Thursday, June 30, 2011

Texas: Part Two

After much delay, here are the shots from the second half of my week in San Antonio! The Botanical Garden was one of my favorite trips out. Don't get me wrong, it was HOT spending an afternoon outside, but I brought an umbrella to fill in shade where the trees didn't provide some, and in the end it was worth it!

I loved their visual solution to the drought- instead of leaving the fountains looking bare and sad, they filled them in with beautiful blue glass!

Lots of inspiration to be found in the giant planters scattered around.

The Garden for the Blind was an interesting addition, where the plants were all either highly fragrant or tactile (lots of herbs!)

This stunning sculpture was in the Garden for the Blind, as well as:

This huge snail!

I loved the water lilies in this little pond.

It was in the courtyard of a series of greenhouses that housed:

Bromiliads from the rain forest in one.

Cacti from the desert in another.

Ferns in a fog-machine induced sauna! And there was another VERY hot and humid house filled with Palms that was setup as a ramp that spiraled upward through the foliage, which was a cool idea, but I practically had to run through to make it out the exit at the top without passing out!

Another unique display they had was the "gardens" showing the 4 natural habitats they have in Texas. I went to check out the Pine forest area, since I have lots of Pines around my house and was interested to see what would grow around them. Turns out not much!

But it was lovely anyway. And really nice to walk in the deep shade!

These roots are so cool! Can't remember the name of the tree, though...

That's my art-y self-portrait in the window of the classic wood cabin.

But I really loved the cottage garden! This is my favorite kind of garden. It was really neat to see how many of the same plants grew in Texas that we have up here in New England, and how some grew very differently! The hydrangeas, for example, were so tiny down there as to be barely recognizable, whereas up here they grow to be 5 foot tall bushes in just a few years! They must like the cold winters!

After the Botanical Garden I headed over to the San Antonio Art Museum, mostly to see their European and American paintings, which are a favorite.

But, well, their collection of paintings was TINY! They more than made up for it, however, with an absurdly large collection of Irish silver (fun to read the inscriptions!), and ceramics and pottery from the Middle East. I didn't take any pictures of those, however, because my camera battery had already died, and after photographing the garden my phone battery was dying, too!

I HAD to get a picture of this, though, because it's so unique! It's a sand mandala- that's right, that whole thing is made of sand! Enlarge the next picture to get the full explanation of how this came to be in the museum.

Sorry for the blur, I think I was a little dehydrated at that point!

The next morning, Hubby had a business meeting over in Austin, so we swapped to a hotel over there, but first we had to do the obligatory trip to the Alamo!

The pictures came out terrible- I must have had the phone on some odd setting!

Our first night in Austin we met up with another friend who lives nearby, and he took us to an UH-MA-ZING BBQ joint called The County Line.

If you're ever down in Texas, see if there's one of these nearby, because it was DELICIOUS! And I really don't even normally like meat!

This location (Austin Hills) was particularly special because it sat on the side of a hill and the patio overlooked the sunset and the valley below. Not that you can see the sunset in this shot, but you can see the color it turned me in this shot:

Bring your sunglasses and sunblock! But more importantly, do you see that food?! Those ribs have converted me- I am a big, fatty beef rib lover! Never liked them before, but these were so good I'm going to be trying to make some myself soon!

The whole place was adorably kitschy, and instead of music the bathroom speakers played a language CD called "How to Speak Cowboy", which is for sale for $10. (Yes, Hubby bought one!)

There we are, all fat and happy, rolling back to the car.

The next day we spent some time wandering around downtown Austin, but it was SOO hot, Hubby couldn't take being outside and actually suggested we go shoe shopping! Well, cowboy boot shopping, but still! So we asked around a bit and were originally directed to either a place in town called Allen's that had mostly highly decorated, more expensive boots, or if we wanted something more functional and less decorative, a place out by the airport called Callahan's General Store. Well, where would you go?

A place that sells cow feed and turquoise refrigerators along side cowgirl boots? Sign me up! Well ok, I admit we checked out the one in town first, but I didn't fall in love with anything that cost less than $400, and cowboy boots are a little too much of a novelty up here in the Northeast to justify that much money!
Callahan's was GREAT! Totally down to earth, with a great sense of humor in the home decor section (yup, they had one of those, too!) Another place you definitely need to check out if you're in the area! I didn't take any pictures inside because some stores frown on that (though this didn't seem like one of those places!), but there's a video on their website if you want to take a peek.

