On our last full day in San Antonio, we still had two second day passes to ride the trolley. The trolley office is conveniently located just off the hotel lobby where we caught the first trolley of the day just as it was about to pull away from the curb.
Our trolley driver, Leroy, was quite a hoot – much more entertaining than the driver we’d had on our initial tour. We were tempted to stay for the entire trip just to listen to his commentary. Instead, we got off, as planned, at the San Jose Mission with a promise from Leroy that he would be driving the trolley that returned to the mission in 1 1/2 hours.
We followed the ranger across the grounds as she led the morning tour. In the 1700’s, after 10,000 years, the native peoples of South Texas had found their cultures, their very lives under attack. Apaches raided from the north, deadly diseases traveled from Mexico, and the area was suffering a severe drought. For the native peoples, survival, they believed, lay in the missions. But by entering a mission, they had to give up their traditional life to become Spanish, accepting a new religion and a new, distant and unseen king.
Several gateways provided entrance into the compounds of these walled communities of which the San Jose Mission was the largest covering 7 acres. Bastions, or fortified towers, were located along the walls to provide defense. Small living quarters were built inside, against the compound walls, for the Indians and Spanish soldiers. The Church missionaries lived in the convento. Outside the walls were the croplands and ranches, and the danger of the Apache and Comanche.
Our tour group walked to the large stone church and got a lesson on the symbolism the builders had in mind when they built the elaborate facade of the church doors. The builders had used the superstitions and long held traditions of the area natives and adapted Christian symbols to make the church more accepting to the Indians.
After an hour of exploring the compound we made our way to the trolley pick-up where Leroy was making his second pass through. We listened to his comedic spiel for the remainder of the tour back to the downtown area.
Our plan had been to get off at La Villita, an area of artist’s shops and galleries. But as we were riding the trolley, it began to pour rain. We opted to return to our hotel instead where we had lunch in the Colonial Room.
The restaurant inside the Menger Hotel is large and elegant. We took a seat along the windows that looked out onto a lovely outdoor patio/eating area.
“What are we going to do all afternoon?” Doc asked.
“We’re going to go to La Villita,” I said. “It will stop raining.”
“It never rains on my vacations.” I argued.
We walked the scenic route along the Riverwalk to La Villita, an area filled with little historic houses that have been turned into artists shops and galleries. They included a copper shop, candle shop, a photography gallery, leather crafts, and more. Many of the buildings had been moved from other places. The buildings were often as interesting as the shops that they housed.
Back on the Riverwalk, we stopped in at a British Pub only to discover once we sat down that a radio sports show was being broadcast from the restaurant. It was very loud and made it impossible for the two of us to talk. So much for relaxing over a Guinness and the fish and chips I had been trying to eat all week. We left without ordering anything and wandered around the corner to Landry’s Seafood. Instead of Guinness, I ordered a Mai Tai and Doc a Margarita. Ah yes, if one plan falls through there’s always another one just as good.
I found our waiter to be rather annoying as he kept “recommending” items at every turn. We skipped all of the “recommended” appetizers and instead ordered the Seafood Angel Hair Pasta and an extra plate. The waiter didn’t seem happy.
Over dinner we hashed out our plans for the following day. The scheduled plan was to visit the “hill country” before heading back to Houston in the late afternoon. The hill country is filled with antique shops and flea markets which Doc and I both enjoy. The problem with visiting the hill country however, was that buying anything would mean we would need to check another bag at the airport. This would not be an added expense since we are both allowed to check two bags for free. But did we want to deal with an extra bag? It was already difficult enough getting in and out of airports with our one bag and one carry on each.
“I’d like to see the gulf,” said Doc.
“It would add a couple of hours to our drive time.”
“I was trying to keep the driving time down.”
“What would we do there?”
“There are lots of things we could do. There are nice beaches. Or we could visit the Lexington.”
“The USS Lexington? The aircraft carrier?” Doc’s eyes gleemed.
That did it. No sense in trying to argue that we didn’t want to drive that far. In the morning we would turn our car onto the highway to Corpus Christi.