Day Thirty Eight – Tuesday, September 27, 2016


Today was our second full day in San Antonio, and honestly, this morning when we got up and discussed what we were going to do today, we were a little conflicted.  We considered getting the car out of the garage, and exploring Texas Hill Country, but since we’re only going to Corpus Christi tomorrow, which is 2-3 hours away, we thought we might head that way tomorrow, before heading to the Gulf Coast.  So ultimately, since we are staying in downtown San Antonio, we figured that San Antonio was why we decided to stay here, and that we should explore again today.  We are glad we did!

As usual, our day started with our Homewood Suites breakfast, a short visit back in the room, and then we headed out to explore the city.  When we bought our Double Decker Bus Tour of the city, the package we got came with two additions, a ticket to the Buckhorn Tavern Museum, and a San Antonio River Cruise.  We got out our San Antonio map, and walked the 5 or 6 blocks to the Buckhorn Tavern to start our day.

Albert Friedrich opened the Buckhorn Tavern in 1881, and he realized that since many folks coming off the trail didn’t have money, he’d accept horns and antlers in exchange for beer and whiskey.  Because of that, the Buckhorn Tavern contains one of the largest and most unique collections of horns and antlers in the world.  While not in it’s original location, and really more of just a tourist stop today, the Buckhorn Tavern has been a part of history.  From Teddy Roosevelt being a patron to the rumored planning of the Mexican Revolution at the bar by Pancho Villa, in its long history, it has seen it all in San Antonio!

After exchanging our vouchers for tickets, the first person we met was the Buckhorn Cowboy, who told us what we were about to see in the various museums on the property, and suggesting that going through the museum with a drink was his favorite way to see the museum!  Talking to him further, he told us he was originally from that great Cowboy Rearing state, New Jersey!  Sorry we didn’t get a picture with him, but we did take his advice and got a couple of margaritas for the tour!

The first museum on site is the Buckhorn Museum, which contains over 500 species of wildlife.  There were many displays, putting the stuffed animals in their natural habitat.  Think Museum of Natural History stuff.  Then there was a big “Side Show Exhibit”, with many items about PT Barnum and others of his ilk, as well as things you could actually participate in, like a tilting room, water running uphill, and other optical illusions.  In 2006, they added the Texas Ranger Museum to the attraction, which contains many authentic Texas Ranger artifacts, and a recreation of San Antonio at the turn of the century called, Ranger Town!

Of course, like any good tourist attraction, you exited into the gift shop!  A very nice employee started talking to us, and like everyone we’d encountered in San Antonio, was friendly and very helpful.  I’m not sure if that’s the reason or not, but I do have to report that this was the first gift shop we have been in on the trip, that Susie made substantial purchases.

After our shopping spree, we headed over to the Menger Hotel I talked about in yesterday’s blog.  Just across the street from the Alamo, the Menger Hotel was built in 1859 (just a bit more than 20 years after the famous Alamo Battle) and the famous Menger Hotel Bar was allegedly the place that Theodore Roosevelt recruited his famous Rough Riders calvary brigade!  I say “allegedly”, because they make the same claim at the Buckhorn Tavern!  Yesterday, we saw it from the outside, but today we ventured inside, and it is a beautiful hotel!

We attempted to have a drink in the Menger Hotel Bar, but unfortunately it’s a really tiny place, with but 10 seats at the bar, and they were all full.  Oh well, another day in the future perhaps.  Since we were right at the beginning of the double decker bus tour, we decided to take a ride on the upper level, see the early part of the tour again, and get off at the stop for the River Cruise.


We had a different driver today, and the tour seemed to function much better than yesterday, and since the weather was better (still overcast, but no rain), we enjoyed it better than yesterday.   The stop for the River Cruise is on St Mary Street and Crockett Street, which is just 2 blocks from our hotel, so really in the neighborhood.  We got on the boat with our Captain/Tour Guide Mike, and he did a great job in the 35 minutes or so we were with him.  We finally saw the Riverwalk that we’d seen in all the pictures of San Antonio, and are planning to return there for dinner tonight.

After our cruise, we walked back a couple of blocks to a Walgreens we’d passed earlier to pick up a couple of items we needed.  San Antonio is very interested in maintaining what is old, and you could clearly see this, from the vintage Walgreens sign, as well as other buildings right across the street.

Then we walked home to the Homewood Suites.  It was a good day.  We walked, the humidity seemed better today (or we’d gotten a little more used to it), and we saw a lot.  Literally on every corner and every block in San Antonio there seems to be something to see, or take a picture of, or a plaque to read!  According to our iPhones, we walked a little over 2 miles today, and we’re not done yet!!

