Feliz Navidad..................San Antonio

Christmas in San Antonio is about as good as it gets in my book. Steeped in culture and rich in history. It was warm and balmy on the 23rd when we took a stroll along the beautifully lit River Walk. At 10:30 we were still at the outdoor bar at the Westin having a glass of wine. By 11:00 the rain started to fall - we retreated inside.

The next two days were a little more chilly. More suited to a hot toddy in front of the fire. Jim baked his family recipe for Brötchen (yeast rolls) and I made a traditional holiday dinner.
The day after Christmas was bright and beautiful, so we went to see "The Arts of the Missions of Northern New Spain" exhibit at The San Antonio Art Museum. After that, on to brunch at the Liberty Bar. Today has been another stellar day - so it was off for a marathon visit to the Missions of San Antonio this afternoon.
When Texas was "New Spain" the Franciscans and Spaniards established the first mission in San Antonio in 1718. There are five in all. The Alamo (top photo - with the Christmas tree). Mission San Jose (above) is the largest of the missions.Mariachis entertained the crowds at Mission San Jose.
San Jose, like all the missions, was built with local materials in an interesting mix of architectural styles.
Ornate carvings surround the doors and windows. Frescos were painted inside and out.

Mission San Juan is just down the road. Much smaller in scale and set amid the live oaks, it is known for las campanas (the bells).Mission Espada (below) is also small in scale, surrounded by acequias. These gravity fed irrigation ditches were key to supplying the crops, vineyards and orchards with water in this hot climate.
Mission Concepción (below) may be my favorite of all. It is currently under renovation. They are restoring the Frescos in the main chapel.
I love this partictular room - every time I see it I think "Wine Cellar"!

I hope your holiday was a lovely one.

Photography By: Ryannan Bryer de Hickman
Sotto Il Monte Vineyards


Traveling Shoes....Vieux Carré

This month we found ourselves in New Orleans on a business/pleasure trip. It is "Photo" month in The Big Easy for Photo Nola. We have been to New Orleans a few times, but this was the first time since Katrina. In the Vieux Carré, not much had changed, a few empty shops and some of the restaurants we have previously gone to were no longer there. It was a bit cold and rainy the entire time, but there was still plenty to see and do.
Jackson Square and the French Quarter...............................................

While there is a great deal of shopping that can be done in New Orleans, only one place held my attention. "Antiques de Provence" owned by the very elegant Cynthia W. Nunez, who has impeccable taste in French Interiurs and Jardins.

Her three stores are filled with beautiful French antiques, mirrors, lighting, olive jars and garden furniture.

Where to stay? We have stayed at a few different hotels in New Orleans. My only request this time when Jim made the reservations was: "I don't want a room with floral linens!" That's what I look for these days in a hotel. White sheets and a duvet that is washed daily. This proved a little challenging but Jim came up with a great hotel at a great rate. The Omni hotel is in the center of the French Quarter on Royal Street.

The lobby was elegant and tasteful..............................................
With terrific views in all directions................................................
Our room - small, but charming with 10 foot ceilings and tall windows that opened up to the courtyard below.
And for Princess and the Pea here - a comfortable bed and white linens.

Where to eat? You can't go to New Orleans without stopping in at Cafe du Monde for beignets and coffee.
A standout place for lunch was "Chochon Butcher" where Chef Donald Link and partners Chef Stephen Stryjewski and Chef Warren Stephens specialize in house made artisan meats and sausages made on premise. Located in the Warehouse District they also offer up an eclectic list of wines selected by wine buyer Joe Briand.
We had a couple of glasses of a Sparkling Thevenet Blanc de Blancs, Burgundy, France, to go along with some of the best sandwiches we have ever tasted. I highly recommend this restaurant.

I also liked "Stanley" on Jackson Square for breakfast.

And the Napoleon Bar, located just across the street from the Omni Hotel.
What to do? There is plenty to do at night with all the great venues for music. I like to wander around the Garden District during the day and admire the architecture..........................

There was a Christmas house tour in the Garden District that I would loved to have gone to, just didn't have the time.

Oh, to get behind those garden gates! Maybe next time.
Photography By: Ryannan Bryer de Hickman
Sotto Il Monte Vineyards