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Reminder - I did post a warning that my writings about the Texas trip would be long. I should have also said sporadic... Anyway, like I said, I tried to write down as much as I can remember. Monday was yet another gorgeous day filled with exploration. We didn't quite manage everything we planned, but we packed a lot into the day nonetheless. Pictures at the very end of the wordywordymacwordisons. (Scroll bars are our friends.)

Originally we had planned to do the Botanical Gardens on Tuesday since supposedly it was located super close to Breckenridge Park, home of the Zoo and Witte, so that we could do all three in one little cluster. Then we learned the McNay Art Museum wasn’t open on Mondays while the botanical gardens were, so we switched plans. So bright and early Monday morning we struck out for the Gardens, which was only a ten minute drive! And we got student discounts and had dollar off coupons! The guy at the door was from Florida, so we chatted with him for a long time. (He was quite talkative – we learned his girlfriend was from San Antonio and to marry her he had to agree to leave Orlando and move there. Also, he was originally from Pennsylvania and made several comments about there being more PN people at the Alamo then Texans and even seemed to me to talk about the equivalent of illegal aliens helping out at the Alamo as if to imply people should have a more positive attitude toward illegal aliens. I found it interesting he was so chatty!) The San Antonio Botanical Gardens were beautiful! We must have wandered around there for two hours. John used up his entire camera battery 2/3rds of the way through the gardens then discovered that he didn’t have a spare battery, poor boy. Otherwise we'd probably have another hundred pictures. My favorite section of the gardens were the opening gardens (which are changed out regularly and that season featured blue bonnets, marigolds, coxcombs, and tiny pansy-looking flowers in gloriously bright shades of yellows, oranges, and blues). The other feature I especially liked were the lawnscapes – they were designed to show you ways to do your lawn that were attractive and good for the environment. My favorites were the Texas Hill Country yard, the Cottage Garden yard, and the Wildlife yard. I wish I were inspired enough to actually redo our yard, but so far no luck. I have looked at the pictures a few times since, at least. Toward the back of the gardes we got to explore log cabins in the Piney Woods area, adobe houses in the Texas deserts area, and an old house moved into the gardens as an example of original homesteads. It was small!! The piney woods area had a lake with loads of turtles and ducks that Monkeys got to feed while I shot video. At the highest point of the gardens there is a decorative covered overlook where you can not only see the entire garden but some of San Antonio as well; a tourist from England gouged his knee on a conveniently located, kneehigh rock outcropping. (Actually it was decorative seating made from rocks, but it was quit pointy in places - I was seated on the bench, and it was comfy from that angle.) I offered him a bandage at the time, but he declined. We bumped into him later in a cactus area; he was still bleeding and accepted my bandage that time. Every time we passed him after that he cheerio’d and waved. Oh, the keepers of the garden had a great sense of humor. One of the water features was filled with yellow rubber duckies. We probably have a hundred pictures of the gardens; it was difficult to restrain myself to posting just a few shots. Their official site probably has better pictures than I took.

Sunday night I looked up local BBQ restaurants because we thought we ought to have BBQ in Texas. Google suggested Bun N Barrell (a single restaurant) and Bob Miller BBQ (a Texas chain). Travel Channel Food Wars implied true Texas BBQ would involve brisket and sausage. Bun N Barrel’s Tuesday special was brisket and sausage, so we planned that for Tuesday and decided to try Bob Miller on Monday to compare the two. Garmon was taking us to the nearest Bob Miller when we passed a Free Sopapilla sign. On Sunday, while lost and searching for our hotel, we passed loads of restaurants that triggered finger pointing and exclamations of “I want to eat there!” One such restaurant had a Free Sopapilla sign, and we realized we lucked into finding the place again. While the Garmon complained and recalculated, we changed course to stop at Cachito de Mexico and are glad we did! When they brought the salsa and chips they also brought some green sauce that at first we thought was watery guacamole but turned out to be green chiles. It was so good I could have eaten it for soup. Yet again Monkeys got chicken mole enchiladas and I got the special, stuffed poblano pepper. Both were delicious. They also served homemade tortillas with the meal. We not only got the free sopapilla, we ordered a Tres Leche cake which wasn’t at all what I expected and a million times more tasty. I thought it would be a cake with caramel sauce, but it’s actually cake that’s been soaked in milk. It’s somehow keeps the consistency of cake yet is creamy. It cannot be healthy. We ended up with leftovers which we had for breakfast later. Best of all – with the special and the free sopapillas we had a food orgy for under $20. Yet again the servers were super nice, and not only did they pleasantly endure our chatter about our anniversary and being in Texas for the first time they gave us suggestions for things to do/see and told us to come back again next trip.

