Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Three Missions and a Castle


My favorite presents from Mike are the book-shaped ones, because those are the scrapbook itineraries for his fabulously planned trips. For Christmas I received a trip itinerary with a theme: Three Missions and a Castle.

California is known for it's missions. Every fourth grader in California has to build one, usually out of sugar cubes. As a kid, we often took family vacations down to Monterey, and on the way we would stop at my mom's favorite mission, San Juan Bautista. I loved stopping at the mission and sitting in the cool chapel (growing up, our car rarely had air conditioning) where my mom would do strange things like gently touch a bowl of water, and kneel before sitting down. It was a bit magical for me as a child. So when we set off on our trip, I was excited.

The three missions we went to were Mission la Soledad, Mission San Antonio de Padua, and Mission San Miguel. Mike had printed out little fact books for each one, so as we were driving we learned a little bit about them. Like being sent to Mission la Soledad as a priest was kind of like a punishment, which is what they did for two such priests who misbehaved in seminary school, and then ended up drinking all the sacrament wine in Soledad and constantly complaining about the food. Mission San Antonio was on a military base, which was completely bizarre. On the road to the mission we passed training fields and lot upon lot of camouflaged vehicles of every kind imaginable. Mission San Miguel was being renovated, so we weren't able to go into the chapel, but the central garden was very nice.

Now Mike's trips usually have an odd side trip built in, and this trip was no exception. We stopped in San Luis Obispo to visit Bubblegum Alley. Being that I was three months pregnant, the smell was a bit overwhelming, and we didn't linger too long. I must say, it was impressive.


And oddly enough, while trying to find parking to go see Bubblegum Alley, we stumbled upon another mission, Mission San Luis Obispo. Being in a relatively large city, this mission was obviously kept up a bit more than the others we went to, and we thought lacked a bit of the charm the others had in their crumbling walls and squeaky floors.

Now the castle. It was Hearst Castle, of course.


The castle, and the grounds especially, was gorgeous. But I must say, after the tour guide said, "And he got these rugs/tables/pews/statues/ceilings from a church in Europe" for the 7th time, I kind of got a bitter taste in my mouth. Seriously, this guy was worse than a viking in terms of his plunder. Sometimes enough should be enough.

I was much more impressed with Nitt Witt Ridge. A home created by the town garbage man who never went to the dump, as our tour guide said. The tour was fascinating, and we really got a glimpse into the life of this very odd man. It was as if he had just stepped out for some milk, everything was left as it was. The man who now owns the property obviously loves the story of the strange home, and has collected many tales from the locals who knew him, including one from the neighbor who told of nude sunbathing and a bathrobe he used to wear into town. And apparently he used to throw rocks at passersby, unless you had either beer or a pretty lady (or both), then he would invite you up for a chat and a tour.

Now another very important part of Mike's trips is the food, it's equally as important as whatever we're doing. He does extensive research, and always picks both delicious and interesting places. From dinner the first day at The Black Cat, to Italian pastries for breakfast, sandwiches from Sebastian's Store for lunch (my mouth is watering just thinking about those sandwiches), traditional high tea at The Tea Cozy, and to-die-for salmon bisque, we definitely ate well.


And we couldn't be that close to the ocean the whole weekend and not spend some time on the beach. We stopped at Jade Cove, where Mike filled his pockets with lovely pieces of jade, at another stop we saw a bunch of elephant seals snoozing on the beach, and then on the way home we went tidepooling.

Oh, it was such a lovely trip!

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