At sunrise on March 6, San Antonio celebrated the 175th anniversary of the final day of the Alamo siege. In 1836, 189 men gave their lives for Texan freedom. Even today, the sound of muskets firing over the Alamo is haunting.
The smell of gunpowder in the air was eerie, and I jumped every time the shots echoed between the beloved relic and the modern hotels around it.
It was amazing, the mix of old and new in San Antonio.
Across the street from that canon, the Ripley's Odditorium blasted Cee-lo Green's latest song, the words changed to "Forget You".
But it's the Alamo. We're not supposed to forget it.
That's what San Antonio looks like from 750 feet up in the air, at the top of the Tower of the Americas. Back in 1968, it was part of the World's Fair.
Now it's the best way to see a city where old missions nestle among busy streets and one haunted hotel has a yellow Lab as their official concierge.
His name is Luke, but I didn't get to meet him.
I did get to see the city from both angles: way up high, and from the beautiful San Antonio river, which was thoughtfully and carefully improved in 2008 as it flows through the downtown area. Clean water ripples past businesses, restaurants, shops, hotels, and even through a mall.
You don't need a car to see the best of what San Antonio has to offer.
Your feet will do. And a boat is nice, too.
It's actually uncanny, everything the city has to offer.
You can go from chatting with reenactors in front of the Alamo itself...
...to enjoying a gourmet meal in less than ten minutes.
If you do want to take a tour bus, you can see even more.
Like the original missions, where services still happen every Sunday and friars bustle around in brown robes.
Or maybe to the Botanical Garden, which has plenty of room to roam. And if you're hungry, you can eat in a booth that was actually a horse's stall, back when the restaurant was a stable.
That tower stands on the highest land in San Antonio.
And the flowers aren't bad, either.
Or, if you're feeling fancy, you can dine at the Little Rhein Steakhouse.
There's nothing like sitting on a terrace over the river, listening to live music, watching the twinkling lights in the trees, and snuggling under a poncho.
Because they have enough ponchos for everyone, if it's cool out.
They also have steakballs.
It's actually a perfectly cooked filet mignon.
It's enough to make your eyes roll back in your head.
But we called 'em steakballs.
The mudballs that arrived for dessert were even better, but I didn't get a picture.
I was too busy eating.
I ate so much that I didn't have room for this.
That's a box made of milk chocolate, filled with chocolates and topped with a dark chocolate armadillo and the state of Texas. The Marriott left it in my room for me.
It was like the best Easter basket ever.
If there's one thing Texans are serious about, it's Texas.
It used to be a country, you know. And its citizens remember proudly.
So whether you're hanging out at the fascinatingly kitschy downtown museums...
...or exploring the rich history and tapestry of cultures...
...I've got to admit that San Antonio might surprise you with its awesomeness.
Just like it surprised me.