Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Week 49.1 - San Antonio and a mini Texas road trip

The journey from El Paso to San Antonio took a little over 8 hours, but frequent rest stops, naps and seat hopping made for a quick and painless journey…and probably spoilt us a bit too much, especially when we have another long arse bus journey coming up soon. The drive to San Antonio was similar to the one we had to Ruidoso in the respect that the desert soon gave way to lush greenery, only here there’s huge trees and flowers and people really need to cut their grass! After a quick check in at our Air B&B, a lovely house which we have all to ourselves, we headed Downtown for a stroll along the riverwalk. A network of paths and bridges along and over the San Antonio river, the riverwalk is one story below the streets and is lined with restaurants, bars and shops. A main tourist attraction, the walkways were crowded with people when we arrived and each diner had a really long wait…except for the “British pub” where we found ourselves eating. Kyle was happy as he managed to get a pint of Guinness, and we were both equally impressed with the fish and chips, the closest we’ve had to home since we left, though it did leave Kyle wanting a real portion from Blackpool seafront.

I’d been craving pancakes since we arrived in America, so Jo and David took us for breakfast at a german pancake haus in San Antonio. Had I known how big my two blueberry pancakes were going to be, I think I would of put in for a kids order. Still they satisfied a craving and prepared me for the days adventure, so whilst the adults went off for shopping and lunch we headed back Downtown and towards the Alamo. The Alamo became a symbol of heroic resistance to oppression and a struggle for independence which was won late in 1836 by Texas after a battle led by James Bowie and William Travis against Mexican invaders. Bowie, Travis and their 200 men managed to defend the Alamo for 13 days (though some say it was only 20 minutes) before the invaders finally over powered them. Today you can walk around the Alamo and grounds, taking in the story with an Audio tour or reading the stories on the walls…but do get there early as it gets way crowded in the afternoon, as we painfully found out.

Onwards walking took us across Alamo square towards the Majestic theatre, which after seeing pictures of I really wanted to get inside…unluckily it was closed and access can only be gained when going to watch a show. Instead we walked further to Historic Market Square, a Mexican shopping area with over 100 shops selling hand crafted items and clothing along with extra, extra large margaritas. We passed on the alcohol as our next stop was the Cathedral of San Fernando, a large, gothic looking building and the mother church of the Archdiocese. As a service was in order we took a quick peak at the large alcoves and golden artwork before paying our respects and moving on.

The path to the Tower of the Americas is lined with trees, cheeky squirrels, sculptures and water features leading to large waterfalls surrounding the tower itself. The Tower of the Americas is a 750ft tall building featuring a very over priced restaurant, 4D cinema, gift shops, coffee shop and an observation deck. It was obviously the observation deck that we’d come for, so after paying our $25 we got in the lift and faced the 3 minute journey upward. It took forever, and yes the view was great but I couldn’t fully enjoy it until we were stationary. Once on the deck you have two options, stay inside and look through the windows, like a wimp, or head outside and walk round getting windswept but only have one pane of glass to look through instead of two…we obviously had to go for option two. The views were spectacular, offering a 360 degree landscape view. We could see downtown, the sports fields, the airport and further into the distance, allowing for spectacular views of a beautiful city.

We went back to the riverwalk for lunch and stumbled upon a quieter section than the previous evening, besides the boats filled with tourists that pass by every so often. It was here that we found the Arneson River Theatre. Built in 1939 performances vary from dance to music to opera, with the audience sitting on concrete seats on the side of the river, whilst the performance takes place on the opposite side. It was a real shame we didn’t get to see a show, but the river and surroundings are very well maintained and it makes for a nice, cooling stroll walking along the banks…i don’t know if i mentioned it but San Antonio is fucking hot, like sweaty, humid Asia hot.

The parents picked us up later in the evening for tea at the most authentic Mexican in San Antonio, as recommended by Jo’s friend, Diana. Well Jaslisco’s cibolo didn’t disappoint, a real hidden gem outside of the city complete with plastic chairs, old tables and a family hosting…they even had pictures on the walls depicting the menu, it suited me and Kyle to a T. Everyone enjoyed their meals, and the puffy tacos went down a treat, even if none of us could work out how they’d made them. David says I should take back what I wrote about nothing being free in America. Now I would love to, especially after enjoying my free cone from Dairy Queen and I’ll admit it did finish off my tea very nicely, but I just need more proof guys..so if you’d care to offer more free ice cream I’ll be available for a while in Nashville, Chicago or New York.

What better way is there to spend a hot, sunny day than relaxing by a river? A 45 minute car journey took us into San Marcos, here we enjoyed a walk along the river at the wildlife reserve. Home to turtles, fish and coral, this river boasts crystal clear warm waters that can be observed from the path, glass bottom boat, kayak or paddle board tour..Kyle was keen to paddle board, but with it being Spring these tours were unavailable, so instead we spent a day further down stream swimming, or in Kyles case floating down the natural slide and getting carried away by the current. Whilst he was off down river I made friends with some real Texas Hillbillys, with a real Southern drawl…it was a nice change me getting excited over someones accent, instead of having someone scream “Oh my god you’re English” at me.

Being only 30 minutes from Austin it would of been rude not to take a drive downtown. Along the way we passed a town called Kyle, much to the excitement of mum, and a quick stop was made to take a picture of our Kyle stood next to the signpost for the city of Kyle. Austin is huge, filled with skyscrapers and a city skyline with of various heights, but in amongst this business like city sits 6th street, home to the South by Southwest music festival. Lined with bars that are home to all sorts of live music, street art and tattoo shops, 6th street was really up our street, and a must return to destination so that we can fully appreciate it when everywhere is open…even if we will be spoilt for choice.

Our final evening meal with the family was a favourite Vietnamese Pho, a good last meal before months of salad to work off all this “America weight”. Next stop is the airport and a 2 plane flight to Nashville, I’m glad it’s only a see you soon for mum, but I’ll be sad to say goodbye to Jo and David…even if it won’t be long, now I’ve experienced El Paso I’ll be sure to be back again, especially when Mum buys her house here, hey mum?

Love Carrie xxx