Full day tour

Trip Start Sep 06, 2012
Trip End Mar 06, 2013

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Where I stayed
Braunig Lake RV Resort

Flag of United States  , Texas
Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Greg and I spent the whole day on a guided tour of the San Antonio area. A trolley similar to what the Shriners drive around in picked us up and took us into downtown San Antonio. Then we boarded our tour bus and drove to northern San Antonio to the Japanese/Chinese Tea Garden. It is sort a smaller scale of Victoria's Butchart Garden. The San Antonio Garden was a stone quarry until the early 1900s then the city hired a Japanese gardener to design and then maintain the sunken garden. But during WWII, and because of the animosity toward the Japanese, the family was ousted from the Garden and a Mexican artist was hired to sculpt a new Chinese entrance to the garden.  It was renamed the Chinese Tea Garden. In the mid 1980s, the name of the Garden reverted back to Japanese Tea Garden but the Chinese entrance still remains in place. The gardens were beautiful, complete with a waterfall and koi ponds, but this time of year there wasn't much in bloom so there wasn’t a lot of color. Our guide says that the summer is the best time to visit for colors but it’s so hot that 5 minutes in the garden is about the extent of a summertime visit. Too bad.

After the Tea Garden we took a river raft tour through the heart of the city. The raft floats along the San Antonio River and the boatman narrates the tour. It is amazing to see how the city has grown around the river.

After the river we visited the Buckhorn Museum. This place was unbelievable. Started in 1881 as a saloon, the owner promised a shot of whisky in exchange for a set of animal antlers. Well, it snowballed, to say the least. Antlers are pinned up everywhere, and even made into furniture. Word spread and he accepted everything and anything from the animal kingdom. Noah would be envious of the collection. Not stopping there, he also collected curiosities suitable for the Barnum and Bailey’s Circus. Then there are the rooms devoted to the history of the Texas Rangers, well known gangsters, and a replica of Bonnie and Clyde’s car complete with bullet holes. So while Mister was collecting all this paraphernalia, Mrs. was collecting rattlesnake rattles, 32,000 of them, and using them to make art.  Greg and I were there with the tour for about and hour and then went back while they toured the Alamo. (We’ll be doing the Alamo on our own.) This museum was incredible and I’ll remember it as one of the highlights of our stay in San Antonio, if not our entire trip.

In the afternoon we visited two missions: Mission Concepcion and Mission San Jose. We had seen other missions on our trip but really had not taken the time to explore them. The missions were fortified communities set up by the Spanish Catholic priests to convert the local Indians to Catholicism in exchange for protection, food, and work. The missions had been abandoned for about 100 years and it has just been in the past few years that tourism dollars and local fundraising efforts have been poured into the buildings to restore them. The work required is staggering since the buildings were originally composed of limestone and erode every time it rains. The restoration effort so far is centred on the mission churches. There’s a lot of work left to be done.
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