ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, Museums, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

Strolling San Antonio TX

Briscoe Western Art Museum, San Antonio TX
This Briscoe Western Art Museum is housed in a wonderful old library building.

TRAVEL THERE: SAN ANTONIO STROLLING

Little did I know when I tagged this trip as the San Antonio Stroll how apt the title would be. I was thinking of wandering along the river from Margarita to Margarita, not hoofing it from downtown to The Pearl.  Well, that was before the VIA streetcars let me down.

Go Mobile Without Your Car

One of my favorite things about San Antonio is that you can forget about driving for a day or two, because they’ve got a great transit system.  I don’t know what the locals think of it, but the VIA Streetcars are great for tourists.  However there’s a pitfall.  I’ve been using the VIA Streetcars for decades and that was the pitfall.  I assumed I knew how things operated.

They have a route going around and around downtown – called the Red Circulator.  It comes by every ten minutes or so.  I have ridden that one to get an overall view of the area, but it used to cover more ground and there were several other trolley lines that hooked up with it.  There’s still something called the Primo – but that’s a bus.  I’m a tourist, so I want a trolley.  There’s Blue Circulator which looked like it could get me to the other places I wanted to go, but I was a little fuzzy on the time thing.

I pored over the new trolley schedule online, but couldn’t find a schedule that said, “Here are the times the Blue Circulator comes by its stops.”  Note to self:  Next time stop by the VIA Info Center and ask them!  It’s right on the Red Circulator route and it was steps away from my hotel.  Instead I decided to play it by ear.  Good thing I bought some comfortable walking shoes for the trip!

So, on day three of the San Antonio Stroll, we’d already strolled quite a bit.  Day one, shopping at the Round Rock Outlet Mall and walking from the RiverCenter to the Tower of the Americas and back.  Day Two, walking the McNay, the King William Walking Tour and the self-directed Riverwalk Margarita Tour.  With day three being primarily museums and gardens, I thought a little foot relief would be just the thing.

Briscoe Western Art Museum, San Antonio TX
The Briscoe

Breakfast and The Briscoe

We grabbed breakfast at Whataburger and discovered there was an egg shortage.  Not something I’d heard about anywhere else, but some poor fast-food clerk was having to apologize to everyone about it, so I didn’t think she needed my two cents worth also.  Therefore we ate some chicken biscuit thing with honey-butter.  Not just was the doctor ordered, but sustenance enough until the next meal.  As long as I had my Diet Dr. Pepper, I was good.

On to the Briscoe Western Art Museum.  I’ve already done a good job of describing the museum here, so no need to do that again – but it was one of those days.

First the eggs, then the museum entrance fee.  Last time, I breezed in with my Dallas Museum of Art (DMA) Reciprocal Privileges. The DMA website said I still had them, but the Briscoe had changed its affiliation.  To give the Briscoe its due, it did eventually comp my entry, but we had to pay for Deb’s ticket.  Not that it was exorbitant, it was the principle of the thing.  I’m not sure who to blame, but I’m not happy.

I enjoyed the museum the second time around, but what I liked best was that Deb discovered she likes Western Art.  As I’ve said, Deb will pretty much go wherever I want to, but sometimes she’s just going along to be along and that was the case with the Briscoe.  Inside she enjoyed the historical perspective of the third floor, but she was blown away by the art on the second floor.  Western art has a new fan.

Via the VIA?

After a quick stroll through the gift shop, where we’d have bought several things if money were no object, we headed to the trolley stop.  Well nothing was posted, because everything is on your phone – right?  Unless you don’t have the latest phone and you can’t get to the right page and even if you could you couldn’t see it in the bright sunlight. (mumbling complaints under my breath).  We stood there a few moments pretending a trolley was coming any minute, because I was convinced they came by every ten minutes.  Then a passerby dissuaded us from this illusion.

So we tried our handy-dandy doorman, because the bus stop was in front of the hotel.  He knew the trolley came by and where, but not when.  We went to the concierge and she was having the trouble I had, sans the sunlight.  There’s no webpage that says when the trolley comes by the Briscoe Museum stop.  (Are you listening VIA?)

Or You Can Walk

We decided to hoof it.  Both of us love to walk.  The heat was not oppressive, so we set off.  The walk was a little over a mile and a half, which took time, but not much effort.

We did connect with the trolley later in the day which allowed us to get much further than we would have gotten on our own four feet, but it wasn’t easy.  With no available schedules, we had to find someone who knew the drill to get on the trolley at a stop near The Pearl.  Then we’d quiz the bus driver when we got off about when the next trolley would be by.  The cost was cheap – but the hassle was high.  And speaking of hassle – a day ticket is $4, but you won’t get any change, so have some singles.

Yes, I could have avoided all this hassle (one hopes) by checking with the VIA Information Center, but we all know about hindsight – and I was reminded of the pitfalls of assuming you know what to expect in the future based on past performance.  In other words, “Don’t never assume nothing!!”

