San Antonio and Austin, Texas

Wednesday, May 28th 2014

Courtney attended her professional association’s national conference in San Antonio and I was able to tag along and turn it into a semi-affordable get away. I worked a half day on Wednesday and took the Rapid from University Circle to the airport. It is only a 30 minute trip and drops you right in the terminal. After a hurray-it’s-vacation-beer in the terminal I took an easy flight to Houston and since it arrived thirty minutes early I seriously lucked out and got on an earlier flight to San Antonio avoiding the scheduled two hour layover. A quick ten minute taxi from the airport and I joined Courtney who had been there since Monday. We stayed at the Mariott Rivercenter that was right on the river walk and a nice central location. We walked along the Riverwalk and went to a restaurant called Acenar that someone recommended to Courtney. We had a nice table outside, had two humongous margaritas and quickly relaxed into vacation mode. The food was excellent – chips with roasted tomato/tomatillo salsa; I had roasted pork loin with two different mole sauces served over a tamale; Courtney had talapia roasted in a tomato, olive and caper sauce served over cilantro rice. Everything was very good. We strolled around the Riverwalk which is lovely in the evening and stopped at a bar on the river and had one last beer. We made it back to our hotel around 11:00 and quickly crashed.

enjoying are nice and large margaritas
the Riverwalk in the evening
late evening beers

Thursday, May 29th 2014

Courtney was up and off to her conference at 7:30 and I took off exploring. I walked around the Alamo area that is just a block from the hotel and then wandered around and found an old German deli called Schilo’s where I had the perfect breakfast of potato pancakes, apple sauce and a side of bacon. The deli has been their since 1917. It turns out that San Antonio was originally populated by Americans of German descent. After breakfast I walked around downtown walking toward the market square, past the San Antonio cathedral and other interesting buildings. Unfortunately market square – originally a large hay market and downtown market is now a bunch of awful tourist trash. So sad. I walked back along a different leg of the Riverwalk that I hadn’t been on enjoying the beautiful landscaping and bridges. I relaxed at the pool for about an hour and a half until Courtney was done. She was taking a two and a half hour break so we walked south towards the King William District that we wanted to check out. We stopped at Rosario’s, recommended by John and Alyssa for lunch and had another great Mexican meal. The huge place was already packed by 11:50, lots of locals and business people and we had to wait a few minutes. We had more chips and brown spicy salsa that I wish someone would bottle. I had a Dos Equis on draft and a bowl of roasted tomato soup with shredded chicken, avocados and cilantro. Courtney had a chicken enchilada with peanut mole sauce and rice and beans. We then walked around the King William Neighborhood which was full of late 19th century huge mansions – many decrepit and falling apart, many under major rehab, many in very nice shape with great gardens – but all beautiful. Three cheers for preservation – you can’t help but think what Euclid Avenue in Cleveland might be like today if they preserved those mansions that were in this same time period. It’s truly heartbreaking when you see what could have happened like this neighborhood in San Antonio. We discovered that the Riverwalk was right behind us so we walked back that way – learning quickly that everything is so much nicer away from the touristy downtown section. Courtney headed back to her conference and I took a nice little siesta. I headed out towards the San Antonio Art Museum around 3:00 walking along the Riverwalk again for almost 40 minutes – quite a hike but a nice one. The San Antonio art museum was built in the late 1970s from an old Lone Star Brewery. Another preservation success story. I only had an hour and a half to explore the museum but enjoyed my solo expedition especially that I was practically the only one there. Unlikely I really enjoyed the Asian and roman galleries the most. Lots of interesting stuff in interesting settings. I read later that the museum is known for its large collection of Asian Art. I closed the place down and then walked about a block to The Luxury that is an outside bar/food place made out of semi truck carriers. I had a beer, sat on the river waiting to hear from CBH. We decided to go to The Pearl Brewery District – a 15 minute walk from where I was and a quick cab ride for Courtney. I found the Blue Box Bar where we were meeting with a bit of difficulty but Courtney took quite a while to find it. A very fancy hipster kind of bar – I had an old fashioned as it was a happy hour special and Courtney had one of their drafts. We stayed for one drink and then wandered around looking for somewhere to eat. We went to a place called Cured that used to be the admin office of the brewery. A cool space that specialized in cured meats. We had a beet salad and a platter of different cured meats, sausages, vegetables, breads and crackers. All very good and perfect as we were getting a bit fooded out. It will be very interesting to come check out this area in a few years as there is lots of construction. We walked back downtown which was a good 40 minute walk – but beautiful along the river as it was getting dark and the sky was beautiful along with all the flowers , lights and plants. We stopped at an Irish pub on the busy part of the Riverwalk and watched the NBA semifinals that was going on – San Antonio won and the city was loud and excited. We ended up staying longer than we thought we would as they has a fun band playing also that were kind of cheesey but playing fun 80s and 90s music. Very successful day. Had drinks at Five very different places. Walked 13.28 miles!

