Saturday, March 24, 2012

A Day In Orange County: San Juan Capistrano and Dana Point

We love random adventures, so that's what we did yesterday. It was Friday morning and we had nothing planned. So we drove down to San Juan Capistrano, a quaint little town just a few miles from the coast.

San Juan Capistrano is home to the mission, the swallows and the famous Swallows Inn bar. We loved the small town feel and the sense of culture in the community.

San Juan Capistrano was bustling with life as locals and cowboys prepared for the Swallow's Day Parade, an annual celebration to welcome the swallows back to the city in Spring.
We planned on visiting the San Juan Capistrano Mission, one of many missions built along the coast of California between the 1700s and the 1800s. We both have been here before, separately. Rick visited when he was 10 years old, back in 1969. I visited when I was 10 years old, back in 2000.
Lucky for us, a nice passerby gave us free tickets!


On the grounds of the mission were areas where the padres, Spanish soldiers and the Acjachemen people worked hundreds of years ago.

In the garden were several vegetables, grown to feed those who lived at the mission. Farming was the most important industry for any mission.

Maize, barley and wheat were main staples at San Juan Capistrano. Back then, olives, grapes, melons and livestock, such as cattle, horses, mule, sheep and goats were also kept to sustain the mission.
 
Standing between two large tanning vats, used to soak animal hides.

Some of the mission has been renovated and restored, due to several earthquakes that have damaged many of the buildings and walls. 

But the mission still holds its original integrity, so much that you feel like you're walking back in time while visiting the mission's many adobe rooms.

The two smaller bells are original. They survived through the earthquake.


We fell in love with the courtyard, with its many beautiful spring flowers.

 Cactus were in bloom all over the grounds...


And dancing bees ... steadily working away among the flowers.


These were my favorite. 

And beautiful succulents ... 

There was a beautiful fountain, smack dab in the middle of the mission. The fountain is not original, but definitely adds aesthetic appeal.

Rick wondered if these were the same koi that he saw was when he was 10 years old. Koi can live for hundreds of years.


The mission's pantry. Some of the bottles were marked camphor, blue vitriol, sweet mercury and purging anise ... yikes. 

More normal stuff. Dried blue elderberry, saltpeter and willow bark. 

The mission still has an active church service. The alter is hundreds of years old, imported from Spain when the mission was first built.

The walls of the church that still stand today. We were awed by how big and thick the walls were, especially for 200 years ago. 

Then we got hungry, so we drove down to Dana Point, just a few miles from San Juan Capistrano. 

The pelicans know the fishing boats from the whale watching boats.

So naturally, they came to beg.

Jon's Fish Market, home of some of the freshest seafood you can get. On account of the market being located right on the docks.

Yum.... :-)
For dinner, we had fish/scallops and chips. Sooo good. And so fresh!! 

In conclusion: If you guys come out to California, don't just go to Disneyland. The best places are local and full of history. We're from Orange County, and a lot of people think places outside of the big city are boring and sleepy. But the thing is, Los Angeles is overrated. California is full of history and fun (real fun). You just gotta make an effort to find it.

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