Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Gonzales Memorial Museum - Gonzales Texas

We had no real plans to go through Gonzales, Texas on our trip to Houston, but on the way home the GPS showed that it wasn't too far out of the way and it was still in the direction we needed to go, so we thought, "Why not?"

We ended up at the Gonzales Memorial Museum, which is dedicated to the battle that ignited the Texas Revolution.

Memorial to the Gonzales Men Who Fought at the Alamo at Gonzales Memorial Museum Gonzales Texas

 What drew us to this particular spot was the star laden fence that surrounds it. It was hard to miss as we drove past.

Star Fence at Gonzales Memorial Museum Gonzales Texas

While we were there we we got to learn some interesting Texas history which, lucky you, now you get to learn too!

Gonzales is know for the October 2, 1835, battle that began the Texas Revolution. The white settlers, called Texians, who were living in Mexico in the area now know as Texas were fed up with the Mexican government and wanted independence from them.

A few years before this incident in 1831, the Mexican government had loaned a cannon to the Gonzales settlement for protection against the natives. You might not think this a very important detail, but just hang on.

In September 1835, as relations between the Mexican government and all of Texas started to crumble, the Mexicans demanding the cannon be returned and sent 150 soldiers to get it.  Eighteen Texas men were able to hold off the soldiers for two days while reinforcements were sent for.  These brave men, called "The Old Eighteen at Gonzales", have a memorial to them at the museum.

Memorial to the Old Eighteen at Gonzales at Gonzales Memorial Museum Gonzales Texas

Once reinforcements arrived the battle broke out.  With the first shots fired, one Texan fell off his horse and got a bloody nose.  It is believed that was the only injury on the Texans side and one Mexican was wounded by cannon fire.

Both sides retreated temporarily.  A meeting between forces was held with the Texas representative saying to the Mexican representative that the Mexican soldiers could either surrender and join the Texans in support of the Constitutuion of 1824 or prepare to fight.  The Texas representative pointed to the loaned cannon, which now had a white flag flying on it, and told the Mexican representative that he should just try to, "Come and Take It".

On the flag, which was made from one of the settlers wedding dresses were the words, "COME AND TAKE IT" with a cannon and star.  The design was similar to the magnet we bought there as seen below.

Come and Take It Magnet from Gonzales Memorial Museum in Gonzales Texas

The Mexican troops feeling outnumbered. So they withdrew and went to San Antonio.  The Texans headed to San Antonio as well with the cannon.  Unfortunately, the wheelbase was damaged and the men decided to just abandon the cannon.  They buried it in a creek and continued on to San Antonio, where Texas was defeated by the Mexican army in the battle of the Alamo.

They didn't give up though.  Another battle broke out in San Jacinto and in this one the Texans were victorious!  We had our independence, which we celebrate every March 2nd on the anniversary of the signing of the Texas Declaration of Independence!  Texas remained its own independent country, called the Republic of Texas, for 10 years until 1846 when it joined the United States of America.

Let's fast forward 100 years from the signing of the Texas Declaration of Independence.  In the beginning of 1936, the Texas government built memorials to the Texas Revolution.  One of those memorials was the museum in Gonzales honoring the cannon that was the catalyze for independence.  Since the real cannon was missing a replica was made for the celebrations.

Come and Take It Cannon Replica at Gonzales Memorial Museum Gonzales Texas

In July of 1936 there were heavy rains in Gonzales which caused flooding.  While looking for flood victims a man stumbled upon what he though was a pipe.  He and a friend dragged it out of the river and left it along the side of a road.

A mail carrier picked it up and took it to the post office where it sat in the basement until 1968 when it was traded and put on loan in a museum in San Antonio.  After passing hands a few more times it finally ended up in the Gonzales Memorial Museum in 2000, where it sits to this day.

So after all of that, would you like to see the original "Come and Take It" cannon?

Here it is!

Come and Take It Cannon at Gonzales Memorial Museum Gonzales Texas

Isn't it adorable??

Side View of Come and Take It Cannon Gonzales Memorial Museum Gonzales Texas

One more parting shot.

Front of Come and Take It Cannon Gonzales Memorial Museum Gonzales Texas

That was all we got to see in Gonzales since it was so late in the day.  We will have to take another trip out there.  They have walking and driving tours of the town's historic places.  That alone is worth another look!

In my next post, which will be more Texas history, but this time no wars!  It will be about the painted churches of Fayette County.  They are gorgeous and you will not want to miss them.  I hope you will come back to read all about it.

Until then!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Texas History in Goliad

Instead of taking the fastest way on our trip to Houston back in July, we decided to detour slightly through south Texas just to see what we could see.  We went through the town of Goliad where we made a stop at the Goliad State Park and Historic Site.

