5 small Texas towns you must visit

Experience Southern gentility and hospitality in these small Texas towns. Each one has a unique heritage forged by its location and history.

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Experience Southern gentility and hospitality in these small Texas towns. Each one has a unique heritage forged by its location and history

Antique shops, independent boutiques, wine tasting, and water sports are some of the activities they have in store for visitors. These towns are fantastic for all kinds of trips, from a romantic weekend getaway to a family road trip.

Discover a new side to Texas!

German-Texan heritage in Gruene    

Gruene is a gem of a town located roughly halfway between Austin and San Antonio, in the Texas Hill Country. Gruene, pronounced “green,” was first settled by German farmers in the 1840s. the Gruene family introduced cotton farming, which brought prosperity to the area. Some fine examples of late Victorian architecture still stand, like the Gruene Mansion or Gruene House, both Bed and Breakfasts now. Gruene was included in the National Register of Historic Places in 1975, which allowed it to retain an authentic turn-of-the-century look and feel.   

Antique stores, boutiques, art galleries, and a general store line the streets of Gruene. In addition, the town boasts the oldest continually operating dance hall in Texas, Gruene Hall, built in 1878. Another landmark is The Gristmill Restaurant, built in the shell of an 1878 cotton mill and has beautiful views of the Guadalupe River down below. In summer, people can rent tubing, stand-up paddle boarding, and kayaking equipment and go on the nearby Guadalupe and Comal rivers.  

19th century charm in Jefferson

Jefferson, once a bustling river port, now radiates Southern grace. The town was founded in the 1840s in Northeastern Texas. Jefferson is about 170 miles east of Dallas and less than an hour from the Louisiana border. Thanks to a giant log jam on the Red River, the water level of the Caddo Lake and Red Rover rose by several feet. This enabled commercial navigation to Jefferson from places as far as St. Louis and New Orleans along the Mississippi. The town flourished until 1873, when the Army Corps of Engineers blew up the log jam, considered a navigational hazard, thus lowering the water levels and making riverboat traffic no longer viable.

Many of the Victorian mansions were converted into Bed and Breakfasts. Jefferson has more registered historic buildings than anywhere in Texas, as well as the state’s oldest working hotel. The Excelsior House Hotel dates from 1858 and has had distinguished guests like Oscar Wilde or Ulysses S. Grant. Jefferson is said to be haunted, so visitors can learn all about local legends during a ghost walk. The Jefferson General Store, from 1879, is a must-visit. To take a break from so much history, swamp tours, canoeing, and fishing are available at the Caddo Lake close by.

Antique shops, independent boutiques, wine tasting, and water sports are some of the activities they have in store. These towns are fantastic for all kinds of trips, from a romantic weekend getaway to a family road trip. #Texas #travel

Historic Granbury

Granbury lies on the shores of Lake Granbury in North Central Texas. It all started when Tennessee emigrants came to settle on the Brazos River in 1854. Elizabeth Crockett, the widow of Davy Crockett, also settled here, on land given to the heirs of those who fought in the Texas Revolution of 1836. The settlement grew, and, in 1887, the Fort Worth and Rio Grande Railway connected Granbury with other towns.

Elizabeth Crockett also has her own statue at the Elizabeth Crocket State Historic Park, the smallest state park in Texas. Among other landmarks are the Historic Railroad Depot of 1914 or the Brazos Drive-In Theater from 1952, which is Texas’ longest continually running drive-in theater. The Hood County Courthouse, a three-story limestone building from 1890-1, dominates the square. The surrounding buildings, many of which are also registered historic landmarks, house boutiques, antique stores, and art galleries, among other businesses. The annual Granbury Wine Walk takes place in and around the square and features local wines, food, and art. Where to stay? In a Victorian B&B, where else!  

Marble Falls, the heart of the Hill Country

Marble Falls is nestled among rolling hills, vineyards, and lakes in Central Texas. Marble Falls Lake is within walking distance of the Historic Downtown area and provides a welcome respite from all that walking and shopping and visiting art galleries. Art features prominently in Marble Falls. Its main street is lined with sculptures, and the annual Sculpture on Main Fest showcases the best local artists. There are plenty of eating and drinking establishments, but one stands out: the Blue Bonnet Café. This café has been serving homestyle pies since 1929 and still draws big crowds. Be prepared to wait.

Marble Falls is surrounded by wonderful places to enjoy nature that are very close. Locals and visitors go boating, kayaking, and fishing at Inks and Buchanan lakes. Would-be speleologists should take a guided cave tour of the Longhorn Cavern. The Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge preserves the habitat of endangered songbirds. Enchanted Rock is a colossal pink granite dome that people can climb or enjoy from a distance. The star of the Pedernales Falls State Park is the Pedernales River, which flows over massive limestone slabs and can turn into a raging torrent in the blink of an eye, as flash floods are common in the Hill Country.

Sulphur Springs’ revitalized downtown area

Sulphur Springs is in Northeast Texas, about 80 miles from Dallas. Its name comes from the now dried-up sulfurous water springs and it was settled in the 1850s. The advent of the railroad in 1872 gave the small town an economic boost. Later, in the mid-twentieth century, the dairy industry became a major component of the local economy. However, it started to decline in the late 90s, along with the town’s fortunes.

Recently, the town’s authorities started a process of revitalization of the downtown area, though. Behind colorful storefronts are independent boutiques, restaurants, and bars, among other businesses. Every façade has been restored to its past splendor. And the trees that line the streets provide welcome shade in the hotter months. The town square, also newly revamped, includes the Romanesque Revival courthouse (built in 1894-5), a very moving veteran memorial and a splash pad in the shape of the Lone Star. However, the biggest attraction are the glass public toilets. Not to worry! They are covered in one-way mirrors that reflect the light and blend in with the surroundings. 

Experience Southern gentility and hospitality in these small Texas towns. Each one has a unique heritage forged by its location and history
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5 pueblos texanos que no te podés perder

Viví la elegancia y la hospitalidad sureñas en estos pequeños pueblos de Texas. Cada uno tiene un patrimonio único forjado gracias a su ubicación e historia

Negocios de antigüedades, boutiques independientes, catas de vino y deportes acuáticos son algunas de las actividades que tienen reservadas para los visitantes. Estos pueblos son fantásticos para todo tipo de viajes, desde una escapada romántica de fin de semana hasta un road trip en familia.

