Our stay at the Cosmopolitan B&B in Old Town, San Diego

Carol stands at a historic marker, in front of the Cosmopolitan B&B and Restaurant.

Sam and I just enjoyed a five-night stay at the Cosmopolitan B&B in Old Town State Historic Park in San Diego, CA.

The cab driver had a bit of difficulty finding the hotel. The best place to be dropped off is at the corner of Juan and Mason. There is a heavy wooden gate there, which blocks traffic from entering. The B&B is a short walk from here.

Although the Cosmopolitan first opened as a hotel in 1869, the updated structure has modern electrical wiring and an elevator. The rooms are rustically furnished, to give visitors the feeling they’ve stepped back in time.

The Cosmo is central to the most commonly visited tourist attractions. It sits on the edge of Old Town State Historic Park, where we spent half a day touring the surrounding historic structures. The Old Town Trolley is stationed at the park’s main entrance and, on San Diego Avenue,  there are a variety of shops and restaurants, as well as the historic (and haunted?) Whaley House. For a cab fare of $18-25 (one way including tips), you can visit the Maritime Museum, the U.S.S. Midway, or the San Diego Zoo. If you want to visit the Midway after touring the Maritime museum, but don’t want to walk the sizeable distance to the ticket booth, you can take a bicycle cab for around $10 (ask the fare before climbing aboard, or you may pay more).

The most expensive cab fare we encountered during our trip was roughly $64 round-trip (including tips), when we went to a small airport to fly in a 1929 biplane over the city and along the coast.

During our stay, we found Yellow Cab to be quick and reliable. We tried San Diego Cab, which advertises the lowest fares, but were stood up the first time we used them. When we called to ask about our cab, we were told that one was never dispatched. We had given them an intersection, and the driver needed a number and street. The dispatcher never called to let us know of the problem, even though they’d accepted the cab request and had our phone number.

But back to our story…

The Cosmopolitan B&B sits above the  Cosmopolitan Restaurant. The restaurant is a little pricy, but the food is wonderful.  We had the Prime Top Sirloin one night. A few nights later I enjoyed the Marinated Natural Pork T-Bone while Sam had the Jumbo Shrimp Scampi (those were, indeed, the largest prawns I’ve ever seen). Sam was unusually quiet as he savored his shrimp. “I thought it would be good,” he said, “but I didn’t expect it to be great.” At the Cosmo, you can eat indoors or on a lovely patio where live music is performed nightly.

A few buildings down from the Cosmopolitan, located inside Fiesta de Reyes, is a restaurant called Casa de Reyes . Evenings can be cool in San Diego, even in May, but here everyone sits outside. Large heaters are strategically placed about the courtyard, which is surrounded by Spanish-style buildings. Festive colors and live music make one feel as though they’ve just stepped into a party among friends. The food is delicious and reasonably priced.

On Saturday nights, a lot of locals  have dinner at Cas de Reyes, and there may be a wait of 30 minutes or more. There is adequate seating (for the wait) just beyond the restaurant’s perimeter, facing a stage that may or may not have performers. The good news is, once you are seated at a table you’re not rushed out, but encouraged to savor your meal at a leisurely pace.

Regarding our stay at the Cosmopolitan bed and breakfast, my only complaint was the noise level — mostly from other guests shouting to friends from the balcony. However, the bed also groaned loudly, a train roared through several times a night, a flock of sparrows gathered near the porch around 5:00 a.m., and the gardeners sometimes used leaf blowers at 5:15 a.m.  I’d recommend visitors stay here, but bring ear plugs.

Although the Cosmo is a B&B, breafast is on the light side. Each morning, a table is set on the balcony, at the door of each guest’s room. Each person is provided coffee, juice (upon request), and two scones. The scones are very good, but not filling for someone used to a large breakfast. We cancelled breakfast most mornings and at at O’Hungrys at the corner of Twiggs and San Diego Avenue. O’Hungry’s is a small, mom-and-pop restaurant with good, reasonably priced food. One day we were lucky. A wandering minstrel came in off the street and serenaded us with his guitar as we ate our pancakes.

One woman I encountered said she loves to visit Old Town. “It reminds me of the stories my mother told me, about old Mexico.” And one does feel transported into a different world; a different time. One where large Mexican families gathered. Small children danced to guitar music. And everywhere were bright colors, flickering torches, and gardens filled with interesting cati.