If I had to pick my very favorite place we visited while in California, it would probably be San Juan Capistrano. Partly because it was so pretty and reminded me of Mexico. Partly because it was not on the original plan - that's why I love a good road trip!
We were driving up the Pacific Coast Highway (Hwy 1) from Legoland near San Diego to Los Angeles when David and I saw the Historic Landmark sign that the San Juan Capistrano Mission was at the next exit. On impulse we took it and I'm so glad we did.
We weaved through the very pretty town and found the Mission. I didn't really know what to expect - I just knew the story of the swallows returning to the site every year.
We found out later that there are actually 22 Missions in California between San Diego and Sonoma. These Missions were set up by the Spanish Church. Their purpose was to introduce Christianity to the Native Americans. Military personnel lived at the Missions to protect them as well.
Entrance from the street
There was a walking tour that we started out on and then just continued exploring. The gardens were so pretty and I included a number of photos from the Mission in this post.
A beautiful orange tree.
On the walking tour
I loved this little altar. It reminded me of the ones that used to be on the side of the road in the most interesting spots in Mexico.
In commemoration of fallen soldiers
Thomas (Zorro) and me
The cliff swallows return to the Mission every year on or around March 19th. They apparently fly up from Argentina. This has been documented since 1777 and probably was occurring before this time. These are some of the guord-shaped nests all around.
This was the gardening and winery area. The first California winery was supposedly on this site. The winery first started producing and bottling wine in 1783.
See the grapevines on top of the portico?
The altar in the chapel. I don't think the boys had ever seen something this ornate?
Love this photo!
This is the orignal church. It was partially destroyed by an earthquake almost 200 years ago. This remains.
I like this picture, and Thomas's face is priceless. That's his "I'm hot and hungry" look.
Brennan begged for a meal that wasn't Mexican since we had eaten our fair share already. Across the street was this cute Italian restaurant. It was beautiful and I loved the interior. The boys shared a pizza that was absolutely delicious. David and I enjoyed fresh pasta.
I can't leave this post without saying that I decided we should move to Southern California after this side trip. Unfortunately, that probably won't happen, but I really enjoyed this little town!