The first time we went to Texas two years ago, we didn’t have many expectations. To be honest I looked at it as a good opportunity to visit another state in the US but little more. At the end, I expected something along the lines been there, done that! We even decided to combine it with Louisiana by going to New Orleans to make it more interesting. Well, sometimes it is nice to be mistaken and in fact we were so impressed by what we found, that we actually decided to go back this year and explore it a bit more.
Politics aside, the idea many people have of Texas is on one hand, of cowboys and you do find some…
different kinds actually…
cattle and big steaks
guns and catchphrases like this one
And on the other hand, oil and the oil money which translates unexpectedly also, in impressive museums and wonderful private collections.
Dallas is one such example. You find real gems. We visited the Dallas Museum of Art which has works from ancient to modern times from around the world. The museum is known in particular for its ancient Americas, African, Indonesian, and South Asian collections but there is much more to explore.
When a museum backbone is formed mostly of private collections it is interesting to see how the taste and interests of the collector brought a particular collection together.
That is also the case of the Nasher Sculpture Center, it houses one of the best sculpture collections I have ever seen. Works by the likes of Miro, Picasso, Giacometti, Henry Moore and many others. The sculpture garden is a real gem, such a peaceful and beautiful place. I highly recommend it.
Also in Dallas and if you have children, the Dallas World Aquarium is a great choice. It was my daughter´s third birthday and she had a bit of fever so we decided to choose a place where she could be inside, protected from the cold. From a South American rain forest inside with an impressive variety of fauna and flora to a water tunnel surrounded by reef life, you can observe a diverse marine life.
From Dallas we went to Houston and again you find great museums. We started with the Children´s museum considered one of the best in the country. As we went on a thursday they were actually very nice and informed us that the museum would be free from 5 to 8 p.m. In the meantime, they advised us to visit the Museum of Natural Science which would be free until 5 p.m.
The most visited exhibit that had also just reopened, was the Morian Hall of palaeontology. It has one of the most impressive collection of dinosaurs fossils I have seen and the way they are presented is unique. It is like they are in action, you can see them eating, chasing and escaping. You can almost imagine them alive. My daughter was amazed. The human evolution exhibit is also excellent. You have much more to explore of course, I particularly advise the Gems & Minerals Hall which has the world´s finest mineral collection. There are true masterpieces in this collection, don´t miss it.
At 5 we went back to the Children´s museum. My daughter loved it. It is very well planned with lots of learning experiences like science experiments, buying and paying things at the supermarket, what you can find in a farm, how to build things, there is a discovery room where you can see for example chicks being born live, an outdoor area with playground, water experiments, you name it. You also have a parent´s resource library where there is even story time.
When we were leaving we asked if there were any other free late night opening museums and they told us the Fine Arts Museum was also open until 8. Although we could hardly move (three-year olds are very active!) we decided to profit and although we already knew the museum from two years ago, it was nice to see the wonderful collections again. This was one of my favourite Mexican Pre-Columbian pieces…
From Houston we went back to San Antonio and spent the last two days walking in the city and the beautiful Riverwalk…
As for shopping I could talk about the nice Outlets that you can find in Texas, we actually visited one between San Antonio and Austin.
However, that kind of shopping is not the reason why we had to pay extra weight at the airport. The sole responsibility lies with the ¨Half Price Books¨ bookstores and our craziness. We love books and I´m afraid our 3-year-old daughter is starting to suffer from the same symptoms.
These include visiting every single shop they have in and around San Antonio, Dallas, Fort Worth and Houston. The moment you step inside, having an overwhelming sense of anticipated excitement, exhilaration and happiness when you find what you were looking for. Finally, pretending to be perfectly oblivious to the fact that the weight of your luggage is increasing by the minute and the space inside is just getting smaller and smaller.
Then comes the phase of denial when you realise how many books you actually bought, the plan to get rid of any dead weight you can find (these include things like shampoos, creams you can´t possibly need, toothpaste, you name it) and then the realization that no matter what you do it is hopeless so you might as well buy a few more!
I´m embarrassed to admit that two years ago the number was 100 and this year we managed to break the record and buy over 150 books. We blame it totally on the Valentine´s week promotion of 20% discount on the already greatly discounted books!
I will end by saying that, except for a few crazy drivers, the people of Texas were always very friendly, welcoming and polite. There is really more to Texas than meets the eye.