The next morning we bid adieu to Alpine, but not before stopping in front of this mural. I like to call it, “find Anna-Laura.”
Then, it was off to Fort Stockton to hug the famous roadrunner, Paisano Pete’s, leg. What a quirky, funny thing to happen upon as we drove through town. Fort Stockton has some great sights and I suspect when we head to Big Bend again, we’ll take the time to do some of them.
One thing we were all reminded of as we drove around our beautiful state, was the need for rain. And lots of it. We’ve been in a severe drought for so long than when it does rain my kids say, “why does it smell so bad?” Because of all the dust it’s kicking up! For the record, I love that smell. It reminds me of a good Texas panhandle soaking. Those were always an answer to prayer.
We still had lunch fixings from our venture into Big Bend, and we happened upon the loveliest roadside rest stop. There was lots of shade, wide open spaces, great bathrooms and a huge picnic table made of concrete that was big enough for our brood. A rarity. The wagon wheels next to our table proved to be a nice jungle gym, too. It always make me happy when my kids can find fun in any setting. Life is more than screen time. These pictures don’t show the fighting over who got to hang on them next or the near fall by Luke!
As we jumped back in the van, Scott asked, “So, where are we staying tonight?” Um, como? I logged onto hotels.com for a room and then texted a friend to see if they had dinner plans. So, yes, just four hours before arriving at our destination we secured a room and made plans for some good eats with some good friends. Who needs to plan ahead?! We were so happy to arrive in San Antonio just before the missions closed. John Paul wasn’t feeling well, so we limited our stop to just one.
San Antonio has deep Catholic roots. It houses beautiful and historical missions. The one we chose to visit was Mission Concepción. San Jose is by far my favorite, but since the seventh grade field trip at school heads there and the Alamo, we opted to skip that one. It is gorgeous, though. Espada is under construction and the church will reopen after Thanksgiving. So, Concepción it was. Scott and I took shifts. He took the big three, while I hung with Luke and G (both asleep) and John Paul (Mr. I Don’t Feel Good). After they toured the grounds, Gianna and I headed to the chapel to pray. There’s something about kneeling on an old wooden kneeler in a historical place, with just the sound of your steady breath and the cooing of a newborn, that is so peace-filled. Call me a San Antonio lover, but I could spend hours in those missions. I do prefer to spend hours in them when it’s not 102 outside, but beggars can’t be choosers.
We were all wiped and decided to head to the hotel and hang for a bit before dinner. Can I just tell you how much we adore Hotel Contessa? Yes, yes I can. The rooms are just lovely, freshly renovated and the staff is always kind. Contessa is located on the quiet, beautiful end of the Riverwalk which I think is why we love it so. It’s less on the touristy end and more on the, let’s love San Antonio end. Watch out for flash sales, they have them often and we were excited to score one for the evening.
On our way to dinner, we jumped on the elevator and with each ‘ding’ of the doors, a surprised look from the oncoming passengers became a regular thing. That is, until a rather nice looking gentleman got on the elevator, counted all the kids, leaned over to me and in a VERY loud stage whisper said, “Are all these yours?” I proudly said, “YES!” His tacky reply? “You know what causes that, right?” In front of my kids! I smartly said, “Of course. And it’s tons of fun!”
I’ll tell you. I don’t often get ruffled when someone comments on our family size because it happens ALL THE TIME. But this guy almost got a sucker punch. Fortunately, the very nice lady on the other side of the elevator piped up and said, “You have a beautiful family.”
And all was right with the world. Words matter, my friends. They matter.
Dinner with our fantastic friends, the Blake’s, at Mi Tierra was just what we needed. Well, that and a margarita. Gianna slept through dinner while we enjoyed some great conversation. We put the kids at one end of the table, talking teenager stuff and Clash of Clans, while at the other end, we made plans for Aggie football games this fall. It was the loveliest of evenings. Blake’s, it’s always a good time. Thank you!
After a quick dip in the hotel rooftop pool, we called it a night.
