California Mission Churches: Mission San Luis Rey
Leaving San Diego and driving north along the gorgeous coast, I came across a sign for the Old Mission San Luis Rey. There are 21 mission churches in California established by the Spanish Franciscans in an effort to expand Spanish territory and convert the native populations. Located generally no more than a few miles inland, they are spaced about 30 miles, or one days horseback ride, apart. I visited a handful in the week after leaving San Diego but the Mission San Luis Rey ended up being one of my favorites.
Founded in 1798, the mission was the eighteenth of twenty-one missions. It is equally famous for its Moorish-influenced architecture as its claim to have the oldest pepper tree in the state, planted in 1830. What I liked most however was the hand-painted interior decoration. The courtyard was also gorgeous though total access was limited to those undertaking spiritual retreats.