Clay had finished with his work meetings and was finally able to join our adventures!
After checking out of our hotel, we wandered out into the beautiful sunshine and down along the river walk, stopping on the way for a leisurely breakfast at one of the outside restaurant patios. Then, threading our way through the city streets (only turning around in confusion once or twice), we searched for our first destination.
First up was the Alamo. Perhaps the most famous of the missions, it was also the first one to be established in San Antonio.
According to the park service brochure: "The chain of missions established along the San Antonio River in the 1700s is a reminder of one of Spain's most successful attempts to extend its dominion northward from New Spain (present-day Mexico). Collectively they form the largest concentration of Catholic missions in North America. .... As an arm of the church, the mission was the vanguard for converting the Indians spiritually. As an agent of the state, the mission helped push the empire northward. Missions also offered Indians sanctuary from their enemies. ... These missions flourished between 1747 and 1775, despite periodic raids by Apache and Comanche Indians. military support was never adequate, so the Spanish trained the Christianized mission Indians to defend their communities. .... By 1824 the missions were secularized - the lands were redistributed among the inhabitants ..... The Spanish missions helped form the foundation for the city of San Antonio."
The Alamo was pretty bustling when we were there, but we made it around to see all of the sights and placards without too much hassle. The kids' favorite part was probably the miniature model display of the 1836 battle that was set up in the gift shop. They were fascinated by the little soldiers frozen in action and the puffs of cottonball smoke exploding from the tiny cannons.
Here a nice fellow tourist took a picture of us taking a picture of ourselves:
Always a bit weird to stare at a tripod and pretend you're having a great time.
Hattie preferred to stare down the camera that was actually held by a person.
The kids got to pose with some authentic imitation wooden rifles, and the cannons were a big hit.
After the Alamo we hiked back to our van and drove to the next mission on the list:
I loved the cactus & succulent garden out front.
The fact that these churches still have an operating parish is great. How wonderful to worship in this beautiful setting, knowing its rich history!
The kids enjoyed playing they were royalty and this was their castle. I was tempted to join in.
There was a neat museum inside, and someone giving a tour inside the sanctuary that we listened in on for a few minutes.
We weren't allowed to take pictures inside the sanctuary, but there was beauty everywhere we looked.
|I like to call this one "Stairway to Heaven"|
Mission San Jose
Also known as "The Queen of the Missions", and for good reason. This one was, by far and away, our all time favorite! We spent a couple hours here (without even going in the big visitor's center at the entrance), and it flew by.
Around the grounds were thick stone walls, built to protect the residents from the attacking Apache and Commanche.
And in these heavy walls were stone rooms, enough to house the 350 Indians that made their home there.
There was also a granary.
Entering the sanctuary it felt like we were entering another world. A young college student was making magic on the large grand piano and I could have sat and listened for hours. It was the kind of music that was meant to be played in a sanctuary like that. The kind that makes your heart swell up inside you. (Needless to say, we contributed to his rather large tip jar set off to the side.)
Once again, the children spent most of the time absorbed in their imaginary games involving castles, kings, queens and mighty battles.
But they also took time to wander around and stare at all the beauty around them.
|A remnant of the original colorful outer layer of the mission.|
And, of course, just be silly kids:
|No Pat No! Don't sit on that.|
All of the beautiful surroundings also provided some pretty stellar backdrops for senior pictures.
|Her mischievous look before slamming the window shut.|
This spot was definitely one of the highlights of our trip.
Mission San Juan
By this point the daylight was waning and the children were showing signs of exhaustion. We decided to visit the last two missions from the comfort of our van. To show documentation that we were there, I hopped out to snap a photo. Modern exploring at its finest.
San Juan reportedly supported 3,500 sheep and nearly as many cattle, as well as being a top supplier of produce for the surrounding area.
We ended this fabulous day by driving a few hours through San Antonio traffic to an out-of-town (& much cheaper) motel, giving us a headstart on our next day's adventures. Stay tuned for the final installment of our travels to Texas!