Dave and I had been planning on heading to San Antonio for some time and didn’t think we’d get around to it until my birthday in January. Fortunately, we got our chance a couple of weeks ago when his parents were here. They were keen to see more of Texas so we decided to do a roadie!! YAY!
We checked out some Texas Hill Country sights (see last weeks post on Fredericksburg), before arriving late in the day at San Antonio.
Late on our first evening in San Antonio, we went to the River Walk. It is a network of walkways along the banks of the San Antonio River; lined with cafes, restaurants and shops and it also has a fleet of river ferries to transport tourists around the river.
My sister Pam will love it, because it’s a really interesting example of a public space that serves many purposes:
- it was originally designed as part of a flood control plan for the San Antonio River (which is prone to serious flooding) and now serves the purpose of being a bypass channel for flood water,
- there are many street entrances to the River Walk (even one through a hotel!), so people can opt to walk the network of bridges, walkways, and old staircases to get places in town,
- as a space, it really encourages you to stop, sit and relax.There is always something going on, lots to look at. It would be easy to grab an ice-cream and people watch for hours,
- also, you don’t actually have to spend money to hang out on the River Walk. There are public seats available for people to just sit and read the paper,
- it is also really easy to interact with other people there – the space facilitates chatting and socialising really well.
The first night, we went for dinner at the Rainforest Cafe, which you can access on the River Walk. The Rainforest Cafe is a chain of jungle-themed restaurants aimed at people much younger than me (like age 7), but I love them! I first went to one in China in 2004 and you sat on a swing while eating your food.
Near our table were three massive gorillas and every hour or so they would go wild, hooting and waving their arms. So.incredibly.cool.
Mission San José
On our second day, we went to the Mission San José, the largest of the San Antonio missions. San Antonio has 5 UNESCO World Heritage listed missions;
- Mission San José y San Miguel de Aguayo (Mission San José)
- Nuestra Señora de la Purisima Concepción de Acuña (Mission Concepción)
- Mission San Francisco de la Espada (Mission Espada)
- Mission San Antonio de Valero (“The Alamo”)
- Mission San Juan Capistrano
What is a mission?
[It] was an institution used by the Spanish to transplant their culture to frontier regions. While many people associate missions with the Catholic faith, missions were much more than just religious centers. The purpose of this frontier institution was to convert indigenous people into Spanish subjects. Although missionaries introduced native people to Spain’s national religion, Catholicism, they also taught the neophytes occupational skills as well as schooled them in Spanish and Spanish government.
Once the missionaries had completed their task, they moved on to another area and another indigenous population. Hopefully, there remained a self-sufficient Spanish community where before one had not existed. What had really been accomplished, though, was the creation of a population that reflected both its original and its newly adopted culture (San Antonio Missions History).
To read more about Mission San José – click here.
On our second afternoon in San Antonio, we went to The Alamo. Most people associate The Alamo with the famous Battle of the Alamo that took place there in 1836. It involved a 13-day siege and an assault launched by Mexican troops under President General Antonio López de Santa Anna against Texian defenders. All of the defenders were killed, among them Jim Bowie (renowned knife fighter) and Davy Crockett (famed frontiersman and former congressman).
Few people realise that The Alamo started its existence over 100 years before that, as a mission. Over the course of history, it also served as Spanish military barracks, a warehouse and now as a museum. It is one of the most popular historic sites in the US, receiving over 4 million visitors per year. Check out the site below to explore some of the history of The Alamo.
To read more about The Alamo as a mission – click here.