Sunday, April 27, 2014

Three times the fun! Yee Ha!!!

It takes 3 or 4 hours to drive to San Antonio from Galveston however we stopped off along the way in a small town called Columbus for lunch at a family owned diner called Schlobel's.

5 layers of over and under passes in San Antonio with 9 lanes of traffic.  Nearly as big as all of Bermuda!

The town itself is one of many Germanic towns in this part of Texas.  The tour guide in Galveston had told us that immigrants through Galveston were mostly German, Italian or Czech.  This is really curious.  The primary entry point for Europeans was Ellis Island in New York and in those days (mid-1850's) was by ship.  It's some 2,000+ miles further which would have taken another few weeks. Why would they have gone that extra distance?  Perhaps they were farmers lured by the promise of fertile, endless land in this part of Texas.

Our friends, Mark and Kerry, were old Bermuda hands or at least Mark was.  He'd gone first to Canada before relocating a year or so back to San Antonio where Kerry's family was located.  They have 8 month old triplets!

Three times the fun!

However they'd organized a sitter so we could go out to the San Antonio Fiesta -- this event being called Taste of the North East (of San Antonio, that is).

Amazing who you run into at the Fiesta!

It was held at a local country club and we used a service that we'd run into in San Francisco called Uber -- see website here.  This is a taxi service organized by an app accessed through smart phones.  You provide your credit card details and then use the GPS mapping capability on your phone to see which taxi driver is where.  In our case it was Francisco who was 8 minutes away.  The Uber driver can see who is looking to hire him and the location of the house.  The price is less than a regular taxi AND most importantly they are reliable.  Both passenger and taxi driver review the ride on the app to provide Trip Advisor like information for both parties.

Amazing service.  The cars are regular cars but unlicensed.  They must do something to enable them to operate and insure them.  In San Antonio City Hall tried to stop them in the courts, but lost apparently so Uber are now operating.  Francisco told me that they'd only been in San Antonio for 15 days so this is a really new thing here in San Antonio.

Mark told me that the regular taxis are heavily unionized, expensive and never leave the central part of the city.  Fertile ground for Uber in fact.

The Fiesta was noisy fun but mostly Mexican and Italian food!  Demographics always win in the end.

We then went onto a nearby neighborhood bar (courtesy of Francisco again incidentally!) to round off the evening.  A guy I was chatting to told me about how things have changed -- San Antonio is the 7th largest US city with nearly 2 million inhabitants.  Its a huge city sprawled over a vast distance.  He said he used to go to Mexico a lot but since about the year 2000, the drug cartels had made it all the border towns very dangerous places to visit.  Mark's view typically was more robust than that even.  His view is that Mexico will always be Mexico irrespective of any 'reforms' that politicians make.  The people with money will always have all the power no matter what reforms take place.  That's why so many make the dangerous trip across the Rio Grande still.

We visited the nearby German tow (again) called Fredericksburg (see website here) the following day.  'Nearby' is relative of course as this is a huge state (I think I mentioned that already).  The town itself is cutesy and has become something of a tourist destination too as it is in the middle of the local wine district.  We had lunch at a local biergarten called Auslander and did our bit for the local chamber of commerce -- clearly we don't have enough to carry!

We also visited a couple of local wineries which was a different experience to both Napa and Sonoma who have far more experience both of wine making and the winery experience itself.  Give the Texan wineries a few more years and they'll get there.  Apparently none of them make money at it yet (volumes at the largest local winery are 8,000 cases which is tiny in the great scheme of things) and are more part time vanity projects for wealthy business people than anything else.  One we went to was owned by a big city doctor!

Our final stop was a real treat though.  The city of Luckenbach (see website here) has a population of 3, 1 post office, 1 general store (actually its a gift shop), 1 bar and a dance hall.  Unlike most Texas cities, it is walkable.

Some tourists

An acoustic country band were playing and the bar was classic shabby chic.  Actually very shabby chic.  The food was all deep fried chips with something.  Yes, deep fried chips.  One of the dishes was cooked in a chip bag!  But what a great place!

Fine dinin', Luckenbach style!

As for the dance hall, it was an old wood structure with a country band setting up for the dance that was due to start at 8 pm.

The place was packed too.  Clearly Luckenbach is not a secret.

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