san antonio, texas

About 80 miles south of Austin, San Antonio beckoned as a day trip. The seventh-largest city in the United States with a population of 1.3 million, it’s impossible to see everything in a day, but a day is all I had, so Judy Fowler and I headed down there to see just a few of the city’s highlights. First stop, downtown, home to the Alamo, the Gunter Hotel and the Riverwalk.

Built by the Spanish during the 1700s as a mission for the “education” of Native Americans in their conversion to Christianity, the Alamo later became a fortress, first for the Mexican army and later, and most famously (at least in Hollywood movies), by Texans. Not enough Texans, though. In 1836, the Mexican army advanced on the Alamo and laid siege. Despite their hugely superior strength in numbers, it took the Mexicans 13 days to finally capture the fortress, killing almost all its inhabitants, including James Bowie and Davy Crockett. “Remember the Alamo” is that famous rallying cry, which is meant to stir fierce pride in Americans for freedom and independence, harking back to the 189 Texans who fought valiantly to save the Alamo. After ransacking the place, the Mexicans departed, leaving not much to the edifice. The sanctuary remains, though, and it’s this one gets to tour. I resisted the urge, though.

The Alamo

A hundred years later, blues musician Robert Johnson came to town and recorded 16 songs for Brunswick Records. A temporary recording studio was set up in Room 414 at the Gunter Hotel, and over a three-day period, from November 23-25, 1936, he recorded such songs as “Come On In My Kitchen,” “Kind Hearted Woman Blues,” “I Believe I’ll Dust My Broom” and “Cross Road Blues.” The Gunter Hotel is now owned by the Sheraton chain, and in an addle-brained moment, I chose to photograph the Menger Hotel instead, which architecturally is much more appealing and certainly has its own history to tell, but has nothing to do with Robert Johnson.

Nowadays, people flock to San Antonio to experience the Riverwalk, five miles of paths that meanders to and from and along the San Antonio River through the downtown area. They have certainly done this up nicely. Below street level, the riverwalk is lined with hotels and restaurants and every sort of shop that would appeal to visitors in town, and there’s a photo op at every bend.

Our visit to San Antonio coincided with the last day of spring break, and downtown was packed. We limited ourselves to a quick walk-around before heading back to the car and heading to the north end of town for a drive through Olmos Park and Alamo Heights, the ritzy area of town, to ogle at the homes of the rich. Stunning and ever so opulent.

For a bit of peace and quiet (and lunch), we spent a few hours midday at the San Antonio Botanical Garden, spread out over 33 acres. I’ll let the pictures tell the story …

Kumamoto garden

Agave havardiana

Shrimp plant

Cypress knees (roots of the Cypress tree)

From the tranquility of the gardens, it was back on the road and to the highway, along with what seemed like half of Texas, heading home to Austin at the end of a long day. Thanks, Judy, for doing all the driving and taking this sightseer on the road to San Antonio. A great place to visit, but if you’re thinking of moving here, consider the low water table. Thanks to years of drought, and a growing population, you have to wonder how the water is going to hold out as time moves forward.

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