the kid's spring break isn't for another couple weeks, but chris wasn't able to get that week off at work. he did, however, get this week and next week off. he knew he wanted to go to a conference during his break so he picked one in San Antonio because we've never been there as a family and because delayna's family was just stationed there after their time in Germany. his conference started last saturday and went from 7am-1pm each day through tuesday. we took the kids out of school starting friday for the 9 hour drive and then we drove home on wednesday so they could go back to school on thursday. glad they are at ages that it doesn't matter too much if they miss a chunk of school! we had a great time exploring and spending time with family each morning without daddy and then continuing our explorations after he got out of class. San Antonio just turned 300 years old and it was neat to learn of its history!
im going to break this up into two posts:
1- sights and people
2- food (one word: tacos)
also, i made a little video and put it at the bottom if you want too skip all 124 photos and reading allllll about our trip :)
jack was super anxious to see the alamo so we decided to beat the crowds and get there as it opened. good thing we did because we later learned that the anniversary of the alamo was the 6th and this particular week was busy with anniversary celebrations.
we were pretty shocked to find out the alamo is right smack dab in the middle of the city! buildings and busy streets surround it.
no line first thing in the morning!
being the eager tourist i am, i walked in and immediately started taking pictures. thats when i security guard ran over and said, "ma'am, this is a sacred place. no photos allowed"
we only lasted for about 10 minutes before charlie was almost in tears from boredom. so we hit up the gift shop and i got suckered in to letting them each pick something.
ellie got a rag doll. she is very in to laura ingells wilder books and this reminder her of laura's corn cob baby doll. this doll is actually pretty sweet and is handmade and the woman that made it, signed one of the rags in the back. her name is sandra greene.
the little boys picked pop guns. owen's lasted about 45 minutes before he pulled too hard and snapped the string inside.
and jack picked out a crappy campus that didn't work.
we happened to be there the first saturday of the month which is special at the alamo because they have people and vendors dressed up in period clothing from the 1800's. we stopped and listened to a man (not pictured) who was a phenomenal story teller recount the history of the battle at the alamo. it was fascinating. jack and i could've listened to him all morning. but alas, charlie and owen couldn't take it after 30 minutes, so on we walked.
the grounds surrounding the alamo were beautiful. it was one of the 5 original missions in san antonio. we were able to visit 3 of them during our trip.
jack loves davey crockett
our hotel was awesome! it was a residence inn about a mile from downtown and somehow we managed to get a two bedroom suite that had a full kitchen, a living room and two bathrooms!
back to saturday's activities!
after the alamo we still had some time before we needed to pick up chris so we decided to walk a portion of the famous riverwalk. so beautiful!
these sneaky guys took a picture with us and then told us that they "require a tip". grrr! i only had a 20 so we ducked into a little shop, bought some ring pops for the kids and then went back and gave them $2. as we approached, they were telling another mom of the required tip and she was furious. glad i wasn't the only one!
BUT, just look at how happy owen was!
plus, the kids got candy out of it, so they thought it was a win win
ellie picked out a marshmallow dipped in coconut instead of a ring pop. she didn't like it much, so she passed it on to jack who passed it on to owen after a bite or two who passed it on to charlie who finished it off.
after we walked around, we met chris for lunch on the river and then hit the road for Austin!
austin? why austin?
because we had a date with this special little babe!
and her cute family that we love!
we couldn't visit texas without spending a few hours with carrie, cameron, jackson, nora, and baby isla. isla was only 2 ½ weeks old when we got to snuggle her... she's so, so perfect!
we went to a local bbq place for dinner, but that was about all we did besides chat and visit. the kids played games and the adults visited and told birth stories :)
to say that visiting the smith's was a major highlight would be a major understatement! i just wish i would remember to take pictures with carrie when we visit each other. it seems like after every visit i think "dang it! i wish i had thought to take pictures together!" but we just get so busy catching up that it doesn't enter my mind.
we drove back to san antonio late saturday night and got ready for our next fun-filled day.
