Saturday, April 24, 2010
No visit to San Antonio would be complete without a visit to the Alamo.
The Alamo was, at one time, a remote Catholic mission built by the Spanish government at a time when Mexico was a Spanish colony and Texas was part of Mexico.
In 1821 Mexico became independent from Spain. During the next decade, thousands of Americans moved to Texas searching for new opportunities. In 1835 hostilities broke out between Texas rebels and the Mexican government of General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. A small army of citizen soldiers opposed to Santa Anna defeated a Mexican garrison in San Antonio and decided to stay there, at The Alamo.
From February 23 to March 6th 1836 the most famous battle of the Texas Revolution took place, The Battle of the Alamo. The Texans fought bravely, but the Mexican army was too strong. Almost all of the Texans were killed in the battle. They died for the cause of liberty and freedom of Texas. They call it the most gallant stands of courage and self-sacrifice with a lasting battle cry that is still heard in Texas as Remember the Alamo.
Today The Alamo is by far the most visited historic site in Texas, but it has come to represent far more than just the struggle against Santa Anna. The phrase "The Alamo" has come to represent any struggle against difficult odds, and the idea of fighting for freedom.
What a great city San Antonio is! Its pretty far south in Texas so there is a big Mexican influence, no menu was complete without Tacos, Burritos and Nachos. Hot Sauce was as common as Ketchup. We were lucky enough to visit during Fiesta week. It was extremely festive, colorful streamers decorating everything. San Antonio's biggest attractions are the River Walk and the Alamo (remember?). The river walk is (no surprises) a river, that loops through the city flanked on either side by restaurants and gift stores. The river is lined with trees and gardens, all meticulously maintained. It is hugely busy, every restaurant has outside seating along the river, where you can watch the ducks or the river boats while sipping a margarita. Wonderful.
Just back from a week's vacation in San Antonio, Texas with the family. We flew with American Airlines. Flying really has become a complete pain in the neck. We were allowed two items of hand luggage each. At boarding time we handed over our boarding passes and were about to walk past the stewardess when she stopped me. You have three items of hand luggage, she said, and you are only allowed two (I had a handbag and a bigger shoulder bag, and was pulling along the roll-on suitcase). Its OK, I said, we are a group of 4 and we have less than 8 items between us. That doesn't matter, she said, you are only allowed two items. So I passed the suitcase to Tony (who only had a backpack and was walking immediately behind me), he wheeled it past the stewardess, then handed it back to me once we'd passed by. Apparently that was OK, but I couldn't hold it as I walked past the "jobs-worth" stewardess.
Talking of Jobs-worth's, it reminds me of an incident when we were in New York a few weeks ago. We were in "The Food Emporium", a kind of supermarket that also does a good selection of freshly prepared food, that you can buy then go eat it in the seating area. I was waiting to pay at the checkout desk, and I reached over to the next (unused) checkout desk, to get some plastic forks to eat our lunch with. "Ah-ah" tutted the lady at the checkout, waving her finger back and forth like a mother chastising her 2 year old. "Please don't help yourself to the knives and forks, I have to get them for you", she said. So I handed my forks to her, and (I kid you not), she handed them back to me. Now all was well with her little world. Whatever...
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Whenever I visit the UK, I use my credit card to buy just about everything. Being a US credit card, it does not use the Chip and Pin system that is so common in the UK. You have to sign. I am used to the blank stares from the cashiers and waiters when they insert my credit card into their little box thingy, and it doesn't work. I am used to explaining that the US does not use chip and pin and therefore I need to sign instead. However on this visit I was actually told by one store that they could not accept my credit card because it did not have a pin. The store did not "have the equipment" to accept a card that required a signature. Is this the thin end of the wedge? In a couple of years time will I find that my Visa card is useless in the UK?
With the current state of the British economy, I'm surprised they could afford to be so picky...
Saturday, April 10, 2010
After complaining about Virgin Atlantic last year, it wouldn't be fair if I didn't follow up with a review of my flight experience on British Airways.
The seat I checked into was in a decent position, near the front, window seat. But it was sooooo narrow. I am not a big person but I felt cramped, and to cap it all, my TV screen did not work. The food was so-so (no different to any other airline), the air stewardesses were very friendly (a BIG plus from the snooty Virgin Atlantic staff). So all-in-all, a pretty average experience. But I have to add that you cannot put a price on the excitement of not knowing whether the crew will go on strike at the time you have booked. Only BA can offer that bonus feature.
Back in the UK for a short visit. I flew into Heathrow then took the train from Paddington station. While waiting for my train at Paddington I decided to visit "the loo", so I dutifully followed the signs. I lugged my suitcase down 3 flights of steps to get to the ladies room, only to be greeted by a small, narrow turnstile and a sign that said "30p". Swearing ever so slightly under my breath, I scrambled in my bag to find 30p to allow me entrance. Success! Luckily I had 30p in the little plastic bag of left-over change from the last time I visited the country. I inserted my money and tried to squeeze myself and my suitcase thru the turnstile. Well, my suitcase went through, and so did my right leg. But the turnstile clicked shut before I had chance to follow up with my left leg. So I am left straddling the turnstile , much to the amusement of a couple of little girls and their mother. After much abuse of the Queens English, and a Herculean effort from myself against my tight jeans, I managed to hurdle my leg over the turnstile. Worst of all, after paying 30p for the privilege, I had lost the urge to pee. Welcome to the UK!!
Sunday, April 4, 2010
Birthday wishes to my bro'-in-law Martin, who is only a few months younger than me (but I think I have worn better....)
Have a nice day!
Check out his blog at http://martinveale.blogspot.com