Published: April 23rd 2009March 20th 2009
At the intersection of Hwy 87 and Hwy 290
I was reading “1,000 Places To See Before You Die”
by Patricia Shultz before our trip and I came across an article about Fredericksburg in the Texas hill country. President Lyndon Johnson called it “a special corner of God’s real estate”. The book also described about the sea of purplish bluebonnets outside and around Fredericksburg.
Fredericksburg is located about 65 miles northwest of San Antonio. And we had a rental car! So after a hearty breakfast at Pesca at Watermark Hotel, we got on I-10 West with Lauren as the navigator. We took the exit at Comfort and proceeded to head north on Hwy 87. Before long, we were driving through rolling hills with gentle turns amidst area of grassy pastures. We kept searching for any signs of purple bluebonnets but we didn’t see any. It was still too early in the season.
Hwy 87 intersects with Hwy 290 on Main Street at the entrance to Fredericksburg’s downtown. Hwy 290 is the road to Austin - 70 miles away. So obviously, this is a very busy intersection and we had to wait for the second or third cycle at the traffic light before we could make our left turn
Germany in Texas
Biergarten in Texas' Hill Country
into Main Street.
Nimitz Museum, or The National Museum of the Pacific War, is located at the intersection. Formerly the historic Nimitz Hotel, the museum boasts a collection of Allied and Japanese tanks, guns and artifacts from the Pacific War. The Japanese Garden of Peace, a gift from the military leaders of Japan, is situated behind the museum building.
We drove slowly through Main Street - looking for a parking space and trying to see all the different shops. The sidewalks were pretty full already … everyone seemed to be taking a leisurely stroll. I couldn’t find any parking spaces and decided to follow the sign to the Visitors Information, located about a block north of Main Street. There was a big parking lot behind the building that was about half full. Good idea … let everyone park here for free, go to the public bathroom, enter the Visitors Information before exploring the city on foot.
And that was exactly what we did. Lauren found out from the Visitors Information that we were definitely too early to see the sea of purplish bluebonnets. However, there is a nursery outside the city limit with some bluebonnets if we
A reminder of the city's German roots
want to see it. We picked up a few more brochures and then we walked towards Main Street.
Main Street Fredericksburg might as well be Main Strasse somewhere in Germany. Texas’ Hill Country was settled in the mid-1800’s by German immigrants whose culture can still be felt in and around Fredericksburg. German flag was placed outside Der Lindenbaum Restaurant. Across the street, there were more flags in front of Auslander Beirgarten. If we were blindfolded and got dropped off in the middle of Fredericksburg, we would have thought that we were in the middle of Bavaria. Till we saw all the Ford F150’s and GM pick ups! Yes, we were in Texas.
Main Street is lined with antique stores, art galleries, bed and breakfasts and bakeries. Wiener schnitzel was on the menu at the German restaurants (obviously). We saw a number of shops selling quilts and we browsed at a small chic shop specializing on dresses and hats from the early 1900’s. As we slowly made our way along Main Street, we came across a plaque in front of a house. It was behind this house that on February 24, 1885, Chester William Nimitz was born. He was
Market Square in the background
then selected as Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Admiral Nimitz was the representative of the U.S. and signed the Japanese surrender documents on USS Missouri on September 2, 1945 in Tokyo Bay.
Main Street is about 6-7 city blocks long and towards the end, we reached Pioneer Memorial Library. Across the street was an open area - a plaza, with another plaque describing the founding of Fredericksburg in 1846. The plaza was originally the city’s Marktplatz or Market Square.
We walked both sides of Main Street and we did not purchase anything … no gifts, no food and no drinks. So it was only fitting for both of us to take a break at a local ice cream shop. Sitting at a corner table next to the window, it was interesting for us to observe the visitors to Fredericksburg. We didn’t see any foreigners - everyone was speaking American English. But you got the parents who were trying to make sure that their children did not misbehave in public; the cowboy who was buying ice cream for the girlfriend who waited outside; the big city couple who wasn’t satisfied with
We are in Texas!
the ice cream selection. And then, there were the 2 of us - the newlywed who was admiring (or making fun) of everybody.
Feeling energized after my milk shake, we decided to start heading back to San Antonio. It was still early afternoon and we didn’t want to get caught in rush hour traffic. It was actually an easy 1.5 hours drive back to our hotel. The longest part was from the freeway exit to the hotel.
Once we dropped off our rental car, we looked for other sites to visit. The hotel concierge gave us the direction to Spanish Governor’s Palace. We saw the sign the day before but we didn’t know what it was. Turned out that this place was pretty close to our hotel - as long as we knew how to find it.
