Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Wed 6 Mar - Austin, TX

We will be visiting a key site from Texas' history today. We are taking our rental car down to San Antonio to check out The Alamo, the remains of the fortress in that famous battle and siege during the Texan revolution in February-March 1836. The mexican side won that time, but subsequent events eventually lead to Texas independence in April 1836 (but they sort of count the siege at the Alamo as the start of independence which is why we think they celebrated on 2nd March).

San Antonio is an hour and a half south on I35 so a pretty straightforward drive to get there (and quite dull).

We arrived about 9.15am and went straight to the Alamo. Here we are in front of Alamo's Shrine doors, together with a lot of people.

Of course, today 6th March also happened to be the anniversary to end of the battle of Alamo (the fall as its known). We didn't know this until we arrived, but there was a lot of visitors there, with flowers and commemorations and people dressed up in clothes from that era, and a significant police presence as well.
The long queue of people wanted to visit the shrine but you can wander the rest of the grounds and museum without queuing. We were a bit pressed for time as we had to return our car to Enterprise in Austin by 3pm so we decided to give the shrine a miss and walked around the grounds and read lots of plaques instead, all easily accessible and free.
Here is the plaque to prove the date coincidence.
The Alamo was held by less than 200 soldiers against a Mexican army of more than 1,800. The reason so much is known is that very eloquent letters with pleas for help, and statements of fighting to the death, did get out to surrounding forts but little could be done to help due to other battles raging nearby. When the Alamo fell, all the soldiers were "put to the sword" as per orders of General Santa-Anna. No prisoners were to be taken.
Here is Di outside the old church, now a gift shop, and still a beautiful building.
And Hans outside the same place.
Di next to flags of the different masters of San Antonio and Texas throughout the modern centuries.
There was an exhibition on the grounds of various letters and papers from the Alamo. Below is a copy of the declaration of Texas independence that we bought for a donation of $1. They had an original document on display (one of 13 still in existence out of 1000 documents at the time).
There was one other thing that we also wanted to do in San Antonio. The River Walk is promoted heavily and is easily accessible and nearby Alamo. See map below.
The loop that we did is the old bend in the San Antonio river which was saved by the county council and locals from being paved over when they dammed the river more than 80 years ago. Fantastic foresight for its time.
The River Walk is incredibly beautiful. You stroll on paths right on the edge of the river and cars and traffic disappear from sight and sound. It's very Venetian. This is where we started the loop.

Different photos below from along the way.

We started around 10.30am so it was still relatively peaceful, not many tourists yet and the workers were finalizing their daily maintenance tasks. Plenty of ducks along the way - very very tame, and unsurprisingly looked very well fed.

A self portrait in one stretch near a lovely hotel which was once a school called St Mary's Institute.

The architecture in San Antonio is impressive. We are not sure what the building in the background of the photo below is, we think that it is the Tower Life building, but you are looking around all the time to take it all in. We did the loop twice.

A "famous" ?? musician was doing a music video on the river. Based on his outfit we figure he likes 2 kinds of music... No, we have no idea who he was.

You pass a small old village called La Villita which survived the many river floods (before the dam was built) because its on a little hill. Part of it they have converted into a "river theatre" called Arneson's Theatre so some Norweigian connection there, with the stage on one side and grassed steps to sit on across the other side.

We could just imagine a little bit of opera being performed on a summer night...

We stopped for lunch at a local cheap Mexican restaurant near the main plaza. All the workers seemed to be there with lunch specials around $6 it was certainly affordable. The food was ok but we are spoiled - we've had such great Mexican food in places like Palm Springs, El Paso and Santa Fe.

After lunch we wandered the streets a little and the buildings here are just as interesting. There were quite a few lovely old Theatres along E Houston St.

Willie Nelson is playing here on 11 March.

And some remnants of the German immigrant history - who knew Di's Dad's could bake?

Di stepped inside to see if the products looked "true German" but alas no. American style cakes, no strudel or brotchen.

We learned somthing about the immigrant history in Texas today. Europeans have been here about 200 years. The Mexicans made land and opportunities available here for Colonists from northern America and also Europeans. They wanted Texas to be populated as a buffer against the commanche indians. The deal was so good that in a short amount of time 30,000 people immigrated here and outnumbered the Mexicans 10 to 1. Then the Mexican government got nervous about too many non-Mexicans wanting independence (which is of course what happened and a war was fought). We don't think the Mexican government at the time really thought that idea through...

Unfortunately our time in San Antonio was very limited. Damn we did not plan that well. We could have spent several days here. San Antonio seems to be a great town with lots to see and do.

Back in Austin... Near our hotel these competing ads below made us laugh...the one on the left "Looking for a Job?" Competing with the low down on the far right which says "Stop looking. Start Living". Hans can subscribe to this...

After returning our rental car to Enterprise in North Austin, we walked the 2km back to the motel and felt like an afternoon refreshment.

Where better than our local IHOP (International House of Pancakes) where Di can once more have tomato juice (her favourite). She's ordered this drink there 3 time in 3 days and now they know her! Yes, Ma'm. Hans had their bottomless coffee.

Back to the motel for a quiet night and frozen meals for dinner. Early morning tomorrow, Houston via Megabus...


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