San Antonio Trip Report 10/3-10/7/07

Old Oct 9th, 2007, 07:07 AM
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San Antonio Trip Report 10/3-10/7/07

Here is my San Antonio trip report. Hopefully it will be helpful to others considering a trip there.

Day 1
I flew out of Boston to San Antonio connecting in Dallas-Fort Worth on American Airlines. The entire travel time was about 6 hours. I arrived San Antonio about 12:05pm and immediately got a cab to my hotel, La Mansion del Rio (now an Omni hotel). The cab ride to downtown was about $21 not including tip and took about 15 minutes.

The hotel lobby is small, but the decor/style is reminiscent of a Mexican hacienda I would say. Check in at the hotel was fast, friendly and efficient and soon I was on my way to my room, #526 with a view of the riverwalk.The room itself was of small to average size and had a balcony which is shared with about 4 other rooms. There are also rooms available that have private balconies. The only drawback to the shared balcony is you need to keep the door locked and might want to keep the sheer curtain pulled so that others can’t peer inside. I never really noticed anyone else out there though.

So, I dropped off my bags and decided to walk down the riverwalk and grab a snack before I began my sightseeing. I was looking more for a grab and go type place and the riverwalk I learned is mostly is populated by sit-down restaurants and hotels, so I had to settle for a cookie from the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory.
Next I walked over to Main Plaza, where the San Fernando Cathedral is located. The plaza is currently under construction and was all torn up, but it is still possible to go inside the cathedral. This cathedral is the building where Gen. Santa Anna raised the flag of no quarter during the battle at the Alamo.
Next I went to the Spanish Governor’s Palace. I really liked this building. It is very simple on the inside and outside- made out of adobe with exposed beam ceilings, but I love the old Spanish styling. There is also a beautiful courtyard with a fountain and plantings. After my stop here, I walked over to Casa Navarro, which is the former quarters of Jose Antonio Navarro, a prominent figure in his day and a signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence.
Finally, I ended up at Market Square (http://www.marketsquaresa.com), where I perused the many shops selling Mexican merchandise--- beautiful painted ceramics, brightly colored paper flowers, carved wooden animals and leather goods. In addition to these crafts, there are of course T-shirts etc. available in plentiful supply. This evening I opted to eat at Mi Tierra, which is on the square. The same family which owns this restaurant also owns La Margarita across the walkway and Pico de Gallo which is down the street. After debating for many weeks prior to my trip which one of these restaurants to choose, I chose Mi Tierra (http://www.mitierracafe.com/) and am glad I did! Being as this was a Wednesday night and early at that, there was no wait for a table either inside or outside. It had been in the 90s this day and since I’m from New England and not used to heat like that at this time of year, I chose to eat inside with the air conditioning. The chips and salsa that start off the meal are tasty—spicy but not too hot. I ordered a margarita and the cheese enchilada dinner. This consists of 2 cheese enchiladas, rice and refried beans. They will also serve you tortillas with your meal if you want them. For dessert I had the fried ice cream—vanilla ice cream with a crispy coating and with cajeta sauce, served in a delicious, crispy cinnamon/sugar shell. Normally I don’t care for the fried shell that fried ice cream is served with, but I loved this one—it was really crisp/fresh and had tons of cinnamon sugar. Everything I had here was delicious—one thing I found throughout my stay in San Antonio is that at home, when you order cheese enchiladas, they come in yellow colored corn tortillas. In San Antonio, they used red colored tortillas. Also, at home they tend to serve enchiladas with a thin, basic red enchilada sauce. In San Antonio, they tended to be served with a rich meat chili gravy/sauce. This made them even more hearty and flavorful.
After finishing up my meal, I decided to go to the bakery counter and buy a few things. I got a praline (it was really good. Different than the pralines you get in South Carolina or Georgia), a chocolate cookie and a coconut bar with a pink top (this was way too sweet, even for me, who loves sugar. There was more sugar than coconut holding it together). After making my purchases, I went out to catch the VIA streetcar/trolley service back to the riverwalk area. There are 4 routes (red, blue, purple, yellow) and all except the blue route serve the Market Square area. It costs $1 per ride. It was maybe 5-10 minutes ride back to the rivewalk area, where I disembarked and decided to walk along the riverwalk to view it at night. One thing that surprised me about the riverwalk is that with narrow walkways, most areas don’t even have railings along the water. I would think that some people would fall in . . . . .especially when it gets crowded. I liked all the little waterfalls that they had along the way. In fact, there is even one that I remember that flowed right through the sidewalk and into the river, so that you had to step over the cracks with the flowing water in them.

