Thursday, 31 October 2013

San Antonio to New Orleans

After fabulous margaritas, dinner and dancing, with Jill & Rich, at La Fonda Hotel, we farewelled our friends and headed to New Orleans via San Antonio.  (The restaurant is in the area where the stage coaches pulled in to unload goods or passengers in the 1850's.  It was a beautiful old building.)

First stop, a town called Truth or Consequences.  That's right like there's a game show (for those old enough to remember the 1951 game show of the same name).  Residents in a small town called Hot Springs agreed that they would change the name of their town if the show was hosted in the town.  We stayed at the Sierra Grande Spa & Lodge.  A spa was included in the price of a room.  We decided to have our spa just before going to bed, in the outside (secluded) spa.  It was sooooo hot we were awake for hours 'til our bodies cooled down!  The town is a quiet, spread out place with some quirky shops and a very nice looking golf course, that unfortunately had to remain unplayed by the Tourin'Travellers.  BUT, it had a Walmart.  Robert dropped his camera in Santa Fe and the focus was damaged so we had our Walmart fix, buying a new one there.  

Dinner the previous night was at a very nice Italian establishment with an amazing wine selection. Mo, our waiter, suggested we leave the highway and take a scenic route via Hatch.  This was a welcome change and revealed groves of Pecan trees against a mountain range backdrop.  Worth taking the extra time.

Our route then took us via some amazing natural wonders.  Firstly, White Sands National Monument.  
Like no place on earth, glistening wave-like dunes of gypsum sand have engulfed 275 square miles (Aussie's you can convert this yourselves. It's a lot anyway!) of desert. Situated in the vast US missile testing range in New Mexico this phenomenon is amazingly, home to various animals that have evolved a white coloration for survival.  You are forgiven for thinking it looks like we were at the snow.  However the shorts are a give away to the heat.   Some photos look hazy, it was the wind constantly changing the face of the dunes by picking up the light gypsum particles, and blowing them everywhere (stinging your legs!)

Next stop was Carlsbad Caverns 
National Park in the Guadalupe Mountains in southeastern New Mexico. Rocky slopes and canyons, cactus, grass, thorny shrubs, and the occasional tree and beneath this rugged country are over 300 limestone caves - all formed when sulphuric acid dissolved the surrounding limestone, twelve to fourteen thousand years ago.  Yes, it was huge (and vey cold) but thankfully tastefully illuminated.  Entrance to the caves, was through the bat caves.  The smell was pretty awful, however once past that part the experience was fabulous.

After wandering through the 8.5 mile loop of caverns, we drove through some stunning landscape.

      Quite beautiful despite the dryness.

     The ranges looked like they'd been plowed into shape.

    On the road to San Antonio, and through out Texas, we saw many of these.

   The Alamo is one of San Antonio's attractions highlighting the drama of the Texas Revolution in 1836.  Mexicans who wanted the area as their state surrounded the Alamo for 13 days. All Texan defenders were killed, including Davey Crocket.  Texas settlers and adventurers, buoyed by a desire for revenge, joined the army. One month later, at the battle of San Jacinto, they defeated the Mexican army, by attacking them during the lunch time siesta. This ended the revolution.  Texans was no longer part of Mexico and for a time an independent country before becoming a state within the USA. This is the chapel attached to the Alamo fort. 

    A window of the fort.  Quite secure!  The vertical bars are solid wood.  Horizontal, steel.

We went to the theatre in San Antonio and saw the hilarious show, "Book of Mormon".  Written by the guys who wrote "South Park".  It was such a wonderful experience.  The play was in the Majestic Theatre, which is like the Forum Theatre, Melbourne, on steroids!  Both must have been built in the same era.  
     On the landing up stairs.
     Inside!  Above the stage area!
    To the right of the stage!
    On the left of the stage!
 Incredible hey?

San Antonio is famous for it's River Walk.  A three mile walk, on each side of the river, down below street level. The area has restaurants, bars and cafe's plus access to a hand crafted artist area, behind the small amphitheatre.  It was a lovely spot to saunter along.  Most of the town's attractions can be accessed from the walk. 
  This is the stage area of the amphitheatre, taken from the seating side. Across the river. Concerts are held here throughout summer. 

St Francis Basilica, built early last century was a beautiful place to visit.  There was a service to honour all of San Antonio's Services. Flags, uniforms, the Archbishop.  Pomp and ceremony. Fabulous!

The Post Office!  I needed to post a letter, so we walked in together.  I was wearing my backpack which had our lunch and a small knife to cut fruit.  To access the building there was a security check with a bag scanner. Completely forgetting about my knife, I put my bag through the scanner, walked through myself only to be told I had to leave the building immediately.  It was a Post Office, Court house complex! Naturally weapons of any sort are NOT allowed.  Robert had to take the bag outside while I went in to purchase the stamps and post my letter.   We walked across the road to the Alamo feeling a bit shaken!
     Some of the interesting architecture in the city.
    This one was empty.  

    The Governor's palace.  Mexican adobe architecture.  Very interesting.
  Trolley buses that take the tourists around town.

    This is the Fairmont Hotel.  It made the Guinness book of records for being the largest building moved as a whole, to a new spot.  What we'd like to know is why? It's not a very special building really.  

So that ends the San Antonio tour and leads us into New Orleans.  
Cheers 'til the next blog,
Robyn & Robert,
The Tourin'Travellers 



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