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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Getaway

For a week in September, Brian and I were able to fly out to San Antonio, by ourselves! Brian was going out there for a business conference, so the company was paying for his flight, his hotel, and his rental car. I wanted to go with him for a little R&R, since I knew it was probably the last chance to travel anywhere until the little baby is several months old. My dad was nice enough to use some of his SkyMiles to get me a $5 plane ticket, so we didn't have to pay for anything! We did add one night to the hotel stay at our expense. You just can't beat one week in San Antonio for $125! We left Andrew in the very excited hands of Nana and PawPaw.
I had planned on just hanging out in the hotel room while Brian was at his meeting. A whole week, of a quiet, clean (well, it's a hotel; clean in this case means no toys scattered everywhere...) room, my own T.V., and a book. Well, I devoured the book in one day, but I found plenty of time to nap and watch TLC for extended periods of time! Our hotel was right on the Riverwalk, which is a neat little section of the San Antonio River that winds through downtown. Along the Riverwalk are restaurants, bars, shops, lots of little vendors. It's really quite romantic! We must've walked two miles every day, though, and little pregnant me only packed her flip flops, so Brian so sweetly rubbed my feet for me at night.
The last full day we were there, we hit some of the main sights in town. One, of course, the famous Alamo. The Alamo was one of five Catholic missions in San Antonio founded in the 1700's in wild Texas to convert native people to Catholicism. Surprisingly, they are all still standing and still serving. The Alamo is famous for the number of battles fought between American soldiers and the Mexican army. I couldn't figure out what the big deal was...I mean, usually, you fight for a specific region that has a valuable resource, like clean water, good soil, gold, etc. This place, in 1836, was the desert, 6 million miles away from nowhere. After taking the tour and reading up on the history, I realized it was more of a fight of principle, symbolic of taking a stand for something you believe in. All of the men died defending the Alamo, because they'd rather die than admit defeat.

The Alamo at night.

We did drive to all five missions, I thought it would be neat to see these living pieces of history. We started at Mission Espada, which is the one farthest away from town, the most remote of the missions. Since it was so far from town, it was (and is) the least elaborate, I imagine due to it being so far from supplies and laborers. It was beautiful in its simplicity. The church is still standing, but that's pretty much all that's left of the compound. All the missions housed hundreds of people, had numerous livestock, gardens, granaries; they were self-sufficient little cities. The "mission of the mission" was to convert the native peoples (Indians? Mexicans?) to Catholicism. What struck me as most poignant here at the mission (more so than at the others) was that it is an active parish. (*Side note: I'm not Catholic, so forgive me, my Catholic friends, if I use the wrong words...a parish is like the congregation, right? The area the church serves?) This means that there are still nuns and a priest that live there. You'll see from the pictures just how rustic and remote this place was. The nuns had a little garden full of beautiful flowers, and had many, many birdfeeders filled with birds.

Mission Espada

The inside of Espada's church.
I was tempted, for about 3 minutes, to convert to Catholicism and be a nun, so I could live in the little stone rectory (again, Catholic friends, is this right?) and feed the birds and tend my garden, walking with the Lord daily. It was all so romantic to me! Then I realized I'd have to live without Super Pretzels and sweet tea. Poof, the dream is gone.
The next mission we visited was Mission San Juan, which was much the same as Espada. I was running low on memory in my camera, so I didn't take any pictures, but it was very similar to Espada. And, like Espada, it was still active, in fact, they had just performed a wedding there a few weeks before. It was a little less glorious in my mind, because the nuns didn't have a pretty little garden....
The third, and by far largest and most restored mission was Mission San Jose. It literally took my breath away. Again, the desire to be Catholic struck, but visions of french fries danced in my head. (There was a McDonalds across the street...this one was not so remote.) It was huge, and beautiful.

The church at Mission San Jose

The dormitory at San Jose, for priests.

Another view of San Jose

And, the fourth one we drove to was Mission Conception, which was actually under restoration, so we couldn't go into the church (or is it a cathedral?) It's also very very close to downtown, so less remote, less desolate, but still extremely beautiful and a nice glimpse into the past.

Our last night in San Antonio we walked a few blocks to our hotel to San Fernando Cathedral, which is the oldest cathedral in America! It was beautiful, and very much still in operation. In fact the Pope was there just a few years ago. I took some shots of it at night, and the lighting almost makes it seem like the light of God shining from the cathedral. I had goosebumps when I saw the picture!

Anyways, this was the longest blog post in history, but the pictures were too pretty not to share. And it was nice to share how moved I was in seeing these missions. I could only hope that I would be filled with such convictions to go to so desolate a place, in a dangerous territory filled with warring peoples, to spread the word of God.


johnston5in5 said...

Wow, that is beautiful. And as one of your Catholic friends everything sounded right to me. Our parish is our area the church serves and the congregation are those attending. What amazing pictures. I haven't even been away from my kiddos for a night other than the hospital (I always have a baby) and a day in a hotel room reading sounds like heaven but I would miss my babies.

Anonymous said...

Isn't the riverwalk beautiful? I think you saw more of the area in one week than I did in 6 years! Thanks for posting a picture of you and the baby.


Sarah and Phil said...

Great pictures and a nice getaway! You look fabulous by the way...I want to see more preggo pictures!!!

Liz Brookshire said...

That sounds wonderful! I'm glad you put a picture of yourself on there, you look so cute!

Pogue Family said...

The pictures from your trip are wonderful, and you look so beautiful! The hotel room with a book, quiet time, and sleep sound amazing to me right now :) Andrew's comment during the sonogram made me giggle out loud. I'm so happy for your family and enjoyed seeing the pictures of your little girl.