Finally, I ended my night with some swimming at the hotel pool. The pool has a small fountain feeding into it and is located in a small courtyard with palm trees that are lit at night.
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Old Oct 9th, 2007, 07:08 AM
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Day 2
Today the Alamo was on my agenda. But before heading over there, I went up to the IMax theater in the Rivercenter Mall to catch the 9am showing of Alamo- The Price of Freedom. There was nobody else there, so I got a private screening. The movie was good and gave a nice overview of the events that transpired up to and including the battle at the Alamo. If you plan to see the movie, I would suggest seeing it before your visit to the Alamo. It is only a 5 min walk to the Alamo from the theater, so that is where I headed next. I think the Alamo was the high point of the trip for me. I ended up taking tons of pictures at different times of day. Lots of people comment on how small it is when they actually see it. However, you have to remember that the Alamo was not just the church building and long barrack (which are all that remain now), but an entire walled area that extended into what is now Alamo Square. There are not typically guided tours inside the church building, but there was one going on when I arrived. It was actually kind of funny—people kept joining it- myself included, thinking it was a public tour. It was not until the end that we found out it was a private tour that had been booked by a group ahead of time. Whoops. You’d think the guide might have said something when she noticed the group had grown in size! Public programs are held outside in the courtyard area. The grounds of the Alamo are quite pretty as well.

After my trip to the Alamo, I was ready for lunch, so I went over to St. Mary’s St to Blanco Cafe. I ordered the cheese enchiladas. These were really good—rich and cheesy—and quite cheap—about $4 for two enchiladas. Blanco Cafe is one of those no frills type places (almost like a diner that serves Mexican food) where there is an eclectic clientele—everyone from office workers, to maintenance men, to tourists like me were there.

Next I walked along the riverwalk to La Villita. La Villita is a historic area whose buildings now house crafts merchants (artists etc), as well as restaurants. After looking through the shops, I headed South down to the King William Historic District. This area has some really beautiful old houses—some with unusual design. I’d love to live there! Also included in this area is the Steves Homestead. This was the home of Edward Steves, founder of Steves Lumber Company. If you enjoy old house tours, then I highly recommend this one. The inside of the house is lovely. I especially enjoyed the painted walls/ceilings. Once again, I was the only person, so I got a private tour.

After getting out of the heat and sun and enjoying a tour of the Steves House, I walked back to HemisFair Park and the Institute of Texan Cultures museum. The museum took me about 1.5hrs to get through, but if I had taken the time to read every sign board on every exhibit section, it would have taken longer. Basically, the museum is focused on all the different cultures that have contributed to Texas and it’s history.

By now I was hungry, so I wandered back to the riverwalk for dinner at Boudro’s (http://www.boudros.com). I really enjoyed my meal here. I started off with a prickly pear margarita and the black and white soup. This consists of black bean soup in half the bowl, while the other half/side of the bowl is a cheese soup. It was really good and I liked both flavors. For the main course, I had the Filet of Sirloin, which has some garlic and cilantro on it and it served over thin spiced fries. This too was good—the steak was tender and juicy and cooked the way I like it—medium well. Of course I had dessert as well-- the Double Chocolate Brownie, which is served with 2 types of ice cream, in a pool of creme anglais. Boudros occupies a nice spot along the river and makes for nice people watching if you sit outside. It was also entertaining to watch them make the guacamole tableside at various tables that ordered it.

