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North America » United States » Texas
July 27th 2011
Published: August 9th 2011
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DAY 16-17-18
TEXAS
San Antonio – Bandera - Austin

I arrived at San Antonio’s airport at about 10ish after a 2.40 hours flight in a very small plane, just of about 50 seats. Collected my bag and went to the Alamo rent-a-car office at the airport where they sorted out my car rental in a very speedy and efficient way. Then I got the shuttle bus from outside for a 5 minutes ride to the car depot where I could pick my car. As I had a full size car, I had 3 option, a Chevy Malibu, a Nissan Almera or a Toyota Corolla. I thought that since I was going to be driving from San Antonio all the way to Chicago, I’d need a good car, not that much for the room but for the power and reliability. The car cost me $736 for 16 days which works out at $46 per day which is not bad. And they don’t charge drop off fee which most of the other companies I tried to use were. The closest quote I had was $1100 so I was quite pleased. By the way, if anyone needs it the website I rented the car through is economycarrentals.com

They were all very similar so since I am in the US I went for the Chevy. The truth is that it drives very well, quite speedy, responds well and has all the stuff I need, cruise control, ac, ports for my ipod etc etc. Just getting out of the airport, I noticed a Walmart nearby, and I’d been wanting to go to one since I got to the US. Basically, I wanted to check it out and see how similar to ASDA is and also I had to buy a few toiletries. So I got in and it was massive, well similar to any Asda superstore in the UK. They even got George’s clothing which I found very funny. Price wise it was quite cheap. Apart from a few things, I got myself a salad for lunch. Had been eating lots of burgers and Mexican food for nearly 3 weeks and I really fancied a nice green salad. Anyway, I had booked the Comfort Suites in downtown San Antonio, so I put the address on my tomtom and made my way there. It took me about 15 minutes to drive from the airport to downtown where to hotel was. It was a pleasant drive and I checked in with no problems. The suite was absolutely fantastic. One of the bests I’ve had since in the US. Probably Treasure Island in Vegas was the best, this one comes close second. I paid $128 for the room so it wasn’t cheap but sometimes you pay close to 100 bucks for a room in an average motel so it isn’t that bad. I unpacked a bit, relaxed for a few minutes and made my way to the Alamo. There is a shuttle bus that runs from the hotel to downtown on the hour. So I waited for 10 minutes and jumped in the bus. I wasn’t sure how close the hotel was to downtown but it was really really close, 2 minutes by car so that was good as I didn’t want to rely on the shuttle bus.

The Alamo was quite impressive. Maybe not that much the building itself but the history behind it. Now Texas is hot in summer. I would say probably similar to Qatar, not that hot but more humid. And when you are a tourist you have to walk around, so five minutes into my visit in the Alamo and I was socked in sweat. After The Alamo I went to the Riverwalk, which is literally yards from the Alamo. It’s basically the river that goes through the city but it’s been built up around and there are plenty of restaurants, pubs, bars and even the Riverwalk shopping mall. Despite the heat I walked a good stretch of the Riverwalk, all the way around to La Villita, which is like a small Mexican alike villa with quite a few shops and art galleries. After the Riverwalk I needed to cool down so I decided to go to the mall. I haven’t been visiting many malls in the US, despite most people classing the malls as a tourist attraction, but man it was hot so had to go indoors. I did a bit of shopping as there was a sale in Aeropostale and got myself a polo shirt and a shirt for $15. Bargain. When I got fed up I decided to go back to the hotel. It was about 6:45 and it was the managers welcome event, so I got some food and a couple of beers on the house.

Now, I’ve been drinking more beer in the US than I’ve ever drank before. I am not a big beer drinker but I like American beer. I guess it’s because its quite light. I’ve been mainly drinking Millers light, probably my favourite, but have also tried Bud and Bud light, Coors light, Corona and Dos Equis.
After a couple of drinks I went up to my room, to have a little rest and get showered and ready for a night out in San Antonio. I started the night at Maddogs a British pub at the Riverwalk. It was a nice pub, more typically American than british. I had a few pints there and a quesadilla. Then when I was going to move on somewhere else a show started with two ladies, kinda of comedy show stroke karaoke. They were hilarious. Very rude very funny and had the whole place clapping in tears. I also met this guy who is an US military and happen to travel all over the world fixing airplanes. He has also spent a few months in Qatar so we had a few conversations about Doha, the war and the world in general.

Nice chap, it was good to know a bit more about the American army and how it works, etc. We had a few shots together and he recommended Pat O’briens for later on at night. So after a couple of hours and several drink at the Maddogs I made my way to Pat O’briens. It was quite a nice pub. Massive in fact, with a patio area, a piano bar and then a club upstairs with 2 rooms with different music. I had a drink at the piano bar and then moved upstairs. It was busy upstairs and at around midnight it got even more crowded. Met this black guy from New Jersey who was in town for work and was a big Barca fan, we had a few beers together and then I met Guinevere and her group of friends. She was really cool and a real cowgirl. She told me that wasn’t really her kind of place and that they normally go to Cowboys dance hall just a few miles out of town. So we decided to get a cab and go there.

