After spending the better part of a day driving through Texas, San Antonio comes as a bit of a shock. The terrain gradually shifts from flat and featureless, to gentle, tree-covered hills, and the traffic shifts from big rigs and rancher trucks to commuters in BMWs and Lexus’.
We found directions to the River Walk, and navigated the narrow and crowded streets to the general vicinity, hampered by the throngs of people, the horse drawn carriages, and street vendors that were everywhere. This was not what I expected the River Walk to be at all! I mistakenly figured it would look like the Charles River in Boston, but with shops and restaurants along the side. This was more like what I thought New Orleans French Quarter would be like, only much, much bigger!
After parking we made our way through the crowds to the River Walk itself, and it was then I realized just how extensive it is. You see the actual River Walk is a whole floor below the street, so take everything I saw driving in and double it (at least) and that’s how extensive it really is. Not only that, but a large section of the walk is only accessible on foot. The quieter parts of the walk are absolutely wonderful, as they have thoughtfully spaced benches, attractive bridges, and trees everywhere.
As this was Saturday evening on Labor Day weekend, there were hundreds of vendors lining the walk selling trinkets and tourist keepsakes, as well as every manner of food and treats. The river itself is quite narrow – at least on the loop, and the vendors and restaurants line both sides of the river. I was surprised to see that there’s nothing to stop you from falling into the water, and was even more surprised that I didn’t see anyone fall in as the crowds were dense.
For those who haven’t been, the central and most popular part of the River Walk is a horseshoe-shaped loop off the main river that connects to the main river at both ends about a quarter-mile apart. The loop is at least a mile long too, so there’s tons to see and do. At the apex of the loop a short section of the river goes right into the River Center, which is a huge mall.
We pushed through the throngs to the River Center, and then got ourselves up onto Alamo street so that we could see the Alamo itself. As it was dark the Alamo was closed, however the outside of the Alamo was nicely lit up. Unfortunately across the street lies the most disappointing and unattractive cluster of honkey tonk I’ve ever seen. Considering the importance of the Alamo in the history of the State of Texas, I was surprised to see Mirror Mazes, Ripley’s Believe it or Not, Burger Kings, and so-called Cowboy Museums (as in overpriced junk novelty items) lined up by the dozens. Just my opinion, but San Antonio should rezone the area and give the Alamo the respect it deserves.
At this point we were starving and looking for some authentic Texas food of some sort. This can prove a bit challenging as Kathy is a pescatarian, and veggie and fish options are few and far between in Texas. Fortunately Mexican restaurants usually have veggie options, and we found a nice one sitting right above the Rive Walk itself.
The chips and salsa were a major disappointment after the amazing tortilla chips the night before, but the veggie burrito and quesadilla we shared were excellent, and the margarita’s hit the spot in the heat and humidity.
After dinner it was getting late – maybe 10pm – however the River Walk crowds were showing no signs of slowing down. In fact it was getting busier by the minute as the walk transitioned from tourist attraction to full on party! The clubs and bars were open and hopping. We watched people dancing 3 stories above us, and considered spending the night in San Antonio so we could join them.
This is exactly why Kathy and I decided to travel for a bit, as we want to be able to stop in cool places when we find them. Unfortunately this time we are on a schedule, so we reluctantly decided to get back on the road.
I’ve always thought of San Antonio as a small city and the home of the Spurs (basketball team), but never realized that it’s actually a large city, and the home of a thriving and diverse population. San Antonio is the second largest city in Texas behind Houston, narrowly edging out Dallas at just over 1.2 Million residents. It’s definitely one of the those cities I could see myself living in as it’s very walking-friendly and full of things to see and do. I’ll be going back for sure!
Later That Night
By the time we left the city we realized it was too late to find a campsite, so looked for a suitable motel. The lack of Texas urban sprawl got us again, as I figured we could leave the city and find a place to stop, but a few miles outside of San Antonio all was dark and empty. We ended up driving way too late and got ourselves nearly to Houston before we found a decent room.
Moral of the story – when in Texas and looking for a room, STOP when you see one. Don’t assume that there’ll be a cheaper room at the next exit, because the next motel may be 50 miles down the interstate. Until next time, happy travels!