But all of that was a bonus to the fact that I walked away with these beauties for under $150, which is just about what I'd been hoping to pay! And they're SOOOO comfortable. I wore them pretty much non-stop for the next 72 hours with nary a blister or rub-spot to show!

And that included an immediate trip out country dancing in them! The same taxi driver who, on our first day, told us about Arjon's salsa club, also told us about Cowboy's Dance Hall for some authentic country dancing, and I was DETERMINED to go before we flew out the next morning at 7:30 AM!

So I roused hubby at 9:30 that night, put on my new boots and dragged us off to do a little cowboy dancin'! And we were both so glad we went!

The dance floor was huge, and had just the right amount of dancers on it so we felt fine going out and bungling through our version of the two-step (which was kind of a mish-mosh of a waltz, east coast swing, and polka!), but empty enough that we didn't worry about slamming into anyone. They even had a live band! A really, really good band! They're the red blur in the background there...

And look, actual cowboys! It was the perfect way to wrap up a surprisingly delightful first-trip to Texas!

Thanks to all the wonderful Texans who helped show me just how wrong I was about that state!

Sunday, June 19, 2011


Hubby had a conference down in San Antonio a couple of weeks ago, and since I'd never been I decided to tag along and see what it's like down in the deep south!
Well, of course I didn't actually get to experience the real south since I was in a major tourist center, but I sure had fun!
A local friend took us over to this very cool cool bar in the Hotel Havana called Ocho. It's mostly a night time spot, but it was really nice during the day with the sunlight streaming in through the old conservatory windows.

I LOVED the design! The color scheme, the velvet upholstery and mirrored and mosaic tables on the threadbare rugs and brick flooring was SO much what I love! And check out that chandelier- HUGE! And there were two of them!

And in case you forgot you were in Texas for a second there, just grab a gander at the horns on those chairs- so very cool!

For dinner that night our friends took us to a fun BBQ chain called Rudy's.

With us all dolled up for dancing later, they were a bit hesitant to take us to a place that had an order counter and family style picnic tables, but we were game!

Rudy's also sells gas,

But mostly they sell meat:

Lots and lots of meat!

After dinner Hubby and I headed over to a salsa club that our cab driver had recommended called Arjon's.

The place was great! Since our hosts that night had to get home and release their babysitter, we ended up getting to the club just after 9:00, so we were one of the first one's there. But by 9:30 a bunch of people had arrived and the band began to play and the dancing was on!

It's always fun going to a place where they dance in a really authentic style since just about everyone up around us learned ballroom style (as did we!) There were some very good dancers at that place, so we watched them for a bit to remember some moves before we got up and busted ours out! We left shortly after midnight when the music switched over to club style and the younger crowd took over the dance floor.

Haris was really tempted by the Taco truck that had opened right in the parking lot outside, but after all that barbecue there was no place left to put it!

After spending a day exploring the Riverwalk (very cute, but pretty crowded!)

and Market Square (great place for souvenirs!), I ventured onto the public transportation via the #7 bus, Sightseer's Special.
First I went to the San Antonio Zoo.

Where it was mostly me and a whole bunch of school kids!

And the animals of course!

I finished up there around lunchtime, and a nice woman at the gift shop (everyone down there was nice!) tipped me off about a good lunch place called Joseph's about a 10 minute walk away. Well, it was about 100 degrees out, but if there was something to eat better than zoo burgers, I was willing to do the walk!

I'll be frank- I didn't have high hopes for a sandwich shop on the outskirts of San Antonio where the bus had driven past mostly porn shops and taco restaurants, but I was pleasantly surprised!

I made myself an iced coffee, which they were fine with (some places discourage that!), and ordered the club sandwich and fruit cup, all for about $7. The fruit cup... well, I'd pass on that next time! I could see it had some kind of dressing on it, (Italian, I think) but when I dug under that to find some clean looking pieces I realized that the whole thing had also been salted! But the sandwich... oh that bacon! I've never had such good bacon- ever! Thick, crunchy, smokey... YUM!

I also loved that the seating was a big ol' mish-mash of old dining tables and chairs!

After lunch I walked back up the road to see the Japanese Tea Garden.

I had allotted myself a couple of hours to explore the garden, hang out and be zen...

But it only took about 15 minutes for the heat radiating off all those rocks to make me dizzy!

It was really pretty, though...

And I got a kick out of seeing this girl tromping around in a HUGE ballgown and cowboy boots posing in different places for a photo-shoot of some sort. I'm thinking quincinera, maybe?

There's days 1-3, I'll try to share 4-6 with you later this week!