San Antonio was THE pleasant surprise of our crossing of Texas. A pleasant city to visit, oriented towards Hispanic culture and tourism. This is why it is essential to visit San Antonio.
The pleasant Texas surprise
We didn’t expect anything special from it, and yet San Antonio fulfilled us! Located about 1h30 drive from the capital, Austin, it has nothing to envy to its music lover next door. And even against “Big D”, Dallas, which we discovered in the footsteps of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Davy Crockett’s city and its Fort Alamo has nothing to be ashamed of, quite the contrary. San Antonio is first and foremost a celebration of Mexican culture, with 63% of its population considered Latin according to the 2010 census.
San Fernando Cathedral, which contrasts with the modern and refined style of American churches, and the historic district of La Villita, remind us that the city was founded during the Spanish colonial era. With its buildings with their serrated saloon-style facades, San Antonio has managed to preserve a 19th century look that seduces us Europeans.
Visit San Antonio by boat
And it is well known, a city crossed by a river always gets a certain character from it. But here, we are talking about canals, which wind between the streets, and whose banks are entirely passable. Maybe not Venice, but not Amiens either! (Sorry for the Amiens but there is no match here).
Neither one nor two, we board one of the barges that cross the canals with a handful of tourists to visit San Antonio from the river. Enough to see the city from another angle and put a caption under our photos thanks to the explanations of our funny guide. Along the San Antonio River, you can enjoy the Arneson River theater, the only theatre in the world whose bleachers (of greenery, please!) and stage are separated by a river. Class!
The nostalgic people of Paris will shed a small tear as they pass under the Lock Bridge, a kind of local Pont des Arts, without the charm of Panam’ (what, me, chauvinist?!?!)
The huge trees leaning over the river act as essential natural umbrellas: in San Antonio the humid subtropical climate can be quite suffocating and the slightest step can liquefy you! In short, we recommend this tour at affordable prices ($12 in 2018).
Fort Alamo and Davy Crockett
But what would Davy Crockett’s city be without its Alamo Fort? It is impossible to visit San Antonio without escaping the visit of this place, both mythical and founding for the city (and Texas in general). Equipped with an audioguide (available in French), we learn about the history of this ancient mission that became Fort, taken and repeated many times by the Mexicans and then the Texans. It provides a more global context for the Mexican revolution, whose instability, then under Spanish rule, was felt as far away as Texas. The Lone Star State, once Mexican, wanted to gain its independence and the strategic location of San Antonio, at the crossroads of the main axes of Texas, made it the scene of epic battles. Hence the siege of Fort Alamo, which lasted 13 days, and where a certain Davy Crockett died. A rather complex story in the end, where you get lost a little bit over the 33 markers, but a must see place, and moreover “uncontested” since it is the most visited site in Texas.
The façade of the Alamo Fort
Sound and light on San Fernando Cathedral
Another must of “S.A”: the illuminations of San Fernando Cathedral, called “San Antonio: the Saga”. Originally a manceau, I knew the “Chimères” of Le Vieux Mans. And I have to say, San Antonio is a step up! In 20 minutes, the monument takes on all shapes and colours to take the visitor on a journey into the heart of the city’s history. All this, accompanied by a modern and lively playlist. And – watch out, minute cock-a-doodle-doo! – the sound and light show was created by a Frenchman, Xavier de Richemont (well OK I may be a little chauvinistic).
- The show is visible every Tuesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 9pm, 9.30pm and 10pm.
San Antonio, trendy and brewed
Finally, take advantage of the end of the day to move away towards the Pearl Districta former industrial district whose wastelands have been rehabilitated. Around an old brewery built in 1883, a whole district of bars and restaurants has been recreated, in a hipster, family and chic atmosphere. The restaurants, which have played the industrial decoration card to the full, are not cheap, but the trip is worth a visit. And if you have a few dollars to put in a cocktail, especially, sip it in one of the old barrels converted into a “booth” at the Emma Hotel. Certainly one of the most beautiful ways to be buried….
If you want to book your hotel in San Antonio, I would recommand you to book it in advance to get the best price.
*** Gourmet bonus ***
- Cheesy Jane is one of the best dinners we’ve ever tested: don’t let the cheap – and especially the yellow – look fool you! – of the building. Inside, the burgers are delicious (and huge!). Special mention to Wurst Burger and its built-in sausage. The Milk Shakes are not bad either.
- To taste Mexican culture and food, visit Mi Tierra. Overloaded decor, garlands on the ceiling, Mariachis who play the serenade for you on order (for $10): here, we play the Mexican card all the way! Of course, it’s quite touristy, but we’re happy to let ourselves be carried away by the festive atmosphere after a generously served Margarita.