After dinner I walked around the riverwalk a little more and then that night took one of the boat cruises (http://www.riosanantonio.com/). It is about a 25 minute cruise and it takes you around the whole loop in the river. After the cruise, I went over to the Alamo to see it lit up at night. It looks really pretty at night, with a kind of golden glow to it.
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Old Oct 9th, 2007, 07:09 AM
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Day 3
This day was my time to go to the Botanical Garden and San Antonio Zoo. I walked over to the corner of Market St and Alamo St (I think) to catch the #7 bus to the Botanical Garden. It was about 30 min ride and drops you right at the garden. The garden was nice and there were not that many other people there. I especially enjoyed the Texas area, which included a small lake/pond.

After about 1.5 hrs I caught the #7 bus again to go to the San Antonio Zoo. The Zoo is not a huge zoo, but the enclosures that the animals are housed in are nice. Because I was there during the heat of the day ( it was in the 90s again), many animals were not in plain view when I was there, as they were resting in the shade of their trees. The Zoo is also building a new Africa exhibit, so in order to get to the elephants, giraffe, etc you need to go around behind the construction.

By around 2:30pm I was so hot, I was ready to go back to the hotel and sit by the pool until dinner. Dinner tonight was at Rio Rio Cantina (http://www.rioriocantina.com/). Of all the meals I had during my trip, this was my least favorite. The chips and salsa were alright and the margarita was okay, but the rest of the food was really not memorable at all—in fact, I really didn’t like the taste of it. I ordered the Chile con Queso to start. It was alright, but could have used more chiles etc in it. Then I got the Beef Enchiladas Rancheras. I thought the sauce tasted too generic and the beans that came on the side lacked flavor. I passed on dessert seeing as they had nothing I wanted and since I had not enjoyed the main meal that much.
Tonight I walked up to the Alamo again and then spent the rest of the night relaxing by the swimming pool before heading back to my room to enjoy the view out over the riverwalk.
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Old Oct 9th, 2007, 07:11 AM
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Day 4
Today was my last day in San Antonio. I had wanted to go and visit some of the missions that are located outside of downtown, but had not rented a car. So I decided to by a ticket for the San Antonio City Trolley Tour with the hop on/hop off option. This tour makes stops at Mission San Jose and Mission Concepcion in addition to other points of interest around the city. The first stop I got off at was Mission San Jose. This was the largest mission in the area and it took me about 1.5 hrs to view the whole property and visitors center. After re-boarding the trolley, I got off at Mission Concepcion. This mission is much smaller than San Jose and only took me about 15 min to see what I wanted to see. One thing that this mission features is the ability to view remnants of some of the old frescos painted on the walls.

So after returning from the trolley tour, I walked down to the riverwalk and had lunch at Boudro’s. Lunch consisted of a prickly pear margarita and a cheeseburger with spiced fries. The burger was good and so was the bun it was served on—light/fluffy and perfectly toasted.

After lunch I went over to Hemisfair Park and went up in the Tower of the Americas. You can see for several miles from up there. Normally, I’m one who likes views, but this was not one of my favorites—I don’t feel the need to repeat it again. Included with your admission to the tower is the Skies Over Texas 4D movie. This movie shows you different scenes from Texas and works on all 4 of your senses—sight, smell, touch and hearing.

Now my legs were tired by this point in the afternoon, so I went back to the riverwalk and took another boat cruise. I took that opportunity to take some photos from the water.
Dinner tonight was at Casa Rio. There was a 15 min wait for a table outside or immediate seating for a table inside. I choose to wait for an outside table. Casa Rio has lots of outdoor tables (seems like maybe the most of any other restaurant on the riverwalk) but every time you walk by they all are filled!
Anyway, I ordered a margarita and started in on the delicious chips and salsa. The salsa tasted very fresh. Once again I ordered the Cheese Enchiladas and they came with refried beans and rice. They were great—really flavorful. In fact the whole meal was really good. I’m glad I ate relatively early, as since this was a Saturday night, there was a huge wait by the time I finished. I then decided to take the VIA trolley over to Market Square and pick up some cookies etc to bring home from Mi Tierra. I ended up getting a variety of items including pralines, cinnamon cookies, caramel candy, Pan de Huevo. All items have since been devoured and found to be delicious! I’m glad I didn’t come to eat here for dinner this night because it was a madhouse. Many people waiting for tables, milling around etc. Also lots of people buying pastries and it was hard to get close enough to the case to see what you wanted, if you are not familiar with all the offerings. In fact, the whole of Market Square was very busy tonight.

