We've taken the kids for quick trips in the past, but this was the first time we were able to enjoy a full week. Not only did I treasure the family time (I talked about the importance of it in this post), but I loved passing on all the Galveston traditions and history to my family.
In it's early days, Galveston was the largest and busiest port west of New Orleans. The Great Storm of 1900, still the most deadly natural disaster in US history, devastated the busy town and killed over 8,000 people. Today, the port is a major fishing and cargo hub. It is fun to see what the fishing boats bring back each day, and watch the giant tankers and cruise ships come through for unloading. Many of the fish are cleaned on site and the remains fed to the waiting pelicans.
We took a one-hour boat tour of the harbor, which is a great way to see all the port activities (and dolphins) close-up. I captured this sweet moment between brother and sister.
I thought the coolest thing about the harbor tour was this oil rig, which had been brought in for repairs. Can you imagine living on one of those for months at a time?! The wellhead is similar to the one that blew in last year's BP Oil Spill.
Once back on land, we headed straight for the tall ship, Elissa. She was built in 1877 and carried cargo around the world for 90 years, before being rescued in Greece and lovingly restored. She now lives in the Port of Galveston, but is still a fully-functioning ship, and sails the Gulf of Mexico annually.
You can almost feel the spirit of the men who worked her sails, and imagine their life spent at sea. Especially when touring the tiny bunk rooms below!
The Historic East End is a rainbow of beautiful and colorful Victorian homes, some dating back to the early 1860s.
Some, like Bishop's Palace, are now museums and fascinating to tour.
Disaster struck the island again in 2008 with Hurricane Ike, and even though they have worked hard to restore the island, sadly there are still reminders.
The Strand, part of the Historic District, suffered a 10-foot storm surge during Hurricane Ike. Apart from losing a few of our favorite shops and restaurants, it is once again open and bustling. Most of my collection of shells and coral were purchased here over the years, and we always stop by Hendley Market for fun treasures.
Of course vacation is also about the food! The seafood is amazing, and there are countless individually-owned restaurants. Our favorites include Benno's, The Spot, Miller's Landing and Gaidos, all on the Seawall; Fisherman's Wharf overlooking the wharf, and Mosquito Cafe and Sunflower Bakery in the Historic District.
The West End of Galveston Island houses countless homes for rent (most on stilts), but this year we elected to stay closer to town at the new Palisade Palms, on the private East End. The amenities were amazing. Actually, they seemed a little out-of-place in the Galveston of my memory, but we got used to the pools, fitness room, coffee bar and game room pretty quickly. We were thrilled to find this unit for a reasonable rate, with bay views overlooking the tankers and cruise ships. In a blogger-small-world moment, it was fun to find out the owner has a blog and chronicled the condo makeover here!
It was a perfect trip spent with my favorite people. Hopefully the calm and connected feelings we had there accompanied us home.
And I'm happy to report my kids carry on my same love of the beach and sea. We spent every possible moment near the water, even picnic dinners watching the sunset.
I treasure the memories of this special beach town, and making new ones with my own family is just as special. Is there a town near and dear to your heart?
***I receive no kick-backs from any of these links. I'm just a huge fan of Galveston and want to see her flourish.***