That’s right, don’t assume anything, but come back next week and we’ll have street tacos at The Pearl.

 

ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, Performing Arts, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

Fiesta Noche del Rio in San Antonio

Fiesta Noche del Rio, Arnesdon River Theater Riverwalk, San Antonio TX
The Master and Mistress of Ceremonies for Fiesta Noche del Rio in San Antonio

TRAVEL THERE: FABULOUS FIESTA NOCHE DEL RIO

Ya wanna have a good time in San Antonio? Then you hafta go to the Fiesta Noche del Rio. What began as a fundraiser for the local Kiwanas almost six decades ago is now one of the most entertaining evenings you can enjoy in San Antonio.

Our New Favorite Thing on the Riverwalk

We bought our tickets along the Riverwalk the day of the show and then did a little Margarita tasting, I mean sightseeing, before going back and snagging a seat in the Arneson River Theater.

The warm up act was an amazing flamenco guitarist with an acoustical twelve string.  He sat on a chair, pulled the guitar into his lap and plucked out beautiful music while providing a stomping percussion with his feet.  Absolutely fascinating and very stirring.

Fiesta Noche del Rio, Arneson River Theater, Riverwalk, San Antonio TX
Deb recruited for a little audience participation. If they knew what kind of voice she had, they would have had her singing into the microphone instead of just holding it.

Soon the Master and Mistress of Ceremonies came out to lead us through the evening.  Both had marvelous voices and a serious dose of fun to share with the audience.  They not only led you through the performance, they initiated audience participation and entertained your socks off.  When it came to audience participation, you’d have to talk to my bestie and traveling companion, Deb.  They participated with her several times.

Musica and Danza

The dance numbers were amazing.  How those performers keep from passing out during their routines I have no idea.  The weather was actually quite pleasant for those of us merely sitting idle in the amphitheater.  For the fast moving, fully-costumed dancers under the lights, it was a whole ‘nother thing.  I want to tell you that in spite of the heat, every step was precise and vigorous and their smiles never faded by even a degree.

Fiesta Noche del Rio, Arneson River Theater, Riverwalk, San Antonio TX
Beautiful Mariachi music performed by gorgeously costumed musicians was my favorite part.

If you are wondering what kind of music they danced to, then let me ask you this…what kind of music do you like?  If you like rap, then you would have been out of luck, but pretty much everything else was there, from the classical flamenco guitar to jazz to country to…well you name it.

My very favorite was the Mariachi.  It sounds like happy music to me – even when they sing sad songs.  The haunting horns seem to reach down to someplace in my soul.  My heritage is as about as Anglophile as you can get, but one of those guys from the Spanish Armada must have something to do with my DNA.

Fiesta Noche del Rio, Arneson Theater, Riverwalk, San Antonio TX
Swirling Skirts

Of course, when the Mariachi’s come out to play, then you also get to see the dancers whirl around in the flowing skirts of their traditional costumes.  If I actually tried their thrilling spins, I’d end up on the floor with the skirt wrapped around my head, but as they twirl, I can imagine myself twirling with them and it is glorious.

I could go on with my rapturous description of the evening, but pictures really are worth thousands of words, so enjoy some of the others I took.

After the Fiesta

We strolled down to Durty Nellie’s after the show for a little of their more raucous entertainment, but my dreams were full of throbbing flamenco music and swirling skirts.  This was the best money I spent on my vacation, yet it was also one of the smallest ticket prices I’ve ever payed for live entertainment.  Do not miss it.  It’s really worth going down there just for the show!

Saturday was our museum marathon – and it was a marathon in more ways than one.  Come back next week and find out why.

ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, Museums, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

More Margaritas Before Fiesta Noche del Rio

Buckhorn Saloon & Museum, San Antonio TX
Souvenir of another trip to San Antonio

TRAVEL THERE: JUST A COUPLE MORE SAN ANTONIO MARGARITAS BEFORE THE SHOW

After the Margaritas at the Menger Bar,  we took ourselves on a tour of the Menger Hotel lobby. They have extensive displays related to the history of the hotel and you can tell from the architecture she’s a grande olde dame of the accommodations world. If you like staying in historic hotels, which I usually do, I’m sure it’s quite a treat, but I’ll be staying at the Contessa for the foreseeable future.

Touring the Menger Hotel

The front of the Menger is graced with a collection of retail establishments. The antique store, which looked amazing, was closed, but we did go into a toy soldier store and an exotic trinket store. When I say toy soldiers, I’m not talking plastic bags of green army men. I’m talking historically-correct, hand-painted metal soldiers. A chapter of Deb’s life is tied to these interesting collectibles, so we usually stroll through establishments that sell them. The exotic trinket store offered interesting junk that has nothing to do with San Antonio, but it was filled with marvelous aromas and Deb found a bracelet she liked.

