San Antonio has a much different feel than Austin. Austin seems more of a college town while San Antonio seems a lot more touristy. Our main stop was the Alamo. What is remarkable, is that the Alamo is smack dab int he middle of down town. The town was built around it. Of course the Alamo today is nothing like it was during Santa Ana's time but various groups have stepped in and saved the mission it self. Today, the Alamo is considered a shrine and it is requested that no photographs be taken inside. It is a somber place with reminders of how heroic the men were in attempting to hold the Alamo against Santa Ana. There is a great video which puts all of the events leading up to Texas becoming a republic and how important the Alamo was into perspective.
Next, we walked over to the River Walk which is a promenade of sorts along the river with many hotels, shops, restaurants, and tourist spots. For $6.00 you can take a barge ride along the river and get a feel for the lay out. The boat ride was very pleasant and a cooling relief as the temperature seemed to climb into the high 80's.
Looking towards the convention center.
According guide this hotel was contracted for the 1960 something (?) World's Fair. Organizers and builders were skeptical that the hotel would be ready on time and all of the rooms had been sold out. The interesting thing is that all of the rooms were built off site and then trucked in and set into place by a crane. Each room was totally finished before being set into place. The hotel was finished on time for the opening of the fair and none of the reservations had to be cancelled..
one of the picturesque scenes along the river
After the boat ride we walked the River Walk searching out potential places for dinner. The atmosphere is very different from Austin. Its pretty obvious with all of the hotels and shops it is a tourist destination. If you are staying in one of the hotels you would never need to get in a car. Everything is within walking distance. Once other difference: the food and other amenities are double the price compared to other areas.
The guide on our boat had mentioned an out of the way pub and we went searching for it. Our search led us back up to Alamo street where we saw two ladies installing what we learned were bicycle docks. San Antonio has introduced a bicycle rental system where you insert your credit card and you can rent a bike for a certain length of time. You then ride the bike to where ever and then turn it into a dock nearby. Apparently the docks are set up all over the down town area.
We asked the ladies where a nice inexpensive place would be for a light dinner and they directed us to The Friendly Spot a few blocks down. Alamo. Well, it a little more than a few blocks, but doable. Thank goodness for my IPhone which confirmed there was such a place. The Friendly Spot is basically a large open lot with a cabana type bar with all different kinds of beers. The food didn't look that appealing so we asked another local about the restaurant we had seen near us with a line out the door. They told us it was a great Tex-Mex restaurant; a little noisy but good. So we decided to try it out and if the line was too long we had been given another option. It turned out the wait was minimal. The service and food at Rosario's in South Town was excellent and the price reasonable. Yes, it was noisy at first, but once the crowds thinned out the noise dissipated. I had a seafood stuffed chili and Joel had a chicken enchilada with mole.....Yummy!
We returned to our car and had a funny experience. Apparently the parking garage is set up for you to prepay your parking fees in the shopping mall, much like at some airports, and then exit a specific gate. We tried exit at the prepaid gate, no realizing it was the exit for the prepaid gate, without prepaying and after much fussing around figured out we had to back up and re park and the go pay in the mall and return to the car. Thank goodness there was no one behind us. We never did find the regular exit. The rub is, the parking was almost as much as our dinner.
I guess I can now say I've been there, done that, as far as the River Walk is concerned. It is a nice touristy area and if I was staying at one of the hotels on the river for a convention or meeting , it would be a good place to go, but I would much rather be back snuggled in the RV.