Next stop, the Riverwalk Mall parking garage. We had planned to alternate walking activities with sitting activities to keep from wearing ourselves out: so the plan was walk the gardens, sit to eat, walk the Alamo, sit on the Riverboat Tour, walk the Riverwalk, sit and read then have dinner, and end with walk the ghost tour.

The Alamo was less crowded on Monday, so our wait wasn’t as bad. It’s free to go inside. Inside is composed of an open area you can walk around and two small rooms off to the side that held cases showing knifes, books, and other items found onsite, so it’s self-guided and everyone mills about quietly. It was really quiet. People talked in hushed tones, reading the placards and fliers. You could feel that the room was important and that lives were lost there. Signs informed us men were required to doff their hats and no photography was allowed, but you kind of already felt you should be doing that without the warnings. It really is hallowed grounds. I discovered that I knew next to nothing about the Alamo. I knew Bowie & Crockett and Santa Anna, but that was it. I probably vaguely thought Paul Bunyan was involved, my American history is terrible. I had no idea of the hundreds of lives lost and how many people from all over the country and the world stood their ground there. All along the walls there were state and country flags bearing numbers telling how many people from that location died in the battle. There were also pedestals with each person’s name and home. I was stunned by how many Irish and Scotsmen were there. There was a freed slave fighting, as well. I felt truly awed by the experience. When we went back into the gift shop and once again looked at the miniature representation of the battle it took on a completely different feeling of “cool mini-figs” to being representations of real people and we went from saying things like “Wouldn’t Jason like this?” to “Oh, that’s where they must have kept the women and children (the only survivers).” I will definitely remember the Alamo.

Thankfully, the Alamo is surrounded by beautiful flowers and it was a gloriously sunshiny day, so our moods lightened as we walked to the mall in an attempt to find an Alamo hat as the Alamo gift shop was out of the one I wanted. I needed a hat for sun protection (totally justified). So on our way to the Riverwalk we spent some time wandering the mall for a camera battery for Monkeys, a hat for me, and some souvenirs for my parents and Toast as a thank you for taking care of our animals and lending us the Garmon.

