Wednesday, December 1, 2021

San Diego: Mission San Luis Rey de Francia, Oceanside, and the Sunset

Mission San Luis Rey de Francia in Oceanside, California. The flags from left to right are the flag of the United States with the flag of the State of California beneath, next to the right is a historical flag of Mexico, then on the right the flag of the Spanish empire.

After my kayak tour, I was sore and exhausted, and a little sunburned despite having used sunscreen. I didn't sleep well. It was Halloween night, the neighborhood was rowdy, and I had one of the worst nightmares of my life. It will make good starter material for a horror story or novel.

For the next day, I decided to change my itinerary from bicycling to visit one of the old Spanish catholic missions in the region for a rest day. I chose Mission San Luis Rey in Oceanside, California, which required less than an hour drive from Ocean Beach, mostly on freeway.

One of the idyllic courtyards in the mission.

The extensive and well-tended gardens.

The mission was established as part of a Spanish effort to occupy territory and get it into productive economic activity (as they saw it). This involved the conquest and enslavement of the local indigenous people, the Kumeyaay and Quechnajuichom peoples. The official interpretive materials at the modern mission site and museum do not use the words slave or slavery, though material in the audio tour of the museum does mention that the native peoples were not free to avoid agricultural work or flee the area. Spanish soldiers would bring them back forcibly and administer corporal punishment. It's funny to me that the Roman Catholic Church still can't openly acknowledge their own role in slavery, even in this day and age.

The gorgeous chapel at Mission San Luis Rey.

The mission is still in use and features a beautiful church, which still contains elements of the original construction, dating from the late 1700s, although the mission fell into disrepair after the Mexican revolution. The Catholic Church was interpreted to be hostile to secular Mexican rule so they ordered the missions disbanded. After the Mexican War, the United States used the mission as a location for troops occupying California, though there was no fighting. The centerpiece of the museum is a document signed by Abraham Lincoln gifting the property back to the Catholic Church near the end of the US Civil War, as the military no longer had any use for it. The mission was eventually rebuilt and expanded into the complex of buildings found today.

The grounds are beautiful and the interior of the church is spectacular. It's worth a visit for the architecture and the art within, and if you have patience, for the museum. I've wanted to visit the old Spanish missions in California for many years and I found this satisfactory and interesting, though now that I've done it, I think I would probably skip more detailed visits to other missions. I like the architecture but it can be viewed just by walking around and taking a few photos.

Dive Mexican food. Both the green and red salsas were face-melting hot and I suffered for twenty-four hours.

After visiting the mission, I was starved and searched the internet for a Mexican restaurant with good ratings and ended up at a little place near the beach in Oceanside. It was one of these hole-in-the-wall independent takeout places like I wrote about before. The food was tasty but eventually set my mouth aflame and I suffered for about a day afterwards. It was good but not as good as the all-knowing internet would have had me believe.

The wooden pier in Oceanside. This is one of the longest wooden piers in North America. The Ocean Beach pier is longer but is concrete and steel.

Since I was in the area and had plenty of time in the free two hour parking in front of the restaurant, I walked over to the beach. Though the restaurant was a hole-in-the-wall in an old building, the rest of the neighborhood was posh. It's obviously a place for the wealthy and spendy tourists. It's beautiful though, and the long, wooden pier is a bit nicer than the concrete pier in Ocean Beach. I enjoyed the walk, took a few photos, and headed back to my Airbnb rental to watch the sunset. With all the walking I did, the day ended up not being much of a rest day but at least I didn't waste it sitting around.

The western sky afire just after sunset at Ocean Beach, San Diego.

Speaking of which, one of my life goals for travel was to see a sunrise on the Atlantic coast and a sunset on the Pacific coast. I got a sunrise in Florida all the way back in the 90s and this trip completed that process with a sunset on the west coast. It was spectacular! The somewhat cloudy weather during the trip produced some of the best sunsets I have ever seen. I highly recommend it!

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