San Juan Capistrano, California

San Juan Capistrano, California

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San Juan Capistrano, California

Places Visited:
California: San Juan Capistrano

Sunday, May 15, Paradise RV-Resort Oceanside, California: $39.50. FHU with 50-amps, Paved interior roads and sites plus cable and free WIFI. N33° 10.707' W117° 21.993'.

Eight miles north on I-5 from San Clemente is the town of San Juan Capistrano. The famous Mission San Juan Capistrano noted as the mission where the swallows return each March 19 or sometime near that. I suspect Mission San Juan Capistrano is the most famous of all the California Missions. It is touted as being the "Jewel of all Missions". There was a $6 admission fee to go into the compound and look up close at the crumbling mission. We elected not to do that but we did walk through the current church and found it to be rewarding as well as beautiful.

The old stone church of San Juan Capistrano was all but destroyed when the roof collapsed during the earthquake if 1812. Arches of the two story high vaulted Chapel were left bare and exposed when the roof collapsed. The famous cliff swallows that at one time returned to the "Old Mission" built mud nests on the ruins of that old stone church.

I kept looking for the swallows but never saw any. There is a good reason I didn't see any. There aren't any. The swallows that used to return to the old mission now return to the area but nest in cliffs along rivers and the ocean around San Juan Capistrano. I guess that is a small fact the tourism bureau has conveniently neglected to promulgate.

Old Mission at San Juan Capistrano





Construction on the "Old Mission" began in 1776 but was destroyed in 1812 by an earthquake only 6 years after it was completed. It is the remnants of this "Old Mission" that became the summer home for the "swallows of Capistrano". The Old Mission is located inside a walled 10-acre compound located in the center of the small, eponymously named town a few miles inland from the coast.

As you can see I took this picture from outside the walled compound thus I have some of the wall in the foreground of the picture. I think it is good enough for you to see what Mission San Juan Capistrano is all about.


Bouganvillea around the Old Mission at San Juan Capistrano


Ancient bougainvillea bushes brighten not only the Old Mission grounds but the old train depot and several of the extremely old adobe homes in the town.

This bouganvillea display is adjacent to the old train depot two blocks from the old mission and across the Amtrack tracks from "Old-historic" San Juan Capistrano.

After eyeballing the old Mission San Juan Capistrano from the street we set out on the walking tour of old San Juan Capistrano the "town" outside the Mission.

While the Mission dates from 1776 some residential and commercial buildings in town also date from the 1790's and early 1800's. Get a grip on those dates. That is prior to the Civil War and prior to California becoming a state. One of the old adobe houses from 1794 has been continuously occupied by a member of the Rios family since that time. The 10th generation is residing in the house now. It is the oldest residence in California continuously occupied by a single family. For those of you not familiar with adobe they are "bricks" formed with mud and straw. They are NOT fire hardened like the bricks modern homes are constructed with. Adobe bricks require annual maintenance to replace what has been washed away by the infrequent rain. It is amazing to reflect on how this simple adobe house has been here and in use for over 200-years.

Three adobe homes built in 1794 as housing for families with ties to the Mission are still used for housing today one of these is the Rios house. These adobe houses in the Los Rios District, about a block west of the Mission, reveal a policy unique to Mission San Juan. It was the first mission to allow Indians working within the mission system to reside outside mission grounds. This is thought to have been important to the generally good relationship in San Juan Capistrano between Indians and Spanish newcomers.

Joyce posing with bougainvillea bushes in neighborhood near San Juan Capistrano


We enjoyed walking through this OLD neighborhood. Ancient California pepper trees, date palms, bougainvillea bushes, orange trees, rose bushes and other tropical plants have thrived here since possibly the late 1700's. We really enjoyed seeing all these old plants and trees in addition to some of the oldest buildings in California.

We were planning to eat at the El Adobe Restaurant (President Nixon's favorite restaurant) but it looked closed when we pulled into the parking lot and Joyce said "I don't want to have Mexican food again today--ugggg". She suggested in a way that only wives can suggest ---------- that she would prefer us returning to Dana Point Harbor where there were numerous "upscale" restaurants with atmosphere, view and menu appropriate for a princess.

Until next time remember how good life is.

Mike & Joyce Hendrix

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