Before we left historic San Antonio the next morning, there were two must-do’s, spend time on the Riverwalk and eat at Lulu’s. We’ve done the touristy boat ride (and if you’ve never done it, you should) but this morning we just decided to sit and enjoy the peace and quiet.
Hold up. It was quiet until we walked outside. Then my kids happened. And all the restaurant patrons stared. But, that’s okay, because we ran into the nicest man just as we were packing up to head back into the hotel. He asked if all the children were ours and when I replied ‘yes’, he just smiled. “My wife and I always prayed for more. We sure do love our three girls, but I’m always happy to see big families.” He may have saved the trip for me. We must’ve visited for a good ten minutes.
It reminded me of two things: 1) don’t walk around with your head absorbed in your iPhone because you miss out on conversations like those, and 2) there are some really nice people in this world. I’m pretty sure half of them are southerners, except, of course, that guy from the elevator!
At the recommendation of the Blake’s we dined at Lulu’s for breakfast before heading out of town. They have “the” famous cinnamon roll. Think Man vs. Food. The best part was feeding our entire family breakfast, plus coffee, for $13. Winner winner, chicken dinner. There was the pooping accident with Gianna on Scott’s shorts, but a quick wet wipe later and we were all good as new. Reason #96 I detest disposable diapers. I had to resort to them on the trip, but I was pretty happy to head back to cloth diaper land on our return home.
Just before lunch, I quickly texted a friend asking her to recommend the best painted church she knew and she led us to this gem, St. Mary’s in High Hill.
The painted churches tour of Texas is a real thing. We most certainly plan on doing them all, but for this trip we wanted to give the kids a taste of culture, history and art. I think we delivered.
The stop even afforded me the pleasure of nursing Gianna in such a sacred space. I swear I heard Pope Francis say, “Feed the baby!” Actually, his real quote is much more eloquent:
If they are hungry, mothers, feed them, without thinking twice. Because they are the most important people here. – Pope Francis, in an address to mothers at the Sistine Chapel, Jan. 12, 2014
Before Gianna, I’m not sure I would’ve ever nursed this openly. Yes, I’ve done it in a bathroom stall, hidden in the cry room and sitting in a pew with a cover. But now? What is there to hide? My baby is hungry and I am in a sacred space. There is no more beautiful place to nourish a life than there. <drops mic>
Of course, just after we snapped this photo, I walked outside to see almost all of my children acting like complete fools on the church lawn. Sigh. There may have been some stern parenting words and a cause for confession. Either way, we did it up right for lunch and enjoyed a little Whataburger on our way to Galveston. California, you can have your In-N-Out. Texans prefer our Whataburgers, thankyouverymuch.
The traffic was horrendous and had us wishing for the sparseness of Big Bend. But, we powered on with the van DVD in full force and our fair share of Hail Mary’s. We arrived in Galveston just before dinner time, dropping off our things in the hotel room and then heading to dinner. Of all the places we visited throughout our tour of Texas, I think Galveston was the biggest let down. I do love me some beaches, but perhaps we were spoiled with Destin’s clear water and white sandy beaches.
Next time, I think we’ll take the kids to Padre Island or Port Aransas to really give the beach a fair shake. Our dinner was okay, a local place called Mario’s, but the view was quite nice. The kids kicked it up on the beach for a bit and then Gianna and I retreated to the van. It was super windy and she was ramping up to eat.
We ended our evening with a game of putt-putt (a family vacation tradition) but were almost eaten alive by mosquitos. G and I abandoned ship and just watched from the air-conditioned van. Luke marks it as his “most favorite part of the vacation” and Scott and John Paul tied for bragging rights. Even though the day didn’t go quite as we planned (that traffic!) we still made some great memories. Just before calling it a night, Scott got me a “gift” at the local grocery store. Because nothing says “I love you” more than a Dos Equis, in the dark, while yelling at your kids to go to bed.
Ah, the memories.
Tomorrow we finish strong, eat in the unlikeliest of places and rejoice when we see our own beds!