Family visits Texas

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My family (my parents and my Aunt) were here for a week. My dad had moved us to Houston, and my Aunt visited last October for a long weekend, so they already knew what to expect somewhat, but this was my mom’s first time to the Lone Star State.

We had a full itinerary with multiple things to do every day. I did NOT bring my camera, which was refreshing, since I had already done everything before, and did not need photos of the same things. So, this post will be photo free, and more of a review of what we did. Many of the activities that we did are featured in previous blog posts.

The first thing that we did that ended up being a hit with everyone was dinner at the Gorgeous Gael, an Irish Pub in Rice Village. We ended up doing this the last night too.

We went to Old Town Spring, where mom and dad loved The Little Dutch Girl shop and we also went to Hermann Park and rode the train.

Thursday was a full day at the Rodeo. That was the one thing everyone was looking forward to the most. The highlight was seeing sixteen piglets that were born just 12 hours before! Everyone was amazed at the size of everything. My Aunt expressed concern when we entered the grounds at 10:30 a.m. and the rodeo/concert wasn’t until 6:45 p.m., but we kept busy all day. None of my family had ever seen anything like a rodeo. Luke Bryan was the performer, and he was excellent. (Stay tuned for a separate post on the rodeo.)

On Friday we checked out the University of Houston, with Derek as the tour guide. Everyone was really impressed with the student union center, which is about 10 times the size as the one in Mansfield University. Then we headed to the zoo. The highlights, at least for me, are always the big cats. Mom was excited to see Shasta, the UH cougar mascot. Both times we visited the cougar enclosure, she was sleeping. All cats are the same, right?

On Saturday we walked around downtown. We checked out Discovery Green, and wandered the streets for mom and dad to get a feel of the city. They were shocked that there was hardly anyone around compared to New York City. We went to Allen’s Landing, the birth place of Houston, and caught the end of the Buffalo Bayou Regatta, (canoe and kayak race) so a free party was included. We also took them to the pop up location of Niko Nikos in Market Square Park, and introduced them to some Greek food. It was funny when my dad made me order, because he could not pronounce anything.

Sunday was a day in Galveston. We stopped at the Ashton Villa, a house where General Gordon Granger announced the end of the Civil War to the people of Texas on June 19, 1865. We also went to the Moody Aquarium, at my mom’s request, because she loves penguins. We caught the penguin feeding in the morning, which was cool to see. To be honest though, it was a small aquarium, so I do not think the money was worth it. At any rate though, I was glad to get to do something new. We also wandered the beach, drove around the historic east end district to ogle at all of the large houses, and shopped on the Strand.

Monday was a day trip to Waco. I will post about that separately. We went to Magonlia at the Silos for my mom, who is a Fixer Upper fan. We also went sightseeing here and there in downtown Waco.

Tuesday we stayed close to home, because we were all so exhausted from the day before. We went to La Madeline’s for breakfast and then we headed to the Galleria for some shopping. My mom and dad got a kick out of a revolving sushi bar in the food court! We dropped off my Aunt at the airport in the afternoon.

Wednesday was my parent’s last day. We hiked around the Arboretum and then we went back to downtown to check out the underground tunnels since they were closed when we went before on the weekend. We went right during lunch break rush, and my parents were amazed. We also stopped back at Rice Village, and walked around a couple of shops.

All in all it was a good trip, and I think my family had a good first impression of Houston, and the state of Texas. It might be a few years until they visit again, but I am sure I can easily come up with a whole new itinerary since there is never a shortage of things to do.

 

 

 

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Rodeo Parade

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Recently my schedule changed at work. Originally my weekend was a Wednesday-Thursday, which had its pros, but mostly cons. I hating missing out on weekend events, and there are a lot of them in a city! But, at the beginning of the year, my generous boss said that it wasn’t really fair that I had to work weekends, so my days off are now Friday-Saturday.

The first big event that came up since the schedule switch was the Rodeo parade, which is probably one of the events that I was the most disappointed about missing last year.

The rodeo parade features all of the trail riders, who had been on the “trail” for the week prior. The trail rides started as a way to honor the cattle rancher legacy, and to drum up publicity for the rodeo. I wrote an article about it, which you can read here: https://www.chron.com/neighborhood/bellaire/news/article/Houston-Livestock-Show-Rodeo-trail-rides-raise-12627384.php#photo-7567488.