Spanish Governor’s Palace, a National Historic Landmark, was built in the early 18th century and is considered as an example of aristocratic early Spanish house. Sounds interesting, right? So we followed the signs and the directions from the concierge. We knew that this palace is located somewhere behind Cathedral of San Fernando. But we walked around the block and we
Spanish Governor's Palace
The small entrance to the palace
couldn’t find it. Well, the word “palace” threw us off. We were looking for a big structure - a palace! When we finally found the entrance (with flags in front of it) to this Spanish Governor’s Palace, we were standing in front of a one story stucco structure. It was not our expectation of a “palace”.
The interior of the palace was sparsely decorated with its original furniture. There were no frescoes - just dimly lit rooms with low ceilings that were kept very clean. The back door led to a courtyard with a large fountain in the middle and a well on the right hand side. A sign hanging at the top of the well says A WISH I MAKE -
I WISH I MIGHT
HAVE MY DEAR WISH
WITH TRUE DELIGHT
We didn’t stay long - it was not a big palace after all. We crossed the street and walked inside Cathedral of San Fernando. An engraved marble at the entrance commemorated the visit by “John Paul II, Vicar of Christ on Earth, September 13, 1987”
. The church was simple and yet elegant, small and yet beautiful. We were glad to have the opportunity to
visit the inside of the oldest cathedral in the US.
Walking outside, we circled the Main Plaza and watched as a number of kids were running in and out of the fountain. They were completely soaked and had the biggest smile. Their parents were patiently waiting under a tree. It must be their strategy … get these kids tired now so they could go to sleep early! The same Ambassador Amigo was circling the plaza.
Looking at the time, we headed back to the hotel to get ready. We went for an early dinner at Iron Cactus, a contemporary Mexican restaurant with a selection of 75 tequilas. Could you tell what attracted us to this restaurant? Yes, we wanted our margaritas again and we couldn’t say no to a restaurant with a choice of 75 tequilas. Hmm … how many margaritas did we have that night? But then again, who was counting? After all, we were on vacation.
After dinner, we called a taxi and headed for AT&T Center. San Antonio is the home of the San Antonio Spurs of the National Basketball Association (NBA). Lauren and I had never been to an NBA game before and
we were glad to find out that the Spurs were going to play at home during our Spring Break trip. So I started searching for tickets about 2 weeks before the trip. That was not an easy thing to do - after all, the Spurs were going to play the Boston Celtics - last season’s NBA champion and winner of 17 championships (Spurs won the championships in 1999, 2003, 2005 and 2007).
We were so excited! I wanted to bring my digital SLR but thought it would not be allowed. Good thing - security guards were checking everyone’s bag at the gate and not allowing any digital camera with detachable lens. Our seats were pretty good - in the middle, plaza level. Even from a distance, these players looked huge. The funniest part was the fact that it was Noche Latina
at AT&T Center. Anything Latina we could think of, they were doing it. The players were wearing “Los Spurs” uniform; halftime show was a mariachi band; number counting was done in Spanish; the announcers were all wearing sarape
. A little over the top!
The game was fast compared to the college games that Lauren and I were
San Antonio's Main Plaza
With Bexar County Courthouse in the background
used to. The star players for the Spurs - Tim Duncan and Tony Parker - were certainly unstoppable in the first half. But Boston, after trailing early, was able to keep it close with its own star players - Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo. Unfortunately, Tony Parker missed consecutive free throws towards the end of the game and Boston came out on top 80-77.
Lauren and I had a great time. For some reason, we were sitting around a bunch of Boston fans. They were definitely amused by Noche Latina
. AT&T Center was built in 2002 to address the needs of the Spurs who was dissatisfied with the Alamodome. This indoor arena can seat 18,500 for basketball games and has 50 luxury suites. That’s all great - except for the shortage of taxis or other affordable forms of public transportation from the arena. Lauren and I ran into a long line for taxis after the game. And the evening was getting a lot cooler. There were quite a number of taxis initially and the line moved along. But our luck ran out … there were still 30-40 people and there were no more taxis. One would come
Before the start of the NBA game between the Spurs and the Celtics
along every 5-10 minutes or so. An entrepreneur pulled up with a school bus and offered to go downtown for $5 per person. Lots of people jumped at that opportunity and all of a sudden, we were almost in front of the line. That was the good news. The bad news was that there were still no taxis. So we all started asking each other where everyone was going. Those going downtown huddled together. And when the next taxi showed up, we all jumped in to fill it up. Lauren and I ended up sharing our taxi with a couple from Austin. They were Celtic fans!
It was a fun evening … a great day. The taxi situation was really not a big deal. Did I really think that? Must be the lingering effect of the tequila!