November 15 – 23: San Antonio and area the most – historic, visited and beautiful according to the tourist literature
Off to New Braunfels where a must stop is Naegelin’s, the oldest Bakery in Texas for sausage roll’s, cheese blitz, strudel and a bismarck. What is a bismarck I was asked and when I explained what I wanted, the clerk told me it is called a filled donut. A fellow customers asked me where I was from and told me the only other person he heard call filled donuts bismarck’s was his mother who was from Regina, Saskatchewan. The bakery has been in operation since 1868.
Germans immigrated to this area of Texas in the mid 1800’s. To celebrate the German history of the area, The Wurstfest, or sausage festival is held for 10 days in November. By the time we arrived at 11:30 if was impossible to find a seat, No one wanted to sit outside in the rain on wet chairs leaving seating capacity reduced. On a warm sunny day it would have been wonderful to sit outside, listening to German music. The festival offers small shops to browse through, 40 local, national and European bands, funnel cakes, chocolate covered deep fried pickles, pork chop on a stick, frito pies (frito’s, a layer of cheese and a layer of chilli), fried oreo cookies, smoked turkey legs, a carnival, a craft fair and many plastic pitchers full of one of the 35 types of beer sold.
Trader’s Village a flea market in San Antonio has over a 1000 vendors. We bought 5 fresh mandarin oranges that smelled wonderful and turned out to taste that way too. We got our morning walk in and that’s all we can say.
The Cove appeared on the Food Network which inspired us to check it out for lunch. The Cove bills itself as a SOL establishment, sustainable, organic and local. When we arrived I was sure we were at the wrong address, there is a car wash, laundromat and then an unappealing door into the restaurant. We are very glad we continued in. We placed our order and sat at the family style tables where at every fourth chair was a roll of paper towels, a good indication we thought. We were correct the burger’s were all excellent. The Cove also offers a playscape, ping-pong tables, basketball backboard and a dog run. And then we learned there would be music starting at 1:00 pm. It was well worth the 15 minute wait.
The 9 members of The Ear Food Orchestra played and sang Gospel Music in New Orleans Style as they introduced themselves. All money raised went to a children’s counselling organization. During the hour we never stopped tapping our feet nor clapping our hands. We sang along to the song’s we knew, When the Saints Come Marching In, Swing Low Sweet Chariot, Come Follow Me to name a few. The orchestra members sat in chairs, turned down the volume when asked, played in the afternoon – check marks all round.
Fredericksburg, established in 1846 by 120 German immigrant’s, the unofficial capital of the aptly named Hill Country. This part of Texas is known for its German heritage, sausage, peaches and their wine industry.
Our GPS continues to give us grief, it tells us to make a left turn going north on I10, however the highway signs say to turn right going north. Well, the GPS directions are correct but it is hard to ignore the official highway signs as we learn after going up and back around twice.
Lunch at Der Lindenbaum consisted of weinerschnitzel, warm potato salad, sausage, cooked red cabbage, sauerkraut and German chocolate cake. No supper for us. We spent 2 hours wandering Main Street. More fudge and ice cream for someone. Our last stop was at Opa’s Smoked Meats where we filled our cooler with some of the delicious sausages we had sampled at lunch and to buy a sandwich to eat at Luckenbach.
We had read that Luckenbach was not much, a few buildings, a post office, general store and a bar, however it’s all in one small building. Luckenbach is known for its daily picker’s circle. On the weekend it has 2 officially hosted circle’s with one beginning at 5 Monday – Friday. However we were told that there is usually someone playing no matter the time you come. The musicians sit on folding chairs in one corner of the 3-stool and 1 bench bar, another room is at the side and away from the wood burning stove. We were inside due to the cold and rain as usually the circle’s are held outside under the magnificent oak trees where there are picnic tables for everyone to sit. But tonight we are happy to be crowded inside this warm little bar. We were welcomed by the locals and talked to all our fellow tourist. I could go on about all we learned about this tiny hill country hamlet where “Everybody’s Somebody”. Luckenbach, Texas (Back to Basics) was a huge hit for Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson in 1977. I urge you to go to http://www.luckenbachtexas.com to learn more. It all very casual, the pickers never really introduce themselves, someone walks in with a guitar, get a folding chair and joins in the circle, waiting his or her turn, strumming along or singing as they feel. The music is not loud, people chat and get to know each other. Each circle has a host who invites other pickers. They gave these Canadians a hard time about the weather. I wish I had looked at my weather app as it was +4C in Drayton Valley and -1C in Luckenbach when we left, but by the time we go back to San Antonio in an hour it was +8C.
