Big Bend National Park – November 2020

Before we officially made the move across country, our good pals Jen and Ian (who also moved from SF to Austin about 6 months before us) asked us if we would join them in Big Bend National Park for a week in November. I never visited before so of course we said YES PLEASE and let them do all the planning. You know how it goes, things book up 6-8 months in advance and especially during COVID everyone wants their fair share of exploring the outdoors, so they jumped on an awesome campsite for part of our travels, and also successfully secured us a two night stay at the newly finished Basecamp Terlingua bubbles 🙂 . Read along to hear how this group of new Texans navigated West Texas!

To break up the trip we decided to spend about 5 hours driving on our first day and stayed in a hotel in Fort Stockton. There wasn’t anything particularly special about this except that we had some of the most bomb dot com Mexican food since we moved. After a fresh night of rest we drove through Marathon down to our campsite at the Rio Grande Village, where we met up with another couple friends. This campsite is the closest one to the actual bend in the Rio Grande river and was definitely a different experience than California camping. Like for example, the wild javalinas (otherwise known as wild hogs), roadrunners and endless amounts of spiders present. One would never hear 2 wild hogs mating in the wild in the redwood forest!

After checking out the visitor center, talking to the rangers and seeing dinosaur fossils on display, we explored the quick trail at the river and were practically in Mexico! There were lots of local folks along the way selling cute art and cold coke-a-colas. I totally got both on our way back as the roadrunner figurine was adorable and as it was hot AF in mid-November, I needed a cold refreshing Mexican coke (which are the best cokes out there IMO).

We also experienced the most breathtaking sunset hike just a short walk from our campsite. It was so nice, John and I did it TWICE.

It was a bit strange to not be able to have a camp fire as we’ve pretty much always done so in California, but we still had a blast and saw the stars like never before! I was actually surprised at how chilly it got because it was very hot earlier. How do people camp here in the spring or summer? I have no idea – but if I were you I would book a fall/winter trip.

The next day we hiked the famous Lost Mine Trail, which is just under 5 miles roundtrip and one of the few moderate options in the park. There are tons of hard and easy hikes, but not a lot of middle of the road options, so this trail has a lot of traffic. We went after breakfast and completed the trail in about 3 hours. I had no idea we were basically hiking to the tip top of the viewing point, so the first 75% of the hike seemed totally normal to me but the top was very steep and a bit nerve wrecking, but once I made it all the way it was so awesome! I am getting better about handling my anxiety around heights and “falling off a mountain top” but each and every hike like this where I push myself outside of my comfort zone only makes me stronger. And like Miley Cyrus sings, “it’s the climb” – both literally and figuratively.

After dinner, we drove off road to see Ernst Tinaja, a geological formation and walk that a Park Ranger told us was a must see for geology lovers. After taking about an hour to actually drive there off road (it was only 6 miles!) John and I ran out to see it RIGHT before the sun went down and man we are so glad we made it happen! We were able to spend about 20 minutes before it was total darkness and another 45 minutes to an hour drive back. If you have a great car for off roading, do it!

It was an incredible day of seeing new things and exploring a whole new side of Texas with our best friends.

After our last night camping we packed up and drove across the park to the famous divide. We had planned to do some light hiking but we got a late start and we didn’t have a lot of food on hand so we opted to save our energy. We still explored tons of rocks and found boundless quartz and rock crystals without having to venture too far out. It was so cool to see upclose and personal.

And after we left the park we drove to Terlingua and made it to our famous bubble!

It was incredible to be able to see the stars and actually capture them with a camera. We used our Canon DSLR via long exposure and had a few great selects.

The town of Terlingua is so cute and small but just the perfect vibe to spend a few night glamping after tent camping in the park. The bubble was interesting, it had a small room outside of the bubble with two doors and a whole system of opening one door and closing the other because if both doors closed, the bubble would deflate. And yep it happened on accident! However, once we figured it out the bubble quickly filled up with air again. It was quite comical but amazing the time we live in.

Our last day was spent exploring Terlingua and Lajitas where we had more delish Mexican food and did some boutique shopping and graveyard exploring before spending the last night in the HOT TUB, drinking wine and watching the stars.

I was a bit sad when we came to the end of our trip out West. I had never experienced West Texas before in my previous life as a Texan. I think it was just so far away from everything at the time, my family didn’t plan trips that way since our relatives were always east of us (being in San Antonio). But I would definitely go back and want to explore more parts of Texas that I’ve never been!

