|Northbound on El Camino
||[Aug. 16th, 2014|10:02 pm]
Cayucos was the most southerly point of our trip; after our day in Paso Robles, it was time to head north again, back to Sunnyvale. Back up route 101, which doesn't sound very romantic, but turns out to be El Camino Real, the Royal Road along which the Spanish missionaries settled California, building a chain of missions from San Diego in the south to Sonoma in the north (according to Wikipedia: who also provide this rather pleasing map). I'm a sucker for historic routes, roads with names, so this made me happy.
We had less than 200 miles to go, so there was time to make a stop en route and look around: we'd barely set out before we came to San Miguel, with its mission of San Miguel Arcangel. Where else? We must have approached from the wrong side, because we parked by a high wall, with no obvious entry point, and at first thought we would see no more than the wall, the surrounding spiky plants, all dominated by a bell tower - which turned out not to be as historic as all that, built in memory of a former superior of the mission killed in the second world war... Still, we said, might as well complete the circuit, and had almost closed the loop when we came to the gate:
It's one of those magical gateways: passing through it changes your whole perspective on the world: inside is a garden with a fountain, and waterlilies in bloom, a museum, a church, and we took our time admiring them all. I loved the details of life at the mission, and I loved, too, the many-coloured paintwork of the church. The interior frescoes are original, and it seemed impossible that the delicate work could have survived from when the church was first built in - when was it? - ah, yes, 1821. Not so impossible, then. I continually stub my toe on how comparatively recent California's historic buildings are, even the earliest of them - and this one had a simplicity which could have been much older.
A cluster of restaurants line the road beyond the mission, and we walked up and down it, scrutinising each in turn, before settling for The Country Diner: tiny, brightly coloured, friendly. Having established that we were English, the owner told us all about some previous English customers (as far as I can recall, a school trip from one of the public schools*).
Back on the highway, and an easy, if not very interesting drive through the agricultural flatlands. Further north the terrain became more hilly, and we made a couple of brief stops. The first was a rather splendid rest area, with an information board explaining about the local ecology: purple needlegrass, it said, is the Official California State Grass, and the saber-tooth cat (smilodon californicus) is the Official State Fossil. The second was just an excuse to look at the scenery, and to boggle at the pine cones fallen by the road side - one was larger than a pineapple.
And back to our hotel in Sunnyvale, still on the Camino - and here's how I know:
ETA: Having found the relevant notebook, I can confirm that it was Oakham School.