Tuesday, August 22, 2017

San Antonio Riverwalk

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On this day my kids got to take their first river barge tour of the San Antonio River. Can you believe it? It never worked out to take them when we lived there. The rides are a bit pricey. Most of our travel budget would go solely for "summer vacation" instead of local places. However I was determined to get them on the barge when we studied the Gilded Age, but by then, we were whisked away to our new home in Virginia. After 8 years in beautiful Virginia, it was so much fun to see the Riverwalk again! It was always a fun place to visit, even just to walk around. With all the water we have in Virginia, living near the Chesapeake, we have yet to find anything that looks like this oasis. And it's truly an oasis...even historically. San Antonio was founded by travelers from the Kingdom of Spain because of this river...which was their oasis...and became their capital. So...you're probably wondering where the Gilded Age comes in. Just wait...      

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This is Rivercenter Mall, several stories of shopping and an IMAX theater abound. I highly recommend the Alamo movie at the IMAX btw. But we aren't here for shopping. It was a beautiful day! Not a cloud in the sky. The temperature was cool and it was low humidity! That is rare in May! It was definitely a day to be outdoors! Here we boarded our barge. Each one is named after a lady of San Antonio or Texas. Can you guess whose name graced our barge?

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This is the Hilton Palacio del Rio...built very quickly in 1968 for Hemisfair in a most unique way. You must watch this video of how it was built. Each room was decorated and furnished, then lifted in place. Ta da! That's how you get the job done quickly for Hemisfair!

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Another angle of the Palacio del Rio.

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La Villita is  the original little town across from the Alamo where the Spanish soldiers and their families resided. This is the seating for the Arneson River Theater.

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Across the river from the seating is the Arneson River Theater. Nearby is one of those beautiful arched bridges named for Rosita Fernandez...she was a famous dancer. Her named graced our barge.

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I think this is the famous "Wedding Island."

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This is Big Red, otherwise known as the Bexar County Courthouse which was built in the 1890's. I have been called to jury duty there several times.

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This is the Tower Life building...era 1929...complete with gargoyles. Four hundred three feet is perfect for...flags! Stay tuned for oodles of flags, from American to Texan to...can you tell?

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Now can you tell? San Antonio is famous for flying the American flag (some are so large they rival that of Fort McHenry), the Texas flag, and even certain times of the year this other flag. Can you tell?

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Ah! Gilded Age building with gargoyles! I love the economy of this architecture as a homeschooler. When I lived in Texas, I didn't think I could afford to take my kids anywhere Gilded Age-ish like the East Coast is famous for. Nor did I think I could afford to take them to see any Medieval structures. So...I decided to wait until they were older, after we had studied the Medieval and the Gilded Age. But before that happened, we moved to Virginia. Since then we've visited many  Gilded Age buildings in the North East. We have also visited the National Cathedral which drips with Medieval gargoyles and such. So nowmy kids got to compare all of that with the Gilded Age architecture we have in San Antonio. I'd have loved to have had time to take  my kids to the Gilded Age hotels of San Antonio, like the Saint Anthony and the Gunther. But we were on a tight time schedule that day. In the morning my nephews had award ceremonies at their school, and then we were to have dinner at their house that evening, so we squeezed the Riverwalk in between.   

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Oh, here you go! My kids and I just went nuts taking pictures. The next had to be better than the last. We were careful not to rock the barge though! And can you tell what the black flag is?

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Ah, one of the many gargoyles.

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The Omni La Mansion del Rio...which drips with Old World charm.

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More of La Mansion del Rio.

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If this building looks completely two dimensional...that's because...of an optical illusion. It's actually wedge-shaped. Wish I could have gotten more angles of it. It was the tallest hospital in the US when it was built in 1931. It had everything: hospital beds, doctor offices, and even parking. Carol Burnett as well as Oliver North were born here. Originally called the Nix Hospital, it is now the Nix Professional Building.

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Want to do lunch overlooking these Texas flags?

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Or how about doing lunch under these Texas umbrellas?

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Choices, choices. Where to eat? We actually wanted to eat at Alamo Cafe...where a river runs through it...with great decor...and the absolute best quiet outdoor eating...with the water trickling by...oh did I mention the indoors has twinkling lights overhead...and the great Texas murals...and cheap and delicious eats! I highly recommend the chalupa plate. Do they still serve it? I don't know. We didn't have time to visit on this trip.

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The several flags of Texas, including France. Yes, France owned us for a very short time.

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The Tower of the Americas...lunch is too expensive there. However it is interesting because the floor spins, ever so slowly, for a 360 degree view of the city. I had wanted to take the kids here when we finished the Dialectic cycle of World History. Oh well. Maybe someday. There is an observation tower at the top, but having a meal there is kind of fun.

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So now we were off the barge and walking to lunch...

