Adventures Stateside; A Texas Roadtrip. San Antonio

We arrived at our final air b n b on the outskirts of San Antonio just after 6pm.

We had a quick shower and requested an Uber- we were keen to get into the centre of town and have an evening out with no rain!

Our Uber dropped us outside the Alamo. It was all lit up and was amazing to be finally here.

We wandered down onto the famous San Antonio Riverwalk which is lined with restaurants and bars. The Riverwalk is just beautiful- similar to Venice with a fairly narrow river with picturesque bridges crossing every 100metres or so.

We opted for a steak dinner which was delicious, washed down with some Californian red wine. After dinner we set out on our mission of finding somewhere to try some Texan wine. We didn’t need to venture too far: we found some just down the walk in a German bar weirdly enough!

I tried the Becker Merlot, which actually came from the vineyard at Stonewall, which we drove past today. It was really smooth and tasty – it felt good to try some local wine!

It had been a long day so we didn’t stay out too late. We’d had a cracking day though- perhaps our favourite out here yet!

Friday

A slight lay in (8am rather than 6am!) this morning and a very excited Keith and I head into town to visit the Alamo. Entry is free but you can pay for an audio guide. We know quite a bit about the history so decided not to do this.

It was amazing to be inside the former mission. No photos were allowed inside but outside we could take all the pictures we wanted.

It was really moving in there and told the story well. There was a small museum which also housed Davy Crockett’s rifle and knife.

After our visit we headed on a walk up through downtown and up towards the the Mexican Market place. We grabbed a wonderful taco breakfast from a street trader in the market. The whole place was bright and colourful- not that we’ve ever been, but it’s exactly how I imagine Mexico to be! It was a cool place to buy some souvenirs too.

We visited the San Fernado cathedral, which is a big catholic cathedral and also has the remains of Crocket, Travis and Bowie in a casket at the front.

By now, all the Mexican smells were tantalising our tastebuds, so we decided it was time for more food – and today would be a Mexican feast. We picked a Mexican along the Riverwalk and washed down by a couple of margaritas, we sat in the sun people watching for an hour or so. The lunch was gorgeous. Seriously every meal was becoming harder to beat!

We carried on our walk along the river to the historical La Villita Arts district. They were setting up for Dia de Los Muertos (day of the dead) celebrations which were happening from tomorrow- we were sad that we were to miss it, but pleased we could see how it was shaping up to look. Dia de Los Muertos is a festival that celebrates the dead. Families set up huge colourful shrines with photos of their deceased loved ones, and then throw massive parties and picnics at the shrines. Think the film Coco.

During our walk today we’d been informed that tonight there was a special Halloween event happening along the river walk. We decided to head back to the apartment and freshen up, and come back in for the evening festivities around 6pm.

There was a mass trick or treat event from 6, with all the restaurants and bars giving out candy to the hoards of families trick or treating. We chose the Cayote bar which had a raised terrace so we could observe. We got more than we bargained for, innocent lil me didn’t realised there would be a (near) topless woman parading around ON the bar! It felt very American!

After this we walked down the river towards the historical arts district, and arrived at the river theatre just in time for the adults Halloween costume competition to be judged. Well, the costumes were just phenomenal. Honestly, it was like we were on a film set. The atmosphere was electric and we just ADORED it. ki

After the costume competition, in which these were the three winners,

there was a Halloween river parade. Absolutely sensational- it’s given us the taste of an American Parade, and we are itching to go and experience the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade now!

After the parade, there was this incredible moment when everyone just started playing with some beach balls. It was so funny and surreal and in excellent nature. Everyone was howling with laughter- I just can’t ever imagine something like this happening in UK.

We decided that we were loving the evening so much we didn’t want to come home! No not really, we just didn’t want to leave for dinner so we grabbed some Mexican street food which was available and just hung out, there was a live band on and games. We also took the opportunity to grab some people for some pics.

The whole night was just so entertaining, I really really loved it. You can see our YouTube video here

Before we headed back, we nipped to the German bar for another Texas wine each. Keith had the Shiraz and I had the merlot again.

