Our plan was to head first for the visitor center, and see about a guided tour of Houston. It took us about half an hour to get to our destination. Once we located the building, we found a parking space, and headed toward the visitor center, housed in the old city hall. When we got to the main door and pulled the handle, it was locked! A security guard came to the door, but only to confirm that, despite the information in the tourist brochure, the center was not open today.
What to do? We walked around a bit, craning our necks at the tall skyscrapers around us, and the spacious city parks. Very few people were in the downtown. Our guidebook described all kinds of museums and art galleries but without any addresses, to our amazement, so it was hard to know how close they might be. We walked up to a theatre complex (mostly in search of a restroom, to be honest!) but its doors were also locked.
So, after stopping for a coffee (and restroom visit!), we decided to head back toward the RV park. We’d been told about a monument not far from the park, so we thought we could take a look there anyway.
The return trip took a different route, so we did get to see a bit of the downtown and environs on our way. For two or three miles before reaching it, we could see the obelisk of the San Jacinto Monument reaching high above the horizon. The literature says it’s taller than the Washington Monument by 12 feet, and it’s the tallest memorial stone column in the world, built in 1936. Like the one in Washington, this has a large reflecting pool in front of it. On the top is a huge stone five-pointed star, built in several dimensions so that it looks like a star from any angle.
The battle of San Jacinto is one we knew nothing about before today, but it was a pivotal event in the development of the United States of America. “Texas Forever!” was the name of the movie presented in the monument’s theatre, describing how this territory, when under Mexican rule, actually welcomed American settlers to populate the area. Later on, migration of American settlers became worrisome to the Mexican government and military efforts were mounted to turn them back. The hostilities came to a head at this place, when 900 soldiers on the American side managed to overcome 1200 Mexican soldiers and seize the land for the US. This victory paved the way for the acquisition of one third of the total territory of the US in the Mexican War that would ensue in later years, so it has been called one of the decisive battles of the world.
We got a terrific view of Houston from the top of the monument after the film, and learned about the men after whom the cities of Houston and Austin are named, as well as other details about the life and history of the region. It definitely made up for our bad luck at the start of the day.