One of the reasons we enjoy returning to this area each year is the opportunity to visit the San Antonio River Walk when it’s decorated for the Christmas season. This year, we took along our friends from the park, Roly and Carroll, who had not yet visited the downtown area. We started our day off with a late lunch at Shilo’s, a German delicatessen that has been in San Antonio since the early-1900s and has great food. I opted for my favorite – the braunschweiger cold plate with dark rye, hot mustard, and a cup of pea soup, along with a mug of their home made root beer. After getting two of the servers to help me out of my chair, we walked down the street to Alamo Plaza, to see the huge decorated tree they erect each year. The plaza was crowded, but it was interesting to see a military retirement ceremony set up right in front of the Alamo’s main doors – a great location to honor a career. A little farther down the street, we stopped in the Menger Hotel, one of the state’s oldest, to show our friends the beautiful interior and Christmas tree. Downtown San Antonio is always interesting to visit; a mix of German and Mexican architecture, busy restaurants, and of course, tourist attractions like a wax museum are all mixed together - some beautiful, some unusual, and some tacky.
From the plaza, we entered the Rivercenter Mall, a large, 3-story shopping center that forms the centerpiece of the River Walk. While the ladies browsed the shops, Roly and I grabbed cups of coffee and sat outside in the 70-degree temperatures watching the shoppers and the river barges as they motored by on their tour route. Later as it began to get dark, the ladies joined us and we walked to the tour boat dock, and a short one-hour later, finally boarded one of the barges for a 30-minute ride. This is a great way to see the River Walk; the banks are lined with restaurants and shops, and the outside tables next to the water were all occupied by diners. Add the thousands of lights hanging from the trees overhead, the warm night, and the atmosphere of the holiday, and it was a memorable evening that we all truly enjoyed.
A few days later, also on a nice warm day, we stopped at Landa Park, the centerpiece of the town of New Braunfels. It’s an area of river, streams, a lake, and the site of the “Wurstfest”, a ten-day celebration of sausage. And beer. Lots and lots of beer. The park was filled with families enjoying the day, and the lake was filled with ducks and geese happily eating all the bread that children were throwing at them. The trees were filled with cormorants and black vultures, and on the lake we watched Wood Ducks, Pie-billed Grebes, and Lesser Scaup swim on the crystal-clear water.
We’ve had a great holiday season, and wish all of you a happy, healthy, and fulfilling New Year. We’ll be back in a few days with a review of 2009 – stop back and visit!