I recently went to visit my good friends Michael and Paul in beautiful Marin County, California. I hadn’t been down since late 2011 and figured now was as a good a time as any to pop in for a visit.
“What do you want to do while you’re down here,” asked Paul.
I’ve done all of the tourist things in San Francisco and this visit I was content to relax and enjoy the company of my dear friends. There was, however, one thing I wanted to see while I was there.
“Can you drive me up to Sonoma?” I ask Paul on a whim. “I’ve always wanted to visit Mission San Francisco Solano!”
I have long been fascinated with the Spanish and Mexican history of California which was at one time known as Alta California. Although the Spanish and Mexican period ended long ago it still lives on in the 21 missions that extend from San Diego to Sonoma.
Established in 1823 Mission San Francisco Solano was the northernmost and last of the California missions. It was also the only one established after Mexican independence.
Without hesitation on his part, or a solid plan on my end, Paul graciously agrees to facilitate my geeky obsession with history.
Paul, who is quite organized, assumed I had everything figured out. The night before we drove up there, however, I had no clue what we would be doing. Other than the mission I had no idea what else there was to see or do in Sonoma.
I was kind of freaking out so I did a frantic Google search and was delighted to discover that the mission is part of Sonoma State Historic Park which is comprised of a series of historic attractions located in several sites throughout Sonoma!
Better yet the US$3 entrance fee gives one access to all of the sites including: the Sonoma Barracks, Casa Grande Servants’ Quarters, the Toscano Hotel, Vallejo Home (Lachryma Montis), the Chalet Museum, the Blue Wing Inn and the mission itself.
Before my sleeping pills kicked in I converted the Wikipedia articles for these sites into .epub files and loaded them on to my awesome Sony PRS-T1 e-book reader to read on the drive to Sonoma.
The park itself offered a full day of what I felt were exciting activities and I figured I had the know-how to make the excursion at least somewhat interesting to my gracious hosts.
It’s not the most famous or imposing of the mission but I love San Francisco Solano as it blends Spanish architectural elements with a rustic elegance that conjures images of the American Frontier.
It’s situated near several intact structures from the Mexican era as well as more contemporary buildings and this lends the mission and the surrounding neighbourhood an aura of history that is readily accessible to all visitors.
And access historic sites I did!
“I will never go to Europe with you,” Paul told Michael as I was reading every plaque and historic display. “We’d never make it out of the first museum over there!”
One the staff people there – a rather handsome park ranger who appeared to be my age – shared my enthusiasm for the fact that the mission is part of a state park.
“I love that we’re secular, man!” he said after I expressed my relief that this was not a church owned building. “Your admission fee goes to the state.”
I should point out, however, that these are my own thoughts. The handsome ranger made no comment on church affairs and was completely professional.
After the mission we went to the Sonoma Barracks which is a two-storey adobe barracks that was built in the 1830s to house Mexican troops. Unfortunately, it was a very dusty and musty old building and both Michael and I had a pretty severe allergic kind of reaction to something in there.
Also, I was getting a bit woozy on account of the sun so we decided to call it a day.
And what a day it was!
I had a great time in California and I hope to return for another visit soon.