Saturday- our last day 😢

Today was our last day! I woke up sad, Texas has captured my heart in a way I wasn’t expecting! Before our night flight home, we had to drive from San Antonio to Houston, so we made a day of it by going via San Marco for the retail outlet village where we bagged some cheap Levi’s and then onto nearby Gruene (pronounced Green). Gruene has the oldest Dance Hall in Texas. The place was heaving, but we soon realised why- there was a free music afternoon on. We had a wander round the general store, got some last minute souvenirs and had a spot of lunch. Then went into the dance hall for a beer and a last enjoy of some live music. It was a larger band this time, with a violin, steel stringed guitar, acoustic guitar, double bass and two vocalists. It was packed, there were locals and tourists, and even a group celebration for a lady’s 80th.

Everyone was dancing and enjoying themselves, the band were fab, Keith and I even had a slow waltz. See video here. We had an hour there before the 3 hour journey to Houston, and I was feeling exceptionally emotional. I put my sunglasses on so no one would notice the tears streaming down my face. I’m not sure I got away with it!

That’s not our car btw (sadly)

All too soon it was time to move on, and by 6pm we were dropping off the car at Houston Avis and checking in. The tears wouldn’t stop – I blubbed all the way through security, and then sulked all the way onto the plane.

Texas. You’ve entirely stolen our British hearts. We’ll be back! For anyone who loves food and music – Texas is your state! Please visit. I get the impression not many people do other than for work.

Until next time

Lx

Adventures Stateside; A Texas Roadtrip. Austin and Hill Country

Tuesday morning arrived and it was time to hit the road once more, waving farewell to Fort Worth. As we had changed our route, staying local ‘rather’ than the 500 mile drive to Big Bend National Park, we decided to take the ‘scenic route’ to Austin – basically leaving the interstate behind and travelling on route 281 instead.

The route took us through Stephenville, Hico, and Marble Falls. We decided to make a stop at Hico as it looked very historical and traditional. It ended up being a highlight of the day. The Main Street was just one street, covered in wooden fronted buildings that had stood largely unchanged in appearance since the late 1800s. The small town boasts a rumour that Billy the Kid died here in the 1950s and as such has a small and very untouristy museum.

The rest of the journey was scenic as the roads wound through the beginnings of Texas Hill Country.

We had a really really disappointing lunch at Marble Falls – we actually chose the route based on a recommendation for lunch in a traditional and long established diner. Unfortunately our meals at Bluebonnet Cafe were absolutely revolting – and put us in a bit of a bad mood for the remainder of our journey to Austin. Luckily, a warm welcome was to be had at our lovely last minute air b n b apartment situated within walking distance of all the bars and music venues in Austin so after a shower, we took a walk out to the local and had a bit of a bar hop and delicious pizza meal – we also caught some great live country music at the White Horse.

Wednesday dawned a wet and miserable day, which was a shame as it was MY BIRTHDAY! Presents and cards opened, we decided to take a walk despite the rain into the centre and explore the capitol building, which happens to be the largest state capitol building in the United States.

We took a walk down the Main Street, but was quite surprised at the lack of shops to peruse – in fact there was literally just one.There were quite a lot of historic buildings though and some really cool examples of the old Art Deco cinema fronts.

There was also a really traditional Victorian crescent with lots of mansions in which we enjoyed seeing.

All the bars were closed so no lunchtime cocktails for the birthday girl sadly – so we decided after a burger at Carolines that we’d cut our losses and go back to the accommodation to enjoy some beers there. We dried up, relaxed and then re headed out about half 4 and happily this time we found some places open, so enjoyed an evening bar hop and a fantastic meal followed by live music at Stubb’s BBQ.

When we woke up on Thursday we were relieved that the rain had stopped. Today we were once again taking the scenic route from Austin to San Antonio, via Fredericksburg. Our first stop was a quick picture stop at the Ladybird Lake, which offered a grey but lovely view of the Austin skyline.

From here we drove about an hour to Johnson City where we visited President Lyndon B Johnson’s ranch. We didn’t know much about this man, who took over from President JFK after his assassination, however we are so glad we visited his huge ranch, as we learnt lots about him, and actually it was a really interesting (and free) activity.

First we stopped off at his actual birth house within Johnson City (pics above) before carrying on 13 miles to his main adult life and family ranch. Before going round LBJ’s ranch you get to explore a living history ranch which was his neighbours farmhouse.

The tour around the ranch is self guided in your car, which gives an idea on how large it is. It also houses an air strip, with Air Force ‘one and a half’ still there to see, and the beautiful living quarters which was where many legislations were made in those years after JFK was murdered.

