San Antonio – Local Parks / The Missions World Heritage Site / The Alamo

After our wonderful day at the Guadalupe River State Park

…we had a great week enjoying multiple parks and exploring Downtown San Antonio. We love Texas! RR says he’s ready to move here and get his farm!

We visited Stone Oak & Bulverde Parks on Wednesday and Thursday. We love that the little community park had cows right near the playground :). We really enjoy what a family-friendly and bike-friendly area this seems to be.

Daddy B was able to join us at Eisenhower park Thursday afternoon. How perfect that AB saw this heart cactus and it was Valentine’s Day:

This park had great hiking trails and we enjoyed the glimpse of downtown San Antonio when we got to the top:

Friday was probably our fave day of the whole trip so far ! It was so special. We ventured to downtown San Antonio for the first time. The Missions World Heritage Sites / National Park was the goal of the day.

We parked (for free!) at a local park and rode our bikes along the San Antonio River to The Guenther House for breakfast. This Pioneer Flour Mill has been here since 1859 and the restaurant is the former house of the founder and family. I hear the business was recently sold to a Chicago business but it’s the oldest continuously owned flour mill in the US, oldest continuously run business in the state of Texas, and who cares about all that – it was delicious food! The founder Carl Guenther was a courageous and hard working pioneer from Germany. We love that San Antonio has both Spanish and German influences and great history.

Here’s the original mill stone they used from 1859 to 1893 – brought on ship from France and then on oxen cart from Indianola TX:

I’m glad we filled our bellies “to the top” with a yummy breakfast because for the rest of the day – we road our bikes along the San Antonio River bike trail as we visited each Mission. We road 17 (!!!!!!!) miles by the end of the day. Omgoodness we were so so so proud of the kids. There were so many little hills (that didn’t feel little in the 85 degree sunshine) and those girls didn’t even have gears and made it the whole day with such minimal whimpering. The trail is so beautiful, safe, and friendly. I truly was so impressed by how this was designed and kept up.

We loved all the birds and ducks along the way. We are truly fortunate to be able to experience fun adventures like this during the week days. I assume on weekends San Antonio is much busier!? There were so many more birds than there were people. We were shocked at how not-crowded it was all day. Where is everybody!? It didn’t even feel like a city!

Now the Missions themselves…. So so beautiful, intriguing, challenging. We learned a lot at each stop. Each Mission had a special lesson for us or beauty for us to enjoy.

At Mission San Juan, we learned about the self-sufficiency of the missions and B was truly fascinated by the irrigation “technology” aka acequias.

We made it all the way down to beautiful Mission Espada – at the very southern part of the trail. I don’t think many people come down this far but they really should. It was very remote and quiet. We met a local lady who taught us that all these mission churches are still active places of worship for Catholics in the area. She even told us about one of her neighbors who has come to this church every day of her life to pray and that her mother did the same thing and her mother and her mother and so on. That neighbor, like many of the locals, can trace her ancestry all the way back to the missions / native Americans of the 1700s. Pretty incredible!

San Jose is the best known (besides the Alamo) of the Missions. We understood more at this stop how the native Americans were taught to defend and bear arms and that their hardships (pressure and force by nomadic tribes from the north and diseases brought by Europeans decimating their numbers) were huge reasons they were willing to live in the missions and be loyal to the crown (of Spain) and catholicism. In exchange for labor and conversion they were given food and refuge:

B and I both felt there was more the Lord has to teach us through the missions. We are still processing it all. We loved the thriving community and strong social support that was presented. I think many in America (in our generation in particular) yearn for that strong, supportive community and being on mission together with others. We have yearned for and sought that for many years. I think the communities I saw in Uganda – and then seeing His Church respond in our community after the flood were the closest glimpses we’ve gotten to our hearts desire.

I understand colonialism has such a bad reputation as being exploitative, demeaning, forceful….. but these missions and Franciscans seemed to build communities with the natives “gently” (?) with dignity (?) . I’m not sure that’s even accurate but it’s the picture I got through the day. I also read that the natives had the freedom to return to their old lives (like duh – that’s as it should be).

I am surprised I didn’t know more about this history. Wow there’s such rich lessons here. The church buildings are so beautiful. I’m surprised at how much was still visible and in tact! I’m disappointed these aren’t talked about more…. but I guess since this area wasn’t part of America at the time – it didn’t make the books. There was a lot going on in the world at this time !

We did miss Mission Concepcion because on the way back we passed it at 5:15 and it was closed – But the kids still earned their first National Park Junior Ranger Badge! And boy did they work hard for this one!!!!

Those smiling, sweating, proud and exhausted faces say it all!

After we packed up our bikes, we headed to Market Square for dinner. Chips and queso and all things Mexican never tasted so good!

We really do love this city!

Sunday we finished up our Missions Tour by heading downtown to the Alamo. We found where all the people were!!! We were wondering! It seems all the crowds go to the Alamo and to the Riverwalk near the Alamo.

Although The Alamo was part of the first mission built it was also the first mission abandoned. It’s more well known of course as the scene of the 1836 battle between Texas / Mexico where James Bowie, William Travis, David Crockett and all their volunteers died fighting for freedom. We watched the Alamo IMAX before going to the Alamo itself. E had done a report on Davey Crockett when she was at Aunt Roxie’s school during the hurricane so she was sad to see Davey Crockett killed. Especially because she had found out he was born in NC!

Just like we felt at the World War II Museum – we all just hate battles, war, killing as we should – but we understand it’s part of human history as we live in a broken world. We are really amazed at such courageous men who are willing to fight against impossible odds for the cause they believe in.

I think it was very interesting to read about immigration issues between Mexico and Texas all the way back in the 1800s. Also the vetting process Mexico tried to implement to determine what immigrants to allow in to settle! We have had some interesting conversations about government, borders, and freedom.

The battle at the Alamo might have been “a small affair” to Mexican President Santa Anna but the impact of the bravery at the Alamo was immeasurable and spurred Texas to independence which of course affected us all in some way.

“Remember the Alamo!” surely has new meaning for the Rooks family. Seeing it all in person and talking about it surely beats reading it in a book at a desk!

After the Alamo visit we walked along the river, had lunch, and enjoyed the sunshine! As soon as we moved a few blocks from the Alamo it was so quiet again.

We went upstream to the Pearl district that “everybody’s” been talking about :). It’s an industrialized turned trendy mini district that’s a great place to gather & enjoy art, food, and drink. We missed the farmers market but had ice cream at Lick and it was amazing. I wish we could always eat like this – fresh, local, healthy!

Thanks San Antonio! We still aren’t city dwellers but you’ve made us happy city visitors !!!!

6 thoughts on “San Antonio – Local Parks / The Missions World Heritage Site / The Alamo

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