This Sunday I felt compelled to leave Nevada, cross Donner’s Pass and descend upon Sacramento, the capital city of California.
I drove into downtown, before going to my hostel, and parked directly in front St. Francis of Assisi Parish. Barbara led a tour of this historic church which proved to be the perfect starting point for my weekend. The church’s architecture is modeled after that of the Old Mission of Santa Barbara. The interior is a blend of Renaissance and Baroque styles; over 40 stained-glass windows from Austria, and numerous murals decorate the ceilings and walls, portraying more than 120 saints and Biblical scenes. The beautiful carved wooden staircase, railing and choir loft are repurposed wood from the 1906 remodeling of the State Capitol Building. The church’s bell, cast in New York in 1859, continues to toll daily. Besides being beautiful to look at, there’s a real palpable sense of the Spirit in the church that can’t be explained. It was a pleasure to spend time there.
Across the street from St. Francis Parish is Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park. John Sutter was a Swiss immigrant that fled Europe to escape debt and set upon a series of adventures that ranged from Missouri and Santa Fe to Hawaii and Alaska, Sutter finally made it to California and arrived in Sacramento in the late fall of 1839 and built “Sutter’s Fort”. He was a perplexing man and it surprised me that the state of California would honor his by restoring his fort. Sutter was a visionary, swindler, soldier, debtor, friend and foe to the Indians, patriarch and victim. After all that, he fled his fort and died in Pennsylvania, far from the community he helped to create.
I was ready for a nap before dinner and decided to head for my hostel. I was lucky to get booked into the Llewellyn Williams Mansion, now a beautifully restored hostel in the heart of downtown. Maine native Williams arrived in Sacramento in 1850 and quickly became one of Sacramento’s most successful businessmen. The mansion is a step back in time full of historic appeal as I climbed the steps to the wrap around veranda and entered through the grand entry, looked up at the vaulted ceilings, wood paneling, chandeliers, painted glass skylight, and hand-painted tile work.
After a satisfying dinner at The Old Spaghetti Factory, I drove with anticipation to see the Global Winter Wonderland light display. I’ve been to many Christmas Light displays over the years, but the Global Winter Wonderland is a spectacular world of enormous colorful hand-sewn silk lanterns and fantasy. It doesn’t all have to do with Christmas, but it is so fantastic that I was giddy and unsure of what to look at first! http://www.globalwonderland.com/public/things-to-do/worlds-of-light/index.cfm A family could easily spend several nights attending shows, riding the rides, etc.
Before leaving I wanted to visit the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament and the State Capital Building and park in downtown. The Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, built in 1887, is one of the largest cathedrals west of the Mississippi. Modeled after the Church of the Holy Trinity in Paris it has an Italian Renaissance exterior and exceptional Victorian interior. While breathtaking, it lacked the intimate feeling of St. Francis Parish.
To finish my visit, I spent time at the Capital Building and park. The Capital is based on the U.S. Capital building in DC and set in a lovely, tree-filled park complete with a rose garden. At the base of the portico, seven granite archways brace and support the porch above. I have been to DC and think this was even more impressive. Maybe it was the setting with the large cedars surrounding it, the portrait of George Washington below the State Seal or the gilded Corinthian columns. Anyone entering the chambers would feel compelled to lofty thoughts.
If the weather holds well enough to make it over the pass again, I would like to spend more time enjoying the natural beauty, the history and visiting the museums of Sacramento that I didn’t get to on this short trip. Enjoy my photos at: http://emiling.com/photos/California/