Miles To Go Before We Sleep. Part 1 San Antonio

It's a big world out there. This was one destination on a 3-week road trip. Loved this city.


Miles To Go Before We Sleep. Part 1 San Antonio

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by hagnel2 on June 16, 2006

This trip was one of the destinations on our 6,000-mile journey through the central and southwestern states. We made the 6-hour drive from El- Paso stopping only for refreshments by remaining on the I 10 east for most of the trip; traversing semi arid flatlands, past the Butterfield stage stop, and Fort Stockton. Neil has two rules; never check a map unless you are totally lost, and if you don’t know where your going get there fast. We took the wrong turn off the "Monte Carlo rally loop" around San Antonio and ended up in an industrial area and so we had to check the map. With stress level in the high range we finally arrived at our lodgings, found our room, dumped our stuff and walked to the downtown for a cold one.

We found our way to the famed river walk, a lovely green ribbon of water twenty feet below street level and connected with stone bridges reminiscent of Venice sans the pigeons. Twinkling lights and smells of Frijoles chilies and tortillas flavored the air and hoots and hollers of the Spurs fans (whose team had just won a major game) added to the evening sounds. I find I am enchanted by this jewel of the city with its European-style sidewalk cafes covered with multi-hued canopies.

We settled at a riverside seat at the Casa Rio and watched the crowds, Neil practiced his Spanish conversing with a very friendly young waiter. The quesadillas were delicious as was my Margarita and Neil’s beer was cold. Yes we certainly relaxed after our endless drive.

Later we strolled by the Alamo, the heart of Texas. The illuminated mission a silent monument to valiant men provoked thoughts of those vastly outnumbered defenders awaiting their fate in the early dawn listening to the haunting strains of the Mexican bugle call Deguello, " no quarter." They died to the last man on March 6, 1836. Texas has not forgotten them.

We made our way back to our lodgings, reminders of the cities Mexican heritage are linked liked charms on a bracelet by its street names; Dolorosa, Flores, Neuva, and Villita. I noted no smokestacks pollute the sky and the stars were bright, just as a once popular song promised. ‘The Stars at night are big and bright deep in the heart of Texas." A big heart indeed. ${QuickSuggestions} We definitely only scratched the surface of this city but we saw enough to know we want to return and explore more, perhaps visit its theatres and galleries.

It is almost impossible to obtain a photograph of the Alamo building without crowds of sightseers and you can guarantee someone will spoil your shot, no use getting aggravated—it's the done thing. I contented myself with the shots taken in the evening and there were still people milling around. It is a very busy place. Before wandering around the grounds check in at the Long Barracks on the left as you enter the courtyard a 20-minute film covering the battle and the history of the mission is shown every 30 minutes, following the film you can wander the long barracks museum, exhibits include Texas revolution artifacts and personal items that belonged to some of the Alamo defenders.

Few places merit the description of unique but I feel San Antonio is deserving of that title. The 2½-mile river walk is a prime example of what civic and community leaders can do with good planning and vision. For a more leisurely view of the city tour the waterway by boat. The 40-minute tours are narrated, guides explain the history of the river and notable a landmarks.

San Antonio Conservation Society offers self guided tours throughout the city and provides brochures. We followed quite a chunk of the almost 3-mile marked Texas Star Trail through downtown. Another tour covers the King William historic district that was quite close to our Inn.

Pick up a Rio magazine (the official magazine of the river walk) in it are downtown maps information on current events and shopping venues. Another handy publication was a S. A. V. E. booklet. There are five pages of hotels offering discounts and lots of coupons giving quite good discounts on attractions for example; Sea world, buy-one day pass get second day free. Five-dollars-off city tours. Check them out on line at www. SanAntonioVisit.com We picked up the brochures at our Inn.${BestWay} Getting into the city by car. From the North. I 35 provide direct access to the downtown area via Pecos St Exit.

From the South. Follow I 35 to the Durango Blvd exit.

From the East. I 10 Commerce Street exit.

