Monday, January 26, 2009

January 26, 2009 San Antonio, Texas

San Antonio, January 26, 2009

We are in a funny sort of RV park on the southeast side of San Antonio. There are a lot of folks here who are just hanging out .. on their way from someplace to someplace and just wanting a spot to park in and rest and sight see for a few days. There is nothing to recommend this place, except that it is cheap, clean and close to the places we want to check out. Come to think of it ... it has everything we need except a view.

We took a trip today on a "tour bus" that ferried us all around the hot spots in San Antonio. A very nice bus picked up 8 of us here at the Braunig Lake RV Park and we headed downtown. One couple is from Canada ...he a retired postman and she a lovely lady who has decided she loves travelling in a little RV. He retired, they sold their home and their horses ... bought an RV and headed out for warmer locations. They have done most of Florida, New Orleans, Padre Island, Corpus Christi, Brownsville and a bit of Mexico. When they leave here they plan to head for Baton rouge and take the old Natchez Trace trail up to Nashville. It is a real treat to hear French Canadians pronouncing names like "Neu Orleanzz", "Batone Rrrrouggge" and "Loiueeeevillle". they are very jolly and pleased at how good the values are here.

The first stop we made on our tour was the "Sunken Gardens" or the Japanese Gardens that were created in an old limestone quarry. The quarry was begun so that the limestone could be burned to create cement. When the city began expanding the quarry was pushed farther and farther out of town. One of the City Fathers had an idea of creating a sunken Japanese Garden and used prison labor to create it, with elaborate paths and stone walls and walkways. This is in 1918 or 1919, and sometime in 1920 a local Japanese artist and his wife had been invited to live in and maintain the park. They opened a small tea room, maintained the gardens and raised 8 kids there. He died in 1938, and the rest of the family was evicted in 1941 when all the Japanese were relocated to internment camps during WWII. The beautiful sign saying "Japanese Garden" was removed, and another saying "Chinese Garden" was put in it's place. Nobody wanted anything remotely Japanese, no matter how innocent.

The waterfall in the garden is one of the many sources or headwaters of the San Antonio River that forms the Riverwalk and goes right thru the City. There are also, apparently, hundreds of artesian springs that contribute to the river. There are some BIG damned koi, a huge, thatched pagoda and lovely gardens that are prowled by some BIG damned cats! some are wild, but others are dropped off by people who don't want them anymore. Local volunteers come and feed them, try to round them up occasionally for spaying, neutering and adoption ... but they can't keep up with the unwanted drop-offs.

We went in to the city next to the Riverwalk and got on some barges to tour the river and see the sights. this would have been immensely more enjoyable if it had been June, July or August. At 10:30 on a January morning we were freezing our tails off. Cleverly, we had dressed in layers and some of us had thought to bring gloves. I wasn't too uncomfortable, so I was having a pretty good time listening to the guide give us all the details. In the Summer, this place should be awesome. Other cities are copying the concept, but San Antonio was the first.

Then we head to the Alamo ... the holiest of holy for any Texan. This is a serious shrine. Gentlemen are instructed to remove their hats, and no photographs are permitted inside. There are volunteer docents who will give you a detailed tour of the basically empty rooms, and give you details of the heroes and the battle .... day by day. It looks nothing like it did at the time of the actual battle ... and is a rather small chapel that was part of a much larger compound. I was interested to see that there were a goodly number of Pennsylvanians who died there ... plus one guy from New Jersey. Irish, Scots and one Dane, too. I am reading a novel based on the episode, so I may actually get it all squared away in my head at some point.

More interesting (at least to us) was the next stop ... Mission San Jose. It was one of the original mission established by the Friars who tried to Christianize the local Indians. It is a huge compound that has been restored to show the way it would have looked in the early 1700's. There is an operating grist mill that was very ingenious, and the restored "apartments" that would have housed the local Indian families who decided to be baptized and work as unpaid labor for the church, so they could keep from starving.

After a romp through the endless tourist offerings of the Mercado (the original Mexican Market) where you can buy imported whatever from Mexico ..... toys, serapes, blankets, embroidered dressed, pottery, jewelry, etc ....we headed home and collapsed. The real joy of a trip like this is that we would have never seen half of these places on our own. Downtown is always hard to negotiate in your own vehicle, even in a smaller metropolis like San Antonio. Plus, the guides were really full of information and I could figure out what books to pick up to fill in the areas that interested me. We have decided that tours are usually a good way to go at first ... and then we can revisit things on our own if we want.

So ... next we are heading for Corpus Christi and even warmer weather. Today was 65, but the sun was very strong and I loved every minute of it! More!! More!!

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