While helping the fourth graders with their California Mission projects I realized that Terry and I have only visited nine of the 21 missions. I checked the map to see where all the missions are located and discovered that four of the missions were close enough for us to visit in a couple of days travel.
Sunday we left after church and drove to San Luis Obispo to spend the night. We visited Mission San Luis Obispo on Monday morning in a fine drizzle. The precipitation made the courtyard garden even more lovely. The mission is in the heart of downtown which made it easy to walk to nearby shops and cafes. We had a snack in a nouveau coffee shop that served the most luscious baked goods. Terry said the coffee was really good, too.
Our next stop was a few miles north in the small village of San Miguel. The Mission San Miguel is still the parish church with a full agenda of events. We were quite impressed with the devotion of the town to maintain the mission properties. Around the corner from the mission is a converted gas station that makes delicious Mexican food. We arrived only minutes before they closed for the day and had tacos and a burrito that would hold us over until our dinner at a Subway in another small town farther north.
With most of the afternoon still ahead of us we decided to take a back road to the next town and found ourselves surrounded by miles and miles of vineyards. I had no idea there were so many vineyards in this part of the state. Many of those who live in the far back hills of the central coast are Native Americans, the same people who the priests and friars came to convert back in the late 1700s when the missions were being established.
Our second night’s stop was not nearly as nice as the hotel where we stayed in San Luis Obispo. I had used points for Sunday night’s stay in an upscale hotel,but Monday’s night motel was on my own dime so I found a 2-star AAA place. We used to do this when we were young, travel from town to town, staying in a different motel each night. We could handle anything for just one night. We may not be as flexible now in our “old age.”
The room was okay, but with just a mishmash of furnishings. Certainly no feng shui had been considered when decorating. Although the rooms were labeled no smoking, the doors at each end of the hallway were left open and had areas for smokers so the smoke filtered down the hallway and into the room. Half of the motel was taken up with a construction crew who left at 5:30 in the morning, starting their trucks and pickups that were parked underneath our window. You get what you pay for is all I could keep thinking.
Our third mission stop was miles out in the country, sitting right in the middle of a field of kale. The workers were hoeing the long rows as we pulled into the parking lot, the only car there. Mission Soledad has been completely rebuilt as it was abandoned for much of the 1800s and allowed to disintegrate. It is very lovely to sit on the porch, with harp music playing, and look out on the green hills and fields. One could almost feel like it was 1802 again. The chapel is used once a month for church services but they are planning to have Easter sunrise service there next Sunday. They also host a luncheon once a month that is well attended. All of the missions have celebrations in the spring and fall to celebrate the work of faith that continues and to raise funds and awareness of the missions.
This is the view from the porch at Soledad. Harp music was playing, it was warm and the sun was shining on the bench where I was sitting. It was heavenly.
Our final stop was entirely off the beaten path. Mission San Antonio de Padua sits between Hwy 101 and Hwy 1 but to get there one must drive 26 miles on a winding road and onto a US Army base, Fort Hunter Liggett. This mission is in the process of being reconstructed so there was not much to see except the chapel and the courtyard. The gift shop was the least appealing of all the shops we visited. It was a hodgepodge of what I would call brick-a-brack. Very little in the way of actual mission souvenirs. Nothing was well displayed, either. I’m sure the reconstruction work had a lot to do with the disarray. We would definitely like to return when the work is completed which they have planned for sometime in 2017. San Antonio de Padua does give one a sense of what the mission must have felt like in the 1800s as it is so remote and completely detached from civilization.