Los Angeles inspires modernity, change and multiculturalism as much as any major metropolis can and it certainly has older and newer sections of the city which we have enjoyably explored. We recently discovered the most historic section of the city; the veritable birthplace of this massive endeavor: San Gabriel.
San Gabriel is an historic mission and town that is located around twenty minutes South of current downtown LA. It is marked by quaint little homes, a grid like pattern of streets and a sizeable Chinese-American population. Historically this was the 4th mission constructed by the missionaries out of the 21 and it is very well preserved and maintained.
We approached the mission in the early morning sunlight and what a beautiful campus it is. There is a beautiful interior garden, a historic and panoramic cemetery, the historic church with centuries old paintings and statuary as well as a new church and school complex on the 9 acre site.
One of the most scenic spots is actually a side park between the town hall and the Western Wall of the mission compound itself. Here the iconic mission bells in various shapes mark the classic structure, it really transports you to a simpler time and place and allows you to reflect how this area has exploded in the last three hundred years.
Just around the corner from the mission compound sits the Mission District which includes local shops in a pedestrian friendly area with a colonial revival style architecture. Luna’s Mexican restaurant is a local favorite and the large San Gabriel Mission Playhouse is a focal point for local reenactments as well as a longstanding theater tradition. The Grapevine Arbor is a testament to the agricultural and vinicultural success of the mission which purports to have been the first place to bring wine to California.
San Gabriel is just one of the many experiences diverse LA offers, but it is certainly one we feel has a great allure, especially for those who may not have the time to drive to other missions which are further afield.