My family stumbled upon Mission Ranch while driving down the coast from San Francisco. While exploring Carmel's picturesque storefronts and adjacent beach, they asked around for a good place to eat dinner. Locals were quick to mention that Clint Eastwood owned a ranch - with a nice restaurant on the premises - and my family jumped at the idea. My little sister loved it so much, she decided to make it a priority to go back.
This time, it was with me. And her boyfriend. He had never been west of Chicago, so we made a trip out of driving up the coast until the road closures forced us inland; even still we took our time exploring the winding mountain roads instead of coasting down the 101. Just as the January rains and resulting mudslides halted our hopes of driving Highway 1 all the way to Carmel, it rewarded us with incredible colors of green across California's rolling hills like I've never seen before.
By late afternoon, we checked into our room at Mission Ranch and began exploring the grounds. The ranch is comprised of several century-old buildings that look out towards an idyllic meadow where a small herd of sheep graze with a view of the ocean. The restaurant sits on the edge of that meadow, the patio decorated with string lights and greenery. At dinnertime, we settled in the front room of the restaurant, near the piano - we'd been told that on occasion Clint himself would drop in to play. He didn't that night, but the music was still very much enjoyed as we dined on filet minon and bread pudding.
After a relaxing night on the ranch and one of the best meals I've had in a while, we headed back south. While following highway 101 - which is also the old El Camino Real - we decided to stop for a bit of history at one of California's oldest missions. The historic 600-mile road connects 21 Spanish missions and pueblos, ultimately linking San Diego to Sonoma, just north of the Bay Area.
We stumbled upon Mission San Miguel, which was established in 1797 and officially named a National Historic Monument in 2006. The frescoes inside the chapel are original, and each Sunday they continue to be appreciated by the local congregation who gather there for service. I was astounded to find that not only was this historic chapel still in use, but so was the adjacent cemetery - where new graves were marked by freshly painted crosses and flowers, while older ones sometimes went without makers at all. We quietly left the cemetery through the front gate, paid a few more minutes of appreciation at the front of the historic mission, and headed back to the car.
We leisurely made our way back to Los Angeles, just shyly missing rush hour traffic as we cruised back into the city. I was glad to have spent such quality time with my sister, and happy to have opened the doors to the west coast for her boyfriend. California was on display that weekend, and as we toured the coast and explored both LA and Carmel, I was proud to call Cali home. I am continually surprised and delighted to find that there's always something - or somewhere - new to see.