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Daniel_Williams Jan 10th, 2004 06:46 PM

Epic Montreal-Monterrey Trip #3 (Greyhound: New Orleans-San Antonio)
I had to get up early at the Avenue Garden Hotel to make my bus out of New Orleans. Wake-up call service was provided. Incidentally, taxis charge $10 minimum to transport people with luggage anywhere in New Orleans, even for short distances like that from my hotel to train station. Just a heads up!

I found the bayou in southern Louisiana generally interesting to observe, with the trees half-submerged in water, the palms, the grass on people's lawns sometimes resembling a pool.

I was curious at what point I would get a sense during the journey that I was approaching Mexico. Funny enough, of all places it was Baton Rouge, with all the signs bilingual in the bus station there! While between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, all the passengers on the bus were either mostly black, some whites, between Baton Rouge and Houston, the demographic changed to perhaps 20% Mexican-looking. Between Houston and San Antonio, perhaps a good 80% of my fellow passengers were Mexican-looking. Mexico, as is geographically true, during the bus ride indeed seemed to demographically approaching. Interestingly, while Montreal has a sizeable Latin American community, my fellow passengers appeared more specifically Mexican to my eye(as they probably were), which added to my sense of excitement of the journey ahead.

Houston and San Antonio both surprised me. Houston from where I came in seemed so gleaming and modern and clean. I was expecting it to look a little more worn-at-the-edges like some of the cities of southeast. Even the bus station seemed better kept that some of the cities of the Southeast or Northeast. I was expecting a city of no character, and actually ended up thinking I wouldn't mind visiting more sometime.

San Antonio. Somehow, I imagined that I was going to be scared here and that the city might seem somewhat seedy. Boy, did I ever have misconceptions! I felt so comfortable/safe here that I wheeled my luggage to the Autobuses Americanos station (3 blocks away) to buy my ticket and then wheeled it to my hotel by the Alamo (another 3 blocks). I think media depictions of crime in the Mexican-American community led me to an image that was so far from the truth of this wonderful largely Mexican-American metropolis.

This city in some ways reminded me of my far-distant home in Montreal, with the ease with which bilingual service employees switched from Spanish to English (as opposed to French to English in MTL). From customer service in the bus station to buying a sandwich at a Subway, I was charmed by the fluent bilinguism. Even though I was ready to place my order in Spanish, thinking at first I should do so, I was somewhat disappointedly greeted largely in English, my Anglo-Saxon featured pale face I suspect a dead giveaway (which led me to chicken out and use my mother tongue).

Funny how Texas has such a reputation of being big. True, things did seem more spread out leaving Louisiana and bigger (oil refineries after the border to fit my expected image), yet the center of San Antonio seemed delightfully compact and walkable! I never even set foot in a taxi. From what I could tell (and I know I didn't begin to do the city justice), I highly recommend a visit!

In San Antonio, I stayed at the Ramada Emily Morgan ($120/night), since it was very convenient to bus stations and to boot was right next to the Alamo for a photo op!

wsoxrebel Jan 10th, 2004 08:34 PM

When we took the San Antonio ghost tour this summer, our ghostbusting guide talked about the many haunted rooms at the Emily Morgan. And did you learn why she is so famous in San Antonio?

Daniel_Williams Jan 11th, 2004 07:42 AM

No, I didn't learn what made Emily Morgan so famous in San Antonio. Why is that? BTW, this hotel (Ramada Inn Emily Morgan) was truly a business-class hotel; catering to the many needs of the discriminating business traveller; its impersonal big-hotel-chain style was not really my thing, although might appeal to some visitors...

wsoxrebel Jan 11th, 2004 08:53 AM

Have you ever heard of the Yellow Rose of Texas? The song was penned for the legend surrounding Emily Morgan. It is said that her charms distracted Santa Anna so thoroughly that he couldn't command his Mexican troops against the Texans.

I was told the naming of the Emily Morgan Hotel was quite controversial in San Antonio as some argued that it promoted parts of history left better ignored.

And some people find history dull!?

Daniel_Williams Jan 11th, 2004 07:48 PM

What a great little piece of American history! One I certainly didn't learn in school! It's a shame no one knows what happened to Emily Morgan after her role with Santa Anna. I'm sure she never would have thought there would be a hotel of such prominence named after her over 150 years later!

Thanks for the tidbit, wsoxrebel!

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