Texas – Big country with a big heart
Texas is like a country in its own right. It’s massive and you can see why the people are proud of it.
We were in Houston several years before, albeit transiting through the airport, so obviously we saw nothing. This time it would be a quick stop over, but at least we could finally see some of what Houston had to offer. Houston has a high crime rate. Violent crime is above average, but if you keep away from the bad neighbourhoods, then you’ll be fine. Be wary in tourist areas as pickpockets are rife and break ins occur regularly. Don’t leave anything in your car and always secure your valuables in a hotel safe. Close all windows and lock all doors. Basically have common sense. Sometimes when you are more relaxed on holiday, then common sense can go out the window.
Houston on first impression, we liked it. We liked the vibe. Yes, there was some rundown areas and homeless, but not on the same scale as New Orleans. We preferred it more than New Orleans to be honest. There are some beautiful leafy streets, especially in 19th Street with its high class restaurants, bars and quirky boutiques.
A must see when in Houston. 19th Street in the Historic Heights, which was developed in 1890, is a fabulous way to spend the day or evening. It’s a vibrant, good vibes area where you can explore all the quirky boutiques, vintage stores, antique stores, as well as some foodie hangouts.
Or what about a Texas pub crawl in one of their relaxed bars to listen to some live tunes. It is the coolest Street in Houston and walkable, so park your car up and enjoy the positive energy.
The museum District is the heartbeat of Houston’s fine culture.
There are approximately a whopping 150 museums and culture institutions in all of Houston, everything from science, history and art. Every museum is unique and fascinating, in its own right. If that’s not enough to make you go WOW, then there are approximately 20 of these museums free of charge! Some of the ones that are free, are the Children’s Museum (free Thurs 5-8pm), Museum of African American culture (free Thurs 6-8pm), Health Museum (free thurs 2-7pm), Museum of fine Arts (free-thurs 9am-10pm), Holocaust Museum (free Thurs 2- 5pm, Houston Centre for Photography (free- open by appointment only), among many, many more. Do check their websites though, as some of these are only free entry on particular days or are subject to change.
You can check out the wonderful street art almost everywhere in Houston. These talented artists use street art as a form of expression and it is their unique way of conveying a personal message to the world, whether it be politics, or economical, or social.
The most popular mural is by Gonzo247, the ‘Houston is Inspired’ artwork is to highlight the importance of culinary and art scene. An Instagram favourite, tourists flock here to use the mural as a background for a colourful inspired photo.
Other popular murals are Sebastien Boileau, which is inspired by Michelangelo’s, The Creation of Adam, or, you have Michael Rodriguez for his fun, sharp graffiti, which you can find all over Houston, or Royal Sumikat for the wonderful bright, humourous murals, among lots more gifted artists.
Minute Maid Park, is a ballpark located in downtown Houston. It has a seating capacity of 41,168, which includes 5,197 club seats and 63 luxury suites. Minute Maid Park has become a welcome home for the Houston Astros and has ushered in a new era of Major League sports in the city. Pity about the sponsor.
We were looking forward to Austin, we heard so many great things about it and the live music was one.
Just about above average, cheaper than the others but still expensive and over priced. We have been spoilt with some of the wonderful hotels, like the beautiful Arrive in Memphis, that we experienced. It was a step up from the mediocre motels. This had good enough reviews so we went for it after much hesitation. In fact, we didn’t book until the day on the road there, as we could not believe the prices in Austin. It was a couple of minutes to the main hub. Parking in Austin is poor and extortionate. For the first time in America, we had to give in to valet parking at $50 a night! However, room was spotless, great views over the city and excellent location!
What to do?
Lady Bird Lake
A beautiful oasis, Lady Bird Lake is filled with walking trails, runners, cyclists and fishing. A man-made river, from the 60’s on the Colorado River. You will also see people kayaking and canoeing here in the still waters. We enjoyed a leisurely stroll through this stunning nature trail. Even though there’s trees, there is not much shade, so wear your sunscreen.
It is not good for swimming though due to its pollution. There is free parking in a lot right beside it at the corner of Pedernales and Canterbury Streets.
A history museum, Bullock Texas State Museum is located a few blocks north of the Texas State Capitol at 1800 North Congress Avenue in Austin. It is dedicated to interpreting the continually unfolding “Story of Texas”.
Named for Texas’s 38th lieutenant governor, the Bullock Texas State History Museum explores the Lone Star State’s vibrant past with artifacts ranging from the original Goddess of Liberty of Texas, The La Belle Shipwreck, exhibit on WWI, a guitar collection, among other interesting memorabilia.
