Texas, Day 6, Part 4: Spanish Governor’s Mansion and The Outer Missions

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When one approaches the Spanish Governor’s Mansion, maintained by the City of San Antonio as a national historic site,   the “greeter” is a conquistador.

He is not any one conquistador in particular, but symbolizes the spirit of the Spanish fighting explorer of the 16th-17th Centuries.

Despite its name, the palace housed successive Spanish military commanders of Tejas, until the Mexican people achieved independence from Spain in 1821.  The last commander, Ignacio Perez, was allowed to remain in the palace.  His family sold it to Tejano merchants, upon his death, and it served a variety of purposes until the City of San Antonio purchased the property in 1928.  It has since been restored to its original design, so as to better help tell the story of San Antonio’s rich Spanish heritage.

I will let the photos tell much of that story as well.

Here is the entrance, on the east side of the building.

This was the Captain’s front sitting room.

Like most Spanish gentlemen of the time, captains took solace from their exquisite gardens.  That makes them a lot like us.

I’m not sure what these are, but I love the two-tone hues of the leaves.

The trees seem to be talking things over.

After an hour of checking out this most stately of downtown buildings, I headed south, out of the city proper, to look at two of the four outer missions that are part of San Antonio Missions National Historical Park.  They are among the most enduring structures in the State of Texas, and certainly compare favourably with what I have seen in Arizona, New Mexico and California.  Most striking, as you will see, are the solidity of the walls.  These outer missions were places for Indians who were studying Catholicism to live, as was  the Alamo, originally.

I first stopped at Mission de La Concepcion, 2.5 miles south of downtown.

This is the east wall.

This is the east entrance, which visitors use when the mission is open (9-5).  I got here at 5:10 P.M., but the exterior was impressive enough to me.

Below is the northeast courtyard.  It looks like a fine place to hide.

The spires have weathered nearly four hundred years of  Texas heat and humidity.

Around, to the northwest, lies a more approachable door, now left locked to visitors.

Walking around to the north side, the mission’s magnificent cupola comes into view.  Below are a section of the original west gate and a western view of the mission as a whole.

Lastly, La Concepcion offers visitors a serene shrine for prayer and meditation, in its northwest garden.

I had time for one more investigation of a mission, before darkness would spur me  southward.  The last stop on this visit to San Antonio was Mission San Jose.  This is 3 miles further  and is a bit larger than La Concepcion.

Here are some views of the east and south walls.

The gardens are not neglected here, either, and are, in fact, the first thing one sees, upon parking.

The garden walls on the north and east segments are a bit lower than those of the mission itself, suggesting the Indians may have had fields outside the mission, which they regularly accessed.

There was a vantage point from which to shoot photos of the interior, despite the high walls.  This is a fairly good view of the cupola and south tower.

This is a view of the great courtyard of Mission San Jose. There are two missions off to the west of Mission San Jose, which I have left for another time.  It’s another reason to make this great city a fairly regular stop on my seemingly incessant journeys.  Then, there are my dear friends who make San Antonio home.

I was glad to have made San Antonio one of the centerpieces of my journey.  Now, it’s off to the next fine place.

Next: Day 7, Part 1:  Corpus Christi- Shore and Downtown

Texas, Day 6, Part 3: Riverwalk and La Villita

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Many regard San Antonio’s Riverwalk as an artifice, a gimmick.  Actually, the gimmickry is man-made, with various high-priced shops and restaurants- some good, others mediocre- you be the judge of which. The river itself is intended to be enjoyed, in pretty much a manner such as that provided by the sidewalks and tunnels.  Southern rivers tend to be a bit on the muddy side, but that is a testimony to the richness of the earth.

For me, the ambiance that mild Wednesday afternoon was mellow and sweet.  People were taking their time strolling along the walkway, south of Commerce St.  The Tower of the Americas loomed large over the eastern end of Riverwalk.  As many know, the International Exposition of 1968 was held in San Antonio.  HemisFair Park is the legacy of that event, and the Tower of the Americas is its showpiece.

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The walk itself, like the river, ambles at its own enjoyable pace.

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This is the entrance to Riverwalk, just off Commerce Street.

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The underpass is its own world within a world.  It observes all around it, unnoticed and often passed by.

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The gondolier, though, has a few stories about it, and the other segments of the river.

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Once on the west bank of the river, it’s La Villita time!

This little group of plazas was the civilian sector of San Antonio, when the settlement was a fortress and mission.  It is here that the lion’s share of commerce was conducted, along with the hubbub of household life.

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The two main squares were Plaza Nacional and Plaza Juarez.  A third plaza, named for the innovative mayor of San Antonio, Maury Maverick, was opened in 1968.