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The view from the top of one of those beautifully arched bridges. Which set of umbrellas should we eat under?

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Now can you tell what the black flag is for? The San Antonio Spurs! They are always flown when they are in Championship season...except they had lost the series by this point. They've won five championships, but only one of those have been won since we moved to Virginia. (I think they miss us.)

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Oh, how cute! Mamma duck and her babies!

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We ate at Casa Rio...it's the best price on the Riverwalk and the food is great. I ordered a Taco Salad because I haven't had a decent one in 8 years. Yum!!!! The shell was actually crispy! (Hint to Virginian restaurants: buy heat lamps to keep your chips, taco shells and taco bowls crispy and warm. I used to work at Tex Mex restaurants. I know. Also iceberg lettuce for taco salads. Romaine is for Caesar. ;)

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This duck was begging for food...

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...tugging at my skirt...

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...and begging some more.

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Casa Rio was the first restaurant on the Riverwalk. If we are going to eat on the river, this was always our go-to because is has the best price and the consistently best food. Service is always great.

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And that is the barge that we had ridden on.

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Ladybird Johnson named Rosita Fernandez, "San Antonio's First Lady of Song." She appeared in the 1960 movie, The Alamo, starring John Wayne. (I haven't seen that movie since I was a little girl. I'm going to have to watch it again and look for her.)

On the way home we drove by the Fairmont Hotel, which is just down the street from the Riverwalk. The Fairmont is another architectural feat. It was most carefully and cautiously moved five blocks in order to preserve this stunning Gilded Age hotel.

Resources:
Hilton Palacio del Rio-https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2t3-PeLcIYg
Rosita Fernandez-http://www.thewittliffcollections.txstate.edu/exhibitions/past/Rosita-Fernandez.html
Rosita Fernandez-https://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/ffe29
Fairmont Hotel-https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0oNEeULPs_Q&t=943s
Fairmont Hotel-http://www.thefairmounthotel-sanantonio.com/fairmount-san-antonio-history.php

Monday, August 21, 2017

Sunday Houses in Fredericksburg, Texas

One of the charms from Fredericksburg, Texas, was Sunday Houses. As a little girl the tradition was to make the drive from San Antonio for peaches. Out of that tradition came that of hunting for Sunday Houses. They have the unique feature of stairs on the outside of the house...like this:

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When the Germans settled the town of Fredericksburg in 1846, they brought many traditions with them, and that included town planning. In the European manner, the town was laid out as a farm village with the intent that the farmer would live in town and each morning they would journey to the pastures for the day's work. Although this is how the town was laid out, the settlers picked up the American habits of their neighbors by establishing a homestead on their farm. However the churches remained in town.

Wanting to attend church on Sunday, the farmers and their families began the tradition of Sunday Houses. On Saturday morning they would journey to town to stay in a Sunday House. While in town they'd sell produce, shop, carry on business, even attend a dance or other form of entertainment in the evening. They'd sleep in the Sunday House on Saturday night, and attend church in the morning.

It has always been my dream to spend the weekend in Fredericksburg, myself...to enjoy the town at a leisurely pace...to walk around and find the various Sunday Houses and collect photos. So far I've never been able to talk anyone to even walk around with me to take pictures. My only photos are the ones I've taken while a driver was zooming through town. I took this photo after a full day at the LBJ Ranch and the Wildseed Farm. And I don't recall if this is actually a Sunday House or a hotel built in the manner reminiscent of a Sunday House. However, we were zooming, so this was a quick catch with my camera. Perhaps one day a more leisurely day will come...

Resource:
Sunday Houses-https://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/cfs01

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Then I Started Staycationing in Virginia...

So...my busy days have kept me from catching up on Texan stories. Already I'm beginning staycations in Virginia. Actually I had two grand opportunities last spring that I've yet to blog about. I'm quite thrilled that I began lessons in plein air painting!!! I've always wanted to add this to my historic interpretations.
Since coming home from Texas I've been unpacking, catching up with chores around the house and of course doing a lot of work with Convention of States, which has been grand.
I keep a computer version of a sticky note on my laptop where I list all the places we want to visit. Then each week we review and vote as a family where we go. I think it will be fun to catalogue here where we actually end up going. 
I'll bump this post with each new trip announcement. When the post is written they will become linked.

  •  Plein Air at the Old Stone Bridge, Manassas Battlefield-April 1
  • Plein Air and  Nature Journals at the Old Stone Bridge, Manassas Battlefield-May 9
  • British Invasion of Monticello-June 4
  • Arlington National Cemetery-June 11 
  • Horseback Riding in Shenandoah-June 18 
  • Culpeper where we ate at the Culpeper Cheese Company and then retrieved my quilt!-June 25  
  • A Day with the Colonial Williamsburg Milliners-June 28
  • Smithfield, Crabs, 17th century, and George Washington and Mason-July 2
  • Mary Washington House-July 9
  • Washington DC, Folger, Smithsonian Gardens-July 16
  • CFA Picnic Leesylvania State Park-July 23  
  • Lexington, VA-Sam Houston Birthplace, VMI, Washington and Lee Chapel, Moo Thru-July 30  
  • Kenmore Plantation...oh, the gorgeous plaster ceilingwork from the 18th century are to die for!!!!!-Aug 6 
  • Warrenton Walking Tour-Aug 13 
  • Middleburg Walking Tour-Aug 20
  • Hmmmm......

