Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Deep in the Heart of Texas

Early last November, as the days grew shorter and the weather turned colder, I announced to Steve that we needed to take a winter trip to somewhere warm. We had initially set aside the Martin Luther King, Jr holiday weekend as a time to go to Denver to see the Avalanche play (our favorite professional hockey team), but sadly, the players and owners couldn't resolve their differences in time for the season's start, and we weren't sure there was even going to be a hockey season this year. Since we couldn't count on being able to see a hockey game, I reasoned that we should instead spend the weekend in a place that would most likely be warmer than Utah in January.

We threw around a few possibilities over the ensuing weeks before finally choosing San Antonio, TX. I've never been to Texas, so I could add it to my list of States I've Visited. Steve went to basic training at a base nearby, so he had been to San Antonio before, but it had been over 22 years and he didn't really remember a lot about it. We looked at the average temperatures in San Antonio in January and the mid-60s looked very appealing. By mid-December, we had our flights and hotel room booked. Texas, here we come!

My work had a "retreat" (i.e. party) Friday afternoon with lunch, bowling, and billiards. We could leave at any time, so I got home around 3pm, and Steve had already cleaned the house, taken Sadie to the kennel, and put our suitcase in the car. We were ready...and yet our flight didn't leave until 8pm, so we had to wait around for a couple hours before we headed south to the airport. We arrived in good time, took the shuttle from the economy parking lot to the airport, checked our bag, went through security, and then discovered that our flight was delayed by just over an hour. Not happy, but with weather being what it's been lately, we weren't too upset...until we discovered that our flight was delayed to poor scheduling of the flight crew. We ended up waiting over 2 hours for them to fly in from Kansas because someone hadn't scheduled them properly in order to get a flight crew to us in time. Steve swears we'll never fly that airline again (Delta).

Our delayed flight and the hour time change meant that we arrived in San Antonio just before 2am local time. I hadn't slept at all on the flight and was exhausted (and a little cranky). Fortunately, retrieving our bag from the luggage claim, finding a taxi, driving to the hotel, and checking in took just under 30 minutes (wow!), so we were snug in our room by 2:30am.

We slept until 10am and really took it easy getting ready that morning. I even took a relaxing bath, something I never do. I had given myself permission to not leave the hotel until noon (or later if need be) so I didn't feel rushed to get out sight-seeing right away. Steve thinks it's weird that I had to give myself permission to take it easy...I don't think it's weird, but it is a little sad. Something to work on.

When we woke up and opened the curtains in our 11th floor room, the entire outside wall being a window, we looked right at the famed Alamo. It was a block away from our hotel and we had a wonderful view of it! When we checked in, the hotel clerk had apologized that he didn't have a room facing the river walk to give us, but we were more than thrilled to be facing the Alamo.

At noon, we finally left our hotel room and went looking for food. We were both starving. We walked both sides of the part of the river walk that opened up behind our hotel (it was a wonderful location!) before choosing a BBQ joint called The Country Line (maybe The County Line??). It served us delicious, succulent, tender bbq brisket with yummy mashed potatoes and creamy, crispy coleslaw. As we ate, we saw numerous plates of beef ribs pass by our tables and swore that someday we'd go back and order a plate of them. They were so big they could have passed for dinosaur ribs a la The Flintstones. Mmmmm. Being stuffed, we couldn't get dessert at that time, but a few hours later, after doing some sightseeing, we returned for it. I ordered a delicious peach cobbler with Blue Bell vanilla ice cream and Steve got a huge piece of pecan pie, also with ice cream. If we hadn't sworn not to eat at the same place twice (for a meal), we might have eaten there every meal we had in San Antonio. It was good.

