This is the St Francis Retreat in San Benito County south of San Juan Bautista. I’m not super clear on the details of how this all works, but it’s a Franciscan monastery with like an attached restaurant and art gallery gardens and duck pond. There’s a little stadium for holding concerts and I’d bet my life there’s bingo night somewhere. There’s also a sort of hotel thing going on but I’m not sure if that’s just for members of the order or if it’s public too. So there’s guys in rope-belted robes wandering around with their hands in their sleeves going ‘pax vobiscum’, and it’s QUIET and PEACEFUL to the extreme relaxing max. There’s a nice little hike around the lake which had a Catholic religious significance that I’m not real educated on, ‘Stations of the Cross’. And there are beautiful vistas with benches that overlook the valley. I went there one day to snoop on a friend’s art exhibition in the gallery and had an absolute blast. But quietly. The gift store sells all kinds of yummies. The location that the retreat is on used to be the Flint Bixby ranch part of the 34,000 acre Rancho San Justo, with a gorgeous gingerbread Victorian mansion built in 1863. I’ve talked about this crew before in connection with their business partner William Welles Hollister, gold rush guys turned sheep farmers (hello VEX) who snapped up the big land grants in the 1860s. After the Bixbys split with Hollister they ended up with the land on the east side of the San Benito River and this piece is just a tiny sliver of the once massive rancho. The Franciscan’s purchased it in 1947. The original Victorian house burned to the ground in 2006 (not in a forest fire apparently, I didn’t know houses caught on fire for other reasons in California) and was rebuilt in 2009 in a sort of ‘modern conference center with a Spanish Rancho vibe’ style. It’s on 73 acres in the Gavilan Mountains. Great visit. Don’t miss the art gallery.
They sell good coffee too.