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Wednesday May 6 — Beyond San Antonio’s Riverwalk

• CATEGORIES: Features • TAGS: .
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Guinness Book of World Records deems this the largest wooden nickel in the world.

Yesterday we spent time in downtown San Antonio. Today we explored areas outside that central area.

First, we walked a couple blocks to Market Square, a three-block area that has been home to the city’s open market roots since the 1890s. At that time San Antonio was Texas’ largest city.  The area was a multi-cultural area due to Mexican, European, and Asian immigrants. However, these days the area has primarily a Mexican flavor.

In fact, we walked to the market specifically to taste the flavors of Mi Tierra Cafe Y Panaderia. The restaurant was first opened in 1941. It now seats up to 500 people and, according to their own marketing, “Never closes”. It’s a twenty-four hour a day, every day, restaurant. There’s a party atmosphere inside with christmas lights wound around posts, colorful Mexican banners hanging from the ceiling, and reflective pinatas hanging overhead in the lobby.

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The lobby of the Mi Tierra Cafe Y Panaderia. The baked looks looked really good!

I chose to go there, not just because of its history, but because they serve a roasted goat dish, something I don’t get often enough. When it arrived, I was very pleased; plenty of goat, along with a tasty cheese enchilada, made for a good meal. The rice and beans were pretty standard tex mex, but I was not surprised.

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Yum. Goat is good!

After our lunch (we had a late start on Wednesday), we wandered Market Square. We even found a couple gifts for our mothers, though said gifts shall remain unmentioned since my mother peeks in on my trip reports from time to time.

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Market Square’s ‘Produce Street’, though hard to find much produce here any more. Just minutes later bus loads of people flooded this area.

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One view of the tight halls of the inside market. Lots of shops. Though, much of the stuff we saw at El Paso’s Saddleblankets.

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Inside the bags are our mothers’ secret surprises!

After the market trip, we walked back to the motel, jumped into the jeep, and went looking for the Wooden Nickel Museum in the northern part of the city (though I believe it’s called midtown). The museum was easy to spot, because outside sits the world’s largest wooden nickel (about 13′ in diameter). Inside the free museum were thousands of wooden nickels arranged in groups, such as wooden nickels with science themes and others with presidential themes.

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A better view of the huge wooden nickel and two buffalos out front of the museum.

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Interior of the museum.

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We thought this was funny. If you remember, we stopped by the Dublin Bottling Works a few days ago, so this was fun to see. The wooden nickel magnets were also emblazoned with ‘boycott Dr. Pepper’.

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Yep, Ann even found a wooden nickel jeep.

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Wooden Nickel ‘vault’

What I didn’t find in the museum was much history to explain questions I had, such as 1) why are they called wooden nickels? 2) what qualifies something as a wooden nickel?

I did find a brief explanation of the earliest form of wooden ‘nickels’. According to the museum, when a bank in Tenino, Washington, (about 2 hours south of Seattle) went under in 1931, the Chamber of Commerce issued currency to aide the town. Some of that currency was printed on wooden planks. In 1933 another Washington city, this time Blaine, issued the first round wooden coins after their bank failed. I would have thought wooden currency was older than that and a different history of wooden nickels suggests it might be, as the phrase “wooden nickels” was used as early as 1925.

In the end what I learned is that the free Wooden Nickel Museum is in part a celebration of a man who collected wooden nickels, but also a marketing tool that helps people learn about the commercial wooden nickel entity (the Old Time Wooden Nickel company). That company manufactures and sells custom wooden nickels. Though we spotted people working in the commercial part of the building making wooden nickels, no one ever came to welcome us, introduce themselves, or offer to sell us any of their t-shirts/wooden nickels, etc.

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Ann captured this photo (through some polarized glass no less) of a worker making some wooden nickels.

Instead, the must see place for me was a store I stumbled upon called the Central Market. We happened to drive by while I was searching for a soda following our Wooden Nickel Museum visit. When we parked in front of the store, Ann wanted to stay in the jeep, so I ran inside the store. To my surprise I found myself smack in the middle of a cool grocery store that was celebrating greek food for an entire month. The store was playing greek music, the deli was greek-themed, there was plenty of greek ready-made food, and some of the breads were greek. The beer and wine selections were the largest I’d seen since entering Texas. The store was really neat! We plan to go back on Thursday to grab a few more items (great cheese organization and selection as well). I can’t say I was too surprised to learn that the Central Market is associated with H-E-B. (I never did take any pics).

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This is the San Antonio Broadway Central Market. There are nine Central Markets throughout Texas, including two in Austin (guess I missed finding those).

Following my Central Market adventure we explored a bit of southern San Antonio. The mission we know as the Alamo is actually one of five missions in the city. The Alamo is the northern-most mission, while the other five stretch along the San Antonio river for miles. Meandering along the river are walking and bike paths. It’s the part of the ‘riverwalk’ that regular San Antonioites are more likely to be found.

Our goal was to see the southernmost mission, Mission Espada.

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Entrance to the Mission Espada grounds.

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Ann walking among the ruins.

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Though this wasn’t intended to be the church, it became the church.

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Inside the church. Very nice, but modest.

The mission was far less touristy than the Alamo (no wax museums for miles and no lines for herding tourists like cattle). Instead is was a very quiet area surrounded by vegetation. We stayed until closing taking photos. Then we drove back following the river, until the road took us through the non-tourist area of southern San Antonio …. a lot more bars on the windows.

San Antonio is another Texas city that we’ve enjoyed and that deserves more time than we have. On Thursday we will do some things around town in the morning before heading for Laredo. We may or may not stay there. I wrote to the Chamber of Commerce via Facebook hoping maybe they could tell us something interesting about their city since they were celebrating their 100th year (the Chamber was), but I never heard back.

(Want to see more of the 2015 Texas Trip? View the posts from the beginning)

 

4 Comments on “Wednesday May 6 — Beyond San Antonio’s Riverwalk

  1. Minnesota Chris

    Holy guacamole! That restaurant looks cool. Food looks great too. I went out for Mexican a couple weeks ago and had to pay extra for a tinylittle dish of guacamole.

  2. Dave Huntzinger

    If you haven’t done so already, you guys should stop by “Dick’s last resort ” on the Riverwalk. The place is a lot of fun! 🙂

  3. Mom

    I love how your readers are so helpful in steering you and Ann to interesting places and good eats. They are great to both of you. Thanks from Mom

  4. mmdeilers Post author

    Dave,

    Thanks for the suggestion. We saw Dick’s Last Resort, but didn’t have a chance to go inside. Ann said she’s heard of the place. I looked them up just now and I expect those crowns would be a riot!

    We left San Antonio Thursday morning and made it down to the humid island of South Padre. We even spotted a couple jeeps along the way. More on our adventure on Friday.

    – Dave

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