There is much to see and do in San Antonio. Lots of history and culture and even a beautiful garden or two. And it is a city that takes good care of it’s tourists: lots of signage (see Seattle), lots of hotels and shops and restaurants in the historic downtown area, easy to walk to many of the places. They have re-purposed buildings such as the old brewery complex, now know as the Pearl Center. There are any number of museums, and I thoroughly enjoyed exploring the San Antonio Museum of Art on Sunday afternoon. And thanks to a tip from my brother-in-law Sam I spent Monday morning at the beautiful and peaceful Japanese Garden.
The Japanese Garden in Breckinridge Park has a fascinating history. It was the vision of a city commissioner back in the early 1900’s, who saw a way to beautify an old quarry. The commissioner hired Kimi Eizo Jingu, a recent Japanese immigrant and an artist of some renown. The Japanese Garden was completed in 1919, and included a house for the Jingu family, so they could oversee the garden. They lived there, opening a tea shop, until Pearl Harbor, when the fear and hysteria forced the family to move. The name of the garden was changed to the Chinese Tea Garden, and the front entrance reflects this change. The city changed the name back to the Japanese Garden in 1983. The tea shop still functions, but unfortunately was not open today. Sadly, I have no information on what happened to the Jingu family.
When I asked what the San Antonio Museum of Art specialized in, I was told “a little bit of everything”, and you will see below how true that was! But what an interesting collection, and a lot of it had a true taste of the American southwest. That section of the museum reminded me a lot of the Mexican Museum in Chicago, Illinois, that I explored a number of years ago with good friends Bill and Alice.
And then there was the Pearl. There had been a huge brewery complex on the outskirts of San Antonio, which once employed 1/4 of the population. When it closed down completely in 2001, it was re-imagined as a place for eating, shopping, and a weekend farmer’s market in an historic setting. There is even a hotel! It has been very well done, and I enjoyed my visit there. The Culinary Institute of America is located there, and I had a delicious lunch in their restaurant.
I also visited on Monday La Villalita, which was originally a village outside of San Antonio in the 1700’s on the San Antonio River. Eventually it was enveloped by the city and fell into disrepair. Today it has been revitalized as an area of shops and restaurants in the historic buildings, and can be reached on the River Walk.