Dinner at Casa Rio

Our next stop was dinner and for that we went to one of my favorite places, Casa Rio. I’m not going to tell anyone that it’s the best Mexican Food in San Antonio, but it’s still on on my list of favorites. There is something about sitting there on the Riverwalk, drinking Margaritas, eating Tex-Mex and listening to live Mariachis. I’m sure there are several places to do that along the Riverwalk, but this was the first place to offer it a very, very long time ago and it’s one of my San Antonio traditions, just like pictures of The Alamo.

I have to scold them a little bit though, the Margarita was awful, even though we paid a dollar extra to get the premium tequila. Shame on Casa Rio! The food was great though and we are grateful to each person that paid the Mariachis for a song, because we sure as heck weren’t going to fork over $20!

Every time I go to San Antonio I’m reminded of all the things I want to do there that I haven’t quite gotten around to. The Casa Rosa dinner boats are on that list. You need the minimum of ten people to reserve a dinner boat to ply through the waters of the Riverwalk as you eat your tostadas and tamales. I guess that’s a pretty silly thing to want to do, but there you have it, I’m a sucker for a party. I think I’m going to serve Caronas on my boat though. I’m still upset about our awful Margaritas!

Buckhorn Saloon, Museum, Arcade etc. etc. etc.

With dinner out of the way, there was just time to squeeze in one more thing.  Deb had gone to the Menger Bar for me, so I wanted to get to the Buckhorn Saloon for her. It was one place she mentioned having an interest in.  Now if you’d wanted to visit the original Buckhorn back in 1881, according to my official Centennial edition of their souvenir book, you would have gone to Dolorosa Street.  The bar would have been right across the street from the old Southern Hotel.

The Buckhorn Saloon
The Buckhorn Saloon

When I first the Buckhorn, sometime around its Centennial, it was out at the Lone Star Brewery, which is now the San Antonio Museum of Art (SAMA).  When the SAMA took over, the Buckhorn had to find a new home.  So nowadays, you’ll find it right around the corner from the Majestic Theater, just a hop, skip and a jump from the Riverwalk.

The Buckhorn establishment now has a very long name, because it houses two different museums, a saloon and an arcade, but when Deb and I arrived, the museums had closed for the day and the bar wasn’t yet patronized by the evening crowd.  Nonetheless, Deb and I ordered up Margaritas (for the sake of research you understand) and made ourselves at home in the virtually empty bar.

Memories, Margaritas and Rattlesnake Tails

Buckhorn Saloon, Rattle Tail Art, San Antonio TX
Rattler Tail Art from the Footnotes of the Buckhorn Souvenir Book

As we sat there comparing notes about our previous visits to the Buckhorn over the years, we agreed the museum part of the Buckhorn is a treat for kids – particularly the rattler tail art.  I started my visits to the Buckhorn when I was knee-high to a Longhorn steer and Deb brought her sons when they were young.  The whole Texas Ranger thing we can’t attest to.  We think the Texas Ranger Museum in Waco is the place to go for history of that sort, but you’ll have to follow up on that, because it was now time for the show.

Come back next week and find out about the best $15 dollars we each spent in San Antonio – and it wasn’t on Margaritas.

Architecture, ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

The Alamo & Menger Bar

Arneson River Theater, Riverwalk, San Antonio TX
San Antonio’s Arneson River Theater

TRAVEL THERE: THE ALAMO AND MENGER BAR IN SAN ANTONIO, TX

As soon as we moved in to the Hotel Contessa and got our ducks in a row, we hit the Riverwalk. First stop: Arneson River Theater to buy tickets for Fiesta Noche del Rio.

Fun Along the Riverwalk

It’s not very often that buying tickets rates as part of the fun, but then it’s not everyday that you’re buying tickets on the Riverwalk for the Alamo Kiwanas Fiesta Noche del Rio.

Deb and I enjoy life as if we were still the twenty-somethings we were when we met.  We strolled over to the theater and found a cute Kiwanas guy selling tickets along the Riverwalk, just as their advertisement had promised.  By the way, the advertisement promised they would be selling tickets.  It said nothing about cute guys.  We just got lucky.

Neither Deb or I have any use for any guys (on a permanent or even semi-permanent basis), because our husbands are more than enough (thank you very much).  But if you’ve got to buy some tickets anyway, it’s nice to do so from a personable young man who also happens to be cute.

He was probably young enough to be a child of either one of us, but we won’t go there.  As he rattled off the price of the tickets, he mentioned that seniors got $5 off regular admission.  We asked what age made you a senior.  Thankfully, he looked at us as if to say, “Not any age either one of you will be any time soon,” but what he actually said was, “No gentleman asks a lady her age.  If you’re willing say you’re seniors then that’s good enough for me.”  When we revealed our actual ages he remained incredulous, so he was immediately became one of our favorite people – but we did get the tickets for $15 instead of $20.

