San Antonio: Tourist Trappings



We went on a real vacation. Us. Him and me. Without dogs, housework, or cooking. Because I worry about bad guys, I prefer not to mention time away from home until after the fact. Why ask for trouble, right?

This time we had a trusted friend stay at our place to spoil our dogs and feed the farm beasts. In the meantime, we hit the road for San Antonio.

I like San Antonio. I always have. I love the architecture, the history, and the color. I even like the stones. Everything is made of stone down there.

If memory serves, it’s been close to 15 years since I’d been there last. What have I noticed?

• More tourists–including us.
• More tourist traps. You can’t go anywhere without someone snapping a picture and then offering to give you a copy for ten bucks (or more).
• Everything was more expensive, but at least all the Missions were still free.
• Traffic was hectic, even worse than Dallas.
• Noise everywhere

When you live in the sticks you forget how noisy the rest of the world is. You also forget that with all the extra people you tend to wait (a lot) in lines.

This year, we decided to make life easier and took a hotel right on the Riverwalk, the heart of San Antonio. It’s significantly more expensive, but I got a good deal. (I’ll tell you more about that in a minute.)

We hit the Natural Bridge Caverns on our first day and I finally got to take caving off my bucket list. We loved the caverns, but it was strenuous–and slippery with all the water running down the stalactites. Don’t try it if you have any existing injuries.

Of course, we also did the Alamo. I didn’t see the sign when we walked in that said, “NO pictures inside the Alamo”. That curator was making a beeline for me until Greg warned me and I quickly put my phone down.

The video below are Alamo re-enactors.


We walked a little bit of the Riverwalk, but Greg’s knees were really bothering him after the caverns so we had to limit our walking. Instead we took a trolley that took us to all the major attractions in town.

This included several of the Missions, including the Alamo, an artist colony, a cathedral where the remains of several of the Alamo fighters are interred, and El Mercado, a market with Mexican trinkets.

I wanted to do the carriage ride but I was tired of touristy stuff. The horse was exceptionally sweet though. He was a Belgian draft horse. Huge animal!

I had already taken some bites of my sammich. So hungry, and so good!

We did manage to eat at local eateries and not chains. Most were good but there were a couple of misses. We also did a cruise on the river which was lovely at night. Temps were just right. Not too cold or hot.

Being the obsessive/compulsive that I am, I researched everything before we left. I had a list of the best reviewed restaurants, attractions, and hotels.

Ah, the hotel. Let me tell you about our hotel. We stayed at the Westin Riverwalk. It was a toss up between the one closest to the Alamo, and the Westin. The Westin won because it had a deal of ‘buy two nights and get the third one free’. The only stipulation for this ‘deal’ is that you had to pay upfront and no cancellations were allowed. I made the reservation.

Only the reservation clerk charged me $200 more. I didn’t know this until we checked out. I pitched a fit, but the manager insisted that he could not offer a refund.

I insisted right back at him that the Westin had misrepresented itself. He finally suggested they could review the recorded phone conversation I had with the clerk, but it would take a couple of days. I told him I still had the page up on my computer at home from which I got the price we agreed upon. As soon as I got home, I emailed him a screenshot of it.

A couple of days ago I got an email with an apology and a promise of a refund on my credit card.

It’s possible it was purely a clerical error, but it also makes me wonder if they do this deliberately to catch unsuspecting guests. Call me cynical.

It was such a wonderful trip until we checked out. In a matter of a few minutes, they ruined my vacation. I still have good memories but the way the hotel treated me left a bad taste.

I will say that the room was lovely. The bed was the best I’d ever slept on in a hotel. Great shower, great in-house service, and a nice balcony on the riverside to watch the cruise boats go by. We were on the ninth floor so the noise was minimal.

All I can say is if you make a reservation by phone, ask the clerk to verbally repeat and confirm the price. It was the only way I was able to get my money back. He was supposed to send me an email, but he messed up the email address too, so all I got was a confirmation text. Had I gotten the email I might’ve been able to fix this before I left.

I’ll probably never go back to San Antonio. It’s beautiful, but it’s lost its innocence, and maybe so have I.

Has anything like this ever happened to you? What did you do?

The best part of the trip is that my good friend, Mel, looked after the dogs, and assorted farmyard beasts while we were gone. It was the most relaxing trip I had taken in years, knowing my kids were in good hands.

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  1. I’d be tempted to leave a review on the hotel’s website to warn potential other guests of what you experienced. Its a shame too to leave that sour taste in your mouth after what sounded like a nice time away! Does look like an interesting place to explore and visit. I doubt I’ll ever get there so it was fun to see it through your pictures and description of your trip.


    • Betty: I’ll probably leave a review, but first I want to see my refund.

      San Antonio is a beautiful city. It seemed to have more ‘Anglos’ than when I was there last time. Last time everyone spoke to me in Spanish. 🙂 This time, it was all in English.

  2. I hope you get your refund soon. I’ve never had any issues with hotels, but then Hubby does most of the reservations and stuff.

    I’ve been to San Antonio a few times (first time in 1982). I still say they ruined The Alamo by building the downtown around it. And why the no pictures inside, I won’t understand. Glad you had a good time (regardless of the hotel mixup).

    • Stacy: I think it’s even more jam packed now since the last time I was there. There’s the little old Alamo surrounded by giant hotels.

      re: no pictures
      The Alamo is supposed to be a sacred place, a memorial, so out of respect you’re not supposed to take pictures.

  3. It sounds like you made the best of it, and what neat pics you took. I was stationed in San Antonio for about six months, and I really enjoyed it — but this was back in the seventies when I was a wee lass. 🙂

    I’ve felt the same way about a couple of old favorite places. The last time we went to Chattanooga I felt like I was in New York City. Atlanta is the same but it has been for a while. St. Augustine and Savannah are both big tourist traps now, but at least we can still walk around and look at the architecture.

    Btw, I took my guy to get some last minute Christmas gifts for our daughter, and every single thing we picked out had been discounted and marked down again as a deal of the day (yes. I am that cheap.) At the register every single thing rang up with the discount, but not the additional markdown. When I stopped the sales girl she told me I was mistaken. I offered to take her out to the sales floor and show her the signs — and only then did she manually input the extra markdown. Watch what rings up on the registers, folks!

    • Lynn: How cool that you were stationed in San Antonio. I’m sure it was a blast back then.

      I guess we can’t expect things to stay the same. I miss the local flavor of places before they became touristy though. They’re undiscovered countries.

      re: markdowns
      Good point. I try to watch as items are rung up. I hate to stop a line, but if there’s a discrepancy I’ll make the clerk check on the price rather than let it go.

      I may not remember much but if there’s a dollar sign in front of it, I remember numbers. LOL!

  4. It all looks as beautiful as ever, though in 1982 it wasn’t swamped with tourists. Ref the Alamo, just call me cynical, but I imagine the no photo rule is to force you to buy THEIR photos. I certainly took photos from the outside, but can’t remember at all whether I did/was allowed to from the inside. Your hotel experience is a salutary reminder to keep records.

  5. Mike: It could very well be, though to be fair, there wasn’t much to see since they were doing some renovation and any artifacts were moved to another building. I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.

    I hope you did the river cruise while you were here. That was my favorite part, though I must confess, the cruise we took 15 years ago seemed more magical and less MasterCard.

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