After lunch, we walked to the Alamo. I was surprised that we didn't have to pay to go inside, especially since it's the hottest tourist attraction in town. The grounds were lovely and peaceful. I wondered if we were there at a low-peak time, since there weren't as many tourists as I would have expected. I was grateful for the lack of crowds and really enjoyed touring the site. Afterward, we walked the river walk some more before seeing a spot where we could buy tickets for the water boat tour. We lucked into getting tickets just in time and didn't have to wait at all before the boat took off. Our guide was very humorous and knowledgeable and the 45 minutes flew by. We learned a lot about the area, including his favorite spots along the river walk to eat and get a drink. Based on his guidance, we later chose to eat dinner at a fancy restaurant after taking a long nap in our room and taking a short excursion to the wax museum.

I can't remember the name of the restaurant, but it was a good choice. Our primary focus was the guacamole the waiter makes right in front of you - our tour guide said it was fantastic and we agreed! We would go back there and just order two helpings of the guacamole - a spicy one for Steve and the normal one for me. The dinner bread, slices of french baguette, was also exceptional, but the rest of our meal wasn't as wonderful though still tasty. After walking off a bit of our dinner and exploring more of the river walk, we had ice cream at a little creamery. The river walk was incredibly crowded and we thanked our habit of eating earlier than the typical night crowd. We didn't have to wait at all to be seated for dinner, but as we left, we heard the hostess telling someone that the wait was at least an hour and a half. It was the same all along the river walk, which prevented us from getting a nice dessert, but we were happy with our ice cream (I had mango, Steve had an odd concoction that was kind of vanilla and kind of chocolate but didn't taste fully like either). We didn't really know what to do after dinner. We walked around our hotel but couldn't find anything that interested us. Most of the night-time entertainment seemed geared for drinking, which we don't do, so we ended up back in our room, watching movies on tv and reading. Neither of us minded, we're home-bodies at heart and were both pretty tired.

Before retiring for the night, we placed a room service request on our doorknob, ordering breakfast for the next morning around 8am. It was pricey, but we loved the idea of waking up Sunday morning and having breakfast in bed without having to go anywhere to get it. Unfortunately, something went wrong and we never got our breakfast! I had hopped in the shower at 8:15, hoping it would be delivered by the time I got out, but it wasn't. I finished getting ready and by 9:00 we still hadn't received our breakfasts, so we went to the front desk and let them know. They assured us they would make sure we weren't charged, which was nice, but now we had to figure out where to go for food. The was an Einstein's bagel shop in our hotel lobby, so we opted for it. I ordered a breakfast sandwich and wasn't impressed. I ate a few bites and let Steve have the rest. Instead, I ate a chocolate chip cookie. Not a good idea, as it later turned out.

We grabbed a taxi and had the driver take us to the zoo, about a 10-minute drive from our hotel. We walked around for 2 hours before realizing we hadn't seen any of the "big" animals. We'd seen lots of lizards, monkeys, birds, and such (oh and a couple way-cute bears), but where were the elephants, lions, tigers, etc??? We looked at our map and realized we had somehow missed the turn-off to get to these animals. Even with the aid of a map, we still had some difficulty finding where to go, and I got cranky. I probably would have been better if I had had food in my tummy, but I didn't. Steve is such a patient man. And, to my credit, I quickly realized I was being cranky and worked hard not to be. It helped that after an overcast morning, the sun was finally peeking through the disappearing clouds and sunshine really cheers me up. We finally found where to go and saw 2 huge hippopotami (sp?), elephants, zebras, an emu, tiger, lion, kangaroos, a rhino, and other animals. It was a cool zoo and we enjoyed seeing it. Fortunately, our taxi driver had given us his cell phone to call when we needed a ride back in since there wasn't another taxi to be seen at the zoo. Within 10 minutes of our call, he had picked us up. Very nice guy.