After crashing and having a Cuba Libera (Rum and Coke to you Gringos) in our room, we changed, and went downstairs for the Homewood Suites Happy Hour!  Same Drinks, different snacks tonight!  We saw our two friends from last night (the Lady from Trinidad and the Gentleman from Kentucky), but as there were no tables near each other, we just said hello.


Tonight we decided to fly without reservations for our dinner, but knew we wanted to head back to the section of the Riverwalk we saw while on the boat cruise this afternoon.  We opened Apple Maps on my iPad, and looked for names of restaurants along the Riverwalk.  We wanted something (1) that was Mexican and (2) that was an easy walk from the hotel.  We checked out the websites of several restaurants we found, and after careful consideration, we picked the Iron Cactus!  So after having just one glass of wine each tonight, we headed out about 6:30, and we walked up St Mary Street, and went down to the Riverwalk at Crockett Street. Iron Cactus was just beyond where we got the boat this afternoon.   We went up to the Hostess Station, asked for a table, and as she had nothing outside without a wait, we said we’d go inside.  Unfortunately, the table she assigned to us was about as far back in the restaurant as you could go, so Susie went up and asked for one of the tables in a window alcove, and they moved us!  What an excellent move, because we had a great view, air conditioning, and saw so many people swatting bugs outside!!!  We also had a wonderful waiter, Richard who helped us through dinner!

Richard, Susie and the Iron Cactus

He suggested to us a special Margarita they were featuring tonight, and they were great!  He also suggested the Table Side Guacamole – 2 whole avocados, onions, peppers, tomatoes, citrus, cilantro.  He said it was excellent, and it was.  Then he told us about some of his favorite dishes on the menu, and we picked one of them, Southwest Paella.  We both decided to have it, and at Richard’s suggestion, we only got one order (so there was enough room for dessert), and it was delicious and more than enough for us!  Jumbo shrimp, mussels, bay scallops, jalapeño Texas sausage, roasted poblanos, lobster cream, and cilantro-lime rice.  Hungry yet?

Full Drinks, 1/2 Guac, and sorry, ate all the Paella and then took picture!

There was indeed room for dessert, and after Richard brought us the Dessert Tray, we decided to split Mexican Donuts!  Homemade with sweet cream filling, powdered sugar and a Kahlua fudge sauce for dipping!  Heavenly!!  I’m sorry to say that Susie and I ate the four of them, before we even remembered to take a picture, so you are just going to have to let the words paint a picture for you!

Our suggestion for you is that if you happen to be in San Antonio, and if you want to try and duplicate one of, if not the best, meal we’ve had on this trip, you get yourself to the Iron Cactus Mexican Grill and Margarita Bar (they have over 100 varieties of tequila) at 200 Riverwalk, Suite 100!  If you really want to have the best meal, served by someone who will make the meal even better, then you MUST ask for Richard!  What a great way to end our last day in San Antonio!!

After dinner we walked the Riverwalk a bit, and took some more pictures, before heading back to our hotel!

As we were walking towards home, Susie and I agreed that today was probably the most perfect day we have had at a tourist destination.  Don’t get me wrong, we’ve had some great experiences at Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Mount Rushmore, and all the other wonderful places we’ve seen, but from start to finish, today was just wonderful!  If we had to do it again, we’d stay longer in San Antonio.  Perhaps an All Texas Road Trip one year is in our future!

Tomorrow we leave San Antonio, and head to Corpus Christi on the Gulf Coast, and get nearer and nearer to the cruise, which seemed so far off, but which starts this Sunday!  We will leave San Antonio with nothing but fond thoughts of the town, the Homewood Suites by Hilton, and the people we’ve met and the experiences we’ve had!  It was a great 3 nights and one of our favorite places on Our Big Adventure!!

See you tomorrow!

PS – Walking total for the day, a little over 3 miles!

Day Thirty Seven – Monday, September 26, 2016


Welcome to our first full day in San Antonio, Texas.  We woke this morning in our suite at the Homewood Suites on The Riverwalk to a cloudy and rainy day.  After getting ready, we went downstairs for a wonderful, full and enjoyable buffet breakfast.  The best of our trip so far, and perhaps a reason to stay at Homewood Suites!  The weather forecast showed for improving weather, but looks like we’ll have to wait till tomorrow for sun.  One thing we didn’t have to wait for was humidity!  Welcome back to the kind of sticky weather we had most of the summer in the New York/New Jersey area!  When we left the hotel this morning, the temperature was in the low 70s, but the humidity was up in the high 80% range!  A real change from the very low humidity we’ve experienced for weeks. Frankly, it’s been so long since we’ve felt like this, we can’t remember!  Don’t imagine it will get any better when we get to the Texas Gulf Coast, or into the Caribbean Sea during our cruise!

