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, but 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 response bordered on claustrophobia. This city just goes on forever in all directions.
13-year-old me would have delighted in 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 need to find the right neighborhood, and then the urban sprawl won’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.
Read Part II here