WARNING: Long and photo-heavy post ahead! :)
For those of you who are familiar with your history, you probably know about the 21 missions of California. For those of you who aren’t, here’s a quick summary from Wikipedia:
“The Spanish missions in California comprise a series of religious and military outposts established by Spanish Catholics of the Franciscan Order between 1769 and 1823 to spread the Christian faith among the local Native Americans. The missions represented the first major effort by Europeans to colonize the Pacific Coast region, and gave Spain a valuable toehold in the frontier land. The settlers introduced European livestock, fruits, vegetables, cattle, horses and ranching into the California region; however, the Spanish occupation of California also brought with it serious negative consequences to the Native American populations with whom the missionaries came in contact. The government of Mexico shut down the missions in the 1830s. In the end, the mission had mixed results in its objective to convert, educate, and “civilize” the indigenous population and transforming the natives into Spanish colonial citizens. Today, the missions are among the state’s oldest structures and the most-visited historic monuments.”
The one that my family drove to was the San Gabriel Arcángel mission. I was actually impressed by how much culture you can observe and absorb from a landmark like this. They preserved the church, tombstones, and gardens incredibly well – which made for some great photos! I want to say that everything was left in its original state, but I’m sure a lot of maintenance and retouching of architecture was necessary to make it a presentable tourist spot. It was a very beautiful experience nonetheless. =)
Two other notable landmarks that we visited were the Walt Disney Concert Hall and Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles. It was unfortunate that the former wasn’t open to the public, but I really enjoyed the latter because I’m a total museum junkie. :P
I had already been to the Griffith Observatory a few summers ago, but back then we didn’t have the chance to see every single exhibit. My brother and I made sure we covered everything this time. :)
My aunt also took us to the Universal City Walk in Hollywood, which is basically a fun strip of shops and restaurants. We took this opportunity to pick up some souvenirs for some family friends back home, and enjoy delicious Japanese cuisine at Wasabi. :D
My brother and I also took a trip to the local movie theater to see the new Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. I really enjoyed the first film, and this sequel did not disappoint. Robert Downey Jr. is a great actor, and really brings to life the character of Sherlock Holmes that I remember reading about in the books. I liked it a whole lot more than the new Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol – so if you’re torn between which of the two to see first this winter, you already know my recommendation. :P
Another thing I’d like to point out about California is how much it feeds my Hello Kitty addiction! They have more Sanrio stores there than in New York, and I couldn’t help buying myself something every time I walked into one. >.<; Pictured above is set of two adorable Gothic Lolita key caps. I’ve already fitted the bottom one onto my house key, but I’m giving the other to my best friend. :)
I also couldn’t resist buying this fashion ring! It has the cutest black bow, with a silver Hello Kitty charm dangling from it. The band is readjustable, and it only cost me $5. :P It came in so many other colors, too! Needless to say, it took a lot of self-control for me to buy another one in red. XD
When I went back to my aunt’s house and showed her my new ring, she gave me this Hello Kitty bracelet that she bought in the Philippines a couple years ago! It’s a little difficult to clasp all by myself, but I’m sure I’ll get the hang of it.
So.. what did I do for New Year’s? Apart from the usual family function and plentiful Filipino food, I was able to act as a bartender for the night and made frozen margaritas all night long for all our guests.
The next day, we were also able to watch the famous Pasadena Rose Parade! Although I hear that it’s crowded every year, we were able to place chairs on the sidewalk the night before to ensure ourselves a spot and a good view. At first, I couldn’t believe that all of the floats were made mostly out of roses! But they were all very gorgeous and creative. You can see all the photos that I took during the parade here in my Facebook album. :)
On our last day, we went out to a nice Peruvian restaurant and checked out the Redondo beach and pier. The view of the sunset was amazing! It was a little sad to say goodbye to all my family members that I never get to see, though. It’s uncertain when the next time I come back to California will be, so I’m glad that I was able to spend all this quality time with them. <3