All about an extraordinary road trip from New Jersey to San Antonio, and back again.

Archive for the ‘San Antonio’ Category

Mission Tour

Friday, March 14th, 2008

Mission San JoseSan Antonio is home to five missions, built in the mid 1700s, with an aim to converting the local native peoples, the Coahuiltecans, to Christianity. The Alamo is the most famous of these, although more for its other historical connections. Missions Concepcion, San Juan, San Jose and Espada stand along a nine mile route that comprises the San Antonio Missions National Historic Park.

Following the self-guided driving tour, we stopped first at nearby Mission Concepcion. The best preserved of the missions, Concepcion has vivid original frescoes painted in black and yellow and red. Rooms throughout the mission hold exhibits that illustrate Mission life and examples of period furnishings. The other missions along the tour were more elaborately restored, with walls and outbuildings. Mission San Jose even had an operational water-powered mill. Some of the missions are active churches and hold worship services regularly.

The Riverwalk

Thursday, March 13th, 2008

2008-03-13-054.jpgJust a short walk South of The Alamo, stairs descend to The Riverwalk, a row of shops and restaurants that stretches for a mile or more along a winding waterway built in the 1930s.

Here, the San Antonio river flows through an elaborate flood-control system beneath 35 arching and unique bridges, some dating from the 19th century. Boat cruise tours motor up and down The Riverwalk, while the knowledgeable guides offer insight into the architecture and local history. Although the water appears dark because of the green sloping concrete banks of the river, one guide demonstrated that the water is actually crystal clear. He wouldn’t drink it, though, because the San Antonio Zoo is upriver, not far away.

We had a late lunch at Schilo’s, a very popular German deli on East Commerce street. They make some great potato pancakes, a very formidable reuben sandwich, and the root beer (rüt bier?) was exceptional. We walked the length of The Riverwalk and stopped for a lingering Irish Coffee at a pub before heading back to the hotel for a swim.

The Alamo

Thursday, March 13th, 2008

alamo.jpgGiven our penchant for hitting the road early, it wasn’t easy to linger in the hotel this morning fighting the impulse to head out for The Alamo at 6:00. We opted for breakfast, instead. The coffee was good and the waffles were shaped like Texas. Considering that The Alamo, one of Americas most popular historic sites is here in San Antonio, Texas pride is not uncommon. We waited until the sun broke through the morning mists with the promise of a pleasant day, and headed downtown to the culmination of our journey westward.

Parking was convenient, and signs posted midway on every block pointed the way to the most popular downtown attractions, ensuring that we didn’t get ourselves turned around and wind up in Nebraska. Don’t laugh, it could happen. Minutes later, we were walking into Alamo Plaza. There was a towering monument alongside the mission that depicted the heroes of the Alamo, and gave testimony to their sacrifice there.

“They chose never to surrender nor retreat; these brave hearts, with flag still proudly waving, perished in the flames of immortality that their high sacrifice might lead to the founding of this Texas”

We walked about the gardens for a while, which were beautiful, taking in the antiquity of the site and in consideration of the many monuments, dedications and historical exhibits that bring a deeper appreciation for the sacrifice made by these brave people. 172 years ago this month, the defenders of The Alamo refused to surrender to Santa Anna and his insurmountable army, knowing they did so at the cost of their lives, in order to allow Texas time to prepare. Without their sacrifice, Texas would have surely been overrun, and would not have won independence.

Inside the Chapel, which is The Alamo shrine to the fallen (no hats, no photos, please) exhibits show in detail all of the aspects of the 13 day siege and final battle. There are artifacts belonging to those who died there, including Crockett and Bowie, and a full accounting of the name of every defender that researchers have been able place at the battle. It’s a wonder and a joy that this site was reclaimed, as it had been turned into a warehouse in the late 1800′s. It’s heartwarming to see the respect and reverence with which The Alamo and the memory of the heroes who fell here are regarded. It was truly worth the trip.