Galveston, Texas

I’m going to be in Galveston for three days before boarding the Carnival Ecstasy, now sailing 4 and 5 day voyages year round.

The big problem with Galveston is that it’s 71 miles from the Houston airport. The good news is there is little traffic on the freeways. I was picked up by a limo so long that I almost had to use email to talk to the driver. When I got to the Hotel Galvez, I took three photos of the car and driver. None of them showed up on my flash card. I truly think my camera was just embarrassed by it all. Later, the Senior Concierge, Jackie, told me that the limo was the talk of the lobby, and everyone wanted to know who was stepping out of it. Well, be that as it may, when I got to the desk, I had to show photo ID. The size of the car will only get you so far.

This town is full of history. Jean Lafitte came across this perfect spot for spoils about 190 years ago, and named it Campeche. The little village contained huts for the pirates, a slave market, boarding houses for visiting buyers, saloons, pool halls, gambling houses and Lafitte’s own house, the “Maison Rouge”; the ruins of which still exist. At one point, Campeche was home to about 1,000 people.

With its access to ships, and since Congress had not approved chartered banks, financial transactions were handled by mercantile firms. The Strand, named after a street in London was filled with wholesalers, cotton agents, paint, drug, grocery, hardware, dry goods stores and insurance companies. The Strand became known as the “Wall Street of the Southwest”.

Galveston‘s prosperity suddenly came to a halt on September 8, 1900; the problem was a lot of street and not enough wall. The deadliest natural disaster in United States history hit Galveston Island. A storm with winds exceeding 120 miles per hour plus a tidal surge devastated the island and killed more than 6,000 people. At the time of the 1900 Storm, Galveston had a population of 37,000 and was the fourth largest and the most sophisticated city in Texas. One-third of the city, more than 3,600 buildings, was completely destroyed, Too numerous for conventional burials the dead were weighted and buried at sea; later they washed ashore. From that point, they were burned in funeral pyres all over the city. The dead were uncovered at a rate of 70 per day for at least a month after the storm.

Enough being too much, in 1902 Galveston built a 17 foot high, 10 mile long seawall. The wall was built in sections over the years; meanwhile the city was raised 17 feet and sloped downward at a pitch of one foot for every 1,500 feet to the bay.

Today, the Strand is one of the largest and best-preserved concentrations of Victorian, iron-front commercial architecture in the country.img_2994.JPG

It’s a shopper’s paradise with more than 100 shops, including coffee houses,

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chocolate vendors,

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and a store that sells something or other.

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Mostly other.

This being off season, all the stores are having sales with 70% off the rule of thumb. The Strand and the streets around are almost empty.strand.JPG

Hotel Galvez was built in 1911 and by 1918 it was thriving.

img_2974.JPGThey were averaging 400 guests a day. No wonder, rooms went for $2.00. There is one room, 501 that is not always available. It is the favorite room of a female who checked out, before she checked in; as a ghost. Whenever she’s in residence, the door locks itself and the hotel cannot get it open until she leaves. Hey, I just report what I’m told. A contributor to Tripadvisor.com said that she felt a hand on her shoulder when she was taking a shower. Should that happen to me, I’m making sure there’s no extra fee added to my bill.

Today costs a bit more, but it is worth it. this is the view from my window.

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Galveston is still growing and there’s a lot of building going on. Beach condos and semi mansions are sprouting on the peninsula.

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The beach property goes for about $350,000; building costs are $235 per square foot. It’s a short hike

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to the empty beach.

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This house faces Offats Bayou. The name came from the old rail stop and the saying, “Let me ‘off at’ the Bayou”.

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Tomorrow we’ll visit the Pyramids. Huh?

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