The downtown area is best accessed on foot but there are a few transportation choices.
Rio San Antonio Cruises meander the river. Tickets are available on the river at the River Center Mall boats pull up right inside the waterway there, Hilton Hotel, and Rita’s ice house. Tickets are $4 50 for seniors $6.50 adults $1.50 child below five. And over One. Yr. River Taxis are $3.50 one way. Tickets avail on board. A don’t miss venue. WWW.riosanantonio.com

In-City Transit. (www.viainfo.net) Extensive routes through the city. A new bus #7 is of particular importance to tourists because it provides transportation to many of the more popular sightseeing venues. Witte Museum, Zoo, Botanical gardens, to name a few, and the fare is 80¢ one way. A day pass is $3, and a monthly pass $10. VIA information center is at 260 East Houston. Bus routes are color-coded.

Inn On The Riverwalk

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by hagnel2 on June 16, 2006

We arrived here late to find a welcoming note attached to the mailbox along with a key and directions to our room on the second floor. We had prebooked from the CAA, book and this Inn was our last hope, we phoned numerous hotels from the road but being a weekend the hotels were fully booked, we were considering skipping the city then hit pay dirt with this one.

It proved a great location. The historic King William district is a short walk, as is Hemisphere Park. It is only a 20-minute walk to the famous Alamo and downtown. The hub of the River walk is less than a mile and a section of the San Antonio River is easily reached by a short set of stairs adjacent to the house, a scenic locale for morning walks or jogs.

Its owner Dr. Zucht lovingly cares for the turn of the century home with its wrap around porches shaded by a venerable pecan tree. The lovely Inn offers an escape from the hustle and bustle of city life and was a good base for our visit to this city.

Inside the home light and airy high ceilings and gracious parlor encourages the visitor to linger. The warm original pine floors gleam and the staff is friendly. We had a room on the second floor that overlooked the river. We didn’t need much lulling after a 400-mile trip, and a gently cascading waterfall on the river added to our relaxation.

The room was delightful, pastel shades in keeping with the homes era; a combination of antique and white wicker furnishings gave the room a polished look. Our bed was queen sized, very comfortable, and piled high with fluffy pillows and cushions. The sitting room area held a pull-out couch, a couple of chairs, fridge, microwave, and antique wardrobe.

Our bathroom was rather small with a walk in shower it was filled with high quality soaps and shampoos and ample top class linen. The was also a hairdryer and robes. Breakfast was included in the rate ($120), and the on-site chef cooked whatever you wanted. Breakfast may be consumed inside the beautifully furnished dining room or the outdoor patio.

The friendly proprietor A.D. joined us for breakfast, a very interesting man and a licensed commercial hot hair balloonist. He showed us photos of his recent trips to Japan and the Eastern European countries (he takes his Balloon with him). He does arrange scenic rides over the Alamo weather permitting. I am very much afraid of such activities but must say had we had the time I would have taken a ride.

We enjoyed our 2 days here and will certainly stay there on our next visit. The house is smoke free and doesn’t have elevators. Some rooms have a combination of shower and tub and private porches. Free Wi Fi Internet plus Fax service. A delightful place.
Inn On The Riverwalk
129 Woodward Place
San Antonio, Texas, 78204
210 225 6333

Menger Bar

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by hagnel2 on June 16, 2006

Walking into the dark Smokey bar of this historic hotel is like entering a time warp. The bar dates from 1859, the oldest in Texas and is built on the site of Mengers Brewery. The Mahogany bar is an exact replica of the House of Lords bar in London. Its walls are adorned with photographs and proclamations of one of its most famous clients Theodore Roosevelt.

Outside the bar a small plaque proclaims that in this bar Theodore Roosevelt recruited his famous Roughriders. Following Spain’s declaration of war on the U S in 1898 Roosevelt recruited anyone who could ride or shoot attracting cowboys, Indians, and college men, thus the first Volunteer Cavalry assembled in San Antonio in May 1898 and from there were shipped to Cuba. The casualty rate of this regiment was the highest of all the American Units in the Spanish /American campaign, tropical diseases took their toll on the men nevertheless the survivors received honors and Roosevelt’s political career soared. The regiment mustered out on Sept 16th 1898. The Menger remained a favorite haunt of Roosevelt, it is said he frequently visited and utilized the hotel and bar.

