Well, this has been an interesting week. My mom, her sister Norma, Jennifer, and I went on a road trip to the San Antonio and Austin areas for a few days for vacation. I got to see a lot of areas I had never been to before, and all in all we had a great time. While I did post quite a bit about the trip on my Twitter, I figured I would go ahead and post a recap of the trip here…
We got started early first thing Monday morning, by heading over to Enterprise and picking up the minivan that we were renting for the trip. We ended up being presented with a surprise: we had gotten a “free upgrade” to a Chevy Tahoe. To us, “free upgrade” was synonymous with “we don’t have the vehicle you requested in stock so here’s the next best thing”. Mom grumbled but there was little we could do; she was not comfortable at all with driving anything bigger than a minivan, so I ended up becoming the chauffeur. After we got the Tahoe to the house, we threw our luggage into the back, got ready, and then headed to Jennifer’s parents’ townhouse where she was waiting for us. (It was easier to pick her up from there instead of her house as it was along the way.) Once she joined us (and my mom and aunt met her folks), we got her luggage settled in and then made our way to San Antonio, with a stop in Schulenberg to eat at Frank’s for lunch. While at Frank’s, we saw a stuffed miniature terrier that aside from the color of the inner ear was the spitting image of our dog Star. It even had the white tuft of fur on the chest. We didn’t get it, but in retrospect we really should have…
Once we left Frank’s, we made our way westbound, eventually arriving in San Antonio. We had taken a chance this time around and were staying in the Holiday Inn Riverwalk, a hotel none of us had stayed in before. It turned out to be a very nice hotel, with a view of the Riverwalk… provided you got onto the balcony and looked straight down. :-) It also had access to the Riverwalk straight from the hotel. We ended up going to the Riverwalk, and from there heading straight to the Alamo. We browsed around the Alamo a bit, going into the shrine, then the hallway with the history of the Battle of the Alamo, and finally ending up in the gift shop/museum. One of the more interesting showpieces of the museum was a collection of Bowie knives they had on display. (Amusing side fact that was referenced in the collection: despite popular belief, in Bram Stoker’s original novel Dracula was not killed by a stake to the heart. Quincey Morris, a Texan, used a Bowie knife instead.) Once we were done there, we headed back to the Riverwalk. We stopped for a drink at one Riverwalk Mexican restaurant, where we ended up being serenaded by a mariachi band. :-) Our drinks done, we headed to the Rivercenter Mall, where we took a Riverwalk boat tour. Once the rather fun and informative boat tour was finished, we headed to get some dinner; my old friend Jenn had recommended Casa Rio, but I couldn’t find anything on the menu that appealed to me. We ended up eating somewhere called Rio Rio Cantina instead, and enjoyed a rather filling meal. Once we had finished our dinner we headed back to the hotel, where Mom and Norma retired for the night while Jennifer and I availed ourselves of the seventh-floor swimming pool and whirlpool.
On Tuesday morning, we made our way downstairs for breakfast, only to wait for a while as the hotel’s restaurant was remarkably small. Once breakfast was finished, we packed up, checked out of the hotel, and started making our way out of San Antonio towards Austin, depending on guidance from “Ruby”. Ruby is the name Norma gave to my TomTom GPS navigation system; the voice I had selected on it was relatively bossy and rude sounding, so Norma picked a name she thought would fit it. :-) While on the road, Jennifer recommended that we visit the town of Gruene. We agreed, so I programmed the destination into Ruby and away we went. :-)
The first thing we did when we arrived in Gruene was visit the Grapevine, a wine tasting room. While there, I FINALLY found a wine that I actually liked: the Chisholm Trail Ghostrider. I bought a bottle, Jennifer bought a couple of bottles of wine for herself, and Mom and Norma bought some for themselves. Once we stashed the wine in the car, we went wandering, first ending up in the General Store, which even had an honest to goodness soda bar. After browsing through there, we wandered down the street looking through different shops, including a large antique mall. We took a brief look in the Gruene Hall, and then headed down to the Grist Mill for a late lunch/early dinner. Once we were done at the Grist Mill, we got back to the car, and made our way to Austin just in time to hit its legendary rush hour. :-) We crossed the city and ended up at our hotel: the Courtyard by Marriott Austin Northwest Arboretum. Once we got checked in and unpacked, we got back down to the car again to head down to Congress Avenue, where we watched the bats leave their home under the Congress Avenue bridge at dusk. It was one hell of an amazing sight, seeing the thousands upon thousands of bats fly out from under the bridge in a large line/cloud, off to get food for the night. (No, we didn’t see them from the boats, as Jennifer had done it before and got drenched with bat pee.) After it was too dark to see the bats, we headed down to 6th Street, where we finally wandered into a pub called Darwin’s Pub and had a couple of drinks while I played some electronic Texas Hold Em using those game things some bars (including Buffalo Wild Wings) use. When we were finished with our drinks, we walked a bit more down 6th Street to see the bars, and then headed back to the car and made our way back to the hotel. While Mom and Norma retired for the night, Jennifer and I went swimming again.