We also got to see his collection of presidential cars, including an amphibious vehicle and his shooting vehicle.

I think that the most interesting thing we took from our visit was that the President’s wife lived until only 11 years ago when she died. She succeeded him over 30 years, therefore it felt more real and less tourist museum-ey. If that makes sense?

From here we carried on just under 10 miles until we reached Luckenbach, a tiny hamlet with population of only 3.

It was made famous when Wayne Jennings wrote a song called Luckenbach, and is basically a wooden store/post office/saloon bar/ food hut, which has live country music on daily for free (tips). It’s utterly traditional, unspoilt, and just an all round gem of a place, that has firmly made it onto my favourite spot in USA list. Plus, I can’t think of anywhere else you’ll get interrupted by a cockerel as you’re sipping on your cold beer listening to the music. Luckenbach

We spent much longer than anticipated there as it was just so cool, and I also got serenaded with a cowboy happy birthday!

See our Luckenbach video here

Eventually though, it was time to drag ourselves away and head to the next pit stop, Fredericksburg, which has more of a German settlement.

The Main Street was charming and full of antiques and boutiques, eateries – we had a delicious homemade ice cream cookie sandwich, and also loads of wine tasting rooms and bars. If we did this tour again, I’d have chosen to stay overnight here rather than two nights in Austin.

It was after 5pm by the time we left, heading the hour and half motorway journey to our final air b n b of the trip in San Antonio. Another traditional Mexican casita awaited us.

Adventures Stateside; A Texas Roadtrip. Dallas and Fort Worth

Friday

After a pleasant 4 hour journey from Houston along Interstate no 45, we arrived at our next Air b n b, Sunshine cottage, in the affluent, leafy area of Hollywood Dallas.

Our host had made the apartment cosy and full of goodies. After a chill and a shower, we decided to stay quite local for dinner, and walked to local smokehouse restaurant, Lakewood Smokehouse. The meal was phenomenal- I had smoked rack of ribs and Keith had brisket beef. I washed mine down with a pumpkin spice cocktail and it’s was just heaven.

We embraced the walk home as we were absolutely stuffed full, and really enjoyed looking at the fall decorations dotted around the neighbourhood.

Saturday

Saturday arrived early again, our body clocks are definitely still out of sync. We made the most of the early morning though by enjoying a leisurely breakfast and catching an early bus from the end of the street to the centre of Dallas.

Today we had the most amazing day- we visited the assassination site of JFK. Dealey plaza is an eery place, and largely untouched, despite the road being used still, and a busy one at that. The grassy knoll where an alleged shooter was, is still exactly as it was that fateful day and the landscaping is identical. The only difference being that the book depository where Oswald allegedly fired from is now a museum, which we thoroughly enjoyed looking around. There were pockets of people lurking along the road, each debating with each other where that fatal shot came from based on angles and chance. It was a deeply moving visit, and one that we will remember for years to come.

Naturally after such a morning, we decided a rooftop bar would be a nice place to have our own debate on our thoughts about the assassination- little did we know the portions would be 32oz each!

My “sexy margarita” was less sexy yet more “spiky”- the sting in the tail being that it only stayed in my digestive system 15 mins max before my body ejected the whole blinking thing! Thankfully it didn’t ruin my meal- we grabbed a buffalo steak and shrimp each which was fab.

Our next Dallas tourist spot was the Reunion Tower. Despite being fairly low in comparison to other observation floors we’ve been to recently, the views out were great and the weather was behaving so we could see for miles. We really love visiting the observation tower wherever we are, there’s nothing like an arial view.

Suitably exhausted by the days sightseeing, we called it an early night, taking advantage of our lovely relaxing air b n b, we grabbed a sandwich from seven 11 and headed back.

Sunday

Today was a scheduled driving day from Dallas to Fort Worth, however as it was only a short journey and our visit to Dallas coincided with the annual State Fair of Texas – today was the last day of the month long fair – we decided it would be rude not to pay a visit.

We arrived bright and early, which worked in our favour, we got to park in the cheaper/closer car park and enjoyed a wander round with no crowds for the first couple of hours.

State Fair Park is home to the largest Ferris Wheel in the Western Hemisphere, the Texas Star, so we decided a ride on this was a must, despite the fact that I’m not a huge fan of Ferris wheels or heights!