Descubrí una cara diferente de Texas.

Herencia alemana en Gruene


Gruene es una belleza pueblerina ubicada aproximadamente a medio camino entre Austin y San Antonio, en el Texas Hill Country. Gruene, pronunciado “green“, fue colonizado por primera vez por agricultores alemanes en la década de 1840. La familia Gruene introdujo el cultivo del algodón, que a su vez trajo prosperidad a la zona. Todavía quedan algunos buenos ejemplos de la arquitectura victoriana tardía, como la Mansión Gruene o la Casa Gruene, ambos convertidos en Bed and Breakfast. Gruene fue incluido en el Registro Nacional de Lugares Históricos en 1975, lo que le permitió conservar su aspecto y ambiente auténticos de principios de siglo.

Tiendas de antigüedades, boutiques, galerías de arte y un almacén general pueblan las calles de Gruene. Además, el pueblo cuenta con el salón de baile más antiguo de Texas en uso continuado, Gruene Hall, construido en 1878. Otro hito es The Gristmill Restaurant, construido en las ruinas de una fábrica de algodón de 1878 y tiene hermosas vistas del río Guadalupe. En verano, la gente puede alquilar flotantes, stand-up paddles y kayaks e ir a los ríos cercanos Guadalupe y Comal.

Elegancia victoriana en Jefferson

Jefferson, que alguna vez fue un bullicioso puerto fluvial, ahora irradia encanto sureño. La ciudad fue fundada en la década de 1840 en el noreste de Texas. Jefferson está a unas 170 millas al este de Dallas y a menos de una hora de la frontera con Luisiana. Gracias a un atasco de troncos gigante en el Red River, el nivel del agua del lago Caddo y del Red Rover aumentó varios metros. Esto permitió la navegación comercial a Jefferson desde lugares tan lejanos como St. Louis y Nueva Orleans a lo largo del Mississippi. La ciudad floreció hasta 1873, cuando el Cuerpo de Ingenieros del Ejército hizo estallar el atasco de troncos, considerado un peligro para la navegación, reduciendo así los niveles de agua y haciendo inviable el tráfico fluvial.

Muchas de las mansiones victorianas se convirtieron en Bed and Breakfasts. Jefferson tiene más edificios históricos registrados que en cualquier lugar de Texas, así como el hotel en funcionamiento más antiguo del estado. El Excelsior House Hotel data de 1858 y alojó pasajeros distinguidos como Oscar Wilde o el presidente Ulysses S. Grant. Se dice que Jefferson está embrujado, por lo que los visitantes pueden aprender todo sobre las leyendas locales durante una caminata guiada nocturna. La Jefferson General Store, de 1879, es una visita obligada. Para tomar un descanso de tanta historia, en el cercano lago Caddo se pueden realizar recorridos por los pantanos, hacer kayak y pescar.

Viví la elegancia y la hospitalidad sureñas en estos pequeños pueblos de Texas. Cada uno tiene un patrimonio único forjado gracias a su ubicación e historia. #Texas #viajes #EstadosUnidos

Raíces revolucionarias en Granbury

Granbury se encuentra a orillas del lago Granbury, en el centro-norte de Texas. Todo comenzó cuando unos pioneros oriundos de Tennessee llegaron a establecerse en el río Brazos en 1854. Elizabeth Crockett, la viuda de Davy Crockett (quien luchó en la Batalla del Alamo contra fuerzas mexicanas), también se instaló aquí. Esas tierras fueron entregadas a los herederos de quienes lucharon en la Revolución de Texas de 1836. El asentamiento creció, y, en 1887, el ferrocarril de Fort Worth y Rio Grande llegó a conectar Granbury con otras ciudades.

Elizabeth Crockett tiene su propia estatua en el Parque Histórico Estadual Elizabeth Crocket, el más pequeño de Texas. Entre otros lugares de interés, se encuentran el histórico Railroad Depot de 1914 o el Brazos Drive-In Theatre de 1952, que es el autocine más antiguo de Texas en funcionamiento continuo. El Palacio de Justicia del Condado de Hood, un edificio de piedra caliza de tres pisos de 1890-1, domina la plaza. Los edificios circundantes, muchos de los cuales también son monumentos históricos registrados, alojan boutiques, anticuarios y galerías de arte, entre otros negocios. El Granbury Wine Walk anual se lleva a cabo dentro y alrededor de la plaza y presenta vinos, comida y artesanías locales. ¿Donde alojarse? En un B&B victoriano, ¿dónde más?

Marble Falls, en el corazón del Hill Country

Marble Falls está ubicado entre colinas, viñedos y lagos en el centro de Texas. Marble Falls Lake se encuentra a poca distancia a pie del área del centro histórico. El parque junto al lago ofrece un respiro de tanto caminar, ir de compras y visitar galerías de arte. El arte ocupa un lugar destacado en Marble Falls. Su calle principal está llena de esculturas, y el festival anual de esculturas Main Fest exhibe a los mejores artistas locales. Hay muchos establecimientos para comer y beber, pero se destaca el Blue Bonnet Café. Este café sirve pastelería casera desde 1929 y atrae a grandes multitudes. Preparate para esperar un buen rato en la vereda.

Marble Falls está rodeado de lugares maravillosos para disfrutar de la naturaleza y que se encuentran muy cerca. Los lugareños y visitantes salen a andar en bote y kayak y pescar en los lagos Inks y Buchanan. Los aspirantes a espeleólogos deberían realizar una visita guiada a las cuevas de Longhorn Cavern. El Refugio Nacional de Vida Silvestre Balcones Canyonlands preserva el hábitat de aves en peligro de extinción. Enchanted Rock es una colosal cúpula de granito rosa que la gente puede escalar o disfrutar desde lejos. La estrella del Parque Estadual Pedernales Falls es el río Pedernales, que fluye sobre enormes losas de piedra caliza y puede convertirse en un torrente furioso en un abrir y cerrar de ojos, ya que las inundaciones repentinas son comunes en el Hill Country.

