This summer I was on a “mission”. In an effort to share a bit of my childhood history with the little ladies, I thought it would be interesting to see some of the California missions as we traveled between San Diego and Santa Barbara.

There are 21 missions along the coast of California, established by the Spanish who wanted to colonize the region and convert the natives to Christianity and make them tax paying citizens. Growing up in California, I learned the state’s history, and the missions were a significant part of that history (although they glossed over the whole colonization part). In fact, when I was in 4th grade – the same age as Miss V is now – we spent several weeks learning about the missions, with the lessons culminating in a build-your-own-mission project. Since there was no adobe on hand, I used sugar cubes and an obscene amount of glue to make my mission, adding a cross, fashioned out of popsicle sticks in front for the final touch.

After explaining why I have a “sweet” spot for these churches, the little ladies and I went on our way. We began at the beginning: Mission San Diego de Alcala.

Founded by Junipero Serra in July 16, 1769, the original mission was destroyed by a fire, but moved five miles east to its present site and rebuilt in 1776.  The base of the belfry and the bells are from the original mission.

Next we went to Ventura to the Mission San Buenaventura, which was founded by Junipero Serra in 1782. Though partially destroyed by an earthquake in 1812, San Buenaventura whose nickname is  “Mission by the Sea”, was rebuilt in 1816.

Mission Santa Barbara was the next mission built after San Buenaventura, the next one on our itinerary and in my opinion, the most beautiful of the missions we would see. It may have had something to do with seeing it among the mountains, native flora and fauna and a cloudless blue sky.

Whatever it was, I was converted, even paying 5 times as much to go in the church as I did for Mission San Diego de Alcala. But hey, that beautiful facility has to be maintained, right?

Founded in 1786, Mission Santa Barbara was the first established after the death of Father Serra. However, there is a monument of the priest at the church, in commemoration of the third centennial of his birth.

A few miles away in the Danish village of Solvang, was the final mission of the trip, Santa Ines.  Founded in 1804, Santa Ines is the 19th of the 21 missions. I found it amusing, and quite a contrast, to see the distinctive Spanish-style architecture of the mission among the many façades and buildings that reflect traditional Danish style.

Our next mission, should we choose to accept it, is to travel to more of these churches. I see another road trip in our future.