Tuesday, April 22, 2008

9. San Antonio - Fiesta

“Fiesta” in San Antonio is all about food, music and fun and it’s all over town. Market Square is the venue for Fiesta Fantasias. The market is a maze of small shops stuffed with everything from Mexican sombreros, pottery and wierd skeleton people to very fine (and expensive) art. Lots of good food was available at street booths and several stages were alive with local Tejano music and some dancing in the streets. We did a lot of walking, looking and sampling of gordidas and mini-tacos. Excellent!!!

The “Taste of New Orleans” is another popular Fiesta event. It's held outdoors in the Sunken Gardens of Brackenridge Park, a perfect setting. We took folding chairs, arrived early and got a good center spot to view the stage. Once again, food booths were everywhere, this time with lots of good Cajun delights. Ron dove into a bowl of shrimp, fish and sausage in a thick spicy sauce over “dirty rice”. Bonnie had a big crabcake with rice. We shared a shrimp-on-a-stick and couldn’t pass up the alligator-on-a-stick (hard to find in Seattle). The alligator tasted like we imagined it would, a bit tough and rubbery but with a nice flavor and plenty of Cajun spices.

Different bands took the stage and a local belly dancing group did a show as well. Ron especially liked the rough raspy jerky zydeco music that makes you want to dance right out of your chair. Since we know very little about that style, each song sounded pretty much like the one before. It would help if they'd sing the words in English instead of French. But it's a cultural thing and, since music is a universal language, nobody seemed to care. We’re looking forward to some slightly softer Cajun music in Louisiana.

The River Walk is the city's second most popular attraction (Alamo is first). This public walkway follows about three miles of the river as it winds through the center of downtown. It's lined with restaurants, pubs, shops and the best hotels. It's very nicely landscaped with plants and flowers, many very large trees and lots of birds. There are also lots of masonry walls, small bridges (that's Bonnie on the bridge), stairways and other attractive rock work. The River Walk is a comfortable relaxing "people place" away from traffic and noise. It's an excellent example of good planning and urban design.

We spent our final evening in San Antonio at the annual River Walk Parade. It’s a parade of boats/floats with lots of lights and music on the river. Thousands of tables and chairs were set up along the route in front of hotels and restaurants. We could sit in one for a fee of up to $25, but we opted to stake out a nice section of railing along Crockett Street overlooking the river. It was a great view, but standing up for hours was a little hard on us old folks. The restaurants went all out in their table decorations and mariachi bands were entertaining the patrons.

The parade and San Antonio in general were lots of fun. We’re leaving with a positive impression and hope to return some day.