Sunday, November 18, 2012

Corpus Christi and Galveston

Well to be honest...we parked RamblingRover in Port Aransas on the Padre Islands in a lovely RV Park with just dunes between us and the beach. The weather was perfect and the beach seemingly endless in both directions; we were advised to walk to the beach only on the footbridges as there are snakes and other vermin in the tall grass of the dunes, signs of rabbits in the area was all we saw. We walked the beach each day, we were a little too late one day and ended up searching for the footbridge off the beach in the dark, eventually we found it – phew! We did not swim in the sea as there was ample evidence of Man of War jelly fish on the beach. The beach is wide and is used as a road by locals and fishermen; parking is allowed by permit (costs $12 for a year) on the beach; all the fishermen use big trucks. The RV Park had a nice pool allowing Adele to have her daily swim. We were so happy to be at the beach we didn't leave it for the 3 days we were there. Still wonder why we’ve rented a townhouse on the beach in Saint Augustine?

From there we took a ferry ride of maybe 300 yards on our way to Galveston, what a difference we encountered in the weather - it was cold, windy and stormy. The nighttime temperature was a low 40F (11C); as you can imagine we had to get up and find blankets to cover us on the first night so next day we decided to put on our winter duvet and electric blanket and this is Texas! It does heat up during the day but we still need to wear warm cloths during the day. First thing we did was head for the Visitors Center which is housed in an old historic home, from there we crossed the road to the Rosenberg Library where there’s an eclectic collection of items from peoples attics plus a history of Galveston. Rosenberg donated the library and other places (at least one church) to the town; he was a big benefactor to Galveston.
Galveston turned out to be a delightful surprise there’s so much to do and see; the sea wall which is miles long is exhilarating to walk with lots to see – the sea wall was erected and the Gulf side of the island was heightened by 15 feet after the disastrous storm of September 8th 1900, one of the "must do" things is to see the film of the disaster – a collage of old photos with an informative narration. There were 6,000 people killed in Galveston alone and over 8,000 in all. Having watched the movie it is amazing to us that so few where killed in the recent storm that hit the Eastern seaboard, most notably New Jersey and New York.

We had lunch in an old Diner called The Star Drug Store which brought back fond childhood memories for Adele – when her parents toured the US by Greyhound Bus in 1950 her mother was enthralled by the Diner/Drug Stores and on her return converted part of their Galway family Hotel into a Diner which was a huge success for many years and a very popular place for school kids to meet in the afternoon and with late night revelers.
North of Broadway which is the dividing line between the rich and poor areas there are many old elegant mansions. One we visited was the Bishops Palace originally built by the Gresham family as their home. Needless to say it was opulent and ornate with chandeliers, a stunning staircase, hardwood floors, a Chapel and servants quarters; the design of the stone work on the outside was striking and it had the prettiest chimneys we have ever seen. The Cathedral just across the road was locked, however we were not perturbed as we knew we could go to Mass on Sunday to view its splendor. After Mass went to an old hotel on the seafront called Hotel Galvez to Facetime our English Grandchildren and check the brunch. A lady was playing the grand piano in the large foyer; brunch was $35 per person so we decided that as we were not that hungry we would take another walk on the seawall. We had an excellent lunch in a restaurant called Fish Tails that cost $35 dollars for the two of us. On our way back to the RV Park we visited Moody Gardens which has three large glass pyramids of different colors and discovered that it is an amusement theme park, very Disneyworld and decided to give it a miss. There were plenty of tourists around the town and on the beach even though the weather was quite cold and the sea angry and rough. Many surfers were in the water but the waves are nothing as compared to those we’re used to in Santa Cruz. Along the roadway between Galveston and the RV Park there are many big holiday homes built up on 12ft stilts - we think it’s a case of which would one prefer to have your house swept by a hurricane or washed away by a tidal wave!

Now for a little bit of a history lesson Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca (c.1490-c.1560) was born in Jeréz de la Frontera, Spain to a noble family. In 1527 he joined an expedition to explore the Gulf of Mexico during which three boats were lost with significant loss of life including the expedition leader Narváez. Others who landed died of starvation or Indian attack however, Cabeza de Vaca and a few companions survived. They landed finally at a place thought to be Galveston Island, Texas which they named the Island of Misfortune. From 1529 to 1534 Cabeza de Vaca and these others lived a meager life with the Karankawa Indians in a state of semi-slavery and often separated from each other. During this time Cabeza de Vaca took advantage of his slight medical skills and remade himself as a healer. He explored this small section of the East Texas coast in hopes of finding a way to Mexico and its Spanish colonies. In 1534 he and the other Spanish survivors started west across Texas for Mexico. With the help of many Native Americans along the way, they crossed the Pecos and Colorado rivers and made their way towards Spanish outposts. Despite the arduous trip, Cabeza de Vaca continued to note the wonders of the American west and the inhabitants’ impressive survival skills. Finally they turned south, moving inland. In April 1536 a Spanish slaving party found the four Spaniards. In all, it took nine years from the start of the expedition for Cabeza de Vaca to arrive in Mexico City.
A couple of hundred years later it was Jean Lafayette (Lafitte) the prince of pirates who swashbuckled his way around Galveston island where he set up his headquarters camp which he called Campeche. Merchant ships wisely avoided this area.

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