On the grounds of Mission San Luis Rey de Francia in Oceanside, California lies the Old Mission San Luis Rey Lavanderia. As we drove onto the grounds of the Mission San Luis Rey looking for the parking area, we passed the edifice of an ancient archway seeming to go nowhere.
From the view seated in our car, this archway to nowhere framed the main road to the Mission, a parking lot and a commercial building in the distance. Since I had not heard the term “lavanderia” before, I was intrigued and just had to explore this further.
We parked the car and headed back over to the Old Mission San Luis Rey Lavanderia, south of the Mission. To the left of the archway to nowhere was a sign:
“Ornamental Archway leading down to Indians Tile Pools and Sunken Gardens,” it proclaimed. Now I just had to explore further; I just had too!
Not expecting much of anything, I peeked through the gated entrance of the archway and discovered steps, steep steps leading down. Down to what? What is a lavanderia? Well, it’s an open-air laundry used for washing clothes and for bathing.
At the bottom of the steep ancient staircase is an elaborate stone and brick system of channels used to divert water from the San Luis Rey River to the sunken pools used for bathing and laundry.
In addition, this elaborate maze funneled water to the gardens, fields and orchards of the Mission.
Since Google crawlers can’t read text on photos, I’m repeating what the sign above says:
“Lavanderias – – Indian laundries – – where Indians washed clothes every week. Water spouted forth from Gargoyles and passed out from tile pools into orchards of fruit trees (pears, peaches, figs, etc.), vegetables, watermelons. Sunken gardens were surrounded by adobe walls. Cactus planted along walls.” Couldn’t have said it better myself!
Here’s one of the Gargoyles from which water used to spout. The Old Mission San Luis Rey Lavanderia is dry – apparently because highway construction projects and housing developments that dot the landscape surrounding the Mission have diverted the San Luis Rey River. This is now a registered archaeological survey site and visitors are welcome to explore.
I think the Gargoyle spouts are cute in a scary kinda way, don’t you? They’re pretty large – about 2-feet by 3-feet.
There’s only one problem with taking the time to explore the Old Mission San Luis Rey Lavanderia – once you go down those set of ancient, steep steps, you have to climb up again! Unfortunately, the Old Mission San Luis Rey Lavanderia is not an area that is handicapped accessible. Charlie waited for me (he’s always doing that!) at the top of the steps while I took my time exploring this fascinating site.
Almost back to the top of the steps and the archway now leading to the Mission San Luis Rey de Francia – whew! Need a workout? Run up-and-down these steps and few times and you’ll burn a few calories!
Want to know more about the beautiful Mission San Luis Rey de Francia? Here are a few more posts from Toot Sweet 4 Two’s archives: