A Quick Trip to San Antonio

My daughter Lily and I headed to San Antonio this weekend. The primary purpose of the trip was to attend Trinity University’s accepted student’s day. We stayed for a couple more days to enjoy the warm weather. (More on that in a bit.)

We flew down out of National Airport on Air Tran. We had a connecting flight through Atlanta so we hoped for no delays. Air Tran was recently bought by Southwest. My hope is that Southwest assimilates Air Tran soon. The terminal at National had all the ambiance of the Back Bay bus depot in Boston in the 1970s.  Totally disorganized and overcrowded.

Both Air Tran planes had absolutely no leg room.  I’d have gladly paid an extra $20 per ticket not to have my knees smashed for 4 or 5 hours or having my back kicked by the brat sitting in the row behind me. Our return flight on basically the same aircraft on Southwest had plenty of leg room. The large man sitting next to me from Atlanta to San Antonio was a regular Southwest flyer who had inadvertently booked himself of our Air Tran flight. He flew curled up in a ball. He was pissed.

Once in San Antonio we took a cab to the Drury Plaza Hotel on the Riverwalk in downtown San Antonio. San Antonio has an astounding number of large hotels. Restaurants and watering holes line the sides of the Riverwalk, which is packed with people. We arrived at the hotel a little after 11 CDT. And crashed.

Up early in the morning, we ate a big complimentary breakfast at the hotel and taxied to Trinity to partake in a daylong event. We took a walking tour of campus, attended information sessions, met with faculty members from four departments, and took a demonstration version of a freshman humanities seminar. The whole event was very well organized and well worth the trip.

Every college (and we’ve probably seen 3 dozen in the last 5 years) has its pluses and minuses. And its oddities such as Trinity’s outdoor flight of stairs that is about two stories tall. They call it cardiac hill. Maybe it’s difficult in the heat of the summer, but it doesn’t hold a candle to any part of Lehigh’s campus or to College Hill in Providence which once held the X Games street luge competition.

To be fair, Trinity has a lot going for it. Most of the kids we interacted with are serious and articulate. The dorms are pretty darned nice. The folks from the Education program could not have been more impressive. And the Humanities seminar was not for the faint of brain.

After our day of higher education, we cabbed back to the hotel. The Drury Plaza is in a converted bank building. The lobby is a couple of stories tall with a beautiful large stained glass window and wall art from the depression that knocked me out.  Some of the old bank vaults are on display in the basement. We stayed on the fifth floor which looked a bit like it could have been used in the old 1950s Superman show. Our room was plenty big enough.

We spent the night on the Riverwalk, taking in the obligatory boat tour and ending the night with surprisingly good gelatto.

We had Sunday to ourselves so we walked over to the Alamo. The modern downtown has been build up around the shrine. From watching movies of the famous siege, you’d think it was a big fort but it’s actually quite tiny. A few years ago on a business trip to Dallas, I toured Dealey Plaza. I had the same impression. Not everything is big in Texas. (After visiting Dealey Plaza, I wondered how the heck anybody could say that it was impossible for one man to have carried out the assassination. It looks much, much bigger on film.)

After the Alamo, we hoofed it south out of downtown. I tried to convince Lily to use bike share but she wanted nothing to do with it. In fact, I only saw a couple of bike share bikes in use during our three day stay. This strikes me as odd since San Antonio looks pool-table flat to me.  After almost I mile we arrived at Rosario’s, a local Tex Mex eatery. The tables and chairs look like they were bought from a diner in the 1960s, but don’t judge this book by its cover. The food was out of this world. We had chicken tortilla soup,chicken fajitas, and fish tacos. Also, because one of our cabbies gave us a coupon, we also had a little appetizer that was two soft flour tortillas with cheese, beans, and a dab of salsa on top. Suffice it to say we waddled back to downtown with full bellies and smiles on our faces.

It was colder than we expected during our stay with strong winds and  temperatures barely making it into the 60s by late afternoon. We opted to crash in the hotel room at night and watched The Descendants, One Day, and The Fighter on TV.  Good movies all.

On Monday we slept in. We spent an hour at the modest San Fernando Cathedral. The remains of some of the Alamo’s defenders are interred in one of the Cathedral’s chapels.  We admired 13 small ornate sculptures hung from the perimeters on the inside of the Cathedral.  These are used for a ritual called the Stations of the Cross, which I remember from my altar boy days. A statue of the crucified Jesus in Mary’s arm was situated near a wall. The statue was painted or stained in some way, but the color had been worn off where the faithful had laid their hands on Jesus.

I always feel a bit uncomfortable touring Catholic churches such as this when there are people scattered among the pews praying.  We didn’t linger.

After leaving the cathedral we headed back to Rosario’s for lunch. We had had a bland Italian meal on the Riverwalk on Sunday night and decided the mile walk away from the tourist traps was well worth it. This time I had Lisa’s Special which included cheese enchiladas and chicken fajitas. Lily tried the Enchiladas Mexicanas. Lily and I agreed that her meal was okay, but paled in comparison to the other dishes we had tried. Lily’s food would have been a stand out dish at just about any other Mexican restaurant I’ve been to.  After only two trips, we had become Tex Mex food snobs!

We walked back to our hotel and waited for a cab. Our taxi to the airport took 15 minutes. Our flight home on Southwest was a direct one into BWI. Every seat on the plane was filled. We left late and arrived early. As we landed, we could see snow on the ground. It was near freezing outside. San Antonio didn’t seem cold anymore.

Pix of the trip can be found on my Flickr page.

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