Open from 9 am- 5 pm. Monday-Saturday and from 12-5pm on Sundays. Entry is $13 for adults, $11 for students and senior citizens and $9 for children ages 4 to 17. If you’d prefer a freebie. There is free admission on the first Sunday of each month.
There are many cool graffiti murals around the city, adding brightness to some of Austin’s rundown parts and showcasing the artist’s talent. A Lot of the work is pure happiness and joy, it will certainly make you smile.
A leafy, trendy historical area, Rainey Street is lined with bars and eateries on each side, just outside Downtown. Most of the buildings were homes before, now turned into bungalow bars and restaurants.
It was buzzing in the afternoon when we were there, playing live modern music. We actually wished we’d stayed in this area, maybe next time!
Red River Culture District
Red River Cultural District is apparently known for its high concentration of nightlife venues on and around Red River Street.
It was pretty dead in the late afternoon. We went here to check out the Vegan food trucks, which is a big trend in Austin. While waiting till Arlo’s opened we were struggling to see where the live music was.
Austin is supposed to be the home of live music, right?
Cheer up Charlie’s bar, we waited in was chilled enough with some interesting, cool characters. However, the music the DJ played was not to our taste. It was just loud and brash hip-hop tunes.
Arlo’s food truck was yummy though. Great cruelty free vegan goodness!
There is also some lovely cute art work in the little area with the food trucks and a couple of other bars.
Find it at 900 River Street.
Valhalla rock bar with a Juke box and some live music nights! Has a laid back feel and a pool table waste a bit of time and chat with new people. It’s on Red River At between 8th and 7th.
It is the most famous street where the tourists flock to. We found it hard to believe that it is ‘the music capitol of the world’. Maybe it was in the past, but certainly not now. Talk about being disappointed! It was just a Mish mash of bars, clubs and some restaurant’s that didn’t live up to its name. Most of the bars blared dance music or hip-hop. Locals actually call the street ‘dirty’ Sixth.
After we left Austin, we read that there was a mass shooting between a group of people. Indeed maybe that’s why there was a heavy police presence on Sixth Street when we were there.
Unfortunately we weren’t in Austin when any festivals were on. Maybe we would of had a different impression of Sixth Street and Red River Culture District.
Marfa, a small desert town in West Texas, with a population of approximately 1,800, but a big draw on numerous levels.
Just outside of town there is a viewing area for the “Marfa Lights”. We were passing in the day so didn’t get the chance to view this Ghostly, or other worldly, phenomenon of light orbs in the night sky. It is also a haunt for the art world.
Donald Judds art installation is at Chinati Foundation.
Unfortunately for us it was closed. You seemly have to make a reservation in advance to get in. You can see the art installation though, from behind the gates. It isn’t exactly in the middle of nowhere like people say, there are several houses around including the Chinati Foundation. Although saying that,you would need a car if you lived here if that makes sense.
Minimalist artist Donald Judd had put Marfa on the map when he moved to Marfa in the 1970’s creating impressive large outdoor artwork, set right under the hot desert skies. It is one of the world’s largest permanent installations of minimalist art. To the arty types and adventurous, Marfa is a destination worthy of the day-long journey.
Yes, it’s cool. It’s a Prada faux store in the desert, although god damn awful handbags and shoes. The sculpture is by Elmgreen & Dragset (a Berlin duo). At night the shop illuminates behind the shoes and bags behind the glass. People actually drive all the way here, thinking it’s an actual shop where you can buy items, quite funny really. Lol
When it was inaugurated in October 2005, it was subject to a break in and vandalized, the night after the exhibit was installed. The graffiti sprayed ‘Dumb’ on the walls and stole all the real designer handbags and shoes. The installation was quickly restored and they placed added security features to stop another looting happening again.
It’s a good photo op and interesting, but be prepared to wait for the Instagram girlies dressed up to the nines, taking hundred of photos.
People leave padlocks on the fence with messages or names, but now people have started to leave dirty masks tied to the gate. It turned our stomach and flaws the art and glamour. Why would anyone in the right mind think that’s a good idea!
Locals have said that they want the Installation removed due to the tourists risking their lives standing in the middle of the road taking pictures.
Even though it is called Prada Marfa, it is actually about a half hour outside Marfa. It is more in-between Marfa and Valentine.
Check out our music belt tour on this road trip.