Decision Time, Part I

We headed back to San Antonio over Spring Break to make a final decision on whether or not to move there, and hopefully to find a neighborhood we liked. This time the weather cooperated with our efforts – highs in the 70s and just enough clouds to keep things balmy.

We fell in love with the Riverwalk on our last visit, so that’s where we spent our first day. We left the car at the Pearl Brewery, which is as close as we could get to the Alamo from the north side without paying for parking.

Just as the City of Austin Power Plant is no longer a power plant, the Pearl Brewery is no longer a brewery. The lovely old buildings have been repurposed into shops, restaurants, hotels and apartments.


Some structures have kept their original names: the Can Plant is now resident apartments, the Bottling Department is a food hall. The stable that once housed horses to pull the beer wagons is now an upscale venue for formal events:


There are still rails in the ground in places, though they’re no longer in use.


The San Antonio river was the old brewery’s source of fresh water, so the Pearl sits right on its bank. This is where the Riverwalk begins, though the river itself continues upstream for another four miles to its spring-fed origins.

A river shuttle carries passengers back and forth between the Pearl and the downstream end of the Riverwalk, about five miles each way.

Our plan was to walk the river at least as far as Hemisfair Park and explore whatever caught our interest along the way, then catch a Rio Shuttle back to the Pearl when we were ready to call it a night.

I love the art installations along the river. The first one we came to was “The Grotto,” a cave-like formation that also serves as access to the the Riverwalk from street level via the mouth of a stone jaguar.

Next we came to the school of glass fish that hangs beneath the I-35 overpass.

At night each fish is illuminated from within. Absolutely gorgeous.

On the grounds of the Museum of Art, a mariachi band was performing for a family party.

Hispanic culture is deep in this city’s roots. San Antonio was founded in 1718 as a Spanish mission, 58 years before the American colonies drafted their Declaration of Independence and 127 years before Texas first joined the United States. This is an old, old city by American standards.

We reached the boat locks and dam just as one of the rio shuttles arrived, so we stopped to watch it go through.

In at the top, out at the bottom.

Stairway portals, architectural flourishes and lush landscaping provide visual interest along the route.

Local directories are posted at regular intervals. When we passed near the Central Library, we headed up to check it out.

San Antonio’s Central Library is an interesting mix of colorful and industrial, artistic and utilitarian.

Luke found an ample selection of books in his interest range (mostly politics and history), but he deemed the ambiance to be uninviting almost to the point of oppressiveness. I reminded him that even in Fort Worth the big central library has security guards posted on every floor, but I did see his point. This is not really a cozy library.

We returned to the Riverwalk and continued on. We had planned to tour the Alamo, but the whole area was packed with tourists visiting for Spring Break and we didn’t feel like standing in line for an hour.

We walked around the Alamo grounds for a bit and then continued on to Hemisfair Park and the Tower of the Americas.

The Tower was built for the 1968 World’s Fair. It is 750 feet high and provides a commanding 360-degree view of the city from observation decks at the top.

The views are expansive, but my emotional reaction bordered on claustrophobia. This city just goes on forever in all directions.

13-year-old me would have delighted at the idea of living in that close-packed warren of humanity, but 48-year-old me wants easy access to wild green spaces and a sunny yard for a kitchen garden. Even the city parks seem few and far between here.

I had to remind myself that we just needed to find the right neighborhood, and then the urban sprawl wouldn’t feel closed-in. As Fortune Red once wisely told me,”It’s the company what makes the feast.”  And even from the heart of San Antonio, the wild spaces around the edges are an easy half-hour drive away.

We had timed our visit to the Tower to coincide with sunset, because I had wanted to see the city in daylight and Luke had wanted to see it at night. We got through the lines a bit earlier than we had expected, so after I got my daylight views we came back down and killed some time in the park. There is a nice play area there with lots of climby stuff.

When the sun set, we returned to the Tower for Luke’s nighttime view.

The city really does go on forever in all directions.

When we had seen our fill, we returned to the Riverwalk.

We were ready to catch a rio shuttle back to the Pearl, but alas, we just missed the last boat. We decided to walk back to the car on surface streets to shave off some distance. But we wanted to see the illuminated fish, so we cut back to the Riverwalk just before the I-35 underpass.

The fish are gorgeous at night, but challenging to photograph well. I really need to spend some time learning how to get clear, distortion-free photos of bright objects at night. These images don’t do the scene justice.

We got back to the car, checked into a nearby hotel, had a quick meal of sandwiches that we’d brought with us and then went to sleep.

Day One verdict: the Riverwalk and Downtown are as beautiful as we remembered, but the idea of living in such a densely populated area is mildly intimidating. The suburbs are a strong option.

To be continued!

Categories: A Plethora of Parks, Artwork, Family, Holidays, kids, Life, Music, Road trip, Travel, Uncategorized, Weather | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Merry Christmas!

The secret to getting hand-drawn Christmas cards designed, assembled and mailed out on time when you work in retail is to start them around June and have them finished and ready to mail by Thanksgiving. I think I need to start doing my gift shopping/making that way too.

Merry Christmas!

Categories: Animals, Artwork, Celebrations, Christmas, Holidays, Life, Uncategorized, Wildlife, Winter | Leave a comment

Spring Break, Part II

Luke, Elizabeth and I had planned out Tuesday’s itinerary long before Emma stepped off the plane. The rest of the week was left to the whims of fortune until Wednesday morning rolled around and we still had nothing planned for my Thursday off. I instructed the three of them to come up with a detailed flight plan by the time I got home from work that night. They did not disappoint.

