Sunday, August 15, 2010

what i did on my summer vacation: san antonio

well, friends, it's been a long, wonderful summer. as you can tell by the gap of time that has passed on my blog with no updates, we have been having far too much fun to sit down in front of the computer to update y'all with our summertime happy-nings.

but now it's august, and i have so much to tell you. so keep checking in for more regular postings. there's more good stuff to come!

one of the many fun things we did this summer was a long-weekend trip to san antonio with adam's parents, bob and rae. everyone keeps telling me i need to see austin (and i know i do), but once i learned that san antonio has a sea world there, i insisted that we get down there the first chance we could get!

part of the reason i wanted to go to san antonio is because though i've lived in texas for a year now, all i know of this great state is what is along the i-35 corridor from the oklahoma border to my house, which is really not very much. (and really, not very pretty.) so we chose to take the scenic route down to SA in order to discover more of texas. we took hwy 281, down through stephenville, and though it added more time to our trip, it was SO worth it. the last thing i wanted on my mini-vacation was to drive through the dallas/fort-worth metroplex, then drive through waco, then drive through austin, and THEN get to san antonio -- it sounded like one massive headache of a traffic jam to me! so we WISELY took 281 and i'm SO glad for it. the scenery was breathtaking; i had no idea that texas was so GREEN and pretty! rolling hills, low mountains, wide, lazy rivers, longhorn cattle grazing in meadows, mesquite and oak trees, and wide open sky in every direction. i regret not taking any pictures, but it was all so lovely i didn't want to miss a single moment of it looking through a camera screen.

we left early early early in the morning: gracie woke up at 5:30 wanting some water and a story in order to go back to bed, but rather than put her down to sleep again, i thought we may as well just all get up and get going. for a few days beforehand, we kept telling gracie that we were going to go to san antonio to stay in a hotel with a pool and see oma and opa. all of this sounded VERY exciting to her, of course. and we explained to her that when the day arrives for our roadtrip, we were just going to get up, get in the car, and get going -- there wasn't going to be any juice and spongebob on the couch, or any long breakfast, or any playing with trucks: just get up, and get going. so, when i walked into her room and asked her if she wanted to just go to san antonio instead of going back to bed, she was like "YEAH!", hopped off her dad's lap, and headed straight for the car! she actually climbed up into her car seat and just waited for us (since WE still had to get ready and pack up the car). adam strapped her in so she wouldn't wander off while we were throwing toothbrushes into the bag, and we were just about ready to pull out of the driveway when we both realized neither of us had changed her diaper! so, out of the car, on with the new diaper, and back in again. she was SO cute, just sitting there, waiting for us to get going -- that's my girl! always up for an adventure!

we stopped a couple of times along the way: first in mineral wells, TX. (please please click on that link and watch their adorable video which really showcases the pride that the citizens have for their little town!) we stopped for breakfast at a place called jimmy's (adam and gracie kept calling it "larry's" cuz they're weird like that), and went to the mineral wells tourism office to learn more about their community. gracie's favorite thing, though, was the big, abandoned hotel which used to be the main jewel and source of income for the city. mineral wells, as you can tell by its name, has a mineral well with "crazy water" which can cure just about anything (including being crazy, so now the locals call it crazy water). she kept calling it a haunted house and wanted to see the ghosties, so we drove around it a few times, pointing to broken windows and boarded up doorways, pretending we were seeing ghosts and spiderman (her other favorite thing right now), and asking her if she could see it all too.

a few hours later we made our second stop, at marble falls, TX. the colorado river is wide, fast, and blue in this part of the state, and i was expecting there to be a beach nearby where we might be able to wade in and cool off for a bit. there was no beach (though plenty of boaters), but there was a very nice municipal pool which charged a nominal fee for us to get in and splash around. the whole trip, we were telling gracie that we were going to see oma and opa at the hotel in san antonio, and that the hotel has a pool there where we can go swimming (another one of her favorite things), so when we got out of the car and into the pool, gracie was like "we're at the hotel! let's find oma and opa!" ha! so cute! we splashed for about an hour before hopping back in the car and going the rest of the way.

we stayed at a lovely hotel right on the riverwalk, so nearly everything we wanted to do was within walking distance. we LOVED strolling the riverwalk and enjoying the sidewalk culture of san antonio. that is something that we really miss about living in europe: just the open public spaces which are available for anyone to use, whether you are sitting on a bench people-watching, feeding the birds, playing chess, visiting with friends, or just enjoying the sunshine. just OPEN SPACE, inviting you to come and rest a while and be a part of the community. that's SO wonderful, and something that more american cities definitely need. san antonio has lots of it -- along the riverwalk, for example, and in the mercado. and then also scattered around throughout the city center in the form of parks and plazas. there was one church, for example, that had a huge plaza in front of it, and several fountains for people to play in.

so, let's see... this is some of the stuff we did in san antonio:

we walked up and down the riverwalk.

we went to free happy hours in our hotel, and played with gracie in the lobby.

we ate at fun restaurants. sometimes on the rivewalk, and sometimes not.

we shopped at the mercado.

we went to the alamo. VERY cool. and totally free! we wanted to visit some of the other missions in san antonio, since they are ALL free, but we just ran out of time. plus, it was HOT. i mean, what were we thinking, going to san antonio in JULY? so we'd usually go out in the morning and do something fun, then have lunch, then have a little siesta at the hotel until dinnertime. cuz it was too hot to do anything else.

we took a boat tour down the riverwalk.

we went to the buckhorn saloon and played video games and drank ice tea (though i suppose in a place like the buckhorn saloon we probably should have been drinking a sasparilla or something western sounding like that)

we ate at mi tierra. i guess it's one of the most famous/popular restaurants in san antonio, and i can undestand why. the food was the best tex-mex i've ever had (i had the chicken mole') and the ambience was fun and funky. we ate in the "christmas room," which was festooned with THOUSANDS of christmas lights, ornaments, and garland. and it was july. in texas. crazy. they also had this amazing mexican bakery with incredible pastries and cookies and fudge. i went back a few days later to buy a cup of the mole' sauce, because i thought it was so fabulous, and the guy looked at me like i was crazy -- i guess they make their own mole', which takes days to do, and they don't really sell it to gringas loco like me. but true to texan hospitality, the man came back out of the kitchen with a coffee cup wrapped in tinfoil, explained to me what a huge favor he was doing for me, and sold me the mole' sauce for a couple of bucks. we ate it a few weeks later when we went to colorado to visit bob and rae again. and it tasted ALMOST as good there as it did the first time around! ole for mole'!

apparently we thought it was important to wear weird hats.

we went to sea world and fed the seals. we also watched the shamu show, which is something i've wanted to do since i was gracie's age nearly 30 years ago... when it was over, i was soaked: not from being splashed by shamu himself, but because
i was BAWLING.
i was SOOOO happy to finally get to see something i've imagined for three decades. and know what? it was totally worth the wait. it was SO MUCH FUN! cuz not only was it shamu, but like three shamus all at once, and TOTALLY COORDINATED. how do they do that? i know HUMANS who aren't even coordinated when they dance, but here are these killer whales coordinating their jumps and splashes! how do they DO that?! amazing.

there was SO MUCH that i LOVED about san antonio -- it really is the first place i've visited in the united states that actually doesn't feel like it's in the united states! it felt so foreign to me -- parts of it reminded me of barcelona, parts that reminded me of greece, and lots that just felt european to me. it's such a beautiful city and i can't wait to get back there! i heart san antonio!!

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