after being stuck in traffic to drop chris off at his class downtown due to a freaking marathon (my gps said rerouting probably 5000 times), the kids and i had a leisurely morning at the hotel while we got ready for an 11 sacrament meeting. it was a wonderful testimony meeting and im glad that the kids were able to experience the beauty of attending church somewhere else, but having it feel the same as our regular meetings. the whole ward was spanish, but due to all the visitors, it was an english speaking sacrament meeting. we had a sweet older man come talk to us for a while before the meeting started and afterwards jack and ellie told me how much they liked him. it was a good lesson for them (and me) to always go out of our comfort zone and talk to people we may not recognize or who we haven't seen for a long time.
after sacrament we buzzed out and headed to mission concepcion for mass. yes, we went mormon and catholic in the same day! this wasn't any normal mass. not only was it in a church built in the 1700's, but it also had a mariachi band playing all the music! it was so cool! but after about 10 minutes, we had enough and decided to walk around outside before picking up chris.
once we had chris with us, we visited riverwalk again and this time we took a boat tour!
(side note: in the picture below you can see a small boat to the right. i noticed it while walking along and thought it was odd to have a law enforcement boat on the river because i hadn't noticed one the day before. well on monday we saw a news article that said they had found a dead body in the river sunday afternoon. super glad we didn't see it floating along on the tour lol!)
our guide, antonio, was hilarious! he made it so much fun and the kids were a little bummed when it was over.
he told us all about the history of the river, the surrounding buildings, and fun facts about downtown. he also told many many jokes and even pretended to hit his head on one of the bridges when we went under, which really got the kids laughing.
after a beautiful walk with beautiful weather, we went to a late lunch early dinner at the cheesecake factory.
we were so stuffed that chris and i needed a nap, so we spent some time chilling at the hotel until nighttime. our guide told us about how the Cathedral of San Fernando puts on a laser show a few nights a week and sunday night was one of them. basically, they project the laser show to the front of the cathedral, and through images and music they tell the story of the city San Antonio. it was only 25 minutes and was actually pretty cool.
we found a bench made from a long solid rock to sit on while we waited for the show to start. owen and charlie found some dirt to dig in next to a cluster of bushes and after about 10 minutes they started to scream and jump. out scurried several LARGE cockroaches from the bushes and straight up our bench. we jumped up on our bench and stood up there the rest of the time.
this is us looking at the roaches on the ground.
this is us pretending like we aren't terrified of the roaches below us.
monday was a special day! we finally were able to meet up with the Montecino family!!!
we met with delayna and leilani and they took us on the army base so we could check out their new place and play at the park. layna, jack, and i played a round of trivial pursuit harry potter edition and layna smoked us! we went to lunch after chris was out and then layna left to pick up quentin from school.
we had some time before we were going to meet up with delayna and quinn, so we (along with lani) made a quick stop at the san antonio temple. it was beautiful! the stained glass windows were stunning and im sure they are breathtaking at night.
layna and quinn met us at market square for some shopping and dinner. it was sooo fun. all the colors!
we ate at Mi Tierra at the market, and even though i will write about it on our food post, i thought i should include here that it was a fun experience in itself. the restaurant is filled with lights and flags and banners and pinatas. there is even a three man mariachi band that walks around playing for the tables!
we of course had to hear them play! when they came to our table they told chris it was $10 and he just stared at the guy. he couldn't believe they would charge that much. layna was quick though and passed over the cash. she is so quick, she might rival grandma linda ;)
listening to the band was a blast. they were so cute and it was fun to watch the kids. i wish we had a better picture of ellie, but she smiled so big the whole time! usually things like that embarrass her, but she was loving every second of this! the whole song is at the end of the video we put together of our trip.
after dinner we watched (and then ate!) as this woman made fresh dulce de leech filled churros!
we said goodbye to layna and kids and made one last stop for the evening at the Japanese Tea Gardens.
it said it was open till 8:30 and we weren't sure how much of it we'd see or if it would be worth while to go that late at night, but man we had fun!
we couldn't see too much, but there were little paths that led to rock gazebos and water falls and coy ponds. it was really pretty and fun to explore in the dark.
after chris went to his class and delayna dropped quinn off at school, the rest of us hung out at the hotel. we ate donuts, played at the hotel playground, and watched some tv.
