Tuesday, March 9, 2010

"Staycation" Drive to Valley Center, San Diego County

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Our son’s family gave us a $50 restaurant gift card that we could use at numerous restaurants in San Diego County, so we decided to use it on a “staycation” drive to Valley Center. Our choice for lunch was The French Market Grille, located in Rancho Bernardo, a community in North San Diego. The comfortable dining room reminded us of a bistro in the French countryside. Marie had grilled scallops Provençale done in a basil sauce ($15.75), and Doug had grilled rare lamb chops bathed in a rosemary sauce ($16). Both entrées were delicious. The owner, Patrick Halcewicz, stationed himself at a table near the bar where he could oversee his operation. After lunch we chatted with him while he was dining on his steak sandwich with pommes frites. He was originally from Paris and the cooking reflected this authenticity. He has established a second restaurant with a similar menu, Hexagone, located on Laurel Street in the Bankers Hill neighborhood of San Diego.

After lunch, we continued north on Interstate 15 to the Via Rancho Parkway exit, and headed northeast on Bear Valley Parkway. [Note: the name Bear Valley, we learned later, is highly significant to the history of Valley Center.]

We continued north past the heart of Valley Center to the Valley Center History Museum, located at 29200 Cole Grade Road, next to the county branch library. We recommend exploring the Museum’s well-designed Web site in advance of a visit. The original name of the settlement was Bear Valley, named after a giant grizzly bear that was killed in the area in 1866. See link for the Bear connection to Valley Center.

Noteworthy exhibits at the Museum include a taxidermy mounting of a grizzly bear; an overhead exhibit of experimental aircraft dating back to the 1910s, the outhouse-sized Lilac Post Office, once the smallest post office in the United States; a Betty Crocker display (Agnes White, the home economist who inspired the cooking legend Betty Crocker, lived in Valley Center and was buried in the local cemetery); a replica of a 500-year-old Native American village; and various artifacts dating from the 1840s.

Museum hours are 1-4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays; admission is free and ample on-site parking is available.

We finished this afternoon’s outing at the Valley Center Farmers’ Market, located on the grounds of the Valley Center Community Center, 28246 Lilac Road. This Certified Farmers’ Market is held every Thursday afternoon (check their Web site for hours).

Our route home took us along scenic Lilac Road and Old Castle Road back to I-15, SR 56 and I-5. Round trip distance: about 80 miles from Pacific Beach.

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