In ancient times, the Payaya Indians (noted for their nut-gathering) lived near the San Antonio River Valley in the San Pedro Springs area in modern-day Texas. They called the vicinity Yanaguana, meaning “refreshing waters”. In 1691, a group of Spanish explorers and missionaries came upon the river and Payaya settlement on June 13, the feast day of St. Anthony of Padua. They named the place and river “San Antonio” in his honor.
And that is where we are going!
We begin our trip in the Airspace Lounge, enjoying a continental breakfast of chips, sweets, coffee, orange juice, and, of course, wine.
We are flying on an Embraer 175. The First Class section has a 1-2 configuration, so one of us gets to have both a window seat and an aisle seat. 😎
It’s not long before we are in the air. Below us is Coronado; you can see the airstrip used by Naval Air Station North Island. Just across the bay is San Diego International Airport.
Our aircraft does a u-turn over the Pacific Ocean, then heads southwest following the US-Mexico border. Although a map shows large letters indicating the country’s name, there is, in fact, no such lettering, and we can only guess which country we are looking at. 😆
Okay, we are traveling during the Great Covid Panic of 2020 and “required” to wear masks covering our mouth and nose. My mask covers only my mouth. When the flight attendant brings the food, he asks me to cover my nose, also. I comply, then immediately remove my mask so I can eat. Yes, there is sense to it, but sadly it is non.
Notice, too, the classy glass of Chardonnay.
Remember the airplane scene from Home Alone? Yeah, First Class traveling has been seriously degraded by the airlines. Sigh…
We are all smiles as the aircraft begins its descent into Austin, Texas!
Hilton Austin Airport
Our flight was supposed to land in Austin at midnight-ish, so we booked our first night in a hotel. A few weeks before the flight, Alaska Air changed it to arrive significantly earlier, but we kept the booking because we couldn’t change the Airbnb reservation.
So we are staying in the Hilton Austin Airport hotel. The hotel is almost empty, and we see only two other small groups of people the whole time we are here.
This is a business hotel, for folks who need to visit Austin but have no reason to leave the airport area. There is not much to recommend it except for this ENORMOUS COW STARING AT US IN OUR ROOM. Go, Texas!!
Okay, enough of Austin. Let’s go to San Antonio!
Our rental house looks very Texan to our eyes: a modest house, fenced to protect us from local riff-raff, shaded by a large tree.
Near us is the Lonesome Rose, famous, I think, for being lonesome. Do the colors on the building indicate that the cowboys are gay-friendly? We don’t know.
We peer through the fence into the back of the establishment and note that the seats are stone or wood, not very conducive to sitting. Well, perhaps the cowboys spend all their time dancing…?
A building is painted with an angry person raging against the universe, demanding that optimism start with someone else. Meanwhile, blue beans are either escaping or attacking.
Giant Noise is a full-service public relations firm with experience handling corporate, media and entertainment clients. But I am most impressed with their large window, illuminating the building’s interior spaces. Notably, they are in a very quiet neighborhood. Just sayin’.
If you want to live in a niche neighborhood, well, live here!
We find a large cactus growing next to a building, and investigate. Based on the flowers, it appears to be a prickly pear.
The flowers, however, are a member of the species polythene, a particularly hardy species, perfect for the hot Texas sun.
Sometimes you like a tree so much that you invite it into your home.
“Pearl, located north of downtown San Antonio, provides a unique experience as a top culinary and cultural destination. The mixed-use space features retail, dining, picturesque green spaces, a riverside amphitheater, and the third campus of The Culinary Institute of America. As a former brewery operating from 1883 to 2001, Pearl reflects a vivid past while embracing the future with environmentally sustainable buildings mixed with historic architecture.”
Well, let’s go find out!
Pearl is pleasant enough with its open areas. I’m not sure it’s a “top culinary and cultural destination.” Well, maybe it is in Texas, right? That smoke stack looks intimidating; we don’t know what it’s for, but we are glad it’s not spewing smoke.
Hotel Emma, once a 19th-century brewhouse, is a 146-room boutique hotel. It has a library, bar, club room, restaurant and grocer. And a cool-looking bell tower.
This building is a former brew house. At one point, they decided that having two lines of advertisement for their business with letters that make no sense was a better option than three lines of advertisement that displayed the company’s name. Go figure.
There is an abundance of iron at Pearl. This sculpture probably represents the San Antonio river. But it could be a torture rack. Who can say?
A close view shows that it could very well have been an instrument of pain. Realistically, however, it’s probably just leftover metal from one of the breweries fashioned into fine Texan art.
If you ever wondered where old propane tanks go, wonder no more. The Texans turn them into planters. They probably need to repaint them now and then…
A shop in Pearl selling ice cream inspires us.
A model in torn clothing reclines on the ground to have her photograph taken. We wonder what magazine it will be shown in, but are too polite to ask. After all, it could just be a boudoir photoshoot as a gift to her lover.
There are almost no people here, so it is refreshing to see a family engaged in a traditional Texas sporting event, even if we do not understand the rules. Go Tigers!
An artist has cleverly used old bits of iron to fashion a waterfall. You can’t see it, but the water is slowly running out of the girder and down the chain into the top bowl, then very slowly dripping into the next two bowls. Although the rusted iron does not particularly appeal to us, the sound of the water is pleasant.
