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The Alamo, San Antonio
26th Apr 2008
San Antonio: the Alamo, Fiesta; Austin

On Saturday I arose early to take the longish drive from Houston to San Antonio.  I did not take the side roads as Texas is just too big, it would have taken me forever.  This is demonstrated by the fact that upon entering Texas on I-10 there was a sign saying "El Paso: 825 miles."

(Luckily I found a radio station that is, wait for it, completely and utterly commercial and chatter free.  They do no even speak to say the name of the songs.  They just rock out.  Move over, BBC, make way for KISS.  [US radio, and TV, stations are all assigned a 3- or 4-letter call sign from the FCC, just like in many countries, but only in the US do they actually state their call sign on air. As well as telling listeners that they're tuned to "Pop Hits Radio" or whatever, they must announce the call sign - "you're listening to KABC Pop Hits 99.6" etc. Sometimes the radio goes only by its call sign, rather dully, and so they often ask for cool acronyms such as KPOP for a pop station.  Historically the schema Kxxx is for stations west of the Mississippi and Wxxx for those east. So "107.5 WJZZ" is Atlanta's jazz station.  Anyway.])

San Antonio is a charming town, 3 hours west of Houston.  It features a below-street riverside walk, lined with restaurants and bars.  One measure I use to determine how nice a city is is whether my parents would like it.  I think they would like San Antonio, therefore it must be a nice town. I arrived, accidentally, on Fiesta day, so the centre of the city was closed to cars and everyone was in carnival spirit.  There were so many Latin people that it made Miami look Anglo-Saxon. I didn't stay for the parade though as it didn't start til much later.

The biggest tourist attraction in SA is the Alamo.  This is actually a fort, an entire complex, but what most people recognise as the Alamo is actually just one of the buildings, the church.  The fort was defended bravely, but ultimately unsuccessfully, by Texans (nb. they were not part of the United States at this point) against many Mexicans.  They held out for a long time but in the end were defeated.  Many famous names were involved in its defence:  Davy Crockett, Mr Bowie (of knife fame), and Mr Travis. It was interesting to hear the description of the defenders, which of course was jazzed-up to be very Red-White-and-Blue (words such as "transcendent" and "patriot" were used at the museum).  Words such as "slaughtered" were not used, despite that being the actual outcome. That's just not American.

After visiting the Alamo I had a pint on the river in a British pub.  Another unsuccessful attempt at legitimacy - I've never been to a British pub where the staff wear kilts and there is a Union flag-painted Mini Cooper on the wall, or where there is a back-lit Big Ben sign 6' tall.  But it was a valiant effort.

I then drove to Austin, the capital city of Texas.  The hostel here is really great, clean, spacious, and set on a river.  The common room does feel a little like a lower school, though, because there is a fish tank backed with presentations on the wall.  I don't know whether it's a Hostels International (YHA) rule globally, in the US, or just per-hostel, but many ban booze.  I was scolded for even carrying two closed bottles on site.

After much illicit boozing by the river I, some Swedes and some English birds went into the city for a night on the tiles.  Unfortunately we were apparently running on Swedish time, which seems to be like Black Person's time (Chanel's phrase, not mine), and we didn't get there til 1am.  The city - renowned for its parties and music scene - shuts down at 2am.  Bah! 

In all the hostels in all of Texas, I happened to meet there someone who was born in the same now-defunct hospital as I:  Hitchin General.

Next: Austin, Texas: congress, the bats, bands
Previous: Houston downtown, Rice university

Diary Photos

The Alamo, San Antonio

Davy Crockett`s rifle, San Antonio

The Alamo, San Antonio

Long barrack, the Alamo, San Antonio

River walk, San Antonio

River walk, San Antonio

River walk, San Antonio

Sixth Street, San Antonio

English tottie

Hospital-mate, San Antonio

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