A stroll in paradise
Every great city has its history, traditions, culture, nightlife, and popular attractions. When it comes to a vibrant blend of it all, San Antonio tops the list for me and Dan. It’s no wonder we were eager to share this city’s colorful character with our friends Richard and Maureen when they visited us from England.
We checked into the Hyatt Regency which sits on the banks of the River Walk and offers all the comforts of a luxurious getaway. We were greeted with Texas hospitality while marveling at the hotel’s 16-story atrium --filled with blue-green cascading pools, a riot of blooms and palm trees.
The four of us ambled along the river’s winding path, soaking up the mid-day sun and admiring the lush greenery. According to locals, the River Walk was conceived by architect Robert H. H. Huggman, a dreamer who had fished along the tree-lined banks as a boy. He envisioned a haven that echoed the cities in Spain – complete with gardens, cafes, galleries, specialty shops and elegant hotels. Huggman presented his plans to the city in 1929 and ground was broken 10 years later. His vision has since evolved into today’s splendid masterpiece – a welcome retreat from the bustling streets above.
Before long, the sun’s heat was beading at our temples and our feet were pleading for relief. It was time to kick back and relax with a cool drink. Ibiza’s was just around the bend – a good choice, in the end, for quesadillas washed down with beers, Margaritas, and cheers to Huggman.
The Alamo was originally built in 1718 as the first of four missions for Indian converts. It later became a post for the Spanish army. In the early years, the San Antonio River, known as the “Paseo Del Rio,” supplied water to the missions. But its rich history reaches back to 8000 B.C. when ancient Indians hunted bison along the river.
Whether you’re interested in history, nightlife, relaxation, or a romantic getaway, you’ll find it in San Antonio – not to mention the culinary scene is second to none, from burgers and brews to top shelf cuisine and a nice Cabernet.
When Rich and Maureen joined us, we headed to Market Square. A visit to San Antonio wouldn’t be complete without a trip to this festival market. It’s not on the River Walk, but it’s definitely worth a trudge up to the real world above. If you go, take time to mosey through El Mercado, a Mexican marketplace filled with local folk art, cowboy hats, sombreros, piñatas, religious artifacts and other what-nots.
After a delightful browse, we treated ourselves to lunch at Mi Tierra Café and Bakery which serves up some of the best Tex-Mex fare you’ll find in the city. Maybe that’s because everything is made on site, according to our server who brought a warm pile of corn and flour tortillas with our entrees. We learned that the Cortez family opened the cafe doors one morning in 1943 and haven't closed them since. While dining, roving mariachi entertained us with “Guantanamera,” my favorite ballad from the 60s. It was definitely a fiesta moment!
After a Margarita stop at Michelinos, the guys headed to the Hyatt’s rooftop pool which has a magnificent view of The Alamo and the city’s skyline. Maureen and I were lured by the open-air cruise down the scenic rio. The 40-minute tour offers a splendid blend of history and humor and is well worth the $7. At times, it was like floating in paradise. Our entertaining narrator shared historical snippets of the city as we drifted by towering cypress, under stone footbridges, and past a colorful profusion of umbrellas sheltering the lunch crowd from the sun.
That evening, we cozied up to a riverside table at the Poloma Grill where we sat for hours, content to set the world right over a few bottles of wine while nibbling on shrimp quesadillas. We ended up at the Hyatt for a nightcap, listening to a jazz duo at the patio bar. From there, it was just a few steps, through the door, up the elevator, and home. Ah, the good life!
No matter what you’re looking for, if you love to put a little exploring into it, visit San Antonio, especially the River Walk. Discover its old world charm and the absolute fusion of natural beauty it has to offer. It takes a holiday to the nth degree, especially when sharing it with friends. You’ll not only remember The Alamo, you’ll remember every moment spent in this extraordinary city.