We needed to go somewhere where it was warm and sunny. Our son, Mark, chose San Antonio, Texas, because of its famous River Walk. I knew San Antonio had a colorful history but one of us doesn’t care about history, so that was off our list.

We immediately learned you can’t escape history in San Antonio. Our ride-share driver from the airport told us San Antonio was founded as a Spanish mission in 1718. He recommended visiting the Pearl Brewery and Rosario’s Mexican restaurant. He also warned us not to make fun of the Alamo. 

“They take it seriously around here,” he said.

San Antonio wasn’t warm and sunny. It was cloudy and 56. Our hotel was located at one end of the city’s 13-mile River Walk. During daily excursions to bars and restaurants, we got to know every inch of the River Walk. 

Our second day, we walked six miles in a daylong drizzle to visit historic sites, like the Alamo. The centerpiece is a church that must have inspired the Taco Bell architecture. The Alamo was founded in 1691 and settled in part by colonists from the Canary Islands.

Our guide addressed us as “Ya’ll”, the universal greeting in San Antonio. The Alamo was a military stronghold, when Texas rebelled against Mexico in 1836. Mexico’s dictator, Santa Anna, led thousands of troops to put down the uprising. The Alamo was defended by Tennessee volunteers, like Davy Crockett. The ragtag group included European immigrants and was commanded by William Travis and Jim Bowie.

Santa Anna raised a red flag on a nearby church that warned he wouldn’t take any prisoners. The Texans fired a cannon in response. After the defenders were killed, they became martyrs for freedom. When Santa Anna was later captured, he signed over Texas to save his skin. The Alamo has an unlikely benefactor. Rock star Phil Collins fell in love with the story when he was 5 and donated his priceless collection of artifacts in 2014.

We thought we were through with the Alamo but we weren’t. In the meantime, we visited bars and restaurants along the River Walk. We enjoyed delicious meals — barbecue and Italian cuisine. We even made it to Rosario’s.

Mark had booked a three-hour evening tour of San Antonio. I expected a tour bus to pull up but it was just one guy, Alfred, and his trusty SUV. We were the only ones on the tour. Alfred took us to the 750-tall Tower of the Americas, with breathtaking views of the city. He also took us back to the Alamo. By this time, we could have conducted the tour. 

He also brought us to the Pearl Brewery. They had taken old industrial structures and transformed them into upscale bars, restaurants and hotels. Alfred then took us to the San Fernando Cathedral which features a nightly lightshow on its façade. 

The Saga laser show tells the history of San Antonio, accompanied by music. Alfred sees the show every week but still dances to the music. The tour ended at the River Walk, where Alfred placed us aboard one of the countless barges that ply the water. Our river guide was light-hearted and history-free. 

We learned more than history in San Antonio. They also have a program we could use in Forest Park. The city hires Ambassador Amigos to keep streets spotless and assist tourists. They give detailed instructions to destinations and even recommend restaurants. 

Our last day, it was finally hot and sunny enough to use the rooftop pool. We came home with what we had been seeking all along — sunburn. 

John Rice

John Rice is a columnist/novelist who has seen his family thrive in Forest Park. He has published two books set in the village: The Ghost of Cleopatra and The Doll with the Sad Face.