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Published: December 19th 2008
We packed our bags for the weekend and set off for Julian, an old gold rush town 50 miles north east of San Diego. The entire township of Julian is a Designated Historical District. Founded by displaced confederate soldiers looking for unsettled land the town was named after Mike Julian, one of the first settlers in the area and many of the buildings date back to the post-Civil War period. In 1869, gold was discovered, and by 1934, the region had produced up to $5 million worth of the precious metal. Later the town's residents took advantage of the rich local soil to produce many different crops, and foremost among those was apples. Apparently it is the apples Julian is now famous for. Unique among Southern California communities for its cold-winter climates, Julian is ideal for growing the fruit and much of it's tourist industry seems to revolve around homebaked apple pies judging by the number of cafes and tea rooms we passed.
The town itself has the appearance of an old western town... only the modern motorbikes and cars parked in front of the stores spoil the image. We went straight to our hotel, aptly named 'Julian Hotel'. Built in
1897 for Albert Robinson, an ex-Missouri slave and his wife Margaret, the hotel was built on the site of the couple's restaurant-bakery. After Albert died Margaret carried on alone until eventually selling the hotel for $1500 at which point the hotel was renamed Julian Hotel.
I was pleasantly surprised by the hotel. The staff were very welcoming and the interior was beautifully decorated with period furniture. We were shown the dining room where we were able to take breakfast and afternoon tea and then we were shown up to our room. We briefly explored the town and looked into the nearly 100-year old town hall where historic photographs were displayed. We picked up some leaflets on things to do in the town but definitely agreed we both wanted to do horse trekking.
As lunch was not provided at the hotel we set of in search of somewhere to eat and soon found ourselves a nice cafe, that of course offered the mandatory apple pie for desert. We had a horse riding session booked for after lunch but I had to make an emergency shopping trip for some shoes as I didn't have any with covered toes. I was soon looking
at a range of moccasons which appear to be the footwear of choice in the area. I managed to talk myself out of the beautifully handstitched and embroidered boots and found something cheaper and more suited to an afternoon of dust and horse manure. I ran back to where Keely (and the apple pies) were waiting and after finishing luch we set off for Julian Stables. The owner met us at the stables and we filled in some paperwork and then met our horses. The owner was very helpful and the horses were so well trained. They had western saddles on but the owner said I could ride English style or however I felt most comfortable. There were only three of us in the class - me, Keely and a young teenage girl. We had a short practice ride in the paddock before heading out along the trail. The horses are obviously very well trained and know the route by heart. Certainly I don't have enough horse riding experience to be allowed to go on a hack in England, let alone be trotting on mountain trails. It was great fun though and we saw lots of wildlife as we rode
past - I vaguely regretted not having my camera on me, but safety wise it was probably a better idea to keep hold of the reins!
We eventually turned back to the stables where we got to groom our own horses and feed them carrots. There was nothing urgent to get back for so we spent some time talking to the owner and greeting all the other horses. We finally headed back into town and took afternoon tea in the dining room. We had proper tea and various homemade biscuits and cakes, not to mention books and games and puzzles which were left out on all the tables for us to amuse ourselves with.
Sunday morning we got up early and returned to the dining room for breakfast which was quite an affair. It may be the first time I've ever had a three course breakfast! It was also nice to chat to some of the other guests. We sat with a Japanese-Canadian couple and swapped stories of where we were from and what we were all doing in California.
Keely and I then walked around the town. We stopped to visit a wooden church and then walked on to
where the gold mine was. Eagle mine was built in 1870. We paid to take the guided tour and while we waited for our tour leader spent some time in the dingy gift shop looking at various crstal souveniers. Once our group was assembled we were shown how to pan for gold. The tour leader made it look exceptionally easy but when I had a turn I managed to swirl some dust around and then watch the gold specks fall back into the trough. We were led through the mine which was surprisingly high and easy to walk through - we werent even given overalls or hard hats. There was the added advantage of recently added electricity so it actually made for quite a comfortable stroll although it is easy to imagine what hardships people would have faced working in the mines in the past. The tour leader led us on a long route and we came out higher up through an entrance marked High Peak mine. We spent a while longer exploring the site and then walked back into town. We walked around the tourist shops for a while and then returned to our hotel for some time. We
sat and relaxed in the lobby and were even allowed to use the antique piano. We eventually went out for lunch and discovered Julian Tearooms. Walking inside I felt like I'd stepped out of the wild west and into Victorian England. The tiny tea rooms were set up with lacy table cloths and doilies. tea was served in delicate china cups from silver tea pots and all around were things to buy - packets of loose tea leaves, delicate silver tea spoons, jam jar covers, china tea sets, mini pots of preserves. We settled down to a meal of pumpkin soup, salad and granola with fresh fruit and scones for desert. After lunch we returned to Julian Hotel to pack our things and return home.
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