Vacation in Carmel: San Carlos Borroméo de Carmelo Mission

Carmel Mission is about a mile from where we’re staying, so it was very easy to get there. We found it easily and parked in the lot in front. For a Monday, it was a little bit busy, but not too bad.

This was the second mission in Alta California, founded by Junipero Serra. It’s historically significant because it was basically Fr. Serra’s headquarters while he founded several other missions up and down the California Coast.

Upon paying the the entrance fee, we were given a handout with a map and told to follow the dotted lines on the map. Visitors are first directed into a small, slightly overgrown but lovely garden. Dave and I sat and read the two-page history as explained in the handout before we proceeded.

That’s where I found this gem of a sentence: “The Indian’s [sic] lack of natural immunity to European diseases caused many illnesses and deaths.” Isn’t colonialism fun?

We entered the basilica and the small rooms found just off the main sanctuary. The mission is a restoration (i.e., not original), but the interior is in good condition and period-appropriate.

It was upon leaving the sanctuary that we discovered that the woman selling admission really should have given more direction. The dotted line on the map directs visitors through the cemetery to the side of the building. However, construction on three sides of the building prohibit entry to the cemetery. I’m glad to see they’re doing some structural restoration; however, it would be so easy to alert visitors to the changes before sending them on the self-guided tour.

Dave and I deviated from the dotted-line tour and found ourselves poking around the courtyard on the other side of the basilica, enclosed by the school buildings. It was a lovely courtyard, and would have been quite peaceful if not for the very loud noises produced by a chipper machine being run behind the building.

It turns out that 12 noon is a nice time to be at a mission. We got a chance to hear the bells strike the midday hour. It was loud but it was fun to hear and watch.

There are a few rooms of museum on the way out which are set up to show what life was like at the mission when it was in its heyday. It includes “California’s first library“.

The tour ends, as all good tours do, in the gift shop. Mission gift shops are a uniquely distasteful combination of commercialism and religious fervor. We poked around for a few minutes just to be polite, then headed out.

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