Traveling the lowlands to Galveston

As we left Port Aransas, the beachy landscape gave way to scenery comprised primarily of farmland interspersed with oil refineries, occasional wind farms, and a plethora of small RV parks.  We were excited to see blue skies and blue water as we drove over the bridge into Galveston.  The main drag along the ocean (Seawall Blvd) parallels the oceanside beach, with most of the commercial activity on the north side of it, and on the south side is a large walkway and beach access for the public with unobstructed views of the Gulf of Mexico.

Magnolia Beach:

We opted to stay for a night on Magnolia Beach, near Port Lavaca, TX.  This is one of several free beach camping spots we found on campendium.com as we headed east from Port Aransas to Galveston.  Aside from the fact that you can see something burning across Cox Bay near Point Comfort, it was a beautiful spot.  The camping area was very level, comprised of sand and crushed shells.  Amenities include picnic areas near the bathrooms, beach showers and trash bins.  There wasn’t a whole lot to see, but I did enjoy searching for sea shells on the beach.  If you’re looking for a clean, quiet spot to dry camp along this stretch of southern Texas, I recommend it for an overnight stay.

Dellanera RV Park:

During our time in Galveston we stayed at one of the city parks, called Dellanera RV Park, which is right on the beach of the Gulf of Mexico.  It turned out to be a nice place to stay.  You have immediate access to the beach and the Seawall, it’s quiet, clean, and has the most affordable laundry we have seen since being on the road at $1 per machine. 😲 If you want a conveniently located park just on the edge of town, this place fits the bill.  

Dining out:

Gaido’s:  We couldn’t visit the Gulf Coast without enjoying some fresh seafood.  Gaido’s has been around for over 100 years, and has a substantial dining room.  Everyone who we encountered working there had a friendly and professional manner, wishing us a happy new year and making sure we had a great experience. Our server was relatively new, but delightful.  We had oysters on the half shell, Matt had gulf shrimp and grits, and I had the special, which was a blackened redfish.  If you like seafood, especially prepared in the style of low country, you will likely enjoy this establishment.

Leon’s BBQ: We heard great things about Leon’s BBQ, so made a point of going there for lunch.  It truly is a hole in the wall kind of place, but the BBQ has good flavor, the sides were all very good, the service was excellent, and we even got to meet Leon himself.  A table of 10 people came in visiting from Wisconsin, and they wanted to get some T-shirts with the Leon’s BBQ logo on them.  The lady serving them said she thought they were ugly shirts, but said she would round some up for them. 😂 Leon came out to personally greet the guests and gave them the shirts for free.  Leon is a military veteran who proudly wears his retired veteran hat and seemed to genuinely want to meet the people who come through the doors of his restaurant.  It was a fun experience, for sure.

BLVD Seafood: Our last night out, we simply couldn’t resist getting some more seafood while on the coast.  BLVD Seafood is a casual restaurant, but with great food and a decent wine selection.  I chose to eat a variety of appetizers, including their crab cake, seafood chowder, and house salad.  The crab cake was quite large… though I wish there was more of the accompanying dressing to provide a little more tanginess.  I added a dash of lemon juice, but it needed more.  The chowder was very rich, but had a little bit of variety: clam, fish, and shrimp.  The house salad had strawberries, pecans, goat cheese, and a fig vinaigrette, which I enjoyed.  Sorry, but I have no photos for this one.

Matt had their seafood sampler, which included grilled shrimp, sautéed redfish, scallops, a potato gratin, and green beans.  He really enjoyed it all, but did think the potatoes were pretty thick to still be called a gratin.  Finally, we decided to split their key lime parfait…it was mostly whipped cream, but considering we didn’t need a lot of dessert, it was just right for us.  Overall, I enjoyed this place a little more than Gaido’s and would recommend it.

Historic Galveston:

We were pleasantly surprised when driving into Galveston at how beautiful is was.  Despite the fact that Galveston suffers the wrath of a tropical storm or hurricane every 10 years or so, many of its historic buildings have remained intact.  Indeed, in 1900 it was the site of landfall for the deadliest natural disaster on record in the US taking the lives of approximately 6,000 to 12,000 people as it crossed the US eastward and exited up near Maine a week later.

Despite the devastation of this storm, Galveston rebuilt the city, and fortified it with a seawall that spans 10 miles, is 16 feet tall and 16 feet wide.  We stayed less than a quarter mile from the Seawall, so I got out to walk parts of it nearly every day.  The city is working on replacing large pieces of granite stone that break the waves near the Seawall and other projects to improve the waterfront. I appreciate the fact that this area and the beaches to the east of it are still accessible by the public to enjoy.  

Furthermore, they added fill to raise the city’s elevation anywhere from 1 to 11 feet higher and raised all of the buildings in the process.  The area’s resilience and determination are impressive, so today numerous beautiful buildings remain to be admired, many of which are Victorian-style architecture.  In fact, they have the largest concentration of historic Victorian houses in the US.  

We walked through the area near Pier 21 called The Strand and later strolled through the East End Historic District, seeing buildings dating as far back as 1850.  Many of them have been registered and are identified with historic markers.  We saw these houses in varying states of repair or disrepair, decorated with grand flourishes or needing a massive amount of work, and everywhere in between.  It was lovely to walks these historic streets during our stay.

The Bryan Museum:

On one of the stormy days, we took our exploration indoors, visiting the Bryan Museum, which was formerly a home for orphans.  The grounds are also home to a butterfly garden and beautiful conservatory.  Upon entering, we were introduced to a summary history of Texas and much of the western states via a short video.  

From there we walked through the rooms on the first floor, seeing artifacts from indigenous tribes, missionaries and churches, armies, and cowboys.  There were lots of firearms and artists’ work to admire, and a quirky basement tour with more information on the building itself, but it was also oddly decorated with a hidden grotto and undersea-themed room for kids.  The second floor featured artwork from the famous Andy Warhol, renowned artist Jose Cisneros and several others.  I admit that I am not a frequent patron of museums…I get overwhelmed by so much information at once and simply cannot retain it all.  However, I did like the variety of items on display and recommend visiting if you are in Galveston.  

After such a lovely time in Galveston, we were sad to go, yet excited about our next endeavors.  This marked the end of our travels through Texas.  We headed inland toward Lake Charles, Louisiana on our way to Madisonville, which is just outside of New Orleans. Over the following two weeks, we will be taking a break from our explorations and participating in a Habitat For Humanity build.  Stay tuned for more about the build, but for now, goodbye y’all. 🤠

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