The Mission San Fernando Rey de España was founded in 1797, but it took us until 2008 to finally make our way over to see it. The old adobe compound was built by those tireless Spanish friars, then over the centuries it was knocked down time and again by earthquakes and what have you. In the 1940s and 1970s it was painstakingly restored.
The church is a functioning one: it is consecrated and offers daily mass. The rest of the place, though, is a museum of California history. The “convento,” which once served as a hostel, is now filled with artwork and artifacts both secular and sacred from as long ago as 1550 and as recent as John Paul II’s papal visit.
Passing through the church you enter an exquisite garden:
Carefully tended, not quite of this world, filled with the sound of a fountain made to resemble a brook passing over stones, the Bob Hope Memorial Garden is worth the trip all by itself. The winding paths lead to this grotto:
There beneath the grotto lies the centenarian benefactor of the San Fernando Mission.
Directions: Go looking for snow in the mountains north of Santa Clarita. On your way back get off the main freeway onto something called “Old Road” just to see what it looks like. Get lost somewhere after coming through the Newhall Pass. Drive all over the place until you hit San Fernando Mission Boulevard and say, “Hey, we always wanted to see that place!” and turn onto the boulevard figuring (correctly) it must have something to do with the ancient landmark. Zoom right by the San Fernando Mission. Do a screeching U-turn as soon as practical. Return and go through the gates to the (FREE!) parking lot.