San Antonio Mini-Vacation - Part II

Trip Start Jan 01, 2010
Trip End May 14, 2010

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Flag of United States  , Texas
Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Day 2 -- San Antonio Mission Trail

Today, we had to balance work (oil change and post-office errands) with vacation (San Antonio mission trail). Fortunately, there was a post office a block from our hotel, and we found a Walmart right along our trail. Perfect!

You see, there are four Spanish missions south of San Antonio. They were built in the early 1700's, and their purpose was to "civilize" the natives in the area, teaching them to live like Spaniards and worship like Catholics. Franciscan monks ran the missions, and to this day, they are still occupied by Catholic nuns who take care of the premises.

Before we arrived at any mission, we came across an old Spanish aqueduct, which enabled the flow of the river to reach all of the missions. The river was the lifeblood of the missions.

We first visited Mission Espada. It is the southernmost mission, and, bring on the outskirts of town, was subject to the most attack back in the day. Today, it lies mostly in ruins. The church is the most prominent landmark on the site, and it is still used for ceremonies today. And, as I mentioned earlier, nuns live in the active convent and take care of the grounds.

Second was Mission San Juan, where we enjoyed a small picnic before exploring the mission. It was slightly more intact. The entry gate was as it was back in its day, and the church here too was still usable. In fact, next door to the church was the private living residence of a Catholic clergy. We ended our visit to this mission by walking some trails in the woods down to a river
behind the mission.
Third, we toured Mission San Jose. This mission is the largest of the four, and is by far the most popular among tourists. The church is still an active Catholic church, and hosts masses on a regular basis. There is a working flour mill behind the mission, powered by water delivered by an acequia, a man-made stream with the purpose of irrigating the missions.

We didn't get to the fourth mission. We actually drove by it on our way down. It looked cool, but we didn't mind not getting to it. The day was getting late, and we still had to get our oil change.

But this was our favorite day in Texas, we think. The missions were beautiful, and it was all self-guided. We learned a lot, too, by reading the informative plaques along the way.

So! Day 1, the 1800's. Day 2, the 1700's. Day 3... modern day, coming up next.
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