Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens

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We spent a day in Dallas at the end of October. We were there because Derek was a speaker at the National College Media Convention. I went with him, partly because he wanted me there for support, and partly because I found online, and fell in love with, the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens,

For some background context, I have been missing fall. It’s not like it was some elaborate season that we celebrated back in Pennsylvania, but I was still craving fall, and everything that came with it.

So, a few months ago, I stumbled upon the Arboretum and Botanical Gardens when searching for things to do in Dallas, for a weekend trip next summer. Turns out that they do this amazing themed pumpkin village every fall, (this year’s theme was Wizard of Oz) and damn, now I wanted to go. But a trip in the fall would never be possible, due to my working weekends, and Derek’s school schedule.

But then Derek was chosen as a speaker, and his session was first thing on a Friday morning. My work week starts on a Friday, so it would have worked out for us to drive up to Dallas on Thursday night. I had personal days that I needed to use anyway, so I said, why not?

Derek’s session went well, and the gardens exceeded my expectations. It was great to get away for the day, see something new and spend the day together, which is rare now! Here are some photos.

We will go back to Dallas, probably sometime this summer, and we will probably go back again, because I imagine it looks different each season.

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Aunt Susie’s visit

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Aunt Susie came to visit for three days. It was a short visit, yes, but we crammed a ton of activities into those three days! We both had a lot of fun, and it came at the right time. It felt good to take a short break and forgot about other things currently going on. It was great because, while I took her to a bunch of things that I was familiar with, I also got to see and do some new things myself too.

On the first day I took Aunt Susie to Cavenders, which is a family owned boot and western wear store. She bought a shirt, and I cried over every pair of boots that I can’t afford, haha. Christmas is coming…

Then we went to the Arboretum, and I took her to the meadow trail to see the swamp sunflowers that were still in bloom.

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After the Arboretum, we went to Downtown and I showed her Discovery Green. I was excited to see The Color Condition, which is the latest art installation.

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Day two was the beach. A drive to Galveston is not complete with a stop at Buc-ees! She loved it. She bought a Buc-ee Bever keychain, a shirt and pajama shorts.

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It was great beach weather. A little chilly in the morning, so we had sweatshirts on, but the afternoon was perfect. We basically had the beach to ourselves for the first few hours, but then more people came by lunch time. We found a dead jellyfish on the beach. I had never seen one before.

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We had lunch at a place called Fish Tales, which is right across the street from the pier. The restaurant had a great outdoor patio on the second floor. I got the shrimp po boy sandwich and it was huge! Will probably eat there again.

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We checked out Murdochs, which is an old gift shop that is right over the water. They had a little bit of everything inside. Aunt Susie bought a shirt for Uncle Paul there. They also have their own bar, where you can get drinks and snacks, and a patio for you to enjoy them on. They sure do know how to bring in business!

We walked around the Hotel Galvez for a bit. It is a beautiful hotel, but supposedly haunted. Apparently it used to be an orphan’s asylum, but most of the children died in the 1900 hurricane. Spooky.

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From Hotel Galvez we took the motorized trolley to the Strand for some shopping. The island is currently working on getting the train trolleys up and running for next summer, but have the motorized ones in the mean time. It costs $1 to ride it each way, which I think is a good deal, instead of having to move the car and pay more in a lot.

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Our last day was the Houston Zoo and Hermann Park. Some of the highlights of the zoo were getting to see some of the big cats up close, and Aunt Susie feeding the giraffes. We took the train ride around Hermann park.

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The fun seemed like it ended all too soon, but she will be back, this time with my parents too, in March. She said she had a great time and a good first impression of Houston and Galveston. She said she wants to move to Galveston now… I would be okay with that!

Day Trip to San Antonio

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Last week we went to San Antonio for the day. We met up with my friend from high school that lives in Austin, which was a nice bonus. I can honestly say we had the perfect day. We did everything we wanted to do, and some more. The weather was amazing too.

Even the drive out there was great. It took three hours and it was on a two lane highway at 75 mph. I haven’t seen a two lane highway since Pennsylvania! We passed fields and fields of wildflowers, farms, and even some patches of cactus! It was peaceful.

Our first stop was the Alamo. I wanted to get there right when it opened. I had heard  that supposedly a lot of people are disappointed when they see the Alamo because it is so small. So knowing this information, the Alamo seemed like the perfect size to us! You cannot take pictures inside the main church building, which I had already known about, but still disappointed me. The expansive courtyards, with the mini museums in the barracks and the living history set ups, more than made up for it though. We spent over an hour here taking everything in. I really consider it a privilege that there are places of history that are preserved and we are able to still see them today.

Our second stop was the River Walk. It really is a beautiful area of the city. We walked around the main loop of the River Walk, but it goes out a few miles in both directions. We had thought about taking a river cruise, but we didn’t, and it honestly wasn’t needed. We saw everything just fine by foot. We were slightly disappointed because we had expected shops along the River Walk, but it was only restaurants and hotels. If we had known that, I probably would have eaten lunch on the River Walk.

We ate lunch at Mi Terra in El Mercado, (The Market Square) which was a street lined with Mexican shops and restaurants. Mi Terra was highly recommended online in different discussion forums. After lunch we took some time to browse around the craft vendors. So much cool stuff!

After lunch we headed back to the Alamo a second time. This was actually a good call because it had been overrun with school kids earlier in the morning, so now it was more quiet.