Sulphur Springs y su centro modernizado

Sulphur Springs se encuentra en el noreste de Texas, a unas 80 millas de Dallas. Su nombre proviene de los manantiales de agua sulfurosa, que ahora están secos, y se estableció en la década de 1850. La llegada del ferrocarril en 1872 dio a la pequeña ciudad un fuerte impulso económico. Más tarde, a mediados del siglo XX, la industria láctea se convirtió en un componente importante de la economía local. Sin embargo, comenzó a declinar a finales de los ’90, junto con la fortuna de la ciudad.

Sin embargo, hace poco, las autoridades del pueblo iniciaron un proceso de revitalización del centro de la ciudad. Detrás de coloridos vidrieras se encuentran boutiques independientes, restaurantes y bares, entre otros. Cada fachada ha sido restaurada a su antiguo esplendor. Los árboles que bordean las calles brindan una agradable sombra en los meses más calurosos. La plaza del pueblo, también recientemente renovada, incluye el palacio de justicia, de estilo renacentista románico (construido en 1894-5), un monumento a los veteranos muy conmovedor y una fuente con la forma de la Estrella Solitaria, el símbolo de Texas. Sin embargo, la mayor atracción son los baños públicos de vidrio. ¡No es para preocuparse! Están cubiertos de espejos unidireccionales que reflejan la luz y se mimetizan con el entorno.

Jefferson Boulevard, a historic shopping street in Dallas

Jefferson Boulevard is one of the few historic shopping streets in Dallas.

If you want to experience a neighbourhood feel, come to Oak Cliff. A short distance from downtown Dallas, yet the atmosphere feels like it is a million miles away.

According to the Texas State Historical Association, there was a community south of the River Trinity by 1845. In 1887, two developers, one of whom was Thomas L. Marsalis, bought land there including that community. Their idea was to create an elite residential area and vacation resort.

Jefferson Boulevard is one of the few historic shopping streets in Dallas.

It went well until the economic depression of 1893. By 1900, middle- and working-class families had bout subdivided plots. An independent district thus far, Oak Cliff voted for the annexation to Dallas in 1903 due to the area’s depressed economy. 

Oak Cliff is made up of many different neighbourhoods, like the trendy Bishop Arts District or the historic Winnetka Heights. However, I am going to focus on Jefferson Boulevard.

My first impression was that Jefferson Boulevard is the hub of the Mexican American community. Many businesses cater to their needs, like a panadería (bakery) or stores that sell quinceañera and wedding gowns. Most signs are bilingual. There is a cluster of brightly painted storefronts on the Texas Theater end of the boulevard that I find particularly attractive. Unfortunately, at the time of writing (December 2020), I noticed that a few stores stood empty.

Jefferson Boulevard is one of the few historic shopping streets in Dallas.
The Jefferson Tower

I enjoy walking along Jefferson Boulevard. It has a neighbourhood feel that is hard to find in other areas. It looks unspoiled by modernity. It lacks the pretentiousness that other parts of Dallas like to flaunt. Here, you can relax and be you.

One of the landmarks on Jefferson Boulevard in the Jefferson Tower. Built in 1928, it was the first high-rise on Oak Cliff and it still dominates the boulevard. I love its striking Art Deco architectural features.

The other landmark is the Texas Theater, opened in 1931. Although it was Dallas’ first air-conditioned theater, it became famous for being the place where Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested on 22 November 1963.

Jefferson Boulevard is one of the few historic shopping streets in Dallas.
The Texas Theater

The Oak Cliff Cultural Center is right next door. Although it is now closed until further notice due to the pandemic, it holds art exhibitions from various local artists, both established and up-and-coming. I interviewed two of the artists for the Dallas Observer last year.

Jefferson Boulevard is one of the last original shopping streets in Dallas. Its architecture, from the 1920s and 30s and mid-20th century, remains more or less intact. It is pedestrian-friendly, another feature hard to find in the city, and there is lots of parking. What more do you need?

Jefferson Boulevard is one of the few historic shopping streets in Dallas.
Jefferson Boulevard is one of the few historic shopping streets in Dallas.

Texas Hill Country road trip

“The soul of a journey is liberty, a perfect liberty, to think, feel, do just as one pleases. We go on a journey chiefly to be free of all impediments and of all inconveniences.” William Hazlitt (1778-1830), On Going a Journey

“El alma de un viaje es la libertad, la libertad perfecta, de pensar, sentir, hacer lo que a uno le plazca. Vamos de viaje principalmente para liberarnos de todo tipo de impedimentos e inconvenientes.” William Hazlitt (1778-1830)

I think that a road trip embodies Hazlitt’s sentiments. We decide where to go, where and when to stop. Having our own transport gives us the liberty to do as we please. We leave behind the trappings and drudgery of daily life and go in search of adventure

The Texas Hill Country provides that sense of adventure that is missing from our 9-to-5 life. Get out of your (home) office and hit the road. Take a road trip around the Texas Hill Country and come back home renewed and refreshed.

My husband and I have done may road trips in the Texas hill Country. We love the slower pace of life of small towns and the friendliness of the locals. Each town we’ve visited has a distinctive feature that sets it apart, like San Saba, the self-styled Pecan Capital of the World, or Hico, whose motto is Where Everybody is Somebody!

Here’s some of the things what you can see and do in the Hill Country.

Best time to visit

My personal preference is the early spring, when the bluebonnets and other beautiful Texas wildflowers are out in full bloom. I also love the fall for its gorgeous colours and the cooler weather.   

Texas Hill Country road trip

Hico

Hico was incorporated in 1883. Its historic downtown bears witness to the town’s heyday as a cattle and cotton market. Plate-glass windows, cast-iron support, colourful facades, brick and stone adorn the old buildings that line the streets. Most businesses cater to the tourist trade, which is the main industry along with ranching.

The figure of Billy the Kid dominates the town. There is a fiberglass statue (1987), which to me looks like made with dripping wet sand. And there’s the Billy the Kid Museum, which intends to prove that he didn’t die in New Mexico but escaped and live out his life in Hico. If you’re a fan of conspiracy theories, fill your boots.