Visiting The Alamo

The Alamo, Riverwalk, San Antonio TX
And there she is – The Alamo!

The show would start at 8:30 so we still had hours and hours to fill.  We decided to head over to the Alamo.  Deb had a friend who said a relative of hers was in a picture on the Gift Shop wall.  We also felt somewhat obligated to go take a picture.  It’s like a rite of passage each time you visit San Antonio.

The landmark was about to close for the day, so we high-tailed it to the gift shop, but they must have remodeled since the Alamo defender’s descendant last visited.  No historical photographs were displayed in the gift shop.

Margaritas at the Menger

With the obligatory picture in our cameras, we decided to hit the Menger Bar for some Margaritas.  Now the Menger Bar is another of those spots I’ve wished to visit, but I never talked anyone else into it.  “You mean it’s just an old bar?”, I’ve been asked several times.  Well, nanny nanny poo poo, Deb and I went and we had fun.  The proximity of the bar to the Alamo and the prospect of margaritas, probably had as much to do with Deb’s cooperative nature as anything else, but who am I to complain about getting what I want.

Tom and Lula Mae on their 50th wedding anniversary.

See, the Menger Bar is not just any old bar.  It’s been around for a very long time.  Notable figures ranging from Robert E Lee and Theodore Roosevelt to Lillie Langtry and Mae West have sidled up to the Menger Bar to wet their whistle.  It’s most famous for Teddy Roosevelt using it as a recruiting station for the Spanish American War, but it’s also the place where barbed wire got its start.  I’m partial to the Teddy Roosevelt story, because my grandfather, Thomas Byron Mobley, fought in that altercation and Lula Mae, his wife, was the last one to receive widow benefits from that war.  A senator showed up one day to give my grandmother the check in person, but I don’t think Tom signed up down in San Antonio.  At least not that I’ve heard.

All that being said, the bar is a small dark hole in the wall with low ceilings and some historical memorabilia spread around.  It was great for people-watching, because several large family groups were there scarfing down their evening meals.  I can assure you the toddler who was so entertaining didn’t know or care about Teddy or Tom.  The bar also had a GREAT Margarita.  Perhaps the best we had the whole time we were there.  Certainly the best on that particular night.

Well, I’ve about worn out my welcome for the day, but it’s still not time to go see Fiesta Noche del Rio.  Come back next week for a tour of a few more Margaritas before the show.

Accommodations, DESTINATIONS, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

Hotel Contessa – Royalty on the River

From HotelContessa.com
From HotelContessa.com

TRAVEL THERE: A ROYAL WELCOME FROM HOTEL CONTESSA

Deb and I knew one thing as we planned our San Antonio Stroll: We were staying on the River. That wasn’t a very restrictive idea. The Riverwalk is chock-a-block with great hotels.

Riverwalk Hotels

The first Riverwalk hotel in my memory bank is the La Quinta Riverwalk, but that was way back in high school and the river was several blocks away in those days. I’d been selected as a delegate to a convention by my Home Economics teacher. ( Don’t laugh, I’d just won an award for a table setting.  I still can’t sew  a hem that will hold.)  I stayed at this La Quinta several times since high school, but never since the Rivercenter Mall was next door and since then the hotel has grown into a high rise.  It was once just a little La Quinta.

I’ve stayed at the Marriot Courtyard Market Square several times, because it’s convenient to downtown and the Riverwalk, without having the Riverwalk price.  (It doesn’t hurt that I can use the points from my Marriott credit card there.)  On the trip just before this one, I stayed at La Mansion and that is an experience everyone should enjoy, but I have a new favorite – Hotel Contessa.

Choosing the Contessa

As Deb and I perused our Riverwalk choices, the words “luxury suites” kept bringing us back to The Contessa.  So we booked one of their suites, but being the frugal ladies we are, we didn’t opt for a Riverwalk view.  We figured we needed to stay on the Riverwalk, but that didn’t mean we had to see it from our room.  Besides, we congratulated ourselves on our wisdom by pointing out to one another that some people had complained of the noise on the Riverwalk side.

Due to my research, I knew the only parking for the hotel was valet parking and it was quite a chunk of change.  I also read there was a huge, much cheaper, parking lot catty-corner to the hotel.  So we pulled into the big public parking and rolled our suitcases across the street to the Contessa, like paupers approaching their liege with all their earthly goods in a wheelbarrow.

Royally Welcomed

There is nothing about the outside of the Contessa to signal what’s inside.  It’s just another building.  If it didn’t say it was the Contessa, you’d wonder why someone had built a new office building right on the river.  Then you walk inside.  The bustling lobby has a cool chic that says, “You’ve arrived!”  On your left is a huge full-length portrait of a lady in Spanish-looking garb – the Contessa I presumed.  Further to your left is registration.

