Behold - item number 7 on our revolving list of "Things to Do/Places to Go" list - the lovely town of San Juan Capistrano.
Driving past signs for the big July 4th festival and fireworks in the town center park, it felt as though this decent sized city worked hard to maintain its small town feeling. Stopping near the train depot that lead us here, we found ourselves in the Los Rios Street historic district of SJC - the oldest continually occupied neighborhoods in all California. As we parked the car and hopped across the tracks, we discovered Los Rios Street itself - a narrow two lane street with cars and pedestrians meandering along (did you know cars could meander?), surrounded by cafes and stores in historical houses. We decided to stop for lunch at the Tea House on Los Rios.
|I was destined for tea - it has my name on it (kinda)!|
The tea and meal itself were tasty enough - but the scones were absolutely fabulous!!! Had I known just how large a scone we would get with lunch, I probably would have just dined on those alone.
After lunch we browsed through a few shops and past a butterfly garden...
|Seriously...a butterfly garden! How awesome is that?|
...before making our way further into town.
Since this was a completely spur-of-the-moment trip, we really had no plan in mind or idea what to do or see. So as we came across a sign for the Mission San Juan Capistrano we figured, what the heck; maybe we'd maybe stroll around for a few minutes before making our way to another part of town.
Ummm...yeah. So it turns out the Mission isn't quite as small as I thought it was from the street.
The Mission of San Juan Capistrano was founded in 1776 (rather appropriate for our Independence Day holiday weekend, I thought) by Spanish Catholics. And remember how I mentioned earlier that SJC has one of the oldest continually occupied neighborhoods in California? Well the Mission has the oldest building in California that's still in use: The Serra Chapel. In fact, as we walked in, there was a baptism taking place amongst the tourists....
The chapel is absolutely stunning. The "Golden Alter" and statue-adorned niches reminded me of the beautiful San Xavier Mission.
I would have loved to hear the pipe organ play:
Outside the chapel, around the plaza, you can tour the older areas used by the earlier residents of the Mission
|I'm guessing people were a little shorter back then....|
And enjoy all the gorgeous gardens and landscaping.
In fact, several families were resting under the trees, just enjoying the beautiful Southern California humidity.
But probably the most beautiful part of the Mission is also its saddest. The Great Stone Church was built in the early 1800's and was probably one of the largest buildings of its time. However, tragedy occurred in 1812 when an earthquake struck the area during the first Sunday Mass, and the nave and bell tower collapsed, killing 40 inside and the 2 young bell ringers.
|White building in forefront - how the Great Stone Church once looked|
|alter of the church|
Along the back of the Great Stone Church is the Sacred Garden and the campanario where 4 of the bells rescued from the rubble hang.
It was beautiful and sad and amazing all at one time.
By now we had used up most of the day, so we decided to make our way back home.
|From the street: the Great Stone Church in the background|
As we drove home I couldn't help but think about how the day started off with this trip because I was lonely for Tucson. And yet there ended up being so many similarities between SJC and Tucson - wandering the barrio district, stepping into the gilded chapel, and enjoying the small town feel of this otherwise larger city - I realized that while there may be no place like home, there's always some place like home that'll do.
Hmmm....wonder if I can get someone in San Juan Capistrano to open up an Eegee's...??????!!!