December 28, 2013
This day was spent in downtown San Antonio with a visit to the Mission San José, (aka the Mission San José y San Miguel de Aguayo) and a circumnavigation of and dinner along the Paseo del Rio, the famous River Walk, with brief stops in front of the Alamo (aka the Mission San Antonio de Valero), and at the downtown Cathedral of San Fernando (aka the Church of Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria y Guadalupe).
A Rough Start
Since we drove into town very late the day before, we got off to a late start and missed the hotel breakfast, which was just as well given the offerings we sampled the next day. We wanted to see a mission and knew the Alamo would be packed on a Saturday, so I drove us south toward the largest of the San Antonio missions, the Mission San José. I tried to find brunch in the area, but one quality Mexican food place had a long line and another we stopped at was unappealing. So we drove along Military Drive and settled in for a long wait at a table at Applebee’s, but despite inquiries never were served, prompting me to leave with a complaint lodged with the hostess. We finally plopped down at a nearby Denny’s for a late breakfast after wrestling with frustrating traffic on Military Drive.
Mission San José
Thankfully the rest of the day went better, starting with a walk about the Mission San José. Founded in 1720, the mission was named for Saint Joseph and the Marqués de San Miguel de Aguayo, the governor of the Province of Coahuila and Texas at the time. It was built on the banks of the San Antonio River several miles south of the earlier mission, the San Antonio de Valero (the Alamo), and eventually had about 350 Indian neophytes. Over the centuries it fell into ruin, but was rebuilt in the 1930s by the Works Progress Administration, and had a recent multimillion dollar interior and exterior facelift.
We saw the one-room deep Indian Quarters built into the mission walls to protect occupants from attacks from other Native Americans outside the walls. We had a good view of the 1782 chapel and 1755 convento, the latter being the residence for the missionary and lodging for visitors.
The south side of the chapel features the decorative carvings around the Rose Window (the area of the wall recently cleaned in the photo) and a barred doorway onto a spiral staircase. A fellow tourist remarked how as a child he used to climb up those stairs back when they were open.
The chapel was closed for a wedding, but we could admire the recently restored frontispiece, and saw the bride’s attendants and later the bride herself outside the chapel. After viewing the north side of the chapel and convento, we completed our walk around the perimeter of the mission and went back to the hotel to prepare for an evening on the River Walk.
Alamo Plaza and River Walk
Our hotel was located just east of I-30, which meant we were several blocks from the Alamo and the River Walk, but our pick was considerably cheaper than closer hotels. There is colorful LED lighting at night on the Houston Street underpass, making it a welcome route to and from our hotel. We walked to Alamo Plaza and admired the big Christmas tree out front, later returning so I could shoot photos of Wendy in front of the famous mission and the big tree.
We walked over to Commerce Street and descended to the River Walk, walking north and then west through the crowds. I was sad that we did not find the pet duck I’d seen last spring wandering the aisles at the five and dime, and Wendy was glad to exit the hustle and bustle when we reached the San Antonio River.
San Fernando Cathedral
We ascended to the main plaza, amused by the tools and gears embedded in the walkway. We walked westward to the oldest, continuously functioning religious community in the State of Texas: the Cathedral of San Fernando, which was founded in 1731. We ventured inside to listen to music rehearsal, and then made our way back to the River Walk.
The quieter walk eastward on the southern leg of the River Walk burst into life when we reached the Arneson amphitheatre at the La Villita Historic Arts Village. Wendy and I are not sports fans, so we did not grasp that it was the Oregon Ducks’ and Texas Longhorns’ bands in town for the Valero Alamo Bowl, but slithered through the crowds to reach the historic Casa Rio restaurant.
As we ate, darkness brought out the beautiful lights along the River Walk, with my iPhone creating interesting artifacts. We laughed when both the Ducks’ and the Longhorns’ bands floated by on river taxis, playing up a storm.
We returned to the hotel via the Rivercenter mall. The next day would be spent in art museums since the weather was inhospitable for hiking.