Tale of two cities
The Texan cities of Houston and San Antonio tell a rich tale of the Lone Star State’s very own space-time continuum
A vibrant city of history and culture
Deep in the heart of Texas, San Antonio may be easily mistaken for a European city from its abundance of intriguing historical sites showcasing Spanish and German architecture. This All-American city, that is celebrating its 300th anniversar y in 2018, proudly celebrates the many heritages that influence its culture and atmosphere. To understand the city ’s past, a visit to The Alamo is imperative. For out-of-state visitors, the stone façade of the chapel at The Alamo, complete with carved pillars and arches, is impressive enough, but its historical significance makes it a veritable pilgrimage destination for many. In 1836, several hundred revolutionaries died defending the fort from Mexican forces as part of Texas’ war for independence, making it one of the state’s defining moments and an enduring source of Texan pride. Learn more by joining a one-hour tour around the perimeter of the old fort, and follow it up with the free talk and film on site, which offer differing perspectives on a battle whose events remain disputed to this day. Downtown San Antonio houses the River Walk – a picturesque promenade of hotels, shops, cafés and parasols along the riverfront. A recent expansion to the River Walk also allows you to access more of the city ’s historical riches and the eight-mile Mission Reach path to the south leads to the eye-catching architecture of the four additional Spanish Colonial Missions. Mission San José is a beautiful, towering mass of thick stone walls and gaping arches, topped by the elegantly car ved rose window in the church. Even San Antonio’s burgeoning, fashionable Pearl District is a knowing wink to history. The Pearl Brewery has been redeveloped into a large, multi-purpose shopping centre, with several cafés and restaurants. Just like in times gone by, you can still find beer here, namely at the Southerleigh Fine Food & Brewery within the Pearl complex. Here, you can sample craft ales of all shades and flavours in a 19th-century setting, as well as traditional San Antonio dishes such as cornmeal-crusted catfish. The city ’s deep histor y is just a part of its rich culture, and you can tell San Antonians care. The Witte Museum, dedicated to Texas’ nature, science and histor y, recently completed a US$100 million expansion and renovation. San Antonio Botanical Garden is also undergoing a US$40 million expansion to showcase unique flowers and fauna in a natural and artistic manner. For a city full of histor y, it’s easy to see it’s on a mission toward the future.
A glance to the future
Houston is a heady brew of classic Texan hospitality and cosmopolitan zest. You’ll walk by starched jeans and Stetsons one minute, and skinny drainpipes and top knots the next. This playful dynamic is embodied by the compelling sites and spaces around town. At the forefront is Space Center Houston, acting as the official visitor centre of NASA’s Johnson Space Center. With more than 400 attractions on offer, it deser ves a visit. See a full-size rocket and space shuttle, interactive displays, as well as the chance to see real astronauts at work. One exhibit not to be missed is the Historic Mission Control, where all the Apollo missions were closely monitored and communicated with. It was this room that heard Neil Armstrong’s immortal words, ‘The Eagle has landed’ after Apollo 11 landed on the moon in 1969. You can even step into a shuttle yourself in the Independence Plaza facility. Houston is a city full of modern spaces. If you want some fresh air after frequenting its artistic museums, such as the extensive Menil Collection, a great spot from which to take in the Texan sun is the newly developed Buffalo Bayou Park, west of the Downtown area. Find sprawling paths and spaces for exercise and art exhibitions. Arguably the most serene way to take it all in is a kayak tour along the Bayou, while the Eleanor Tinsley Park section provides the best view of Downtown Houston, especially at sunset. Further evidence of the city ’s youthfulness is Downtown Houston, home to some of the city ’s hottest restaurants, bars and nightlife, including Pearl Houston, a lively night out that is especially popular among the LGBT community. Bovine & Barley combines cocktails with hearty meat dishes, while historic Downtown is where you’ll find Houston’s oldest bar, La Carafe. The Heights neighbourhood is also a good spot for a bite to eat, whether you fancy the Texan BBQ favourites of the Hubcap Grill, or Cajun-inspired delights at BB’s Café.
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT Exterior of Mission San José; some of the finest work at the Houston Mural Festival; the sun shines on Hermann Park, Houston; floating under Presa St Bridge in San Antonio