The place was crazy, really good fun and the real deal. Country band playing on stage, bullriding and lots of cowboys hats and boots!! I really had a good time, dancing and messing about. And it was a long night too because I am not exactly sure but I don’t think I got back to my hotel until 5 in the morning so my plans of going out for a run at 8am and the for a swim in the hotel’s swimming pool were obviously off. The day after I had a massive hangover and was absolutely knackered. Had to check out by noon, otherwise I’d stay in bed until late. Anyway I met Guinevere and her friend and went out for breakfast/lunch at Guenther house restaurant, a lovely house museum restaurant where I had strawberry waffles which helped to ease off my suffering…
Then they showed me around San Antonio which was nice to see as they didn’t take me to the touristy places.

Unfortunately I had to say goodbye, although for as much as she stumbled she's runnin', For as much as she runs she's still there. I had my night book in Flying L Ranch in Bandera and had also a golf tee off time at 5pm which, by then, I knew I wasn’t going to make it.
So I made my way to Bandera and got there just about 5. Checked in and asked if I could cancel the golf and play in the morning instead. That was no problem and I booked for 7 45 am. By the way, I had a good deal at the Ranch as I got the midweek golf special which includes accommodation, plus one round of golf plus car and clubs hire for $99.

My accommodation was lovely, a real wooden cabana overlooking the golf course. The Ranch is quite interesting because there are a mixture of lodges and privately owned houses. So it’s like a huge complex with the golf course, a restaurant, a shop, tennis courts, swimming pool and a family orientated swimming complex. I was planning to do some horseback riding too but in the end I didn’t as there was no rides that day and I wouldn’t have time to do it the day after because of the golf. So, I unpacked my stuff and decided to go to pool to unwind and rest a bit.

I had a lovely couple of hours at the pool and then I got hungry so I decided to check the town. Bandera is a very small place, very cowboy like, their logo is Bandera, the world’s cowboy capital. So all of the shops are very traditional, they have saloons, etc etc. And you can still see people riding horses on the street! I went to the dinner which was quite an experience as I think I was the only non-local there. Typical scene of a movie when someone walks in a bar and everybody stares at him and then carry on talking. Haha it was funny. They even had the sheriff and his deputy sitting on a table and checking people out while having a coffee. Anyway, I decided to have an enchilada plate, which was very well cooked. Some warning if you go to Texas, in most places the will give you plain Nachos on the house. So if you are planning to get a starter and a main, don’t as you’ll get the nachos anyway and the portions of the main will leave you pretty filled up anyway. After my dinner I called it a night as I was so tired and I’ve learned that I cannot go out 2 nights in a row. Not at my age anymore…

I slept like a baby and was ready for my game at 7 45. I played golf, not too well this time but still below my handicap. The course was ok, pretty average I would say, well taken care of, especially given the arid conditions in Texas, but not spectacular like the Furnace creek at the Death Valley.
After my game, I went for a shower, pack my stuff and said goodbye to Bandera and made my way to Austin. I spent a bit of time the day before trying to book my place for Austin.

As I was only going to spend one night in Austin and one of the main attractions is the 6th street and its nightlife, I wanted to stay pretty central but didn’t fancy to pay too much. I finally found motel Super8 which is 5 minutes’ walk from downtown. Got to Austin in 2 hours and checked in the motel after paying $98 for a room. The room was ok, pretty big, king size bed, and quite clean. LCD tv too. Had another shower and planned what I was going to do for the rest of the day. I decided to check the State Capitol which was 5 minutes from the motel and then downtown, the Capitol is an impressive building and allegedly is bigger than the one in Washington. After the Capitol I walked Congress st all the way through downtown to the Congress Bridge or the bats bridge, home to the largest urban bat colony in North America. Unfortunately it wasn’t dusk yet so couldn’t see any!

Downtown Austin is very nice. Nice buildings, lots of eateries and bars and very clean. I went to 6th street, famous for its night life and it was already starting to get busy and it was only 6ish. I then got myself a longhorn baseball cap and went back to the motel. I was feeling really rough as I had a very bad cold. That shore throat I had for nearly two weeks had got better but then I got runny nose and was sneezing like every 10 seconds. I went to CSV and got myself the strongest tablets I could get, took some and chill for a bit. I really wasn’t in a state to go out but it was my only night in Austin so I had to go out.

So I hit the 6th street and went first to Buffalo Billiards where I had something to eat and a couple of beers. Then I started bar hopping along the 6th street. In Austin they ask to see you ID in every bar you go, so make sure you got some on you . I checked many bars, the majority with live music, some good bands some not that good but all pretty decent. At about midnight the place was crazy. Lots and lots of people on the streets, in the bars, everywhere. I then spent most of the time in a place that had a very good DJ that made everybody’s body move and move. Then I move onto Barcelona bar, hehe, exactly a bar called Barcelona in the middle of Austin! And what move that was, because it was great, really packed, good music and wild. Met a few people, had more drinks and decided to call it a night at about 3 I think. Got myself a burger and was going to walk to the motel when it started raining like mad. So I flag a cab and got myself safe and dry to my room.



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