What Travel Writers Say

San Antonio Serenity

© By Bruce Soderholm
  San Antonio City View On a searing Saturday in June, I'm told by a local that San Antonio is among the top three U.S. destinations for convention planners, second only to San Francisco in popularity. As my visit unfolds I begin to see why. I decide my first destination is going to be the famed Riverwalk. Paved walkways lining both sides of the river sport an abundance of colourful umbrellas. Stores and souvenir stands have access to the Riverwalk, but the lion's share of its frontage is taken up by bars and restaurants. Salty tortilla chips, fresh-made salsa, and frozen margaritas make for excellent appetizers along this stretch of river, but people-watching is the appropriate entrée.
     It's helpful to know that the city sits twenty feet below sea level, drawing in the San Antonio River to wind through its midst. This geography has its distinct advantages, but is also potentially the city's nemesis. In 1921 a major flood washed away a large amount of the city's infrastructure, and when it was rebuilt, flood control was its key feature. More waterways were dug for the city's hosting of the World's Fair in 1968, and as a result, the simplest way to tour the city core is on a riverboat cruise, second only to the Alamo as a must-see-and-do tourist activity. I like my tour and the guide; I like the waterway, even if it's not Venice or Stockholm. As a passenger, you glean a few random place facts about the San Antonio Hilton or the Casino building that houses actor Tommy Lee Jones. There are moments though, when the boats, filled to the scuppers with digitizing tourists, resemble the Jungle Cruise at Disney a little too closely, but that fault's easily forgiven.

The Alamo at dusk  Detail on Alamo wall  Bridge  Dinner on River Barge  Paseo del Rio view 

     By Saturday night, the heat has dissipated like dry ice used on a rock concert stage. San Antonio comes alive in the club scene, and is well known for its jazz offerings. In the courtyard of La Villita, an artisan's village, I'm witness to a Mexican wedding reception. A small boy in a tuxedo has wandered out onto the sidewalk and is cramming some food in his mouth, delightfully ignorant of cummerbund decorum.
     The next morning finds me in the midst of the Mexican market. There are the predictable caricature artists and trinket tinkers, but I find a photographer with beautiful prints of a mission outside the city. A Mexican breakfast at the iconic Mi Tierra Bakery Restaurant is a kaleidoscope of bright colours and suspended piñatas sound-tracked by Mariachi music. The heat outside increases but is tempered by fans blowing water vapour from the eaves. Inside the indoor market, a troop of young Hispanic dancers displays their skill by replicating the traditional dances of numerous Mexican provinces. Young men in black with sombreros stamp their heels in subtle machismo. The senoritas become a centrifuge of swirling, double-helix movement, their skirts in figure-eight motion peeling off vivid lines like the shavings of coloured pencils falling from a hand-held sharpener. A lovely girl with J-Lo features has the brightest smile I've ever seen. She's clearly been taught to emphasize it, but it doesn't seem false. The culture around here, the music, the dance, seems organic and less commercial. While it clearly supports the tourist trade, it looks as if it has a life of its own.

Pinatas  River Cruiser  River Walk Evening  River Walk Evening  Umbrellas on River Walk 

     A bus ride across town and the best known attraction in San Antonio is now in sights, The Alamo. Formerly a mission, it became a fort used to fight for Texan independence in the war against Mexico. Heroically and tragically, less than two hundred men held out against thousands of soldiers before succumbing to the huge odds. Inside it says to be quiet - it's a shrine. It may not be a traditional shine, but it and the rest of the city certainly inspires a mystical type of joy that will continue to attract its own fair share of pilgrims.

Bruce Soderholm lives in St. Catharines, Ontario. He teaches English at a Niagara region high school while pursuing freelance writing opportunities. He has written regular columns for Niagara This Week and has been a Niagara Voices columnist for The St. Catharines Standard. He has published feature and short articles for such diverse publications as Geez, Beyond Ordinary Living, and a number of faith-based publications.

Photo Credits
San Antonio Chamber of Commerce

If you go
San Antonio, Texas
as seen on
Visit San Antonio: http://www.visitsanantonio.com/index.aspx
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/San_Antonio,_Texas
Wikitravel: http://wikitravel.org/en/San_Antonio

What's happening, money, distance, time?
Media Guide: http://www.abyznewslinks.com/
Currency conversion: http://www.xe.com/ucc/
Distance calculator: http://www.indo.com/distance/
Time zone converter: http://www.timezoneconverter.com/

Transportation, visas, health, maps and temperature
Airlines (Wikipedia): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_airlines
Embassies/Consulates (Embassy World): http://www.embassyworld.com/
Health precautions (WHO): http://www.who.int/ith/en/
Google interactive map: http://maps.google.com/
Temperature (Temperature World): http://www.temperatureworld.com/


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