On Wednesday morning, we all met in the lobby at 10 AM, and made our way out. Our destination was Fredericksburg, which had a number of shops plus biergartens. As soon as we arrived, we decided we wanted a drink, so we headed into the Fredericksburg Brewing Company for a beer. It was a rather nifty establishment; instead of serving standard shelf beers, they brew their own beers (hence their name), and the brewing vats and equipment are located right behind the bar. We even got to see our bartender help check on the beer as it was being brewed. After our beer, we wandered up and down the main street, browsing all the different shops they had. Once we had had our fill of browsing, we decided to hit another biergarten close to the car for another beer… only to find that it was closed on Wednesdays. We ended up going back to the Fredericksburg Brewing Company for another beer, and then from there we headed out of town. Our next destination was the River City Grille in Marble Falls, where we ended up eating a delicious late lunch/early dinner while looking out at Lake Marble Falls. After we had eaten there, we decided to take the scenic route to Lake Travis; our destination was the Oasis on Lake Travis, where we could have a drink and watch the sunset. After watching the sunset and having a nice drink (Mom’s came with a glass she got to keep), we headed back to our hotel. While Mom and Norma retired for the evening, Jennifer and I headed over to Amy’s Ice Creams for some ice cream. When we walked in, my eyes fell upon the chalkboard seen at the right. For those who aren’t aware, the quote is from the Mortal Kombat movie, so needless to say I won a free crush’n (topping). :-) After I was done with my ice cream (Jennifer wasn’t too hungry), we made our way back to the hotel, and spent the rest of the evening talking before we crashed for the night.
Thursday morning, we ended up having breakfast in the hotel, and the woman who works as the waitress/attendant was wonderful; she even remembered our drink orders from the previous day. :-) We had a filling breakfast, including literal Texas waffles. Once we had breakfast, we packed for the trip home, and then checked in with Mom and Norma. Jennifer and I had thought about maybe doing the outlet shops in San Marcos, but Mom was having none of it. It was decided we would go ahead and head straight home. On the way, Jennifer realized we would be going through Brenham, and that it meant we could do the tour of the Blue Bell Creameries, which for those not familiar is where Blue Bell Ice Cream is made. We arrived in time to browse the gift shop and sample a bit of ice cream before going through the tour. The tour itself was fascinating; I would highly recommend it, as it’s very inexpensive ($3 for an adult, kids 6 and under free), and at the end of the tour those who go through it get a free scoop of ice cream. Once we were done with the tour and had gotten our ice cream, we made our way to the car and headed back to Houston. Once we arrived in Houston, we dropped Jennifer back at her parents’ place so she could get her car and head home, and we made our way back home, dropping the Tahoe off as soon as we unloaded our luggage.
All in all, we had a terrific time. Despite her nervousness at being a tour guide, Jennifer made the experience absolutely wonderful by directing us to places we would never have gone to on our own. To express our gratitude for her role in the trip, Norma actually invited her to Cheesecake Factory with us on Sunday for dinner, her treat. We also came up with ideas of places to go on our next go-around, whenever that will be. Still, it was a wonderful trip, and I’m glad I got to spend the time with them all and see the sights in and around San Antonio and Austin.