South Texas Musings

Two weeks in San Antonio

Where we stayed

We stayed at the home of a great couple, Harvey & Sylvia, (booked through airbnb) about a couple of miles or so to the north of the city center, in a suite of living room/kitchen + very large bathroom – 2 sinks, 2 walk in showers – plus laundry room plus large bedroom, which was a single story building attached to the rear of the main, large 2 story house – they had 2 smaller suites for rent on the top floor there.  The house is on a large lot, so we were able to park right outside our front door, protected by an electronically controlled gate and 2 fierce looking German Shepherds, Mercedes & Sophia.  They would bark & growl a bit at first, so I’m sure are very effective at keeping ne’er do wells away, but once they get to know you – about 20 seconds – they are all over you looking for treats :^)  Harvey & Sylvia also have a miniature poodle looking dog, which is a real attention seeker, & would sit outside our back patio doors, looking in expectantly with wagging tail & adoring brown eyes.  Let her in, and she’d be sooooo excited, ooh, ooh, ooh!

Flower the dog

The kitchen had the advantage of allowing us to cook by smoke alarm, as there was no extractor fan over the cooker. We grilled or fried meats a couple of times, & when they were nicely seared & letting off a bit of smoke, BAM!  – the alarm would go off to let us know they were ready, at which time we had to rush to turn off the cooker & open as many windows & doors as we could :^)

Places we went & things we did

River Walk:  The river walk was well laid out in all the sections we went to, and had few other people on it, apart from the central section.  I’m sure it gets much more crowded in the high seasons.

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Harvey & Sylvia provided us with bikes, which used the pedal backwards to brake system, which was a bit scary at first, but enabled us to cycle up & down the river walk.

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We started off with the central section, along with lunch at a very popular German café/deli, followed by a tour of The Alamo, which I thought did a pretty good job of explaining the history of the famous battle, the history leading up to it, & its consequences.

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Another day we cycled South and made it as far as the San Jose Mission, where we spent quite some time having a good look around, before cycling back against an increasingly strong & cold wind.

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Egret catching mouse
Egret catching a mouse, along the San Antonio river

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Pearl Brewery

When we were out in the car one day we found this old brewery that’s now being turned into an area for fashionable apartments & restaurants, & decided we were living close enough to it that we could walk there of an evening, to stretch our legs.  This we did, and were so exhausted by the time we got there, we pulled into the first restaurant we came to, the Boiler House, for a beer & to catch our breaths. We sat up at the bar & were attended to by a very enthusiastic & knowledgeable young woman, who was soon recommending various foods, beers & wines to us, all of which were excellent & very much enjoyed…….. so much so that we had to get a cab back :^)

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The Cove

We went there on our first night in San Antonio, as it was close by & was recommended for its fish tacos.  What a place!  Bar + food prep & sales area + car wash + Laundromat + outdoor beer wagon (40 beers on tap!) + kids’ play area.  Never seen anything like it!  Well, the food & beer was excellent, the staff was smart & welcoming, & they were having an open mic night.  There were so few takers for the open mic, and the ones that did get up, particularly a large blonde haired guy got up to look like Thor, were a bit average, so I thought I should have a go at this the following week.  So with lots of encouragement from Danila, I did!  I played Eric Clapton’s version of “Steppin’ Out” plus Black Magic Woman (everyone knows it as a Santana number, but it was written by Peter Green, the founder of Fleetwood Mac) and had to follow that with Oye Como Va.  My voice isn’t what it used to be and the guitar solos sounded thin without bass and drums behind them, but I had fun and received a surprising amount of applause.

Chris at the Cove
Chris performing at The Cove in San Antonio

Thor turned up again, and this time he brought a guitarist with him.  They did a couple of numbers and then Thor wanted to sing Hotel California.  Turned out his guitarist didn’t know that one, which caused Thor to become a bit agitated.  I do know the song, so offered to play with Thor, and off we went, and did a reasonable job of it.  After that, I asked the guitarist about Thor and he explained that he’s a big gentle guy who has some mental and learning issues, but is generally good humored and a great favorite of kids, who really go for his Thor persona.  Turned out the guitarist, Nico, plays and sings as part of a family band – dad plays bass, mom sings – and we went back to the Cove to see them the following evening.  They were very good, with both covers and original songs and the young guitarist has a terrific voice.  We got chatting with them after their gig and at the end of the evening they invited us back to their place to check out their collection of instruments and chat some more.  Very fun and friendly people.

Very cold and wet when we left San Antonio, with freezing fog as we got nearer the coast, and then, as recommended by new friends we made in Austin (Bill & Janine, and Edie & Alberto) we went to Port Aransas!

Port Aransas – 3 days

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We were only able to secure 3 days in Port A, which is a shame, as the weather turned sunny, and there is lots to see and do there.  Unfortunately Danila came down with a cold and sore throat, so spent all 3 days in bed, to shake it off as quickly as possible, which she had pretty much done by the time we left.  I walked around a bit and visited:

The birding boardwalk

Very impressed by the amount of wildlife in the area – roseate spoonbills, a couple of whooping cranes with a young ‘un they were teaching how to find and eat crabs, brown and white pelicans, night herons, blue herons, shoveler ducks, buffleheads, grebes, rails, cormorants, marsh wrens, kestrels, harris hawks, a peregrine falcon, red winged blackbirds, terns, and lots more that I didn’t recognize, plus groups of coypu (nutria) huddling together for warmth in the early morning, very close to the boardwalk.  Didn’t see the resident alligators, Boots and Bags, but saw clear trails where they haul themselves out to bask in the sun.  Best to get there early in the morning when the birds are just waking up and looking for their first meal of the day.

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The Marine Institute

Small indoor exhibits of whale bones & complete dolphin skeletons that have been pulled up by trawlers in recent years, several aquarium tanks, and a well laid out outdoor walk, with examples & explanations of the different habitats.  Spend a very relaxing 90 minutes there one of the afternoons.

The beach

That is one looooong beach!  Shallow and gently sloping, with room for a hard sand road and parking.  Enjoyed a long walk up and down it, and was pleased to be there when we were, as I’m sure it gets packed with tourists during the high seasons.

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Restaurants

We went to a couple, including a place called the Shell, a small place a short walk from where we were staying, which served very good seafood, and a small Mexican restaurant called La Playa, that served a very tasty starter of tuna with avocado butter and aioli sauce on a crisp slice of taco – yummy!

The Ferry

~ quick and efficient. Danila saw dolphins in the channel as we were leaving! (didn’t manage to photograph the dolphins, but caught this pelican that didn’t want to move out of the way of the ferry!)Port Aransas (10) (1024x768)

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