I was fortunate to take a work trip to San Antonio. I stayed at the Crockett Hotel which is right across the street from The Alamo, a quick walk to the convention center, and not too far from the river walk. Since I was traveling by myself, I got the single queen room which was almost half the cost of the hotels right at the convention center. I would definitely stay there again.
I arrived the evening before the conference and walked around the river walk a bit. I stopped for dinner at a place with Texas in the name thinking I would enjoy some local beers on draft. Wrong. They had plenty in bottles but the two things on draft were not from Texas. I ended up with an Alien Ale from New Mexico and did enjoy it. The food was only so/so, the enchiladas had a bit of a kick that is missing from Wisconsin Mexican food, but they were nothing to write home about. Although it was cold (for Texas) after dinner I put on my hat and gloves and took one of the river cruises. I enjoyed the narration and the guide pointed out things like the stage where where part of Miss Congeniality was filmed and a bridge that was used in the movie Selena. Highly recommend doing this tour. Since it was dark I didn’t take any pictures though.
The next morning I found myself with some time free due to a cancelled session at the conference. I thought about doing one of the red trolley tours down to the missions, but it would have been about 30 dollars and the first one departed at 9:30. Instead I decided to see the two missions that can be reached by city bus. The bus stop was a five minute walk from my hotel and cost a whole $1.20 each way. I got to Mission San Jose (which is also known as the Queen of the Missions) right when it opened at 9 am. It is strange how the mission is right in the middle of an urban area- there is a Pizza Hut across the street! It was a blustery day, so decided to warm myself in the theater at the visitor’s center. The movie was so interesting that I stayed for the whole thing (about 20 minutes). The mission is restored, so I spent a bit of time walking around and taking it all in. I was very impressed. You can read about the mission here: http://www.nps.gov/saan/historyculture/sanjosehistory1.htm
I chatted with a ranger who convinced me that being from Wisconsin I could tolerate the cold and wind to walk along the river walk to the Mission Concepcion, about 3 miles away. It would have been shorter to walk the road, but I wanted to see the river. The walk was cold and blustery, but I saw a lot of birds, including lots of cormorants. There was even some art along part of the walk but I didn’t stop long enough to pull out my camera.
Mission Concepcion was a short detour off the main river walk. The park ranger had told me it was the least restored of the missions. Again, it struck me how urban the area around the mission is. It is beautiful and historical, but much smaller than Mission San Jose.
The weather was cold and the bus stop is right in front of the Mission, so I hopped the bus back to downtown instead of walking the rest of the way. I still had time before the meeting started to briefly tour the Alamo. It is a war memorial, so there is no photography allowed inside. There were a lot of people, so I decided to go back later in my trip to tour the grounds and the barracks museum. Admission is free!
The next morning I did go back to the Alamo to take a few pictures along the outside with fewer people around. The barracks museum was interesting, it is sad how few people survived the siege. The grounds are also lovely, and again I was amazed at the juxtaposition between history and modern urban life.
That morning I also walked down to the Market Square. It was early, so no vendors were out. I had already had breakfast, but I did grab a treat that consisted of walnuts in caramel at the famous Mi Tierra for later in the day. Mi Tierra is open 24 hours a day! I also stopped at the San Fernando Cathedral where there is a memorial that supposedly holds the ashes of several defenders of the Alamo. The Bexar county courthouse is adjacent to the Cathedral and is architecturally very interesting, although I failed to take any pictures.
The rest of my free time in San Antonio was mostly spent meandering around the river walk. There are so many little gardens and other things to see. Lots of statues, sculptures and other pieces of art scattered around. Don’t forget to look down- the artwork may even be under your feet!
All in all I really enjoyed my trip. For the amount of free time I had, I felt like I got in a lot of sightseeing and spent very little money doing it. Most of the things I visited were free (you can donate if you want), and most of the time I used my own two feet as transportation. The bus was an excellent way to get to two of the Missions, which for the limited amount of time I had was sufficient. I hope one day to make it back to see even more if this wonderful city!