Tonight after dinner I walked around the riverwalk, savoring my last night there before heading back to the hotel to enjoy the warm night air and go swimming.

Day 5
I ended up leaving the hotel at about 7:15am for the airport. Got a cab immediately with no wait at that hour. The ride to the airport was about 15 min.
I really enjoyed my trip to San Antonio—I’d been wanting to go for years now and am glad it finally fit into my vacation schedule. Really, I can’t wait to go back. Perhaps the next time I’ll rent a car and take a drive out to the Hill Country. I’d definitely recommend going to San Antonio during the weekdays if you can, as all the attractions are much less crowded. It seems like a big convention city, with many people occupied by meetings during the week and lots of visitors coming in on the weekends.


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Old Oct 9th, 2007, 07:48 AM
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What a great trip report! I live in the Austin area and have been to San Antonio many times over the years and I like how you hit the highlights as well as some places that we Texans tend to skip over. After your review about Boudro's, it made me want to try it out. I agree with you about Rio Rio, I don't think the food is very impressive, it is average, but seems to get good business probably because of location. I also enjoyed the tour of the Steves Homestead and I remember being there around Christmas so the house was really decorated. Glad you enjoyed San Antonio.
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Old Oct 9th, 2007, 08:01 AM
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Very nice detailed report. Thanks for the restaurant information in particular.

Bookmarking for our next weekend getaway to SA. Glad you enjoyed your trip!
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Old Oct 9th, 2007, 08:07 AM
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It has been ten years since my last visit to San Antonio. I am glad to see Boudros is still wonderful. Your report made me want to pack my bags and head there today!
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Old Oct 9th, 2007, 09:00 AM
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We went to San Antonio last week and ate at our favorite spot, Boudro's - I'm glad you liked it. In case you're interested, they have a website that gives some of their recipes - just printed out the recipe for their tableside guacamole and saw the prickly pear margarita recipe was on there too.
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Old Oct 9th, 2007, 09:20 AM
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Great trip report, Miramar!! I can't believe how much you packed in during your 4 day visit..far more than the average tourist. You covered the hot spots...obviously you had done a lot of research before coming.. And yes, it was hot, even for those of us living here. The humidity has been sky high, along with high temps these past few weeks.

I agree wholeheartedly about Rio Rio. Also am continually amazed that I've never seen anyone fall into the river! I'm down there walking every Saturday morning...from the heart of Riverwalk into King William, around there then back to pick up my DH from his office, a 2 hour walk. In that time I've come to the conclusion that very few visitors watch where they are going, or are aware of how narrow the walk is and that yes, if you don't move over, someone very well might fall in! I'm sure it happens but I've never seen it. If you should fall in though, it's only knee deep so no worries--it'd be pretty embarrassing though.

Do come back and try some Hill Country flavor mixed in with the city.
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Old Mar 16th, 2008, 04:02 PM
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Great Report. We are visiting family in Austin this April. I wanted to plan a day trip to San Antonio and now I have my plan.

Thank you.

Cheryl
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Old Mar 16th, 2008, 04:17 PM
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We were in San Antonio a week in Dec at Riverside Suites timeshare. You sure covered a lot of territory while you were there! We mostly ate and walked. We visited a lot of the same places you did but by no means all. We wanted to take a Hill Country day trip but Alamo Tours did not get enough people signed up to go. A beautiful city, at least the part we saw. Our first visit since husb stationed at Fort Sam Houston in 1958!
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