Splendor and sequinsMission Hills, Los Angeles, CA

Mission San Fernando Rey de España sketch by Chandler O'Leary

This is the fifth installment of my Mission Mondays series, exploring all 21 Spanish Missions along the California coast. You can read more about this series, and see a sketch map of all the missions, at this post.

Last week we visited one of the more unassuming missions in the chain. Just over in the next valley is another complex seemingly forgotten by your average mission tourist: Mission San Fernando Rey de España.

Detail of California Missions map sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Mission San Fernando is also part of the greater Los Angeles area, tucked away in a residential neighborhood in the northern end of the San Fernando Valely. Compared with its brother on the other side of the city, Mission San Fernando is a little better looked after, with tidier grounds and neatly restored buildings. Most of San Gabriel’s architecture is original—crumbling, but authentic. San Fernando’s is pristine, but largely modern (at least on the surface). The restoration seems to have made it lose something: that feel of great age, of venerable history.

Mission San Fernando Rey de España sketch by Chandler O'Leary

Still, the property is gorgeous. And when I saw what was going on inside the grounds, I couldn’t help but smile. I was there on a busy Saturday, which I only remembered was Valentine’s Day when I arrived and saw teenage girls everywhere in frilly dresses, waiting for their quinceañeras to start. There were a bunch of brides milling around as well, but next to the teens in their bright pink confections they were positively drab. Some of the quinceañera gowns reminded me of puffed-up peacock feathers…

Mission San Fernando Rey de España sketch by Chandler O'Leary

…until I rounded a corner and came upon an actual peacock.

I guess this is the perfect illustration of why I went on this trek to visit all 21 missions. I came to see the architecture, but what really charmed me were the slices of real life going on within the walls. And actually taking the time to explore each mission showed me that even the most unassuming of them had plenty of surprises in store for me.

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