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Here is Plaza Nacional.

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Slightly to the north and west, is Plaza Juarez.  One comes out of La Villita at Bowen’s Island.

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This area was actually a peninsula in the San Antonio River, until the river was diverted in 1927.

John Bowen settled here in 1845, and became San Antonio’s first postmaster.   Along with his family,he maintained a productive farm until his death in 1867.  After the passing of his widow, Mary Elizabeth, in 1903, the city planners took control of the land and eventually used it as a high-rise office park- so as to better compete with Houston and Dallas.  The river diversion made Bowen’s Island part and parcel of downtown San Antonio.  It still has a lovely flair to it, if you look away from the high rises and towards the river.

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I left Riverwalk near the Spanish Governor’s Mansion, and turned to see San Antonio City Hall, well- adorned by live oak.

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The Riverwalk continues on to King William Historic District- a journey for another day.  I was happy to get this overview of San Antonio’s core, and to spend an hour or so at:

Next:  Day 6, Part 4: The Spanish Governor’s Mansion and the Outlying Missions.

Texas, Day 6, Part 2: The Alamo

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In my maturity, I have come to approach sacred and iconic places with far more reverence than I once did.  I walked around the exterior of the Alamo, both before and after entering the Long Barracks and the Shrine itself.  I viewed the ten minute film on the siege, with about twenty other people.  Mostly, though, I was in my own thoughts during my time here- cap off, camera put away, while inside the two hallowed buildings, and mind focused on the process of securing and maintaining a free society.  I was, and am, grimly mindful of the irony that both sides were seeking to maintain a slave-based economy.  The Texans’ fight, however, did obliquely set the stage for the eventual emancipation of Black people, and many freed slaves did gravitate towards Texas’ back country, upon being released.

Let us approach the Long Barracks.

The siege of this building, and of the Shrine, has to be felt from within the confines of the buildings themselves.  Thus, photography would tend to detract from the experience, and is not allowed on the inside.

This Live Oak was planted in 1912, and is thus a celebrity in its own right, this year.

This archway was restored in time for the Texas Republic’s Centennial, in 1936.  The section of wall which is seen below, however, survived the battle in 1836.

This  is  the Visitors’ Center/Gift Shop, built in 1936.

The Alamo Mission has been splendidly restored.  It was originally built as one of the five area missions to the Coahuiltecans and Comanches.

The Centennial Commission took great care to adorn the courtyard with local flora, also.  I found prickly pear cacti clear to the Gulf Coast.  They are well-represented here.

This marker is also a survivor of the battle in 1836.

Finally, those who find themselves exhausted by the visit to this great shrine can amble over to the Emily Morgan Hotel, just across the street to the north.

Approached with reverence, regardless of the crowds, the Alamo provides plenty of food for thought and meditation.

Next:  Day 6, Part 3:  Riverwalk and La Villita

Texas, Day 6, Part 1: San Antonio Downtown and Midtown

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This is Texas’ oldest awesome big city.  When I arrived on the evening of May 22, I found a very warm welcome at Rodeway Inn Downtown and that Quiznos sub I mentioned earlier was very welcome to my famished abs.

After a grand night’s sleep, on the highest bed I encountered this trip, I checked out of Rodeway, parked my car in a covered garage, and headed out for a day in this magnificent city.

Here is an overview of the heart of downtown.

Below is the front of Catedral de San Fernando.

The remains of the heroes of the Alamo lie here.

The cathedral is a working, vibrant parish church.  Worshipers were present here when we tourists were circulating.  I removed my ball cap upon entry, of course, and only photographed when two men were done praying.

This altar, though, is exquisite.

The courtyard is also serene, and an enterprising parishioner has a comfortable and friendly restaurant, Poblano’s, on its east side.   I enjoyed mole enchiladas, with a zingy unsweetened chocolate sauce.   Poblano’s is a Main Avenue institution, coming back from a fire a year or so ago.  It would be to the right of this fountain.  I know where I will head next time I’m in “San Antone”.

Just southeast of the cathedral is Bexar County Courthouse.

I headed east, along Commerce Street, passing a few Riverwalk venues (See Day 6, Part 3).  One, on the north side of Commerce, near Crockett Street, is the Five and Dime, a huge market and cafe, reminiscent of  the store where many people my age bought school clothes and had an ice cream soda or a milkshake, back in the 1950’s.  This is the beginning of San Antonio’s Midtown.

Near Alamo Square, well-heeled travelers can enjoy fine hotels, like the Menger.  The St. Anthony, northwest of Alamo Plaza, is also a fine hotel, and is being remodeled.