The view from our room this morning

We walked over to the historic Menger Hotel, where we picked up our San Antonio tour tickets.  Just across the street from the Alamo, the Menger Hotel was built in 1859 (just a bit more than 20 years after the famous Alamo Battle) and the famous Menger Hotel Bar was the place that Theodore Roosevelt recruited his famous Rough Riders calvary brigade!

Once we got the tickets, we headed over to the tour bus, and low and behold, it was obviously planned for us so that we couldn’t miss it!


Along the tour we passed the Oldest VFW Post in America (from Veterans of the Spanish/American Bar).


We also heard about the Scottish Rite Cathedral

And we passed the Emily Morgan Hotel.  We had no idea who Emily Morgan was, but were told that according to legend, she was captured by the Mexican Calvary in 1836, and was forced to travel with the troops of General Santa Anna.  On April 21 of that year, Santa Anna’s forces were defeated by an Army led by Sam Houston at the Battle of Jacinto in 18 minutes.  Supposedly, Santa Anna was unprepared because he was having sex with Emily!  It was also suggested that she may have been the inspiration for the song, The Yellow Rose of Texas, but historians think both suggestions are more story than history.  She had no involvement with the hotel, but it’s a good story, you must agree.

We also passed a number of old theaters, that after closing, because of changing tastes in the mid 20th Century, were resurrected by residents as performance spaces.  The Majestic, the Aztec, and the Empire are busy places, and in the sense of full disclosure, the person performing at the Empire is no relation to us, although he is from New Jersey!

The bus tour also passed the Esquire, where we ate dinner last night,


and this place.  Have no idea of it’s name, but the guide told us it was originally a convent (see the cross) but is now a bar!


Then it was time to explore the Alamo.  It seems that a lot of people have been somewhat disappointed by the Alamo, as it seems a lot smaller than most of us imagine.  I already knew that the John Wayne movie of the same name, was not filmed at the real Alamo, but rather a replica that was indeed bigger than the original (found this out reading a John Wayne bio), but I have to put myself in the disappointed category.  Not sure if it was because it was smaller than I thought, or because it was not in a setting that I imagined.  Having seen it in many movies, books, etc in a certain setting, it was odd to see it in the middle of a city!  San Antonio is, after all, the third largest city in Texas, and the area surrounding the Alamo was a city, with restaurants, shops, and tourist destinations.  I guess my expectations were not realistic!

After visiting the Alamo, we went over to the Shops at River Center, to see the IMAX movie, Alamo, The Price of Freedom!


As luck would have it, we’d just missed the start of the 1 PM showing, and we had to wait till 2 PM.  Again, as luck would have it, there happened to be a Margaritaville Cafe on the River Walk in the same mall.  Guess where we ended up killing 45 minutes??  A couple of “Boat Drinks” (two 5 O’Clock Somewheres, followed by two Bahama Mamas) with Gabe the bartender, surrounded by our friend Mr. Buffet and his music, and time passed very quickly!

San Antonio seems a little empty to us, and the IMAX Theater was no different, as we were two of just 5 folks that watched the Alamo movie.  It was a very good 45 minute telling of what happened at the Alamo during the February 23rd to March 6th period of 1836, and we enjoyed it.  Just an FYI…although we were sitting just a block or so from the real Alamo, this movie was also, I believe, filmed at the same location that the John Wayne movie was shot.

We walked around the Alamo Plaza a little bit more after the movie, but the humidity had gotten to us, and we decided to walk back to our hotel and crash for a bit, with a couple of rum and cokes, in the air conditioning.

Tonight we headed downstairs about 5:30 for the Manager’s Complimentary Social (free drinks and snacks). We had a couple of glasses of white wine, and a nice conversation with a man from Kentucky and a lady from Trinidad.  One of the nice thing about the Homewood Suites is the evening social, and the ability to meet and enjoy people from different places!


At about 6:45, we headed next door to the Westin Hotel, and the Italian restaurant,  Zocca Cuisine D’Italia, where we had a 7 PM reservation.  We had a lovely dinner, with a bottle of bubbly, a couple of great apps (sorry, we ate them before the pictures), two great pasta entrees, and dessert!

On the way home, we had a lovely walk along the River Walk back to the Homewood Suites.  It is probably the nicest it’s been all day, and we enjoyed the walk, the sights we saw, and just being out and about!



Our Bedroom Window, overlooking the River Walk

Tomorrow, day two in San Antonio, and the weather forecast calls for partly cloudy skies, and a high of 79.  Let’s hope the humidity isn’t as high, but I wouldn’t count on it!  Have a good night, see you tomorrow!