The registration desk was busy, but not hectic.  I didn’t have to wait long.  The greeting was cordial and the clerk asked me the reason for my visit.  I explained it was a belated birthday celebration – and then I got my birthday present: an upgrade to a River View room.  Hot diggity dog!

The elevators are glass, giving you a view of the inviting atrium as you glide to your floor.  We went to 401, a corner room which overlooked the Briscoe sculpture garden on one side and looked over the Riverwalk on the other.  Heaven!

But the view was only part of the charm.  It really was a luxury suite.  The den had a sectional sofa,a large coffee table, a tall side table with two barstools and the requisite TV.  The next room was a sort of dry kitchen connected to the bathroom, with the honor bar, frig, coffee pot, ice bucket etc.  We used this area as a second vanity, because though the bathroom is quite luxurious, it’s really not set up for two women getting ready at the same time.  That worked fine, because of the huge mirror over the honor bar.  And there was a TV.

The bedroom was functional, not palacial, but adequate.  The accouterments were luxurious.  There were lots of drawers, but closet space was limited.  And there was a TV.

Because of the other generous spaces, the bedroom seemed a little tight by comparison, but how much space do you need to sleep?  You could get in on both sides of both beds, so what more do you need?  This is not a complaint, just a description of what you’ll find.

We loved that room.  The whole hotel has a very modern feel, but on the warm side of modern, not the sterile, “”don’t-move-that-magazine” modern.  On the following night, we would come back to the hotel right after dinner, just so we could luxuriate in it.  We also enjoyed the Cork Bar, down at the river level.  Las Ramblas, their Spanish restaurant on the same level as the bar, also looked marvelous. We just ran out of time.  We also didn’t make it up to the pool on the roof or the spa.  That’s for next time – and we will make sure there is a next time!

I read a lot about extraordinary service when I was shopping the hotel.  I’d have to agree and my favorite guys were the doormen.  Once we parked the car, we didn’t go back to until we were ready to go home.  We’d set forth from the hotel with all sorts of questions and the doormen would have answers for us.  They also had a warm greeting for us every time we came “home.”  Yep, I liked this hotel.

There are great reasons to stay at all the wonderful riverside hotels, but for my travel dollar, the Contessa is the queen.

DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, Road Trips, Shopping, TRAVEL

Finding Footwear for the San Antonio Stroll

Ready to stroll the Riverwalk!
Ready to stroll the Riverwalk!

TRAVEL THERE: HEADED TO SAN ANTONIO TX

Finally, it was time to go!

I love the planning part of a trip, uncovering all the possibilities and making geographic sense of them.  Who’s open when, how much does it cost and how long will it take?

What to Pack?

Once I’d mapped out the days of the trip I began to wonder what the heck I was going to wear.  Everything above the ankles was easy – mostly sundresses and one day a knit pantsuit that’s as comfy and cool as pj’s.  The problem was from the ankle down. One of the reasons I named this trip the San Antonio Stroll was that there was going to be a lot of walking.  (Another reason is that I like alliteration and Tanya Tucker’s song.)

I have a lot of shoes, but for hours of walking most of them won’t do.  They’re just for looks, but do they ever look good!  I made a special trip to the closet to check out my options and quickly discovered I didn’t have any.  See, I call those kind of shoes “fun shoes” and my fun shoe factor was in sad shape – holes in the sole in my favorite sneakers, sandals falling apart, straps broken.  Even sadder was the fact that I’d worn all of them for so long and so hard that the cobbler wasn’t an option.  That meant DSW.  I threw away the dead soldiers and planned my shopping trip.

DSW Emergency!

Now my usual gig at DSW is to go to the clearance department and discover the gems – those interesting selections that have gotten to the 50% and more off.  I don’t go with a shopping list, I’m just looking for bargains.  When I pay a tiny price for fab footwear, I’m over the moon.  It was immediately obvious that I wasn’t going to make that sort of score on this trip.  If their clearance inventory had included fun shoes, someone else beat me to them.  So I grabbed a bag, wandered the store looking for likely suspects and then sat down to try them on.

This one was too ugly, that one too heavy, another one hit me at the wrong place on my foot.  I narrowed it down to a sandal, an espadrille and  well, I did find one bargain I couldn’t leave behind.  The bargain pair wouldn’t be going to San Antonio, but I’ll look marvelous when they do step out.  The bargain and the espadrille were thrifty, the sandal was not.  Have to take care of those dogs though, so I made my way to the check out counter.  Now I was ready to pack.

The Old Red Suitcase and My “Hairable” Mistake

After dragging the old red suitcase down from the attic (the wonderful walk-in attic in my new house) I pulled together all the stuff I wanted to take.   As Deb pointed out on this trip, the clothes took up one small corner of the suitcase, while the makeup and electronics needed to have their own bellhop.  It didn’t take long for me to get it all stowed away.

