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Calendar >  Travels With TR – A Truly American City Steeped in History & Charm – San Antonio, Texas

Travels With TR – A Truly American City Steeped in History & Charm – San Antonio, Texas

By   /  September 18, 2014  /  No Comments

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tom & carolA while back my wife, Carolyn, and I decided to make a short visit to a city we had always wanted to visit but had never gotten around to seeing. The city was San Antonio, Texas. I had lived in Texas in several different cities when I was younger, but my family never made it to San Antonio so the opportunity to see the city and one of America’s historic sites, The Alamo, sounded like an adventure we couldn’t pass up. A quick 2 hour 45 minute flight landed us in at the San Antonio International Airport. A short cab ride took us to our hotel, The Hotel Valencia, a beautiful hotel which can only be described as Art Deco in appearance.  Our hotel was located just a short walk to the famous San Antonio River Walk.  It is referred to as a boutique hotel and Conde Nast Traveler magazine lists it as one of the 50 Best Places to Stay in the World. There are many unique hotels to stay at in downtown San Antonio.  The Riverwalk area has been described as The American Venice.  It combines Native American, Old Mexico and Wild West architecture, shops, restaurants and atmosphere in a 2 ½ mile circuit in downtown San Antonio.

The River Boat Tours float this downtown circuit in a 35-40 minute narrated tour for a nominal fee with several departure points.  The cost is adults – $8.25, Senior’s and military – $6.00, and children 1-5 – $2.00. There are River Taxis that will take visitors on a longer river voyage on the San Antonio River in both north and south directions. Along with this there are 15 linear miles of continuous hiking and biking trails alongside the river.  Along these trail’s can be seen the Tower of the Americas, a 750 foot tower with a revolving eatery on top and the Alamodome, home of the N.B.A. World Champion San Antonio Spurs.

There are numerous restaurants to eat at both along the Riverwalk and close by as well. The range of restaurants included the Saltgrass Steak House, The County Line, Q on the Riverwalk, Hard Rock Café, Rio Rio Cantina, Rita’s on the River, La Paloma, Zocca D’Italia, Lone Star Café, Mad Dog’s British Pub, Dick’s Last Resort, The Original Mexican Restaurant, and many, many more. One restaurant, Boudro Texas Bistro was listed in Esquire Magazines 50 Best Restaurants in the U.S.. One of our favorites was The Buckhorn Saloon and Museum located on East Houston St., two blocks from The Alamo. The huge Saloon has a classic Western Bar with over 520 amazing assortment of animal heads hanging on the walls including a full bodied 10,000 year old massive Irish elk as you walk in the bar.  There is also a world record 78 Point buck on the wall. The café offers Texas BBQ brisket sandwiches, ribs, chicken, chicken fried steak, burgers and Frito chili.  Along with the bar there is a large gift shop and a Texas Ranger Museum – cost for entrance is a bit high – $18.99 for adults and $14.99 children, but there are discount coupons available. In the museum is a replica 1934 V8 Ford Deluxe Bonnie and Clyde getaway car as well as quite an extensive collection of Texas Ranger memorabilia.   Googling the restaurants mentioned will show you the incredible menus they offer as well as cost. Many of the restaurants have outdoor eating tables right next to the Riverwalk.  One favorite night spot we were given free cover charge entrance to was the Howl at the Moon Piano Bar. The atmosphere was exciting, funny and very entertaining.

Several other spots to visit not far from the Riverwalk are Travis Park, named after the Texas rebel general William Travis who led the Texans in the fight against the Mexican Army, and the four other missions located in San Antonio.  The Alamo is the historic site most come to see in San Antonio, but equally interesting are the four other missions – Mission Espada, Mission San Juan, Mission San Jose and Mission Concepcion.