The parade was in downtown, on a Saturday morning. It was a LARGE parade. To be honest, after two hours, and the wagons and horses kept on coming, we left. Derek had to get home to work on homework.

It ended up being a much larger parade than I anticipated. The trail riders were the main focus I think, but there were also other groups in the parade, floats and school bands.

I absolutely love rodeo time in Houston. It makes me feel proud to be a Texan, even though I am just a transplant. Plus, it’s an excellent excuse to wear cowboy boots!

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New Orleans vacation

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I have a rather large travel bucket list. I have some favorites, but most are in no particular order, we’ll get there when we get there. When we made the announcement in March of 2016 that we were moving to Houston because Derek got accepted into UH, I immediately knew that New Orleans would be our next trip because it is a five and a half hours drive from Houston.

We went the week after New Years and my Aunt Susie came along. All in all we had an amazing time. We did everything we wanted to do, plus some extras that we were not expecting. The only thing that I could have dealt without was the cold. A cold front came through and temperatures were in the lower 40s, when it is usually lower 60s. We bundled up in may layers though and we ended up being fine.

We stayed at the JW Marriot on Canal Street, which was one block away from the French Quarter. There were a ton of shops and restaurants along Canal Street, including the street car line, so it was a great hub of activity.

We had three main attractions planned out: A river cruise on the Creole Queen, a cooking demonstration at the New Orleans School of Cooking, and a swamp boat tour through Cajun pride.

The Creole Queen was great. The guide was very informative and pointed out interesting things along the way. We had a short shore excursion at the Chalmette National Battlefield, which was the last battle of the War of 1812. It was windy up on the open deck, but there was a lower inside deck that was kept warm, with a optional lunch buffet.

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The New Orleans School of Cooking was probably my favorite thing we did on the trip, because it was so different. We watched Pat cook gumbo, jumbalaya, bread pudding and pralines. We got to eat everything, which was great because it served as our lunch, and got the recipes to take home. We also learned a lot of cuisine history. I love gumbo and jumbalaya but was always too nervous to try to attempt it myself. Seeing how it all goes together, it is fairly easy.

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The swamp tour was also informative. We learned a lot about the Cajun lifestyle, and all about the different types of animals and plants that call the swamps home. Unfortunately, because it was too cold, we didn’t not see any alligators, but the scenery made up for it. It helped that our tour guide pulled out a surprise baby alligator for everyone to hold!

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When we arrived in New Orleans, we quickly found out that Mardi Gras season was starting soon, on the night of Epiphany. We had no idea, and we did not plan it that way. The events started with a Joan of Arc parade, for her 606th birthday. Joan of Arc was known as the Maid of Orleans (France.)

We got good spots for the parade right in front of the St. Louis Cathedral, where we watched the blessing of Joan’s sword. The parade ended at the other end of Jackson Square, where everyone took part in eating the first King Cake of Mardi Gras. We of course had to join in on the revelry. Later that night, we saw fireworks on the river front.

We also found out that New Orleans was founded in 1718, so the city was celebrating their tricentennial. Good timing, right?

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Other highlights consisted of wandering around the French Quarter daily, the Louisiana History museum, and the aquarium. We listened to jazz music almost every night, and of course we stopped for beignets at Cafe Du Monde. We also checked out the garden district and walked around Lafayette Cemetery.

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On our way home, we visited Oak Alley Plantation. It is about an hour west of New Orleans. It was a good way to break up the drive home. Unfortunately, the big house exhibit was closed when we went, but they lowered the admission price which was good of them, and there was still so much to see. (We did peek through the windows and took some photos that way.)

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Winter Storm Inga

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Winter Storm Inga barreled through Texas, and much of the south, a few days ago. It could have very well been rain, but it was timed (not so) perfectly with an arctic front coming through the area. The day started off above freezing, but the temperatures quickly dropped, and with it came the most dangerous form of precipitation – ice.

Schools started announcing closures on Monday evening, including the University of Houston. This was kind of interesting, because this is twice now that school has closed at the beginning of a semester, before for Hurricane Harvey.

When I woke up on Tuesday morning, I looked outside and saw that there was already a coating of ice everywhere. I emailed my boss, and he said to work from home. Thank goodness I was in a position to do that.

There is usually always a bit of uncertainty when it comes to a weather forecast, but Inga lived up to the hype. Roads quickly became ice skating rinks, and that was mixed with periods of snow too.

