January 22, 2007

Mission San Francisco Solano

Many people are drawn to the Sonoma Valley for it's wonderful warm climate, fertile soil and irresistible beauty. Father Jose Altimira was no exception. In July 4, 1823 he travelled north from Mission Dolores in San Francisco where he was assisting, to found Mission San Francisco Solano (or the Sonoma Mission as it is more commonly known), making it the last and northern-most of the California missions. Here the Franciscan fathers cultivated the land to make sacramental wine from the Valley's first vineyard.

Today, this historic adobe structure with its red-tiled roofs still stands at one corner of the Sonoma town square just a stone's throw away from the Sonoma Cheese Factory. The original mission was reduced to rubble after a couple of earthquakes including the big one of 1906. It has since been restored and converted into a museum. Hanging in the main room and dining room are the Virgil Jorgensen watercolor depictions of the place.

The chapel at the Mission
The California Missions are a series of outposts established by the Spaniards
to spread the Christian doctrine to the Native Americans.

Today was our lucky day. There was a group of school children on an organized field trip out in the courtyard who were learning different crafts using traditional methods. They were busy flitting about and clearly enjoying themselves. I was drawn to the candle-making process because I've always wanted to make my own. The wicks are dipped in and out of the hot pot of wax (top right photo above) building up layers of wax. This is continued until the right size is achieved. These are then hung to set, as seen in the first photo above.
Using the outdoor charcoal grills and stone ovens (bottom photos), the children made their own snacks which they laid out on the table. They kindly invited us to join them, offering us the biscuits they made and some juice. The kids were really sweet and it was fun to watch them go about their crafts.

A young girl wets the dried leaves she's weaving into a basket

Sheep's wool and knitting materials

Taking a break from all that hard work

And so this was our lovely day in Sonoma, forever etched in my memory. We saw, ate and experienced more than I imagined we could in one day. A warm hug and a big thank you to my friend M for making it all happen! :)

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PS: (I had to share this with you)

After Sonoma, we met up with B2 and her husband for dinner at their favorite Vietnamese restaurant, Le Cheval. It didn't take long for me to realize why this was a favorite. The food was incredible! I've been to some great Vietnamese restaurants in SF in the past, but this was the best so far. In case you ever find yourself in the area, I would hate for you to miss this place just because you didn't know about it.


Oggi said...

I was reading this the other day but was in a hurry for some errands and did not have time to leave a comment. I am curious, what do they make out of the wool threads? This would be one of the places I would like to visit in that area if and when I do, maybe in March or April.

christine said...

They were making stuff like scarves and these were all part of the whole learning experience durin the field trip. There was cooking, baking, candle-making, knitting and basket-weaving. All done outdoors and using traditional methods. :)