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For those of us old enough to have been around during the presidency of Richard Nixon, we would recall that when the Nixons were able to take a break from Washington, they would head to San Clemente, CA, to “The Western White House”. They owned an oceanfront estate there called “La Casa Pacifica”. We weren’t able to stay at that particular property but we followed the Nixons model and took a short break in San Clemente, located about midway along the Pacific coast between LA and San Diego.
We’ve driven past San Clemente many times, traveling on Interstate 5 to or from San Diego. This time we wanted to take a couple of days to explore this beautiful town and the surrounding area. We enjoyed some fresh Pacific seafood and some nice hikes.
One of our special outings was to Mission San Juan Capistrano. Many people know of the “miracle” of the swallows that return to this town every year on March 19th. The story behind this is that a pastor of the mission was walking through town when he saw one of the shopkeepers using a broom to swat away the birds that were nesting in the eves of his shop. He considered the birds to be a nuisance and wanted to get rid of them. The pastor said, “Come on swallows. I’ll give you shelter. Come to the Mission”. Since then the birds have returned to the Mission every year.
Mission San Juan Capistrano was established on November 1, 1776. This is one of the 21 missions that would ultimately be established to expand the territorial boundaries of Spain and spread Christianity to the native peoples of California. After 1812, the Mission began to decline. Subsequently, it was sold at auction and was a private ranch property for 20 years. Eventually, after California became a state, President Abraham Lincoln returned the property to the Catholic Church. Today you can see the results from many years of preservation and restoration efforts.