Tourists Galore: why New Orleans worked better than San Antonio Texas

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So, imagine a Sunday morning in a smallish-big city, streets waking up:  a few cars, a lot of homeless down that one particular street—oops! wrong turn, lights cycling green-yellow-red to no one waiting, maybe even a church bell ringing from the next street over.  On street parking is ample.  Step out of the car into doable 87 degree heat (because you started early on purpose.)  It’s like any city, really, pavement, buildings, a little trash here and there.

Spy what you came for:  the arching “Riverwalk” sign at the top of a stone stairway.

And then descend into Venice (or so you would imagine, never having been there.) Oh! How charming! The water is a little ew! murky but the curving walkway is cobblestoned, the walk shaded.  Happen upon a sweet little ampitheatre, stage on one side of the “river”, grass covered seating on the other.  Meander in the quiet, reveling in the wonder of this world beneath the sidewalk of a normal city.

Walk on.  Maybe cross the river via a charming stone arch, pass by a closed bar, skip past the worker hosing down the Saturday night revelry.  Oh…  But that’s okay, here comes the sweet little barge you’re thinking of taking.  Where’s the stop for it? My, those people are kinda crammed in there…

Smile at the large family joining the trek.  Now the restaurants have begun Sunday brunch, and they come fast and furious, one after another, brunch brunch brunch, lines are forming, the walk slows, people clog your way.  “excuse me,” you say, passing by cell-phone peering/clicking/selfie-ing.

Realize that’s not one big long motha of a hot flash, it’s now nearing 100 degrees or maybe 150 degrees.  It’s friggin Texas in July and ALSO the very biggest tourist month of the year in this town.

The sun beats down, you scurry from shaded spot to shaded spot, dripping.  Another barge, low in the water, bodies shoulder to shoulder.  Oh, no way, no way.  No barge trip today.

Finally, finally, get to a top rated bistro and a/c with a view of the water.  The waiter is transplanted from…somewhere else but “this town is great!” The couple next to you order another round of maragaritas at 10am.

So, it’s entirely my fault for not having researched San Antonio as thoroughly as NOLA, but this experience—and the clogged, hellishly hot Alamo the day before— is much like Marsha and a few others have described New Orleans—crowded, far from an authentic, local experience, and booze-driven.  I’m sure San Antonio has it’s charms, but it sure ain’t here.

Is that fair?  Aren’t I as much of a tourist as anyone else here?  How ridiculous of me to think I’d be able to tour without being confonted by other tourists.

Anyone know who talks about travel’s worth being about experiencing discomfort?  Not necessarily 150 degree heat, but more about leaping out of that which makes us comfortable: the familiar, the same, the hotel chains and restaurants and our “stuff” and our routines.  Experiencing someone else’s world entirely different than your own, the uncertainty of it, the discomfort.  A travel writer speaks far more eloquently than I on the subject, the necessity of stepping out of your own world in order to expand your view.

New Orleans dwellers LOVE their city, extol and embody the soul of the place, as I’m sure somewhere, somehow the Texans love San Antonio.  Apparently, they know well enough to avoid the Riverwalk, because not one single person there seemed to be actually Texan.

3 thoughts on “Tourists Galore: why New Orleans worked better than San Antonio Texas

  1. As someone that has lived in San Antonio for 20 years I can tell you that it comes down to timing and research.
    July is one of the hottest and busiest months. Also, locals DO visit the Riverwalk often, but not the 2 mile stretch in the heart of the city. The Rio Taxi goes to the Pearl District where locals live and dine and renowned chefs from around the world train at the Culinary Institute of America.
    A stroll through the Historical King Williams District allows a break from the hustle and bustle.
    My advice for the next time would be to do more research before you go. A couple hours on tripadvisor can provide tons of information. We would be happy to welcome you back soon!


    1. Thank you for the invite back, Colton! Just the day before that hot, crowded experience we’d stood in the long line for the Alamo, another iconic tourist experience with a genesis in a truly moving part of American history. You are so right that July was a mistake, but all-in-all I’m glad we didn’t bypass your beautiful city. And, I’m so gratified to hear you San Antonians are just as passionate as New Orleanians.

      What an amazing country, right?!


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