Texas Hill Country road trip

Look out for the vintage and new murals that adorn the downtown area, and the historic watering trough (1914) for horses and dogs.

We ate good barbeque and sides at Po Campo.  

Llano

Llano styles itself the Deer Capital of Texas. The hunting season is November-December, and hunters are welcome here. Llano, which is Spanish for plains, was founded in 1855 on its namesake river. The Inks Bridge (1936) and the Llano County Courthouse (1893) are two of the town’s landmarks.

Head to Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que (yes, that’s a mouthful) to enjoy some of the most delicious Teas barbeque around.

San Saba

San Saba was founded in 1854 and got its name from the San Saba River. The town calls itself the Pecan Capital of the World. True or not, you’ll find many businesses that sell and buy pecans from the area’s orchards.

Texas Hill Country road trip

The downtown area is spread along one street, where you’ll find the Texas Renaissance style County Courthouse and businesses like Harry’s Boots and Hats. We always stay at the Dofflemyer Hotel and eat at Pepperbelly’s Mexican restaurant. Our favourite place for breakfast is Donut City (204 Commerce St.) Their kolaches are to die for.

Among the activities you can do in San Saba are wine tasting at Wedding Oak Winery, visit the actual Wedding Oak Tree (an ancient oak tied to local Indian lore), or have a stroll around Mill Pond Park.

Longhorn Cavern State Park

Although the Longhorn Cavern isn’t very old as a geological formation, it has a fascinating human history. It is said that the Comanche Indians came down there to mine a type of local flint, Confederate soldiers used the guano from the bats to make powder (a thriving industry in Texas at the time), it was used as a night club -or speakeasy-, and lastly, it was used as a nuclear shelter during the Cold War.

You can do the walking tour or the wild cave tour. We opted for the less adventurous option. I don’t like enclosed spaces and my husband is too tall to fit in some of the tunnels.

Texas Hill Country road trip

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, you’re supposed to make an online reservation if you want to go to any state park. We did not make a reservation at any of them. So, day after we visited the cavern, we took a chance and returned to the Longhorn Cavern State Park. There was hardly anyone around. We did a short, easy hike which suited us very well.

If you go, do stop at the Longhorn Cavern lookout on Route 4. The views are really worth it. Bring a picnic.

Pedernales Falls State Park

The Pedernales River flows placidly over and around limestone slabs that create pools and falls. We did some light trekking along the river to the limestone formations. It is a wonderful place to be. If you go swimming, keep an eye on the water. If it starts to rise o gets muddy, run. Flash floods are very common.   

Texas Hill Country road trip

Creo que un road trip encarna las ideas de Hazlitt. Uno decide adónde ir y cuándo y dónde parar. El transporte propio nos da la libertad de hacer lo que nos plazca. Dejamos atrás las monotonía de la vida diaria y salimos a la aventura.

La región central de Texas, conocida como Hill Country, nos da esa sensación de aventura que nos falta en nuestra vida de 9:00 a 18:00. Al salir de la oficina o escritorio en casa y recorrer el Hill Country renueva las energías.

Mi marido y yo hemos hecho varios road trips por el Texas Hill Country. Nos encanta el ritmo lento del campo y la cordialidad de la gente del lugar. Cada pueblo tiene un rasgo distintivo, como San Saba, la autoproclamada capital mundial de la nuez pecan; o Hico, cuyo lema es Donde todos son alguien.

Estas son algunos de los lugares para visitar en el Hill Country

La mejor época para ir

A mí me encanta el principio de la primavera, cuando florecen los bluebonnets y otras flores silvestres de Texas. También adoro el otoño por sus colores y temperaturas cómodas.

Texas Hill Country road trip

Hico

Hico fue fundado en 1883. Su casco histórico da cuenta de su pasado como mercado ganadero y algodonero. Vidrieras, rejas de hierro forjado, fachadas coloridas o de ladrillo adornan las edificaciones antiguas. Hoy, la mayoría d elos negocios están orientados al turismo, las mayor indutria local junto con la ganadería.

La figura de Billy the Kid domina el pueblo.Hay una estatua de fibra de vidrio de 1987, que parece que la hubieran hecho con arena mojada. El Museo de Billy the Kid intenta probar que el bandolero no murió en Nuevo México, sino que se instaló en Hico. Si te gustan las teorías conspirativas, no te lo pierdas.

Texas Hill Country road trip

Hay varios murales, antiguos y modernos en el casco histórico. También un bebedero de 1914 para caballos y perros.

Almorzamos en Po Campo una rica barbeque con guarniciones.

Llano

Llano se autodenomina la Capital Texana del Ciervo. La temporada de caza es en noviembre y diciembre y los cazadores son boienvenidos acá. Llano fue fundado en 1855 sobre el río del mismo nombre. El puente Inks (1936) y el Palacio de Justicia del Condado de Llano (1893) son dos de sus atracciones.

Comimos la mejor barbeque texana en Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que. Muy recomendable.

San Saba

San Saba fue fundado en 1854 y tomó el nombre del río que lo cruza. El pueblo se autodenomina capital mundial de la nuez pecan. Sea o no verdad, vas ver mayoristas que venden y compran nueces de los huertos de la zona.

Texas Hill Country road trip

La zona céntrica consiste en una avenida, sobre la que se encuentran el palacio de justicia de estilo renacentista texano y negocios como Harry’s Boots and Hats. Siempre q nos alojamos en el hotel Dofflemyer y cenamos en el restaurante mexicano Pepperbelly’s. Nuestro lugar preferido para desayunar es Donut City. Los kolaches son una manjar.

Entre la actividades apra ahcer en San Saba se encuentran la cata de vino en Wedding Oak Winery, visitar el Wedding Oak, un roble antiguo con leyendas indias o pasear por el Mill Pond Park.

Longhorn Cavern State Park

Sin bien la caverna Longhorn no es una formación geológica muy antigua, tiene una historia humana fascinante. Se dice que los comanches extraían una tipo de pedernal, los soldados confederados hacían pólvora con el guano de los murciélagos (industria pujante en esa época en Texas), la usaron como nightclub y, por último, como refugio nuclear durante la Guerra Fría.

