Three Days in Galveston – Pelican Fascination

IMG_7131After a long two days of driving from Lexington thru Tennessee, Mississippi and Louisiana, I got to spend three days with family relaxing on the beaches of Galveston Island and visiting many of the interesting sites on the island. And, for me, I got to spend some time watching the amazing brown pelicans as they flew in formation, glided over the Gulf of Mexico and took amazing dives for fish. It was a wonderously amazing visit.

Pelicans fly in formation over the beach in Galveston
Pelicans fly in formation over the beach in Galveston

Galveston is not only a city in southern Texas but is also an island. The city actually sits on Galveston Island and Pelican Island.

GalvestonMap
Map of Galveston Island

The town was named for Gálvez-town or Gálveztown in honor of Bernardo de Gálvez y Madrid, Count of Gálvez by Spanish explorer José de Evia  during his charting of the Gulf Coast in 1785.  Since that time many beautiful buildings were built, including some expansive hotels and old church buildings.

Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Galveston
Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Galveston
Castle like turrets of Sacred Heart Cathedral
Castle like turrets of Sacred Heart Church with a Fleur de lys

The main reason for coming to Galveston was a Kravetz family reunion.  It was great to spend time with my cousins, uncles, aunts and sister and dad.  It was nice to see the family…but no pics of them here.

Sargassum (seaweed) buildup along the beach. Supposedly one of the worst in a long time
Sargassum (seaweed) buildup along the beach. Supposedly one of the worst in a long time

Unfortunately, it was a bad year for sargassum seaweed buildup.  The beaches had piles of smelly seaweed everywhere.  In fact, there were tractors having to try to scoop up the stinky stuff.  This was a result of cold fronts that kept the seaweed in the southern Gulf longer than usual, where it continued to thrive in warm waters. The seaweed then floated north, deluging many of the beaches along the gulf.

People were hired to clean up all of the messy seaweed on the beaches of Galveston
People were hired to clean up all of the messy seaweed on the beaches of Galveston

Despite the seaweeds, the beaches were still enjoyable.  I usually am going going going, but, since family was all together, I was able to just take it easy.  In fact, I sat in a beach chair and just watched the pelicans and seagulls and those strange two-legged mammals (humans) frolic in the waves.

Sumoflam chillin' on the beach, enjoying the waves, the seagulls and the diving pelicans
Sumoflam chillin’ on the beach, enjoying the waves, the seagulls and the diving pelicans
My niece and her cousin walk into the waters of the Gulf
My niece and her cousin walk into the waters of the Gulf

Though family is always important, my fondest memories of Galveston will always center around the graceful brown pelicans.  Their effortless floating over the city was fascinating.  In fact, I loved how they flew in unison as many of the photos below show.

Brown Pelicans in formation overhead.  So graceful in flight
Brown Pelicans in formation overhead. So graceful in flight
A single pelican in flight
A single pelican in flight
Pelicans in formation reminded me of Jet Planes in formation
Pelicans in formation reminded me of Jet Planes in formation
A pelican glides over the waves if the gulf
A pelican glides over the waves if the gulf

Then, while sitting on the beach I saw something else that just blew me away.  I witnessed these graceful pelicans take high-speed nose dives into the gulf. While diving, the pelicans appeared to rotate their bodies ever so slightly to the left.  My research verified this and indicated that the rotation helps the birds avoid injury to the esophagus and trachea, which are located on the right side of their neck. They have also apparently learned that a steep dive angle, between 60 and 90 degrees, reduces aiming errors caused by water surface refraction. This is pretty amazing.  I tried to capture a few shots of this unique practice.

A pelican starts it dive
A pelican starts it dive
Another angle of a dive
Another angle of a dive
Straight in dive
Straight in dive
A pelican on impact after a dive (had to take dozens of shots to catch this)
A pelican on impact after a dive (had to take dozens of shots to catch this) – and a jet skier made it more interesting!
A dive as seen from a distance
A dive as seen from a distance

I also enjoyed watching the seagulls.  I have always been used to seeing white ones, but the ones in Galveston are darker and have black heads.  These are apparently called Laughing Gulls.