The Alamo (yes… not too exciting)
San Fernando Cathedral downtown. Built in 1738 – one of the oldest Catholic churches in the United States.
big old trees along the Riverwalk
the salsa at Rosario’s was truly amazing
a mansion along King William Street
another mansion
rosemary all over the walls
Hanging out at the San Antonio Art Museum
great asian collection
ancient roman art in an old brewery
The Luxury – made out of old truck shipping containers
Blue Box Bar
post charcuterie chow down at Cured
old restored building among new apartment buildings
many of the bridges along the Riverwalk had artwork – these are the same fish I saw earlier at the art museum
late night band

Friday, May 30th, 2014
Courtney was a good girl and went to the early sessions of her conference and I walked to the nearby Starbucks and had a coffee and chocolate croissant. I caught up on work for an hour or so and then met Courtney and we asked over to the Alamo which was just a block from the hotel. The Alamo was not terribly interesting, old and dusty, nice big oak tree. Interesting to think that the big modern city was built all around it. We picked up our city bikes that we arranged earlier – $10/day to go station to station but only in an hour. We biked up going through the nice neighborhoods we walked through the previous day and stopped at the Blue Star Arts complex which was yet another beautifully restored old industrial site with galleries, restaurants and bars. It was already seriously HOT so we had to take a break, checked out the artist studio building and got some water. We got back on the backs and biked to the first mission about 30 minutes away. The path was along the rehabbed river where we saw all sorts of birds, turtles, abandoned factories and cool plantings.  We arrived at what we thought was Mission Concepcion, checked in our bikes, and started walking… and walking… a half mile later we got to the actual Mission and saw there was a bike check in point right there….dohhhhh. We walked around the beautiful mission – built in 1755, most of it beautiful ruins but the church is still maintained and is a working church.  We checked out bikes right there this time and got back on the path and went another 30 minutes to the Mission San Jose.  This mission was larger and had an air conditioned visitor center so we cooled down in there for awhile, drinking lots of water and bought some peanuts.  Mission San Jose y San Miguel de Aguayo is was founded in 1720 and is the largest of the San Antonio missions.  Missions were communities set up by the Catholic Spaniards and this was more evident here as the mission walls were still there, you could see the rooms where the natives stayes and there was a working mill still.  The church is well maintained and still in use.  We got back on our bikes and biked back toward town, stopping at the Blue Arts building again for a much needed break and had lunch at the Blue Star Brewery.  We each had an iced cold bottle of coca cola first which was probably the best thing I ever tasted – I think I was a lot more dehydrated that I thought.  Lunch was good – Courtney had a burger and I had pulled pork and we tried some of their beer.  We hopped back on our bikes and had no trouble getting back to our hotel. Quite a journey.  Courtney was a trouper and went to the last sessions of her conference and I took a short siesta and then spent the rest of the afternoon by the pool.  We had no plans for dinner so we went out pretty late, wandered around looking for something and ended up at The Esquire Tavern that looked promising and billed itself as the oldest bar on the River Walk. It was a cool place – dark, retro with a big long bar and booths.  I had a tall can of Lone Star and we weren’t too hungry so split an order of fried avocados and something else – I don’t remember.  We meandered back after a leisurely meal and quickly crashed after a long couple of days.

my favorite breakfast
big old tree inside the Alamo
stopping at the Blue Star Arts Complex on the way to the missions
beauty and decay along the path
Mission Concepcion
stairway
Mission San Jose
stairway in Mission San Jose
sweaty selfie
16 ouncer

