Friday, December 09, 2011

Austin, Nice to Meet You: San Antonio day trips

We went to San Antonio twice the week of Thanksgiving.  It just sort of worked out that way.  First, Brian and I went for a short overnight anniversary trip.  We found an amazing deal on for the Saint Anthony Hotel a few blocks from the Riverwalk.  The hotel was dated in an elegant sense, and completely adequate for a resting place in between seeing the city.  We mostly walked the lovely pathways around the San Antonio river, took a tour boat ride, ate at the yummy German Schilo's Diner  (deviled eggs for a side dish...yes, please!) and then gelato and milkshakes for dessert from Cafe Di Giusto on the riverwalk.

We went back to San Antonio on Sunday afternoon.  We'd intended to go the day after Thanksgiving but learned that the city holds a huge parade lighting up the riverwalk and we didn't want to join the mob.  Then we meant to go on Saturday, but it was raining here in central Texas (can you belive it?!?).  Since almost everything we wanted to do for the day was outside we waited until Sunday afternoon.  Still, it was quite windy and cool for this part of the country, but it gave us a good excuse to break out our scarves and hats.

1.  The Alamo (of course)

So, I'd had a bit of a heads up that this was smaller than I'd expect.  We walked in a sort of back entrance or something, right smack into the gift shop which was definitely underwhelming.  The further into the compound we went, the better it got.  I'm sure we'd have benefited by watching the movie shown at the next-door IMAX theater for a bit more context.  Still, it's one of those locations you need to visit to know a bit about our history. 

That being said, the kids seemed more engaged with the koi than the old guns and documents inside the Alamo.

2.  The Riverwalk (naturally!)

Somehow San Antonio has managed to commercialize a natural beauty without wrecking it.  Not only that, but they've managed to cultivate a tourist attraction involving water, stone bridges and boat traffic without cluttering the whole thing up with multitudinous safety warning signs, unseemly ropes, barricades, orange cones or grumpy security officers.  I don't know how they've done it, but they've even managed to protect us all from the worst and most ubitiquous public offender, muzak.  

It took me several hours our first trip down to figure out why I was enjoying the experience so much when I'm typically quite skittish about tourist traps.  "There's no artificial noise!"  Lovely.

Lovely added to lovely when dusk fell and the entire stretch lit up.  I read that Austin no longer has a light display because tax payers complained it was a "frivolous" expenditure.  All I can say is "huh?"  Of all the frivolities we as a society commit this time of year, creating a magical wonderland of light among the branches of Texas' twisty live oaks should not be lumped into the rest of the tinsely atrocities.  

Austin, I'm  surprised of you....

Speaking of frivolities, we didn't get too far into the mall, set up on the man-made end of the Riverwalk.  We managed to squeeze into a Starbucks and take the escalator to the third-floor cinema for a showing of The Muppets without getting too much commercialism on us.  

All in all, a perfect tourist-y kind of day. 

"All ceremony depends on symbol; and al symbols have been vulgarized and made stale by the commercial conditions of our time...Of all these faded and falsified symbols, the most melancholy example is the ancient symbol of the flame. In every civilized age and country, it has been a natural thing to talk of some great festival on which "the town was illuminated." There is no meaning nowadays in saying the town was illuminated...The whole town is illuminated already, but not for noble things. It is illuminated solely to insist on the immense importance of trivial and material things, blazoned from motives entirely mercenary...It has not destroyed the difference between light and darkness, but it has allowed the lesser light to put out the greater...Our streets are in a permanent dazzle, and our minds in a permanent darkness."
-- G.K. Chesteron, "The Rituals of Christmas," The Illustrated London News, December 24, 1927
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