[San Antonio, TX]
A few days before my trip to Texas, a few friends filled out a Travel Challenge survey on Facebook. It entailed a list of 100 world attractions and the goal was to see how many of those you’ve visited, and how that compares to your friends. #1 on the list: The Alamo in San Antonio, TX! 🙂 I am in Austin, TX for a few days for the Higher Education Data Warehousing (HEDW) conference, but as usual, I’ve tacked on a few days before the conference to fit in some sight-seeing.
San Antonio is only 80 miles or so from Austin – an easy drive of just over an hour – and so when planning the trip I decided to head straight there after landing in Austin. My Russian friend (and coworker) Marina and I landed in Austin shortly after noon and were on our way to San Antonio in no time. We got to San Antonio shortly before 2 pm, parked the car for the afternoon and set about to explore the two main attractions San Antonio has to offer: The Alamo and the Riverwalk.
Our first stop was the Alamo. Before coming here, I knew very little about the history of Texas. I knew that the Alamo somehow figured into it but had no idea how. Thankfully, the History Channel had produced a 15-minute video on the subject, which one could watch in a little theater in one of the chambers of the Alamo.
The Alamo is a former mission started by the Spanish, and taken over by Mexico after it gained its independence from Spain. American settlers were allowed to come to Texas at the time and had Mexican citizenship. However, as time went on, a dictator named Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna took power in Mexico City, gradually took away all the rights of the settlers and stripped them from their citizenship. This lead to the Texan war for independence. Immigrant settlers and Tejano natives took over the Alamo by defeating the Mexican general who occupied it until then, General Cos. In response, Santa Anna himself lead an army of 3000 to take back the Alamo. Santa Ana’s army reached the Alamo on February 23, 1836 and expected a quick win; however, the Tejan revolutionaries, which numbered only 200, held on for 13 days. In the early morning of March 6, 1836, the Mexican army staged a surprise attack before sunrise and the Alamo finally fell. Although the Texans lost this battle, it became a symbol of their courage in their fight for independence, which they gained later that year.
As I walked around the Alamo and glanced at the modern city buildings towering over this 200-year-old site, I tried to imagine what it was like for the soldiers to wake up to a full-on attack and fight to the death, or for the women and children who survived the battle (and, thankfully, were released by Santa Anna). I love that feeling I get at historic sites such as these – a feeling of awe because I am literally walking in the footsteps of those men and women who have shaped the world as it is today. Yes, the Alamo might be smaller in actual size than people imagine (that’s what I heard from many people during the day), but I thought it was just as grand as I thought it would be.
After the Alamo, we went to the San Antonio Riverwalk, which was right across the street. It is a network of walkways along the banks of the San Antonio River, one story beneath approximately 5 miles of downtown San Antonio. It’s lined with restaurants, shops, hotels and more. The weather was perfect for spending time there – it was cloudy but warm, and a nice breeze ensured the humidity was not a problem. We ate lunch there at a seafood place called Landry’s, and people-watched. By the time we were done, it was nearing early evening and we needed to head back to Austin to check into our hotel and meet up with my former boss, Martha, for dinner.