Then I had to decide what to do with my hair.  I’ve been letting it grow and most of the time I’m not quite sure what to do with it.  My mom liked my hair to be short and she had a way of getting what she wanted.  Now that she’s gone I’ve been having a little late-life rebellion and so far the hair is down to my shoulders.  We’ll see if it goes any longer.  Anyway, it sort of has a mind of its own, so trying to get it to do what I want is like trying to control a force of nature.

Rather than wrestle with it on the morning we were going to leave, I decided to wash it in the laundry room sink.  That would be easier – right?  Well, first of all, I don’t think I’ve ever washed my hair in a sink when it was this long.  You’ve never seen a mess like the one I made.  I was so wet that I looked like I’d washed the dog’s hair, not mine.  I think I should have just stepped in the shower.  Then about the time I got it washed and towel-dried, I went outside to talk to Bill about something.  I do live next to a pond, so I exposed my hair to the damp night air.  Then I decided to see what it would do if I didn’t use any product in it.  Remember, Diana Ross’s huge ‘fro from her solo years.  Yep, that’s what my hair looked like when I woke up.

Come back next week and we’ll load the car and then head out on the San Antonio Stroll.

Accommodations, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, TRAVEL

On the Road to Galveston

Friends - great excuses for road trips!
Friends – great excuses for road trips!

TRAVEL THERE: THE SOUTH TEXAS CHRISTMAS RAMBLE MOVES WEST TO GALVESTON

As usual, San Antonio served up a good time. I’d been to some of my old favorites and tried out some new things. The biggest disappointment was the Polar Express that blew in, cancelling the luminaries on the Riverwalk, which had been the impetus for my trip. My favorite new thing was the Blue Crab Salad at Boudros or maybe it was the new Briscoe Western Museum or perhaps… I’ll just have to face it. I love San Antonio. I haven’t even finished writing about the last trip and I’m ready to go again.

Breakfast at Cracker Barrel

Speaking of new things, been to the Cracker Barrel lately?  Hubby loves it and in the past, I’ve tolerated it, because breakfast has never been my favorite meal.  However, I discovered something new as we left San Antonio.  For some reason Cracker Barrel doesn’t have it on their website and that’s a real shame, because I forgot what they called it.  Regardless of it’s moniker, it’s an extraordinary frittata with egg, cheese, bacon and who knows what else, with blackberries on the side.  I’m not a fan of omelettes.  I don’t like scrambled eggs and I prefer my veggies to be cooked before they’re mixed with the eggs, but frittatas, I love!  Also, since going on the South Beach Diet, I’ve permanently abandoned potatoes, so I don’t eat those egg casseroles with hash-browns, either.  This new dish, that I’ve forgotten the name of, was right up my alley.     For the rest of the trip I was suggesting Cracker Barrel for breakfast.

Stayed at The Beachfront Palms

We pulled into Galveston around three and found the Beachfront Palms without any trouble.  We’d gotten an expedia deal on the room and it was a decent place to stay, but it was completely no frills and no thrills.  They’d recently done a remodel, but only cosmetic fixes, no upgrade.  The appliances really needed replacement.  The pillows were thin and the bedspread was some sort of slick made-in-china excuse for fabric.  We were there for only two nights and had other places to be, so we lived through it. (A little fact checking on the internet revealed that the Beachfront Palms is now a Red Roof Inn.  It was an indie when we were there.  Good luck with that.)

Our first order of Galveston business was to see Linda and Clay.  In the days before I arrived on the scene, Linda was one of Bill’s best friends.  Since then, he married me and she married Clay, forming a rather syrupy mutual appreciation society.  Now, they’ve retired to Galveston and live in the penthouse of one of those high rise condos right on the seawall.  I’ll go a couple of years without visiting and then walk back into their place -OMG!OMG!OMG!  It’s like living on a cruise ship and having a balcony suite!  You’re so high up that the highway, seawall and beach completely disappear and it seems you’re suspended above an endless sea.  I try to play like it’s only jaw-dropping because I see it so infrequently, but if I lived there, I’d probably still wake up in the morning and say OMG!OMG!OMG!

Clary’s for Dinner

Our friends took us to Clary’s for dinner.  I’ve got to be fair and tell you that they love it and everyone who works there treated us like we were the King and Queen of Dallas on a state visit to Her Royal Highness, the Holy Roman Empress of Galveston – but that didn’t take a lot of effort.  Everyone who knows her, loves Linda.  We just thought the food was mediocre.  Linda and Clay say they eat there several nights a week, so maybe our mouths were just out of joint, but I’d have rather been at Gaido’s.

It’s always good to catch up with good friends, but we were there for Dicken’s on the Strand, so we returned to the Beachfront Palms and tucked the strange feeling bedspread under our chin, because Baby, it was cold down there.

