I spent a rainy Saturday evening in Dallas with my sister, Joan and my daughter, Lucy strolling the Bishop Arts District. Despite the soggy weather, we were able to explore many of the shops covered in the February TH feature on Bishop Arts, and then some. With its mix of modern and vintage retail wares, casual cafÃ©s and upscale restaurants, and friendly, relaxed ambiance, the Bishop Arts District felt more like Austin to us than Dallas.
But even while seeing the magazine's feature in production, I didnâ€™t realize how much the area has grown in the number of stores and cafes from my last visit five years ago. We were pleasantly surprised to find more contemporary, and even affordable styles at shops such as Ouch! Fashion, as well as the venerable Zolaâ€™s Everyday Vintage, still a cut above with its designer finds (More Pucci than Iâ€™ve ever seen since the â€˜60s!)
Another sign of progress: Joan had dined at Hattieâ€™s a couple of times previously, and never needed a reservation on a weekend evening, so we decided to drop in. By the time we arrived just before 7 p.m., the place was packed, and the host had to regretfully turn people away if they didnâ€™t have reservations. All of the nearby restaurants, including Tillmanâ€™s Roadhouse were quickly filling up, so we walked a few blocks further to CafÃ© Madrid, a longtime Bishop Arts haunt, for tapas. We were astounded by the entrÃ©e-sized portions of Spanish Potato Omelette and Grilled Marinated Chickenâ€”Texas-sized tapas! The calamari was more typically-scaled, but offered in a generous serving, delicately fried and slightly chewy-yet-tender.
Heavy rain cut short our time for more Bishop-hopping, so we headed to the Belmont Hotel, where Lucy and I were staying. I have heard raves about this place from friends whoâ€™ve stayed there, even those who have family in Dallas or are Dallas residents. They all speak of a â€œdoesnâ€™t seem like Dallasâ€ feel, from the hotelâ€™s hillside perch (where youâ€™ll happen to find an excellent view of the downtown skyline), to the curvy pathways and gardens meandering around the suites and the pool area, and the hip-yet-gracious staff. The BarBelmont near the lobby was packed with hotel guests and bar patrons, even more so with the steady rain keeping folks from gathering on the adjacent terrace. I managed to elbow my way in to enjoy a Belmontini and was well-rewarded by the smooth, tart concoction.
Recalling our visit to Bishop Arts earlier, browsing bottles at the Soda Gallery reminded me of an old ad campaign for 7-Up Cola: â€œ7-Up is the UnCola.â€ Based on my weekend, one could make the case for Bishop Arts District and the Belmont Hotel as the â€œUnDallas.â€
I'm hardly a wine connoisseur, during blind tastings in the past, I've invariably preferred the least expensive wines, but when friends suggested we meet Sunday afternoon for drinks at Crù, a wine bar in Austin's Domain shopping center, I was up for the experience. I figured at the very least it would offer a quiet place to talk. I've grown tired of trying to communicate, much less connect, in noisy restaurants and clubs.
Every March, when the SXSW Music Conference comes to Austin, capping off a week of the SXSW Interactive and Film Conferences, the city embraces, and braces for the hordes of attendees and massive traffic snarls in and around downtown. At Texas Highways, with our offices just a stone's throw from the epicenter of downtown, where the conference takes place, and South Congress Avenue, where many free music events occur, we feel the effects of the SXSW tsunami, from press releases touting SXSW-related events to courier delays from our prepress vendor due to the gridlock. Music from the day parties can even be heard in our parking lot. The aural lure combined with sunny, mild spring-like weather can tempt even the most dedicated worker to distraction.
TH reader "Steve" from Liberty Hill just emailed us about Melissa Gaskill's "Trips to Bountiful" in the new April issue (available on newsstands): This is regarding a special wildflower located on the drive route within Melissa's very nice Wildflower Drives story, Steve says. She mentions Park Road 4 off Texas 29 west of Inks lake. Tell readers to be on the lookout for a special variety of Indian blanket that are all red; their ray flowers are not tipped with yellow. There are very few patches of these in western Burnet County. One spectacular patch is located on Texas 29 between the Inks Dam and Park Road 4 to Inks Lake. Look for the big patch located near two small roadside ponds; it is quite dramatic.
The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center's plant database lists the red Indian blanket (Gaillardia amblyodon), also known as maroon blanketflower and red gaillardia.
Tell us about your favorite wildflower finds!
