Friday, January 13, 2017

Weekend Getaway in Riverside

Mission Inn
I had a big meeting in Riverside, Monday morning. Torrential rains were predicted, so Tim and I decided to take the train out the day before and spend the night at the historic Mission Inn, which we had only ever viewed from the outside.

Dressed in shorts, we took the lightrail to Union Station in downtown L.A., before hopping on Amtrak. There is no direct train to Riverside on Sundays. Instead, we got off in Fullerton and rode a bus the rest of the way. The weather was perfect—high 70s—but we could see snow-capped mountains in the distance. Ah, Southern California . . .

Union Station

Tim on the platform, ready to board
Downtown Riverside is charmingly old and highly walkable. Once we arrived at the depot—calling it a train station would have been a huge exaggeration!—we rolled our bags a half-mile to the hotel. We checked in and then went exploring. First stop, the Mission Inn itself.

What started in 1876 as a twelve-room adobe guest house, designed to look like a mission, is now a renowned California landmark, where even presidents have stayed. There's a chapel and glorious courtyard and apparently every inch of public space is famously covered in lights and Christmas decorations during the holidays. We missed the light show by a day, but did see remnants, including a lovely tree in the lobby and human-sized angels standing on the interior balconies. 

Interior balconies with angels

Looking down on the courtyard


Mission Inn chapel

Lobby Christmas tree (detail)
The Inn is beautiful and very "old world." Our room was large and airy, but in desperate need of updated furniture. Walking above the courtyard, I felt like we were in Spain or Italy—a million miles from Los Angeles.

We next went in search of lunch. Coincidentally, I had just read about Tio's Tacos, #69 on Los Angeles Magazine's list of 100 "hidden gems," located just a few blocks from the hotel. What a find! Not only was the food amazing—and inexpensive, too—but the entire place was festooned in fascinating outsider art created by the owner. Mostly enormous figures, the art is made from recycled items (e.g., cans, bottles, small electronic devices, etc.) and reminded me of a more primitive Watts Towers.

Tio's logo

Fabulous food: carnitas taco and rice for me,
pork torta for Tim

Palm-tree-sized woman

And another

Even the walkways are decorated in discarded bottle bottoms

Tim as angel
Eating at and seeing Tio's was a uniquely wonderful experience. In fact, our whole stay in Riverside was wonderful and highly recommended for a much-needed weekend getaway.

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