Usually these kinds of memories are best left in the past and turn out to be not nearly as lovely as they are from a distance, so I was prepared to be disappointed. But it was beautiful. It's on the south end of Tuscon, so there's a dusty drive along the highway that loops through the town and just when you think you've gone too far, there it is, rising up out of the desert like a big white glowing castle.
According to Wikipedia the Mission San Xavier was founded in the late 1600s by the Jesuits:
Outside, San Xavier has a white, Moorish-inspired design ... No records of the architect, builders, craftsmen and artisans responsible for creating and decorating it are known. Most of the labor was provided by the local Indians, and many believe they provided most or all of the artisans as well. Visitors entering the massive, carved mesquite-wood doors of San Xavier are often struck by the coolness of the interior, and the dazzling colors of the paintings, carvings, frescoes and statues. The interior is richly decorated with ornaments showing a mixture of New Spain and artistic motifs.Native American ... At least three different artists painted the artwork inside the church. It is considered by many to be the finest example of Spanish mission architecture in the United States.After exploring the Mission, we headed into Tucson for lunch. The center of the old bit of the city is very pretty with colourful old Spanish colonial houses with bright, cute gardens.
Our last stop was Tombstone, which is about an hour south of Tucson. It was kitschy and depressed - like a Disney exhibition long forgotten. The old Western streets were interesting enough, except that there was nothing authentic about them, and the few stragglers in the town that weren't tourists like us looked like they'd taken a wrong turn somewhere and couldn't ever make their way out again.
Here are some photos. there are more on my Flickr.