The Riverboat Tours run continuously until about 7 in the evening, you just buy a ticket and grab one whenever they stop to dock. We were the first in line, and struck up a conversation with the couple behind us. The man was from Wisconsin, which triggered the usual “where are you from” line of inquiry. Monkeys is from such a small town that even Wisconsiners don’t know it, so he always starts with a bigger city and works down. Our line friend knew of Osh Kosh and Watuma, so Monkeys sprang Neshkoro on him expecting him to flounder. Turns out, he was from Berlin – a city just ten minute from Neshkoro! We go there every visit, our nephew lives there and sister-in-law works there! We had a great time chatting with that couple after that broke the ice wide open. After about fifteen minutes of waiting, a boat arrived. Our boat was called Rosemary and our guide was cheerful, but I wish he talked a bit louder. His patter was interesting and I wanted to be able to hear all the stories and details about the sights we were looking at. He had a great story about a time when one of the Riverboats didn’t successfully make the turn under the bridge by the mall where the live flute band plays. The boat had a slight crash and the band stopped mid-song and switched to playing the Theme from Titanic. The next day we saw one of the Riverboats snag in that same area and have to pull to the side; unfortunately the band was not playing that time. Anyway, talking about crashing the guide gave the normal spiel about life jackets (I was sitting next to them) but suggested our best course of action if we sank was for us to stand up and walk to the edge since the river was only about 3 feet deep! The rest of the tour was filled with facts about the city, the river and flooding, and the buildings and statues we were passing. It was partly pimping local restaurants and tourist centers and party historical, but I appreciated both because we saw some nice looking eateries! And we passed the Aztec on the Riverwalk – a silent theatre that was on my wishlist of places to visit in San Antonio. We weren’t able to visit it this trip, but at least I got to see the building fairly closeup! Our guide was a bit of a smart aleck. He would ask us trivia questions, and if people’s responses were stupid he let them know! I wanted to answer the Sandra Bulluck/Miss Congeniality question, but felt like I’d be cheating since we’ve overheard it the day before from a passing tour. Yet again I took tons of pictures, and it was hard to restrain myself to posting just a few. The Riverwalk is beautiful. The water is kind of murky, but the trees and bridges spanning the water and the colorful lights and umbrellas along the sides are lovely. I would like to take the tour again at night to see the differences. Daylight allowed good views of murals and statues, but nighttime would reveal a teaming nightlife, I’m sure.

Our next big event was the 8pm Ghost Tour of the Alamo. I was excited because after the 2 ½ hour walking tour the brochure promised you could experiment with their ghost detecting equipment and try to find some ghosts yourself. We had three or four hours before it started, so we bought some Starbucks coffee and settled into one of the covered tables along the Riverwalk. The band was playing live by this time, so the mystical pipes of Zamphyr sounded around us. Monkeys made a few Southpark giant guinea pigs comments. We spent the next few hours reading, watching the boats, watching the other tourists, and chatting with the lady at the table next to us. She lived in San Antonio, but was moving back home to New York next month, so I guess she was soaking up the city as best she could before leaving. Monkeys says this was his favorite “event” of the trip – us leisurely sitting together in the breeze reading. Around 7:30 we went inside the mall to grab a quick bite to eat before walking to the tour. (I had falafel!) On our way to the Alamo we passed a few panhandlers, which made us nervous about the prospect of walking back to our car around 11pm. It was only two blocks, not far at all, but if we were already spooked before the ghost tour we thought we’d be extra nervous walking back that late, so one block away we turned around and headed back to the car. Thanks to our change of course we discovered the Saint Joseph Rectory, which is imbedded into the mall. I guess the parking garage, mall, and other stories built around it and got really close. It was on my things to see wishlist, so I took a few pictures as best I could. There were some homeless people sitting on the stairs, so again I was afraid to get too close. Slightly disappointed, we made our way back to the car. We toyed with the idea of trying to find a closer parking lot, but overall it was an amazing day filled with all sorts of sights and wonders, so we were content with our adventures for the day. We vowed next trip we’d find a closer lot and maybe a bigger crowd – safety in numbers – and then make sure we did the tour. The hotel was already in the Garmon, so our return trip was completely uneventful. The moon was HUGE, so we opened the moonroof. It was a beautiful night, and we passed all sorts of interesting buildings and signs as we reviewed the day’s events and discussed Tuesday’s plans. Back at the hotel I jogged in place for an hour and a half to make up for not doing the walking tour I’d expected – I thought it best since my dinner choices were made with the idea I’d be getting a lot of exercise afterwards! Best, we were home in time to watch Castle! Score!