Steve quickly fed me lunch at a Mexican restaurant on the river walk. I chose poorly and ate an underseasoned taco salad that didn't have enough protein in it to keep me full long. Ah well. After lunch, we hopped a ride on the double-decker bus tour. It was one of those hop-on, hop-off deals that allows you to get on and off the tour buses as many times as you'd like throughout the day. We started by taking the full 40-minute tour around the city so we could decide where we wanted to get off. One of my favorite moments of the trip came while waiting for the bus to start the tour. We sat on the top deck and the sun shone on us in all its glory. I closed my eyes and basked in the warmth of the day. It was wonderful. Aaahhh. I had to put on my jacket once the bus started, though, because it got kind of chilly driving around. On the second go around, Steve and I got off at the Governor's Palace, a quaint building that had been renovated in the 1930's to look like it had around the time of the Alamo battle. It was interesting. We then walked the couple blocks to El Mercado, the Market, which houses all sorts of shops selling all sorts of items, though mostly touristy souvenir type stuff. The only souvenirs I planned on buying were a magnet and a t-shirt. I bought the magnet at the Alamo and the shirt at the airport. Neither of us are big souvenir people, so our money was safe at the market, except for a large ice-cream cone that Steve bought me, it was yummy! It was neat to see all the wares, though, and we stopped once to watch a street artist drawing caricatures of his patrons. We caught the bus again at the market and stayed on until the Tower of the Americas, although I really wanted to get off at King Williams street to see the huge historic homes. I knew it wasn't something Steve really wanted to do, and it would entail lots more walking and a long time, so I said we didn't have to. We had hoped that the bus would go down the street but it makes sense that they weren't allowed. I wouldn't want a bunch of tour buses going up and down my street all day either. Maybe the next time we go back we'll walk down it. Instead, we got off to see the Tower of the Americas, similar to the Space Needle in Seattle. The area around it had been designed for the 1968 Worlds Fair but it looked a little sad now, maybe because it's winter and nothing was blooming? It still looked cool, though, and we enjoyed the view from the top of the tower. Instead of hopping back on the bus, we decided to walk back to our hotel since it was only a few blocks away. We walked along a part of the river walk that we had seen by boat but hadn't walked yet. It was quiet and nice.

I was feeling kind of light-headed, usually a symptom of not enough calories and protein, so I really wanted to eat steak for dinner. We looked at a couple places as we walked along until finally choosing Saltgrass Steakhouse. I ordered a beautiful ribeye steak with fries and a house salad. Everything tasted marvelous, and I felt much better with some good food in me. Both of us were too full for dessert, so we walked around a bit. We were pleasantly surprised that the river walk was a lot less crowded and finally remembered that it was Sunday evening. We decided to go on the boat tour again since we didn't have anything else we wanted to do, it was fairly inexpensive, and it would be different touring it at night and with a different guide. I'm glad we did it because we did learn new things and it was fun seeing everything at night all lit up. And, our guide won brownie points with me when he found out we are Utah Utes fans and he said he thought it was horrible for Alex Smith to lose his starting QB job just for getting hurt when he'd been doing a good job before that. I couldn't agree more!! This time on the tour, when we got to the part of the river walk that goes by the Riverside Mall, Steve noticed the Official Dallas Cowboys store inside the mall. He's a huge fan, so we made plans to go the next day before heading to the airport. I had also spotted a Starbucks, so we decided to go there for breakfast before going to the Cowboys store.

After the tour, we stopped at a fancy Italian restaurant for dessert. We both ordered a slice of their chocolate mousse cake. It was pretty darn good, but I still think my mom makes the best chocolate cake in the world. We ordered milk to go with it, which was good because the cake was rich and decadant. Tired and feet-weary from all the walking we'd done during the day, we headed back to our room for tv watching, a bath (for me), and book reading before falling asleep.

Monday morning, we woke up and walked to the mall. We arrived just before 9am, an hour before the stores opened, so we had breakfast at Starbucks (a croissant and carmel apple cider for me, orange juice and cinnamon roll for Steve) then walked around looking at all the stores until the Cowboys store opened. Steve very, very rarely splurges on himself. He's a lot better at spoiling me. So, I made sure he bought whatever he wanted, regardless of price. He bought lots of good stuff and I was proud of him for treating himself for once. He felt a little guilty, though, despite me telling him not to, and insisted that I could buy whatever I wanted in the store. I didn't. Nothing sang to me. Nope, I lied. I just remembered that I bought a simple black t-shirt with San Antonio, TX stictched in pink on the front. So, I guess I ended up with two San Antonio t-shirts (since I bought another one at the airport later). He kept trying to get me to buy earrings, jackets, and stuff but for once I wasn't in the buying mood. C'est la vie.

