San Antonio, Texas - The Alamo City - 1, United States
A day in Seattle provided a good layover as it provided much needed rest after travelling across half of this planet. The long flight is enough to exhaust a person both physically and mentally. The temporary shelter provided a welcome relief. Golchand was on drop duty when I had to check out in middle of night to reach airport for an early morning flight to San Antonio. The lady at checkout was a chatty one and made sure I gave a detailed feedback for the facility before moving out. Golchand was a friendly and helpful driver. Paid 11$ per hour for an 8 hour night shift, the good guy guided me well for the next steps once he dropped me at airport. After a 15 min drive through the darkness of the night, I was there at the Sea-Tac International Airport on early morning of 18th April 2016.
I was to board a United Airlines flight to San Antonio via Denver for going to my first destination in United States. I was there on the check-in counters early enough to wait for an hour before the counters opened. As the staff trickled in, we moved into our places in the line and waited for our turn. Soon, I checked-in and got my boarding pass. One of my bag passed for carry-on but other had to be checked in which costed a baggage fees of USD 25. In US most domestic airlines only allow a one carry-on with you and any checked in baggage needs to be checked in. Post this we moved to the security checkup. TSA was helpful as earlier and came out as friendly authority with stern posture. They tried their best to convenience the passengers while ensuring that no security protocol was overlooked. You enter the security area after your identify and boarding pass is validated. At security you have to take out laptops and belts and jackets and empty your pockets and pass through the X-Ray Scan machine. Before entering the machine, ensure you have nothing, not even a piece of paper, on you as the machine would give in security alert. The process is fast and easy until you goof up like putting laptop in the same tray as other stuff. Now they need to manually examine each of the stuff in that tray. Remember to have a separate tray for laptop for smoother clearance. Then I proceeded to gate A12 which was quite a walk from the security checkpoint.
I reached the boarding gate in time for boarding to start in 10 minutes. They announced that the flight was overbooked and offered a 500 USD voucher to opt for the next flight. However, in the interest of reaching San Antonio in time for time to explore the city before the rigors of training, I wasn’t tempted. There was a young girl and an uncle who opted for this and then we were good to go. They took my carry-on bag to carry it along with checked in luggage, complimentary service, so that aircraft's main cabin was not over-populated. I took my laptop case with me in the plane. They followed a zone wise boarding which was smooth and convenient. This is another difference when compared to Indian flights that all US flights enforce such boarding protocols. As I entered the aircraft, I was pleased to observe that seats were good and wider than flights in India. The inflight entertainment was different from the one we had on the American Airlines. One can use their own device to hook onto the onboard network and access the entertainment section on the intranet portal. Some movies could be viewed freely while some were paid. If required, Wi-Fi based internet access could be bought and accessed via network. As the flight took off, the morning view of Seattle with horizons reddening with the first rays of the day, was a wonderful treat to eyes. Complementary drink was served with a light snack and flight attendants were younger and friendlier. The flight went ahead smoothly and uneventful to large extent.
|View from 30,000 Feet|
|Roads Finding Their Way Across Snow|
San Antonio’s was a much smaller airport compared to others I had been on the trip. I moved to the baggage collection and collected both the checked in and carryon bags. After this, I moved to the taxi lane which required a few minutes of wait. Since I was new there, Uber was still a couple of days to be active (needed a US number for that). Soon I was in a Yellow Cab SUV, zooming out of the airport for Grand Hyatt which would house us for first half of the stay here. Actually the training was being conducted at this hotel so the organization team had booked us all for convenience and logistical ease. A 25 dollar fare with a 5 dollar tip got me to the hotel well before evening. I checked into my room – a twin bedded guest room on the 17th floor of the building, the second highest floor of the hotel. I had made a request for higher floors earlier and they allotted the room accordingly.
The call in to make that request was worth the effort if one loves the view that was on offer. The entire downtown was right in front of my eyes with buildings, river and roads – all ready to introduce me to this beautiful town of Texas. The hotel itself was situated at a great location with the river passing just besides the hotel and was the tallest building around the area. The room had a nice setup and was well equipped with everything one may need during travel. Interestingly they gave me a twin bed room – I had no option neither qualms about this. Coffee was complimentary as were usual toiletries but water was not. They gave a couple of welcome water bottles and then it was over 4$ for each liter. I decided to stock water bottles from grocery store. I settled in the room and adjusted luggage at places convenient to pick up stuff. After an hour or so of sleeping in and refreshing myself, I was ready to head out. This was a new city I was in, a new corner of the world for me, and I was not going to waste an entire evening sitting out in my room. The world is meant to be explored and I was already up for it. So I picked my camera, slipped in a light jacket and moved out of my room.
|Posing with the River|
As I interacted with the reception lady and went out for a stroll across the city, I realized that the main part of the city had limited expanse and most of the places were a short walk away. Macy was right across the street and The River Center mall was a short walk from the hotel. I went for a relaxed walk along the waters of river. On the way I saw Alamo and Hotel Menger. I passed through the River Center Mall for a cursory look. It was a beautiful city bustling with activities for some reason. I stopped by at a junction and interacted with the cop on duty to understand what the hustle was all about. It was then I knew that this was a special time for the city as it was the “Fiesta Fortnight”.
|Fiesta Celebrations - Party on the Boat|
|Party Continues on Boat into the Night|
This was the first day in the city and the experience until now was nothing short of extra ordinary. However, this was just a trailer to all that the city had to offer and we were committed to explore the entire city over the course of next week. Stay hooked for the next article which takes you through the rich heritage of art, culture and scenic beauty that the city offers to its visitors.
Continue reading the experience from the Alamo City at - San Antonio, Texas - The Alamo City - 2, United States
Do let me know your views in the comments and in case you need suggestions for any planned trip to the city, do let me know.