We were in Texas for almost 6 weeks so lots of ground to cover! Joe helped a lot with the blog and wrote the major of this section. Thanks Honey!
San Antonio in southern Texas is steeped in frontier history. Today it is a major tourist destination and a city of about 1.5 million. It was founded in 1718 as a Spanish Mission. There were 5 frontier missions – the most famous being The Alamo. The missions stand today and are a tourist attraction.
Our first night we stayed downtown at the Drury Inn – an old boutique hotel. It was right on the famous “River Walk” which is about 9 miles of walking path along the San Antonio River. The trail takes you to some outer areas but mostly is a winding horseshoe shape with some branches, that make up the vibrant downtown core.
The River Walk is full of restaurants, bars, stores and gift shops all along the water – which makes for great people watching as the area is crowded all day, and even more so at night with the dinner/bar crowd. We spent a lot of time here over the week.
Funny story, housekeeping at The Drury knocked on our door at 7:45 am the morning we were checking out and was shocked when we answered it. She said it was showing as a vacant room in their system. 3 hours later, and we have the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on, a woman uses a key and starts to open the door – until she hears our protesting! Long story short, we weren’t checked in correctly, and that woman was also given a key to our room. We got 50% off our bill plus free parking for our inconvenience though!
Second day we moved to our Airbnb which was our home for the duration of the week.This was a nice sized unit for us in a grand old home that had about 4 apartments.
We were in the old historical part of San Antonio called ‘Monte Vista’ and it is about 100 sq blocks of old southern mansions…huge homes on huge lots. Some of these grand homes reminded us of our time in Savannah Georgia, which also has the stately old mansions. These homes are impeccably kept, with fresh paint and meticulous landscaping, a real treat to see.
Paula researched Beauty Salons in the neighbourhood and called one for an appointment. After getting the price quote of $120-$140 USD, she booked her haircut at a cute little salon in a house a block away. While the prices online seemed reasonable, add the 15 minute consultation and the most experienced stylist (the owner and only one there) it racked up the price considerably. She won’t tell me how much though. Haircuts are never simple when traveling.
Breakfast advertisement – dear lord!
On our second day we did more River Walk and saw the famous Alamo. It is quite small compared to the legends, but the portions still standing are well kept and certainly attract the crowds. The battle of the Alamo was in 1836 when it was overrun by Santa Anna’s army after a 12 day siege. Some of the approx 200 Texans that died were Davy Crockett, and Jim Bowie (of the Bowie knife fame). Santa Anna’s army was defeated at Houston a month later which put the Alamo back in Texans hands. “Remember the Alamo“ became a famous rallying cry.
Some highlights of the rest of our week here were visiting the Pearl District; also a tourist area. It was a famous brewery back in the day. Now it is a refurbished trendy area with hotel, bars and restaurants. We saw some great talent at Jazz Texas club, and then got to see the incredible Jane Monheit a couple of days later.
We took a little river cruise around the River Walk and heard all the legends and funny tales. The captain of the ship was originally from Toronto and we enjoyed chatting with him.
One day I convinced Paula that we had to find “China Grove” from the Doobie Brothers song. It took some time and we had to go through some sketchy neighbourhoods, but success in the end. Not much to see, but did a pic with sign.
After a 2 hr drive from San Antonio, we arrived in Corpus Christi on the Gulf of Mexico. City has a population of about 325,000 but being a seaside tourist area, this expands to over 500,000 in season.
We spent a couple of days here just chillin’, did some beach walks and puttered about downtown. The weather was not that great (windy and cold) so we didn’t spend too much time out, but did enjoy the pier and beaches. And we found time to enjoy a favourite happy hour at our standby P.F. Chang’s . We also enjoyed some stellar BBQ at Rudy’s right near our hotel and this great catfish dinner!
Grocery store goodies!
Selena tribute – very popular
This shoreline ‘Flour Bluff’ consisted of reused building materials!
Galveston, Oh Galveston
We made the 4 1/2 hour drive to Galveston. This drive took us along the sea shore for a good deal of time so was quite interesting, but was tempered by the incredible fog that rolled in …so we did not see all we had hoped for. But did see a lot of refineries in places like Port Lavaca and Freeport. These massive installations look like they are from outer space!
Also saw a lot of beach homes built up on stilts as a wave surge protection.
Galveston is also a seaport, but is on a small island. Has a population of only 50,000 people. But Galveston has a lot going for it, a grand old downtown district “The Strand”, and many well maintained Victorian era homes. The downtown is still vibrant and there is a buzz of activity because it is still a seaport and business hub. It also does well with cruise ships that do the Gulf of Mexico tours, and down the coast of Mexico.
