Mar 25, 2013 - Countries, Museums, Texas, Travel, USA, Weather    16 Comments

Downtown San Antonio, Including the Alamo, Riverwalk, and Mercado

The day was very slow to warm and I didn’t think I was going to end up going into San Antonio. We final hit double digits Celsius near noon and I decided to head out, wearing sandals, but also long thick leggings under my skirt and a long-sleeved top, and I stuffed my heaviest wool pashmina into my purse at the last minute. I wound up being very grateful for that shawl as I wore it all afternoon. It was warm in the sun, but absolutely freezing in shaded areas.

Teri, my host here at Hidden Valley had given me a detailed map with how to get to $5 a day parking downtown. I gave the map a glance before leaving and only noted the exit name… not that I had to get off I-35 and take I-10 to I-37, from which I would take said exit. So I wound up driving straight through town and had to double back! But once I was downtown, the parking lot was easy to find. It is at the corner of Bowie and Crockett, kitty corner from the giant mall.

First stop of the day was the Alamo! WOW! I can’t believe I’ve finally been to the Alamo!!! Wow! πŸ˜€

A number of people told me that I would be disappointed, but disappointment is all about expectations. No expectations, no disappointment.Β  From a purely pragmatic point of view, I could understand how someone who is only moderately interested in the Alamo might not get much out of the site. There is a very long line to get into the shrine, an even longer line in the shrine snaking through the sparse exhibits, and there is no photography permitted.

But if you know the history, you can close your eyes and hear the rifles and cannons and death gurgles of men drowning in their own blood. In the room where women and children sought refuge, you can hear their muffled cries of terror. Standing within the halls of this former mission, I could understand how it has become a symbol of Texan independence.

The exhibits are wonderful for a history buff; lots of old documents and maps with a few artifacts, like a book belonging to Bowie and a rifle belonging to Crockett.

Attached to the Alamo shrine, there is a museum (again, no pictures). You can also see a movie, but the line for that was really, really long and I was ready for lunch.

The Alamo (which means cottonwood) is free to visit. You can pay $6 for an audio tour, but I opted out.

My thirst for living history slaked, it was time to find some lunch. I had done my research and headed to Sushi Zushi on the corner of St Mary’s and Commerce. Don’t give me that look! I haven’t had sushi since the beginning of January!!!!!!

From the restaurant, I was able to head down into the famous Riverwalk, where it was really cold along the water. What a beautiful area! I did the entire main loop and a little of the newer branch that heads north.

After, I headed across town to the marketplace to see the Mercado, colloquially known as ‘the Mexican flea market.’ If you want to get a sense of what it’s like to shop in a Mexican border town without having a bunch of shopkeepers hassle you, you have to check out this place. I was underwhelmed by the same tchotchkes that I saw in Nuevo Progreso and Tijuana.

That was the end of my day. Public transportation is super cheap in San Antonio, but the city is very walkable and compact, so I ended up hoofing my way back to the truck, enjoying the exercise and sunshine.

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  • I think you would also have enjoyed the architecture in the King Williams district which is east of the downtown area. There are old houses in there from much earlier days. Also, La Villita is right along the riverwalk. Glad you enjoyed your tour of the Alamo and Riverwalk.

  • Oh, the King Williams district is on my list. I just had enough for one day!

    I did pass through La Villita, but got the impression it was a shopping centre. Oh, well, an excuse to go back!

  • La Villita does house a lot of little artsy, craftsy shops. There is also a tiny church there. Worth a walk-thru. You might want to have tea or coffee at the Mad Hatter when you are near the King Williams district. Also the Pioneer Flour place is not far from there.

  • My first impression of the Alamo was that it was very small. I was expecting something much larger, more like a large fort. I guess my childhood memories were reinforced by comic book images of the area.

    I was also struck by the list of people who died there and how many of them had Mexican names.

    With all the Ra, Ra, American stuff going on there one has to remind oneself that the Alamo WAS in Mexico at the time and Santa Ana was trying to repel invaders from his country. This message seems to have become a little skewed, with attempts made to make Santa Ana the bad guy and the “Texians”, the heroes. Just say’in.

    Having said that, I really enjoyed it as well.

    We “did” the Riverwalk at night and enjoyed the music. It was also a couple of weeks later and the weather was quite a bit warmer, shirtsleeve even at night.

  • “if you know the history, you can close your eyes and hear the rifles and cannons and death gurgles of men drowning in their own blood. In the room where women and children sought refuge, you can hear their muffled cries of terror.” I had that experience at the Holocaust museum–parts of it were a little too real for comfort. Which is as it should be, I think. I’m glad you had that experience at the Alamo.

  • I’m glad you enjoyed the Alamo! My visits have been on quiet days so I was able to really soak up the history; I loved it! (BTW, I was shocked by how small Davy Crockett’s coat is; in my mind he was a really big guy; Fess Parker?)

  • I enjoyed your tour! I got a kick out of envisioning you smacking the waitress over the octopus!! LOL

  • I’ve enjoyed reading your blog – especially when you were at the beach. I was born and raised in Corpus Christi and graduated high school in Harlingen. You kinda made me homesick and I haven’t lived there for 40 some years! The tower in your photo is the Tower of the Americas. It was built for the World’s Fair in 1968. I don’t know if it still does, but there was a rotating restaurant at the top. I had breakfast there once. Thanks for sparking a bunch of memories.

  • Welcome, caligramma! Thank you for that information! It looks a little like the tower in Calgary.

  • Mom, nobody takes my octopus and lives to tell the tale! πŸ˜€

  • Diana, I had the same thought about his coat! We have to remember that men were generally smaller back then.

  • Linda, I had a similar experience on the Culloden battlefield in Scotland. I don’t always get emotionally invested, but when I do, it makes for an extra powerful visitor experience.

  • Croft, we have to remember that what’s left is just a small part of the original mission.

    The other thing to remember is that this is just one version of the story. The Mexicans have their own. The truth lies somewhere in the middle. This version is no less ‘correct’ than that of the Mexicans.

  • The Mad Hatter? LOL I should have time to get back downtown. I’m only about 10 to 15 minutes away, so going there isn’t a huge time investment. I mean, I left here around noon today, got in at 4:20, and still had the time to do everything I blogged about!

  • Rae, if you decide on doing the King William neighborhood let me know. I know this guy who does a fantastic walking tour of the whole district. It’s beautiful to do on your own but he divulges lots of secrets about the past and current residents and history and has a wonderful knowledge of the vast variety of architectures used and where they originated and the famous families who constructed and lived in them. There’s everything from medieval castles to south beach style beach houses. The Pioneer Flour place your previous commenter mentioned is called the Gunther House and they have wonderful breakfast and lunch dishes.

  • The wonderful Teri has discovered my blog! πŸ˜€ Thank you! I will definitely come see you when I want to go visit King William!

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