Goliad State Park Sign Goliad Texas

At the park there is camping, hiking, and fishing, but we were there to see the Mission of Nuestra Señora del Espíritu Santo de Zuñiga or just Mission Espiritu Santo.  

Mission Espiritu Santo Goliad Texas

The missions in Texas were build in the 1600's and 1700's by Spaniards who wanted to colonize the area and convert the natives to Christianity. Some were successful, some were not but either way many are still standing today including the Alamo in San Antonio.

Mission Espiritu Santo was reconstructed in the 1930's by the  Civilian Conservation Corps.  (If you don't know about the Civilian Conservation Corps click on the link, it was a really interesting part of American history.)

Let's go into the Mission Espiritu Santo and have a look around, shall we?

The door was open and stayed that way because you know what, there was no air conditioning.  

Door Mission Espiritu Santo Goliad Texas

At all.  None...

It was hot.

We didn't stay long.  So come on, let's go through this quickly!

The sun was shining through the windows creating these amazing shadows.

Window and Shadow Mission Espiritu Santo Goliad Texas

The curls in the iron of the windows mirrored some of the curls found in the wall decorations.  

Holy Water Mission Espiritu Santo Goliad Texas

I love the simplicity of this church with its no pews and white walls. Compared to many other Catholic churches we have been in, this one is like a breath of fresh air (albeit a extremly hot breath of air!!)  I just speaks of a simpler time in history.

Even though it is not much more than a rectangular box the confession booth it seems more elegant in its uncomplicated design that we have seen in the fanciest of Catholic churches.

Confession Booth Mission Espiritu Santo Goliad Texas

The front of the church has the main alter.

Main Alter Mission Espiritu Santo Goliad Texas

Turning around to look at the door we came in, gave us this wonderful view of the balcony and the amazing circular window.

Back of Church Mission Espiritu Santo Goliad Texas

We oohed and ahhed and sweated then headed out the side door where there was at least a breeze!  Across the grass (or you could be proper and use the sidewalks) was a building that had been converted to a museum explaining how the mission came about and more of the history of the place.

Museum at Mission Espiritu Santo Goliad Texas

There is another museum on the grounds that is to the left of the entrance to the church.  This one had air conditioning!! 

Inside this lovely air conditioned museum there was a sign that talked about how these walls were some of mission's oldest one.  They are crumbling due to age, which is sad.  I hope they can figure out a way to preserve them for many years to come.

Last Wall in Museum at Mission Espiritu Santo Goliad Texas

Despite knowing that we were about to step out of the air conditioning, we ventured out anyways and moved on down the road.  As we left we saw a sign for the Fannin Memorial.  We thought, "Why  not?" and headed that way.

Here is what we saw.

Grave of Col JW Fannin and His Men Goliad Texas

Let me tell you what the historical marker said.  It is a rather sad story!
After the battle of Coleto (March 19 - 20, 1836), where a Texas Army under Col. James Walker Fannin met defeat by Mexicans in superior numbers, the Texas soldiers were held in Presidio La Bahia, supposedly as war prisoners. However, by order of Mexican Gen. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, approximately 400 of Fannin's men were marched out and massacred on Palm Sunday, March 27, 1836. The wounded were shot one by one in the fort compound. Col. Fannin was the last to die. Because of their profession, Drs. J. H. Barnard, J. E. Field and Jack Shackelford were spared; about 25 men were saved by a Mexican woman, "The Angel of Goliad". Approximately 30 escaped by feigning death or by swimming the San Antonio River. The Texans' corpses were stripped and partly burned, but left unburied. This atrocity three weeks after the fall of the Alamo gave Texans part of the battle cry--"Remember the Alamo! Remember La Bahia!"--under which decisive victory was won at San Jacinto on April 21, 1836. Gen. Thomas J. Rusk and the Texan Army afterwards marched here and gathered the bones of Fannin's men from the terrain. From Presidio La Bahia the remains were carried in procession to the grave, and there given a military funeral and burial on June 3, 1836.
The men who fought in the Texas Revolution were fierce!  They were willing to fight to the death, and many of them did, to gain Independence from Mexico.  It's because of these brave men and women that I get to call Texas my home and I thank them for that.  (Sorry Mexico...)

Directly across the street from the Fannin memorial was a memorial to the "Angel of Goliad", Francisca Alavez.  If you would like to know more of her story you can read the historical marker here.  

Angel of Goliad Statue Goliad Texas

I really wish a bird hadn't pooped on her....sort of ruins the image of greatness!

There are other places of interest in Goliad but we decided against going to see them although they were all close by. It will just give a us a reason to go back!

 Before I sign off, let me tell you about two of the towns that we passed through on our trip.  One was called Raisin (which made me laugh pretty hard) and the other El Toro, which means "the bull" in Spanish.  There wasn't much to see or say about them except for the cool names they have.  Texas has some pretty strange town names!

