Sunday, June 26, 2016

California June 2016 Fr-amily, Graduation and hangin' out in Laguna Niguel-with a weekend in San Juan Capistrano Jun 6 - 13

When I was a little girl I loved to go in the closet in our guest room and look at my mom's memorabilia from her "former" life in the states.  One of the things that enthralled me was a very large photo of a beautiful woman in her wedding dress.  That woman was my mom's friend, Joannie Van Alstyne.  I met her once when I was 7 when we visited the states but in 1970, after we'd moved to Ireland, and after a set of serendipitous circumstances, Joannie, coming to visit her daughter who was also in Ireland, came to stay with us and brought her "little" sister, Ellen.  Mom remembered Ellen as an 8 year old but I met her as a 30 year old, mother of 3 young kids for whom she asked me to babysit the next summer-IN THE STATES!!!  I did (and also met Don that first summer) and ended up living with them for 3 years-2 in NJ where I would return to high school and get a US diploma and then one in San Francisco after Ellen's husband, Dick was transferred with his job.  It was with them that I traveled in CA and it was to them that we were traveling to visit. Ellen's youngest, Courtney, was 6 when I started living with them and is my "youngest sister." She is now a bit older, married with 3 kids and the oldest of them, my goddaughter, Medora was graduating from high school.  We'd planned to come for Thanksgiving but Ellen was diagnosed with cancer last year and is fighting a valiant battle and I wanted to see her sooner rather than later.  The woman is amazing!  She's finished her chemo and is back to playing tennis-though not every day, singing with a choir and basically living with the same gusto she always has. She, and her husband Dick, were such important influences on me as a young woman and it was heartwarming to sit with them and reminisce despite the fact that WAY too many of their friends have died, too many with cancer.  I often say I love getting old and an old age is not guaranteed but the hardest thing for me about it is the very fact that friends will die as we move along and regardless of what we believe about where they are, or aren't, their absence leaves a hole in the heart. 

When we changed our plans it was way too late to find a spot in one of the (quite frankly, overpriced) CA State Parks nearby and after much discussion had decided just to park at the end of their street, a cul de sac, and take our chances.  (Turns out there is a 72 hour limit-we overstayed by a day) And thus started a great visit where we saw a bit of the area and a lot of the people we'd come to see. The graduation took place under somewhat cloudy skies but was well organized and at the end we had a high school graduate in our midst. 

One of the most wonderful things about this area is the proliferation of flowering plants covering hillsides, roadsides and filling yards. Except for the rose below all of there were growing along the route I walked with Phoenix each morning.

the blue haired graduate- to- be at breakfast

Doves were released as the graduates flung their caps in the air

the Graduate and her family

When we found out that we could no longer stay where we were, Courtney's husband volunteered his parking spaces at his office.  Luckily it was the weekend and there was space.  So, down the road to San Juan Capistrano we went to park for 3 nights in a parking lot that only saw action when people came to the gym that was also there. We took Courtney and the family out to dinner the first night at Thai Juan On and I was introduced to the most delicious Mango Sticky Rice-cooked with coconut and served with fresh mango, it's heaven on earth!  Being right in SJC gave us a chance to visit the Mission and the Cathedral, as well and on our last day Courtney and I took a long nice walk on Strands Beach before returning to their house one last time for dinner.  The only glitch was that I left my phone/wallet a their house.  Our car was almost on empty-the light was one-and I had to drive back over to get it as we were leaving at 5am the next day. With my wallet there, having forgotten to ask Don for money, I ended up scrounging together $2.45 in change from the "ash tray" and getting 1 gallon of gas (4 liters) to get me there.  On the way back I used my credit card to put some more in so we'd have some if we needed the car in an emergency.  I mean, really what were we thinking allowing it to get so low?!
One of the biggest differences we found between this and other missions were the gardens.  The NPS administers the Missions in San Antonio so there are not groups that see to vast and lush garden plantings.  I appreciate that as it it gives a BIT more of a reality based view of what they were like. I hesitate to say that though since they were probably not planted with grass, quiet or immaculately kept either. In any case, this Mission has a lot of information and is a wonderfully beautiful and relaxing place. AND it has the swallows each March.

an artichoke in bloom

Serra Chapel

 The Gift Shop had an assortment of items but the selection of crosses was amazing

 Down the street from the Mission is the FAR more ornate Mission Basilica of San Juan Capistrano and modern too: their votive candles are gas and once you pay they are lit by pressing a button.


We got up and out by 5:10am and on the road north headed to LA which we hoped to get through before the really bad traffic of their epic morning rush hour started.

Last stop : Laguna Mountain and San Diego via Box Canyon and the Salton Sea
Next Stop: Famous Rocks, a vineyard and cousins Agua Dulce/Santa Clarita, CA
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