Certainly would have been more noble, and more evocative of Blessed Father Junipero Serra, to walk the Camino Real from south to north. Or to travel on horseback. Instead of driving in a rented Ford Taurus.
But we got close to California’s Apostle nonetheless, and close to the land–which ravishes the eye in a different way than the beautiful land here in the east. And we got up-close-and-personal to the freezing, churning surf, too. Quick list of tops from the trip:
Most California-gold-rush-feeling building we saw: San Diego’s downtown train station
Most all-around beautiful California Mission church: San Luis Rey in Oceanside.
Museum that comes closest to equaling the Cloisters in New York: Getty Villa in Malibu.
Martyr tomb we visited: Father Luís Jayme, at Mission San Diego de Alcalá. Apostle tomb we visited: Blessed Junipero, in the mission church in Carmel.
Most Prayerful Non-Catholic Cathedral we visited: Muir Woods.
Most amazing stretch of road: Chumash Highway between Santa Barbara and Route 1. Second most: Malibu Canyon Road. Third most: Driveway from Route 1 up to the Camaldolese hermitage in Big Sur.
Most-fun Sushi Joint in Hollywood: Blue C Sushi, with Tokyo-Subway payment plan. Best waiter at Blue C Sushi: Seth!!
Best modern altar retablo: Basilica of San Juan Capistrano.
Best fish in a mission fountain: man-eating-size carp at San Juan Capistrano
Best Hotel in San Francisco: The Hotel Rex, which used to be the Orchard Hotel, where my dad and I stayed in 1987, and my buddy Eric Weingartner and I stayed in 1988.
Best View of San Diego: From the Presidio hill, above Old Town, where Blessed Junipero raised the cross and claimed alta California for Christ.
City with the most underwhelming cathedral I have ever seen, but with an excellent filipino sextant named Alberto: San Diego
City with a 5/8th replica of St. Francis’ portiuncula, as well as the National Shrine of St. Francis, and an Italian national church that would do any city proud as a cathedral: San Francisco
Most apparently ill-advised ecclesiastical purchase of recent memory: Diocese of Orange acquiring Crystal Cathedral (Why?)
Best View of Monterey Harbor: From the hilltop where Father Junipero offered the Holy Mass under a shade tree
Best Cocktail-Hour Beverage during a California-Mission Roadtrip: Ice-cold gin, made from juniper blossoms, in honor of Fr. Junipero.
Prayed for you and your beloved dead at the holy missions of: San Juan Capistrano, San Luis Rey, San Diego de Alcala, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, San Carlo Borromeo, and San Francisco. Thank you, Lord!