The first time we stayed in San Antonio we were just beginning our travel adventures. In late February, 2000, we arrived and settled in an apartment in the northern end of the city, began our preparations to "become Texans" and spend some pleasant days exploring the area. Now we are re-visiting some of the places we enjoyed back then. Conservatory buildings
The San Antonio Botanical Garden is just as attractive now, in the middle of winter, as we found it in Spring of 2000. Then, there were wildflowers in bloom, and vines twining around gates and trellises were leafy and green. Now the wildflower fields are dormant and there are bare branches on some, but not all, of the trees. But the lovely fountains splash, attracting birds and children and us, there are roses in the rose garden, and lots of shrubs are especially pretty in the winter.
Lots of botanical gardens have indoor conservatories, but we think San Antonio's is the nicest we've seen. Part underground, part soaring glass and aluminum, the outlines of the conservatory roofs are fanciful pyramids and cones rising out of grassy lawns, and steamy homes to tropical plants inside. A network of walkways below the surface connects the three conservatory buildings, through more lovely gardens and ponds. It's a great treat.
The rest of this small botanical garden features plants and trees native to the various climatological regions of Texas -- Piney Woods, Hill Country, etc. The ducks on the pond are well trained to beg for grain, available from convenient dispensers, and old frame buildings have been salvaged and placed in the matching regional garden areas. Beautiful orchids
Botanical gardens are always nice places for a walk, but this one is specially nice, because the scenes shift so suddenly as one rounds each corner of the path.
Adjacent to the garden is the very large Garden Center, which sells a variety of plants and shrubs to local gardeners. We were interested to see that there were easily ten times as many cars in the parking lot of the Garden Center as in the Botanical Garden. Perhaps they were all stocking up on nice poinsettias!
For better or worse, we've always been people who enjoy good food, and are willing to give just about any restaurant a try -- we note that food has often been a subject of our reports. Well, one of the staff at our hotel, who provides some of the breakfast and snacks, mentioned to us that she also works at Jay's Cafeteria. One afternoon the hotel had a special Christmas party for the guests, featuring her chicken mole enchiladas, which we found so delicious we decided to take a trip to Jay's. We drove south towards Lackland AFB to look for the place. We were distracted by clouds of black smoke coming Jay's Cafeteria from the base; we learned later they were burning some bad old dynamite. Anyhow, we missed the turn and drove far down the frontage road of Highway 90 with no success. Returning to Lackland, we crossed over to the north side of the freeway and finally found Old Highway 90 angling off to the northeast. This was really, really old highway 90 as the motels appeared to date from the 30s and 40s. But finally we discovered a hole in the wall place called Jay's Cafeteria.
The menu is hand painted on the outside wall and on the wall behind the steam table, where the lady who speaks very little English grins happily. We approached the counter to order and she immediately asked In or Out. In, we said. You sit, she ordered, and we each took a drink out of the cooler and found a table where a loud boombox vibrated Mexican music. We could have chosen a quieter table, but the music added to the ambiance. After a while she brought out two Mexican plates consisting of that same enchilada in a red corn tortilla with mole sauce, the most wonderful crisp taco we've ever had, rice and beans. Hot sauce she brought in a chilled bottle with green sauce inside. The seasonings had melted into the food, and were just heavenly. A steady flow of customers, mostly workmen in dirty clothes, mostly takeout, kept her busy. This food was definitely not Doctor Atkins. Since we noticed we were the only customers who had their plates delivered, we handed her a tip and received that wonderful big grin in return.
The next time we go back to Jay's we'll try some of the more unusual dishes on the menu. We know we won't be disappointed.