Mission ArchesOne Tuesday earlier this month was a gorgeous day to experience San Antonio’s cultural and historic treasures. My clients were a legal scholar and his wife from London. We enjoyed great conversations about Blackstone’s law commentaries whilst steering past longhorns grazing and llamas guarding on the scenic Hill Country route west and south. At our crossing of the beautiful Guadalupe River, I had to explain what an inner tube is and its popular use on this particular stretch of stream.

Mission Concepción made an excellent first stop, wherein these Brits got a fine overview of Spain’s eighteenth century colonizing efforts in this remote spot far from their southern centers of power. Here my clients got a close look at both a mesquite tree and an anaqua. They also were introduced to the Virgin of Guadalupe, matron goddess of the Americas, whose image is everywhere.

A short drive along Mission Road took us to the heart of the old city, where we set off on foot across the river to the Alamo. The sign out front implores “Gentlemen, remove your hats,” and hints the sacredness and esteem in which Lone Star State natives hold the Shrine of Texas Liberty. With my detailed explanation of events leading to the renowned battle in 1836, my clients better appreciated the chapel, relics, exhibits, and haunting ambiance of the venerated site. By far, the best representation of that fateful day is the hand-crafted scale model inside the gift shop.

Our historical respects paid, we strolled down the cascading waterfall steps to Paseo del Rio, San Antonio’s lovely River Walk. Even in winter with the cypress trees bare of needles, this is the city’s showplace of shops, galleries, cruise boats, and other people. Our scrumptious lunch was had at the Original Mexican Restaurant under a colorful umbrella on the water’s edge, my travelers treating me to an enchilada plate while they enjoyed flautas and salad. We then concluded our pedestrian adventure with visits to St. Joseph’s Catholic Church and through La Villita.

Heading back north in the mighty ‘Burb, I had so wanted to show Sunken Gardens, but it remains closed for restoration. But Brackenridge Park remains an impressive public space with its woodsy picnic areas, hiking trails, miniature train, and young, swift-flowing river. Up onto the freeway, we were soon on our way towards the Capital City.

Big Comal Spring

But another attraction beckoned our attention. New Braunfels is about as German a town as you’ll find anywhere in Texas, and I wanted my clients to behold a feature that’s not as big as Texas. The Comal River is purportedly the shortest in the world, flowing only two and a half miles to the Guadalupe. Comal is a Spanish word for griddle or shallow pan, and the name makes sense when one visits Landa Park to see the bank of springs that issue forth from the limestone cliffs here and form the sudden river. Would you believe 355 million gallons of pure water daily?! Next door is the Wursthalle, site of Wurstfest, this town’s annual salute to all things Teutonic: sausage, beer, lederhosen, dirndels, polka dancing, and Gemütlichkeit, or good fellowship in the German manner.

With all this to take in and remember, we found ourselves once again in Austin at the Folk House, where we bid a reluctant good-bye.

– HR