Old Mission Santa Barbara, an Old Mission in Santa Barbara

Today we left L.A. behind and drove 71 miles up Highway 101 with a single purpose: to see a famous old mission founded by the Franciscans back in 1786. Old Mission Santa Barbara is still a going concern. Monks study there, retreatants are put up, Mass is said in the church, and the grounds are maintained and art restored for tourists like us.

The Stairway to Hell had vending machines!

Our first stop on the self-guided tour of the monastery was the famous STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN. We ached to climb those timeworn stairs, but we hung back, daunted by the legend according to which those with stained souls would only find cactuses on every step. Somewhat shamefacedly we gave the Stairway the go-by and headed for the centuries old GRAVEYARD.

Not audio-animitronic.There, too, we met resistance. The SKULL-HAID DOOR challenges all comers with three riddles, one from each skull-haid. Answer correctly and you may pass safely through the portal. Answer wrong and you may still pass, but the skull-haids smirk and make you feel uncomfortable.

Tries to do like St Francis and get the birds to sit still for a sermon, but so far no dice.On the way out, as we wrapped up our self-guided tour and a visit to the (excellent) Gift Shop, we met BROTHER CAT who blessed us and let us rub his belly.

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