San Antonio – Finding Small-town Charm in a Big City

Keeping our promise of traveling more, we made a last minute decision to fly to San Antonio for a long weekend last July. Our daughter was performing in the Alamodome on Saturday with the Blue Knights Drum and Bugle Corps on the same weekend as our anniversary. It seemed like a perfect pair of excuses to treat ourselves. So just a week in advance, we booked our flights and reserved a room at the historic and haunted Menger Hotel right next to the Alamo.

We have been to San Antonio a couple of times before and like the feel of the downtown area. The River Walk is a pedestrian area along the San Antonio River, lined with shops and restaurants, usually with outdoor tables overlooking the water, and small pedestrian bridges crossing the river. There are boats that lazily cruise along the river, loaded with tourists listening to a cruise narrator explaining the local culture, history and architecture. The River Walk is below street level, so the noise of the busy city streets above do not reach down to the river.  It is a peaceful and pleasant place, except for when the night life comes alive after dark. The busiest section of the River Walk is from the Rivercenter to N. St. Mary's St. on the north branch of the River Walk.  Along here the pedestrians can be shoulder to shoulder in the evening trying to work their way to the popular restaurants and bars. However, the River Walk extends for miles, both north and south along the river, but the density of shops and restaurants declines the further away from the center you get. The rest of the River Walk may not be great for shopping and eating, but it does make a great place for a peaceful stroll, shaded from the sun.

Another peaceful stroll is through the La Villita Historic Arts Village. It is located just southwest of the Rivercenter and can be accessed by climbing the stairs from the south branch of the River Walk at the Arneson River Theatre. It is one of San Antonio's first neighborhoods with buildings dating back to the early 1800's. The houses and buildings now contain little shops and restaurants along with a little church. Strolling through the pedestrian streets of La Villita feels like strolling through a small village and makes you forget you are in a large city.

Because everywhere that we wanted to go was within walking distance of the hotel, we did not rent a car and just took a Supershuttle from the airport to the hotel. We flew in Friday with plenty of time to have dinner and ice cream on the River Walk. Saturday morning, Right Buddy spent about an hour with her camera exploring the grounds around the Menger Hotel and the Alamo while Left Buddy took his time showering and drinking his morning coffee. The Menger Hotel has a lot of architectural details both inside and out, along with historical furnishings and beautiful courtyards. Right Buddy also enjoyed exploring all the plants and flowers surrounding the Alamo. We then met a couple of friends, who were also in town for the drum corps performances, for lunch at the Rivercenter before walking over to the Alamodome together, where we spent the rest of the day and evening.

Most of our wandering and more eating happened on Sunday. After finding a little coffee shop with donuts for a nutritious breakfast, we strolled over to La Villita before heading over to Hemisfair Park to meet our daughter, who had the afternoon free, one of the few free days she'll have all summer. Right Buddy didn't mind the wait, as she took full advantage of the time to take pictures of the plants and fountains at Hemisfair Park. There was one fountain that caused the water to foam up and form what looked like a white rose or the foam on top of a root beer float. Right Buddy was not the only photographer in the park. There was a little girl dressed up in a fancy dress getting her picture taken in front of the Alas de Mèxico (Wings of Mexico), which made her look more like an angel than she already did. Alas de Mèxico was a recent addition to the park; a public sculpture intended for "selfies" which was dedicated on May 4, 2018 during the Commemorative Week of the Tricentennial celebration of San Antonio.

Lunch found us again at the Rivercenter, since it was close to Hemisfair Park and we were all hungry. Our stroll after lunch eventually led us to a German beer garden to take a break from the summer heat with a much appreciated drink. Were we missing Germany already? More strolling led the three of us to an outside table at a steak house along the River Walk for dinner. We felt that eating steak was a requirement when visiting Texas. Even though we were pretty full from dinner, there is always room for ice cream. So we waddled over to an ice cream parlor on the River Walk before walking our daughter to rejoin the drum corps tour. After seeing our daughter off, we went back to the hotel for a night cap at the historic Menger Bar, built in 1887 as an exact replica of London's House of Lords Pub. It was a perfect ending to a perfect weekend.

As usual, Right Buddy put together an album to share our weekend with you: Little Glimpses of San Antonio.

(RB)