I hope you enjoyed this post and will return for the next one which will be about the city of Gonzales and more Texas history!

Until then!

Thursday, August 4, 2016

One Day In Downtown San Antonio Texas

In the beginning of July good friends of ours came to San Antonio and we meet up and played tourist for the day.  We checked Groupon to see what discounts they had and found two.  One was a hop-on hop-off bus tour of downtown San Antonio from Alamo Double Decker Company and the other was an elevator ride up the Tower of Americas to the observation deck.

The bus tour started at the Alamo, so we toured that while waiting.  If you  have never been to the Alamo I do recommend going.  It is a Texas icon and important to the state's history.  While there isn't a lot in the Alamo itself, nearby on the grounds there is a museum explaining the Alamo and its importance.  I didn't take many photos while there except for a few shots of the iconic outside.

This picture was actually taken from the hop-on hop-off bus.  

Alamo from Bus San Antonio TX

Our plan was to see the Alamo, ride the bus around downtown, and then get off at the last stop which is the Tower of Americas.  We could have gotten off at any of the stops along the way with the ticket we bought but we really only wanted the tower stop. Once we were done with the tower we were going to get back on the bus and finish tour right back where we started at the Alamo.

Now if you don't want to go the hop-on hop-off bus route you can take the free downtown trolley called the E that comes around every 10 minutes.  It doesn't go to as many places as the hop-on hop-off, but it does make downtown easier to navigate plus you can park further out and pay less!  (Paying less or actually nothing for parking is always my goal!!)

Trolley Car San Antonio TX

One of the neat things about taking the Alamo Double Decker tour is that the driver narrated the things we were seeing as we passed them.  She was amazing! It wasn't a recording like other companies. The driver was able to add things if we were at a stop sign and we knew exactly what she was talking about because she didn't mention it until we were there. A recording couldn't do that!

One of the stops was at the historic Market Square.  It features shops, dining, and at times entertainment.  If you are into shopping especially if you are not from a state that borders Mexico (or from Mexico for that matter), I do think you will like el mercado (the market)!

Banners at Market Square San Antonio TX

Directly across from this stop was a mural made out of tiles.  It is called "New Chapa Lion Mural" by local artist Jesse Trevino.   The bus driver told us that each tile was painted and then they brought them here to install.  It is on the side of a Goodwill thrift store and the people in the mural are there to promote the Goodwill mission, "To Help Change Lives Through the Power of Work".  There is one person in the mural who really stands out.  It is the person "inside" the painting on the right.  

New Chapa Lion Mural by Jesse Trevino San Antonio

That is Jesse Trevino, the artist, and his story is impressive.  When he was 19 years old and attending art school he got his draft letter for Vietnam.  Mere months into his service he received a war injury to his right arm and eventually had to have it amputated.  

I can't imagine the emotions this man went through.  He was in his early 20's and what he thought was going to to be his livelihood, being an artist, was gone.  He persevered and managed to teach himself how to do his art with his left hand!  What an amazing feat!  So when you look at the picture again, I am sure you will notice that the man in the painting does have a prosthetic on the right and is painting with his left.

The lion mural is not the only one we saw, there are several in San Antonio and even two at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington DC.  One other we got to see was on a fence at the the Casa Navarro State Historic Site.  This one is called Laredito (Little Laredo) which is what this area of San Antonio use to be called.  The mural shows what the town looked like in the 1800's.

Little Larado by Jesse Trevino San Antonio TX

As we rode along downtown on the top of the double decker there were a few times when we thought we were going to be decapitated by the street lights!  If anyone would have been standing (which they shouldn't have been!) they would have been hit in the face with that light.  I am surprised there were no warnings plastered everywhere about it!

Decapitating Stree Lights San Antonio TX

Here was our first glance of the Tower of Americas from the bus!

Tower of America San Antonio TX

From the bus stop to the Tower of Americas it was just a short walk but when you get to see a baby duck, well that right there makes any length of walking okay!  (Let's not get crazy, anything under half of a mile would be worth it...but not more!)  

Duck Family at Tower of Americas San Antonio TX

The stop was actually at Hemisfair Park.  This was the sight of the 1968 World's Fair.  The area now belongs to the University of Texas at San Antonio.

We had our tickets in advance since we went through Groupon, but even if you don't go through Groupon go ahead and get your tickets online.  Otherwise, you are going to have to stand in the brutal south Texas sun (even in the winter it can reach into the 80's easily or it could be close to freezing, you never know). 

Our ticket was to ride the elevator to the observation deck (we also got to watch a 4D short video about Texas, but fair warning there is a snake and an alligator that jumps out at you in 3D).  There is also a restaurant up there which slowly spins 360 degrees for a view of the entire city.

