The Jewel of the Crown : San Juan Capistrano Mission

Nestled in unassuming San Juan Capistrano lies what is one of the biggest and most beautiful Catholic  missions built during the Spanish Conquest of Mexico & California.

It is often called the Jewel of the Missions and it has many stories to tell. From the legend of the swallow to the earthquake that almost destroyed it this old building it has put Capistrano on the map has a special place in my heart.

Although it was the 7th mission Fr. Junipero Serra built in his Camino Real road (link); it was the first mission that my mother and I visited in 2009 and it was the one thats sparked our own journey of visiting all the California missions! 

This past week I returned to visit this beautiful place, I guess they say the 2nd time it is always different and so it was.

I learned more about the actual mission rather than the Spanish history behind it and it was a beautiful treat even if you’re not a devout Catholic it is a good place to learn about our history as a state and as a nation. 

My favorite story is the legend of the swallows: 

       It is said that one of the first Frs. of the mission was walking around town and he saw a shopkeeper trying to bring down a swallow nest.

“what are you doing?” He asked

“These damn birds they dirty everything” the shopkeeper answered

“But where will they go?”

“I don’t care as long as they leave me alone” the shopkeeper kept saying.

” come over to the mission there is room for everyone” the Fr. said and the very next morning they were building a nest in the mission. 

Truth or fictional story the swallows do return every spring to the mission & Capistrano in their famous festival. 

There is a lot of history here: im the church, in the town, in the surrounding area. 

If you stay half a day or a week there is enough foodie, restaurants, two area winerys and art to keep you going! 


Up North and Down South: California travel tales.

It’s a traffic nightmare and an expensive cluster of people but there is one advantage to living in Los Angeles … it’s  smack dab center to drive to San Diego or Santa Barbara.

So last week I took advantage of that and we went day tripping. First San Diego with it’s myriad of California history and foodie galore.

It is one of my favorite cities in the world, makes me feel like in a whole new place and yet it makes me feel like I’m home.


This time around we went to Sea World to see the beautiful Orca Whales and the people who train and save them (aside from all the bad rep it has gotten lately, it is a wonderful place to learn about the sea and the world around us.)


It is also not crowded and the lines to go on rides were something I am unused to (I am a big Disney fan who at best gets 15 minute waits and at worst … well let’s not talk about that). We ate at Old Town to start the day. There is this great restaurant we always eat at .. El Coyote Azul, they hand make their tortillas as you watch them. They have a good Margarita to start your day off because after all what’s San Diego without a margarita right? After the margaritas and a few churros we headed over to Sea World.

The polar bear exhibition was my favorite they were playing and having fun and we got to on an ‘Arctic Expedition’ ride. I bought a hat and then we went to see all the possible shows… my father insisted. The funniest one is the sea lion one and the most popular and majestic of course is the one with the Orca Whales.


I also did not realize you can walk around with wine and beer all over the park (hurrah hurrah… if you know me) and finally we went on the cable car that dangles over the beautiful San Diego coast. My favorite ride to end the day with.


 Family fun indeed.

But too much family fun can be overwhelming so the next day we went on a best friend day trip to Santa Barbara. This notorious college town, and central coast town is also home to many wineries who happen to have tasting rooms in the downtown area. So there was the center of our trip, wine tasting and some exploring. By accident or fate we discovered the Wine Collection of El Paseo ( was a collection of six tasting rooms of which we tried 4 (we had to drive back). They were all distinct in wines, service and ambiance.

Happy Canyon is great is your looking for a very elegant wine experience, complete with Bordeaux type wines and a family history of polo players.  The tastings start at 5 wines for $15 dollars and you can also have full glasses if you want.

Gassini was a refreshing difference, laid back and very Californian it had an option to wine-chocolate pair for $10 more dollars of the base tasting price we got to pair it with locally made truffles. I highly recommend that option.

Jamie Slone ( was my favorite winery of the day, attended personally by the owners we got to me Jamie and his wife who tells candid stories of how the wines were named and has a full map of the region in case you’re a newcomer to the Central Coast region. It also comes with a winery local … Sophie the dog who is alone reason to visit the winery.

Sophie the Dog

Au Bon Climat is one of the oldest and most well respected of the area wineries. It specializes in world class Chardonnays and Pinots. Is is a very aesthetic experience, non of the relaxed visitor feeling, none the less the wines are beautifully crafted and the staff helpful in helping you choose.

After the alcohol we sauntered over to French Press a very charming cafe with lovely pastries and a great end to sit and people watch, before our drive back.

French Press Latte

We were of course confronted by some traffic down the 405 as we hit LA but nothing that we’re not used to. I love being so close to all the charming cities around the LA area that make me feel like I can travel far away, even though they are only a few hours away.

Santa Barbara Relaxed Feel

Today for example I went to revisit the San Juan Capistrano Mission at my mothers request, this Mission was the one that started us on the crazy idea of visiting all the California Missions (I will tell you more about that and today’s visit on a separate post.

As always any comments or question on travel planning are welcome 🙂

When tomorrow comes

I usually refrain from commenting on world tragedies. I do so not because I don’t care, or because I dislike debates but because the world is a beautiful place. It is a place full of hope, of breathtaking ocean views, of smokey mountains and roaring seas. It is a place full of determination, of dreams, of art and carefully crafted history. It is a place where best friends save each other, where dogs and cats are our best friends, a place meant to nurture our souls. I don’t see the need to mar it more than the media already does.

Me at the Louvre (2011)
Normally, I stay quiet. Today is not normal. Today the ‘enfants of the Patrie’ as the Marseillaise declares celebrated their independence and today someone decided that it was a good day to make a political statement by senselessly ending human lives. Today is not normal because I love France, it is my soul country, as I like to call it. I like everything about it, from their love of beauty, to their resilience. I love the cobblestone streets in Paris and the large open spaces of the country side. I love their food, their wine, their history.

Normally, I refrain from voicing my point of view politically because I like to voice my opinion on art, and music and all the places I would like to travel to. I like make beautiful things that can go hand in hand with out beautiful world. Today I would simply like to say that all the terrorism attacks, make me loose just a little bit of hope in humanity.

I am not an idealist, I am not President Wilson in the ‘war to end all wars’, I am not the millions who want to vote for the Green Party, I am not 5 years old hoping for world peace. I know that peace is something we’ve been idealizing and never attaining since before Roman empire. I don’t expect world peace, not in my lifetime but I had hoped that after growing up in post 9/11 era our children would not live that sadness again.

And now here we are 15 years later, wondering what will we leave for our children .. “when tomorrow comes?”