marines and Sailors, when San Diego became the property of the United States.

sandiego_oldtowndocents2.jpg Old Town is where the first Europeans settled. The new settlement, where city center sits now, began when Alonzo Horton arrived in 1867 and bought 1,000 "jackrabbit-infested acres." At first he had to give away lots to encourage people to build, however, by the turn of the century "New Town " replaced Old Town.

I spent several hours in Old Town poking through Bazaar del Mundo's circle of Mexican-flavored shops. The goods for sale are so tempting they practically jump in your bag: Indian rugs and jackets, straw baskets with brightly colored ribbons, bolts of material in Mexican design, wood and stone carvings, ceramics, paper flowers, Christmas ornaments and oodles and oodles of kitchen gadgets. Lots of stuff is useful and of good quality besides being pretty to look at -- the best kind of goods.

sandiego_bazarr2.jpg The shops surround an open-air cafe and a stage. Both the performers that sing and dance to Mexican tunes and the waitresses that serve the hungry people are dressed in traditional costumes. It's a festive place and gets quite crowded.

Other major attractions in San Diego are the San Diego Zoo, Sea World, Wild Animal Park, Balboa Park, Cabrillo National Monument, Mission Bay, Stephen Birch Aquarium-Museum and California's first church, the 1769 Mission San Diego de Alcala. I've been to all of them at one time or another and recommend them highly.

The Spanish Colonial buildings of Balboa Park were built for the exposition in 1915. Natural history, space, railroad and sports are just a few of the thirteen prestigious museums within its treed and flowered 1,074 acres. The park is appropriately referred to as the Smithsonian of the West.

Sea World is as popular as ever and the multimillion dollar shark exhibit is wonderful. When I walked through a huge glass tunnel under the water it seemed the sharks were watching me! Another exhibit I liked was the Clydesdale Hitching and Nautilus Pavilion. Besides viewing these magnificent animals, there's a beer bar in the pavilion where you can sample beer.

For more information on San Diego and a list of campgrounds write to San Diego Convention and Visitors Bureau, Dept. 700, 1200 Third Ave, Suite 824, San Diego, CA 92101-4190.

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