Sunday, February 19, 2017

Our First California Mission

For our February surprise date, I took Mary to Mission San Gabriel Arcangel, just down the road from us in Claremont.  San Gabriel was the fourth mission (out of 21) established in Alta California (the present state of California, as compared to Baja California in Mexico) in 1771.  I thought it would be interesting because, well, history is interesting! and because we were going to a talk a few days later on how the mission system had a devastating impact on the native populations in the region.

Facade of the Mission

The complex was impressive, with a large church, graveyard, winery, museum, and relics from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.  In fact, Mission San Gabriel is the oldest brick and mortar building in Southern California.  The whole mission system was part of an effort by the Spanish to take over the land, and to convert the indigenous populations to Catholicism.  Diseases brought by the Spanish, unhealthy conditions maintained within the missions, and military adventures to subdue tribes resulted in the demographic and cultural collapse of native Californians.  The lead friar in that effort was Junipero Serra, an incredibly controversial figure whose canonization in 2015 set off a lot of protests, especially here in Los Angeles.  But, he is highly celebrated in the mission itself.

Junipero Serra

The stewards of the mission, though, are certainly aware of the ramifications of its history.  They note that the Spanish buried over 6,000 Tongva people in the mission over the course of its sixty-year history.  The grounds also contain a traditional Tongva hut, which would have housed many of the converts even on the mission grounds.

The mission also contains a number of fruit trees, as well as a grapevine that was planted in the eighteenth century.

After we left the mission, we walked around the area, and found a cool art supply store with an impressive mural depicting the colonial-era mission:

Finally, we wrapped up our Spanish-colonial explorations with a pretty cliche lunch: we ate Vietnamese bahn mi sandwiches at a nearby strip mall.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

A visit to California!

Last weekend Brian flew out from Denver for a quick weekend visit. After picking him up at the airport Dan and Brian headed out to Joshua Tree National Park where they camped out for the night and did a lot of hiking.
Dan enjoying Joshua Tree 
Brian trying to find his Spirit Joshua Tree

 The next day after more hiking they headed into Palm Springs for lunch and Dan tried a date shake - I'll have to go back so I can try one - Palm Springs is famous for their date shakes. We had a low key night in with dinner and a movie.

On Sunday after a trip to the Farmer's Market with our friends we headed to the coast. We ate lunch at a restaurant with an ocean view then explored the Laguna Beach tidepools where we saw marine life.
Brian and Dan exploring the Laguna Beach tidepools

Look, Dad, we finally spotted a whale!

Beautiful Laguna coastline
We had a great time visiting with Brian over the weekend and look forward to welcoming more visitors later this spring!

Monday, February 6, 2017

Epic SoCal Weekend

Last weekend Dan and I really wanted to grab the Southern California life by the horns. So on Saturday morning we headed to the coast to Newport Beach to take a whale watching boat trip. We had a great time heading out into the Pacific and cruising along the coast. Watching whales? Not-so-much. But we did see lots of cute sea lions:

We also saw a dolphin and had a wonderful cruise along the coast of Newport Beach and Laguna Beach.
Snow capped Mt Baldy in the distance
We also saw where Gilligan's Island was filmed. Who knew that all that time they were just stuck in the Newport Beach Harbor?!?!

Location where the Gilligan's Island crew was shipwrecked
 At the end of the ride we were given a coupon to come back again for only $7 - so we'll be going back for another cruise at the end of March with Dan McG and his crew and hope to see whales!

After our lovely boat cruise we took a quick drive to Costa Mesa where we made our way to the Noguchi Garden. A tucked away park among the skyscrapers that was designed by the famous Japanese-American landscape artist and sculptor, Isamu Noguchi.

We enjoyed a quiet picnic in the park before heading back to Claremont and an anxiously awaiting Annie Pup for a good long afternoon stroll in the Saturday sun.

Zen urban park

Annie enjoying a warm sunny afternoon in the backyard
On day 2 of our epic SoCal weekend we braved the crowds and met up with David, Gabrielle, Noah, and Owen at Disneyland!

Owen and Uncle Dan

Uncle Dan and Noah pretending to be scared by a tiger in the treehouse

A parade down Main Street in front of the Castle

It was a very California weekend and we enjoyed doing the "touristy" things :).