Remember The Alamo

Trip Start Aug 24, 2011
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Trip End Sep 30, 2011


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Flag of United States  , Texas
Friday, September 23, 2011

We have a few things we want to get to see in San Antonio but the list is not so exhaustive that we’ll be running around having to do it all. Instead we can stroll, enjoy the scenery and get to things as we get to them. 
The majority of what we want to see and do is very close to our hotel so we took our time getting ready to leave this morning, and eventually made it out of the hotel by 11am. Maybe we’re still on New Orleans time?!

The first thing to check out this morning was The River Walk (Paseo del Rio) for a coffee and a bit of breakfast. The River Walk is a walkway along the banks of the San Antonio River one level beneath the downtown area. The walkway is lined with bars, cafes, restaurants and shops and it’s one of the tourist attractions in the area. I always find those words “tourist attraction” so off-putting but in the end if you’re in a new city, you have to see this stuff. I can’t imagine anyone coming to Sydney and me telling them not to go and see the Harbour Bridge or the Opera House because they’re major tourist attractions. I know they are but I still do a walk-by at least a couple of times a week because I think they’re amazing and I’ve lived there all my life!

We head down the entry closest to our hotel and strolled, strolled some more, and then some more. Hmmmm, people were already on lunch and Margaritas but I was still in search of breakfast and coffee. We found somewhere promising in the end, it was a gelateria / cafe and I thought that looked safe enough so we stopped off and got a coffee. The only breakfast thing on offer was a fruit salad though. Meh, that’ll do.
The coffee was by no means spectacular but in the absence of anything else, I wasn’t going to whinge (too loudly).

One of the fruits in the fruit salad was a weird one, I thought at first it was pieces of pear but the taste was very bland and it had a crunchy texture too. I asked the barista what it was and she said it was a Mexican fruit. I didn’t quite get what she said and after three requests to repeat it I figured I would be harassing her if I asked again so I left her alone. She did say it was a bit bland and should be served with lemon juice which left me wondering why they’d put it in their fruit salad.

We walked along more of the River after our quick stop but thought we’d take a detour to the Visitors Centre just to get some idea of when things close of an afternoon, particularly the attractions and whether they could help me book into a tour of the cities murals that I wanted to do tomorrow. They were helpful regarding what time things close (5:30pm) but less so with the mural tour. Only one lady in there knew anything about it but only that there was one, not who ran them and how often. I think I’ll get the info from the net for that one.

Sharing a tiny fruit salad for breakfast after having done a bit of weights work in the hotel and then walking for about an hour left us starving. We decided to go and find a restaurant for some traditional Mexican food and then we’d head back to The Alamo to have a walk through the Museum and the grounds. The barman from the hotel had given me some great tips last night but the folks on Yelp didn’t seem to agree. Given there was one restaurant with close to 300 votes on it being the best place in town, I was going with the majority. I’m loving the restaurant reviews people give on Yelp, but I’m not loving the coffee reviews. I don’t trust them! I’ve come to realise what the American public are voting on as ‘good coffee’ is not what an Aussie would consider ‘good coffee’. 

We head off in search of a restaurant called ‘Rosario’s Mexican Cafe y Cantina' and when we got there we knew we were in the right place. Ohhhhh the joys of getting a good tip-off. There was a queue out front, the restaurant was packed and it was a nice mix of locals and tourists, although more locals. We went in and put our names down for a table then hit the bar for a Margarita. I prefer the frozen kind and was promptly served a tub of it beside Chris’ Corona beer. I’m not a Tequila fan which is probably sacrilege over here but I do love a good frozen Margarita, it’s the adult version of a slushie and is so good on a hot day.

We were seated within 25 minutes of getting on the list which I thought was excellent given the size of the queue they had. When we were seated we explained to the waitress we’d only really had Mexican once before in New York City and she both freaked and got very excited all at the same time. She couldn’t believe we hadn’t had it more than once but when we said we were from Australia she said at best we’d probably only ever tasted Tex Mex back there. She went through the menu with us explaining what everything was and gave us her personal suggestions which we ordered. May as well! We don’t know anything about the dishes so if she’s recommending we’re listening. 
 
I wanted to understand the difference between Tex Mex versus traditional Mexican so did a bit of reading while we waited for lunch, and munched on the amazing tortilla chips and slightly spicy sauce they’d left us. YUM!!
Tex-Mex is a mix of Texan and Mexican that has been influenced by Mexican cuisine. Tex Mex is most popular in Texas but it has made its way throughout the rest of the States...and clearly to Australia and other parts of the world. Tex-Mex cuisine is characterised by its heavy use of melted cheese, meats (mostly beef), beans and spices. Serving tortilla chips and a hot sauce or a salsa as an appetizer is also a Tex-Mex creation. Hmmm, perhaps I’m no clearer now because this was meant to be a traditional Mexican restaurant and that sounds a lot like what we’ve chosen from the menu. Perhaps I’ll leave the analysing to another day and just enjoy my meal when it arrives!

I don’t know what was in that sauce but that was good. Our meals arrived quickly and Chris had a fish taco whilst I got a lunch plate special which was a mix of Chicken fajitas, rice, guacamole and frijoles a la charra (beans). It all came separately on the plate so I got to make a mess putting them all together but it was delicious, as was Chris’ dish which was nothing like the crappy crunchy taco concoctions we know in Aus.

More walking was definitely in order after such a big feast so we took a spin around the King William District where the restaurant is, to check out some of the beautiful homes and then more of the River Walk slowly making our way back towards The Alamo which was going to be our last stop for the afternoon.

