Day 4 – Bandera
Well-rested, we set off on day 4 in the morning for Bandera, a good 80 km from Fredericksburg. At first sight, Bandera looks like a well-preserved set of a Western film. At the same time we realize that everything is real and that this Western atmosphere has been here since the settler times. Bandera was a destination for us because it is considered the “cowboy capital of the world” and what better way to get as close as possible to spending a day on a real ranch? We rented a couple of affordable rooms at Ranch Cortez, which is less rustic than it sounds. There’s everything from a hot tub to a gym that your leisure heart desires. The owner himself, Larry Cortez, gave us a warm welcome, showed us to our rooms, and immediately invited us for a beer, which, however, had to wait for us until the evening. What would a ranch be without horses, we thought, so we took the opportunity to ride out together with cowboy Zach. Close your eyes and imagine a cowboy story, a horse swaying and a warm 26 degrees on the back of a horse. Because that’s exactly how it was! Almost like reliving a part of life from the old days! Afterwards, we went along the sunset on the tractor to the feeding of the donkeys, cows, and longhorn cattle. Zach explained exactly how to feed which animals best, so we all had fun and enjoyed it like little kids on a field trip. Keeping in line with ranch lifesyle, all meals here are a kind of community ritual: a gong sound signals to all guests as well as cowboys and cowgirls of the ranch to gather for a home-cooked meal. As darkness fell, anticipation rose for the announced bonfire. Can you imagine anything cooler and bucolic than grilling s’mores, and listening to cowboy stories while sipping a cold beverage? As the night went on, countless stars started to dot the night sky, slowly revealing a dreamy, fantastical sight – one likely shared and enjoyed by locals over the course of generations.
PS and a small fun fact: The biography of Matthew McConaughey is a great read for a stay on one of the ranches in Bandera, (which in our experience usually do not always have a working WLAN). Matthew McConaughey also gained local notoriety, having once been crowned “Little Mr. Texas” in Bandera.
Summary Day 4
- Walk along the Main Street of Bandera
- Western style horseback riding
- Feed the famous Texan Longhorns
- End the evening at the campfire
Day 5 -7 back in San Antonio
We decided to spend the last three days in San Antonio because there was still simply more to be seen. We turned up the country music in our rental car and headed for the San Antonio Botanical Garden. We arrived and discovered they had a “Once upon a time” exhibit there, showing lots of animals in filigree plant arrangements. Since it was a particularly hot day, our favorite in the botanical garden was probably the “Texas Native Trail”, a shaded area of about 45,000 square meters where visitors can observe free-range turtles. Located within the botanical garden is a restaurant, “Jardin”, which is a great choice for lunch or an afternoon snack.. Afterwards, we made our way to Hotel Valencia, our last accommodation for our trip, located at the Riverwalk. A very nice hotel with spacious rooms, its central location is perfect for experiencing all the city has to offer by foot. In the late afternoon, we walked to the lively neighborhood of “The Pearl”. Already on the flight we heard people raving about the vibrant atmosphere and all it has to offer, so of course we didn’t want to miss it. We booked a walking tour with Sissie, who showed us the most beautiful corners, hidden architecture and lots of history about the buildings. We also ventured to a local oddity with a storied history, “Hotel Emma”, which originally was an old brewery that has been restored and renovated in a wonderfully modern industrial touch. Not only just the library and the bar, which charm visitors with its mixed old-fashioned and contemporary aesthetic, but especially the stories Sissie tells us about love, murder and the three Emmas draw us in. Everything here revolves around the Emmas. Otto Koehle, who took over the Pearl Brewery in 1902 and built it into the largest brewery in Texas, died in 1914, leaving his wife Emma, namesake of the current hotel, to carry on. Emma Koehler was injured so badly in an automobile accident in 1910 that she required nursing care, and her husband Otto hired two ladies to care for his wife. Both bore the name Emma. Soon Otto began affairs with the other Emmas. And you can guess – it didn’t end well for Otto. After an argument, one of the two shot him. After being charged with the murder, she fled to Europe for 4 years, after which she finally returned to San Antonio in 1918, whereupon she was acquitted. To commemorate this tale, the bar has a drink called the “Three Emmas”. But watch out for how many you drink, the bartender cautions us: “You can have two, but the third is gonna kill you.”