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Admiral Nimitz and the Nimitz Steamboat Hotel in Fredericksburg, Texas

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The home of Admiral Chester Nimitz's early childhood has always been my favorite in all of Texas. In 1855 the admiral's grandfather opened the Nimitz Hotel in Fredericksburg, Texas. Over the years it grew in fame  due to its comfort, convenience, and notable visitors. The hotel registry included that of President Rutherford B. Hayes as well as Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant among many others.

But perhaps the most famous "guest" of all, for whom the hotel would forever be remembered, arrived on the 24th of February in 1885...the day a tiny baby named Chester was born. I'm sure Grandpa Charles Henry Nimitz was quite proud of his grandson. His son, Chester's father, had died 6 months earlier.

Captain Charles Henry Nimitz was a man who was also proud of the sea. Renown as the "master of the Texas tall-tale," he was a German-American who had served with the German navy when he was young. After settling Fredericksburg with others from Germany in 1846, he served in the Texas Rangers before buying the hotel. Apparently his love of the sea was never far from his memory. He infused his past into the architecture of the hotel.   

It is this part of the hotel that always beguiled my heart since I was a little girl...the steamboat feature that Grandpa Captain Nimitz added after 1888. It became known as the Nimitz Steamboat Hotel. 

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Despite the success of the hotel, there was not money enough to consider college for young Chester. However all that changed when Chester met some graduates of West Point. Inspired, Chester applied for a Congressional appointment, but there were no more openings at West Point. However, there were openings at the Naval Academy. Although Chester had never heard of the Naval Academy, he applied and was accepted...at 15 years of age, before completing high school. Apparently Nimitz didn't complete high school until after he retired from the Navy as Fleet Admiral.

Henry Fonda fabulously portrayed Admiral Nimitz, the Commander of the Pacific Fleet, in the famous movie, Midway. ( I do seem to recall that "Fredericksburg" was mentioned. And yes...we watched this movie a few days later on Memorial Day weekend.)

The hotel is now part of what I think is the best museum in Texas-the Admiral Nimitz Museum. Themed around WWII, they have stunning displays that remain in my memory. (I probably have lots of SLR photos to scan from years ago when we visited while studying WWII in our homeschool. One day I will scan those photos and blog about that visit.)

Well...no, we did not get to visit the hotel *this* day. Nor did we get to walk anywhere in town that day. My mom was in haste to get home. We had already conquered the LBJ Ranch and the Wildseed Farm. A rainstorm was on its way. Rush hour awaited in San Antonio. (Honestly, when people rolled their eyes that we were moving to Northern Virginia, 8 years ago, I laughed and said the traffic wouldn't be any different. Actually it is worse in San Antonio than it is in NoVA.)

The above photo is actually from December 2008. It is far better than any of the photos I attempted to take while my mom drove zoom, zoom, zoom through Fredericksburg. At least we got to drive by a favorite spot. In fact, since moving to NoVA we've toured the Naval Academy. You can check that out here. At the time we didn't know that Nimitz had attended there. If we had, we've have looked for him. Guess we need another trip.

Resources:
 Museum- http://www.pacificwarmuseum.org/your-visit/admiral-nimitz-museum/
The Nimitz Hotel-https://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/ccn01
Admiral Nimitz-http://www.militarymuseum.org/Nimitz.html
Captain Charles Henry Nimitz-https://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fni04

Friday, August 18, 2017

Wildseed Farm

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After our visit to the LBJ Ranch we drove down the road to the Wildseed Farms...as per my daughter's request. This had always been one of her favorite places to visit when we lived in Texas. We all enjoy this lovely setting.

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They have a gift shop and nursery to buy plants. Oh how I wanted to shop for plants to bring home to Virginia. Alas...

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Then we walked through the fields of wildflowers. The actual purpose of the Wildseed Farm is to grow flowers to collect seeds to package and sell. Look at all the varieties you can purchase...that usually grow out in the fields throughout Texas every year.

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Afterwards we visited the gift shop...one of the best gift shops ever. I wanted everything bluebonnets, and more! I settled on some gorgeous bluebonnet place mats...as well as a package of bluebonnet seeds to take home. However they never made it back to Virginia. I think they never made it into my bag, even though my receipt shows I paid for them. (boo hoo)