May 17, 2013

Day Trip: San Juan Capistrano

I was eager to get out of town for Mother's Day, to take a drive and see some new sights. The Husband had a few suggestions: Idyllwild? Shoreline Village in Long Beach? Old Town Orange? All lovely, and all places I've been  plenty of times. (In fact, we used to live in walking distance of Old Town Orange, which is not to imply that we lived in the beautiful historic neighborhood near the Circle. )

But I was craving something new, and so suggested the historic district of San Juan Capistrano. Located in southern Orange County, the town is most famous for the mission and its swallows, but we didn't tour the mission.  I'd visited Capistrano before as a child several times and toured the mission, but it's been years since my last visit. 

It was a hot hot toasty day on that Sunday, and though SJC is near the coast, it was far enough inland that it was still plenty hot.We stayed primarily in the Los Rios section, which is the oldest residential neighborhood in the entire state. Below are lots of photos to give you the flavor of this historic place.

Our trip took us over the steep and winding Ortega Highway, which runs from eastern San Juan Capistrano, over the mountains of the Cleveland National Forest, to Lake Elsinore. (From Elsinore you can continue on Highway 74 all the way to Palm Desert.)

A garden with mexican primrose, cactus and drought-tolerant plants.

The Montanez Adobe below was built around 1850.
Another old adobe, owned by the Los Rios family:
Another funky cool old house:
Detail of Pancho Villa on the front door. According to my grandmother, her father (my great-grandfather) rode with Villla in Mexico. 

Cute retail shops, tea rooms and restaurants line the street. We didn't eat at any of the cafes; the one I liked was only offering a Mother's Day Brunch menu at $50 per person, no matter the age. Um, no to the $200 brunch. 

Me and my monkeys on the train tracks. (Popular photo-op spot. We had to wait for a great big family taking pics here.) 

 Here are some old, crumbling walls at the Mission, taken from the sidewalk outside the high walls.
I would like to go back on a day that's not quite so hot, and not quite so crowded, to spend more time, check out more of the shops, and tour the mission. There's also a cute and very kid-friendly petting zoo on the outskirts of the Los Rios district. No doubt the kids would've loved that, but it was Mother's Day after all. I wasn't up to standing in the heat, in my dress, for over an hour while the kids did their thing. I'm selfish like that.

Another take-away: everyone in our family was inspired by the Metrolink and Amtrack trains pulling into the old depot. We ate lunch at the (very stuffy) restaurant inside the depot and got to watch all the trains. It would be awesome to take a ride up the coast somewhere! None of our family has ever used the train as transportation to somewhere else.  How fun. Another item for our to-do list.
For the trip home, we went down the 5 freeway and caught the 76 east in Oceanside.  We quickly moved from heat and blazing sun, to dense and chilly fog:
Another great day trip, and another great Mother's Day with my sweet little family.


  1. I'm only about ten minutes from SJC--we should meet there for lunch, I'd love to explore it :-)


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