Monday, November 12, 2012

San Antonio

Boerne (pronounced Burney) a little town about 25 miles outside San Antonio was our location for this stop as this was where we could store the RV while visiting California and Vancouver. Our first visit was, of course, to the Alamo which is in the center of San Antonio and reputed to be the biggest tourist attraction in Texas. Some of the main historical Mission San Antonio de Valero (now known as the Alamo) buildings remain standing with about half of the original defensive walls also evident. This is history! So much so that one can almost sense the presence of the heroes. We spent several hours browsing the various artifacts and information boards; we also listened to a guide relate the history of the battle of the Alamo; he was excellent, made it easy to picture where and why it happened and piqued our interest to learn more.

The short version: Mexico fought a war with Spain to gain its independence and become a democracy, when Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna was elected President of Mexico he declared himself a Dictator and ruled as such. At that time Texas (a province of Mexico known as Tejas) was populated by democracy loving Mexicans and numerous immigrants from Germany, France, Ireland, England, Wales, Scotland and American who had moved to Tejas to live their “dream” clearly, they did not want to live under a Dictator. To understand the battle at Alamo one must appreciate its strategic context in the Texas Revolution. In December 1835 a Federalist army of Texan (or Texian as they were called) immigrants, American volunteers and their Tejano allies had captured the town from the Mexican Centralist force during the siege of Bexar. In response Santa Anna raised an army of over 7,000 men with the objective of retaking Bexar and crushing the “rebels” in San Antonio. There were about 250 brave men in Mission San Antonio de Valero who were vastly outnumbered. After days of pounding the Mission with cannon fire, on Sunday March 6 at around 5:00 A.M. Santa Anna hurled his columns at the battered walls from four directions. Texan gunners stood by their artillery. As about 1,800 assault troops advanced into range, canister ripped through their ranks. Staggered by the concentrated cannon and rifle fire, the Mexican soldiers halted, reformed, and drove forward. Soon they were past the defensive perimeter. Abandoning the walls, defenders withdrew to the dim rooms of the Long Barracks; there some of the bloodiest hand-to-hand fighting occurred. The chapel fell last. By dawn the Centralists had overcome the mission defenders. The assault had lasted no more than ninety minutes. As many as seven defenders survived the battle, but Santa Anna showing no mercy ordered their summary execution. The rest of the story is that a now emboldened Santa Anna decided to chase all rebels, led by Colonel Sam Huston, out of Tejas however at the battle of San Jacinto, Santa Anna was soundly defeated by Huston’s forces and Texas declared itself an independent country. Texas remained an independent country for 10 years and remains very proud of this time in its history.

After our visit to the Alamo we took a walk along The Riverwalk which lives up its reputation of a great tourist attraction, it is a lovely place to while away several hours along its picturesque banks. We think that Oklahoma City copied the idea for its redevelopment of their Bricktown district in their city center. Strolling along the walk we came across an Irish Pub and had lunch of smoked salmon and brown bread, then after lunch we took a boat tour and did some shopping. We interrupted our visit to San Antonio to head for California and Vancouver BC. 0n our return we spent another day in San Antonio and walked along the river to the historic King William Area and had lunch at Guenther House Museum the former home of the Guenther Family whose mill is still in operation next door. Afterwards we drove south to Mission San Jose which was a big surprise; the church remains in daily use, the surrounding village compound is intact and provides a view of just how large these missions were with large gates on two sides, almost like an ancient city with a few industries and farming outside the walls. Native Americans were housed along the inside wall in two roomed homes, with beehive ovens outside their doors. Dotted throughout the compound were wells for water, farrier and carpenter shops; we were enthralled by it all.

One night Adele decided to upgrade her iPad and it crashed; so we had to search for an Apple Store and found one in the fantastic La Cantera Shopping Center; we ended up spending a wonderful evening there - it is an outdoor shopping center with very elaborate, tall shelters providing daytime shade, there were fountains and water features all beautifully done. And, yes the iPad problem was resolved.
The town of Boerne was very busy at weekends, once again we saw antique cars, the shops sold antiques and there were many restaurants and a lovely old hotels which Adele managed to get a tour upstairs and downstairs.

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