River Walks and Runs

by Brian Jewell 2. June 2012 00:58

The San Antonio River Walk is saving me from obesity.

I've been eating my way across the city for four days now, enjoying the best of San Antonio's food during the annual Culinaria celebration. The events have included elaborate lunch and dinner affairs, a Mexican tasting event and a fancy soiree that featured some of the area's leading chefs offering small bites of their very best dishes. Needless to say, I've consumed more calories than my body has required.

After all of this eating, my waistline would be expanding rapidly were it not of the San Antonio River Walk. I've been stayinig at the beauiful Westin hotel, located right on the River Walk in the heart of the scenic downtown district. The San Antonio River and the charming district built up around it may be the most iconic image of San Antonio (save for the Alamo itself), and it makes an ideal place for visitors to stay, eat, shop and explore.

It's also an ideal place to excercise. The river winds through the downtown and neighborhoods such as La Villita, which give it a distinctly Mexican ambiance. Along both sides of the water, the River Walk offers paved pedestrian access, where visitors can stroll alongside the river and well-landcaped gardens that run along either side. Though the weather is already heating up for the summer, the River Walk provides a welcome respite from the heat, so I've been taking advantage of the setting to run a few miles each morning before beginning my touring for the day. Along the way, I pass plenty of other walkers and runners.

The River Walk is San Antonio's best toursim asset, and the city has gone to great effort to expand it in recent years. An expession project currently underway has added several miles of walkable riverfront extending from the downtown area in either direction; when the project is finished, there will be more than 8 miles of walkable riverfront. The expansion projects allow pedestrians to walk north to the city's museum district, and south to the grand homes in the historic King William neighborhood.

Of course, running isn't for everyone, and the city offers other ways for visitors to experience the River Walk. Groups can take a boat tour of the downtown district, with guides who tell the history of the River Walk and point out some of the area's most interesting spots. River taxis also ply the waters through town, picking up visitors along the River Walk and ferrying them to wherever they want to go. There's even a lock system that allows the boats to ride up river to areas of higher elevation.

I think my morning runs along the River Walk are helping me stay in shape during this trip — or at least that's what I tell myself. Even if I'm not burning off all of the calories, though, I'm certainly enjoying the view.


A group explores the River Walk via boat.

The River Walk includes stone bridges, shade trees and great architecture.

Visitors can use the River Walk to access hotels and museums.

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Tasting San Antonio

A Border Brunch

by Brian Jewell 30. May 2012 23:07

Sometimes a good meal can take you places. Today, brunch transported me from Texas into the colonial heart of Mexico.

I'm in San Antonio for a few days doing research for an upcoming magazine article. It just so happens that my trip coincides with Culinaria, a four-day foodie event that highlights some of the best flavors of San Antonio and the Texas Hill Country. So in addtion to visiting tourist spots like the River Walk and the Alamo, I'm taking advantage of some of the delicious opportunities that Culinaria offers.

The events at Culinaria range from large-scale gourmet tasting fairs to small, intimate winemakers dinners. Today's event might be my favorite of all. Called "Sabado at Casa Herman," this small brunch took place in an intimate new restaurant called Casa Hernan. The restaurant is owned by chef Johnny Hernandez, who has made a reputation as one of San Antonio's foremost purveyors of authentic Mexican cuisine. This new restaurant is located in the ground floor of Hernandez' personal home, and features architecture and artwork that you would find in many of Mexico's colonial towns.

Hernandez hosted this "Sabado" (or "Saturday") event to showcase one of his favorite styles of Mexican cuisine — traditional barbecue. Unlike American barbecue, which focuses on pork prepared in large smokers, Mexican barbecue features lamb and beef, which are smoked for hours in holes dug in the ground. A traditionalist, Hernandez dug pits in his own backyard to smoke the lamb and beef head that he served for brunch. As several dozen guests arrived at the event, Hernandez took them each out back to show them his barbecue pits and explain his traditional techniques.

Barbecue was the highlight of the brunch, but certainly not the only component. Our brunch buffet featured many other classic Mexican dishes, including tamales from Oaxaca and Veracruz, black-beans hand-made tourtillas and black beans with queso fresco. My favorite dish was the chilaquiles, a chicken and tortilla caserole traditionally served as a breakfast item in Mexico. The deep, complex and authentic flavors took me back 12 years and thousands of miles to my days as a student living in Morelia, a colonial Mexican city.

