Monday, September 10, 2012

The Streets of San Juan Bautista

I highly recommend staying the night in the sleepy little town of San Juan Bautista.  There is so much history to absorb that it should not be rushed.  I had the entire plaza to myself the evening I was there.  The tour buses were gone.  The shops were closed for the day.  It was just me and the chickens!  I booked a room at the lovely Posada de San Juan and slept like a baby until a rooster woke me up at four a.m.  It disoriented me.  My room was pitch black and it took me a minute or two to remember where I was.  Back in Baja?

"I guess there's no ordinance against roosters," I mentioned to the hotel clerk.  "No, but they do get rounded up now and then,"  she said.
I was the first customer of the morning at the Mission Cafe.  A full breakfast of eggs, bacon, hash browns and toast kept me going the entire day.  I sat in a red vinyl booth and slowly watched the town come alive.

Antique stores and restaurants line the old historic streets.  I window shopped for awhile.  The silver jewelry from Mexico, the western bronzes and vintage clothes were all worthy of a more serious look when the shops finally opened. 

 San Juan Bautista is a town that never gave up.  During the Mexican era, it was the headquarters of the Northern Territory of California and also served as a commercial center for the entire valley.  Many important men bet that it would boom. Beautiful hotels and homes were built in anticipation of this dream.  Stage coaches between San Francisco and Los Angeles stopped here on a regular basis because the  Plaza Hotel's food and service rivaled New Orleans.

  Fires, epidemics and earthquakes, however,  plagued the town.  The real blow came when the railroad decided to go through neighboring Hollister instead of San Juan Bautista.   By the end of the 19th century, almost nothing of the town remained.  Today, many of these buildings have been restored.  Besides the mission, there is the State Historic Park to explore and an array of fabulous restaurants to choose from:  German, Basque, Mexican and Italian.  

San Juan Bautista is known as the "City of Ironies".  Still off the beaten track, I have the feeling the local population likes it that way.  It explodes with tourists during the day, but is quiet and almost ghostly at night.  Grandiose dreams turned to dust; its history almost lost.  What a magical place it is today.  This little town that never gave up has been reborn to enthrall and educate a whole new generation of Californians.

No comments:

Post a Comment