¡Hola, San Antonio!

Friday, December 4, 2009

I have to admit: First impression of Texas? NOT GOOD.

When we arrived into town last night, it was after 11 p.m. here, and after midnight at home. We worked all day, then endured two flights, totaling about six hours of travel. I don't think I have to say that I was tired. We just wanted to get out of the airport, get our rental car, and get to our hotel. So we could SLEEP.

First, we were stuck waiting for our carry-on luggage at the gate. This is always annoying, but it's especially irritating when it takes EIGHT MILLION YEARS. I have flown countless times in my life, often with carry-on luggage. Sometimes the overhead compartments are small and you have to gate-check your luggage. It's not new to me. Not ideal, but no big deal. You get off the plane, you get your bag back. Yet these airline workers were THE SLOWEST human beings I have ever encountered. Ridiculous.

Then... oh my. My blood is still boiling over what happened next. Of course, our gate was located at the end of the Earth within the airport, so we had to drag all of our belongings a mile or two before we reached the curb to catch the shuttle to the rental car lot. We waited while the National Rental Car shuttle was stuck in a huge line of shuttles/buses/vans/taxis before it could get to us. It was the most ass-backwards process I have ever seen. (Are we noticing a trend yet?) We were FINALLY able to pile into the shuttle with twenty other people, and we arrived in the National Rental Car lot.

I'll cut to the chase here and tell you the short version of the rest of this story. We reserved and paid for an economy car. It's just the two of us, we don't need much else. Well, when we arrived at the lot, we found that there was not an economy car available for us. In fact, the economy section was completely empty. As was the compact section. Confused, we asked the attendant, and she told us that they were out of economy cars, and instead to pick an SUV. We walk over to the SUVs and they're all enormous. Everyone else with us who was supposed to have an economy car was happy with the "free upgrade" and jumped in SUVs to take off.

Not us.

We didn't want an SUV, for a number of reasons. 1) Gas mileage. We have no interest in paying three times as much in gas for our little 4-day trip. 2) We're in a new city. We have no idea where we're going. It's much easier to maneuver an economy car when you have to change lanes last minute, turn around when you miss your turn, etc. 3) WE RESERVED AN ECONOMY CAR.

So, again, cutting to the chase... I had to get a little testy with the people working the counter at National Car Rental. Ultimately, they found a couple of economy cars out back and we drove off satisfied in a Hyundai Accent. Must've been "magic," I tell you.


Thankfully, Texas has done a good job redeeming itself since then.

This morning, we got up and got the day started. We drove around for a little bit to get our bearings, and finally decided that we were too hungry to wait much longer to eat. We decided to get an early lunch at Mi Tierra.

One thing I immediately fell in love with about San Antonio: The entire city embraces Christmas. Like seriously embraces it, y'all. There are Christmas lights everywhere. Decorations everywhere. Christmas music playing everywhere. I love it.

Mi Tierra is no different. It actually looks a little bit like Christmas exploded inside of Mi Tierra.

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Isn't it gorgeous? Yayyy. It makes me all warm and fuzzy.

We were greeted by a lovely Mexican server named Gloria. She was very matter-of-fact and I liked that about her. We were immediately served fresh tortilla chips (still warm!) and salsa. (And consequently, Mi Tierra won a piece of my heart. What can I say? I'm easy to please.)

Michael and I ordered off of their lunch specials menu (so cheap!), and it was the greatest Mexican food I have ever had. No doubt about that. I even went as far as to say that it might've been the best meal I've ever had. Ever.

YEAH. I know.
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After lunch, we stopped at Mi Tierra's little bakery located where you first walk inside. We were on the prowl for churros, but unfortunately they didn't have any. We compromised on an apple empanada and OH MY WORD it was not even a compromise. It was incredible. So, so good.
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Before leaving, I had to stop and get photographic evidence of my very enthusiastic, "two-thumbs-up" review of Mi Tierra.
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Outside of Mi Tierra. The yellow banner Michael's walking towards says "Feliz Navidad." That's right, it says Merry Christmas. Totally rare to see in today's society.

With our bellies full, we were off again, and soon found parking that was convenient to both the Alamo and the Riverwalk.

