Shilo's (photo from their website)
After lunch the relatives we were touring with suggested going for a boat ride, which is something we'd never done, but which suddenly sounded perfect after such a heavy lunch. The Alamo could wait. We picked up tickets down by the riverbank and after a few minutes wait were cruising peacefully along the river listening to our thankfully-low-key and knowledgeable tour guide. The best parts were when we left the main part of the busy river walk, and explored the more workaday parts of the river - there's just no other way to get this interesting perspective on the city.
One of the floodgates on the San Antonio River (we're about to go through it here)
A river through the city...
And of course - the Alamo!
A bit later, we wandered all around the Alamo, which has lovely (if crowded) grounds. A side building, originally the Old Convento, houses displays of nineteenth-century military uniforms, guns, swords, and other artifacts. Outside, my son eagerly joined the crowd of children peering down into the acequia at the huge carp swimming to and fro. I admit, these fish were really beautiful!
Later on, we tried to dine at La Gloria, but the hour-long wait again put us off. Instead we found Tomatillo's, just a few blocks up Broadway. This place is unassuming from the outside and couldn't be called hip, exactly, but has pretty darn good straightforward tex-mex (and good-enough margaritas served in comically large goblets). Are you traveling with a bunch of kids and just need a good tex-mex place that will make everybody happy? Tomatillo's is your place.
We had never visited the San Antonio Botanical Garden before, and boy, were we missing out! It's beautiful and expansive, with so much to explore. This was how we spent the next morning (and we'll need to go back, we couldn't see everything in just a few hours).
My son pointed out that this tree's not so great for climbing (there's a wonderful collection of potted citrus in the Orangerie in the background)
A map of the Gardens
The Gardens include some charmingly tiny historic houses, wide open lawns for running around in, a children's vegetable garden, a winding acequia, and a small Japanese garden with incredible bamboo fencing...
The Japanese Garden
There is also a series of rather futuristic glass pavilions and courtyards presiding over the site. My favorite, from a conceptual standpoint, was the Tropical Room, which housed coffee, chocolate, vanilla, cinnamon, and allspice plants - and many more in a similar vein. Here is the beautiful Desert Room...
p.s. I found out - sadly, too late for this little trip - that Trader Joe's is now open in San Antonio, in the lovely Alamo Heights neighborhood! The perfect place for weekend trip snacks, right? Of course, Central Market is always great too (that's where we went - it's worth checking out if you've never been. Best supermarket ever.).