America’s South of France
Southern California will always be a recurring theme in Bonaduce travels. The weather, the beaches, it’s America’s version of the South of France. San Diego is known as America’s Finest City and home to Comic-Con. From Seattle, it’s a 3 hour flight to 72° in January.
We headed straight to Old Town for the Mexican food and made-right-in-front-of-you tortillas at Old Town Mexican Cafe. An Uber driver mocked us and said the real-deal Mexican food can be found in the Barrio Logan area. Whatever, it was delicious. We were also in Old Town because right across the street are two of the most haunted spots in the country.
The Trapped Souls of El Campo Santo
El Campo Santo Cemetery’s current set up is just a small chunk of the original. As the city grew, some of the graves were moved and others were simply paved over, explaining the theory behind the hauntings of the “trapped souls of El Campo Santo.” The existing grave markers tell engaging human stories, leaving you to wonder about the unnamed beneath San Diego Avenue — Tales of Indian uprisings and the brutal consequences, life stories of some of San Diego’s earliest residents, and some as vague as “Little Girl RIP.” The most notorious grave is that of Yankee Jim Robinson, a man who stole the sole boat in San Diego Bay and was sentenced to death by hanging. He didn’t take the sentence seriously and was still talking when the cart pulled away, leaving him dangling on the grounds of what is now the Whaley House.
America’s Most Haunted
The Whaley House, which was also built on the grounds of the graveyard, is on TIME Magazine’s list of the 10 most haunted places and is also San Diego’s most historical. This house has served many different functions, including site of multiple hangings, county courthouse where said hangings were ordered, general store, San Diego’s first commercial theater, and home to the Whaley family, to name a few. The structure has been carefully restored and displays many original items, such as the table in the courthouse and the Whaley family’s tea set and baby crib. Having just visited El Campo Santo an hour earlier, I read on a plaque that Thomas Tanner, the man who opened the theater, died 17 days after its opening. There’s just something about this particular spot in the universe that isn’t right.
One of the Whaley children committed suicide after a bad marriage, her suicide note read:
Mad from life's history,
Swift to death's mystery;
Glad to be hurled,
Anywhere, anywhere, out of this world.
(She was quoting 'Bridge of Sighs’ by Thomas Hood.)
The other children generally didn’t fair much better; One died as a infant, another was struck ill. Several of them died in the house. Ghosts sightings of the Whaleys as well as Yankee Jim Robinson have been reported. A caretaker has been living in the home for years, a job I would never ever want.
Down the street from these haunts in Old Town is the central pick up spot for the trolley tour which includes 10 designated stops. Our driver somehow managed to remember the names of each passenger and the cities we were from. We were duly impressed. He did a good job, but I could have lived without the juncture when he literally pulled the trolley over to tell a long story about himself. Danny loved the guy while I mostly managed to tune him out and focus on San Diego’s beauty.
We hopped off the trolley on Coronado Island, home to the picturesque Hotel Del Coronado and gorgeous beaches. I’m a fan of the Marilyn Monroe film Some Like It Hot, I was even in an amateur musical version of this show in high school. They’ve since added beach cottages and villas, but it looks exactly the same as it did when they filmed here in 1959. The hotel also has its own ghost, not Marilyn, but Kate Morgan, who died under mysterious circumstances in 1892 on a path leading to the beach. Brave souls can rent her room, number 3327.
Balboa Park is an overwhelming 1200 acres and you could easily spend an entire weekend attempting to see everything. We honed in on the anthropological Museum of Man. You can climb the museum’s famed tower, but if you read about our adventures in Paris or Mexico City, you’ll know why we’re sort of over climbing things for awhile. I guess it would be weird to say that the current exhibit on cannibalism was fun, but it was. (It was a little unsettling when Danny mentioned that he was hungry as we left.) Another exhibit presented Post Secret’s anonymously submitted postcards wherein millions of people share their deepest secrets. You can create and submit your own by mail anytime or right there at the museum. Living with Animals, how they became our pets, pests, and food and Beerology, were other featured displays. Walking across the Cabrillo Bridge and taking in the spectacular city views was a dramatic and enjoyable departure from the park.
We capped off the fun with a hot sauce tasting and a couple of California burritos. I personally think the California burrito is overrated and that French fries have no place in the burrito world, which is a controversial stance in San Diego. I also think Danny is a complete showoff when he claimed the “widow-maker” hot sauce tasted like water. Most people think his gravely voice is a result of smoking, but it turns out it’s from drinking hot sauce.
Sadly the trip ended before we managed to make the 25 minute drive into Tijuana to visit Hotel Caesar’s, inventor of the Caesar Salad. I guess I just couldn’t justify crossing an international border for a freaking salad. Maybe next time.