We walked back to our room, made sure we had packed everything, then checked out of the hotel and grabbed a taxi to the airport. We arrived early, so relaxed and read near our gate. This time, our flight departed on schedule and the plane set down in Salt Lake City right around 4pm local time. It was a little depressing to see the haze and the snow, but it felt good to be home. Our dog was still at the kennel and wasn't scheduled to be picked up until the next day (today), so we enjoyed our last night by ourselves and not having to walk Sadie in the cold at night.

I thought it would be hard coming back to the cold and didn't really look forward to it. However, it's been easier than I thought. It's still way too cold but I feel like the small break from it makes bearing it just a bit easier. Like how sometimes a lunch break makes the afternoon work go better, smoother. We're thinking that we might take a winter trip to a warm locale every year. We'd like to go back to San Antonio (seriously, I'd go back just for the guacamole at the restaurant we ate at Saturday night!), but it would also be fun to explore new places. We'll see how things go. I'm just really glad we went.

Now it's time for us to start planning what other destinations we want to visit this year! We're thinking about a long trip in May and maybe another one, shorter, in the summer with my mom. Any suggestions of fun places to go? Where would you like to go on a vacation if money/kids/time-off weren't considerations?


Sarah P said...

It was probably "Country" because... isn't everything bigger in Texas?? (ha ha)

Did I ever tell you I made up a memory that I had been to the Alamo? I haven't, but for quite a while, I really thought I had. I think it's because when I was younger I watched "Cloak and Dagger" which was set there.

Where would I go...? It's hard to not consider those factors, but I would like to go to Great Britain (maybe during a warmer part of the year). Right now I'd like to go someplace warm like you did! Central America, perhaps? I've never been farther South than Puerto Vallarta. I forget sometimes that that part of the world exists.

Not that I've seen Africa... or many many many other places... I just sometimes forget about S. America. Is that sad? (Don't tell Wendy.) ;)

Cassie said...

You really need to get on GoodReads.com. I hear about all this reading going on and the whole time I'm wondering, what are you reading.

tearese said...

thanks for sharing all the details of your trip, it was like being there!
Husbands can be terribly patient beings, can't they? For all I get annoyed at mine, I know I can be ten times more annoying, but he never says anything.
Did it cost to go up in that tower? Because I've heard the Space Needle costs money just to ride the elevator, so I never went up there the whole seven years I lived in the area. One of my many regrets of things I never did when living in the city.
I don't like buying a lot of souveneers either, I feel like taking pictures are a good enough way to have the memories. And food. Food is a good souvenier :)
(I can't for the life of me think how to spell that word. Can you tell?)
Where would I like to go? Hmm. It's hard to think about that; I think I avoid daydreaming about stuff like that because I don't want to feel disapointed that I can't actually do it.
I think I'd enjoy a Mediterranean cruise. I'd love to visit Seattle again, if I didn't have to worry about driving, and we had money to do a bunch of stuff. I'd like to take Joseph to The Grand Canyon and Disneyland, because he's never been to either, but I DON'T want to go to Disneyland with my kids until they're much older. The thought of taking them now sounds like a nightmare to me...why do people think it's fun to wait in long lines with small kids? Ugh.
I would love to go to Great Britain, though I've realized it's more because my favorite tv shows are all filmed there and I have a fantasy of running into actors that I love, and seeing sites of shows...though I'd love the historic stuff and museums too.
Also, I still want to see Astoria Oregon. But in the summer.

aman said...

very nice article ! Peace of mind can never be obtained through the voice of the mind; peace comes only when the mind is aligned with the heart.