Sunday, March 31, 2013

Beauty Below Street Level

At several points along the sidewalks of downtown San Antonio are signs for “River Walk” with arrows pointing to stairways leading down one story beneath the streets of the city. At the bottom of the stairs is the pedestrian street, River Walk, that winds and loops under bridges as two parallel sidewalks lined with restaurants and shops pass major tourist draws.

If you were to google, you would find dozens of attractions along River Walk, but we think the Walk is enough of an attraction.

Our walk could be entitled “The Bridges of Bexar County” or “A Walk on the Mild Side—Below Street Level,” but I’m not sure if these titles could compete with the more well-known attractions, e.g., The Alamo.

Tour boats, taxi boats (these boats provided travelers with stops along the route and were identified by the checkered flags on the back), and work boats brought the river to life.

In yesterday's entry, I had mentioned that a walk along the river provided more of an opportunity to observe details of bridges and buildings along the way and to linger in some of the more serene places on the walkway. At one point, I happened to see this duck on the stairway. Seeing a duck on the steps was a bit unusual, so I watched it for awhile.

My guess is that this duck was agreeing with me--there was more to see from the sidewalk rather than the river.

For example, a land squid.
I rest my case.

Which brings me to the Mud Festival.

In January, public and media officials of the Alamo City vie for honors as the King and Queen of the Annual Mud Fest.

The festival features a host of crazy, not-your-normal festival events to go along with it, like the Mud Pie Ball, the Pub Crawl, the Mud parade and the annual Arts & Crafts Mud Show staged along the riverbank.

Here is where you might expect the announcement: "April Fool!"

But no, there is a Mud Festival.

"It takes on a Mardi Gras-style flavor of zany events and celebrations, where locals flock to enjoy what traditionally is the 'slower season' for visitors downtown.

(Although)..."hardly a slow season in San Antonio,...there are fewer visitors to the River Walk in early January than most other times of the year. And the Mud festival represents a time when the river resorts back to the locals to enjoy.

"And enjoy it they do! With an annual attendance near 20,000, the Mud Fest is proving that you can stage a party in San Antonio for just about any reason and can expect a crowd to show up" (

So what is the purpose of the Mud Festival? Each year city workers drain the horseshoe portion of the downtown River Walk and take their heavy equipment into the river bed where they scoop up the debris that has accumulated from the millions of visitors (29 million at last count) that visit the River Walk every year.

And in addition to finding wedding rings and silverware from the many restaurants lining the river, there is a bit of friendly(?) mud-slinging occurring.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

A Walk Along the San Antonio River

Taking a boat tour along the 2.5 miles of waterway is probably the most popular way to travel San Antonio's River Walk, but walking the distance allows for lingering and soaking in the varied examples of life on this waterway.

This landscaped walkway originally ended in the lagoon between the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center and the Lila Cockrell Theatre of the Performing Arts.

Sometimes is was the chance for a different angle for the photo;

other times it was the shapes that we chose to emphasize.

This statue of San Antonio can be found along the riverside.

Also known as the Paseo del Rio, this stretch of beautifully landscaped, meandering waterfront has had an early history of flooding. This problem of all-too-common floods was often the subject of debates among city leaders.

In 1921, architect Robert H. H. Hugman proposed a plan to retool the river into an urban park filled with dining, shopping, quiet walking areas and living spaces, similar to what he had seen in Europe. His blueprint eventually became the forerunner of today’s popular River Walk.

River Walk is the heartbeat of the city where hotels, restaurants, night clubs, bars and shopping are the primary destination. Even early in the morning, restaurants are ready for the numerous diners.

A decision to walk the route misses the historical details of the city's growth, the buildings, and the San Antonio River, but the visual details, such as those on the 33-story Tower Life Building, revealed on a walk far outweigh the observation of these sights from a seat on a tour boat.

These faces were especially intriguing on this 1928 building.

The Hilton Palacio del Rio Hotel has quite a history. Taking over for a contractor that could not complete the project, H.B. Zachry Sr., and his firm designed, completed and occupied the 500-room hotel in an unprecedented period of 202 working days, just in time for HemisFair, the Texas World's Exposition of 1968.

The first four floors were built of conventional, reinforced concrete. From the fifth floor to the 20th, modules were stacked and connected by welding of steel embedments.

The 496 rooms were placed by crane in 46 days. The hotel's room modules were pre-cast from light-weight structural concrete. Before arriving on the construction site, each room was fully decorated, including color TV, AM/FM radios, beds, carpeting, bottle openers, automatic coffee makers, ash trays, etc.

This family outing seemed quite appropriate for a walk along the river

and then a swim.