November 18 – San Antonio Missions
The chain of missions established along the San Antonio River in the 1700’s is evidence of Spain’s most successful attempt to expand its dominion north. Even before mission life the bands of hunting and gathering Coahuiltecans were being pressed by nomadic tribes encroaching from the north and then by European diseases that decimated the bands. The bands practice of sustainable fire to regenerate prairie life ensured food was available. With mission life this changed and soon with over grazing by cattle and sheep the sea of grass that was Texas prairie was lost to mesquite and cactus.
The Mission San Jose y San Miguel de Aguayo, became known as the Queen of the Missions. Founding ceremonies took place in 1720. Leaders of 3 Indian bands that wanted to come into the mission were appointed governor, judge and sheriff. The building of the limestone church with its Spanish Colonial Baroque architecture began in 1768, at the peak of the missions development 350 Indians lived in 84 2-room apartments. The mission residents learned to use guns to fend off Comanche and Apache raiders.
The Mission of Nuestra Señora de la Purisima Concepcion looks essentially as it did in the mid 1700’s. Colourful design’s once covering its surface have faded. However original faded interior paintings remain, some are religious symbols and others are decorative. It is reputed to be the oldest unrestored stone church in the U.S. It is known for its great acoustics.
Both these churches are active church’s celebrating weekly mass.
The River Walk
Twenty feet down from street level is the beautiful and famous San Antonio River Walk. This gem is a charming canal and pedestrian walkway. The Rio San Antonio Cruise gives an overview of the area. The river and man-made canal complete a square with access to museums, shopping, office buildings, hotels and restaurants. We crossed under many bridges which offer multiple points to enter this area. Due to the cool weather the restaurants had blankets on each chair plus tall propane heaters, all very inviting for a 3:00 coffee, bailey’s and dessert or two.
The hop-on and hop-off tour has just 9 stops. Market Square a two block long multi-stored market is the place to go if you are in need of anything from Mexico. Strolling musicians talked Terry into paying $5 for one song during our lunch.
The Alamo (Spanish word for Cottonwood)
Some Texans consider the Alamo a pilgrimage site, with 2 million visitors a year it might just be. The main chapel is known as the Shrine.
The Mission San Antonio was the first of 5 Spanish missions established along the San Antonio River 1718-1731. The Spanish military stationed a Cavalry unit at the former mission in the early 1800’s. In 1835, Texan volunteers (Texas was not a state yet but was the Republic of Texas) took control of the Alamo defeating Mexican forces. General Antonio de Santa Anna attacked the fortress February 23, 1836 and captured it 13 days later. The 189 men in the Alamo garrison were badly outnumbered but held the Alamo until the reinforced Santa Anna troops stormed the walls and the barricaded compound. It is estimated Santa Anna had 2000 on his side. All of the men in the church were killed, including Frontiersman Jim Bowie and American folk hero Davy Crockett.
Texas remembers the Alamo as a heroic struggle against overwhelming odds, a place where the ultimate sacrifice for freedom occurred. It remains hallowed ground and the Shrine of Texas Liberty. In 1906 the Daughters of the Republic of Texas purchased the Alamo to ensure all citizen remember its role in the history of Texas.
The old cotton gin overlooking the Guadalupe River houses the Gristmill River Restaurant in Gruene. Four huge brick rooms hold 1000 customers, the waiting area during the busy summer months is under beautiful oak trees where you can sit at picnic tables and enjoy a beverage until you are called. Next door is the oldest continually operating dance hall, Gruene Hall which still holds nightly dances.
Our guided tour at SAS, San Antonio Shoe company was 45 minutes long. The company began operations in 1976. No number were available, no concrete answers were ever given. But we think 20 people touch each shoe, from the cutting of the leather to inspection and boxing. Most of the employees were Mexican women whose wages were based on piece work. The store with the owners personal collection of antique and classic vehicles parked outside was eclectic inside. Bargains were offered on shoes, popcorn sold for 5 cents a bag and coke was 10 cents.
About 7:30 pm a severe weather warning came on our cell phones and weather warning radio. Severe thunderstorm, sheet lightning, possibility of 2-3″ of rain in an hour, hail, severe wind, flash flooding. I was quite concerned because the RV Park is in a flash flood area as stated on the welcoming brochure. One nearby motorhome had a large branch fall on its roof, due to our satellite dish on the roof of our 5th wheel we do not park under trees. In the heat of the summer it would be significantly cooler and the shade welcome.