Hay dos opciones para visitar la caverna:walking tour (caminata) o wild cave tour. Nosotros hicimos la caminta porque mi marido es alto y no iba a caber en ciertos pasadizos. Además a mí me hubiera dado claustrofobia.

Texas Hill Country road trip

Debido a las restricciones por el covid-19, hay que reservar online para entrar a los parques estaduales. No hicimos ninguna reserva y nos quedamos afuera. Entonces volvimos al Longhorn Cavern State Park al día siguiente. No había casi nadie. Hiicmos una caminata corta y facilonga que nos vino bien.

Paramos en el mirador sobre la Ruta 4. Las vistas son muy linda. Ideal para hacer un picnic.

Pedernales Falls State Park

El rio Pedernales fluye tranquilo entre bloques de piedra caliza que forman piletones y cascadas. Hicimos una linda caminata hacia estas formaciones de piedra caliza. Es un lugar precioso. Si vas a nadar, cuidado con las crecidas repentinas. Si el agua comienza a subir o se pone turbia, a salir del agua.

Texas Hill Country road trip

Regency Bridge, the last suspension bridge of Texas

Regency Bridge is the last suspension bridge open to motor traffic in Texas. It straddles the Colorado River in the Texas Hill Country.

You wouldn’t normally associate Texas with suspension bridges, would you? Actually, there are a couple of those bridges in the Hill Country and they’re both in San Saba: Beveridge Bridge and Regency Bridge.  

Regency Bridge is also known as the “Swinging Bridge” because is sways. I don’t know about you, but the idea terrifies me. When we went to see the bridge, my husband walked half-way along without batting an eyelid. I, on the other hand, was petrified because I have a fear to heights. My legs refused to go beyond the steel tower. I had to zoom in to take pictures of my husband on the bridge.

Oh, and the wind blowing through the steel cables makes an eerie sound.

Regency Bridge is the last suspension bridge open to motor traffic in Texas. It straddles the Colorado River in the Texas Hill Country.
The Colorado River

The history of the Regency Bridge

Regency Bridge straddles the Colorado River and connects the counties of San Saba and Mills. Although it’s been bypassed by paved farm roads, the bridge was vital for farmers and ranchers for going to market.

The first bridge was built in 1903, but it collapsed in 1924. According to local records, a boy, a horse, and some cattle died as a result. The bridge was rebuilt but was washed away by a flood in 1936. A crew of workers rebuilt the bridge in 1939.  It was repaired since then, with the latest facelift being in 2014.

Regency Bridge has one lane and is located at the intersection of San Saba Country Road 137 and Mills County Road 433. It’s near a tiny community named Regency.

Approach

Bridge specs

The bridge’s overall length, including both approaches, is 403 feet. The main span in 343 feet long between towers.

The wooden deck is 16 feet wide.

It’s a cable suspension bridge supported by permanent abutment towers. The cables are anchored to the ground into concrete behind each welded steel tower.

The cables are 3 ¼” in diameter are consist of 475 strands of No. 9 gauge galvanized wire.

The wooden roadway is supported on timber stringers and steel floor beams hung from steel suspension rods.

Regency Bridge is the last suspension bridge open to motor traffic in Texas. It straddles the Colorado River in the Texas Hill Country.

Regency Bridge is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s the last suspension bridge open to motor traffic in Texas.

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Regency Bridge is the last suspension bridge open to motor traffic in Texas. It straddles the Colorado River in the Texas Hill Country.

Jorge Luis Borges in Austin, where the poet was a visiting professor

Jorge Luis Borges in Austin: a visit to the University of Texas at Austin campus where the celebrated Argentinean poet was a visiting professor.


Professors from the University of Austin organize a picnic on the grounds of the Texas State Capitol in Austin. The center of attention is Jorge Luis Borges, the celebrated Argentinean poet, professor, essayist and short-story writer.

Later, helped by Professor Marta Luján, also from Argentina, Borges, almost blind by then, reads with his hand the carved reliefs of the building in an intimate act of communication.

Jorge Luis Borges in Austin: a visit to the University of Texas at Austin campus where the celebrated Argentinean poet was a visiting professor.
Texas State Capitol

Jorge Luis Borges in Austin

Visiting professor at UT

Borges came to Austin several times. The first time was in 1961-62, when he came as a visiting professor to the University of Texas under the auspices of the Tinker Visiting Professorship in Spanish, which aims to bring Latin American writers to certain US houses of study.

That semester, he gave two courses: an overview of Argentine poetry and a seminar on Argentinean poet Leopoldo Lugones, whose work greatly influenced that of Borges’.

Jorge Luis Borges in Austin: a visit to the University of Texas at Austin campus where the celebrated Argentinean poet was a visiting professor.
UT campus

Borges also gave lectures on great Argentinean writers and the American poet Walt Whitman. Borges returned to Austin on other occasions to give courses and conferences, which always ended with a standing ovation

I tried to follow in Jorge Luis Borges’ footsteps in Austin, as I had done when I visited Harvard and learned that he also was a visiting professor there. First of all, I did some research online and found some interesting information, on which I based my visit.

First, I went to the Texas Capitol. I had read that Borges enjoyed picnicking in the sprawling gardens. It is not clear if he did it once or on several occasions. No big deal, it’s a lovely place to sit on a bench under the trees, among sculptures and monuments that reflect Texas history. It was inevitable to speculate under which tree Borges and his colleagues might have sat.

UT campus

The University of Texas campus, where Borges taught the courses, is a 20-minute walk down Congress Avenue from the Capitol. It took me the same length of time by car because there isn’t a direct easy way to get there and I had a hard time finding a place to park. It must have been infinitely easier in the 1960’s

After I parked, I walked down Guadalupe Street, known as The Drag. Borges met with students and teachers at a bar called Nighthawk, which no longer exists. But the atmosphere must have been similar. There are many stores and bars and places to eat cheaply, ideal for students.

Jorge Luis Borges in Austin: a visit to the University of Texas at Austin campus where the celebrated Argentinean poet was a visiting professor.

The campus is beautiful. It is dominated by a tower from the 1930s and part of the main building, the heart of the historic campus. Students were milling about, talking and laughing. There was a sense of optimism and the omnipotence of youth in the air.