We were fortunate to happen to be in Galveston during “Restaurant Week” …imagine that…for a couple of people that love food to be able to sample some new delights. Over 50 restaurants were all offering special lunch and dinner menus at very nice savings. We had a very memorable 5 course dinner at Shearn’s in a fancy hotel…Wow! Sensational.
We spent a couple days here just touring around the city, walking the pier and beaches and really enjoyed Galveston.
Our hotel in Galveston was not the greatest but we didn’t spend much time in the room. It was time for laundry here; the machine had so much dirt and sand on the top ledge, we weren’t sure if the clothes would actually come clean. Attempted to do another load the next morning but the frigging thing died over night. The wonderful woman at the front desk took our bag and washed them in their commercial machine. Was a bit weird for sure, but we did the drying and folding ourselves. I think this is where Paula started coughing….
Cruise Gulf of Mexico
Paula found us some cheap seats on a budget Cruise out of Galveston, so we were off to the Gulf of Mexico and some downtime. Neither of us packed any formal dinner wear, so we scoured department stores for inexpensive items and transformed into semi-formal folk for an evening.
It was a Carnival Cruise Line boat, older and definitely not 5 star, but we found our small cabin ok, and the meals were fine but not stellar. Our stateroom was over the Casino and we could hear the screams of excitement from those passengers that actually won money. It was also the only smoking allowed area on the ship and was brutal anywhere near it.
Story: Another passenger stopped Paula one night and said she had been watching her for days because her old boss is Paula’s doppelgänger! The woman explained that when she first saw Paula in the line up to board, she said to her husband ‘Look, there’s Judy but she not with her husband, she’s with a boyfriend!’ The woman couldn’t find any pics of Judy but was going to bring one the next day but we never saw her again! So curious….
It was 5 days a sailing the gulf, the weather was much better than the cold and rain of Galveston…(part of that polar vortex that swept the US). Nice to see blue skies and sunshine again.
First day was at sea in the gulf, then down to Cozumel – an island just off Playa del Carmen in Mexico. Toured the city and tourist traps selling leather, jewelry, trinkets and souvenirs. And margaritas!
Saw these incredible pole climbers…
Next day stopped at Progresso which is far less touristy and more authentic Mexico. Small town, we took a short bus tour around and found out some interesting things. Apparently lots of Canadian Snowbirds live very cheaply there.
Then it was back at sea for another day of sailing as we made our way back to Galveston. The best experience was when we watched ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ poolside and on a huge screen. We had popcorn and bevies and it was a beautiful evening.
Unfortunately Paula got sicker on the boat; we thought it might be flu, but turned out to be allergies from the pine pollen in a Texas. Must have been brewing for awhile as it took hold while on the boat.
We actually stayed in Webster, a suburb of Houston and home of the NASA space centre.
Paula still sick so our time here was mostly spent trying to get her better and chilling at the hotel. For probably the first time in her life, she had no appetite so I was on my own for some meals. Though she was a trouper and we ventured out to NASA space centre museum one day and took a tour. Some cool things there …took some neat pics.
Did a drive into Houston on the quiet Sunday, typical big city…most places closed so we went back to hotel after a brief drive through downtown Houston.
Made a side trip to Nacogdoches on our way back to Dallas. This is a small city of about 30,000 and is considered to be the oldest town in Texas, founded in 1779. Don Henley of the Eagles went to Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches.
Spent the night in the Fredonia Hotel, an old but totally refurbished hotel in the centre of old downtown. Did a walk about of the old downtown area – quaint old buildings. Still a pretty vibrant town for its size.
Next day decided to get real medical help for Paula’s relentless cough. Spent half the day in emergency at hospital even though not an emergency…it was where our Medical Coverage plan sent us. Found out then that is was an allergy to the pines and recalled several of our Waco friends were also suffering during this allergy season. Got some medication and we were on our way to Dallas.
We stayed at the coolest hotel ever by using a lot of our RBC points for 3 glorious nights – BECAUSE WE DESERVED IT DAMNIT! It was so luxurious and the restaurants were good and reasonable. The giant eyeball was an art display as seen out our hotel window.
Who remembers this building from the opening credits of the 80’s TV show Dallas? And who now has the theme from Dallas running through their head lol? Extra points for who shot JR?
Dallas is home to the Sixth Floor Museum – a memorial to the November 22, 1964 assassination of JFK. The historic films, photos, artifacts, and interpretive displays made for a very interesting afternoon.
Dallas was our first and last stop on our whirlwind tour of the state of Texas. We enjoyed ourselves, saw some old friends, great sites, learnt some history and had a lot of fantastic food that we will be carrying with us for a long time. Thanks for having us Texas!