My husband and I took a quick get away trip to Austin and San Antonio.
Our trip began with the very little planning before we ever left home. Friday night we decided we would stay a night rather than doing a day trip as we had originally planned, so I frantically searched the internet for a hotel. I usually use Priceline.com and use the negotiator tool to get good hotels very cheap, so that was my starting place. I placed 4 bids for 2 1/2 star hotels and went up to $90. Even after expanding the area we were willing to stay in and dropping to 2-star hotels, we still came up empty handed. I turned to the other sites and everything was booked. This should have been my first clue about how the weekend would be. It was the end of Spring Break, the weather has been nice and it was the weekend.
We finally found a Motel 6 on the other side of town from where we wanted to go for $95. Ok, so it’s a Motel 6. Definitely not our usual by far, but it’s a place to sleep and it’s not like we were going to be hanging out much in the hotel. So we settled.
Six am on Saturday morning, we through our belongings into the car and headed out. First, stop Austin, Texas….well, after a couple stops by Buc-ee’s. We live about an hour south of Dallas, so the trip to Austin should take about 3 hours, then another hour and a half to San Antonio. The traffic was great, so those times held true.
Austin was awesome. We went to the capitol and really enjoyed it. After we passed through security, we went into the center of the Rotunda where there was a man preaching. I leaned over to my husband and whispered, “He’s practicing his first amendment rights”. We enjoyed the history and the architecture and seeing pictures of people we had only read about.
South by Southwest (SXSW) was going on this weekend, so we didn’t want to hang around Austin for too long, so by 1 pm we were headed to San Antonio.
We arrived in San Antonio by around 2, following another stop at Buc-ee’s. We headed down 410 to the motel to check in by 3. The traffic close to the hotel got pretty congested, so we took the service road to finish our drive. My husbands sunglasses were scratched, so while we were waiting in traffic, he asked me to pull into Academy Sports to get him some new ones. You know what they say about 1st impressions. His first impression was not all that great. We visit several Academy Sports in the Dallas area on a very regular basis and they are all well kept and nice. This one was very ghetto, but it served its purpose. We left there and a few minutes later, we arrived at the motel which is not far from Lackland Airforce Base.
I went to check in and the guy behind the counter said we can’t check in till 3. I told him it was 20 minutes till 3, but we were willing to wait. Then he informed us that it may be 4 before he can get us in a room. The second impression is also important, and it wasn’t that great. We made sure that our reservation was at least in their system, then decided to go to the Japanese Tea Garden, which was on our itinerary of things to see.
We arrived at the Japanese Tea Garden 25 minutes later. It is located next to the San Antonio Zoo. The parking lot for the tea garden was full, so we parked in the zoo parking lot and walked to the gardens.
The best place to start is at the Pagoda which is like a pavilion that looks down over the entire area. You can get some really good pictures from there. The Pagoda is made of rocks. The garden is actually a sunken water garden with koi fish and a few turtles. There are bridges and trails all over the garden. This is a great place to take pictures for weddings, proms, and such. There is even a waterfall. We really enjoyed the garden. It takes about an hour or so to walk through and enjoy all the plants and fish.
We left the water garden and headed to the famous River Walk.
After paying $11 to park and walking 2 blocks to the let in, we instantly knew this was a mistake. Don’t get me wrong. I absolutely love the River Walk…when there are no people. It’s really pretty and has the potential to be relaxing. There are pretty flowers and plants all along the river. The river is lined on both sides by hotels, restaurants, and shops. There are ducks everywhere and boat tours. We would have liked to do a boat tour, but the amount of people down there and in line was out of this world. I’m pretty sure everyone in the state of Texas was there this weekend. The sidewalks at times only allow for single-file foot traffic in each direction. We decided to get something to eat. We had spotted a couple places that neither of us had ever been too. Hard-Rock Café and Dicks Last Resort. Dick’s was on the other side of the river, so we opted for Hard-Rock. We went in and the wait was going to be about an hour and a half. Naturally, we decided against it and kept on walking. Then we came upon Salt-Grass Steak House. The wait there was 45 minutes, so while we waited we sat on the wall by the river and people watched. The service was excellent and we really enjoyed the time together.
Following our meal, we decided to go find the parking garage and head back to the motel. We were wonderfully and miserably stuffed. I had told my husband on the way to the garage that there is a good chance that we would see the Alamo although we weren’t planning to go until the next day. My husband was astonished, if not slightly pissed that the Alamo would be in the middle of downtown. I guess I never really thought about it. I explained to him that they built the city around the Alamo and it’s not as if they can move it, but he makes a very good point…in hindsight. They should have sectioned off several acres around it so that it could be in its natural historical setting.
We did, in fact, walk in front of the Alamo and took a few pictures. There was a wedding taking place. Can you imagine how much it would cost to rent the Alamo for a wedding? I informed my daughter that if she decides to get married there, then her dad can pay for it.
We arrived back at the motel just before dark and finally got checked in. Although we knew we were going to a cheap motel, we were still disappointed with our room. We swore that we would never again stay in a 2-star hotel/motel. The beds were thin mattresses on top of a plywood stand and had no box springs. There was no hair dryer or coffee pot (which I discovered the next morning), no iron or ironing board. There was a phone, a small table with an ashtray with a no smoking sticker on it, a tv, a little bar of soap and 2 towels. The bad thing is, that we had the money for a better hotel, but we were being tight. My husband got no sleep because of all the noise. Me…I fell asleep and slept heavy while he stayed up guarding us.
The next morning, we wasted no time getting out of there and headed to Duncan Donuts for COFFEE and breakfast. We then went back to downtown, guided by our trusty GPS. You gotta love it when the GPS says to turn right on a one-way street going left. Then on the times it would guide us correctly, the streets were closed. We drove around aimlessly and finally found a parking garage a couple of blocks from the Alamo, paid our $10 to park and began our walk. Let me remind you, it’s only about 10 am by this time. As we got closer to our final destination, we heard loud music and finally decided it was a live band. When we turned the corner to where we could normally see the Alamo, all we saw was a sea of people. As we entered the block, we discovered they were having a 5K race…and the finish line was right in front of the Alamo. We stood on the side of the street, cheering on the weary runners, then saw a break in the race and we ran for it. We swam through the sea of people and joined the very long line to go in. The line actually went quickly and soon, we were stepping back in time.
If you’ve never been to the Alamo, the building itself is very small, but the history is so rich. It’s definitely worth the trip, at least once in your life. We enjoyed the Alamo itself and the courtyards that surrounded it.
Overall we had a really great time! The downtown area of San Antonio has some beautiful architecture and the feeling is healthy. From what we saw of the rest of the city, it was pretty much ghetto in my opinion, but we may not have seen a true representation of it, so it’s really unfair for me to judge.
Around noon, we headed home. Again, it’s the end of Spring Break and I35 is under major construction, at least, the northbound lanes are. Our 4 1/2 hour trip home ended up taking us 7 hours and 45 minutes.
My take away from the trip: don’t go during Spring Break or probably any other major summer holiday and if possible, go during the week, but time your traveling when it’s not rush hour. But most of all, go and see as much of the world as possible and don’t forget to visit pieces of history in your own state, even if you don’t like people or crowds, it’s still worth it.