We drove off back towards Austin through Alpine where we got one of the last photos of the Alpine Target. It was demolished a few weeks after our visit because it was found structurally unsafe (eeee!) but at least we got to see it. We decided not to go to Marfa because it was out of the way and our trip was already so long, plus we heard that it’s not much different than Alpine or surrounding areas – it just has this hipster art label and a fake Prada. Maybe one day we will go back and see it, but unless it’s along the way of something else we are doing I don’t think I would go out of my way.

Next on our list is Palo Duro, Sam Houston State Park, Garner State Park and Guadalupe Mountains (and hoping for Carlsbad Caverns if we’re out there). Hoping we can get 1-2 of those off our list by end of year!

I hope you get the chance to explore Big Bend National Park and West Texas at some point in your life, it’s such a unique place and charming vibe. I also threw up some shots into my store so if you’re interested in having a little piece of West Texas in your home ❤

Austintacious

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Austin is hands down my favorite part of Texas. I cherish the time in my life when I went to UT and lived in Austin, I never thought I would leave. I felt very connected to the city because of the unique culture and being the LIVE MUSIC CAPITAL of the country! Being part of the music scene shaped my individuality and made me more confident in myself and how I expressed myself to the outside world. Austin truly is a special place, and while I don’t always get to visit when I am back in Texas as my family resides in Katy/Houston, the times where I get to experience ATX brings me right back to my happy place. 🙂

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We decided to surprise my parents for Thanksgiving this year because they have been through so much with Hurricane Harvey (you can read more about it on my sister’s blog as she documents the process of them rebuilding their home). But before we made our way to Katy, we wanted a night of debauchery all to ourselves in my old stomping ground!

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We stayed off of Town Lake, close to Rainey Street where all the old Victorian homes are converted into bars. It wasn’t John’s first time to Austin, but he loved it more than the previous visit due to the fact that we had moderate temperatures rather than triple digit heat. We had a lovely stroll around Town Lake, made our way to Congress for some delish BBQ, and bar hopped from Dirty 6th over to the East side.

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Dirty 6th is where I used to go out back in my early college days. They call it Dirty 6th because it’s like a smaller version of Bourbon street and can get pretty wild on the weekends full of underage drinkers with fake IDs who can’t handle alcohol, various  bachelorette and bachelor parties from all over, blended in with college students and tourists. It’s a mix of people with cheap drinks and shots with not a lot of rules (i.e. it’s not uncommon to see people casually vomiting and having sex in parking lots. TRUE STORY I SAW THIS ONCE). FUN TIMES! hahahahaha. This is why you have to hangout when it’s not crowded, i.e. during the middle of a Tuesday before a holiday when all of the students are gone.

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Me, chillin’ on the rooftop of one of my favorite spots when I was 21, Maggie Mae’s.

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This might be the cutest dive bar sign I’ve ever seen!

I love vintage inspired neon signs SO MUCH. Since I’ve moved away Austin has definitely stepped up their neon sign game, it’s almost as strong as Portland – which is the King of neon signs. This bar was kinda weird but had a cute sign so I’ll give them that 🙂

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We always walk pretty much everywhere when we are on vacation. We enjoy exploring neighborhoods, stopping for a drink or two along the way, and exploring things you might miss out on if you just took a car. People also don’t walk in Texas so we def got a lot of looks – but I NEED TO HIT MY STEPS, dammit!

Shangri-La is my favorite bar and I HAVE to go every time I’m in the city. I love the hodgepodge of furniture, beautiful light fixtures, and quirky patio and vibe (I swear I would live on the East side if I was still there). I will never get over how cheap it is to drink in Austin compared to SF – let’s just say happy hour in Austin is around $3-4 a drink while in SF it can be $5-7 ($7 for HH WTF?!). Also – NEVER FORGET to photodocument your memories when a photo booth pops up.

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Later on in the night we met up with my niece (who is pre-med at St. Edward’s) and had a BOMB DOT COM Mexican feast at El Borrego. I normally frequent Polvo’s when I’m in town, but the wait was just insane and I honestly think the food at ELB was better (while the ambiance at Polvo’s is nicer, so depending on what you are going for it’s a toss up).

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After dinner we made our way to Rainey street for some delicious local beers and donuts, before calling it a night. We opted for breakfast tacos from Juan in a Million in the morning prior to our journey to Houston, which was so effing delish OMGEEE. I always talk up breakfast tacos so much to John, and as a California dude he has never understood the hype, always preferring burritos. This time he ate his words (literally) and agreed that breakfast tacos are where it’s at, and we need them STAT in SF (howww do we not already?!).

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You’re Juan in a millionnnnnnnn! (I always hear that song from Miss Congeniality when I see this sign).