This yearâ€™s April Wildflower Issue, 22 pages of the best of Texasâ€™ spring color, marks my 15th year designing this spectacular feature. One of my biggest challenges each year is in presenting flower photos that are fresh yet timeless, and composing striking image combinations. This could not be possible without the hundreds of photo submissions we receive from photographers throughout the state. Much, if not most of the credit goes to Photo Editor Griff Smith for reviewing all of the submissions and paring them down to just over a hundred. Of these, only 22 were selected for this yearâ€™s feature. The criteria for selection includes such things as whether a particular flower is mentioned on one of the four wildflower drives, the region where the flower was shot, and of course, visual impact, color, and composition.
Although there are a few â€œgo-toâ€ wildflower-photogs we count on year after year to provide stellar flower coverage, Griff and I are always surprised and amazed by the new discoveries we uncoverâ€”photographers whose work graces the wildflower pages for the first time. This year, Steven Schwartzman, Aja Martin, Randy Heisch, and Erik H. Pronske, M.D. (actually, this is his second year) join forces with stalwart WF shooters Richard Reynolds, Tim Fitzharris, Lance Varnell, and Joe Lowery, who provided the front cover image, as he has for many Aprils. And there are some returning WF veteransâ€”welcome back, Wyman Meinzer and Al Braden!
So you think you can shoot? If youâ€™re interested in submitting your wildflower photos to us, start by taking a look at the Photo Guidelines on our website before sending. And please refrain from sending wildflower images featuring babies or other loved ones. In the pages of TH, flowers are the focus!
More photo opps.: Mark your calendar for May 3-9 when the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and Canon join us in presenting an exhibit of Texas-size, larger-than-life wildlflower images from the April issue at the Wildflower Centerâ€™s McDermott Learning Center. Keep checking our website, become a fan on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter for the latest details on this very special event!
Itâ€™s becoming a familiar scenario: A friend comes in from out of town, and I discover a new Austin restaurant. Usually, itâ€™s just a matter of my wanting to try a place Iâ€™d heard about and good timing. Recently, though, when my friend Candy was here for a convention, she came armed with her own recommendation. Of course, this particular friend knows Austin better than I do (although she lives in Victoria now), so it didnâ€™t surprise me. Whatâ€™s more, sheâ€™s a foodie, so I figured her choice would be a good bet.
I give a solid thumbs-up to a City Weekend in Dallas. I'd heard a lot about the new developments in downtown and the nearby Arts District, so I decided to investigate this past weekend. My husband, Randy, and I booked a room at the beautiful new Joule Hotel, a few steps away from the original Neiman Marcus, on Main Street. Downtown Dallas, with its gargoyle-festooned buildings that date to the early 1900s, is still primarily a financial district, but that's gradually changing. Restaurants, clubs, and hotels are drawing more nighttime visitors downtown, imbuing the streets with fresh energy.
Winter wonderlands are hardly clichÃ© in Texas.
Thatâ€™s why drivers freak out when the flurries start to fall. We donâ€™t know how to drive (or walk!) in icy or snowy conditions. Northerners like to laugh when us southerners become incapacitated by the weather, but thatâ€™s like a teen laughing at a baby for not walking more gracefully. They get a LOT more practice with it than we do, so for us, itâ€™s still new.
But despite all that taunting, we have something they donâ€™t when it comes to snow â€“â€“ a child-like awe when even the slightest flake falls. Itâ€™s still magical to us. Or at least more magical.
This week, friends across the state had the chance to experience the snow. Texas Department of Transportationâ€™s Travel Services Section has 12 travel information centers at various entry points across the state. Our friends at the Texarkana, Waskom and Denison travel information centers shared some of their snow photos and stories, so I thought Iâ€™d share.
Waskom travel counselors made use of the ice melt they had on hand and made their own shovels (not like snow shovels are easy to find in Texas!).
â€œMost travelers enjoyed the snow and someone made a snowman on our grounds,â€ says Waskom travel counselor Donna Watson.
Even in our glee, we understand that snow comes with some inconveniences, too.
Waskom Travel Information Center Supervisor Melissa Wilson says, â€œSome of my employees didn't have electricity at their homes. They had to fix their â€˜Texas hairâ€™ at the center.â€
Wilson added, â€œWe've had several Winter Texans say they left their homes, up north, to come to Texas, so they could get away from the snow.â€ One Winter Texan said, â€œIt must have followed them from Pennsylvania."
For that, weâ€™re (sort of) grateful.
By the way, if you have not visited a Texas Travel Information Center, please make a point to stop by. They are informational havens â€“â€“ with sophisticated, and locally-inspired architectural designs â€“â€“ that serve the traveling public. The travel information centers also just happen to be staffed by some of Texasâ€™ best ambassadors.
You can find a list of Texas Travel Information Centers here.