Unique black headed seagulls on the beach in Galveston
Unique black headed Laughing Gulls  on the beach in Galveston
Seagull in flight with the Gulf of Mexico behind it
Seagull in flight with the Gulf of Mexico behind it
A seagull taking off
A seagull taking off
Seagull in flight
Seagull in flight
 A pair of seagulls glide by
A pair of seagulls glide by

Galveston island is about 27 miles long and about 3 miles wide at its widest point. During my visit I circumnavigated most of the island.  My cousins rented a beach house in Jamaica Beach, which is on the southwestern end of Galveston Island and the only other town on the island.  We went there a couple of times during the visit and it was a nice drive.

Drive along the Seawall Highway on Galveston Island
Drive along Seawall Blvd. on Galveston Island
Heading into Jamaica Beach, TX
Seawall Blvd. turns into Termini-San Luis Pass Rd. heading into Jamaica Beach, TX

Before getting into Jamaica Beach, I passed the Pirate’s Beach neighborhood, which sits between the highway and the Gulf of Mexico. Some really amazing beach houses here, many of them built after the devastation of Hurricane Ike in 2008.

Beach Houses on Pirate's Beach
Beach Houses on Pirate’s Beach
A colorful beach house on Pirate's Beach
A colorful beach house on Pirate’s Beach
Another colorful beach house on Pirate's Beach
Another colorful beach house on Pirate’s Beach

In the main town area there are a number of other rental properties that sit on some land that juts out between Jumbile Cove to the south and Carancahua Cove to the north. Many of the homes sit next to small waterways where boats can be docked and then taken out to sea.

Jamaica Beach Water Tower
Jamaica Beach Water Tower
Satellite shot of Jamaica Beach from Google Maps
Satellite shot of Jamaica Beach from Google Maps
Many of the roads were named after pirates.  The main entry is Buccaneer Blvd.
Many of the roads were named after pirates. The main entry is Buccaneer Blvd.

One of the recurring themes of my trip down to Galveston (and home as well) was alligators.  I visited the home of “Swamp People” in Louisiana the day before and on the way through Mississippi stopped in Alligator, MS.  So, it was only logical that I would run into something alligator related while in Galveston….

Smoked Alligator Jerky found at the small store in Jamaica Beach
Smoked Alligator Jerky found at the small store off of Buccaneer Blvd. in Jamaica Beach

I got a kick out of the product.  “Smoked Alligator with Pork Jerky.”  Made me wonder if the alligators were “pork fed” before being made into jerky…..

Seawall Blvd., the main beach drive on Galveston
Seawall Blvd., the main beach drive on Galveston

Back into Galveston….Seawall Blvd. is the “main drag” along the coast.  This stretch of road runs between the resort shops, restaurants and fast food places and the main beach.  Typical beach wear shops can be seen, as well as unique multi-person bicycles called surrey bikes.  I had never seen these before, but it occurs to me that these are the perfect mode of transport along the beaches.  There were rental places all along Seawall Blvd.

Surrey Rentals abound in Galveston
Surrey Rentals abound in Galveston
A group on a Surrey
A group on a Surrey
Taking the family on a Surrey Ride
Taking the family on a Surrey Ride
Surrey riding along the beach in Galveston
Surrey riding along the beach in Galveston
Enjoying the ride on a surrey
Enjoying the ride on a surrey

Unfortunately,  I didn’t get to try one of these out.  I should have!! But I enjoyed the beach scenes anyway.

Jet Ski Rentals
Jet Ski Rentals
Umbrella Lined Beach...rent a seat
Umbrella Lined Beach…rent a seat
Shaved Ice Cart on beach
Shaved Ice Cart on beach
Miles of umbrellas along the beach
Miles of umbrellas along the beach
More surreys...some were as reckless as ever
More surreys…some were as reckless as ever
Waves on the beach
Waves on the beach
Sumoflam enjoying the beach in Galveston
Sumoflam enjoying the beach in Galveston

Of course, there are all of the unique hotels, restaurants and shops to be seen.  I tried a couple of the restaurants while there.  Also drove by and captured shots of some of the hotels, condos, etc.

Seawall Blvd. shops and eateries
Seawall Blvd. shops and eateries – including a giant crawfish
On the beach you want ice cream and Ben & Jerry's is there for you
On the beach you want ice cream and Ben & Jerry’s is there for you
Pier dining and shopping if you want it
Pier dining and shopping if you want it
One of many eateries along the way
One of many eateries along the way
What's a beach resort without places with thatched roofs?
What’s a beach resort without places with thatched roofs?
Luxury hotels are everywhere on the island
Luxury hotels are everywhere on the island

While I was in Galveston, my wife was with her sisters and brother on the beach in San Diego.  I had hoped we could adjust our schedules and take photos at the same time on the beach…but it didn’t work out.  But, I did capture something that was pretty fun.  They were staying at a condo time share in San Diego called “Capri by the Sea.”  I ran into one in Galveston and called her.  So, we were both at Capri by the Sea at the same time…in different places.

