It was our third wedding anniversary and we wanted to get away. San Antonio beckoned with its romantic River Walk, rich history and beautifully preserved architecture. Almost 300 years old, the city is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the United States – a unique blend of the old and the new.
San Antonio is a completely walkable city but as it was Labor Day weekend, the temperatures were still at least 100°F. We tried to beat the heat by taking guided tours and ducking in and out of air conditioned attractions. We just had to see the famous River Walk so we started our first day on one of the Rio San Antonio Cruises (riosanantonio.com) boats. These can be picked up at any of the three ticket stations and took us on a 45-minute journey along the San Antonio River.
The San Antonio River Walk is a five mile-long network of walkways along the river, winding through the downtown area. It’s a full story below street level, treating visitors to a picturesque amble alongside shops, bars, restaurants and cafes. The city is currently lengthening the River Walk to 15 miles, which will extend the pathways. The Museum Reach was added in 2009, connecting downtown with the museums, cultural districts and the historic Pearl Brewery in the north. Mission Reach will connect to four of the city’s Spanish colonial missions in the southern part of the city. The grand opening celebrations are actually taking place this Saturday, October 5th!
Our next stop was The Alamo, Texas’s most famous historic site, setting of an epic battle for independence where 189 lives were lost in 1836. Originally named Misión San Antonio de Valero, the Alamo was first a home to missionaries and their Indian converts. In the early 1800′s the Spanish military stationed a cavalry unit there, giving the mission its current name, Alamo, which meant “cottonwood” in Spanish, in honor of their hometown Alamo de Parras, Coahuila. It was a significant place during Mexico’s battle for independence. When it was time for the Texas Revolution, General Antonio López de Santa Anna (known as ”the Napoleon of the West”) and his men arrived at the Alamo in February 1836. At this time the volunteers who had been fighting against the Mexican troops were living at the Alamo. They defended it under siege for 13 bloody days before being completely defeated. The cruelty demonstrated in the battle, however, rallied many others to join the Texian Army. They defeated the Mexican Army just a month and a half later, allowing for the formation of the independent Republic of Texas.
From there we hopped aboard the Alamo Trolley (thealamotrolley.com), which took us on a fully-narrated hop-on, hop-off tour around the historic sites of San Antonio. Our first stop was Hemisfair Park, the site of the 1968 World’s Fair. Here we ascended the 622 ft Tower of the Americas for a view from the observation deck and a bit of lunch.
Back on the trolley we decided to just relax a bit and take in the sights. The trolley goes out to Mission San José and Mission Concepción before returning to the downtown area where visitors can explore the King William Historic District, Market Square, San Fernando Cathedral and the Spanish Governor’s Palace. We stopped off at La Villita Historic Arts Village, the oldest surviving neighborhood in San Antonio, which is now home to artists, craftsmen and restaurants. We browsed the shops, enjoying unique artwork, pottery, jewelry and clothing.
In the evening it was time for our romantic anniversary dinner. We chose Restaurant Gwendolyn because of its wonderful concept: to do everything “old school,” meaning before the Industrial Revolution. Shunning motorized equipment and using only perishable ingredients that come from within 150 miles of the restaurant, chef Michael Sohocki keeps the supply chain “small and visible.” I applaud this method of food sourcing and preparation and we were eager to try the fresh, seasonal cuisine.
We chose the five-course tasting menu, paired with an inspiring wine selection from all over the world. One delicious course came after another and the romantic ambiance of the restaurant allowed us to relax and enjoy each other’s company as we dined. All in all, San Antonio was a perfect place to retreat for a romantic weekend.
Many thanks to the San Antonio Convention & Visitors Bureau for your hospitality during our stay.