John & Brenda's Excellent Tour travel blog

The Natural Bridge at Natural Bridge Caverns entrance

Inside the Cave

Cave Formations and Water

Fiesta Parade

A Beautiful Home in the King William District

Duelling Pianos in Howl At The Moon Bar


April 25

Way back when we started planning this trip, someone asked Brenda what was her biggest concern and, true to form, she said, "Finding a hairdresser!" You may recall she made it through Palm Springs with a neighbour's recommendation where she got a basic cut. Now the heat was on, she needed a cut AND colour so our search began. Luckily, Marcus, her guy from home, had given her the top-secret formula for her colour so we had a bit of a leg up. Penny found a likely place on the internet and we were off.

We got out our trusty map and it seemed simple enough to find it. However, the map doesn't show construction detours and we had soon blown past the connecting highway. The good news is that Americans really know how to build road systems and we quickly recovered. We made an observation the other day that, while I seem to have an unerring sense of direction on the roads outside, I am totally lost on where to go in a mall (it's a guy thing).

Anyway, we found the shop and Brenda got an appointment for the next day. Our planned activity for today was a trip to the Natural Bridge Caverns, just north of town. We got there in 20 minutes and bought tickets for the guided tour. We had to wait for a while, as there were 2 groups of 30 or so school kids ahead of us....we were more than happy to wait! These caverns are much smaller than Carlsbad but the formations are no less stunning.

We went down about 180 feet and the total underground section is about ¾ of a mile long. Having a guided tour detracts a lot from the mystical aspect of being underground and we had a Korean family along who talked very loudly in their native tongue, which also spoiled the mood. The previous night's rain (close to 2 inches worth) had made its way into the cave and it was dripping quite heavily from the cave roof as well as running along the paths. It never ceases to amaze me, but several women were wearing flimsy sandals or thongs (not the good kind but the foot kind) and really struggled on the wet path and in the low light.

We were really longing for Chinese Food (missing Sam Wah and Mr. Ho's) so we picked up some fixings on the way home to use up our leftover meat and rice. We had some fantastic pork fried rice and chicken chow mein and felt very sated. You can forget going to a Chinese restaurant down here, because they are all buffets, as far as we can see. If you want sushi, I think you have to go to a bait shop.

April 26

This was our personal hygiene and cleanup day. We put on a load of laundry and headed for Brenda's hair appointment. I had noticed a nail shop a few doors away and popped in for a pedicure, hoping that no Marlborough man walked through the door to find a sissy Canadian being pampered. Brenda's hairdresser was an absolute hoot. Michele was from the piney woods of east Texas, blond, buxom and very funny. She loved Brenda's stories about our trip and, like so many others we've met, very envious. Best of all, she got Marcus' formula absolutely perfect.

We popped back to the condo where Brenda put on some back ribs for slow cooking. I took Big Blue for a bath after the rain and dust of the week and the girls went for a walk around the neighbourhood, which is very clean, quiet and well treed. I also did some research on the internet for Branson, Missouri as a destination through our Club Intrawest membership. Friends Lollie and Monty Holding from Victoria had mentioned their stay in Branson in their Christmas letter and it sounds fantastic. Luckily, there were several places available and we booked a nice sounding, large one bedroom unit for the week of May 5 - 12. After our very quiet day, we enjoyed Brenda's rib dinner and relaxed with some TV.

April 27

For our last full day in town we decided to go back down to the Riverwalk and Fiesta. I had it in mind to go to the Night in Old San Antonio (NIOSA) celebration, which has been talked up all week on TV and around the Riverwalk. As well, today was going to be the big Fiesta street parade through the downtown. Of course, parade through downtown means, you guessed it; street closures and we picked this day to leave the map at home.

Oh well, we wound our way around the alternates and ended up grabbing the first parking spot we could find, which just happened to be right beside the Riverwalk. Unfortunately, it was at the end of the Riverwalk so we had a bit of a hike to the city core. As we reached the core, we could see the parade crowds above us and heard the bands so we popped up to see a bit of it.

Then it struck us, if all these people were watching the parade there would be way less diners in the more popular restaurants. We walked back down to Joe's Crab Shack, which is usually packed, to find we would be one of maybe 4 full tables...smart move. We checked over the Fiesta schedule and found a tour of Miss Margaret's House in the historic King William District, an area of many restored and/or well-maintained Victorian homes. It was a short (?) 8-block walk to the district so, after waiting for an opening to cross the parade route, we headed off.

Murphy's Law hit again as Miss Margaret's House is another 8 blocks into the King William District. It was a pleasant walk, however, of many of the best examples of the architecture. I could imagine my cousin, Mike Hill, drooling over this living tribute to his profession. The tour was very interesting as Miss Margaret was a Victorian society lady who died in 1975 at an estimated age of 96 and had lived in the house all her life. She maintained all the original furniture, draperies, decorations, collections and lighting. The only 2 concessions to modern life we could note were conversion of oil and gas lamps to electricity and the addition of flush toilets and a modern (1930's) bathtub.

We walked back into town to find the Howl At The Moon bar as recommended by friends Nancy and Brian Edmunson. The bar is famous for its duelling pianos, 2 grand pianos that face each other with 2 players who play and sing audience requests. It was fun and they played our favourite Elton John and Billy Joel songs. It didn't take us long to acknowledge that our 2 X 16 = 32 block walk had made us way to pooped to do NIOSA this night, so we struck out for Big Blue and a quick bite to eat on the way home.

One thing I need to mention is that we are in San Antonio, largely because brother Donny was so impressed with this place. We can certainly see why; San Antonio and its surroundings are both beautiful and historic. It is a very good feeling to be here and I hope we come back soon. Penny mentioned that she felt Don's presence many times, as did we. When we were in the Howl At The Moon it was an especially strong feeling, not the least because one of the first songs they played was "The Dance" by Garth Brooks, a song of deep emotions that was featured on Don's memorial video.

Now on to the sad packing and departure. It has been a fabulous week and made very special by having Penny share it with us. She has been a wonderful fellow passenger and it is no wonder we love her so much. Tomorrow we plan to drive to Austin after seeing Penny off at the airport.

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