I have been to California a few times but mainly to the areas around San Francisco and, less so, around Los Angeles (plus a business trip to Sacramento). This past summer, though, I got to sample some of the “other” Californias. I got to spend a few days in lovely Santa Barbara. It captivated me and makes me want to explore other places in California that I have always heard of or read about but never make the time to visit.
The Old Mission, of which I already wrote, was an incredible sight and site. Another one that was less imposing but just as powerful was the Presidio.
The Presidio was built in the late 18th century as a military facility (not sure if “fort” is too strong a word). The original site was a large square but now only half of it remains.
The center has a model that helps envision the total original site and it pains me that the part of it was lost. The good news is that one of the remaining structures is the second oldest building structure in California. The entire site is now a California state park so it is protected – and that is good.
We met a gentleman who works at the site who gave us a quick overview (for free!) of the site before we paid and walked in to explore the site. Of course, a lot of restoration has taken place. The decades can’t be kind to a building made in those days and with those materials (and given the frequency of quakes in the area). But I walked around, it all felt as it must have been so long ago.
The outer walls of the precinct are thick and there were private spaces for the homes of the more senior members of the staff, even with space for small gardens. Along with the typical military spaces (like the military parade grounds), there was also a church located well inside the square. The church is plain but has been nicely restored at some point as you can see in the following pictures.
I have to say that with all the glitz and glam that California has become synonymous with, and the accompanying Hollywood trash, it is refreshing to experience a different California, one that makes evident how this land was explored and how it was settled by a European power. Yes, I am a history geek!