Standing at the base of the wheel it seemed to tower hugely above us- to the point it seemed larger than the London Eye, however Wikipedia tells us that the London Eye is twice as high. Texas Star is 62 metres, which is still pretty high, as my quivering legs reminded me as we exited after a terrifying lovely ride. Luckily Keith realised that my eyes were closed for the top section so snapped lots of pictures for me to enjoy once down on the ground.

Another highlight of the day was watching the pig races. Oh America, you sure do these things well. I was almost crying with laughter at one point.

The rest of the time at the fair was spent in sensory overload. The smells of the food were incredible; and we sampled a few bits and pieces including the famous corn dog, similar to a battered sausage on a stick, and the 2018 food finalist deep fried shepherds pie and fried green beans. Sounds gross but was amazing!

We felt really lucky to be able to share a snippet of true Texan life- there were no tourists just family’s enjoying their time together. It really was wonderful.

Despite the fair being open until 11pm, we made a move around 3pm to our next destination, Fort Worth, just an hour down the road.

Our next Air B and B was a wonderful traditional Mexican Casita, located in a Mexican neighbourhood and complete with its on little porch perfect for a beer and reflection on what a great couple of days in Dallas we had had.

We opted for dinner at a restaurant recommended to us by our host, Joe T Garcias which was about 2 miles away. As it was early, we decided to walk there through the different neighbourhoods. It was interesting getting an insight into the family homes, and we even saw a traditional Halloween party going on which was cool. However there were times when we felt a little uneasy so we decided we’d stick to Uber from now on.

The restaurant was fantastic! It was largely an outdoor open patio with plenty of lights and a big pond in the centre. It was intimate, trendy and packed, yet we got seated immediately- we knew we’d picked a gem of a restaurant. There were only two items on the menu, steak or chicken fajitas or cheese enchiladas. We opted for the steak fajitas and our server encouraged us to only have one to share. Of course, we ignored him, and ended up being half of it back in a doggie bag for tomorrow! The Ford was exceptional and really great value.

Monday

Today we spent the whole day exploring the historic Fort Worth Stockyards, which is home to the cowboy and the only place in the world left doing daily cattle drives.

As soon at the taxi dropped us off, we knew we were in for a great day. The roads are cobbled and the architecture dates from the 1880s. There are saloons and steakhouses and traditional general stores. The first place we saw was Leddy’s Handmade boot store, and as I had been gifted some birthday money from Dad and Jenny for some leather boots, we made our way straight there.

Luck was on my side as the majority of boots, being handmade with fabulous quality leather, were well out of my price range, however they had a small one off sale to make room for new boots, and I immediately saw a pair included in the half price sale that I liked. My delight was sky high when we discovered they only had the one pair of that design and they were my size. After half an hour of trying them on, the deal was done, I was in love, the leather was so soft it felt like silk and I didn’t take them off all day.

After this we mooched down the street, buying some souvenirs from the tourist shops and killing time until the 1130 cattle drive.

We watched as the cowboys manoeuvred the herd of Texas Longhorn Cattle down the street and back into the stockyard.

It was a bit touristy but we enjoyed it none the less. We went for an early lunch of steak in a place recommended by the boot man which was washed down by buckets of margarita. The food has been exceptional; every single meal has been outstanding. I’d come back just to eat more Texan food.

After lunch we had a look round the historical station area and had a few beer stops in the many saloons. The area was slightly smaller than I’d imagined and you could easily do this as a day trip from Dallas, however we enjoyed the slower pace and being able to have a beer together as we didn’t have to drive.

We headed back to the accommodation around 6pm – we needed to make some adjustments to our next couple of days itinerary. Originally tomorrow we were heading to Big Bend National Park, which is right on the west of the state and about 8 hours drive. Aside from the spectacular scenery, a draw was the chance to take a boat trip into Mexico for the day, across the official border crossing at Boquillas. However, with the tension at the border with the ‘Caravan’ in the news currently, we felt a bit apprehensive about taking this trip. This along with terrible weather forecasted for Wednesday, which would be our free day to explore, made us feel a 16 hour road trip was excessive and something which we wouldn’t be able to fully enjoy and appreciate in the current weather or politic climate.

We hit our travel books, spoke to all the locals we could for their advice on where to go instead, and as a result, tomorrow we are off to Austin, the state capital.

Until next time

Lx