I walked along tree-lined avenues adorned with fountains, and past the buildings of the various colleges and student residences, until I came across Batts Hall.

Jorge Luis Borges in Austin: a visit to the University of Texas at Austin campus where the celebrated Argentinean poet was a visiting professor.
Batts Hall

Batts Hall (1951) was the headquarters of the Department of Spanish and Portuguese Languages ​​and where Borges had his office. Today it is occupied by the Information Technology Department.

Borges and Texas

Borges admired Texas, his first point of contact with the US. So much so that it inspired him to write a sonnet dedicated to the state. In it, he highlights the similarities of the Texas plains with the Argentine pampas, the cowboy and the gaucho. Borges also wrote a story called El soborno (The Bribe), set in Parlin Hall, where the Department of English is housed.

Jorge Luis Borges in Austin: a visit to the University of Texas at Austin campus where the celebrated Argentinean poet was a visiting professor.
Parlin Hall
Texas
By Jorge Luis Borges
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

And so it is here too. Here too, as at
the Americas’ other edge: the measureless
plain where a cry dies unattended. Yes,
here too, the Indian, mustang, lariat.

Here too the secret bird that ever yet
over the clamorings of history
sings for an evening and its memory;

here too the stars with mystic alphabet
that dictate to my writing hand below
such names, today, as the unceasing maze 
of days and turning days does not displace,
as San Jacinto and the Alamo,
and such Thermopylaes. Here, too, is rife

with that brief unknown anxious thing called life.    





Texas
Jorge Luis Borges


Aquí también. Aquí, como en el otro
confín del continente, el infinito
campo en que muere solitario el grito;
aquí también el indio, el lazo, el potro.

Aquí también el pájaro secreto
que sobre los fragores de la historia
canta para una tarde y su memoria;
aquí también el místico alfabeto

de los astros, que hoy dictan a mi cálamo
nombres que el incesante laberinto
de los días no arrastra: San Jacinto

y esas otras Termópilas, el Álamo.
Aquí también esa desconocida
y ansiosa y breve cosa que es la vida.
From Poems Found in Translation

Austin, and American culture in general, fascinated Borges. Of Austin, he said it was one of the most beautiful cities he had visited because he could dream well.

Me, I didn’t care much for Austin the first two times I came. But this time it was different. I had a mission: to see where Borges’s had been, which lent another meaning to my visit.

A Desk for Borges 

El universo inagotable de Borges 

Borges in Texas 

Forgotten but Not Gone 

Originally published as Siguiendo los pasos de Borges en Austin

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Jorge Luis Borges in Austin: a visit to the University of Texas at Austin campus where the celebrated Argentinean poet was a visiting professor.

Sulphur Springs: giant cows and glass bathrooms

Sulphur Springs, Texas, lies roughly an hour’s drive northeast of Dallas. It has a charming downtown area and several attractions.

We needed to get out after a stay-at-home order followed by a self-imposed semi-isolation due to COVID. Like most of our road trips and day trips, this one started with a very mature decision. I decided I couldn’t live without seeing the cow sculptures outside the Southwest Dairy Museum in Sulphur Springs, Texas, which I had seen online. I like cows a lot.

Off to Sulphur Springs, Texas

We set off due northeast. Sulphur Springs lies between Dallas and Texarkana, on the border with Arkansas. It’s about an hour-and-a-half’s drive from home, give or take, along Interstate 30.

Sulphur Springs, Texas, lies roughly an hour's drive northeast of Dallas. It has a charming downtown area and several attractions. #SulphurSprings #Texas #travel #mainstreetUSA

The Southwest Dairy Museum is very easy to spot, just look out for a giant Jersey cow and a giant Holstein cow. You can’t miss them. What I did miss was the planning stage. It occurred to me to check the museum’s opening times as we were approaching it. It’s closed on Saturdays and Sundays. I don’t know what’s the logic behind it, but there you have it.

How we happened upon a horse show

We noticed that the car park of the civic centre adjacent to the museum was busy. We moseyed over there. No need to hurry, it’s Saturday noon in the countryside.

A gentleman told us that there was a horse show and a cattle show going on. Could we go in and watch? Go right in, he said with the elongated vowels of the Texas drawl.  

And we did. We put on our face masks as we entered the arena. Practically no one else was wearing one. I felt like we stood out as city folk, although that’s what we are. There were very few spectators. At times it was just the tow of us. I couldn’t work out whether it was because it was a small event or because of the pandemic.

Sulphur Springs, Texas, lies roughly an hour's drive northeast of Dallas. It has a charming downtown area and several attractions. #SulphurSprings #Texas #travel #mainstreetUSA

I know nothing about horses, but I appreciate their beauty. And there was beauty galore in that arena. Most of the handlers were female. I say handlers and not riders because it wasn’t a riding event but a halter class. On the half of the arena closest to us, handlers and horses were practicing their gaits while waiting to be judged.

It was quite warm inside the pavilion. But the handlers stoically looked the part: boots, black pants, white button-down shirts, and rhinestone-studded jackets. And hats, of course.

And a cattle show

After a while, we moved on to the cattle show next door. It was a much bigger pavilion and had air conditioning. There was a larger crowd this time with plenty of space for social distancing, though. Award ribbons were given out among much mooing and bellowing. Here, studded Western belt buckles, jeans, and boots were the norm.

Sulphur Springs, Texas, lies roughly an hour's drive northeast of Dallas. It has a charming downtown area and several attractions. #SulphurSprings #Texas #travel #mainstreetUSA

Downtown Sulphur Springs

After lunch, we went in search of the glass bathrooms in the main square. They are two standalone bathroom stalls made of plate glass and blend with their surroundings. No one can see you’re in there, but you can see through the glass from the inside.

Sulphur Springs, Texas, lies roughly an hour's drive northeast of Dallas. It has a charming downtown area and several attractions. #SulphurSprings #Texas #travel #mainstreetUSA

The veterans’ memorial is quite big and sobering. It calls for reflection, no doubt about that. But what really stroke a chord was the bronze statue of a wounded veteran with his dog. It’s incredibly moving, and it conveys feeling very effectively.

