Thursday, March 15, 2018

Visiting The Alamo, River Walk, and Lunch, 3/05/2018

Everyone has heard of the famous Battle of the Alamo, but there is so much more history to this place. A museum, tours, demonstrations, gardens, and a gift shop are all available to visitors with no admission fee. Below is a map of the current structures on the site.

Here’s a summary of the 300 years of history at this location.

1718-1835: The Alamo was originally a mission named San Antonio de Valero. For 70 years, it was home to Spanish missionaries and Native Americans that converted to Catholicism. The indigenous people of the area were drawn to the missions for protection from raiding Apaches and the security of food to feed their families. They left their traditional lifestyle behind and learned to grow crops, raise livestock, and many other skills the Spanish taught. In addition to embracing Catholicism, they were required to swear loyalty to the distant King of Spain. 

The front of the church is the well-known image of The Alamo. Photos are not permitted of the interior of the church. Unlike the San Antonio Missions, it is no longer an active parish. Exhibits inside tell the history of the building.

1835-36: The Battle of the Alamo ended here on March 61836, after a 12-day siege. During the Texas war for independence from Mexico, Texas volunteers overwhelmed the Mexican garrison at the Alamo and captured the fort. In February, 1836, thousands of Mexican troops led by General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna began a siege of the fort. Two hundred Defenders commanded by James Bowie, William Travis, and Davy Crocket held out for 13 days before being overwhelmed by the Mexican troops. All were killed by the Mexican forces. The Battle became an enduring symbol of their heroic resistance to oppression and struggle for independence (that was won later that year). 

Demonstrations are provided at the encampment area (but not on the day we visited).

In the plaza in front of the Alamo (which was originally part of the fort) are individuals in period garb, including the great great great great grandson of Davy Crockett (also named David Crockett). He is the one on the right in the first photo below.

There is a museum with exhibits in the Long Barracks (where troops resided) during the time period of the Battle of the Alamo). It is the oldest building in the complex.

A second museum is on-site in the Fortress building. This is the one area where photos were permitted inside. Weapons used during the battle are on display. The shield in the second photo is made of multiple layers of leather and could repel arrows and even musket balls. 

We enjoyed reading the post-it notes in the museum where visitors could write comments about their connection to the Alamo. Cool idea.

The gardens of the Alamo are beautiful with several huge live oak trees. 

1836-1877: When Texas became part of the US, the Alamo was used as a supply depot

1877-1905: The State of Texas purchased the church as a memorial to the Alamo Defenders. Below is a plaza where the six flags of Texas are displayed.

1905 - Present: The custodians of the Alamo complex were the Daughters of the Republic of Texas until 2011. Custodianship was transferred to the Texas General Land Office in 2011. In 2015 it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site (along with the San Antonio Missions National Historic Park). For additional information, go to 

The Alamo is synonymous with the city of San Antonio and is a must-see when you visit! From the Alamo we walked to the River Walk

Along the way we saw these sights. I loved this mosaic. 

The River Walk ( / is a “below-the-street” area that has been extended several times over the years. Below is a map. Cruise tours are available for those interested in seeing more of the sights along the river. 

There are lots of restaurantsshops, and other attractions along the banks of the river. 

Schilo’s Deli ( was our destination for lunch (within walking distance). Amanda had this on her list of recommended restaurants (and reportedly the oldest restaurant in San Antonio). And, honestly, the cheddar bratwurst was fantastic! 

As we walked back to our car, we walked past the well-known, Torch of Friendship, an abstract sculpture by Mexican sculpture, Sebastian. It was a gift to the city from the Mexican government in 2002. Also, the Alamo Cenotaph, Spirit of Sacrifice, is a monument commemorating the Battle of the Alamo in 1836. The names of those who died (on the Texan side) during the battle are engraved on the monument. 

It’s great that all of these places are within walking distance. We did pay $13 for parking, but it was in a convenient location. These are two of the most popular attractions in San Antonio and we very much enjoyed seeing them with Amanda. The cultural history of the city makes it a very interesting place to visit. 

Friday, March 9, 2018

Four Missions and Lunch, 3/04/2018

Our daughter, Amanda, came to visit us for a few days to celebrate my birthday and enjoy some of the sights in San Antonio. We decided to visit the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park. The four missions were established here between 1720 and 1731 by Catholic religious orders to spread Christianity to the local natives (as were many other missions in the US Southwest). They represent 300 years of history and culture in the region and all four missions continue as active Catholic parishes (holding regular services) today. 

For over 10,000 years, Native Americans lived here. But in the 1700s, three important factors changed life forever for the locals: Apaches from the north began war raids; deadly diseases brought from Europe were spreading; and droughts created food shortages. To enter a mission, Native Americans had to forego their traditional life and culture, become Spanish, accept Catholicism, and pledge loyalty to a distant and unknown king. And many did just that for the protection and security (food) the missions provided.

We began the day at Mission San Juan located just a few miles south of San Antonio; primarily because the Visitor Center for all four of the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park is located there.

Stone walls were built around the perimeter of the mission with a large courtyard in the center. Native Americans that agreed to live by the strict rules of the mission lived in rooms in this part of the mission. Remains of several ovens can be seen in the courtyard. Huge wooden doors helped keep raiding Apaches out. 

This building (behind the church) was the convento and provided housing for missionaries and lay assistants. There were originally nine rooms on the second floor and 5 on the first. 

The church was, of course, central to life in the mission. There was a strict daily schedule of fastfeastwork, and prayer regulated the sounding of bells. The interior of the church is gorgeous and is called the “Queen of the Missions.” 

The exterior of the church was originally painted with the  bright design seen below. 

This intricately carved window (1775), known as the Rose Window, is considered one of the finest examples of baroque architecture in North America. Two graves (of past priests) are situated at the front of the church.

John and Sadie waited outside while Amanda and I checked out the interior parts of the mission. Below is a great hall where priests lived. 

Our next stop was Mission Espada, just a couple of miles south of San Juan Mission.

Stone foundations and ruins at the mission help you imagine the past. Below is the location of the original church in the 1700s. 

The current church (completed in 1756) is still an active parish. The interior is of much simpler design.

The zealous Franciscan brothers taught the Native Americans (in addition to religion), how to grow crops, raise livestock, produce textiles, work iron, build with masonry and many other skills. The largest structure in the mission complex was the granary where food for the community was stored. 

There is a lovely gift shop with an outdoor seating at the mission. 

Mission San Juan was the third mission we visited. 

There was a Sunday mass in progress when we visited. 

We spent some time wandering around the ruins. As with the other missions, interpretive signs provide information about the structures and life here in the 1700s. 

These two buildings were the priests’ quarters and are still in use. 

Mission Concepcion is the fourth site we visited. In addition to the church, it was a villagefortschoolfarm and ranch. Native Americans lived in rooms along the interior walls of the mission (as they did in all of the other missions). Each of the missions were self-contained communities, but they all interacted and provided mutual support.

When we arrived, a mass had just ended. When we went inside, we saw that preparations were underway for the baptism of several babies. 

An outside shrine near the church is another place for meditation and prayer at the mission.

The four missions of the Historical Park plus the Alamo (the fifth mission in San Antonio) was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2015. A visit to any or all of them is interesting and fun. 

For additional information about the San Antonio Missions, go to

At this point we were all ready for lunch, so we went to Barbaro (a restaurant that prepares wood-fired pizzas with creative toppings).

The food was fantastic...possibly the best pizza ever! The three of us shared one large and one small pizza. 

You can check out their menu at barbarosanantonio com.

We headed back to the RV park and prepared for our evening watching the Oscars. A perfect birthday with family!