Off the Beaten Path: Day Tripping, a California Mission Crawl
Day Tripping - California Mission CrawlLittle gets me moving like the prospect of a day trip. The night before I check and double check my kit: batteries charged? glass clean? memory cards in place? directions uploaded? Then, at some point before I drift off to sleep, I remember to pack my overnight bag and cooler.
El Camino Real ("King's Highway" or "Royal Road") traces California's mission history in asphalt from San Diego to Sonoma. All 21 missions were built between 1768 and 1823, prior to California's admission to the United States. They served as travelers' way-stations, agricultural and educational centers, trading posts, and the surrounding community's religious core. Many have been absorbed into or surrounded by their fancier, more famous neighborhoods but each still holds a day's worth (or at least an afternoon's) of fascination.
San Antonio de Padua
La Purísima Concepción de Maria Santisima
Here, the preserved outbuildings and garden are the highlight of the tour with the church itself coming in a distant third. In addition to the candle making room, I visited a small dormitory with handmade cots and a thatched roof. La Purisima is the 11th mission but the only one laid out in a linear, rather than (traditional) quadrangle, style.
(left) candle making room; (right) garden and fountain fed with spring water via a series of aqueducts and pools
Walking the trail above the mission.
Designated the "Queen of the Missions", Santa Barbara attracts thousands year round. Beaches, the botanical garden and zoo, the pier, UCSB, downtown, and the Paseos are all about 10 minutes away. The city itself is a gateway to neighboring wine country and Montecito (hi Oprah!) galleries and shopping.
Like most Southern California beach cities, creativity and a laid back attitude are welcomed. Chalk paintings commissioned by local businesses for the I Madonnari Festival grace the driveway in front of the mission church.
Of all the mission churches I've visited this one is the most ornate and best preserved. With ongoing Franciscan management and a large parishioner base, the mission is able to support and maintain the church, cemetery, mausoleum, museum, library, 1/2 city block rose garden, a retreat, commercial kitchen and dining room, and several meeting rooms.
One of two huge Moreton Bay fig trees in the city that migrated from Australia with a little help.
Among the notable names interred in the church cemetery is the "Lone Woman of San Nicholas Island". Christened "Juana Maria" at the mission shortly before she died, she was the last survivor of her Nicoleño island tribe and her story was re-imagined in Scott O'Dells children's book Island of the Blue Dolphins.
Sculpture in one of the chapels. The expression on her face is so vivid.
I rarely pass up the chance to shoot on old buildings, museums, and places of worship. Blended together in architecture and art, the artistry and craftsmanship beg to be "captured" and displayed.
Out the of the 21 California missions, I've managed to visit one-third. While it's a better record than their inhabitants during the late 18th and early 19th centuries (unless you were a seaman or in the military), I'm still lagging behind. So they remain on my "to go" list, along with Turkey, Scotland, Burkina Faso, Vancouver, and the plethora of other places my lens will take me.
Keywords: blog, California, el camino real, historic church, la purisima concepcion, missions, san antonio de padua, santa barbara, tourism, travel, travel photography
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