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by Maryann Virack
Since I have reached the ranks of “Baby Bloomer” I have made a conscious effort to slow down and stop to smell the roses. Sometimes this is a choice; often it is necessity. Both dad and I have always been intrigued with the California Missions and at 80, dad finds great delight in touching the stones of buildings that have been here for ages. Sunday mass at The Mission of San Antonio de Pala has long been a regular stop for us; but a visit to Mission San Juan Capistrano was a new adventure. San Juan Capistrano is less than an hour from home; but we decided to make a day of it by taking the train from San Diego.
The Pacific Surfliner is an Amtrak train that runs the coast of California from San Diego to Santa Barbara and I am sure it is frequented mostly by commuters. For us, it was a diversion from bumper to bumper traffic and a chance to leisurely enjoy the Pacific Coast. The $34 round trip 90 minute ride was a treat. A few years ago, dad and I drove to Williams, Arizona to take the Grand Canyon Railroad, and enjoyed the temporary trip back in time and welcomed the opportunity to once again travel the rails. The San Juan Capistrano stop let us off directly in front of the Los Rios District and one block from the mission.
Mission San Juan Capistrano, made famous in song for its noted swallow population, sits amid 10 acres of gardens, fountains and lush landscaping. Founded in 1776 by Father Junipero Serra, it hosts the only chapel still standing where Father Serra actually celebrated mass. An audio tour presented to guests on admission leads visitors on a self-paced walking tour of the mission grounds. Often called the “Jewel of the California missions; Capistrano is the only mission in Orange County California and is home to the ruins of the Great Stone Church, as well as a museum, art gallery and gift shop.
The Los Rios Historic District includes 31 historic structures from as early as 1794 now housing quaint shops, a petting zoo and restaurant and the surrounding area boasts many adobe homes and structures built in the 1800’s. This was truly a visit to days gone by and a tiny glimpse into California’s past.
We boarded the train for San Diego at 5:30 – after five hours of walking, touring, praying, listening, shopping and dining – for the scenic, yet somewhat more crowded trip home. The train was a really nice change from sitting in California commuter traffic and it surely provided us the chance to slow down – this time definitely by choice.