The Presidio: A Different View of California. Thank goodness.

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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.

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The church

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.

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A street runs through it now…

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.

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Looking from the street towards the visitor center

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.

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The grounds around the Presidio

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The grounds behind the church

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Room in the Presidio

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.

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The church’s altar

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The back of the church

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Looking towards the front of the church

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Detail of the wall and ceiling of the church

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Baptismal font with a plaque of ceramic with names of those baptized in the mid 19th century

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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!

I Have a Mission for You: in Santa Barbara!

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Among the many beautiful things to enjoy in Santa Barbara, California, one of my favorite ones is the Old Mission.  Its architecture, its setting, its history all make it a neat place to visit but what I like the most is that it is still in use by the monks and the locals; in other words, it is not just a museum.

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Approaching the Mission on a beautiful California day

The Santa Barbara Mission is located on what seems to be the outskirts of town but it really takes no time to reach it from the center of Santa Barbara (a very easy place to get around with a car or a bike).  It was established by the Franciscan monks around 1768 as one of the last of a series of missions founded along California by the order.  As with most places where Europeans (or people of European descent), there was contact between the new arrivals and the locals; in this case the Chumash Indians.   The Santa Barbara Mission represents the longest continuous presence of the Franciscans in the United States.

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The Mission is more than the church and the museum; also a mausoleum and retreat center

The structures that have been on the site and are now have gone through changes and repairs, especially due to damage from earthquakes over its lifetime and after a period of civil administration of the site when the structures were not maintained.  Not today:  the structures look well kept up and on a beautiful day (which seems to be every day in Santa Barbara), the Mission is perfect for photos!  Admiring the facade of the mission is not hard.  The ample space outside allows one to step back and soak the whole structure in.

Once inside, one can enjoy the beautiful inner courtyards and outdoor “hallways” of the mission.

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Inner courtyard at the Mission

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I could sit on a rocking chair here and rock away all day!

At some point, one enters the cemetery area on the side of the main church before entering the church itself, following the sequence proposed in the self-tour which, at $7, was a great deal!  They also have led tours which seem would be best to better grasp the history and meaning of the Mission.  Unfortunately, we had less time than the tours require so we did the self-guided version.

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The cemetery outside of the church, near the mausoleum

The church itself has the feel of what makes a place of worship one where I could focus and reflect and pray.  It is simply beautiful.

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Main altar at the church

The Mission is not just a place to go check out if you are in Santa Barbara:  it is one of the reasons you should GO to Santa Barbara!

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The church

Photo of the Week: Sunset over Santa Barbara, California

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Nothing like a beautiful sunset.  And even better:  one in California!  So I will celebrate that with TWO, not one, of my favorite sunset pictures I took while visiting Santa Barbara!sunset, beach, California, Santa Barbara, photo, travel, Olympus sunset, beach, California, Santa Barbara, photo, travel, Canon EOS Rebel

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