So our first destination on Thursday morning was the Ripley’s Believe or Not Odditorium.


The shiny silver dinosaurs outside the building are constructed entirely of chrome car bumpers. The blue dino and the adorable gorilla are made from random machine parts.







Once inside, our first stop was Louis Tussaud’s Palace of Wax.






Bear with me, I’m still getting the hang of my camera’s indoor settings. My last camera really struggled in low-light areas, so now I habitually overcompensate. Working on that.








After the Palace of Wax, we braved the Enchanted Mirror Maze.


I wouldn’t describe it as “enchanting” so much as “disorienting as fuck.”



It was fun, but kind of short. We probably would have spent more time in there if we hadn’t used the classic “right turns only” method to prevent aimless wandering.

Next up was the Odditorium itself.




The shadow wall is really cool. You stand against the wall, a bright light flashes and your silhouette is “saved” as a slowly-fading shadow. Unfortunately, I only got one good photo of this effect.


After the first one I remembered to turn on my camera’s flash, and it turns out that the flash completely washes out the shadow effect, thusly:


Bummer. But the Odditorium was full of awesome, bizarre stuff. For example, horses and cows get made into handbags all the time. But some enterprising artist decided to turn a bunch of handbags back into a horse-cow.


Actually, “things made out of other things” describes like 80% of the Odditorium.


Plus some cool movie props.


We goofed around in the activity room for a while.



The video wall was fun. We’re the four silhouettes on the left.




Exit through the gift shop.




By then we were pretty hungry, so we headed over to the Mellow Mushroom in Arlington. Their pizza is amazing, unlike my potato-quality iPad selfie:


Took a better pic outside.


On the way home we drove past River Legacy and impulsively decided to pull in.


This is one of our favorite local parks. Entry sign photo to make it an official addition to the collection:


River Legacy has some magnificent trails along the Trinity River, but after all of our adventuring none of us were really up for a hike. A frolic on the playground was totally doable, though.







From there it was an easy walk next door to the Science Center.









The warm sunshine felt like heaven to a heat-lover like me.

On Saturday morning, we begrudgingly fed Emma to the sky gods at Love Field Airport.


It was so much fun having her out for Spring Break! Hopefully we’ll be able to do that again.

And now I need to sit down and read my camera’s user manual cover to cover, because the number of wasted shots I ended up deleting last week made me die a little inside. It’s time to learn how to use this thing.

Happy spring!

Categories: A Plethora of Parks, Animals, Artwork, environment, Family, food, Friends, Holidays, kids, Life, Love | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Grapevine and the Stockyards

The kids have been wanting to see the Fort Worth Stockyards, and this week I finally got the magical combination of a Saturday off and nice, non-rainy weather. In the spirit of “little experiences tucked in wherever we can fit them,” we decided to drive to Grapevine and travel by rail to the Stockyards. Grapevine has held a special place in our hearts ever since our first December in DFW, when we were searching for local holiday cheer and found it on Grapevine’s Main Street in sparkly abundance. This is one town that loves Christmas.

So we booked tickets for the Grapevine Vintage Railroad’s round trip to the Stockyards, and got there early enough on Saturday to do a little wandering.

Grapevine has just begun to deck its halls.


We stopped at the Blacksmith Shop, and Luke had fun pumping the bellows while the smithy did his thing at the forge.


Saw this guy crafting something out behind the glassworker’s shop.


At 12:30 it was time to board the train. We pulled out of the station at 1pm, powered by a 1953 diesel locomotive named Vinny.


The cars were looking festive.


The scenery was nice, just turning to Fall. I saw a few parks and trails that I’m looking forward to exploring on foot.


We arrived at the Stockyards Station at about 2:30.


The kids wanted to try out the Cattlepen Maze, so that was our first stop.


There was more going on in the Stockyards this time than the last time I was here (on a Tuesday). More people, more carriages, more attractions and performers.


There was a mechanical bull this time, and of course the kids had to ride that.



Took a detour though Saunders Park. What a pretty little place.




We checked out the Station shops, bought some yummy fudge and explored the old livestock chutes, and then it was time for the cattle drive. Elizabeth staked out a spot up front on the curb…


…while Luke and I found a comfy perch on a wall behind the crowd.


My one complaint is that we didn’t have time to see everything at the Stockyards before the train came back and it was time to leave. An hour and a half isn’t long enough!


Goodbye, Stockyards.



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It was getting dark when we pulled into Grapevine Station around 6pm.


It was a fun trip. One of these days we’ll drive out to the Stockyards and explore the whole area at our leisure. And, of course, we’ll be heading back to Grapevine at least once more this year, after all the lights are up and the Singing Christmas Tree has begun its nightly performance. They say December is the darkest and brightest month, and that’s especially true in the Christmas Capitol of Texas.

Categories: Animals, Artwork, Christmas, Family, Holidays, Horses, kids, Life, Travel | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Cake, Corn and Pumpkins

My very favorite time of year begins with the start of fall and ends on New Year’s Day. Yesterday after I got off work, the kids and I celebrated the arrival of the Holiday season with cake and cider at Buon Giorno…


…and then headed up the road to Hall’s Pumpkin Farm.



We played in the corn maze…



…saw lots and lots of pumpkins…


…and generally had a nice time welcoming in the Season of Light.




I’m determined to find a way to enjoy the Holidays even though I’m back in retail, and I think this is the secret: little experiences tucked in wherever we can fit them, and celebrating on our own schedule rather than tying ourselves to traditional timelines. Let the magic commence!

Categories: Family, Holidays, kids, Life, Weather | Tags: , | 1 Comment

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