But, most visitors to San Antonio are here to see the famous Alamo. Your first impression of the Alamo as you enter what was the church is the size. Located at the corner of Alamo Plaza and E. Houston Street, I expected the Alamo to be bigger, but as you begin to tour the buildings that remain and the ones that have been restored you learn that a lot of the Alamo has been destroyed or damaged so bad it had to be removed.  Many of the walls that made up what would have been the fort portion of the Alamo were either destroyed in the Battle of the Alamo or have been destroyed over time. What does comprise the Alamo complex today is the church, with its famous carved entrance, the gift shop – which was originally built in the 1930’s as a museum, the Cavalry courtyard, the Long Barrack – the oldest building at the site and the home of the original mission, the Alamo Gardens and the Wall of History – where you can see Texas history on an impressive wall picture display. Admission is free to the Alamo, but there are Audio tours for a small fee and the gift shop is very impressive and the source of most of The Alamo’s income. One of the items in the gift shop are the collection of 15 different movies, now on DVD, that have been made about the struggle for Texas independence. The first movie about the Alamo, “Immortal Alamo”, was made in 1911 and the last made was in 2004, “The Alamo”.  One interesting feature at the Alamo today is the structural preservation project sponsored by Texas A & M which is underway to help preserve some of the walls and buildings still in existence.

As you travel around the Alamo complex you begin to understand the history of this amazing part of American History. The Spanish missionaries landed in Texas and worked their way up the San Antonio River in the 1700’s. The present site of the Alamo was settled in 1724 with the laying of the first stones for the mission in 1744. The Alamo served as one of the 5 missions in this area until the early 1800’s when French-American threats to the territory in 1803 brought a small army of 100 Spanish troops to the mission and the fortification of the complex. The company of troops that arrived were called the Alamo Company after their hometown Alamo de Parras, south of the Rio Grande. It is after this that the mission began to be called The Alamo. This company of soldiers also established the first hospital in what would become Texas.  The troops would stay here for 32 years until 1835. In 1821, Mexico declared independence from Spain.  The Alamo Company would stay in the mission and began to support the independence of Mexico. As Mexico began to control the area of Texas many immigrants from the U.S. began to flood and colonize the newly formed Republic of Mexico.  The population would swell in 5 years from 500 to 30,000. In the 1830’s, the Mexican government, under new military governor Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, would attempted to pass laws to stop the settlement of Texas prohibiting immigration from the states.

The Texas Revolution would begin on October 2, 1835 when the Alamo Company was fired on by the colonists as the Company tried to retrieve a cannon loaned to the town of Gonzales for protection against the Comanches. By February 23, 1836, General Santa Anna had arrived in San Antonio. The Texian rebels would withdraw to the old fortified mission known as The Alamo. As the rebels looked out from the mission, General Santa Anna would raise a red flag signaling there would be no quarter – no prisoners taken. The Alamo commander General William Barrett Travis would send a famous letter, “Victory or Death”, asking for additional reinforcements. The 200 defenders of the fort were a range of ages – the youngest 16 and the oldest 56.  Some of the famous names included David Crockett and James Bowie. The fatal attack began with a cannon bombardment on March 6, 1836. Once the attack began it would last only 90 minutes as the vastly outnumbered Texians would fall to the Mexican Army. Not all died in the attack.  A small number of the Alamo fighters were captured and executed outside the fort.  One story is that Davey Crockett was one of these men. There were some survivors of the attack. Twenty women and children and William Travis’s slave – Joe – were allowed to leave unharmed.  But the fall of The Alamo was a small victory for the Mexican Army as circumstances would cause General Santa Anna to split his army and on the morning of April 21st, General Sam Houston would surprise Santa Anna’s army near Buffalo Bayou (near present day Houston) and in an 18 minute battle he would defeat and capture Santa Anna.  Texas would achieve their independence amid the cries of “Remember the Alamo”.

I can safely say San Antonio is a city I would love to see again someday. It has many unique features, great restaurants and an American History we all should know about. Add San Antonio to your list of cities to visit.

REMINDER – If you are interested in traveling with us to Croatia and Slovenia in Sept. 2015, drop an e mail to trobertsasb@yahoo.com. Croatia was voted by National Geographic as the #1 destination spot this year.

 Photos by Tom Robertson

 

 

 

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