Deep in the heart of Texas

I’m writing this sitting in my hotel room in San Antonio. I’m over here for a conference that starts in earnest tomorrow (although I’ve meetings scheduled over the weekend) but I didn’t want to come all this way without seeing something of the place, so came out a few days early. I guess I haven’t properly adjusted to the time difference as I keep waking up early, so I decided to use the time before breakfast this morning and catch up with a bit of blogging. It’s my second trip to America. The first was about 4 years ago, to Memphis, also on business.

So what of San Antonio? Well it’s hot and fairly humid, but wearing a hat, applying plenty of sun-screen, drinking lots of water and taking it reasonably easy, I’m coping.

 

The city’s main claim to fame is the Alamo. It’s right in the city centre, five minutes walk from my hotel. and there is some history. The Alamo started as a Spanish Mission, built as a base for converting the local Native Americans to Catholicism and so cement Spanish rule in the area. And there are four more extending along the length of the San Antonio river in the south of the city. More about these in a future post.

Like Memphis the city centre is based on tourism, local government and some commerce. One thing notable to someone from England is that there are hardly any proper shops “downtown” I want to buy some fruit for my room but the only shops that sell food are Drugstores and they don’t sell fresh foodstuff. Not a real bookshop to be found – with some exceptions, nearly all the shops are aimed at tourists. I find it so weird that all the main shopping is done at malls on the outskirts. Memphis was the same. In Britain’s cities we expect there to be a lively shopping centre, although as we see an increasing number of city centre shops closing perhaps what I’ve seen in America is a vision of our future.

The big attraction and honeypot for tourists is the Riverwalk. For flood defence purposes, some of the water from the San Antonio river has been diverted into a loop and this has been landscaped and developed so that it is lined with bars, restaurants and various attractions.

It’s below street level, planted up with trees and has little water features and attractive little bridges. And they’ve extended the approach to the main river itself with pleasant walks to the north of the city centre towards the city Art Museum and to the south there’s a hiking and biking trail.

The architecture in the centre of the city isn’t particularly interesting. The vernacular buildings are of limited interest and the main large buildings are not particularly inspiring or original. There are some modest skyscrapers, including my hotel, and the Tower of the Americas that was built for a World’s fair held in the city. Some buildings have a Texan take on Gothic and Art Deco styles, but nothing that inspires or excites.

However, there are some more interesting buildings in residential districts, such as King William, close to the centre.

There are two interesting Art. Galleries, the City Art Museum yet – which is a little like the Ashmolean in Oxford with a mix of art and artefacts from Ancient civilisations, and. a really good Modern Art Gallery – the McNay Art Museum – which is out in the Northern part of the city, towards the airport. A fantastic collection in a wonderful setting based around inside a modern space linked to a Spanish colonial style house. More to come on them.

There are lots of places to eat. Many of them quite touristy but I’ve had a couple of decent Tex Mex meals and am starting to discover American breakfasts.

I’ve not had any interaction with local people yet, other than in the hotel, shops, bars, restaurants and the like and they’ve all been as you expect with Americans – very friendly and helpful.

I’ve five more days here. My time wil be mainly taken up now with the conference, but tthere’s probably more to see and thngs to find out before I leave.

 

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