Saturday, November 28, 2009

San Antonio - Mission Tour

Saturday November 28, 2009

This hotel was a zoo this morning! We could tell when we looked out the window at the parking lot that they were at capacity – every spot was full plus any other places you could put a car there was one there! We were up in time for breakfast so headed down – the elevators were packed with people coming up with plates of food or going down with luggage. We finally made it down and found a long line for the breakfast…I do not mean 2-3 people waiting I mean 15 or 20! I have never seen a hotel breakfast room like that. When we finally made it past the waffle making station things smoothed out a little and we got eggs, sausage, muffins, and some fruit and headed back up to our room. The breakfast area was full, the bar was full and the lobby was full – what a mess!!!

Later we headed out for our tour of the San Antonio Missions. A chain of mission established along the San Antonio River in the 18th century is a reminder of Spain’s most successful attempt to extend its domination of North America. The Franciscan Monks served as both representatives of the church and the crown. They recruited the native Indians to become members of their missions, taught them skills like farming, and masonry. The missions reflect the building style of the Europeans but were flavored with the art of the Coahuiltecan Indians. They plastered over the stone and painted their colorful designs – most of which are gone. All of these missions have a chapel that is still in use today. In fact two of the chapels were having christening services during our visits.

The Alamo – Mission San Antonio de Valero – was the first built in the area in 1718. It is not under the care of the National Park Service but is under the care of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas.

The first Mission we visited was Mission San Jose. Built in 1720, this mission had a large community organization and extensive agriculture program. One impressive structure was known as the Rosa Window which illustrated the skill of the craftsmen who built the mission.

Mission San Jose

Next we visited Mission San Juan Capistrano. It was located here from another location in 1731. They were known to have over 3,500 sheep and as many cattle. They also raised enough fruits and vegetables to sustain themselves and the fort that protected them. They also traded with other missions. The bell wall of the chapel was well preserved. This was one of the areas where a christening had just been held. The family was having a big family celebration in an area of the mission grounds.

Mission San Juan

Our third visit was to Mission Espada. This mission originally founded in 1690 in another east Texas location was moved here to the San Antonio River in 1731. Here the Indians learned blacksmithing, weaving, and masonry in addition to the agricultural skills. This mission is the only one that made bricks. This was the most remote of the mission in the 1700’s and is still the most remote of the missions from San Antonio today. Nearby this mission is a well preserved example of the aquaducts built to provide irrigation of the fields along the San Antonio River. The photos show the Espada Aquaduct – the oldest Spanish Aquaduct in the United States. It is part of what was a 15 mile system and this part is still in use today.

Espada Aquaduct

Mission Espada

Mission Concepcion was the final of our four mission visits today. It was also transferred to this area from another location in East Texas in 1731. This mission looks today much as it did in the mid 1700’s. We could not go inside this mission since it was undergoing renovations. As with the others the mission was covered originally in the colorful paintings of the Indians. This Mission had an internal room with several good examples of the painting still visible.

Mission Concepcion

These missions flourished until the late 1700’s until Apache and Comanche raids and diseases that wiped out most of the local Indians led to weakening of the missions.

After this venture we returned to the hotel and headed across to the River Center for some lunch and to go to the 2:30 showing of A Christmas Carol in 3D with Jim Carrey. We got food from the food court and sat outside listening to a Mariachi Band until time to go to the movie. Ben really wanted to see this 3D film and says he will remember 2009 as the year he went to 3 movies – and two of them in one week! The other was several months ago when we went to see Julie and Julia (?). The band was very good with two guitarists, a percussionist, and two guys who played various pan flutes.

When we got upstairs to IMAX the 2:30 show was sold out so we bought tickets for the 4:30 show and went back to the hotel for a rest. Checked email to find out Jeff possibly had a kidney stone and had gone to the ER.

We went back to the Mall and shopped a little and went to see the film. Ben loved it and it was a good rendition of the Christmas Carol. Jim Carrey is very good. The special effects are outstanding. Jane does not like the flying effects in IMAX films so just closes her eyes during that part to avoid getting seasick! Film over we walked down to River Walk to find supper. We ate Fahitas and Chimi at Rio Rio Cantina. The lights and carolers on boats certainly make a festive location – super festive! Jane tried to take photos but her camera just don’t capture the feeling at all.

Christmas on Riverwalk

It is time to think about packing up and heading out tomorrow morning. Found out Jeff is headed home from the ER with pain medicine and instructions to see his doctor on Monday. What a great visit we have had to San Antonio and Texas as a whole. We still have a good bit of travel tomorrow in TX before we head out across the southern states back to TN.

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