Continuing with the iron motif, an artist has created a rusty trellis attached to rusty girders. Perhaps in a few years the plant will cover the trellis and present a more attractive sight.
Pearl has a few eateries where folks can meet to socialize and enjoy the company of others. Let’s take a look, shall we?
A man sits in quiet contemplation while a child entertains itself, the woman on the phone oblivious to both.
This poor fellow, alone at Pearl, finds comfort with his phone on a lonely day.
A young lady, phone setting idly on the table, stares sadly at her laptop. If only she would remember to use her phone, perhaps she could call the guy in the striped shirt above…
A man waits patiently as his bakery partner plies the internet on her phone. Or…a woman plies the internet on her phone as her bakery partner contemplates ways to find a more attentive partner.
But enough of the Pearl. Let’s visit the River Walk!
The San Antonio River Walk
The San Antonio River Walk is the number one attraction in Texas, according to the people who run the San Antonio River Walk website. Well, that might be. But the downtown section of it has the class of Las Vegas and the culinary delights of a cruise ship.
The small, noisy boats zip up and down the river. And that’s all we know, because we didn’t do it because no one looks like they are having fun. 😐
The city of San Antonio has thoughtfully provided a number of pedestrian bridges to allow us to mingle in the crowds on both sides. It also allows us a nice view of the river once we get to the top.
The place is pretty crowded, but we find a spot to take a photograph. Yeah, pretty stupid when you can’t see people smiling.
There are restaurants everywhere, with table spaced such that tourists much walk around them. Against our better judgement, we decide to indulge.
We find The County Line, “a great place to enjoy a plate of legendary Texas bar-b-q and an ice cold beer or margarita. The County Line River Walk features an awesome river side patio and open-air bar.” We opt for the open-air, hoping to enjoy the river. They seat us well away from the river, near the entrance, so we can watch everyone coming and going. On the good side, since we are not near the river, it is much more quiet.
Our guest needs to be blindfolded, and we oblige. We order a plate of bar-b-q for two, hoping it is enough for three.
The food is delivered about one minute after we order it…meaning it was pre-cooked. There are a variety of meats, none of which could be distinguished by taste, unless chemical flavoring and salt—mostly salt—are flavors your tongue can discern.
We enjoy our repast, then head home for a restless night’s sleep and crampy diarrhea in the morning. Well, at least we tried. 🤑
More San Antonio River Walk
Fortunately, there is a less-crappy River Walk near our house. It is where the River Walk begins on the very northern tip, and it is a very different experience.
There are quiet waterfalls, plenty of greenery, joggers, birds, and wildlife. This is more to our style.
The friendly folks of San Antonio encourage celebrating happy holidays, without stating which holidays. We assume it’s all holidays because, why not?
The Lone Star State thoughtfully provides indications that folks in wheelchairs can find access to the river walk. At least, that’s what we think this means…
Growing out of the concrete is an odd-looking tree. We investigate.
Indeed, this is a large petrified tree. Let’s climb it! Unfortunately, we don’t have our climbing shoes. Damn.
Now we get it. It’s a Texas Sitting Tree.
Hey! What is that guy staring at???
Well, she did say it was feeling a bit breezy. I suppose we need to keep on eye on the folks walking past…
F.I.S.H. is a “cluster of 25 seven-foot-long creatures of hand-painted fiberglass resin that are anatomically correct models of long-eared sunfish, native to the river. Impressive by day and stunningly lit from within at night, the glowing fish are a beacon from blocks away, adding color and levity to a once neglected downtown area.”
The greenery attests to the amount of rain that falls here in San Antonio, about 30 inches annually. Yikes!
It’s time for some River Walk poses!
There are many trees that grow directly in the rocks. Must be a Texas thing…
These petrified Texas Sitting Trees are everywhere. The seat is *hard*, which is why we stack ourselves; only one butt has to suffer.
The photographer (me) finally gets to be in one of the photographs. But I have the smallest butt of all, so it doesn’t last very long. 😕
You might recall that we are visiting Texas during the Great Covid Panic of 2020. The governor of Texas, the Honorable Greg Abbott, in his infinite wisdom, has decreed that bowling alleys are permitted to stay open, as they are essential to the Texas way of life. (We are not making this up.) However, tubing down a river is a danger to us all, so all business that rent river tubes must close until he removes his cranium from his rectum. (That last part is the author’s poetic license.)
So, no one will rent a tube to us. Sad. However, we are hopeful (as in, full of hope), so we call tubing companies, hoping to find a solution.
After a few phone calls, we find The Original Tube House. Sadly, they cannot rent tubes to us. However, they can sell tubes to us, then purchase them from us when we return them, coincidentally for the exact price of renting a tube. Additionally, there are no liability forms to sign because we are not renting, so they save $$$ by not having to pay for insurance. U.S.A.! U.S.A.!
We buy our tubes then walk a short distance to the Guadalupe River. Cleverly, the river loops around so we will finish almost where we start, making it easy to walk back to the Tube Haus and sell them our tubes.
The trip takes about two hours. There are a few sections with “rapids”, which means shallow water that we sometimes have to walk through because it’s so shallow. But, mostly, it’s a slow trip where we can enjoy the peace and quiet of the Texas summer.
We hope you have enjoyed our time in Texas as much as we have. We have a bit more to share with you in our next edition, so, Y’all come back now, ya hear!