Thursday, February 23, 2012

Walking San Antonio

February 23, 2012—My feet hurt! Today we walked—a lot. Fortunately, San Antonio is pretty flat, so we didn’t have to struggle with altitude as we walked its streets to see its history up close.

It is an interesting city. One section, King Williams, was founded by Germans who successfully established and ran commercial businesses in the city in the 19th century. The houses range from mansions to little gingerbread cottages. The architecture is not at all what you would expect in a southwestern state. We decided just to drive around this section of the city instead of hoofing it. We saved that for later.

Our first stop today was the Institute of Texan Cultures, where we had a pleasant surprise. Admission was free today because this afternoon naturalization of about 180 people from 50 different countries was to occur on the site. What a place to become a U.S. citizen! We were invited to stay for the celebration, but it did not fit our schedule. (Too much to see and do!)
Institute of Texan Cultures

The Institute is a museum celebrating the many cultures found in Texas—some of which I had never heard of. (Have you ever heard of the Wends? Me, neither. They were from Lusatia, an area in Germany comprising parts of Saxony and Prussia. They had their own language and fled Germany to Texas because of oppression.)

After touring the museum, we took the tour bus to an area of the city called Market Square, supposedly the oldest and largest market in the country. I doubt it. We were sorely disappointed. Aside from some restaurants, all we found were look-alike shops, most of which sold Mexican imports and Texan memorabilia. The market had two sections—the original and a “new” section built about 20 years ago. The new section was labeled “farmers’ market,” so we assumed we would find greens, fruits, vegetables, and perhaps even meats, in addition to home-baked goods, candies, etc. Nope. None of those things, just more of the same that we found in the “original” market.

We decided not to lunch in the overpriced restaurants that attract the tourists. Instead, we walked the sidewalks toward the downtown area, believing we would eventually come upon a “local” restaurant. We did. It was a small Mexican restaurant, run by Mexican Americans, and whose clientele was Mexican Americans. I ordered the cheese enchilada special—two cheese enchiladas, Mexican rice, refried beans, a bit of salad with guacamole, and iced tea. All of this for $4.75. It also came with homemade corn tortillas. I don’t think I’ve ever tasted a tortilla that good! Our advice: Always look for hole-in-the-wall local restaurants. We’ve rarely been disappointed in the fare.

After lunch, we walked (and walked and walked) to another old section of the city called La Villita (little village). When the Alamo was under attack, Santa Ana was headquartered here. Today the buildings house artisan shops.

Finally we reached Hemisfair Park, the park site of the 1968 Hemisfair (world’s fair). A few buildings remain; none are open. As we walked through the park on the way to the Tower of the Americas (like the Seattle Space Needle), we spied a bicycle rack—not just an ordinary rack, though. In San Antonio it is possible to rent a bicycle for $10 for 24 hours. Using a credit card, you “purchase” your rental, ride to your destination, and park the bike in these special racks. When you are ready to go to your next destination, you merely take an available bike and keep doing this until your 24 hours are up (or you finally get to your destination). Interesting concept.

Our final destination of the day was to ride up to the observation deck of the Tower of the Americas. It is 750 feet high—as high as we went deep when we were at Carlsbad Caverns. The views were excellent.
It was a busy day. I like San Antonio; it reminds me, in a way, of modern-day Indianapolis, which has done similar things to its downtown area and its canals. San Antonio is the second-biggest city in Texas—much larger than I would prefer living in, but it is a nice, clean city that knows how to attract tourists and keep people in its downtown area. Jacksonville could learn from it.

Tomorrow, weather permitting, we are going to the Johnson Ranch in the Hill Country.

Until later,

Your Reluctant RoVer,


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