it was really nice to just hang out. not that we hadn't been having a great time sight seeing, but it was great being able to catch up with layna and lani for a bit.
after class, we met layna and kids at Mission San Jose, the largest (and most intact) of all the missions.
visiting these missions was very interesting, but i couldn't help but wish they were playing some nacho libre theme music while we walked around each one to liven things up a bit!
because we wanted to walk around a little more, we decided to go back to market square for one last visit before we said goodbye to layna and the kids. walking around all those fun stores with kids is reeeeally difficult because their little hands just want to touch and hold and play with every single thing they see. owen was particularly hard, so after hearing him cry for about 10 minutes because he wanted to buy a piñata and he wanted to try all the toys, i broke down and bought each of the kids ring pops. it worked like a charm! little hands were busy holding their treat and little mouths were smiling. those things saved my sanity this trip :)
we had to say goodbye to layna and the kids and it really stunk. we tried to make it feel easier by reminding ourselves that we will be together soon enough at the browne family reunion this june, but it was still hard. it was so wonderful to see them and to see how much lani and quinn have grown up over the past couple years. they are great kids and we love them all so much. can't wait to live closer to family again someday so that visiting with cousins happens more often!
tuesday evening we went outside of the city and met up with one of chris' college roommates. we hadn't seen brandon since his wedding reception in blackfoot right after we were married.
he and his wife, amber, have a beautiful family and they have lived in san antonio for (im pretty sure he said) 11 years. chris has so many fun memories with brandon and their other roommates and they had a great time catching up and reminiscing the good ol' days!
brandon and amber have 3 girls ages 10, 7, and 4 and the bbq place we met them at had a playground and grassy area for kids. so they played tag and had a really great time making some new friends.
brandon was born with severe heart defects and i know chris has always been fascinated by all of the surgeries and treatments brandon has gone through throughout his life. they chatted about that for a bit and then we found out that amber had stage 4 breast cancer just last year, but is in remission now. talk about challenges! they were so optimistic and able to joke about it and it was a really good example to us of being positive.
it was really, really good to visit with the esplin family!
after dinner, we stopped by the riverwalk one last time. chris threw around the idea of taking another boat tour because we had enjoyed the first one so much, but we decided not to. it was chilly and none of us had jackets, not to mention the fact that the tours are pretty pricey. so we just admired the pretty lights while we walked around and stopped for a treat.
we woke up pretty early wednesday so we could stop at a neat place for breakfast before heading out of town. we got to The Guenther House just after 7. this home was built in the 1800's and the Guenthers opened a flour mill which is now a huge operation. they are The Pioneer Flour Mill company, among many others.
we sat in the home's original dinning room that had all the original woodwork and tiled mosaic floors. it was really neat!
and these two boys had a few moments where they actually liked each other ;)
we left San Antonio around 8:30 and, after stopping at the giant gas station called Buc-ee's for some snacks for the drive, we made our way to arkansas.
chris did have to stop in austin for a brief second to see the new addition on franklin's bbq smokehouse. we didn't eat anything even though the line was surprisingly small (for franklin's anyways!).
after that, we stopped in waco for about an hour to check out chip and joanna's bakery. last time we went to austin for spring break (two years ago) they were remodeling that little corner bakery, so it was fun to visit the finished results... plus, cupcakes.
the line went very quickly at the bakery, i guess thats probably because it was on a wednesday. you fill out a little order form in line and take it up to the register and they box it all up for you. it was pretty cute inside, which is no surprise!
after our treats, the kids ran around playing soccer and other games, we took a quick potty break, then we stopped by clint's shop (Harp Design Co.) before heading home.
as we pulled up i told chris that i was pretty sure that was clint's house that they did on fixer upper (i totally realize and accept the fact that i sound like a stalker). when we went in the shop they had a little stack of cards that said that was their house for a couple years and now it is an AirBnB and costs $600/night to stay there.
owen pretty much summed up all of our feeling on the drive home when he repeated "no go home, go to hotel! no go home! stay tex-has!". it was a great trip! the sites were so interesting and beautiful, but our friends and family made it spectacular!
until next time, texas!
the password for the video is: SanAntonio