My journey to San Antonio began with much trepidation. Being a New Yorker, my view of Texas was a dusty, sage-brush filled barren land filled with cowboys, millionaires with 10 gallon hats and oil derricks. At any moment I thought I would bump into some “John Wayne-like” character. Nothing could have been further from the truth.
The reality is that San Antonio is one of America’s great cities. Sophisticated, elegant, refined and still with normal American brashness worthy of any American city. It was an eclectic mixture of architectural styles from old Mexican to high-tech modern skyscrapers. This is a walkable city too, like Paris, New York and London. Though it’s long, the Paseo del Rio (The Riverwalk) is one of the most fun-filled and exciting places.
I arrived in San Antonio late at night into a spacious, large airport. Shortly after arriving, I was checking in at The Westin Riverwalk, one of San Antonio’s new, award winning hotels. This was one of my favorite hotel stays of all time. The room was spacious, comfortable and bright with every possible amenity one could imagine. Styled in “New World Baroque”, the room decor was very relaxing and the bathroom, a combination of contemporary features with touches of the old world was a delight.
Often, I think of a hotel as simply a place to sleep, but the Westin Riverwalk was much more. The warm hospitality I received from the moment I arrived was superior and the amenities offered were first rate. The front desk staff, bellmen and concierge couldn’t have been more pleasant and helpful. I stayed in a junior suite where there was plenty room for the series of meetings I had to hold. The desk was large and had plenty of room for my laptop, books and papers. The furnishings large enough to lay out architectural drawings on the coffee table. I was duly impressed with the magnificent gymnasium, pool and other health club amenities.
Most of all, I enjoyed a warm summer evening visiting with friends and their children on a patio off the main lobby overlooking the San Antonio River. It was a great pleasure too, having lunch in the outdoor restaurant on The Riverwalk in an area not frequented by masses of tourists though landscaped so magnificently that one loses all perspective of time and space. This was a most relaxing place for lunch. The hotel’s bar was dark, somber and yet very comfortable.
The weekend that I was visiting, N’Sync was performing in town. On that afternoon, a young man was dashing about the hallway near my room as I departed with my clients from a meeting. Later that night, dining at Planet Hollywood, my client and I realized that young man was one of the N’Sync group. So staying at the Westin seems to be the “celebrity choice” in San Antonio.
The downtown area of San Antonio is filled with things to do, places to see and people to meet. From the ancient Alamo with its rich history to modern shopping malls, the city is a joy to visit.
Riverwalk is an experience unto itself. In some areas, calm, relaxing and quiet. In other parts cosmopolitan, fast-paced and electrifying in its nature. Anyone visiting San Antonio must visit this amazing feature and walk or cruise the entire length. You can even hire a dinner cruise on a small boat for a candlelit romantic cruise, complete with full service meals.
Dining out was also great fun. From Café Olé where the food may have not been quite up to my exacting standards, but the server was so funny it was like a free comedy show. The strolling Mariachi bands along the Riverwalk provide great music, though they charge about $8 per song. There are more than 30 restaurants along the Riverwalk, ranging from Tex-Mex to an English Pub and all providing good food.
But my favorite meal in town was at La Fogata on Vance-Jackson. This was the closest dining experience in town to authentic Mexican food and styling, though I hear that may change soon with the development of new authentic Mexican restaurants in downtown. La Fogata clearly is not a tourist trap as one can see from the cars parked outside. Many of them were from Mexico, indicating that the food must be really good. It was.
My visit lasted but three days, yet it was filled from dawn till midnight and beyond with one wonderful experience after another.
I’m going back again very soon and will report on more great San Antonio experiences. If you’re traveling on vacation in the US, consider San Antonio… it’s the place to go!
The Westin Riverwalk
420 Market Street
San Antonio, Texas 78205
Telephone: (210) 224-6500
Fax: (210) 444-6000