The Mission Dolores Cemetery, San Francisco

Mission Dolores, San Francisco

Mission Dolores, San Francisco

The oldest building in San Francisco, the Mission San Francisco de Asis, more commonly known as Mission Dolores, was built in San Francisco in 1776.


In the back, behind a white adobe wall, is the old cemetery. It is one of the quietest spots in this urban sprawl.


Between 1769 and 1833, 21 Spanish missions  were established by Franciscan priests throughout what was later to become the state of California. The sixth mission to be founded was the San Francisco one. The missions were the origins of the state’s communities.


Mission San Francisco De Asís

Old Mission on left, Basilica on right. Photo: Robert A. Estremo, courtesy Wikipedia.

More information about the missions.


The old San Francisco Mission has a small chapel, museum, cemetery, and tiny gift shop; the basilica next door hosts regular Catholic church services. As a city, state, and national historical landmark, it is also a popular destination for tour buses.


Original adobe walls, inside the Mission Dolores

Original adobe walls, inside the Mission Dolores

History of Mission Dolores here.


Mission Dolores, 1856. Courtesy Wikipedia.





The chapel is popular and interesting, decorated and devoted. But it is busy with tourists and sounds echo.


Chapel interior. Courtesy Wikipedia

The cemetery, however, is hushed–with old rose bushes, palm trees, birds, and vibrant sunshine. This is where I like to be.


There are only two cemeteries in San Francisco, this tiny plot is one of them. It was originally much bigger.


Mission Dolores Cemetery

Mission Dolores Cemetery

Today the earthquake-rippled sidewalks still lead you down a path of centuries-old gravestones. It holds the markers of San Francisco’s pioneers, leaders, old residents. There is also a revered sculpture of Father Junipero Serra.


I like to linger here among the broken graves with worn-off names, quietly listening to the sound of the chickadee singing overhead, feeling the penetrating warmth of the sun.


Mission Dolores Cemetery

Mission Dolores Cemetery

Sometimes I think about the people who shaped this city, sometimes I think about Alfred Hitchcock who filmed a scene from “Vertigo” right here, and sometimes I wonder how long it will be before my parking time runs out.


Photo credit: Jet Eliot unless otherwise specified


Golden Gate GraveyardYou can read more about Mission Dolores in my newly released mystery novel. Purchase here or at Amazon or any other major book retailer.




Ollantaytambo, Peru

Ollantaytambo, Peru; background: Andes Mtns.

There’s a small old town hidden in a valley amidst the Andes Mountains in southern Peru called Ollantaytambo.  It is on the train route to Machu Picchu and most people do not stop here, but oh, what a wonderful place it is.


Approximately 37 miles (60 km) from the city of Cusco, Ollantaytambo (pronounced oyan-tay-tam’-bo) rests at an elevation of 9,160 feet (2,792 m).  It has an extensive history dating back to the 15th century, and provides a rare look into the Incan empire.  For more history on Ollantaytambo, click here.


Incan site, Ollantaytambo, Peru

Incan site, Ollantaytambo, Peru

When you visit here now you have the unique opportunity to walk through the ancient Incan sites, learning about a vanished culture, appreciating their architecture and craftsmanship.  Simultaneously a visitor can experience the activities and culture of the 21st century, strolling along the cobblestone roads, observing the vegetables and fruit that locals are selling beside the internet cafe. There are only a few such sites that still exist–including here and Machu Picchu–that offer a broad look at the Incan empire.


Ollantaytambo wall with some handholds still in place

Incan-built wall with a handhold (upper center) still in place

Most impressive is the architecture.  In the 15th century, local stones, often granite or limestone, were rolled up earthen beams on wood ramps; then cut with stone, bronze or copper tools.  Stones were usually split along the natural fracture lines.  Each large piece of stone weighing 500-2,000 pounds was moved via handholds, set into place, and then the handholds were shaved off creating a smooth wall.  Amazingly, the stones were laid without mortar and still, to this day, the walls have no fissures or gaps between stones.  Incan architecture is a vast subject, read more here.


Many people headed for Machu Picchu do not spend time here, which is why I liked it so much.  There is a peace among the narrow stone alleyways and the towering ruins.

Neighboring tow of Pisac, infant of working mother

Local infant protected in the shade


Photo credit:  Athena Alexander

Ollantaytambo woman

Ollantaytambo woman


Wandering alpacas at our hotel, Ollantaytambo

Grazing alpacas at our hotel, Ollantaytambo