Galveston in Texas is a beach town with regular trappings of water, tourists, food stalls, hotels, spas and clubs. But on this cool, windy April day (2011) the abiotic Confederate façade of a privileged historical past appears slightly misplaced. Galveston has a scarred relationship with the sea and as we drive along the 32 mile drive-in nondescript beach the scars are visible.
One hour drive from neighboring Houston through bland countryside of sparse vegetation and chemical works, no visible signs of Longhorns, and we are in Galveston showcasing remnants of Hurricane Ike, renovated residences and the shell of the Balinese Room pier, the once vibrant nightclub extending 600 feet into the Gulf, The Seawall Boulevard still displays signs of devastation wrought by the September 13, 2008 Hurricane Ike, the Category 2 hurricane with wind speed of 110 miles per hour (180 km/h) and waves about 14 feet that had crossed over the Galveston Seawall flooding the city via storm drains and unprotected bay side.
‘Ike’ trophies preceded us to Downtown, particularly the Strand once referred to as the “Wall street of the South West’, with water markings preserved on building exteriors. During mid-nineteenth century Galveston was the crème of Texas and its main ‘cotton’ port attracting traders and tourists from different corners of the country and world till flattened by a hurricane in 1900. The town had taken its own time to regain the lost stature, albeit with moniker ‘Sin City of the Gulf’, flaunting casinos and big name entertainment and clinging on to its diverse and quirky flavor of a laid back island city. In the meantime Houston with its modern infrastructure had leaped ahead and though Galveston floundered back into contention it was again subjected to natural foul play in 2008.
1879 Edwardian Tremont House, the Ghost House and the Trumpet House, Moody Mansion Museum, the Cotton Exchange and Galveston Art Center building with Hurricane Ike’s water markings, the annual Mardi Gras (February 25) buntings, pubs, galleries and gift shops.
Walking the Strand National Historic District turned out a better way to appreciate the Victorian hangover of the city. The Galveston Island Railroad Museum on 25th Strand is a must see and from here we headed towards the shopping area with more historic buildings converted into stores.
Purchased chocolates from the Rocky Mountain Chocolate factory and gifts from the Old Strand Emporium and stopped at the Saengerfest Park, a place for touristy activities, to enjoy a father and son chess game on permanent giant chess set. The restaurants along the Seawall Boulevard and the Strand offer diverse cuisine from Greek, Mexican, Italian and fresh Gulf Coast seafood.
The past and present mingles as tourists, locals and bikers search for evening entertainment in Downtown or the waterfront. Towards evening the parking spaces at the beach were fast filing up and cars downloading their barbeques and picnic paraphernalia on the raised seawall.
1. Moody Gardens with its 10-storey rainforest, a 1.5-million-gallon pyramid aquarium, a 19th century-styled Colonel Paddle wheeler complete with hour-long narrative cruises, a Palm Beach and a memorial for Vietnam veterans.
2.The Great Storm multimedia presentation of the devastating 1900 Storm at the Pier 21 Theater.
3.The Cruise Ship Terminal for an opportunity to embark on a brief adventure.
4. Texas Seaport Museum and Tall Ship Elissa