We start the following day at a new, very Instagrammable breakfast place, near the newly opened park section in the Hemisfair neighborhood. The park offers a large grassy area for relaxation in city life. After a walk to digest, we head out on our half-day trip to the natural caves outside San Antonio. Here you can book tickets for a tour on-site or online in advance, which you will need in order to visit the caves. Since the temperature here is about 21 degrees and a whopping humidity of 99 percent all year round, we pack our sturdy shoes. One can feel it right away too, as everything from the railing to the floor was soaking wet. Despite this, the descent is easy due to being well-lit and having railings everywhere. The late afternoon still holds one of our personal highlights: the two-hour ride with the San Antonio Sidecars. We arranged to meet Liz, Nick, and their two co-drivers at the Plaza de Las Islas Canarias. When we arrive, the four including Vespas and the sidecar are already waiting for us. Enthusiastically we get in and what can we say?! It’s a dream to sit in such a sidecar, let your hair blow through the wind, explore the city at a comfortable speed, and get shown the best spots by Liz. To top it off we make a great stop at a Mexican restaurant and allow ourselves a snack and, for all passengers, a drink. We continue at dusk, watching the city breeze by as we drive. Since we’re fans of not just hitting all the typical sightseeing spots, this tour was perfect since Liz and Nick are both from San Antonio. Being real locals and so welcoming, we were happy to spend more time with them. For dinner, we went to the Esquire Tavern, the oldest bar in Texas as well as the longest one (made out of wood). Here you can enjoy the dark, cool charm at the bar or eat delicious burgers outside with a view of the Riverwalk.
On our last day, we went out twice. We start the day at “La Panaderia”, just around the corner from our hotel. Judging by the queues we saw over the past several days, it seems to be well-liked. But don’t be deterred, despite the many people waiting we queued up, and it went relatively quickly. We ordered several types of scrambled eggs on homemade croissants and also couldn’t pass by the long counter full of sweet baked goods without a few samples. With this addition, we can confidently say that no culinary highlight was left out. It’s quite easy to get from “La Panaderia” to our next point, which we had already seen briefly from a distance during our bike tour – the Tower of the Americas. Or, more precisely, the observation deck of the tower. The elevator brings one in 42 seconds on the 184-meter-high observation deck, on which one has even an outdoor area (on all photos stood us figuratively all hair to mountains). Funnily enough, the tower was built similarly like our TV tower in Berlin in the late sixties. Until 1996, it was even the highest observation tower in the United States of America. Those interested in basketball might be a little envious of one of our last items on our itinerary. We visited the home arena of the San Antonio Spurs and their newest famous face, Victor Wembanyama, the French basketball talent. The NBA season runs from October to April and in San Antonio, you almost always have the opportunity to get good seats at reasonable prices. After so much action we wanted to end the last evening relaxed but also with a slice of authenticity, so we decided to watch the saga at the San Fernando Cathedral. Berliners know the popular “Festival of Lights”, which takes place annually, and one experiences the saga in San Antonio in a similar fashion. The 24-minute video projection details the historical discovery, settlement, and development of San Antonio. It currently plays Tuesdays through Sundays at 9 & 9:30 p.m.
Summary Day 5, 6 & 7
- Visit the San Antonio Botanical Garden ($16 (children discounted) – 555 Funston Pl, San Antonio, TX)
- Walk or guided walking tour of the Pearl neighborhood ($42 – 312 Pearl Pkwy, San Antonio, TX)
- Natural Bridge Caverns (approx. 75 min – online between $27-$31 – 26495 Natural Bridge Cavern Rd, San Antonio, TX)
- Tour with San Antonio Sidecars (approx. 2 hours incl. food – $640 for four drivers plus sidecar – individual meeting point possible)
- Visit to the Tower incl. observation deck ($16.50 (children discounted) – 739 E César E. Chávez Blvd, San Antonio, TX)
- Visit to the San Antonio Frost Bank Center, arena of the San Antonio Spurs (basketball team) (1 AT&T Center Parkway, San Antonio, TX)
- The Saga at San Fernando Cathedral (approx. 20 min. – free – 115 N. Main Avenue, San Antonio, TX 78205)
Food recommendations San Antonio
- Lunch at Jardin (in the Botanical Gardens) – 555 Funston Pl, San Antonio, TX
- Dinner at Carriqui – 239 E Grayson St, San Antonio, TX
- Breakfast at Box Street Social – 623 Hemisfair Blvd Ste 108, San Antonio, TX
- Lunch at Two Bros BBQ Market – 12656 West Ave, San Antonio, TX
- Dinner at Esquire Tavern – 155 E Commerce St, San Antonio, TX
- Breakfast at La Panaderia – 301 Houston St, San Antonio, TX
- Lunch at El Camino – 1009 Avenue B, San Antonio, TX
A week-long trip to San Antonio offers a perfectly rounded Texas experience that combines history, culture, scenic ranches, wine, outdoor activities, and a glimpse of the Wild West. Each of the three places we visited is as unique as it is special, which is exactly why it was the perfect combination for us. From the bustling streets of San Antonio to the verdant wineries of Fredericksburg and the magical Western town of Bandera, we definitely won’t forget this trip anytime soon.
Feel free to let us know in the comments if our trip inspired you.
Goodbye Y’all and see ya in Texas!