To-day only the "fachada" of the old church remains. It stands on
a hillside about five miles northeast of the city and overlooks the
beautiful valley of the San Diego River. The avenue leading to it from
the main road passes between long rows of eucalyptus trees and the
ruin itself presents a picturesque effect in its setting of palms and
black and silver-gray olives. A large dormitory near by houses several
priests, who courteously receive the visitor and tell him the story of
the mission. There is little to show, but one who is interested in the
romantic history of the Golden State will find himself loath to leave
the time-mellowed fragment of, perhaps, her most historic building.
And his reveries will be saddened by the thought that the precious old
structure is rapidly falling into decay, which will mean its ultimate
extinction unless energetic measures are adopted to restore and protect
it. Surely the earliest relic of the beginning of civilization on our
great Pacific Coast is deserving of loving and conscientious care.
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On our return to the city we left the main highway a short distance from the mission and pursued a mountain road to Lakeside Inn, then a much-advertised resort. This road-a mere shelf cut in the side of the hills-closely follows the course of the San Diego River, usually far above it, with a cliff-like declivity at the side. It is quite narrow in places and there are many sharp turns around abrupt corners-a road not altogether conducive to peace of mind in nervous people. The scenery, however, makes the trip worth while-the river boiling over its boulder-strewn bed and the wooded hills on every hand combining to make a wild but inspiring picture.
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The inn was an immense wooden structure, since destroyed by fire. Handsome grounds did much to make up for the rather shabby appearance of the building. The lake was an artificial pond-about the only kind of lake to be found in the vicinity of San Diego. The excellent dinner was the strong point in the Lakeside's favor, and this was doubtless the attraction which brought several cars besides our own, as nearly all left shortly after the meal. We lounged about the grounds for awhile and then followed suit, taking a different road-by the way of El Cajon and La Mesa-an easier though less spectacular route than that by which we came.
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This passes Grosmont, a great conical hill some twelve hundred feet high, and a well-engineered roadway leads to the summit. Of course we must make the ascent, though the steep appearance of the grades caused the occupants of the rear seat some uneasiness. The ascent did not prove so difficult as we anticipated at first glance, though the pitch just before one comes to the summit is enough to worry any careful driver a little. The view from the hill is advertised as "the grandest panorama in the world; one that simply beggars description," and "Fighting Bob" Evans is quoted as having said, "Of all the beautiful views in the world, give me Grosmont; nothing that I have ever seen can beat it." It may have been that the bluff admiral climbed Grosmont after an extended voyage at sea and any land was bound to look good to him. Lillian Russell, the actress, is quoted by the guide-book in a similar strain, but while Lillian is an accepted authority on personal pulchritude, I do not know that she can claim the same distinction with reference to scenic beauty. In any event, while the view from Grosmont is truly grand and inspiring, I am very sure that we saw many nobler ones from California mountain peaks. Indeed, we saw one still more glorious the next day-of which more anon. The view, however, is well worth the climb to anyone fond of panoramas and free from nervous qualms on mountain roads.
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Of course everyone who comes to San Diego must see the Coronado, whose pointed red towers have become familiar everywhere through extensive advertising and whose claim as the "largest resort hotel in the world" has not been disputed, so far as I know. It is situated on the northern point of the long strip of sand that shuts in the waters of San Diego Bay and which widens to several hundred yards, affording extensive grounds for the hotel as well as sites for numerous private residences and a small village. It may be reached by ferry from the city or one may drive around the bay-a distance of twenty-one miles, and when we undertook it a very rough road for the greater part of the way. The drive is not very interesting; the shore is flat, and there is little opportunity to get a view of the bay. It is the kind of trip that one cares to make but once, and on subsequent visits to Coronado we crossed by the ferry, which carried our car cheaply and satisfactorily.
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The "season" having passed, we experienced no difficulty in getting accommodations at the Coronado, not always easy to do "off hand" in the winter months. The rates glibly quoted by the genial clerk jarred us a little but we consoled ourselves with the reflection that we wouldn't pay them for a very lengthy period. That was before the war, however, and in retrospect the figures do not loom so large by any means!