June 14, 2005 > San Antonio: 'Remember the Alamo' and experience more
San Antonio: 'Remember the Alamo' and experience more
by Praveena Raman
I recently traveled to San Antonio, Texas for a conference and had the pleasure of exploring the city in the company of a direct descendant of Davy Crockett - my colleague Marion Severy, of Hayward. Even with a busy conference schedule we discovered that San Antonio has many surprises worth experiencing.
Our delightful experience began at The Oge House - Inn on the Riverwalk, a bed and breakfast in the historical King William district. It is located on the San Antonio River's famed Riverwalk, a 16-mile tourist attraction that draws thousands to its banks every year/
The Oge House, (pronounced "Oh-jhay"), is a beautiful Victorian mansion built in 1857 and named after its original owner Louis Oge, a Texas Ranger and business man. The House is surrounded by an acre-and-a-half of lush gardens shaded by graceful oak and pecan trees. The inn also has a beautiful white gazebo and a double tiered verandah on its ground. The best part is it is only a 15 minute walk from San Antonio's downtown.
We were shown to our room, a very lovely suite furnished with period antiques and a luxurious bathroom. Oge House's accommodating innkeeper, Megan Macdaniel, made sure guests were looked after and their needs met. Breakfast was a memorable treat that included unusual but delicious items like; grapefruit topped with brown sugar and butter and broiled just right; fresh strawberries on lightly toasted crisp bread rounds, topped with whipped cream; and baked eggs topped with cheese and Tabasco sauce. Oge House is situated in the King William neighborhood, lined with beautiful, privately owned Victorian houses many of which are bed and breakfasts. Two of the majestic homes, Guenther House and Steve's Homestead, are open to the public for tours.
Depending on whom you ask, Texas' most popular attraction is either Riverwalk or the Alamo. Although no epic took place along the riverbank, the strip of land has a history all its own. In 1929, architect Robert H.H. Hugman drew a plan to create landscaped and natural parklands along the banks of the San Antonio River. It was not until 1960s that the area became what it is today; rich with esplanades, shops, restaurants and five-star hotels. The canals, music and lush surroundings remind one of being in Paris or Venice.
One of the gems on Riverwalk is La Villita, the oldest village in San Antonio, populated by local artisans and craft shops. "This is my favorite place" said my colleague Marion Severy. "I visit this place every time I come here."
A number of restaurants along the walk offer good Tex-Mex, like Boudro's, which has a variety of seafood dishes on the menu. From here, one can listen can listen to everything from a band of mariachis to Scottish bagpipes.
We then took to the streets of San Antonio, which are a level up from Riverwalk and easily accessible by stairs. Once on street level, most of the area's attractions are within walking distance from one another. History came alive for us at the Alamo. The landmark resides in the center of town, surrounded by restaurants, shops and offices. Walking through its garden, we stumbled across the Alamo Library run by the Daughters of the Republic of Texas. The library has a wealth of historical information accessible to researchers and the general public. After visiting the Alamo we added to our experience by watching the movie, The Alamo, at an IMAX theatre in Rivercenter Mall.
An unusual place to visit near the Alamo is The Buckhorn Saloon & Museum where we were treated to a dinner reception. It has three levels; on the first floor is the bar and saloon-turned-café, the top floor houses a dance floor and in between is a museum worth seeing with its deer with mutated antlers and shrunken heads. In the center of town is HemisFair Park, built for the 1968 World's Fair. It has beautiful waterfalls, art pieces and the 605 foot high Tower of the Americas, similar to Seattle's Space Needle.
About three miles from the heart of the city are other noteworthy attractions including the campus of the Our Lady of the Lake University, botanical gardens and four Missions. Marion and I visited the university to attend a Contra dance, an American form of folk dancing comprised of jigs, reels, marches - it has been described as "an amusement park ride we make for ourselves."
Not only did we meet many gracious locals, we also encountered three other attendees from the same conference. After the dance, one of the dancers, an architect, offered to drop us off at our inn. On the way we stopped at Mi-Tierra, San Antonio's oldest Mexican restaurant. Located in El Mercado, it is open 24 hours and serves delicious food. El Mercado is a large indoor shopping area reminiscent of markets in Mexico. It can be reached from downtown by the yellow line trolley which is a pleasant experience and very convenient.
While enquiring about the various tours of missions we learned about Doug Marley's Historical Tours which was exactly what we were looking for. The tour was operated by a well-informed gentleman that gave us a fun quiz at the end of the two-and-a-half hour trip. We stopped at Mission San Jose, the "Queen of the Missions, " for the majority of the tour. The serenity and simplicity of the church decorated with orchids, crepe paper and a large white dove takes one's breath away. The church is still being used and has regularly scheduled services. Apart from Mission San Jose we also visited Mission Concepcion, San Fernando Cathedral and the Spanish Governor's Palace.
If you go to San Antonio, here are some of my favorite places to try while you are there.
King William District:
El Mirador (Mexican), famous for its sopas or soups, 722 S. St. Mary's, (210) 225-9444, M: 6:30a-3p, Tu-Th: 6:30a-9p, F & Sa: 6:30a-10p, Su: 9a-3p
Boudro's (Steaks & Seafood, Southwestern) **River barge dining. Good food and guacamole. 421 E. Commerce, www.boudros.com, (210) 224-8484, Hours: Sun - Thu 11a.m. - 11p.m., Fri& Sat: 11a.m. - 12a.m.
Zuni Grill (Southwestern) **River barge dining - parties only. 511 Riverwalk, (210) 227-0864. Open daily: 7:30 a.m. - 11 p.m.
The Buckhorn Saloon Café (American) Good and reasonably priced. 318 E. Houston St., (210) 247-4000. Open daily from 11 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Mi Tierra Café & Bakery (Mexican) On-site bakery with fresh pastries and candies. 18 Produce Way, www.mitierracafe.com, (210) 225-1262. Open 24 hours a day.
Oge House - Inn on the Riverwalk - 209 Washington St, (210) 223-2353, www.ogeinn.com or www.nobleinns.com - Don and Liesl Noble, owners, Megan Macdaniel Innkeeper.
Doug Marley's Historical Tours - (210) 655-2778; cell - (210) 347-1958. Departs from Alamo Plaza. Adults $17; Children (8-14 yrs.) $5.