Austin, it was a blast like always! I will always love you, my first love ❤ but there was a Thanksgiving feast waiting for us in Houston so we had to say goodbye. Don’t hate us, k??

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Houston, We Have A Problem

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We had a blast with family while we stayed in Houston over the holidays. While my family lives in the Katy area, John and I stayed at the cutest Airbnb apartment in Montrose and explored so many places I’ve never been, including THEE BEST BBQ that John and I have ever had at Midtown BBQ. TALK ABOUT BRISKET CITY! We also enjoyed the most DELISH burgers from the Burger Joint. I’ve lived in California for 9 years and I can say that burgers (and BBQ tbh) in Texas are WAY BETTER, there is no discussion – thanks!

Why stop at BBQ and burgers when you can stuff your face even more with TEX MEX?! The original Ninfa’s on Navigation did NOT disappoint. I swear every time I go to Texas I end up gaining 10 pounds from the heavy food and lack of exercise! #itsworthitthough #foodforever #nomnom #quesofordayzzz One of my favorite memories was of John getting his combo plate, which came with a crispy taco, and him saying “is this why you like Taco Bell so much? Because you grew up eating crispy tacos?” ROFL – Californians…. (Probably a good time to declare my deep love for Taco Bell as well) 😉

IMG_9424.jpgIs that Jesus, coming eat some Tex-Mex?!

The Houston museum district is one of the top 3 of the country because they get exhibits that won’t reach the rest of the US, like the Degas exhibit we saw at the MFAH. I love how all of the museums are close together, scattered throughout the park among the abundant water fountains. (SRSLY thought there are like 10 water fountains within 4 blocks). The last time I brought John home a couple years ago, we actually saw an off-Broadway version of Best Little Whorehouse in Texas under the stars in the park at the museum district… ❤ memories!

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Another thing we did was check out the HOUSTON SPACE CENTER because *ahem cough cough* JOHN WILL BE WORKING FOR NASA starting at the end of this month!! In the Bay Area location of course. MY BF IS A SCIENTIST Y’ALL! And since he had never been to the space center prior, we made a trip of it with my sisters and my youngest niece and nephew. But MAKE SURE you get the timed tickets online prior to your visit, it saves you HOURS upon hours of waiting for the tours. #impatientashell

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Houston, you are very diverse and pretty cool. Until we come back again! Over and out ❤

A Night In San Antonio

15622143_10108750468986880_5549738964464900180_nI grew up for most of my life in San Antonio (despite the time we lived in Ohio for 4 years) but since I’ve been living in California, my parents moved to be closer to my sisters in the Katy/Houston area. I haven’t been to San Antonio in about 5 years and John has never been, so when we decided to go to Texas for the holidays I made the executive decision to spend a night in San Antonio and have a good ole classic night on the Riverwalk for Christmas. It’s SO BEAUTIFUL during the holidays if you haven’t been I suggest you visit during this time because it’s a #win.

We stayed at the haunted Emily Morgan hotel, which is on the list of top 10 haunted hotels in America. While we didn’t see anything too crazy, I did have crazy dreams about Santa Anna and Mexico City, and my sister’s TV went on and off in her room! (Emily Morgan is also the name of the Yellow Rose of Texas, who was also a lover of Santa Anna. AND MY NAME IS EMILY!!! Coincidence much?!!) The hotel is next door to the Alamo, which is a quick and free visit and amazing way to explore Texas history. (You can see the Emily Morgan hotel in the background next to the flag. I mean it just looks scary AF, right?! I wish I got a picture of the creepy gargoyles up close but I forgot. OOOPS).

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You can buy beers and margaritas from the BierGarten once you are in the Riverwalk and walk around with them and explore, which is nice because I like to drink my booze and multitask. We had some chips and queso at Casa Rio (my favorite Mexican on the Riverwalk) which felt amazing because you can’t get good queso in California (this is a fact and not an opinion). Then we rode a boat just as it got dark to watch the beautiful lights and point out scenes from where they filmed the movie Selena (A FAN FAVORITE IN THIS HOUSE!). But beware, if you wait too long the line is insane. Also there can be a lot of screaming children so you have been warned…

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Afterwards, we headed to the Pearl area to explore some bars, mostly the rooftop bar at Paramour, and walked around the new developing artsy part of the Riverwalk which was 100% awesome and something I’ve never done before. My favorite was the goldfish art exhibit under the freeway because they light up at night and were so pretty.

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After a night of eating and drinking and crazy dreams, we woke up and ate big ass breakfast tacos from Taco Haven, a San Antonio institution. It was a short trip, but better than not going at all! I love you San Antonio! Until next time…

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