Wednesday, February 29, 2012

San Antonio, Texas

Wed, Feb. 22nd - Wed, Feb. 29th

Remember the Alamo! It was our first stop in San Antonio (8th largest city in the country). It was a Franciscan mission built in 1691, San Antonio Valero, later changed to Alamo, one of the battles Texans fought in 1836 for their independence from Mexico. (In 1845 they became the 28th state. In 1848 Mexico ceded to the U.S. New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Utah and California.) All that is left of the original mission/presidio is the church and the long barracks (the oldest building in San Antonio) where the battle finally ended. They have very good films, exhibits and speakers. They were also doing re-enactments when we were there on Saturday and giving the kids lessons in how to fire the cannon. This tree just south of the church is about where Davy Crockett and his twelve men died defending the fence between the outer wall and the chapel.

Just across the street is the visitors center where the trolleys, double decker buses and horse drawn carriages stop to pick up tourists for city tours. We took the trolley tour. One of the stops was at the Mexican Mercado. They had bull riding for kids. We were going to have lunch at Mi Tierra, a famous Mexican restaurant that has been open continuously since 1940 with the exception of six hours, when it was closed to allow employees to attend the funeral of one of the owners. It is a huge place and it looked like party central. It was so busy, the wait was over an hour, so we moved on.

This is in the foyer of the cathedral on the main plaza. The remains of Crockett, Travis, Bowie and all the others who died at the Alamo were moved in 1936 on the 100 year anniversary of the Alamo and reinterred here. Pictures of the three are on the crypt and there is a stone plaque on the wall next to it.

There are five missions including the Alamo, plus the cathedral on the plaza. They are all still in use with congregations and have wonderful Mariachi Bands that play for Sunday services, which I got to sneak in and hear for a minute. This is Mission San Jose, the best preserved of all the missions. It is a huge walled in area with the living quarters for the Indians and the padres still intact, a grist mill, other court yards, etc. It's very beautiful. These are some kind of yucca plant with huge blossoms just getting ready to open.

Mission Concepcion is the only one that is still completely in it's original state with no renovations or reconstructions made so far, but also still in use. The church service was just getting out as our trolley dropped us off here.

We got off at each stop and spent as much time as we wanted. Then we just caught the next trolley. We had some very entertaining trolley drivers. One guy told us about his experiences growing up in the orphange next door to this mission and several neighborhood escapades he was involved in.

Our trolley also took us through the Historic Williams District filled with mansions built by some of the resourceful German immigrants who started the town.

Many of these have backyards that face the river and the famous River Walk, so we were able to see them from the back when we walked down the River Walk later.

The river thru the city originally had a "U" shape, but they built a channel to route it straight thru. For the 1968 HemisFair (World's Fair) they built the "T" shaped extension with hotels and convention center.

There are walkways on both sides of the river all throughout the downtown area and beyond into neighborhoods (one of FDRs WPA projects). They are now working on extending the Walk out both directions, to the missions south of the city and the old Pearl Brewery (shopping center) to the north.

It will eventually be over 25 miles long. This is an outdoor theater right on the walk in the downtown area with restaurants nearby. We took a guided cruise around the River Walk. The cruise only goes around the downtown loop and by the hotels, mall and convention center.

The hotel in the background here was built for the HemisFair with a very short deadline and limited space to work with. So the contractor built it off site in roomsize compartments, hauled them in and stacked them together.

I don't know what these trees are, but they are everywhere and quite beautiful. We were walking along the River Walk over to the Institute of Texan Cultures and the Tower of the Americas, which was also built for the HemisFair of 1968.

Outside the Institute of Texan Cultures there are flags representing all the original families who founded the city of San Antonio, the first municipality in all of Texas. The first colonists were 56 emigrants from the Spanish Canary Islands near Africa who made the sea and land voyage of over a year by order of King Philip V in 1731. A decree from the Viceroy named them and their descendants "hijos dalgo", persons of nobility.

This is a picture of a cave painting in Twin Panther Cave in the trans-Pecos area of Texas that is twice the size of a man. It would have required a 16 foot scaffolding to paint. Texas Indian ancestors were not only here before Columbus, but before Christ was born, and even before the first "town" in the world, Jericho, was founded almost 10,000 years ago.

There was a room with Texas toys. I had no idea there were so many different toy guns. I thought there was just the little six shooters in the holster that every little boy had. I guess I just forgot what state I was in for a minute.

When I was a little girl, I loved paper dolls. I never thought about there being a particular artist who created them. Native Texan, Tom Tierney (coincidentally my granddaughter's name) is famously known as "The King of Paper Dolls". He began with freelance fashion illustrations in high school. For Christmas in 1975 he drew dolls for his mother of her favorite actors, Clark Gable and Carol Lombard. A friend who was a literary agent saw them and suggested he make a book, "Thirty from the 30s". He has since published 400 books of paper dolls and his are the only paper doll books reviewed by the New York Times. I would have loved these, probably still would.

Stuffed and mounted in the museum, this is the last Longhorn from a herd owned by the "Duke", John Wayne. The sign said, "Yes, I too, have been in the movies."

They had a room representing every country their founders were from, China, Italy, Spain, England, Ireland, Scotland, Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Mexico, Native American, African Americans, etc. There was an exhibit in the Mexican room about the Quincinera, given to honor a young woman when she reaches the age of 15 by her parents. Tradition is 14 friends and escorts serve as honor attendents. Supporters bestow symbolic gifts. There is a reception to show off her social skills where the first dance is reserved for her father. It can cost more than a wedding and to ease the burden, individual sponsors may pay for certain items. Seems like that would be tough on a family with several daughters. Another thing I found interesting was the population of Laredo is 95% Hispanic, yet they turn out in February for a two week celebration of George Washington's birthday. It started in 1896 when the Tejanos (Mexican Texans) and other members of a local fraternal society staged a mock raid in Indian costume and received keys to the city. A century earlier George Washington had belonged to the same group, Order of the Redmen. Today they have parades, carnivals, balls and the International Bridge Ceremony.

After leaving the museum, we took the elevator to the top of the Tower of the Americas, 750 feet tall. This view is looking back down at the museum with the flags out front and the pioneer village behind it. Our campground is just a few miles south from here.

This view is of downtown. The Alamo is in the little clump of trees close to the right edge of the picture. The city has an ordinance that no one can build anything that will cast a shadow across the front of the alamo. There are tall buildings to the east, but those to the west are back several blocks. Right across the street facing the Alamo is a wax museum, Ripleys Believe It or Not and other glitsy stuff.

This is the same view after the sun went down. They also have a 4D movie here about Texas. The scariest part was having a rattle snake strike right at my face.

We stopped by for one last picture of the Alamo on our way back to camp. "Born on a mountain top in Tennessee, greenest state in the land of the free. Raised in the woods so's he knew every tree. Kilt him a b'ar when he was only three. Davy, Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier."

One day we drove a few miles north to New Braufels and Gruene. Gruene is a small town famous for it's dance hall. Lots of famous people got their start there. My favorite is George Strait and his Ace in the Hole Band. One of our trolley drivers said he had just been up there last weekend with a friend planning to spend an hour or so. George just happened to drop in and they ended up staying till 3:00 AM. Boy, was I jealous. It is also the dance hall used in the movie "Michael" where John Travolta does the scene dancing as an angel. I accidentally deleted my pictures from there.

Heading further south on Wednesday.

1 comment:

  1. "Native Texan, Tom Tierney (coincidentally my granddaughter's name)"
    Your granddaughter's name is Tom Tierney?