i left my heart in san antonio

texas plate

i'm back from a 6-day vacation in texas--a state that prides itself for its cowboy culture and all things "big." my little travel mascot, miss igorota (pictured above beside our rented car's license plate), tagged along for a road trip that landed us in fort worth, houston, spring, kemah, tomball, san antonio, and dallas. it really felt like a whole different country in there....those tourism ads were true, after all!

my impression of texas was that it's a warm state all year round--boy, was i wrong! the weather there turned out to be very unpredictable! a week before our trip, cnn's weather website informed me that temperatures will be in the 70's. as a result, i had packed mostly summer clothes, with nary a raincoat nor a thick sweater to shield me from the thunderstorm that would suddenly brew on the evening of our arrival at fort worth. we had slept through the night while the violent winds unleashed its wrath outdoors--there was a "tornado warning" in effect! we kept watching the local weather channel to see if the tornado was anywhere near our area. thankfully, we woke up in the morning with the roof still above our heads. after that experience, i immediately decided it was better to sleep through a blizzard rather than a tornado.

here are the highlights of my texas travel by city:
  • fort worth: "the stockyards" welcomes you to cowboy country. a mug boasts that it's "where the west begins." it is called such because this is where texans trade their livestock. a train station stops here that can take you to the wineries. the locals are in full cowboy gear and ride on horses...and tote real guns! we had a "bizarre foods" moment while dining at riscky's steakhouse, because after munching on those crispy, tender, "calf fries"--we found out from the waitress that they're made of bull's testicles. haha! fort worth is also the perfect place to purchase authentic cowboy outfits such as the iconic hat and boots. we also got acquainted with the animals at the fort worth zoo--texas' oldest zoo. we anticipated seeing the state animal: the armadillo, but failed to see one. i settled for the pink flamingos instead.
  • houston: the downtown aquarium satiates your fish fetish, because their aquarium has a separate restaurant where you can dine amongst the sea creatures. houston is also home to NASA's johnson space center. a guided tram tour will take you to historic "mission control center," where space explorations are monitored and guided. this is also where astronauts train to live in space, with mock-up space rockets and tanks of nitrogen that help simulate the frigid temperatures in outer space. our poor little GPS unit got dizzy with all the freeways layered on top of each other, and our change purses were drained by the multiple toll gates that plagued us every 3 miles or so. now i believe "everything is bigger in texas": toll rates especially! ($1.50 minimum! holy guacamole!)

  • kemah: just a few miles from the space center, kemah gives you a glimpse of texan waters (which is ultimately linked to galveston) with its boardwalk attraction. there are restaurants and rides by the sea. we sampled texan seafood at "the flying dutchman restaurant," but davy jones was nowhere in sight.
  • san antonio: we found ourselves walking inside the historic alamo. we suddenly felt we were transported to mexico. the alamo's guards are in traditional mexican "guardia civil" uniforms similar to the ones during the spanish period in the philippines. a short walk will bring you to texas' own little venice, the "riverwalk." bars and restaurants line this narrow length of river. we took a guided boat tour of the river at the "aztec by the river." along its waters, you will find a small shrine of the saint after which this city is named, "san antonio de padua."
  • dallas: the 6th floor museum at dealey plaza offers you lee harvey oswald's sniper view...the very building where he aimed at president john f. kennedy and with a gunshot wound to his head, changed history. a short stroll will lead you to a relatively new monument built in honor of JFK, shaped like an open box--it is called the john f. kennedy "cenotaph" memorial. the 7th floor showcases some vintage home videos by ordinary people capturing the tragic motorcade at dealey plaza. the museum also features some of the cameras used by the photographers who filmed the event, including one that captured lee harvey oswald's assasination: the photo won a pulitzer prize. dallas seems like a sleepy downtown, with some of its establishments mysteriously closed. at west end, you'll find sonny bryan's smokehouse which offers texas' "world famous barbecue." i had their sausage sandwich, which was really tasty. but what caught my fanciful taste buds was their house sauce, served hot in recycled bottles of corona beer. we ended up buying four bottles of such sauce...two to give away, and two for ourselves.

going around these amazing cities banked over a thousand miles on our rented car's meter. we drove through flat fields of ranch land blanketed with texas' colorful wildflowers, especially their state flower--the blue bonnet. texans are so patriotic of their home state that you'll see more texas state flags everywhere than the american flag.

we didn't get to explore austin, as we only drove through that city in the wee hours of the morning coming from san antonio to fort worth. i guess we'll just have to save that itinerary for our next visit to texas.

gingmaganda blogged about miss igorota's travel photos! maybe that doll will get her own picture book soon.

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