Corpus Christi - Down Beside the Sea

The good thing about San Antonio being so far inland is that - well, those hurricanes which hit the Texas Gulf coast are usually pretty well diminished to a stiff breeze and a lot of rain by the time they hit San Antonio. The bad thing about being so far inland - is that it takes a good three hours or so to reach the coast. The good thing about that is - it's a very scenic drive, either on IH-37 South, or if you hopscotch all across all of south Texas on secondary roads. No matter if the route takes you from Floresville to Kenedy, to Goliad and Refugio and points south- to Port Lavaca, Rockport or Corpus Christi, or anywhere else along the Texas Gulf Coast - it's all a good and scenic drive, meandering through gently-rolling green hills, threaded with steep-banked creeks and small rivers, which gradually flatten out and then give way to salt-marshes and bayous grown with rank after rank of tall reeds and bamboo thickets. The Texas Coast fishing isn't bad either.

And at the end of several hours on the road - there is the open sea, beckoning. Not that there is much spectacular when you eventually do get there. The Texas Gulf Coast doesn't have sugar-white sand beaches like Hawaii, or red-wood shrouded cliffs like California's Big Sur, but it's wet and salty and will do very, very well for us - even if it means another two or three hours, driving back home lightly sun-burnt and with scratchy sand working its way between your skin and your damp bathing-suit. A water park, no matter how lavish, just doesn't have the same zing, the same salt-smell, the same view of sailboat masts bobbing up and down in the marina, or the great hulk of an aircraft carrier halfway between shore and the horizon. The sunset doesn't paint it all with the same golden-apricot glow.

And although San Antonio does have a Seaworld ... there isn't quite the same air about it, stranded so far from the ocean, the I-don't-know-what-the-expression-for-it-is that an aquarium on the seafront does, an aquarium like the Texas State Aquarium in Corpus Christi. There is a sense of rightness about a sea-front aquarium, when you are barely a stone-throw from the world underwater. The aquarium in Corpus Christi shelters over three hundred different species of aquatic animals. Reptiles, amphibians, fish and other sea creatures are on display in specially designed habitats, habitats that mimic the natural world as precisely as possible. Visitors can get as close as a whisper, to creatures they would most likely never encounter - or want to encounter, in the wild. Floating jellyfish, stingrays, dolphins and otters - every day, from nine to five. And they have their eye - if they have eyes - that is, just as you watch them.