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East Texas in December 2003

Our 2003 Christmas trip was quite eventful. The original plan was to fly from Vienna via Toronto to Houston, but a few weeks before our departure Air Canada cancelled the direct evening flight from Toronto to Houston and they automatically re-routed us to a connection via Chicago.
The almost unbelievable odyssey

So on Saturday, December 13, it was finally "day 1" of our vacation. And it proved to be the most chaotic one. It started with a 75 minute delay of departure due to - in our opinion - disorganization and logistical chaos at the Vienna International Airport. Then, while already in the air above Quebec, one passenger had a heart attack. Two doctors, who happened to be on board as passengers, stabilized the poor guy. At the Toronto Airport everybody had to wait for at least half an hour in the plane for the Canadian paramedics and immigration officers to take care of the critically ill passenger.

As we finally got off the plane we had to take two shuttle buses, claim baggage, go through customs - to make a long story short: we missed our connecting flight to Chicago. And so did dozens of other passengers.

Are we ever going to get to Houston?

Toronto Pearson Airport Terminal 2 was the place, where we lost our confidence in "Star Alliance". We were sent back and forth between Air Canada (the "representative" of Austrian Airlines in Canada) and United Airlines, the carrier of our missed flight. Nobody seemed to be responsible. We wasted at least 1½ hours with standing in line at information and ticket counters and explaining the same story over and over again.

Finally we got the idea to change terminals again. Back at Terminal 1, we went to the Air Canada counter, where to our surprise there was a very helpful gentleman, who put us on the direct morning flight from Toronto to Houston with Air Canada Jazz, got us a hotel room, food vouchers for dinner and breakfast and tickets for the hotel shuttle bus.

Our question is this: Why could the clerk at Terminal 1 do that, while his colleagues at Terminal 2 were totally surprised, taken aback, confused and completely unhelpful? Air Canada as well as United Airlines.

Texas - finally! And the weather is gorgeous.

Sunshine and temperatures around 20° Celsius, great food and shopping at bargain prices. That was what we came for and that was what we got. We spent Sunday and Monday in Houston, then drove to San Marcos, where we stayed one night, then on to San Antonio, where we stayed two more nights. We spent almost two days with shopping at Prime Outlets San Marcos and Tanger Outlets San Marcos. We found some really great bargains, and with the favourable exchange rate Dollar vs. Euro it was even better.

Mmmmh, steaks ...

Within one week we had steak four times for dinner. The best one we found at Texas Reds Steakhouse, 120 Grove Street, San Marcos, TX 78666, phone (512) 754-8808 - comfortable Texas-style steakhouse featuring charbroiled beef steaks, roasted prime rib, buffalo burgers, chicken, lobster, shrimp, lamb, quail, and pork. This award-winning steakhouse is housed in a beautifully restored historic cotton gin.

The San Antonio Riverwalk at Christmas

This was our second trip to San Antonio. We decided to come back because we liked this place so much at our first trip back in May 2002. The main attraction of San Antonio is the Riverwalk: On the banks of the San Antonio River you find a very enjoyable atmosphere, due to the cobblestone walkways, arched footbridges, plentiful shops and romantic sidewalk cafés and restaurants. The Riverwalk (or "Paseo del Rio" in Spanish) was definitely one of the highlights of our Texas 2002 trip, and again of this December trip. We enjoyed strolling alongside the banks of the Riverwalk in the warm Texas air.