We got up early as we had a nearly 500 mile drive to San Antonio. After a quick breakfast at the hotel we were on the road by 8:30. The drive on US Highway 285 from I-40 to Carlsbad was a nice four lane highway, but south of Carlsbad it was only one lane in each direction with lots of truck traffic. Despite the fact that oil prices are in a slump, it seemed that most of the trucks were carrying equipment for the oil fields and we could see plenty of activity along the road as we drove south. I believe most of the activity was more for production than drilling as we didn’t see any drilling rigs.
We crossed Interstate 20 in Pecos and continued south to Fort Stockton where we picked up Interstate 10 headed east. The interstate is not our preferred way of travel, but it was a relief to get on a four lane highway and away from all the slow truck traffic. There was very little traffic on I-10 and the land was hilly, barren and desolate with very few towns. As we got nearer to San Antonio we entered what is known as Texas Hill Country, which has more interesting scenery and there were also more towns.
San Antonio is a good size city with a population of just under 1.5 million. We would be staying right in the downtown area so we had to contend with quite a bit of traffic, but we made it to our hotel by 5:00 and were soon in our room. We are staying at the Omni la Mansion del Rio Hotel, which is right on the famous San Antonio River Walk. The hotel is in a historic building that was originally a boy’s school. We had opted for a river view room, but when we checked in we were told we had been upgraded to a balcony room, yea, good luck again. Our room was on the fifth floor with the balcony looking right down at the River.
The San Antonio River Walk is part of the San Antonio River with a channel coming off the main river and then reconnecting further down making a loop. There is also a channel leading to the convention center and a large shopping mall. There is a continuous walkway all along the river and channels with hotels, shops and restaurants all along the way. Most of the restaurants have outdoor seating along the walkway and river. There are numerous pedestrian and vehicle bridges along the way. It is very picturesque and we were very impressed.
After settling in, we went down to the River Walk to explore and have some dinner. It was a beautiful and balmy evening and despite this being the slow time of the year, there were lots of people strolling or sitting in the restaurants enjoying the evening. We decided to take a boat cruise and get the lay of the land along the River Walk. It was a guided tour that took the full loop plus the channels that led off the main loop. The sun had just gone down so it was very nice with just a twilight sky and all the lights along the way. The cruise took about 35 minutes and we were glad we did it as it was very interesting.
We were getting hungry so after the cruise we started looking for a restaurant and decided to eat at Ostra, a seafood restaurant right across the channel from our hotel (and apparently owned by the hotel). It was an excellent dinner, which Val and I both enjoyed. After dinner we strolled along the River Walk for a while and then decided to walk over to the Alamo which is nearby. We didn’t stay long as we are planning on visiting tomorrow morning, but we did want to see it lit up at night. We walked back to the River Walk and our hotel and decided to call it a night. Our first night in San Antonio was wonderful - perfect weather, good food and the very nice River Walk.