The Hidden Coast: God’s Country

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On the road to San Clemente, a few exits before I-5 meets the coast, San Juan Capistrano is the sort of town you could pass a hundred times without stopping—its swallows more renowned than its shopping or lodgings. If you do not fear crossing paths with a fourth-grade field trip, Mission San Juan Capistrano (949-234-1300) is a worthy detour, a glimpse into a California past that is both idyllic and tortured. Step over the train tracks—carefully—into the Los Rios Historic District. After lunch on the patio of the Ramos House Café (949-443- 1342), an 1881 cottage that is a residence and a restaurant, visit the Zoomars Petting Zoo (949-831-6550 or zoomars.com) to get acquainted with a tribe of hungry goats.