Beautiful and evocative Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo, or Mission Carmel for short, stands as a testament to the ambitious and harrowing early days of European settlement in Alta (Upper) California.
Neglected for decades, yet largely restored to its original state, Mission Carmel was the second of 21 Missions founded by Franciscan Spanish missionaries. Most notably, it served as the headquarters of Alta California’s missions and is the final resting place for Father Junipero Serra who led the establishment of the missions in California in the late 18th century.
It is from the mission’s namesake, Italian Saint Carlo Borromeo de Carmelo (founded on that Saint’s day in 1770), that the city of Carmel (or Carmel-By-the-Sea) derives its name. And in fact, many of California’s cities owe their names to the various Saints days on which their namesake mission was founded (e.g. Mission San Diego de Alcalá, Mission San José, etc.)
The mission’s prominent status also led to Monterey becoming California’s first capital from 1777 to 1854, largely under Spanish and Mexican rule, until California was annexed by the United States following the Mexican-American war, in which Mexico lost half of its territory to its northern neighbor.
We had planned to stop at Mission San Juan Bautista near Hollister (one of the better known missions along the Camino Real (Royal Road)), but didn’t make it before closing on our way down. One summer when I was a kid, my family did a tour of California Missions of sorts, hitting both San Juan Bautista and Mission Carmel. I remember enjoying exploring the old missions, but didn’t fully appreciate them at the time. It was fun to take Lori on her first foray into the interesting world of California Missions, many rivaling some of the best sights we have visited in Latin America. All told, we visited five missions on this trip, which we found to be a perfect number.
Perhaps inspired by the surroundings and wedding photography happening all around, we staged our own “Babymoon” photo shoot in the main plaza.
I told Lori that I wanted to live in a place like this some day. She humored me as usual, though she would love to live in Mexico one of these days, so you never know…
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And what visit to Carmel would be complete without a stroll down Ocean Avenue and along Carmel’s wide strand of beach.
We even paid the $10 to take the long road back to Pacific Grove — Pebble Beach’s scenic and exclusive 17-Mile Drive. We hadn’t realized that the Drive is actually a loop, and ended up driving several miles through winding wooded hillsides with zero view of the sea before realizing just shy of reaching Pacific Grove that we had gone the wrong way! Well, the wrong way if you actually want to drive past Pebble Beach and along the coastline, which I suspect is most visitors’ objective. So, we turned around and drove the entire loop back around (with the exception of a small shortcut). We had commented on the lack of traffic…until we turned around. Then we hit the Pebble Beach Golf Course stretch, which was gearing up for the AT&T Pro-Am in the coming week. We found most of the viewpoints to be fairly crowded, but traffic eventually thinned out and we mostly enjoyed the rest of drive.
The famed Lone Cypress (above), estimated at some 250 years old. It has survived fire, erosion and earthquakes. It has also been trademarked since 1919, apparently. I was not aware that a tree could be trademarked, but this one is. Pebble Beach Co. owns the rights to the tree and it’s image. Go figure. So you can take a snapshot of the tree, but if you plan to try to sell the imagine, you may find yourself being hunted down by the Pebble Beach Co. trademark police, or at least Bill Murray. Consider yourself warned.
The lone cypress below is not THE Lone Cypress, and is not trademarked…for now.
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