Have I told you yet how cold it was today? If there's one thing I've learned, it's that 30 degrees in Texas feels the same as 30 degrees back home. In other words, it's FREEZING. We were inappropriately dressed. I totally should've packed my winter coat (instead of my fall one), as well as a hat and gloves (I ended up picking up a hat, gloves and scarf at Walmart this afternoon).

So, even though it was cold, we braved the elements to explore the Alamo and the surrounding grounds.
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Pretty, isn't it? I was surprised. I didn't realize how much there was to the Alamo. You walk through, periodically going inside for little museum-like sections (which were all extremely well heated, and I thank them for thawing my fingers) where they display historical artifacts related to the Alamo.
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Then, we finally got out front to the "recognizable" Alamo. (Still freezing.)
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We walked around some more (I loved these gigantic trees), and before we knew it, the clouds had all but disappeared and the sun came out. It helped to make the cold a bit more bearable, plus it made everything look much prettier!
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We had to go back out front to take more photos of the Alamo now that we had blue skies!
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From the Alamo, we walked over to the Riverwalk to explore there for a little bit.
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The Riverwalk has to be the coolest thing about San Antonio. It's below street level and is just a fun place to walk around. I was surprised, though, that most of the businesses down there are restaurants and bars. I expected them, but thought there would be more little shops.
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After we had thoroughly enjoyed the Riverwalk, we decided to head back to our hotel to rest up a bit before going back out into the city for the night.

First, we stopped at Walmart for a couple of essentials. (Did you know that the Holiday Inn no longer supplies conditioner? Just shampoo and body lotion. My hair was not a fan of NO CONDITIONER, folks.) We also picked up a 12-pack of beer and a disposable styrofoam cooler.
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Back at the hotel, we relaxed and had our own little happy hour.

Soon, we were back at the Riverwalk. For dinner, we decided to eat Mexican food again (it's so good, how can you not?). This time, we chose Casa Rio, based on its location right on the Riverwalk, and the recommendation from one of you lovely blog readers.

Armed with my new hat, gloves, and scarf, we had a little bit of a wait for a table and decided to wait around outside. In the meantime, I took a few photos of the lit-up Riverwalk.
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It wasn't long before we were seated. We were again treated to fresh tortilla chips and salsa (this one was quite spicy!), and I indulged in a margarita. Our food was really good. Almost as good as Mi Tierra, but not quite. We still highly recommend Casa Rio, though. It was a nice atmosphere to be right on the Riverwalk. I'm sure it would be awesome with nice weather, when you can sit right out on the balcony.

After dinner, we walked over to the Rivercenter and went to see A Christmas Carol in 3D at the IMAX theater there. Even though we have one at home, we never go because it's a good 30-minute drive from our house and there are so many other regular movie theaters in between! I had only been to an IMAX theater one other time, and it was at a museum so it was a documentary-type film. Michael had never been at all. And neither of us had ever seen a movie in 3D. We obviously knew the story, but it was a really cute version (though I could see how some children might find it a bit scary at times) and we couldn't get over how cool the 3D was.

When the movie was over, we walked back over to the Alamo to see it lit up at night.
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From there, we walked back over to the Riverwalk and walked around there some more, stopping to take some photos along the way.
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What a lovely way to get acquainted with San Antonio. We'll spend the morning here tomorrow before we hit the road for Austin!


~*TheNewMrs.Perez*~ December 9, 2009 at 3:22 PM  

Wahoo!!! I'm glad you liked Mi Tierra's. Sorry about the airport, the one in Austin is SOOOO much better, promise! :) Have fun, and welcome to Texas!!!!

Heather December 9, 2009 at 8:21 PM  

We never did see the Austin airport because we flew back home out of San Antonio. :)

Mi Tierra was my favorite!

~ H December 10, 2009 at 10:55 AM  

I LOVE the Riverwalk at Christmastime. And I second your comments about the SA airport. p.s. It's so fun looking through your pictures ... makes me miss my temporary home. :)

Becky December 10, 2009 at 4:25 PM  

How do you get such great night shots? I love Mexican food and would eat it every day!

Heather December 10, 2009 at 4:27 PM  

Becky--It's all about slow shutter speed!

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