Saturday, May 31st, 2014

Courtney was up early and out to the first session at 8:00.  I went to Starbucks again, and then went to the car rental place to secure our rental that we arranged earlier.  Courtney only stayed for the one session and was back by 9:30 when we checked out, found the rental car and hit the road bound for Austin.  We first went to the LBJ ranch which was about an hours drive.  It was interesting driving through “Texas Hill Country” – very rural, rolling hills with some beautiful properties.  Much more green than I ever would have thought – very nice.  We found the LBJ ranch with no problem,  first a visitor center and then a driving tour of the ranch stopping at their actual house.  The house tour was seperate and we did stop and by tickets for the guided tour, waiting about 20 minutes wandering around the interesting exhibits in the airport hangar.  The house was very interesting, only open to the public a few years ago – Lady Bird died only in 2007 and always lived here. The house is now restored to what it looked like when LBJ was in the White House – mid 1960s.  It was like walking into our grandparents house.  It was actually pretty emotional. The tour guide we had was excellent which is always a good thing.  I weirdly would say this was my favorite part of our trip.  We got back on the road to Austin, about a 45 minute drive, stopping at Sonic as we hadn’t eaten all day.  We arrived at the Hyatt downtown around 3:00 finding it with no trouble.  We dropped our stuff off and then hit the streets looking for adventures.  Following the advice of the concierge at the hotel we walked towards South Congress Street that he said was cool.  After walking over a mile, crossing a bridge and jussssssst about to turn around as we were convinced the guy told us a lie, we discovered South Congress which was blocks and blocks of cool stores, bars, and restaurants.  We browsed around for an hour or so buying a few things for the kids and then we stopped at a crowded outside bar where a kind of salsa like band was playing, people were dancing and it was a great fun atmosphere. We had a couple of beers and then walked back to the hotel. We upgraded our room to the executive level earlier so we headed to the lounge for hors oeuvres and wine. They had a very nice spread including grilled broccoli rabe, grilled asparagus, artichoke and spinach dip and lots of other things.  We hung out there for about an hour, went to change into our bathing suits and then hung out at the pool for an hour.  After relaxing in our hotel room, showering etc it was already 9:30 so we headed out to East 6th Street – the famous Austin party street.  Bar after bar, all with live bands playing.  Pretty amazing.  Austin is by far the youngest city I have ever been in.  Everybody is under 30.  It is pretty weird.  We walked around for awhile and stopped at BD Riley’s Irish pub for a late night bar food meal – I don’t remember what we ate.  Walking back afterwards the street was really picking up, all the side streets were closed, streets full of people, dancing girls in the windows… it would have been fun if we were about 20 years younger.

big beautiful tree outside LBJ house
a live horse inside a store in Austin with the singe of the band sitting on it
hanging out at a place on South Congress
Austin has to be the food truck capital of the world – they’re everywhere
walking back towards downtown
late night action at the Bat Bar

Sunday, June 1st, 2014

We had breakfast in the executive lounge pretty early, not as good as the evening spread, but good enough.  We started our morning walking towards the State Capital.  We wandered around the grounds and were pleasantly surprised that it was open and we were able to wander around inside the building checking out the rotunda and both the house and the senate chambers.  It was very interesting and they have done a great job restoring the beautiful building.  We then walked past the governors mansion, back down 6th street and then walked down by the river where we were told was a bunch of food trucks and a nice neighborhood.  We found the neighborhood – Rainey Street – very cool – lots of different restaurants, bars, food trucks and we stopped at a place called Bangers that seemed the hot spot. It was prob my favorite place of our trip – a beer garden with long tables everyone sitting together, dogs and kids running around and a great band playing.  Everyone happy.  I had a beer and a bratwurst and Courtney had some sort of eggs benedict dish with lots of good stuff as it was still technically Sunday Brunch time.  I wish we could have stayed longer but the clock was ticking.  We quickly walked back to the hotel, packed up, checked out, got the car and headed back to the San Antonio Airport.

the capital building of Texas
capital rotunda
governor’s mansion
hanging out at Bangers
one more before hitting the road

Our return trip saga:

  • drove to San Antonio no prob – kind of hard to find the car rental return but we did and made it with plenty of time
  • made it to our gate, sat down and right away heard that our flight was cancelled due to mechanical problems and to please return to ticket area to rebook a flight
  • walked very quickly ahead of the very angry mob scene developing and second in line to change flights
  • not able to make it to cleveland, but booked to go to chicago in a few hours and then to Cleveland the next morning
  • arrived in Chicago with no problems, found the hotel they put us up at the airport with some troubles
  • miraculously completed my payroll at 1:00 AM as it was due the next morning as I thought I would be at work in the morning
  • arrived at the airport at 6:00 AM, waited for about THREE *($%$## hours as our flight was delayed about 5 times.
  • finally made it to Cleveland and home around 2:00 PM

Yikes.  Wonderful trip if you don’t count the last 24 hours.

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