Architecture, ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, Performing Arts, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

The Nutcracker – San Antonio’s Majestic Theater

2013 Nutcracker Program, Majestic Theater, San Antonio TX

TRAVEL THERE: SAN ANTONIO’S MAJESTIC THEATER EARNS ITS NAME WITH A GLORIOUS NUTCRACKER

Here’s how I know Bill was bending over backwards to accommodate my wishes on our trip to San Antonio; he agreed to go to a ballet at the Majestic Theater.  He played it really cool until afterwards, but then he made a post to Facebook that revealed the truth.  He hadn’t been looking forward to it at all, but enjoyed it anyway.

Off to a Rough Start

We needed a bite to eat before the show, so we went to The County Line, a BBQ joint on the River, because it was close to our hotel and we were in a hurry.  In our opinion, a BBQ joint is supposed to let you get a BBQ sandwich, but that only happens at lunch at The County Line.  For dinner it’s a meat and two veggies kind of a place.  Bill ordered a sliced brisket plate and I nibbled around the edges, but my mind was not on the brisket.  WHERE WERE THE LUMINARIES?

Remember, I came to San Antonio because I wanted to see the River all dressed up for Christmas.  Well, the weatherman threatened icy rain and sleet, so no luminaries were installed.  The primary thing I came for didn’t happen at all.

And it was cold!  And a stupid sign outside our hotel sent us an entire block out of our way.  And did I mention it was cold.  Bill was smart.  He ignored the occasion and dressed warmly.  By golly, I’d brought a special outfit for the theater and I was going to wear it, even if it killed me.  Well, it didn’t kill me, but there was a danger of frostbite.

Majestic Lobby Warms up the Night

As soon as we hit the lobby, I knew we were someplace special.  I had no idea of how gorgeous the theater itself was going to be, but the lobby was a knock-out.

We were on time.  Our seats were good.  And this had to be the most amazing theater I’d ever walked into.  The pictures don’t begin to do it justice, but they’re all I have.  Bill was wishing for more than his smartphone to capture the theater’s interior.

San Antonio’s Nutcracker

The Nutcracker was marvelous.  I hope San Antonio will forgive me for being a bit of a Dallas snob.  I assumed that a ballet by the San Antonio ballet and symphony might not stack up.  It was charming with great dancers and great music.  The sets and costumes were out of this world – but not quite as far out of this world as the theater.  I’ll leave you with a few more shots.  Hope you enjoy.

 

 

 

DESTINATIONS, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

Mi Tierra Restaurant and Bakery

Mi Tierra Restarant & Bakery, Market Square, San Antonio TX

TRAVEL THERE: SAN ANTONIO’S MI TIERRA RESTAURANT & BAKERY

Delicious Tex-Mex Meal Accents a Day of San Antonio Sightseeing

On our final day in San Antonio, the plan was a tour of murals on the west side of the city.  Not exactly the poshest of neighborhoods, but there’s amazing street art.  We decided to drive the walking tour, which was fine for a while – but only a short while.  I recommend bikes.

What’s for Lunch?

I, of course, planned several dining options, but was hoping for Mi Tierra – Mi Tierra Restaurant & Bakery, Market Square, San Antonio TX THE Mexican food restaurant in San Antonio.  (Well, at least one of THE Mexican restaurants.  Casa Rio on the River is pretty high up there, too.)

Mi Tierra has been open forever and it’s always open.  I’d sort of planned on having breakfast there, but fighting the cold weather gave us a slow start, so I moved it into the lunch slot. As many times as I’ve walked by the restaurant during visits to Market Square, I’d never managed to be there when it was time for a meal, but  I kept promising myself that I’d dine there someday.  The patrons just looked like they were having a lot more fun than everyone else in the world.

Mi Tierra Restaurant & Bakery, Market Square, San Antonio TX
On the Patio at Mi Tierra

As if it were ordained by the gods, this time we found a parking place on the street right across from the restaurant and thanks to the cold, there was no wait.  And then, we found ourselves on a patio again, but this one was a lot warmer than the previous night’s experience.  And guess what?  Finally!  Mariachis!

I was tickled beyond pink.  Almost tickled enough to have a margarita, but I’d been so good on my South Beach Diet that I passed up the opportunity, while enjoying every sip taken by the patrons around me.  It was almost as good as having one myself.  Well, not that good, but nice.

The whole place is a perpetual fiesta.  Brightly painted murals, brightly colored pennants, brightly dyed waitress uniforms – everywhere you look is color.  And everywhere you looked people were having a good time.  This was a Friday lunch hour, but the attitude was definitely late Saturday afternoon.Mi Tierra Restaurant & Bakery, Market Square, San Antonio TX

Being the good girl I had chosen to be, I selected rotisserie chicken as my entree, but the good news was that South Beach allows you to have three bites of anything you want and a cheese and onion enchilada came on that plate.  That was the best three bites of the vacation.

