Not only are we across the street from the Alamo, but today we learn that our hotel stands on what was the northern wall of the actual fort. That iconic building we all know was the church, the last refuge of the fort’s defenders, but the fort itself occupied what is now the Alamo plaza, and extended far across the street. You go through the church and enter into a large compound, which has some of the original interior structures. It is very evocative and it was a privilege to see what still remains.
The site is maintained by the Daughters of the Texas Revolution, who did the best they could after a lot of destruction occurred around the site right after the Civil War. There is no admission fee, but they do encourage heavy patronage of the gift shop, where we did find – as expected – some coonskin caps, as well as some other kitsch. Okay, okay, I confess I did buy the Davy Crockett nutcracker. I had to do it. Don, however, was not seduced by the cap. Sigh.
What’s amazing is what currently faces the Alamo. You turn around and see…a real carny show. Ripley’s, Guinness and the Tomb Raider ride. (From our hotel room, you get a great idea of the juxtaposition.) What? This junk on the most sacred land in Texas? And oh yes, let’s not forget Louis Tussaud’s Wax Museum. Judging by the reproduction of Ellen de Generes, Louis must have been the artistically challenged nephew of Madame Tussaud, whom she sent off to Texas, hoping he’d be shot or something.
But on to something more lovely and a credit to San Antonio – River Walk. This is a spectacular area, a wonderfully intimate walkway along the San Antonio River, channeled as part of the New Deal to deal with flooding, It’s a floor below the street level and filled with hotels, restaurants and shops – and people. Once everyone figured out that it could be a scenic area and a real tourist pull, they never looked back. We took a boat ride through it and thought it was just wonderful.
We also went to the Market, a wonderful fiesta of shops and restaurants, the largest Mexican market outside of Mexico. What a riot of color and sound. We had a great lunch at Mi Tierra, which was so wonderful that I forgot to take pictures till the margaritas were drunk and there were only bones left of the chicken mole. That’s all you get, folks.
There are some other nice walking-around moments we had in town, including seeing the old cathedral, with the remains of our Alamo heroes, plus a tour of the old Spanish Governor’s palace. It is mostly a fantasy of the 1930’s, but with a lot of authentic bits left. Charming, especially the courtyard.
We toured other parts of town and then ended our day at the Menger Hotel Bar, noteworthy as the place where Teddy Roosevelt came to drink and recruit some Rough Riders. It’s directly across the street from the Alamo, so he picked a great spot to stir up hostilities against the Spanish.