Halfway down the walk we were passing ‘La Villita’ which was San Antonio’s first neighbourhood and is an historic Arts Village in the downtown area. I wanted to go in for a little look and perhaps a bit of shopping but I couldn’t interest Chris so he went to husband daycare...otherwise known as the closest bar to wait for me. The little Village seemed deserted and a lot of the shops were closed which was such a shame but I did get to see a few and enjoyed looking through the site.

I went back to pick up Chris and we walked along the rest of the River Walk to get to The Alamo.

Again my lack of knowledge on American history meant I didn’t really understand the significance of this site but as a bit of background I’d read that in 1836, Texas, was in a state of revolutionary flux. War had caused the former Mexican state to break away meaning Texas was now up for grabs with many different groups anxious to get their hands on it.

After reading that we’d picked picked to come to San Antonio because of The Alamo as it seemed like it would round off the end of our American History tour and we had to fly out of Dallas anyway so San Antonio, which isn’t too far from Dallas, made our list.

To start your self guided tour off you’re given the option to sit down and watch a 15 minute film made by the History Channel about The Alamo so we did because we didn’t really know where else to start. The film was very interesting and gave us background on what The Alamo is, the battle that took place there and the events that unfolded at the completion of the battle.
It was a lot to take in but at the end of the film you move straight out into a small museum and can make your way through looking at relics and re-reading information that was mentioned in the film. 

It wasn’t until we got to the end of the exhibition a small plaque on the wall made all the info come together and make sense. The plaque said ‘Why Remember The Alamo? The Texas Revolution, of which the battle of The Alamo was a part, led to the establishment of the independent republic of Texas in 1836. In 1845 Texas became the 28th State of the Union which led to a war with Mexico. At the end of that war in 1848 Mexico ceded the future States of New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Utah and California to the United States. This chain of events established the U.S.A as a continental power and made it possible for the nation to become the world power it is today’.

I had now come to understand that the battle of The Alamo was a 13 day siege which was an assault on The Alamo Mission in San Antonio. There were Mexican troops under President General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna that launched the attack in the early hours of the morning to take the 200 defenders (a mix of Texan settlers and adventurers) of The Alamo by surprise. In the end all but two of the Texian defenders were killed.
Several months prior to this battle all Mexican troops were driven out of Mexican Teaxs in another battle and the Battle of The Alamo was a revenge hit to restore the dignity of Santa Anna.

That is but a very small piece of history on this topic but I found it fascinating. To think that something like that then helped to form the way in which America changed in future is incredible.
After we’d finished in the museum we walked around the beautiful grounds, and looked at some of the ruins, listening to some of the tales being told by guides before moving on.

The front of The Alamo faces North Alamo Street taking up the best part of a block. On the other side of the road directly opposite this historic site is a row of gaudy tourist attractions like Ripley’s Believe it or Not and a Ripley’s 4D movie theatre, Louis Tussaud’s Wax Works, Guiness World’s Records Museum, Tomb Raider 3D Adventure Ride and the Amazing Mirror Maze. Why? Why are these things right across the road from something so historic and where people gave their lives to change a country? It’s on par with why the hell there’s a McDonald’s right opposite the Pantheon in Rome. Is it so necessary to keep people entertained 24/7 with such things? Don’t we travel to learn about the history of a place and enjoy the new culture? Disneyworld is a theme park destination, not the strip opposite The Alamo.

I am enjoying San Antonio but I’m am struggling to get a vibe. Do they want to promote themselves as a tourist destination for their history and how it contributed to make America what it is today or do they want to draw people in to their attractions, a huge Seaworld not too far away being another one. Their offerings seem to be so diametrically opposite and it doesn’t make sense to me to bring them together. Well I’m not going to solve that problem but people’s expectations to be ‘entertained’ or ‘amused’ do disappoint me.

We had walked for hours and most of the attractions were closed if not closing so we opted for an afternoon gelato hit. It’s the done thing in Italy and I strongly believe it should be a tradition we instill in Australia as well. Actually, everyone should do it. Stopping to reflect on your day, slowly strolling with a gelato in hand is a lovely way to relax. In Aus we’re going to have to introduce a few more good gelaterias to do that though because you have to travel to find one. It’s not like they’re on every corner like they are in Italy. I do have a few favourites with one in Newtown, one in Darlinghurst and one in Surry Hills but they’re not within strolling distance.

We made our way back to Justin’s on the River Walk and Chris got his standard, whilst I opted for  a scoop of cinnamon and a scoop of peanut butter and jelly (jam). They were both really good, just a bit too creamy for me. Not that I didn’t like that, it just doesn’t agree with me or my dairy intolerance. But hey, I’ll never let that get in the way of me enjoying a good gelato!

Whilst we were sitting there enjoying a rest a whole heap of racket started up and seemed to be coming down the river. We looked up to see boatloads of people whooping and hollering some team song from boats accompanied by a band and cheerleaders, also on the boat! What on earth?!
Apparently every Friday night during the College football season a pep rally is held and they come down the River doing what they do to get everyone excited about the forthcoming match. Well I never!

That was about all the excitement we could handle for one day. We both agreed after a big lunch and now a gelato we weren’t considering having much for dinner and opted to sit in the hotel bar for a little while with an aperitivo before sharing some bruschetta and calling it a day. In discussions with Michael the barman tonight he told us he had created a ginger, pear Martini for a national contest sponsored by Prairie Vodka (an organic, gluten-free, kosher vodka) and he won so of course I had to try it. It was divine too, although I would say you'd have to be a ginger lover to like it.

Remember The Alamo’ is also a song by Johnny Cash and I think some of the visitors who come here could probably do with listening to it.
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Comments

Liane on

What a gorgeous looking town, love the riverwalk. Wow that pep rally really tootled along!!

cafe_travel
cafe_travel on

It is a beautiful little town Liane. We've spent most of our time down by the River Walk. Even when it's full of people it's still peaceful.

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