San Juan Capistrano

“Swallows with a Small-Town Vibe”

Kate and I went drove down to San Diego this weekend for an engagement party, and knowing that the road to San Diego is paved with nothing but traffic on the 5, we decided to make an adventure out of our cruise down the coast.

Upon hearing of our sojourn south, our good friend insisted we eat at her favorite restaurant, a place called the Ramos House in the tiny town of San Juan Capistrano. With such a high recommendation, as well as discovering that SJC was just about halfway between LA and SD, we decided that we would grab a late brunch midway through our road trip.

After an hour on the 5, we pulled off on our exit to San Juan Capistrano, and we were immediately confused. There were event signs everywhere, and traffic cones were blocking off various streets.

As we wound our way through the streets of SJC, slowly following our Google Maps directions, we began to see people on the street, carrying signs and walking.

“Oh my! They must be from the March for our Lives” I said.

“Joey, those people are wearing cowboy hats and other people are wearing army apparel. I don’t think this is an anti-gun rally” Kate sagely advised.

Unsurprisingly, Kate was right.

In our quest for brunch, we had stumbled into San Juan Capistrano on the towns biggest event of the year, the day the Swallows return to the San Juan Capistrano Mission. Yes dear readers, we were parade crashing.

Finding a parking spot that only Kate’s Fiat could fit into, we got out of the car and started walking around. The area where we were was one of the most darling and quaint sections of a small town I’ve had the pleasure of walking in. We found the Ramos House and found a table outdoor directly adjacent to the train tracks of the San Diego Surfliner.

Our meal was delicious and charmingly punctuated by trains arriving and departing, picking up tired families of festival and parade goers. As I munched on apple beignets I heard the dull sounds of a local band playing all the hits – Journey, Boston, AC/DC, you know, local band hits.

After our meal, we decided to take a quick walk around the town to see the parade pell-mell. I’m not a strong Californian historian, but there was definitely a comical clash of cultures and outfits displayed in the streets of San Juan Capistrano on Swallows day.

We saw cowboys, marines, a guy dressed in a full kilt with accompanying bagpipes, vaqueros, luchadors, and even one woman wearing a full mask and outfit that seemed straight out of Day of the Dead.

It’s been a while since I’ve been around a parade with such sincere silliness, and while we ended up being stuck in traffic for an extra hour because of our detour, it was a sight that was worth the delay.

San Juan Capistrano – 3 out of 5 Stars 

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