Mi Tierra Restaurant & Bakery, Market Square, San Antonio, TXBill chose the special of the day and even though I can’t remember the name of it, I know it was some kind of chicken with vegetables.  He even got to eat the rice and beans.

After Lunch, the McNay Art Museum

As we sat on the patio I just happened to mention the costume exhibit at the McNay.  Bill had previously confessed he really wasn’t interested in it, but he was quite interested in pleasing me, so under the influence of the cerveza, he decided we’d go.  I didn’t jump up from the table and fist pump, but I was tempted.

Sure, Id love to go see the costume exhibit at the McNay.

We paid our bill, stopped to take a few pictures of the bakery case and then headed to the McNay.  I’d rave about the costume exhibit, but it was over January 19th and you’d just hate me for seeing it when you didn’t get to.  Once he got there, Bill was glad he’d been so agreeable.

I’ll leave you with a shot of Mi Tierra’s bakery case, but don’t fail to come back next week, we’re going to the Majestic to see the Nutcracker. Mi Tierra Restaurant & Bakery, Market Square, San Antonio, TX

DESTINATIONS, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, TRAVEL, Travel Planning, United States

No Mariachis at Durty Nelly’s or Paesano’s

Menu, Durty Nelly's Irish Pub, Riverwalk, San Antonio TX
Certainly not any Mariachis here!

TRAVEL THERE: NOT A MARIACHI IN SIGHT!

Warm Reunion of Friends on a Cold San Antonio Night 

One hallmark of my travel planning is finding a way to squeeze in a visit with friends and family if they are anywhere along my route.  San Antonio is home to one of my best buddies that I barely knew until a few years ago, even if we did meet decades ago.  We’d only casually crossed paths back at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, but rediscovered one another on Classmates.  Maturity gave us a whole lot more in common than we’d had as youngsters and Facebook gave us access.  Since Bill and I would be in my friend’s town, we took the opportunity to meet he and his wife for dinner.

Searching for Mariachis

Who else but me would have discovered a mariachi competition that just happened to be going during a visit?  And who else but me would drag relative strangers around the Riverwalk on the coldest night in San Antonio anyone could remember (but not as cold as it was going to get while I was there)?

When we first started planning the trip, I suggested to my friend that we meet at Durty Nelly’s and he agreed that it was a good idea, but then I found out about the mariachi competition and learned they’d be having a concert at Rivercenter’s Lagoon, so I upended all of our plans to include the free concert.  Being the spoiled rotten kid I am, everyone acquiesced to my wishes, except the weather.

Champion that Bill is, he only grumbled a little bit about leaving our nice warm hotel room to walk along the Riverwalk to the Starbucks at the Rivercenter Lagoon to meet Clark and Linda, people he knew virtually nothing about.  As soon as we entered the shopping mall I saw an information desk.  They didn’t know anything about a mariachi concert, but they did know where Starbucks was.  Shortly after we walked into the coffee shop, Clark and Linda joined us.  Introductions abounded and everyone tried to make nice.

As we chatted one thing became very clear, no mariachis were going to play.  No one with gold braided costumes came in with instruments in black cases.  Proud wives, mothers, aunts and cousins were not clustering around the lagoon.  In fact, the whole area was becoming quite empty.  Obviously, everybody had someplace else to be.  The Polar Express had struck again.

Dashing to Durty Nelly’s

So I suggested we retreat to Durty Nelly’s.  I love Durty Nelly’s.  It’s a not quite clean pub on the Riverwalk that has a crazy guy playing the piano.  I literally could have sat there all night singing along with his goofy songs – and perhaps Clark would have enjoyed it too, but the spouses both had this “what in the hell am I doing here” look in their eye.  I’ve got to give them credit, they were making the most of it they could, but I may have been the only one having a good time.

Moving on to Paesano’s

So I suggested the next item on our agenda – Paesano’s.  Someone in our Sunday School Class had suggested it to Bill and Clark said it was a big favorite with them, so we headed to dinner.  The wait was thirty minutes for a table inside the building, so somehow we ended up on the enclosed patio.  It was a lot colder than I wanted to put up with, but after dragging these people all over the place, I wasn’t going to complain about where we sat. I’m just not sure who thought it was a good idea.

I’d fill you in on what a great restaurant Paesano’s was, but my brain got numb in the cold.  My baked eggplant (the only thing I thought might be safe on my diet) was quite good, but I have no idea what everyone else had.  And it was so dark, I could barely see my own dish, much less my dining companions’ faces.

Darn that weather.  I’d anticipated my reunion with Clark to be a great time, with much wandering about the River.  I knew all the spouses were going to get along grandly and perhaps Bill and I would be singing our way back to our room in the wee hours of the morning.  Instead, Clark and Linda beat a hasty retreat home and we power-walked our way back to the hotel.  (Note to self: check the weather!)

There’s one more day in San Antonio, so be sure and come back next week.