The last two things we did, Mission Espada and Mission San Jose, wasn’t even a definite thing on our to do list. I figured if we had the time in the afternoon, we’d go, but no big deal if we didn’t. These two missions ended up being my favorite part of the day. The architecture was amazing!

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Growing bucket list

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My Texas bucket list keeps growing instead of getting shorter, but I suppose that is a good thing. I was worried about running out of things to do, but I suppose that is the rural girl in me talking. Can you ever run out of things to do in a city?

Since Derek’s semester just ended, he’s looking at a nice three month break. I looked at my list and picked out a handful of things that we can do during my days off. I’m usually gung ho about making (and then crossing off) to-do lists, but I’m finding that this is one list that I want to keep adding to. I recently checked off “Go to the Houston Rodeo” and “Photograph bluebonnets” but I’ve definitely added a bit more too.

For instance, I have decided that I would like to attend a Houston Astros game. I’m not into baseball to be honest, but where else can I see a Major League Baseball game? The tickets are cheap (starting at $12) and it is something different to do.

I have some major cities on my list like Austin, Dallas and San Antonio, but what about the other smaller towns to visit? Through some research, I now want to visit places such as Gonzales (the site of the first battle for Texas Independence and the famous “Come and Take It” cannon) and Fredericksburg, a German town which looks like it has a pretty little main street filled with shops and restaurants.

One of Derek’s professors suggested that we visit the San Jacinto monument (Battle of San Jacinto was another Texas Independence battle) and the Houston Ship Channel as well. On the list they all go.

We’ve also gotten to see big production shows such as Book of Mormon and Cirque du Soleil, and I am sure there will always be another one we want to see soon enough. I would like to see The Nutcracker next Christmas.

I wonder what will be next? I am looking forward to finding out.

Flooding

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We had our first flood event this week. It was only a matter of time. It wasn’t nearly as bad as the floods Houston had last spring, but it was still an experience that I hope doesn’t happen again, at least for a while.

A bad thunderstorm passed through overnight. I woke up early in the morning to lightning and thunder, but didn’t think much of it. Then at 5:30 in the morning, our phones both went off. I thought it was another Amber Alert, so I turned it off without looking. We got up at 6 a.m. Turns out that the alert we got was a flash flood warning!

I should say first that our area was fine, just a lot of deep puddles on the sidewalks. I need to get some rain boots!

Derek looked through his emails, and an email was sent by the metro saying that parts of the red and green line tracks were under water. This means Derek couldn’t take the metro to school like usual, so I had to drive him in.

Driving of course posed another issue, because one of the main roads that we use to get to school is Route 288, and the underpasses of 288 were underwater.

Google maps picked up on the “traffic” on 288, i.e. cars at a standstill because they can’t go through the water, so we were routed a different way, but we really didn’t know if we would encounter water on that way either.

We thankfully didn’t. However, we did drive over some bayous that were to the top of their banks and it was scary looking! On my way back I was at a red light, and I needed to turn right. I looked to my left, and I saw a back up of cars because an underpass was filled with water! Good thing I didn’t need to go that way.

I am thankful all of this happened on my day off. Apparently a few different routes to the Chronicle building were flooded out too. The office had a delayed opening. I had enough trouble figuring out how to get to work with the marathon! I am hoping I don’t have to deal with this in the future, but I’m sure it is bound to happen again.

 

The Airport

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We went on vacation a few weeks ago. We had to fly out of Houston’s George Bush Airport to Miami. As someone who travels a lot, the thought was not lost on me that now we have a new “home” airport. I’ve gotten so used to northeast airports like Corning-Elmira, Philadelphia and Newark. We traveled frequently enough that we knew what restaurants/areas we like in different airports, and we know our away around the terminals and shuttle systems for the most part.
Not to mention that this would feel extremely different just because flying in and out of the northeast is so… yucky! We always leave home in the dead of the winter (usually raining) so flying south would literally be a breath of fresh (hot and humid) air. It was strange flying from hot weather to hot weather!
The thing I was most worried about at the airport was parking. I researched this ahead of time, and there are two ecopark garages where you can park for $5.54 a day, or $7 for covered parking. I was relieved, because I was expecting to pay $100 for parking! If we fly out of a busy big airport, we’re usually traveling with family, so we leave our car behind. And parking at Corning-Elmira was cheap. So I was a little naive about what to expect in Houston.
The Ecoparking was a decent experience. Two shuttles left while we were getting our bags out of the trunk, but two more pulled up right behind them. The driver hands you a paper slip that has your parking information on it. You have to keep the slip to get to your car when you get back. It was about a 5-10 minute ride to the terminals, including time to pick up a few more people in the parking lot.
Coming home was very strange. I’m not a homebody at all, I’ve always resented the fact that I was from the northeast. Every time I flew home and the pilot said, “Welcoming to Corning, or Newark, etc,” I would always quietly “boooo.” It felt less awful to fly home to Houston, which is a destination for travelers.
There are two airports in Houston, George Bush and Hobby. They are on opposite sides of the city, north and south. It took us half an hour to get to G.B., but we left at 5 a.m. in the morning and had no traffic. Hobby is closer to us, but it is a smaller, domestic airport (Southwest has a hub there) so I’m not sure if we’ll ever get the chance to fly out of it.