March 28, 2012

Another Mission in San Juan Capistrano

We said “good-bye” to Chuck and Alice this morning after a wonderful visit with them.  I know I sound like a broken record, but visiting with family and friends around the country has really been one of the highlights of this trip.

Our plan was to make it through the traffic of Los Angeles and pick up the Pacific Coast Highway in Santa Monica.  But first we stopped in San Juan Capistrano for a break and to visit the mission there.

After visiting the Mission San Diego de Alcala on Monday, we wanted to see what is said to be the most picturesque of all the twenty-one missions.  San Juan Capistrano, the seventh of the California missions, was founded in 1776 by Father Junipero Serra.  It is probably the best known mission, judging by the numbers of visitors who were there today.

The mission is a beautiful property and features the ruins of the Great Stone Church, a cathedral-like building that was constructed between 1797 and 1806.  Tragically, the church was mostly destroyed by the earthquake of 1812.  The walls crumbled and the domes caved in, killing forty-two neophytes who were attending mass.  Although the church was never rebuilt, the ruins have been stabilized.

The Bell Wall and Great Stone Church Ruins
The Great Stone Church
The Serra Chapel, where Father Serra is known to have held mass, has been restored, and features an elaborate baroque altar from Barcelona.  The mission is also known for its beautiful landscaped grounds, particularly in the central courtyard, or plaza.  

The Serra Chapel
The West and North Wings Face the Central Courtyard
The Central Courtyard
Water Lilies Are Blooming in the Moorish-Style Fountain
Arcades Line the Wings
The Flowers Are Spectacular
The most endearing story associated with San Juan Capistrano is the return of the Cliff Swallows to the mission around March 19 every year from their wintering grounds in South America.  Tim and I purchased a CD recording of the famous song “When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano,” and listened to it as we drove away.  It will be a nice memory of our visit.

After leaving San Juan Capistrano, we made our way through Los Angeles, and were pleasantly surprised that the traffic moved more smoothly than expected, with just a few back-ups.  We exited at Santa Monica and were on the Pacific Coast Highway, one of the great scenic roads in the United States.  We drove through Malibu and watched the surfers waiting for the perfect wave in the Pacific Ocean.  We enjoyed the ride, where the road hugs the coast for much of the way. 
Mugu Rock at Point Mugu Along the Pacific Coast Highway
As the highway turned inland, we started to see fields of strawberries.  Dozens of workers were picking berries in each of the fields.  It made me want to stop and sample a few ripe berries, but we kept going until we reached Ventura, where we stopped for the evening.  There’s another mission here, which we may visit in the next day or two.

Strawberry Fields Forever


  1. The construction materials for the mission buildings are interesting. I guess they just used what was on hand or what they could make. Which tells a whole nother story.. Love the beautiful landscaping. LV

    1. LV, Most of the buildings are constructed of adobe, which was one of the most common building materials in Southern California and the Southwest. Adobe bricks could easily be made on site. It's been interesting to see these types of buildings. I though you would enjoy the landscaping. The flowers are gorgeous. Sarah

  2. We so loved your visit with us. It was great to see you. Please come and see us again. The desert was a great weekend, along with the party on Sunday. Your nieces and nephew were so glad to get to see you both. Sarah, you are a great addition to our family.

    1. A, Tim and I also thoroughly enjoyed our visit with you and Chuck. Thank you again for everything, especially for hosting a party so we could see the rest of the family. I'm so glad you came to the desert, but it was also nice to spend time in Ramona. You are a wonderful sister-in-law, and we look forward to visiting you again. Sarah

  3. Sarah, the last one is from me love a