We found it difficult to find a seat at the crowded tables instead we sat at the bar and spoke with a couple of women from Virginia. They had just finished a Ghost tour of various San Antonio sites they ended their tour here telling us the story of Ghosts that haunt the Menger. Sally, a chambermaid, murdered by her husband still turns up for work walking the hallways dressed in Victorian clothes and carrying towels! Other stories tell of soldiers of the Alamo and guests of old haunting the place. There wouldn’t be many ghosts buying beer at the prices they charge here {$6} a bottle. Seriously we didn’t mind the price of the beer the surroundings were worth it.

Display cases in the hotel corridor are filled with military artifacts, photographs of famous guests include, Bing Crosby, Babe Ruth, Mae West, Robert E Lee, Charles A Lindberg, various presidents and heads of state. Many of the displays are of museum quality. We took a peek at the stunning and elegant lobby but non – guests are not allowed to enter and so I had to content myself with craning my neck as far as I could. I would like to stay here it seems to retain its historic charm so lacking in overly pretentious hotels.

Menger Bar
204 Alamo Plaza
San Antonio. Texas

Alamo

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by hagnel2 on June 16, 2006

I am sure much has been written regarding the history of this battle therefore I will attempt to describe only highlights of our visit to this popular Texas shrine. The old missions location downtown is no surprise but loudspeakers from Ripley’s Believe it or not Museum can be heard from across the street, surely planners erred on that location.

Prior to wandering the shrine I recommend that you take the time to watch a 20-minute film shown in the Daughters of the Republic Theatre in the Long Barracks. The film shows footage of the mission before restoration and the story of the battle. It took 13 days for the Mexican General Santa Anna to defeat the 200 defenders of the Garrison and he had 4,000 men. Davey Crockett, Jim Bowie and William Travis are the well-known fighters who lost their lives there but there were men from all over the US. International defenders hailed from Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Scotland, and England.

The Mission San Antonio de Valero was built by Spanish friars and served as home to missionaries and converts for over 50 years. Construction of the present site was completed in 1725 and used as a military post since the early 1800s. Today the grounds and buildings present a serene environment.

The Long Barrack Museum is one of the oldest parts of the mission. Exhibits there include personal mementos; Davey Crockett’s hairbrush set, a ring Col, Travis gave to a lady for safe keeping photographs, documents, and mock-ups of the battle—including Mexican military artifacts. Custodians are very helpful and well informed.

The grounds and landscaping is a virtual oasis of flowering shrubs, native trees. Koi fish swim lazily in a small waterway. Benches and shady areas where one can just sit and contemplate are located at the rear of the garden and a wealth of reading material is housed in the gift shop. In the Convento courtyard an impressive mighty oak spreads its branches over all. It was transplanted by an ex-English sailor in 1912, the well beside it dates back to the mission period.

Long lines snake outside the chapel, the oldest part of the Alamo, inside notices request quiet, the rule is not enforced but the removal of hats are. Loud chatter spoiled the sanctity of the place. Exhibits and artifacts and flags are on display, plus Davey Crockett’s buckskin vest, hair, and other personal letters, however we didn’t stay inside long the noise was off putting.

It was a thought-provoking visit; just outside the chapel is a thin metal line. Legend holds that Travis drew a line in the ground asking any man willing to fight to step over—all except one did.

The battle has long been the subject of debate and the movie added to its luster, this is hallowed ground for certainly men made the ultimate sacrifice here and I respect that.
Admission is free, open Mon-Sat 9am-5:30pm, Sun 10am-5:30pm. Donations accepted.
The Alamo (Mission San Antonio de Valero)
300 Alamo Plaza
San Antonio, Texas, 78205
(210) 225-1391

Buckhorn Saloon & Museum.