Sulphur Springs, Texas, lies roughly an hour's drive northeast of Dallas. It has a charming downtown area and several attractions. #SulphurSprings #Texas #travel #mainstreetUSA

I didn’t know what to expect, but Sulphur Springs was a lovely surprise. The downtown area is very clean and tidy, well-kept and very charming. I would go back, but I would plan our day trip more carefully. Although, sometimes, lack of planning may lead to great unexpected experiences.  

Sulphur Springs, Texas, lies roughly an hour's drive northeast of Dallas. It has a charming downtown area and several attractions. #SulphurSprings #Texas #travel #mainstreetUSA
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The history of the Six Flags Over Texas

You probably heard about the Stars and Stripes and the Lone Star Flag, the official flag of the State of Texas. But did you know that six different national flags flew over Texas throughout its history? They were the flags of  Spain, France, the United States of Mexico, the Republic of Texas, the Confederate States of America and the United Stated of America.

The six flags appear on the reverse of the Seal of Texas. Furthermore, the slogan is used in a number of businesses, for example as the name of a theme park. The six flags fly in front of welcome centres and in the Bullock Museum in Austin. The six coats of arms, rather than the actual flags, are depicted on the Texas State Capitol’s northern facade.

Let’s go over each one.

Did you know the history behind the six flags over Texas? Read more to find out.
Texas State Capitol rotunda

The Six Flags Over Texas history

Throughout the history of Texas, the following nations have claimed sovereignty over its territory.

The Kingdom of Spain (1519-1685 and 1690-1821)

The Spaniards occupied what is now Texas in 1519. It was added to the colonial Viceroyalty of New Spain when it was created in 1690. The Crown largely ignored these lands until France became a threat. Then, the Spanish authorities sent expeditions and decided to establish missions from 1716 onward. The ones that remain are on the San Antonio Mission Trail and are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Did you know the history behind the six flags over Texas?
The lion from the Kingdom of Castile and Leon

The Kingdom of France (1685-1690)

King Louis XV of France sent and expedition to establish a colony at the mouth of the Mississippi River. The French already had Louisiana and wanted to push west. After five years, the colony failed. The threat spurred the Spanish to secure Texas, and the built missions and colonies all over.

United States of Mexico (1821-1836)

When Mexico gained independence of Spain in 1821. Texas became a part of the fledgling republic. However, there was conflict. American Indians claimed their ancestral lands and the United States were expand south and west. The arrangements with new settlers were fraught with conflict as well. In 1836, Anglo-American and Tejano settlers fought against Mexican rule.

Republic of Texas (1836-1845)

Texas was its own republic between 1836 and 1845. However, a failing economy, political turmoil and conflict with Mexico and American Indians led to Texas joining the United States on December 29, 1845.

The Lone Star and the Star and Stripes fly outside Dallas City Hall

Confederate States of America (1861-1865)

In 1861, Texas joined 11 southern slave states to declare secession from the United States. This led to the Civil War of 1861-1865, which the South lost.

United States of America (1845-1861 and 1865-present)

After the South surrendered in 1865, Union troops occupied the territory during Reconstruction. Texas had to meet certain criteria in order to be readmitted into the Union, like a new constitution and equal rights to its citizens.  Readmission took place on March 30, 1870

 

Did you know the history behind the six flags over Texas and why those countries claimed sovereignty? Read more to find out.

 

 

Bluebonnets, the state flower of Texas

In early spring, the fields of Texas turn a vibrant shade of blue. The season for bluebonnets starts now and we love it!

Bluebonnets

The bluebonnet is a kind of lupine that belongs to the Fabaceae family. It is endemic to Texas and parts of northern Mexico. In fact, there are six types, although the best known one is the Lupinus texensis. It’s main characteristic is that the stems are topped by clusters of blue flowers, while the tip of the cluster is white.

The seedlings start to emerge in the fall, and continue to grow over the winter. Finally, they bloom in the spring. They grow naturally in Texas, in meadows and roadsides alike. However, if you want to grow them at home, follow these instructions.

This pretty wildflower got is name because it resembles a sunbonnet. But it has had other names, like buffalo clover, wolf flower or conejo (Spanish for rabbit).

bluebonnets

 

State flower of Texas

In 1901, the state legislature was asked to select a state flower. The contenders were the cotton boll, cotton being an important crop, the prickly pear cactus flower, and the bluebonnet. In the end, the National Society of Colonial Dames of America in Texas prevailed and the bluebonnet was chosen.

Where and when to see bluebonnets in Texas

Although bluebonnets begin to bloom in early March, their peak is mid-March to late April.

You can see them in places like roadsides, fields, parks, or nature preserves. Do you feel the need for a road trip? Follow any of the drives across the state from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. If you’re nowhere near Texas, follow the Center’s Instagram for some wildflower eye candy.

The Texas Legislature named Ennis the Texas Bluebonnet Trail and official bluebonnet city of Texas in 1997. I’d say that the Hill Country is also another great place to spot bluebonnets.

bluebonnet field

Bluebonnet facts

*While the leaves and seeds are poisonous, the flowers are toxic. Don’t let small children and pets munch on them.

*The Texas Department of Transportation, TxDOT, sows about 300,000 pounds of wildflower seeds every year.

*Bluebonnet festivals: Ennis, Burnet, Chappell Hill, Fredericksburg.

*Contrary to popular belief, it isn’t illegal to pick bluebonnets unless you’re trespassing on private property or are in a Texas State Park. You shouldn’t pick them, anyway.

Plan your first visit to San Antonio with these helpful tips

Here’s what you need to plan your first visit to San Antonio, Texas: what to see, what to do, where to go. There’s more to this city than The Alamo!

Planning a trip to a new place can be daunting. Don’t fret yourself. If this is your first visit to San Antonio, these tips will make planning a breeze.

Many people have heard of The Alamo because they may have watched a movie or a TV series about it. The Battle of the Alamo (1835) that symbolises the struggle for Texas independence. And you ca n visit the site of the battle in downtown San Antonio. So, if you’re curious about this battle and the city, here’s some helpful tips.

What to do on your first visit to San Antonio

The Alamo

The history of San Antonio stretches back three centuries. In the 1700s, Spanish missionaries established several missions to convert Coahuiltecans to Catholicism. One of those missions was San Antonio de Valero, which we know as The Alamo. Built in 1724, it’s the oldest building in Texas.