Tower of Americas Observation Sign  San Antonio TX

The elevator is glass so you can watch outside as you ride.  I tried not to push little kids out of the way for the video, but Frankie may have gotten nudged a little.  If you have the sound on you can hear the informative narrative we heard in the elevator.

Once up there the views of San Antonio really are spectacular!  It was extremely windy which helped cool the temperature.

View 1 from Tower of Americas San Antonio TX

View 2 Tower of Americas San Antonio TX

Frankie and Jennifer Tower of Americas San Antonio TX

We had our view, got back on the bus, and returned to the Alamo.  Right next to the Alamo is the Menger Hotel.

Menger Hotel San Antonio TX

We decided to take a look inside.  There is even a self guided tour you can take through the hotel but we had two little boys with us who were just about wiped out so we will just have to save that for another time.

Inside Menger Hotel Lobby San Antonio TX

This place is loaded with history.  It was originally built in 1859 and has had it share of famous people stay there including: Theodore RooseveltOscar Wilde, and O. Henry (aka William Sydney Porter) to name a few.  I haven't stayed there yet, so that is why my name is not on that list....

There are also some high end shops located in the hotel.  One that was really interesting was called Kings X.  They design and manufacture all-metal, hand-painted military miniatures and fighting vehicles.  Normally, that is not my thing, but they had a full spread of the Alamo!  Just check out these miniatures and the details!

Alamo in Kings X Shop in Menger Hotel San Antonio TX

Mexican Army in Kings X Shop in Menger Hotel San Antonio TX

1824 Flag of the Texas Revolution in Kings X Shop in Menger Hotel San Antonio TX

They also had miniatures from the Bible and other stories from more recent history such as American Revolution and World War II.  It was very interesting!

It was fun to play tourist in our own backyard and we found a few things that we want to go back to see in more detail.

I hope you enjoyed this post. In my next one I am going to start a series of a short trip we took to Houston including stops along the way.  I hope you will return to read all about it!

Until then!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

How To Eat Lychee And Rambutan Fruits

Lychee fruits aren't usually found in my next of the woods.  I have seen them in Asian grocery stores in larger nearby towns and also when we were in Singapore, but I had never tasted a fresh one.  I tried canned lychee before and didn't really care for them but wanted to give fresh a chance.

As I was in my local Wal-Mart the other day, I saw they had bags of lychee.  I couldn't believe my eyes!  This is a smaller Wal-Mart in a smaller town, so we usually don't get such exotic foods!  You can bet I bought a bag.

Bag of Lychees

The outside of lychees are hard and bumpy.  Just looking at them, you wouldn't think it was anything edible. 

Open bag of lychees

Just look at these up close.  Who was the first one to say, "Well, let me just crack this open and see what is inside!"?

Whole Lychees

Lychees are not hard to open once that first incision is made.  I just used my fingernail but a knife works too.

Starting to Peel the lychee

As you can see, the peel comes off fairly easily and here is what the inside looks like.  Ok, now it is starting to look edible.

Lychee peeled

There is one seed that has to be removed and it comes out easily too.

The seed inside the lychee

Lychees are quite juicy (aka messy) unless I was peeling these the hard way, but there didn't seem to be another way.  Once you have the peel off and the seed out, the lychee is ready to eat.

Peeled lychee and no seed

I tried to like them, I really did.  I thought I would like them if I keep eating them, but it just wasn't happening.  I can't describe the taste because it is a unique flavor.  It is its own thing for sure!  But your taste and my taste are not the same so please don't let my judgement be yours without trying them!  At least if you find some now, you will know what to do with them!

Rambutans are another fruit that I have seen in Asian stores and in Singapore but never had tried one, not even canned.  Apparently our little Wal-Mart is stepping up their fruit game because I shockingly found these there too!

Rambutan in Container

These are some of the most interesting fruits I have ever seen.  

Rambutan Whole

Any fruit that looks like a sea urchin has got to be interesting!


Rambutans have to be peeled like lychees but is actually a little easier.  It feels more like peeling an orange.

Starting to peel the Rambutan

Once peeled it does look exactly like a lychee!

Peeled Rambutan

Also like a lychee there is a seed that needs to be removed.  Rambutans are not as messy as lychees.

Rambutan Skin and Seed

I loved the rambutan!  It's flavor wasn't as far removed from what I already know as compared to the lychee.  It did still have an unique flavor, like nothing else I have ever had.  If you come across some I highly recommend them!

I hope this post helped you in some way and inspired you to try something new. 

My next post will be about a day we had in nearby San Antonio, Texas where we played tourist with some friends.  I hope you will come back to read about it!

Until then!