Member Rating 2 out of 5 by hagnel2 on June 16, 2006

One good thing about this museum are the Margaritas, they are served ice cold in a frosted pint mug, just the thing to quench the thirst especially when temperatures are hitting the high '90s.

The first Buckhorn Saloon opened in 1881 the owners Albert and Emile Friedrich traded deer and Antler horns for drinks. Over the years the collection grew and in 1956 the Lone Star brewing company purchased the collection and moved it to their brewery where they ran brewery tours. When the brewery closed in the nineties a granddaughter of the Friedrich’s re- purchased the huge collection and placed it in its present saloon, just a few yards from the original. In fact many of the original furnishings are back in this bar including the bar itself.

We were greeted in the bar by a wild Bill Hickock type with a drooping moustache and dressed in full western duds he urged us to take a look at the museum and as we could wander around with our drinks we did. I am not a fan of mounted wildlife heads and so I stuck to the Wild West section featuring a vast collection of frontier era photographs and artifacts.

Vintage guns used by famous outlaws, official documents and displays fill a large room. The gory death photos of Bonnie and Clyde along with newspaper accounts of their escapades and guns used elicit some discomfort not my scene, Ugh. We wander into The Hall Of Thorns and see a beautiful cathedral made out of 50,000 matchsticks, but beside it is a freak two-headed calf. There are literally hundreds of trophy mounts and animal bodies from Africa and Asia, in fact from all over the world. Neil continued on through the museum and I took myself off to the bar, but I couldn’t escape the mounted wildlife as they adorn every wall in the saloon.

One interesting exhibit was a Thai carving of The Tree of Life. The artist worked 10 hours a day, 7 days a week, over 2½ years, and the detail is astounding. Teddy Roosevelt frequented the old Buckhorn bar his chair fashioned from 62 horns is here. I took a photo of these once popular seats, but they do not look comfortable. I gather Roosevelt’s roughriders drilled by day in a city park and re-grouped at night in hotel bars. Neil told me he saw an impressive Texas Longhorn that had been hit by lightening the horns measured over 8-feet across. Neil proclaimed the museum amazing and if you don’t mind dead animals and enjoy unusual collections you would probably enjoy it.

The gift shop is filled with mostly offshore souvenirs, and we didn’t eat at the restaurant. I doubt they have heard the word vegetarian, and I wouldn’t utter it in there—might end up stuffed, on a wall, and gazing out all day at the people sipping margaritas.

Open daily 10am- 5pm. Admission $10
Buckhorn Saloon and Museum
318 East Houston St
San Antonio, Texas, 78205
(210) 270-9400

Waxy O Conner's Irish Pub/ Restaurant

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by hagnel2 on June 16, 2006

This Irish pub located on the river walk offers a bit of a change from the plethora of Mexican eating establishments. We wandered in on a Saturday night, the patio on the river was full, but there are two more areas to the restaurant. The front part is themed as an Irish street. Hand built imported store fronts sport the names of McGrath & Doyle and instantly transport you to another world.

The rear of the restaurant is a cozy traditional pub area and it is there that live Irish music is performed. The whole restaurant melds together in dark woods; furniture, bars, and floors (the bars were constructed in Ireland).

Of course no self-respecting Irish pub would be complete without its selection of imported beers, they indeed know how to pour the Guinness and Neil pronounced it perfect.

I noted some of the specialties while perusing the menu. Fish and chips in beer batter, Potato encrusted salmon, shepherds pie and bangers and mash (imported Irish sausage) we couldn’t find anything to suit our non meat taste so we settled for potato skins thick with cheese and a large salad. The salad was a mixture of greens, peppers, mushrooms, and tomatoes topped with wonderful vinaigrette dressing. We had plenty of room for dessert, and I opted for the traditional sherry trifle, and Neil the walnut cake with cream. We shared each dessert and my trifle was the best. Layers of pound cake drizzled with sherry, strawberry gelatin, and vanilla custard topped with real whipped cream ummm good.