Capri by the Sea Condos in Galveston
At Capri by the Sea condos in Galveston while Julianne was at the same in San Diego
Capri by the Sea
Capri by the Sea

There is a completely different part of the town of Galveston, called the Strand Historic District.  While all of the family was on a boat ride, I drove around that area.  There were large cruise ships, old shops, museums, seaside diners and more.

Cruise Ship near the Strand historic district
Cruise Ship near the Strand historic district
Historic Martini Theater in Strand Historic District
Old Martini Theater in Strand Historic District
Old Coca-Cola sign in Strand Historic District
Old Coca-Cola sign in Strand Historic District
Uneeda Biscuit Ghost Sign in Strand Historic District
Uneeda Biscuit overlayed by Wrigley’s Spearmint Gum Ghost Sign in Strand Historic District

Back on Seaside Blvd. is Pleasure Pier, Galveston’s answer to “Coney Island.” The Current Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier was built 1,130 feet out over the Gulf of Mexico waters and had its “soft” opening on May 25, 2012.  The new pier compile is located where the original Pleasure Pier stood from 1943 until 1961, when it was destroyed by Hurricane Carla. The original Pleasure Pier featured rides, an arcade, an aquarium, concessions, a large ball room, named the Marine Ballroom, and fishing at the end of the pier. It was also the site of the USS Flagship Hotel, an over-the-water hotel built in 1965 that was demolished after Hurricane Ike in 2008.

Pleasure Pier in Galveston
Pleasure Pier in Galveston

The Pier has a midway with games and amusements and then there are a number of rides, some of them that glide right over the gulf of Mexico.  I didn’t visit….but we stayed close, so I did get a couple of photos.

Pleasure Pier Amusement Park in Galveston
Pleasure Pier Amusement Park in Galveston
A beach shot with Pleasure Pier in the Distance
A beach shot with Pleasure Pier in the Distance

Galveston does not have many sculptures, but there is one on the seawall that is well-known.  Commissioned by the Galveston Commission for the Arts and installed in 2000, Galveston sculptor David W. Moore’s bronze sculpture is a monument to the victims and survivors of the 1900 Storm, which killed in excess of 6,000 Galvestonians, making it the worst natural disaster ever to hit the United States.

Sumoflam with the Disaster Memorial in Galveston
Sumoflam with the Disaster Memorial in Galveston
Disaster Memorial in Galveston, sculpted by David W. Moore

The only other major sculpture of any consequence in Galveston is the “Texas Heroes Monument” located at the intersection of Broadway and Rosenberg Avenue.  It was commissioned by Henry Rosenberg to commemorate the brave people who fought during the Texas Revolution. The monument was built out of granite and bronze. The sculptor of the monument was Italian artist Louis Amateis and was unveiled on April 22, 1900.

Texas Heroes Monument in Galveston, Texas
Texas Heroes Monument in Galveston, Texas

The monument is 74 feet high including the statue of Victory. The base of the monument is thirty-four feet in diameter. The bulk of the monument consists of four columns made from a single block of granite. These are fifty feet high.

Victory, atop the Texas Heroes Monument in Galveston, TX
Victory, atop the Texas Heroes Monument in Galveston, TX

At the top of the columns are words which represent the qualities of the men who fought for Texas: Patriotism, Honor, Devotion, Courage. The statue of Victory is twenty-two feet high. She holds a sheathed sword entwined with roses and her right extended hand holds a crown of laurels.

DSC_8413Finally, I should note the “quirky”… a couple of restaurants have some giant “crustaceans” resting on the roof.  Got a nice chuckle from these…

Giant Crab in Galveston
Giant Crab at Gaidos in Galveston\
Giant Crab and smaller Kravetz in Galveston
Giant Crab and smaller Kravetz in Galveston

Then there is the giant crawfish

Giant Crawfish looms over Galveston
Giant Crawfish looms over Galveston at Nick’s Restaurant
Giant Crawfish at Nick's in Galveston
Giant Crawfish at Nick’s in Galveston

Overall, I had a great time with family and a great time visiting Galveston….even in the middle of the summer!!

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