Galveston, Oh Galveston

The drive along I10 from San Antonio was pretty stressful.  Very heavy traffic, poor driving all around, and as we approached Houston, a huge thunderstorm.  Once through the spaghetti like motorway system around Houston we got on 45 down to Galveston.  Husband drove very well and I helped navigate.  I guess we could have picked a better time than late afternoon on a Friday in rain but there you go…

We are staying in a nice RV park in Galveston right by the beach.

Unfortunately, on our first night here our neighbours partied all night and neither of us got much sleep.  This is the first time in all our travels that we have been disturbed by inconsiderate people in an RV park.  This left us tired and listless the next day and didn’t get much exploring in.  We did take a long walk on the beach, that was about it.

We have now been here for 3 days and we have done a fair bit of exploring and got a pretty good feel for Galveston.

 

Pelicans flying overhead, dolphins playing in the waves, 200 miles of very nice beach, palm trees and tropical weather-I like this place, its got a very nice feel to it.  Did I mention the mosquitos?  Between the beach and road in this part of Galveston is a marsh which is very wet, it rains a lot here.  Our RV park is surrounded by marsh.  The mosquitos, known locally as Texan Skeeters are formidable creatures, hungry and huge.  They like me a lot and are not particularly fond of S, they bite him but they leave teeth marks on me!

When we arrived here, as soon as we went outside and found ourselves in a black cloud, I went straight to the pharmacy across the road and asked for the best mozzie repellent.  I was offered a 100% deet product, but fearful that this would slough my skin off, or make me glow I opted for the 30% deet.  Normally I would use a natural repellent, but not here.  30% deet, called ‘Deep backwoods lumber cutter repellent’, or similar only just does the trick.  Everytime we go out we need to cover our whole bodies in this horrible greasy spray.  Today I didn’t spray my neck and they attacked both there and got up the sleeves of my t shirt and bit my shoulders!

There is so much rainfall, thunder and lightning are common place and the rain is very heavy when it falls, needless to say there is a great deal of stagnant water laying around.  September here is known for this unsettled weather, and we are only here now because our coach needs to be in Georgia in 5 weeks time where we will store it while back in NZ, but we are not wanting to head any further east just now, because of the weather.

Galveston is actually an island, you drive over a causeway onto it.  There seems to be large spits of land and islands all along the southern states, we think probably because of the silt from the Mississippi, which flows out of New Orleans, originating in Minnesota.

The Gulf of Mexico sea is apparently a beautiful clear blue colour, but the sea is shallow for a long way out and the ocean bottom is muddy from the silt, this makes the ocean look a dirty colour, this is called a Turbid sea.  Despite this we are told the ocean is rich with fish life large and small-this is prawn country, we have already eaten lots at Bubba Gumps, a chain of seafood restaurants here.

During our stay here and generally on the southern coast S is carefully watching the weather.  Florence is soon to make landfall near the Caroliners, but it could easily have been here.  Galveston has been decimated by hurricanes through history.  One of the biggest recorded ones was in 1900, this was considered the worst natural disaster in US history.  In the 19th century, Galveston was an important port and was once the biggest city in Texas.  There was a great deal of wealth here which can still be seen when walking around.

This is Moody Mansion

The houses that survived the 1900, and subsequent hurricanes are grand and opulent, although a few are in a poor state of repair today.  Prior to 1900, many tourists came here to holiday, used the bathing houses which were on piers over the beach, there were car races on the beach etc.

However after 1900 Galveston lost it’s footing and the port was eventually moved to Houston.  Since 1989 there have been 16 hurricanes that have caused fatalities in this area, however the 1900 hurricane killed between 6000 and 12000 people!  Ike was the last bad one to come through and that brought a storm surge of 6 meters, so this place is not for the feint hearted.  We are lucky that if something looks like its coming this way, we are on wheels and can get out of here-others would have to leave their homes behind.

This morning, Monday, the sky became very black and threatening.  You can’t sit in the coach all day, you get cabin fever so S decided to go to the Johnson Space Centre, which he really enjoyed and found very informative, it’s a tour that is both historical and takes in the future of the space program.  I didn’t want to go, so I thought I would head off on my bicycle, as this is a very smart thing to do when the sky is black!

I didn’t get far before the first rain drops fell so I took shelter in the very grand Hotel Galvez, named after the 18th century Spanish leader Bernardo de Galvez, this man, from Malaga was very powerful and acted as the viscount to a huge swarth of land here, New Spain (central America), Mexico etc, he surveyed this area in 1786.

The hotel was built in 1911 using cutting edge products and tools to create a robust structure that they considered fire proof and able to withstand another hurricane, which it has.  The hotel is in beautiful condition and so well resembles the feel of Galveston in the early 20th century.

The rain didn’t stop so I headed back to the coach to ensure it had not become a boat.  In the late afternoon the skies cleared enough for me to visit Gresham House.

This place is remarkable.  The Greshams were high society in the late 19th century, and commissioned this house to be built in 1887.  They spared no expense; the best materials were brought in from all over the world.  She (Josephine) was an artist and had the turret as her art studio, I have asked S for one to be added to our house!  The fireplaces have marble from Italy, wood was imported, fabrics from Europe-it’s all pretty original and so beautiful.  In 1923 the house was sold to the Roman Catholic Diocese to house Bishop Byrne-I wonder where the money came from?

Back to the coach to see how husband got on at the space centre.  Rain is forecasted for the next 5 days, so more exploring to be done in the rain…