I ate as much as I could muster at brunch, washing it down with traditioanal "aguas" — Mexican fruit drinks made from coconut and guava — and finishing with colorful sweat bread pastries. For a blisfull noon hour on a May Saturday in San Antonio, I got to taste the best of Mexico all over again.

Traditional Mexian limes — a condiment for all occsions.


"Pan dulce" — Mexican sweet bread pastries


Authentic tamales wrapped in banana leaves

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Tasting San Antonio

Remembering the Alamo

by Eliza Myers 14. December 2009 17:26

Though I knew the epic importance of the Alamo from the John Wayne movie, I was interested in finding out where Hollywood ended and where the truth began at the Alamo National Historic Landmark. To prepare, I first watched The Alamo: the Price of Freedom at the Rivercenter Imax Theater and visited the History Shop, where a detailed diorama of the Alamo mission illustrates the sprawling size of the mission when the 200 Texans tried to defend it against the 3,000 Mexican forces.

The only remaining building from the original Alamo mission is the chapel, which served as a sanctuary for the women and children during the 1836 battle. Exhibits and artifacts, such as a lock of Davy Crockett’s hair, William Travis’ ring and James Bowie’s knife, fill the chapel and surrounding buildings to present a more personal perspective on the battle.

When the evening caused the River Walk to once again glow with Christmas lights, I enjoyed a dinner cruise on the river. I floated near where some of the fiercest fighting of the Battle of the Alamo took place and wondered that a place once so full of violence could now look so peaceful.


The Alamo

Inside the Alamo's museum

Dinner cruise on the River Walk

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Santa in San Antonio

Meeting the Johnsons

by Eliza Myers 14. December 2009 07:53

At the Saeur-Beckmann Farmstead, I discovered what exactly Little Miss Muffet was eating when she was snacking on curds and whey in the traditional nursery rhyme. The living history farm portrays the working lifestyle of a 1918 Texas farm at the Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site in Johnson City. Just down the road from Lyndon B. Johnson’s childhood home, the farm uses costumed interpreters, period farm equipment and live animals, such as the rather intimidating horned Texas longhorn cattle.


I discovered the curds and whey by following my nose to the wonderful smells coming from the farm’s kitchen. The cook working on turning the curds and whey into cottage cheese explained how she used a wood-burning stove to create dishes far and away better than anything store bought.


Nearby, the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historic Park left me feeling as though I knew the Johnson’s personally. On a driving tour, I passed by the president’s birthplace, cemetery and the Texas White House, where he lived from 1951 until his death in 1973. Details, like the presence of a phone on the president’s chair in the dining room, gave insight into the daily life of Johnson. I learned even more about the president's life and the time period he lived in at the Lyndon B. Johnson Library and Museum before an evening looking at more San Antonio Christmas lights.

 Lyndon B. Johnson Library and Museum

Lyndon B. Johnson Library and Museum 

San Antonio Christmas lights

Christmas deep in the heart of Texas

by Eliza Myers 8. December 2009 11:45

Looking up, it seemed to be raining Christmas lights. The colored Christmas lights hanging down from the high branches of the cypress trees lining San Antonio’s River Walk twinkled downward like water trickling down a waterfall. 


The 122,000 dazzling lights reflecting onto the San Antonio River created quite the Christmas wonderland. I happily strolled past shops, restaurants and live music along the stone path before deciding on a barbeque dining establishment.


Earlier that day, I started off my guided trip with Mayflower Tours by learning the Spanish colonial history of the Texas town. Originally constructed in 1731, the San Fernando Cathedral has remained a spiritual center of the town since a group of 15 families arrived in San Antonio from the Canary Islands on the invitation of King Philip V of Spain. Not far off, the 1720 Mission San Jose became the largest Texas mission with amazing stone ornamentation still intact. Both churches, along with the colorful and festive Mexican market, show the mix of indigenous and Spanish influence created when the Spanish originally conquered the area.

 San Antonio River Walk

San Fernando Cathedral 

San Jose Mission

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