if you are ever looking for a fascinating place to see people blending with history and even commerce, head down to los rios street in san juan capistrano. just across the tracks from the santa fe depot lies the the oldest neighborhood in california, dating as far back as 1794. the thing i love most about los rios street is the DETAIL you find lurking around every corner. the birdhouses, the funky store signage, unusual lighting, artistic mailboxes. they've got it all. and a special light that brings it so alive.
this gingerbready style trim adorns one of the old wood houses that has watched over the neighborhood as it has changed and reimagined itself over the years. the food and the shopping down at los rios street are fabulous. i am never disappointed in a day i spend here with family and friends.
having lived in south orange county for almost 40 years, i'm always surprised to find out about something i've never heard of or seen. the old mission cemetary in san juan capistrano is one such place. dating back to the 1860's, the cemetary is the final resting place of many of civil war veterans and the native Acjachemen and Juaneno families from the early rancho period of the capistrano valley. it is also home to many, many unmarked graves. burials of modern day members of san juan capistrano's oldest families still take place here to this very day.
the cemetary is owned by the catholic diocese of orange, who apparently do not appreciate the visits of intrepid blog photographers! while snapping my shots, i was visited by the OC sheriff's department, warning me that taking photographs of this historic site is prohibited. luckily, the deputy let me go with my photos intact.
there is a legend that the cemetary is indeed haunted, perhaps the impetus for discouraging visitors to the site.... the ghost of la llorona, or "the weeping woman" is said to haunt this hallowed ground.
The basic story is that La Llorona was a beautiful woman by the name of Maria who killed her children by drowning them in order to be with the man that she loved, but was subsequently rejected by him. (He might have been the children's father who had left their mother for another woman.) Then, after being rejected by her lover she killed herself. When Maria reached the gates of heaven, she was asked, "Where are your children?" and she replied, "I don't know, my Lord." She was not permitted to enter heaven until she found her children. She now wanders the Earth for all eternity, searching in vain for her drowned offspring. Her constant weeping is the reason for her name.
After driving the past the Red Gate leaving OC on the Ortega Hwy countless times, I was finally able to get up there with some cool cars for a few photos. I rode in the trunk of my friends volvo with my trusty 50mm to get a few choice rolling shots. The private road leads to a private ranch community about a mile (as the crow flies) from the main Ortega Hwy and they host an annual 'Cars & Coffee' charity carshow to benefit their volunteer fire department.
The Regency Theater in San Juan Capistrano opened its doors to the public this month, after much anticipation. Guests can enjoy a unique cinematic experience as they wine and dine while watching movies.
Visiting this mission as a child growing up in Orange County was de rigueur for nearly all 4th graders in the public school system. We would hop off the bus, marvel at the size of the buildings and listen to a docent try to explain to us what life was like many lifetimes ago when California was being settled. Honestly, it was too much for our little 4th grade minds to comprehend. More than likely we were just thinking about who we were gonna sit by on the bus ride home or what we had packed in our sack lunch. So it was a recent visit as an adult that really helped me appreciate the significance and beauty of this landmark.
It is perfectly splendid, and splendidly unperfect.
South Coast Farms in San Juan Capistrano is the only remaining organic farm in Orange County. It was also home to Orange County's first walnut grove in the 1880's. Visit The Ecology Center to learn more about the farms and sustainability.