San Antonio: The Alamo City

One of the definite perks at work is that I have the chance to travel. Last week, I had another conference to attend. This time, in San Antonio. It was my first time in Texas and so I was actually quite looking forward to the trip since I’ve heard so much about Texas but never had a real reason to visit.

The first thing that was apparent to me was that it was hot. When I left Toronto it was like 6 degrees outside and when I got to San Antonio it was like, 35. I was sweating like crazy on the first day when I was walking around outside.

I guess that’s expected though considering how it’s literally Texas and quite a bit further south than Toronto is.

A Texan sunset.

Texas has a slogan “six flags over Texas” which represents the six countries that had sovereignty over the state throughout history: Spain, France, Mexico, the Republic of Texas, Confederate America, and modern America. San Antonio is a really interesting city because it really embodies this evolution. It’s a city that mixes all of these cultural and historical elements into one neat package.

I never really considered Texas of all places to be multicultural, but I was proven pretty wrong pretty fast on my trip there.

One obvious example of Texan history and culture would be the Alamo, a church turned into a siege area during the Texas Revolution. Honestly, it wasn’t very visually interesting but the Alamo is a very important Texan symbol and it’s smack dab in the middle of San Antonio. It seems like the city is pretty proud of that piece of history and when you learn about it, you can understand why.

The Texas combo, the Alamo and a sheriff.

It’s a pretty classic story of the underdog prevailing against a stronger opponent through pure determination and force of will. Modern day America is definitely a powerhouse country today, but it wasn’t always this way and things like this are a pretty good reminder of its history and origins.

This is further expanded upon if you go visit the other Missions in San Antonio. In total there’s five churches-turned-communities scattered around the area which showcases how San Antonio came to be. Once you start going through the history a bit, you realize that Texas and Mexico have a pretty deep and intertwined relationship.

Even though the Texans beat the Mexicans during the Texas Revolution to gain their independence, it’s interesting that San Antonio really feels like Mexico. Now, I’ve never been to Mexico before, but from what I’ve seen and heard, San Antonio looks and feels pretty much like what I’d imagine Mexico to be like.

The Historic Market Square, featuring a ton of Mexican shops and restaurants.

There’s a lot of Mexican influences in the city. When you’re walking around the streets you hear a lot of Spanish and all of the more cultural or historical buildings have a very Mexican style to them too. Considering how it’s also fairly close to the Mexican border, San Antonio has a really different feel to it as compared to any other American city I’ve been to.

The unique atmosphere also extends to the other parts of the city too. For example, one of the most famous landmarks in San Antonio is the Riverwalk, which is an (artificial?) river system running through the middle of the city. It’s below ground level and so you’re just in this like, path that has a ton of restaurants and bars flanking it.

Some restaurants by the Riverwalk.

The feel there was really nice both during the day and at night. There was always a lot of people there so it felt really lively and the combination of the water, plants, and decorations was pretty beautiful as well. Overall, it’s definitely a tourist trap, but it’s totally worth checking it out and just enjoying the walk.

Speaking of walking, San Antonio is surprisingly walkable which is nice because they don’t have a subway system so there’s limited options to get around. For the most part I just walked everywhere and that was enough to get around downtown. One interesting thing I’ve noticed is that there’s a lot of motorized scooters in the city.

And by that, I don’t mean the electric scooters like the ones you seen in Asia a lot (cough Taipei cough). I mean legit scooters that just have motors on them. Apparently it’s a fairly recent trend where instead of renting out bikes, you can rent out a scooter. You just scan the code on your phone and it unlocks, allowing you to take it for a ride. Then, when you’re done you just leave it somewhere.

True American freedom, untethered scooters.

That was kinda interesting since it just meant that all around the downtown core you saw these scooters strewn around the city. One of the Uber drivers I talked to had a pretty strong opinion about them, and I could see where the complaints are coming from, but it’s an interesting idea.

When you’re out and about walking around, it’s likely that you’ll also come across the San Fernando Cathedral. During the day it’s a pretty plain cathedral and looks as standard as they come, but come nighttime they put on this pretty cool light show which I can totally recommend.

San Fernando Cathedral lit up with some projection mapping.

They use two projectors to turn the cathedral into an animated display of the history of San Antonio. It’s a 30 minute show and actually really worth watching. I walked by it twice and both times there was a decent sized crowd watching it. It’s also kinda funny because the projectors are run by a Windows computer so one time I walked by and it was booting up and you could see the Windows boot screens.

Considering the amount of Mexican influence in the city, it also meant that San Antonio has a ton of Mexican food. And of course, they’re all legit. I ate so much Mexican food in the five days I was there and it was all delicious. I keep thinking back to the chicken and beef fajita I got in the traditional Mexican market there and man, that was so good it was almost unbelievable.

Probably the best Mexican meal I’ve ever had.

Aside from Mexican food, you’re in Texas and so Texan barbecue is definitely something I wanted to try out. That was also really good so it honestly felt like during my entire trip I was just eating meat or Mexican. Not the most balanced diet but it was delicious. I was actually really pleasantly surprised by San Antonio partially because of the abundance of such good food. One part of me wasn’t very surprised since it kinda makes sense if you think about it, but I certainly wasn’t really expecting it.

Overall, I had a really good time in San Antonio. Not only did the conference I attended go well, but the city itself was also pretty fantastic. A decent amount to see and the food was great, what’s more to ask for from a work trip? The Mexican influences to the city has really sparked an itch for me to go check out Latin America though. It’s not super super far and now I really want to go haha.