Following supper a group of about twenty young people entered males and females, we spent a pleasant hour chatting with four of them. They had just graduated from the Army Medical Corps a fine group of young men and women. This pub was the fifth on their list of ten. They were an interesting friendly group, well behaved, and enjoying their time on the town.

Most of the clients in the restaurant were of mixed ages from old to young and the place was lively. We did note meal servings were very generous and the prices quite reasonable for a touristy spot.

We didn’t stay for the music instead we did our own pub-crawl along the delightful river walk— we had no trouble sleeping that night. Thank you Margarita.
Waxy O'Connor's Irish Pub & Eatery
243 Riverwalk
San Antonio, Texas
(210) 229-9299

Deep in the Heart of Texas

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by hagnel2 on June 16, 2006

We left our Inn at 8:30am and returned at 10:30pm. Tired slightly inebriated and in love with this city.
We started our walk along the river beside our Inn, a tree-shaded area alive with joggers and walkers. We soon discovered the waterfall that lulled us last night was a weir that was around three feet in height, later we discovered quite a few along the waterway. The stairway to street level was just beyond the weir and so we exited and turned right toward Hemisphere Park. Two large pillars supported an arched decorative iron scroll boasting the parks name. Beyond the entrance we could see the Tower of the Americas symbol of San Antonio’s 1968 worlds fair and the cities two hundred and fiftieth birthday, inside the grounds are fountains, picnic areas and various buildings. The tower dominates the park, unfortunately it was closed for renovations and we were too early to visit the Texas Institute of history. The park area is vast and a popular site for festivals.

Turning left as we exit the park we pass high-rise hotels and the River view mall. We return to the mall later by boat. Passing by the Menger Hotel we note a plaque outside telling of Theodore Roosevelt’s connection we return later. (See entry on Menger.)

The Alamo. Despite the early hour masses of tourists thronged the Alamo plaza and queues were forming outside the chapel shrine. We turned left through the entry to the courtyard and entered the long Barracks. After watching a very moving film on the battle we explored the museum. The museum was filled with artifacts from the mission era, mock ups of the mission and custodians are on hand to answer all questions. Guides in the cavalry court give outdoor talks. Guides also give information on the collection of cannons, one proud father was taking a photo of his young son balancing on a huge cannon as a guide walked by he nonchalantly remarked "Lot of history there son that’s the 18 pounder that was actually used." The Alamo gardens are worth a visit in their own right. The Daughters Of The Republic offer a self-guided walking tour brochure; pick up a brochure in the gift shop, it certainly helps clarify names and history of the gardens contents.

We waited in line to see the interior of the chapel / shrine but I was disappointed at the noise and lack of respect shown inside. Notices requesting silence pointed out this was a shrine and battlefield but the request was completely ignored. Inside flags and mementos are on display but we didn’t see everything the noise was too much for me. Outside the chapel loudspeakers touting business for the wax works and Ripley’s (directly facing the shrine) seemed out of place, why on earth would such businesses be allowed to locate so close to the shrine.

Following lunch at O Briens we took a river cruise and it was well worth the money. There were around 25 people in the boat, and quite a few children. Our tour guide was a young student with a wicked sense of humour and very informative. The narrated cruise took us past places we might have missed walking and it was very relaxing. I was extremely impressed with the river walk, our tour guide pointed out that the river flowing through the city a slow stream no deeper than a swimming pool ends up in the gulf of Mexico150 miles away to the southeast.

Our tour ended at the Riverview mall where we alighted and listened to a very good Mariachi trio. We didn’t explore the mall but it was very modern with a Dillard’s and Foley’s and many upscale specialty shops on the ground floor. Neil needed a battery for his watch and there were lots of jewelers to choose from.

Down the street from Alamo Plaza on Houston is the Buckhorn Saloon a San Antonio landmark of sorts. Established in 1881 its museum features wildlife exhibits from all over the world. There are three floors and the building houses a café, curio store and saloon bar. (See entry.) I will say the Margaritas are very good and generous.

During that day we visited some of the older sections of town some of its churches, then rested and recuperated along the shady areas of the river. We had a lovely day and it certainly whet our appetite for a longer stay.

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