Our first full day in San Antonio, February 13th started off gray and cool. Wife needed to refill a prescription, so we charted a course to the nearest Walmart to begin the day. According to Google it was only 4 miles away. Once there, it only took a few minutes to take care of business, which surprised me because pharmacy services at our “home store” in Derby, Vermont always take a long time. Sometimes, days.
As we traveled to the store we noticed signs for one of the five Spanish Missions in San Antonio. This one, Mission San Jose was very close by, so that became the first tourista stop of the day.
These Spanish missions are among the oldest European settlements in the United States. In general, the church portions of each of the missions are in good shape, as I think they are all still actively used, save for the one at the Alamo. The rest of the grounds at Mission San Jose comprised the exterior walls that enclosed the garden fields and church. Restoration work was being done on the dome of the church while we were there.
After lunch we decided to take on the two largest tourist attractions in San Antonio, The Alamo and The Riverwalk. They are downtown, and very close together. We drove the short distance from our hotel, and parked in the public parking lot roughly halfway between both locations.
The Alamo was up first, and it’s an exceptionally well-done restoration of what is nominally one of the five Spanish Missions, but actually much more due to its role in the war fought for Texan independence in 1836.
The history is all there, along with informative guides and tours. Before coming to the Alamo we reserved our entry times online- highly recommended.
I learned something interesting while touring the battle museum in the church. There were a lot of volunteers from all over the young United States and Europe that fought and died for Texas i n that battle, including one man from Vermont, Mills DeForrest Andross.
There’s probably a good story buried in the past as to how a Vermonter ended up at the Alamo. I’ve added it to the “Things to Research” list. Hopefully I’ll not forget!
After touring the museum we walked around the entire grounds.
It’s really not that large, at least today. It’s the smallest, area-wise, of the Missions we visited. It’s also downtown, and undoubtedly real estate has been nibbled away as time staggered on.
Unlike elsewhere, the people of San Antonio don’t have issues with displaying a statue of Teddy Roosevelt, Rough Rider and hero of San Juan Hill, as well as our 26th President. Good for them!
Alamo visit completed, we strolled over to the Riverwalk. The day had brightened considerably, and the temps were now really comfortable, close to 70°. I can only imagine how hot it must get in high summer in San Antonio, and am glad we were visiting in winter.
The Riverwalk was the only disappointment we had in San Antonio. Perhaps it was due to being off-season, but overall the portion we explored downtown looked run down. This was the only place during our visits to Texas cities where we saw “homeless” people camped out- there were two sleeping under stairways descending to the canal. This was also the only part of a Texas city I’d think to label as dirty.
One of the big surprises to me during this trip was how clean the big cities in Texas are compared to others. I was also surprised to not see the ubiquitous panhandling I’ve seen all over America, most recently the very aggressive examples in Little Rock. Maybe we didn’t tour the right areas, but Wife and I traveled through Dallas, Fort Worth, Waco and San Antonio extensively, and the only panhandler we saw was while walking towards Magnolia at the Silos in Waco. One panhandler, and he wasn’t aggressive at all. What makes Texas different?
The canalside restaurants were banal and expensive. No matter which outdoor venue chosen, the very aggressive birds would descend upon you immediately, as would some of the ducks that made their home on the water. Landing on your table or plucking at your pant leg, they wanted your food. Now. Here’s a male mallard intent upon getting his fair share.
After having a beverage and sharing tortilla chips with the wildlife at The Republic of Texas, we decided we’d had enough of downtown and figured there was enough time in the afternoon to visit more of the missions.
San Juan was first on the list, and we arrived there not long after departing the downtown area. Here are a a couple of pictures from that visit.
We then went directly to Mission Conception, not far away. Here are a few shots from that historic site.
We completed the first full day in San Antonio with dinner at Tito’s Mexican Restaurant, located in the King William section of town, as was the Liberty Bar, where we had a light dinner on Sunday. The food was delicious, and the service good. We’ve been on a roll choosing great places to eat!
Tuesday started off foggy, and I think it rained a bit overnight. There were some droplets on the Jeep, and rapidly disappearing small puddles here and there in the parking lot. Standing water does not last for long in this arid climate.
Wife discovered that San Antonio boasted a zoo of some repute, so we decided to visit it and see the critters. The last zoo we visited, I think, was the Toronto Zoo almost 10 years ago. Youngest Son was on that trip, and it was a very large and impressive collection of animals. I recall my feet hurting the day after that visit.
The San Antonio Zoo is run by the city, and while the grounds are more compact than some we’ve visited in the past, the space is used very well. Each area flows nicely into the next, with the major attractions interspersed appropriately. There are birds everywhere, both in large aviaries and individual pens. Here are a couple of photos of two of the major attractions.
One of the funniest things I’ve seen in a while took place at the elephant exhibit. A single elephant was out, and she looked fairly old. I’m guessing she’s been there for a time. She was eating some hay, and moving about rather slowly.
Then, an unauthorized visitor entered her space! Mr. Squirrel ran across the deck towards the elephant, and grabbed something on the ground, standing there chewing on it. I don’t think Elephant liked this, for she suddenly moved quickly in the direction of Squirrel- faster than I thought possible. Squirrel scooted out of the pen in a hurry, diving into a drainage ditch. Calm then returned. As far as I was concerned, that was the excitement for the day.
We spent several hours at the San Antonio Zoo, and for the record, I’d recommend the visit. Tourist dollars well spent!
After completing the zoo visit, we thought we’d head back to the southside to visit Traders Village. So, with Google set to avoid highways, we embarked upon an epic cross inner-city trek towards the venue, which I think may have been an old racetrack or fairgrounds? Regardless, it was closed! After a 35-minute drive, no souvenirs for you!
Intense consultation and negotiation between Wife and I determined that the proper course of action at this point would be to complete our tours of the five Missions.
So, off to Mission Espada, the one we’d not yet seen. Of all of the Missions, this one was my favorite, probably because whoever lives there likes to grow things. The grounds around the church were full of plants and flowers, well-tended and vibrant. Someone cares a lot about these grounds. Very heartening. Here are a few shots of Mission Espada.
Here’s a link to the National Park Service website for the Missions.
This brought our second full day touring San Antonio to a close. This is a great city, clean, neat, and from what we experienced a very safe and enjoyable place to visit. We closed out the trip with dinner at Camp Outpost, a restaurant specializing in the rotisserie of meats. We had an excellent meal there, maintaining our streak of selecting great dining venues.
Tomorrow- Wednesday- we’d be heading west towards the Mexican border and Big Bend National Park. I’ll chronicle some of those adventures in the next post. Meanwhile, I hope you’ve enjoyed these ramblings, and thanks for stopping by!