The estimated four hour drive as calculated by my portable GPS from my Dallas location to San Antonio was ultimately wrong. No thanks to the Austin traffic that added an extra hour. As the trip progressed and the sun about to set in the west, I admired the change in landscape and infrastructure.
San Antonio is the tourist haven of the State of Texas. Whether traveling for business or leisure, visitors to old San Antonio are as varied as the wide array of cultural influences that has made San Antonio both unique, and one of the most recognizable cities in North America.
Founded in the late 1600’s as a missionary outpost in the desolate Southwest, the old city was once a quiet, sleepy crossroads deep in the heart of Texas. Quickly the vast sprawl of the area and the surrounding hill country became a bastion for settlers of Spanish, Mexican, French, German, Italian, Irish and Asian descent.
The city has retained its old world, European charm and thrives in its small-town ambience. County Courthouse, the oldest and largest courthouse still in use today, the three tier, 35 story Smith and Young Tower of Life Building with its octagon, Renaissance Revival architecture, or ancient relics such as the San Fernando Cathedral, the historic Alamo and its four sister Spanish Missions all dating back to the 1700’s, are all remnants of the beginnings of the city and are still in full use to this day.
Along with the modernization of glass and steel skyscrapers, three and four level highways and interchanges, San Antonio is a Mecca for industrial manufacturers such as Toyota, Boeing and Lockheed Martin. Financial giants such as USAA, CitiCorp, Chase Manhattan and Frost and energy conglomerates like Valero Energy, Tesoro and bio-medical industry all add to the great commerce the city offers.
For history buffs, visiting San Antonio is like stepping back in time, as the city is the oldest established city in the southwest and one of the first settlements in North America.
San Antonio boasts of the world renowned Alamo, the sight for the infamous Texas Battle for Independence in 1836, and has the largest concentration of Spanish missions including Escada and the San Fernado Cathedral.
La Villita is an original 18th century four block settlement in the heart of downtown San Antonio and next door to the O’Brien Hotel, my hotel of choice and from where I put this piece together. La Villita to this day is still kept in its original form complete with Town Square, Church, mercantile and the Arneson River Theater.
The Arneson River Theater is an outdoor amphitheater where spectators sit on the stone and grassy seating on one side, while the stage is across the waters of the River Walk. The Arneson makes for one of the best and most unique outdoor venues in the United States and has hosted productions amongst which are the Ballet Folklorico and the 2003 edition of the Miss America Pageant.
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