It’s hard to believe we’ve been in San Antonio for almost two months. When we were in Florida last winter, we stayed up to a month in a couple of parks and found a month was too long. But a month in San Antonio felt too short, so we stayed an additional month. Now, we are itching to be on the road again. We probably would be perfectly happy staying here if Covid had not closed so many events. San Antonio is a town where, under normal circumstances, there is always something happening … fiestas, sports tournaments, concerts, plays, museums, etc. During a pandemic when you have to make your own fun, you eventually run out of things to do.
It occurred to me the other day that those of you reading the blog may not be familiar with the size of this state. Being from Connecticut, where you can drive from the eastern border to the western in about two hours, our first experience driving through Texas blew us away. Driving from the easternmost border of Texas to El Paso on the westernmost point would take roughly 11 hours! San Antonio is far from being as far south as you can go. Brownsville, on the Mexican border, is four hours south of San Antonio!
We continued exploring the Mission Reach section of the Riverwalk, probably walking at least 35 miles … we also walked a couple of miles to the north of downtown along the Museum Reach so that we could visit the San Antonio Museum of Art and the Pearl district.
Built in 1894, the San Antonio Brewing Association was the largest brew house in Texas by the early 1900’s. They called their brew “Pearl” beer because the bubbles were said to look like pearls. When Prohibition came along, it was the only brewing operation in San Antonio that didn’t close. This was thanks to a woman named Emma Koehler, who took over brewery operations after her husband, Otto, the founder and president of the brewery, was shot and killed. The murder happened when an argument escalated out of affairs he was having with two other women named Emma. Yes, his wife and both mistresses were all named Emma. One of the mistresses pumped three bullets into his head and chest in a case of what she claimed was self-defense. She was acquitted of the crime and later married one of the jurors. They lived in the house where she killed Otto. (You can’t make this stuff up.)
Anyway, at a time when few women held high-ranking positions, Emma Koehler kept the brewhouse in business during dry times by selling non-alcohol beer, ice cream and soft drinks, even using her own money to pay her employees. Fifteen minutes after the end of prohibition at midnight September 15, 1933, 100 trucks and railroad boxcars loaded with Pearl beer rolled out of the brewery. Emma died in the 1940’s.
By the 1990’s, the business had been purchased by a stakeholder in Pabst and Miller, and by 2001 operations had ceased in San Antonio. In 2002, a local venture capitalist purchased the 21-acre site of the brewery and developed a master plan of restoration and preservation. It’s now an extremely popular pedestrian-centered neighborhood of apartments, shops and restaurants. It’s most notable tenant is the Culinary Institute of America. While Bob and I enjoyed a beer and a bite at an outdoor table of The Boiler House Grill, we watched hundreds of students in checkered pants and white coats racing up and down the stairs of the Culinary Institute. The restaurants and bakeries in the Pearl district no doubt take advantage of the location and gobble up the graduating students in their kitchens (pun intended).
Espada Mission is the oldest in San Antonio, originally built in the 1600’s and rebuilt in the 1700’s. Franciscan missionaries made life within mission communities closely resemble that of Spanish villages. In order to become productive Spanish citizens, Native Americans learned skills such as making plows, farming tools, and harnesses; blacksmithing, weaving, masonry and carpentry skills were also learned from craftsmen contracted by the missionaries. Of course, farming was carried out by all. These skills proved invaluable for the post-colonial era success of San Antonio.
Mission San Jose is the closest to our RV park, and when the air is crisp and cool we can hear their bells ring every quarter hour. It’s also the largest mission and was considered a major social and cultural center in it’s day. At its peak, about 350 native people lived, worked and worshiped within its walls. It was such a success that San Jose was a frequent target of Apache and Comanche attacks. While nobody could prevent the theft of livestock, the mission walls were impenetrable.
One of many notable features of the Mission is the stairway to the church bell tower and choir loft: each of the twenty-five steps was hand-carved from a single live-oak log and constructed without nails or pegs.
While everyone talks about the Rose window in San Jose mission, I was awed by the three-dimensional reredo (the decorative wall behind the altar) … by far the most beautiful of all the missions.
San Antonio has several museums, but the only one that we visited this time was the San Antonio Museum of Art. What a great collection they have! Everything from Egyptian, Greek and Roman artifacts to classical American and European pieces to galleries showcasing southern and Central American artists.
We’ve really enjoyed ourselves here, and may come back again next winter. We’ve met really nice people here, too.
On Monday we’ll be moving a little farther south to a couple of state parks and the Brownsville area. We’re looking for warmer weather for Bob!
On Monday we’ll be moving a little farther south to a couple of state parks and the Brownsville area. We’ll miss our friends at Travelers World, but will keep in touch and see them again. For now, we’re itching to travel again.