One of the million pictures I took of the flowers. One of the million pictures I took of the flowers.
It is soooooooooooooooooooo hard to pick just a few pictures from the gardens. There were so many pretty flowers there. I tried to make sure at least half of them had Monkeys in the picture. There aren't many of me because those are on his camera.
Japanese Garden, not to be confused with the Japanese Tea Garden Japanese Garden, not to be confused with the Japanese Tea Garden
The really cool thing about these botanical gardens was the trails. They had loads of trails carved out for you to stroll on. (There was even a sign that said "Paths have been provided for feet of all ages. Please stay off the grass.")
I'm on a bridge! I'm on a bridge!
Monkeys made the bridge look really tiny. Giggle.
Kids Project Kids Project
I took about seven pictures of this art project. Each item (animal, plant, etc.) was created by a fifth grader to represent traditional flora and fauna of the rainforest (or something like that). Some of the kids were really talented and creative. A lot of the items used were egg cartons and toilet paper rolls and cotton balls - but they made very recognizable critters. My favorite was the owl, which of course isn't even in this picture.
On the boat again On the boat again
I had a coupon! After walking along the river on Sunday we were both excited to take the tour. It would cover greater distance than we did plus the guide would talk about all the sights and locations we passed the day before, so our speculations as to what we were looking at would now be confirmed or denied. While waiting in line for the boat we chatted with another couple. Turns out not only was he from Wisconsin, he was from the city next to Neshkoro!! NOBODY knows Neshkoro! I think he was just as shocked to bump into someone who knew Berlin, WI. They aren't much bigger. Anyway, it was great chatting with them. Everyone we met was super friendly, but those "small world" moments are always extra special. Riverboat Tours: http://www.riosanantonio.com/content/publish/tours.shtml
Self Portrait Self Portrait
Our new Wisconsin friends tried to take our picture on the boat, but I had it in video mode. (duh) So I took one of us by holding the camera out as far as I could and hoping for the best. I like it because you can see the reflection of the boat in my glasses -that blue area is where the life jackets are stored. Of course, if the boat should overturn were were told our best course of action was to stand up and walk to shore since the river is only about 3 feet deep. Also - check out my cool Alamo hat! No pictures allowed inside the Alamo, so that's my photographic evidence of having visited there earlier in the day.
Reading away the afternoon. Reading away the afternoon.
Originally the Monday plan was: 1) Botanical Gardens, 2) lunch, 3) Inside the Alamo, 4) Riverboat Tour, 5) walk along the mall, 5) Read along the Riverwalk, 6) quick dinner at the mall, 7) Ghost tour of the Alamo. It was a meticulous blend of walking, sitting, walking, sitting, walking, sitting, walking so as to maximize our activities while still protecting our backs, LOL. We made it all the way to reading along the Riverwalk - where we grabbed some coffees and a chair right off the river then spent two hours sipping and reading with the breeze and live band, occasionally pausing to wave at passing boats or chat with tourists at nearby tables. Around 8pm we started toward the Alamo for the Ghost tour, but we chickened out. Not because of ghosts - we were nervous about walking back from the Alamo to the car amidst the panhandlers. Sigh. So we agreed next year we'd have a bigger group and possibly a closer parking lot. (We were only two blocks, but after it got dark it felt further.) The ghost tour, by the way, would have been awesome. After the 2 1/2 hour walking tour with local ghost stories you get 30 minutes to try actual ghost detecting and experiment with their equipment!! But that would have made it end around 11pm.
Free Sopapillas! Free Sopapillas!
When we got lost heading back to the motel on Sunday night we passed a restaurant with a sign saying "Free Sopapillas" and commented that we would love to eat there. Of course, we were saying that about just about every restaurant we passed. When planning our day Monday we originally planned on eating at Bob Millers' BBQ (cuz it's Texas and you have to have BBQ) but we happened passed that same "free sopapillas" sign on our way to Bob Millers and suddenly decided to try Cachito de Mexico out. So glad we did!! The server was super nice, they had an amazing green chile alternative to salsa which John has already attempted to cook. Also, the sopapillas were authentic and they had Tres Leche cake that was phenomenal. http://www.sacurrent.com/dining/place.asp?id=4210

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