From Alan –
Population = 54,652, latitude 29º 16’, longitude 94º 49’, elevation 7 feet, average January low temperature = 48.1, Average July high temperature = 88, average sunny days = 203, annual snowfall = 0.1, annual rainfall = 41.7”, comfort index = 28
The approach to Galveston runs through Houston. Fortunately, we are driving through on a Sunday so traffic is only massive, aggressive, and crushing. Somehow, Gypsy’s GPS finds our way through the maze, past the oil refineries, over a huge bridge, and onto the island. The city of Galveston encompasses most of a low lying island that has been wiped out by hurricanes multiple times, so lots of the houses, especially close to the shoreline, are small and stand on stilts or are set on top of garages. Many of them are what would be the third type of home found in New Orleans; the shotgun shack. Our new residence is a cute little shotgun, compact and efficient, measuring (counting 12” x 12” floor tiles) 11’ x 35’.
Our tour of the island starts with the Seawall. The South side of the island overlooks the Gulf of Mexico, which has not been kind to Galveston. The hurricane of 1900 destroyed much of the city, causing the deaths of about 8000 people, a USA record that still stands today. After that, the residents built a 10 mile long seawall to deflect future storm surges. Seawall Boulevard runs alongside the seawall, has a broad sidewalk, and stairs down to the hard, surf-packed sand beach. With a few exceptions, it is wide open seafront without any businesses or concessions. Parking is along the street and paid for by an ingenious app you download to your phone. There are even port-a-potties every 200 yards or so, cleverly disguised by blue and white striped tents. The East End has Stewart Beach Park, where there are refreshments, restrooms, and a big parking lot (in season). About in the middle there is the Historical Pleasure Pier, with its carnival games and rides. The West End is more residential but has a few “Pocket Parks” with open seashore.
Galveston hosts a myriad of restaurants. We saw seafood restaurants everywhere, as well as Cajun, Greek, Chinese, Mexican, German, and Thai. We tried everything from the little joints where you stand in line to order then get a tray with paper plates, to nice restaurants with effective, effusive waitstaff. Even though we tend to avoid the fancy-schmansy big buck seafood places, we still found lots of great food. There are only three breweries on the island, but we found all of them too.
We always try to hit the best of the “Things To Do” lists in Trip Advisor. High up in the list is the Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig and Museum. Guess I never thought about it that much, but it takes a lot of technology and massive engineering to get oil out of the ocean floor. The Ocean Star used to be a working rig in the Gulf and it still has lots of the original hardware onboard. The scale of this stuff is amazing. Inside the rig there are models and exhibits and videos that explain how the big drills operate. How do they drill horizontally? They deflect the drill bit by one or two degrees for a very long time. Interesting museum, well worth the admission.
Another place we found was The Bishop’s Palace. This is a ornate stone Victorian mansion, built starting in 1887, that was built for a wealthy lawyer and politician. In 1923 is was sold to the Catholic church and became the residence for the Bishop. The wood, marble, and stone features are beautiful and intricate. Whenever we tour places like this, I am always amazed with the amount of money that people will spend to impress others with how much money they have.
Our next excursion was the ferry ride from the East End to Port Bolivar. Somehow, the ferry falls under the purview of the Texas Highway Department, so the ride is free. We drive Gypsy on then stand by the rail to watch. Massive cargo ships, drill rigs and their tenders, and fishing vessels all ply these waters, so there is a lot to see. Close to the Port Bolivar end, we even see a few dolphins pacing the ferry. Onshore, there is nothing to see. Fancy houses on stilts cluster near the ocean. The road runs for miles until the first beer. The beer is OK, the bar is a dive, we head back to the ferry.
The rest of our time in Galveston is pretty low key. We walk the beaches, pick up seashells, visit the historic downtown, view some stately old mansions, relax. There is a small town vibe here in our neighborhood. The two main drags can get crowded twice a day, but otherwise the driving is easy. The street we are living on could host little kid’s baseball games with few interruptions.
Judging from the statistics I quote above, you would think it would be a pretty comfortable place to live, especially with the cool ocean breezes in the summer. But then there is the last number; the comfort index. Higher scores mean better livability. Humidity gets very high here in the summer, even though the temperature is mild. In our travels, I have found that Southern people are either Desert or Jungle; dry or humid. Maybe I just don’t care for either. Still exploring.
Next up: Austin, Texas