Galveston is a small and old beach town in the south of Houston. I had a brush with Galveston a few weeks back when we went to the beach on a Sunday evening, but while driving to the beach there was something that told me that I need to come back. There was something in the buildings and mansions that spoke to me and said ‘ Try and not come back, if you can’, and since then I have been trying to go back there every weekend, but did not have enough confidence on my driving to drive 80 miles to visit Galveston. But this weekend I almost collected all my courage to drive to Galveston, along with a colleague and spent a day there.
We researched Galveston a little before we left and the assistant at the hotel recommended that we go and visit the Moody Gardens while a brochure on Moody Mansion sounded very inviting to me. But the directions took us to Moody gardens, which is very much like the most visited places in any US city or town. Some rides, some museums, some glass buildings amongst the spread of gardens and car parks. A couple of things sounded interesting, but fortunately we decided to go to Moody mansion before we visit anything else.
Moody mansion is located on the Broadway and is one of the three old mansions that belonged to three erstwhile wealthy families of Galveston and now have been converted into museums. It is about 111 years old, not very old by eastern world standards where half the population probably lives in the houses which are that old. But what distinguishes this mansion is the history that it tries to preserve, the history of rise of Galveston as an important port, the role of wealthy men in defining the destiny of Galveston and the hurricanes and other torments of the sea that it withstood. The mansion has 31 rooms, including 10 bedrooms, 5 bathrooms, many guest rooms, servant rooms, sewing rooms, music room, butlers’ pantry, kitchen, dining rooms, living room, multi-layered drawing room and a ball room. The mansion was built by a widow in 1895 at the cost of $125,000, but was sold by her daughter to Moodys for just $20,000, who did not care for the mansion. Moody’s lived in the house till 80s and then decided to convert it into a museum. The ground floor houses a houses an office cum gift shop, and there are guided tours and you are not allowed to touch anything as most of the stuff there is original. The interesting things that the guide told was the multi-layer guest entertainment rooms, where the furniture got more comfortable or rather luxurious as you go in, and the place where you were entertained determined how close you are to the family. There was a servant call system from every room, which rang a bell in the servant rooms and they would rush to the room from where the bell rang. The lady at the gift shop actually helped us plan the rest of the day, she had lived all 60 years of her life in Galveston and hence was probably the best person to tell us about it. She told us to go to Strand, the old marketplace of Galveston. Very charmingly she told us to be careful while driving past Strand as the buildings are so pretty, that we may not be able to take our eyes off them.
Once we reached strand, we realized what she meant, the place had the old world charm, and though in my earlier drive-through Galveston, I did not touch Strand, but it was this part of Galveston that was drawing me. Like most beach towns this place had certain calmness, laid back attitude and some funkiness to it. There were people, but they were not in hurry, they were not running. The buildings have various architectures and told a lot of stories, some of them written in stones outside them and some of them you have to feel when you go near them. There were horse carriages, cycle rickshaws and trams and people were enjoying these old world’s slow moving modes of transportation.
By now we were hungry, and we asked a lady in one of the shops for good restaurants and she asked us if we would like some local small food joints and both of us promptly said ‘yes’, and she told us an Italian and an Mediterranean joint, and we chose the later. The food was amazing, humus, falafel, pitas, baba…, spinach rolls and a few more things, sounded pretty authentic, though I do not have reference point to judge it so. By the way I went back to the lady who recommended the place and picked up an interesting Turkish music CD, which I listened on my 90 minutes drive back home in the evening.
As we were down the streets to reach the car, little did we realize that the best part of the day was actually awaiting us on one corner of the street? There were these two guys who were painting with music, and within 15-20 minutes came up with amazing paintings, using only the spray paints and few rough papers to come up with various shapes. One of the guys made a moon rise and a sun set painting, in matter of minutes, painting to the music, and before I could take my eyes off that completed painting, it was sold. It was one of its kinds of experience to see a painting come up with all the fine nuances in a matter of minutes.
It was almost sunset time by now, and we decided to drive to Pelican Island to see the sunset, and then came back to the main Galveston beach to hear to the sea at Mexican gulf. The sea always has this calming effect on me. The music of sea waves hitting the shores is something that provides serenity, tranquility and takes me to a different world. It was dark and time to drive back home. It was just what the perfect days are made of, something inviting you, you reaching there not knowing what is there in store for you, and discovering the place piece by piece, and letting it unfold itself for you.