Ever since the fourth grade, when we were obliged to study them in school, we've had a soft spot in our hearts for the California Missions. No, not the brutal oppression of the native peoples that they represent--that part is atrociously ugly. But the opportunity to see in some detail and with some sense of humanity how those early people lived.
We've visited many of the missions, from the most obvious ones like Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz and San Rafael, to some very obscure ones like Pala and San Antonio de Padua. But our recent visit to La Purisima outside of Lompoc set a new standard for the genre.
This is one of the largest reconstructions ever undertaken by the CCC back in the day, and it has stood the test of time exceptionally well. The rooms are full or artifacts, and really give a sense of what daily life must have been like--at least for the Franciscans and their accompanying troops. (Archeological evidence for the native peoples is far scarcer...mainly because they didn't live in the big house--but in dormitories with very little in the way of material goods.)
As M said as we wrapped up our visit to la Purisima: "That was my fourth grade fantasy!"