Once it fulfilled its purpose, the mission closed and was taken over by Spanish soldiers, who rename it as El Alamo. Thus, it became a military post. Fast forward to 1835, Texas (then part of Mexico) rebelled against the government. In 1836, the Mexican army besieged and defeated Texans rebels in the Battle of The Alamo right here in the former mission.

Today, visitors can see what remains from that time. The mission church, the Long Barracks Museum, and bits of the original acequia, or irrigation canal.

Practical info: Entrance to the grounds and the church is free. Photography inside the church is forbidden. Opens daily except Christmas Day. More info here.

Alamo Plaza

Opposite to The Alamo is the commercial centre called Alamo Plaza. Its commercial structures date from the 219th and early 20th centuries. Its attractions include the Guinness World Records or Ripley’s Believe It or Not. I find this area a bit too touristy, but handy if you bring your kids along.

The Alamo Cenotaph

Near The Alamo is the Alamo Cenotaph, which commemorates the men and women who chose to fight against the Mexican army instead of surrendering. By the way, a cenotaph is an empty tomb, which I didn’t know until now. It was commissioned in 1936.

San Antonio Missions

San Antonio de Valero wasn’t the only mission built by Spanish missionaries. You can visit the others following the San Antonio Mission Trail. Misión Concepción was my favourite one.

The River Walk

The San Antonio River Walk is a network of walkways along the San Antonio River. The river bisects the downtown area. Both sides are connected by several bridges. Steps connect the paths with the streets above.

As well as being a lovely place to walk or take a water taxi, the river walk is lined with pubs, bars, restaurants, hotels, and businesses.

If you prefer to glide on the tranquil waters, take a boat tour or a boat taxi. They operate from 9 am to 9 pm every day, weather permitting.

San Fernando Cathedral

In the 1730’s, Texas was part of the Spanish Empire. That’s why the Spanish flag is one of the Six Flags Over Texas. At the invitation of King Phillip, a few families from the Canary Islands settled in San Antonio. One of the things they did was to build a church (1738-1750), which later became the cathedral. Since the walls of that first church from the sanctuary of the current cathedral, San Fernando is considered the oldest cathedral in Texas.

At the left-hand side of the entrance, you’ll see a white marble coffer. It contains the remains of Travis, Crockett and Bowie, considered heroes of the Battle of the Alamo.

The focal point of the cathedral is the magnificent gold-leaf main altar retablo. The plaza outside the cathedral is called Plaza de las Islas Canarias, but it’s known as the Main Plaza.

Address: 115 Main Plaza

Historic Market Square

The main plaza held a produce market, but it moved to this location in the 1890’s , as new settlers arrived in droves. However, local produce gave way to stalls selling products that celebrate the culture of Mexico and the Southwest.

The covered market houses such stalls, which I found full of tourist tat, but there you go. Brightly coloured garlands, or papel picado, crisscross the outdoor plaza. Café and bakery Mi Tierra is the most popular café and restaurant. Again, a bit too touristy and garish for my taste.

Address: 514 W. Commerce St.

La Villita Historic Arts Village

The history of La Villita (the Little Village) goes back to the 18th century. At the time, the land belonged to the Mission San Antonio de Valero. The nearby military barracks provided protection from Indian raids. A group of people settled here to raise crops and rear cattle, which makes it San Antonio’s oldest neighbourhood.

Nowadays, La Villita’s adobe, antebellum, Victorian and Texan buildings house shops and galleries where local artisans sell their products. This is my favourite place to visit. I love to walk along the cobbled streets and to peer into the shop windows.

Address: 418 La Villita St. Accessible via the River Walk.

Historic Houston Street

Houston Street is located in downtown San Antonio. Originally called Rivas, it’s one of the oldest streets in town, having been on record since 1718. Look out for the kiosks describing the history and architecture of Houston St. Most commercial buildings date from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

San Antonio Museum of Art

The San Antonio Museum of Art occupies the building of a former brewery and is accessible from the River Walk. Its permanent collection includes a large collection of Greek, Roman, and Egyptian art, as well as an outstanding collection of Latin American folk art. Once you’ve fed your soul with art, feed your body at the restaurant overlooking the river for great views.

Dragon Park Gardens, a hidden gem in Dallas

Dragon Park Gardens is a quiet corner of the busy Oak Lawn neighbourhood in Dallas. Lush gardens and quirky sculptures to relax.

I love to share little known or quirky places in Dallas as much as I love exploring the city. Like the teddy bear sculptures, or a public sculpture garden at a private home, remember?

Today, I’m going to show you the Dragon Park Gardens.

Although it looks like a public garden, Dragon Park is in fact a private property. If you’d like to hang out here, you’re going to have to call the number on the sign and ask the owner for permission. Some people have a small wedding here, probably under that gazebo, or have their engagement pictures taken.

Dragon Park, Dallas

This garden is actually a complement to Select Salon Dallas, the spa across Hood St. The owner’s vision is to provide his clients with a quiet place to relax in nature. The vision and its execution fit the yuppie/hipster neighbourhood of Oak Lawn.

When I went to see the garden, it seemed a bit unkempt. Plants growing wildly invaded the little paths and half-cover the sculptures. However, the overgrown vegetation gave it an intriguing air.

 Dragon Park, Dallas

Speaking of sculptures, there are all kinds. Two Chinese dragons guard the entrance, there are some mythical creatures like a griffin-looking one, and some I have no idea what they are.

I can see this place get crowded on full moon nights, or at Halloween. Maybe some neo-pagans get together to worship the harvest goddess. Yes, OK, I let my mind wonder a bit, but that’s what this garden does to you!

Dragon Park, Dallas

Dragon Park Garden’s address is 3520 Cedar Springs Road, Oak Lawn, Dallas. It’s right on the corner with Hood Street. There’s very limited parking and I don’t advise parking in the office lot across the street.

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Dragon Park Gardens is a quiet corner of the busy Oak Lawn neighbourhood in Dallas. Lush gardens and quirky sculptures to relax. #Dallas #traveltips #gardens