On my recent summer vacation in Southern California I visited Mission San Juan Capistrano. I was really looking forward to this visit as I had heard stories about the 'Miracle of the Swallows'. Each year swallows in the hundreds return to the Mission on March 19th St. Joseph's Day. These little birds fly thousands of miles from Argentina to return to their nesting grounds at the Mission. Locals and visitors from all over the world gather to watch these little birds as they try to rebuild their mud nests. Although, I did not see any swallows during my visit, I did see some of the nests. The 'Miracle of the Swallows' occurs each year between March and October. Due to urbanization, there have been fewer bird sightings in recent years.The Mission with the help of Cliff Swallow expert Dr. Charles Brown are practising a vocalization project to lure the swallows back.
The San Juan Capistrano Swallows (Mission Tone News)
Mission San Juan Capistrano is considered the birth place of Orange County, California. It is also considered the birth place of California wine making. Built by Spanish Catholics of the Franciscan Order, the mission dates back to 1776 and is named after Giovanni da Capistrano of Italy. Although, the 'Great Stone Church' has since been destroyed by earthquakes. Remnants of the church and the mission are preserved. A roam amongst the ruins does give you a sense of the scale of the church during its heyday which saw the conversion of many natives living in the area.
Today the mission is a museum and a place of education. Art and other exhibitions are held at the mission along with concerts and other activities. There still exists a church at the mission, the Serra Chapel which dates back to 1780's. Although the church is small, the gold gilding makes it very spectacular. Major efforts of the past several years has helped preserve many of the statues, artwork and artifacts.
It's a lovely location with beautiful grounds and much of the mission under preservation. The day I was there it was actually quite difficult to take any photographs because there were so many wedding couples and photographers roaming around. I don't blame them. The Mission is lovely. The gardens are well kept with a huge array of cactus and other warm weather blooms attracting hummingbirds at every corner.
The Mission is open daily between 9:00 am. - 5:00 pm. except on holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas and Good Friday. There are many tours to choose from including the Garden Tour, Chapel Tour, Swallows Walk and Talk Tour and even a tour for children. I really enjoyed my time there. It was very interesting to learn a little about the early history of a part of California. I ended the day in the Mission gift store where you can find beautiful handicrafts and jewellery.