After departing San Diego, the last West Coast city on the road trip across USA, a twinge of sadness was undeniable. I love my adopted West Coast, and even though there was so much ahead I was looking forward to, it was sad to say goodbye for a while. I grew up and lived 24 years on the East Coast, but the hip and gorgeous West Coast without a doubt became my new home. That is where I grew into an adult, met lots of great people, fell in love and got married during the past seven years, and therefore it will always be incredibly special.
Since we stayed an extra night at our hotel in Pacific Beach, our itinerary from there would bring us all the way to El Paso for a short overnight stay before continuing deeper into the great big state of Texas, destined for San Antonio and then Austin. Crossing into sunny Arizona, we immediately felt the dry, hot heat. We stopped for lunch at In-N-Out in Yuma, as we realized it would most likely be our last opportunity for a while. Why does that place have to be SO GOOD?? I think it is probably a good thing they are currently secluded to the South-Western US and not at every exit across the entire country.
Driving through Arizona and New Mexico is what you would expect – dry desert, mostly flat with some hills, a cactus here and there. That evening’s sunset in the rear view mirror combined with the dark storm clouds and lightning ahead was quite spectacular. The bright red soaked sky looked exactly like the Arizona signs that greet you at the state border. Since we were driving so far south, it wasn’t long before we reached Texas from New Mexico. I should also mention driving from Tucson to El Paso was the first time of this cross-county road trip that I took the wheel. Not that I didn’t offer…you see, it is just that I have a bit of a driving hog for a travel partner. He finally tired as we neared Tucson, and let me take the wheel so he could nap! HANG ON BECAUSE HERE WE GO!
After a brief Marriott overnight in El Paso, we happily reached San Antonio, where lodging would be two nights at the Crockett Hotel. It was located just behind The Alamo, which is why Andrew selected it. Something about the basement of the Alamo?? The hotel had free wifi which was great, but you did have to pay for daily parking. It is an old and historical hotel near the Riverwalk shops and restaurants, so it was very convenient for our short stay.
Here is my list of the top four things to check out in San Antonio...
1. The Riverwalk – the San Antonio Riverwalk is an intriguing river canal below the downtown streets. Several restaurants and some shops line the sidewalks of the river, and there are boat tours offered that loop through the river and provide you with a narrative history of the Riverwalk. It can feel very sweet and romantic in the evening, but be sure to go for an early dinner, as most of the restaurants close by 9 or 10pm.
2. Tableside Guacamole from Iron Cactus – if you are a guacamole lover ((understatement)) like me, you cannot miss ordering the Tableside Guacamole from Iron Cactus, on the Riverwalk. It was the best $10 spent in San Antonio. The waiter brings out a tray with fresh, halved avocados, along with chopped tomato, onion, citrus fruits ((for the juice)), jalapeños as well as salt and pepper. He then proceeds to prepare the guacamole right in front of you, asking which ingredients you want to add or leave out. I skipped the jalapenos, but requested he include all remaining ingredients. He then provides you with bottomless fresh, salty tortilla chips, and paired with a happy hour $3 margarita or house wine and a view of the Riverwalk, it was the most superb experience!
3. Trying on silly hats at La Tienda – to save yourself from the incredible heat and humidity of San Antonio in September, you need to walk into silly gift shops and try on the variety of fun hats for sale, yes? Agree? I laughed so hard at all the silly hats we each tried on. This store had every single type of hat you could ever want or need…massive sombrero – check; sparkly fedora – check; layered cheeseburger hat – check. La Tienda also has all the Texas and Mexican-inspired trinkets that exist in the state of Texas, for your gag gift giving pleasure. Also, if you have been desperate for that old-time photo, this is your place! They dress you up and gather together props for your perfect old-time-looking western photograph. There may or may not be one of these so-called old-time photos of my sisters and I that exists out there, from a family trip to Florida years ago.
4. French Macarons from Bakery Lorraine – are you really surprised two out of four are food-related? Ok, good, because you would really be missing out if you did not venture a little outside downtown to find Bakery Lorraine. Thanks to a former co-worker who introduced me to a real French Bakery in Seattle where I tried macarons for the first time, I now have a serious obsession. I had no choice but to hunt down a French bakery while in San Antonio, and boy was I pleasantly surprised to taste the best ever macarons. The reviews I read about this bakery even mention they rival the macarons in Paris. GASP! I had to find this place and taste for myself, in preparations for Paris of course! After eyeing all the gorgeous desserts and different flavors of macarons, I chose three adorable macarons from the case: chocolate, pistachio, and raspberry with pistachio filling. They were all mind-blowingly luscious biscuits of meringe, and melted in my mouth just as they should have. But that pistachio one took top honors in my book, and I now dream about tasting another one on a regular basis.
I have to be honest here…apart from the above list of my favorite bits, I wasn’t overly thrilled by San Antonio. Maybe it was the oven-like heat & humidity; it is hard to love anywhere that feels that sticky. In fairness, however, I had not done much research, so I was not sure what to expect nor did I find out where the locals hang out so we could get out of the downtown core. It appeared most others we saw as we walked around were business people there for various conferences or regular downtown employees, so there wasn’t a huge touristy vibe to the city. Not sure if that is the norm or just typical for this time of year. Much like San Diego, we skipped the Zoo and Sea World, and stuck mostly to one area and as always, still made the most of our time there!
Do not fear, Texas lovers, I get my groove back in Austin and may even need a two-part post since there was so much to love!