My husband is from a suburb outside of Houston, and his entire family still lives there. So we try to make a visit at least once a year. This time, we planned for nine days in and around the Houston area, with a three day escape to Austin for just the two of us.
Understatement of the year, but Texas is enormous. There are mega-super-multilane highways and two-lane country roads. There are billboards promoting guns and God as well as Planned Parenthood, country music and all the good Texas Shiner beer you can drink. There are big cities, small towns and everything in between.
I love Texas. And I love that with each visit, we travel outside our comfort zone and discover more of the Alamo State. This visit was no different. We started with family in Houston, traveled to Austin, stopped in Hockley (read: middle of nowhere), and then back to family in Texas City.
Along the way, I discovered 5 things I know for sure I’d never find in New Jersey. In no particular order – here they are:
- Cows and bulls roaming freely in the backyards of unsuspecting trampoline-jumpers. Here is my daughter and her cousin enjoying some jumps and tumbles on the family’s trampoline. I swear my daughter was mid-jump when she yelled to me from 50 feet away, “MOM! COW!” I ran to make sure she wasn’t being trampled or worse. Turns out, it was a bull. And I was the only one freaking out. Everyone else was Texan, so they wrote it off to being ‘just another Thursday.’
- Statues everywhere…of the living and the dead. Here in Jersey, Jon Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen are considered heroes and local boys who done good. But I don’t think there are statues of them. Are there? And if there are, may I politely ask – why?
- Sunsets. Now, I realize the sun sets in Jersey too, but you can’t beat a west coast sunset. HOWEVER! You can come real close to the one we saw over Lake Travis in Austin. *in my best southern drawl* Sho’ was purdy!
Side note: The Oasis in Austin is a lovely restaurant and a definite must-see on a visit to Austin. Mostly burgers, fries and fajitas, but you can get some decent Mexican food and some killer cocktails. But the reason The Oasis is popular is for its gorgeous views of Lake Travis. Due to the drought, the lake levels were low on our visit. But it was still beautiful. For those that don’t know, Austin is quite different from the rest of Texas. There are rolling hills and lots of trees you’d most likely see up north (like New England, not northern Texas). My husband and I shared yummy steak and chicken fajitas, a guac appetizer, margaritas and a kiss right as the sun disappeared from view.
- The flag. No, not that one. The flag of Texas. Yes, although Texans are extremely proud to be American, you can spot the Texas flag more often than the good ole stars and stripes. It’s everywhere from license plates, piano bars, Walmart t-shirts, strip clubs (don’t ask), and belt buckles. It’s a sense of pride and I admire that. Especially since I’m originally from Massachusetts, and I’ll be damned if I could pick the state flag of Massachusetts out in a lineup.
- A pink Capitol building. This photo doesn’t do this beautiful building justice, but it is indeed pink. This was a drive-by photo taken as we sped furiously to take the above pic of me with Willie Nelson for my mother (his biggest fan). This is also a must-see in Austin. We didn’t take an official tour, but you can visit the rotunda and walk many of the floors. The historical significance of this building is reflected in the ornate decor…definitely worth seeing.
If you’ve not been to Texas, you must go. If for nothing else than the food. Mexican and barbecue are my top choices. The people are friendly, the drinks are always good and – and particularly if you’re from the North – it can be like visiting another country. Which, I suspect, is just how Texans like it.