Midtown’s bustle, based on the heart of the Riverwalk, comes to a halt as one reaches Alamo Plaza.  For many, a sense of reverence starts to enter the psyche and heart.

People even approach the Gazebo with respect.

Just before entering the Alamo, it’s good to stop and reflect at the Cenotaph:  “Spirit of Sacrifice”.

Day 6, Part 2:  The Alamo

Texas, Day 5, Part 3: LBJ Ranch

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This being a post about our nation’s 36th President, there are lots of photos.  For the same reason, there are no photos of the interior of the Ranch House.  Lyndon Baines Johnson had his public side, and his private side.  He made it very clear, very fast, which was which.  I never heard of anyone back-talking the man who once said:  “In this White House, there’s elephants and there’s ants.  Right now, I’m the only elephant.”; no one that is, except Lady Bird- the only human being who ever terrified him, once his Grandma passed on.

LBJ enjoyed inviting people to come to the Texas White House, telling them to “take the first left across the bridge, when you see the Ranch House.”  It was the original Bridge to Nowhere, and many a chagrined visitor ended up in the Pedernales, with Lyndon standing on the north bank, laughing his head off.  Word is, he invited the Reverend Billy Graham to the ranch once, and Reverend Graham said, “I’d like the REAL directions to the house.”  You can’t fool a man of the cloth.

Today, thousands of people make their way here. There were 65 of us, in three tour groups, when I showed up.

This was Lady Bird’s home, first and foremost, so there were lots of coreopsis, and a myriad of other kinds of wildflowers.

This is  the spot where LBJ had his prank foils try and cross the Pedernales.

Before touring the Ranch, I spent about thirty minutes at the Visitors’ Center, near the Living History Farm.

This is the Pedernales River, near where Billy Graham, and those of us visiting presently, crossed to get to the Ranch.

In this schoolhouse, a four-year-old Lyndon insisted on attending, so that he might make friends, being an only child at the time. (Sam Houston Johnson came a bit later.)  He also developed a thirst for knowledge, and eventually became a teacher, prior to entering politics.

This was the dog trot house where LBJ lived as a small boy.  Remember the dog trot houses from Log Cabin Village, in Fort Worth?  They were all over the Hill Country, also.

This view is of Stonewall Lutheran Church, which the Johnsons sometimes attended.

These are the final resting places of President and Mrs. Johnson.  Luci and Lynda ask that people not enter the cemetery.  Photos may be taken from outside the fence.

I’ve seldom met a horse I didn’t like. LBJ felt the same way.  His horses stayed here, in the Show Barn.

Every plane a president of the United States uses is dubbed “Air Force One”.  This was one of LBJ’s favourites, and now sits next to the Hangar Visitor Center, from whence tours of the Texas White House begin.

LBJ loved to amuse his grandson, Patrick Lyndon Nugent, by singing along with his dog.  Mr. Nugent is today the principal manager of LBJ Ranch.

Here is a car which LBJ himself liked to drive into the Pedernales.  Often, Robert McNamara, his Secretary of Defense, would come along for the soaking.

Here is the fine native stone that was used to build the Ranch House, by LBJ’s  uncle, Judge Martin.

The interior of the ranch House carries its share of stories.  As a Southern man of the Fifties and Sixties, LBJ made sure there was an ashtray in every room, beer in all seven refrigerators, and that all fifteen televisions were on, continuously.  He had another motive for the last one, though.  In his bedroom, there were three TV’s.  As back then, we only had three major networks and PBS, he had one TV set to each commercial network.  He kept an eye on what was being broadcast , and would call the head honcho of any network that was critical of his policies, and browbeat the hapless exec, on the subject of patriotism.  Some of these calls were made in the middle of the night, and LBJ made no note of time zones.  He didn’t worry about PBS, since he was technically its boss.

When a person was invited to the Ranch, and was escorted, upon arrival, into the Living Room, he knew a tongue-lashing was coming. George McGovern was brought to the Living Room.  Richard Nixon wasn’t.

Lyndon and Miss Claudia Alta maintained separate, but adjoining, bedrooms.  This was done so that she could get some sleep.  The President was a night hawk, and lay his head down around 3 A.M., many nights.  Of course, he’d be up by 7.

He died here in January, 1973, at age 64.  A lifetime of smoking, drinking, and all-around rough living took Lyndon Johnson out, probably far sooner than he might have left.  What really did him in, though, was feeling tossed aside.  His decisions with regard to Viet Nam made him a pariah to many Democrats.  So, he fell to depression, and the broken heart gave out.

Nonetheless, Mr.Johnson’s considerable legacy transcended the Viet Nam War, and the man whom the children of Stonewall, Texas called  “Mister Jellybean”, for his gifts to them of candy, lived a life worthy of study.