The Houston Chronicle reported that in a two day period, Houston police responded to nearly 1,000 accidents. Also, weather.com noted that, because of Inga’s contribution to snow in the south, all lower 48 states now have snow cover. Pretty cool!

Thankfully I was off on Wednesday to begin with, and UH closed down for Wednesday too, because the day started off so cold that the ice did not begin to melt until noon. In the middle of the night, Houston was 19 degrees. The last time the temperature was in the teens was 1996!

Also, according to local news channel abc13.com, “It has snowed three times in the winter of 2017-2018, marking the second time in Houston it has snowed three times in one winter. In the winter of 1973, it snowed three times.” (I would personally say, at least for our area, it only snowed twice. The other time was more like a short period of sleet.)

In a few days, it will be 68 degrees. I guess the saying does ring true in some places. If you don’t like the weather, just wait a day!

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Christmas eve in Galveston

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I was off on Christmas eve, and the weather called for a beautiful day – sunny and 68 degrees. Hmm. What could we do? Last year we went out to the park, so I didn’t want to do the same thing. Then I thought, what about Galveston? A winter’s day is the best time to convince (drag) Derek to the beach with me, since he has less of a chance to get burnt. Derek and the strong sun on a beach do not mix.

We did everything on a whim, and we ended up getting lucky a few times. For instance, we arrived about a half hour before the shops on the Strand opened, so I suggested walking to the pier. There, we saw a pod of dolphins!

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After that, we moseyed on back to the Strand, and made our way through the shops. At about 10:25, I suggested to go to LaKing’s Confectionery for coffees. When we got there, we saw a sign that said the next taffy pull demonstration would be at 10:30!

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We enjoyed the Christmas decorations, and took some Christmas type photos of our own with props that we brought with us.

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The last lucky thing of the day was happening upon a sandman!

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We both had a great day. Perhaps we can make this a new Christmas tradition?

USS Texas

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The USS Texas is located in the same spot as the San Jacinto Monument and battlefield, so we combined both attractions in one day. Here is the link to my post about the battlefield and monument. https://texastalesblog.wordpress.com/2017/12/28/san-jacinto-monument-and-battlefield/

The USS Texas was in service in both WWI and WWII. The USS Texas is the only remaining battleship that participated in both wars.

I really didn’t know what to expect about the USS Texas, but I was surprised in a good way. Even though a lot of the ship is blocked off because of restorations, we still felt like we had reign of most of the ship. Exploring all over is encouraged. We were going up and down hall ways, getting lost around corners, and going up and down all sorts of stair cases.

My favorite was seeing the beds, (yikes, couldn’t have been that comfortable sleeping) the soda fountain, and just other aspects of their daily life such as the barber shop and the dentist. Some of the machine guns on the top deck were steerable, so you could climb on up and aim the guns around!

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San Jacinto Monument and Battlefield

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San Jacinto Battlefield, about 20 miles from where we live, on the outskirts of the city, is the site where Texans won their independence from Mexico on April 21, 1836.

Any time someone found out I was into history, they recommended coming to the site.

The highlight of the battlefield is a large monument, larger than Washington monument in D.C. I guess everything really is BIGGER in Texas.

Driving up to the battlefield, we could see the monument from a few miles away. Derek commented that it was awful that there was so much built up right around it (it is right on the bustling ship channel) but that’s really no different than what you would see at Gettyburg. Once we were on the battlefield inside the park, the ship channel seemed further away.

The battle was a surprise attack and lasted 18 minutes.  The General of the Mexican Army, Santa Anna, was captured. In exchange for his freedom, he signed a treaty recognizing Texas’ independence.

There is a small museum in the base of the monument. Admission is free, but you can pay for extra exhibits and a 20 minute film. We paid to go to the observation level.

Afterwards, we took one of the few trails through the battlefields and found some monuments. The walk would have lasted longer, but being near the ship channel, the mosquitoes were out and we got bitten a lot! After that we stuck to driving around in the car.

It was a good day trip and we learned some more Texas history. It was great that it was so close to the city. After the battlefield we headed on over to the USS Texas, which was right across from the monument. Stay tuned for a post about that.

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This iron spike, found in the ground where Santa Anna camped, may have been used to secure his tent.

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Personal items belonging to Stephen Austin (whom the capitol of Austin, Texas is named after.)

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Personal items belonging to Sam Houston. Houston fought in the battle, and later became the president of the Republic of Texas. When Texas became a state, he served as governor.

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View from the observation floor.

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