Houston: A City for the Eclectic and the Not So

Houston is a really cool city. I mean really cool. There is something for everyone and something for anyone. If you know you like a certain vibe, you can find it in Houston. If you’re like me and you like a variety of vibes, you can find them all in Houston. That definitely works for Desirée and I because, while I can appreciate art, on trips, art isn’t the first thing I place on my agenda. But she will find every sculpture-laden garden and we will walk through at least one or two in a trip. Or we’ll find some great art museums. For me, the draw in Houston (and most cities) are the food, the urban culture, and the landscape. Now that photography is my thing, I want to capture all the unique shots that I can’t find in NC. Additionally, I want to try to food that is specific to the region I’m in, be it international or domestic. But, enough about my preferences. Let me give you a quick rundown of my two days (turned two and a half) in Texas.

Just so you know, prior to stepping off the plane at George Bush Intercontinental Airport, my only experience with Texas was derived from popular culture. I was a big Dirk Nowitzki fan in middle and high school. Even as a NYG fan, I came up in the Emmitt Smith/Troy Aikman era. And my dad and I loved westerns growing up. Additionally, I still have Mike Jones’ number memorized (281-330-8004). In my mind, I’m an honorary Texan. But I stepped off the plane and realized that I’m far from that.

First of all, when you visit Houston, know that it is massive and is NOT walkable. The metro system, though functional and sophisticated, is not inclusive of large pockets of the city. That being said, I strongly advise renting a car if you’ll be in town for two days or more. I’m sure we spent $150 on Uber in about 42 hours in the city. A rental would’ve served us well.

We arrived around 7PM (which was 8 our time), Ubered to our midtown Airbnb. Shoutout to Natalie and her boyfriend. If you see a host named Natalie at a midtown spot, it’s a great place to stay. She is an awesome host and Desirée was so impressed by the cleanliness of the condo, as well as how nice all of the linens smelled. Being that I’m more into other stuff, I loved the size, layout, and structure of the pad. Also, whenever I stay in an Airbnb, I like having my own place as opposed to a room at someone’s house but, since the entire first floor of this condo was dedicated to Airbnb, I really didn’t feel like I was sharing with anyone except the wonderful Mrs. Daniels. Natalie had a welcome notebook that was super helpful. After we arrived, we headed downtown to Moonshiners for drinks and dinner. Being that Texas is known for brisket, I had to grab the brisket sandwich. It was well seasoned, tender, and accompanied by some great slaw and fries. Desirée, being a full time vegan except when we’re traveling, had three veggie sides and made a meal of them. By the time we finished eating, it was after 9 and we were kind of tired so we took it back to the crib and watched Netflix on the Apple TV in our room.

The next morning, I woke up early and headed out to grab some photos of the area. I walked 1.5 miles away, into the Third Ward, and then turned around at Moses Leroy Park. As in every city, gentrification is evidently transforming Houston. While we lived in what appeared to be a pretty affluent, hip area, fewer than two miles away, I found myself in another universe, one with former homes that had been boarded up and now only the porches serve as shelter for the homeless. After my walk, I was supposed to go running (I may have mentioned this in a previous post but I have a a goal of running in all 50 states) but that 3 mile walk put a hold on that. — We went to this spot called The Breakfast Klub that had been recognized nationally. The line to get in was around the corner but it moved pretty quickly, especially for a Sunday morning. I won’t say it’s the best fried chicken and waffles combo I’ve ever had (BQE in Atlanta still holds that crown) but it was good. After breakfast, we had a couple hours to kill before it was time to go check out the Bayou Bend Garden so we went to this spot Natalie recommended called Benjy’s and split a carafe of White Grape mimosas. By the time we got to the garden, we were feeling slightly buzzed but very far from tipsy. It made for a fun self-guided tour through some (wo)man-manipulated nature. The sculptures in it were gorgeous and the architect who designed the garden’s layout was extremely talented. The garden, though nowhere near the size of the one we saw in Versailles, took a lot out of us so we went back to the condo, rested for a couple hours, and then got up to head to our next appointment (but not before stopping by a happy hour at Guava Lounge). Funny thing is, I saw the great drink prices at Guava Lounge and it was on the way to our next stop. What I missed when looking it up was the fact that it wasn’t your traditional sports bar but the drinks were great and the people were nice so I’m not complaining at all. After our Jell-O shots and martinis, we had about 45 minutes free so we went to El Tiempo, this Texmex restaurant that Natalie recommended and got some authentic Texmex food. Much better than Taco Bell!

Before we knew it, it was time for our iFly indoor skydiving lessons. I’m not at all a fan of heights and will likely never go skydiving but, in this safe environment, I was able to conquer this fear of mine on a smaller scale. When the instructor asked who wanted to go first, my hand shot up. I like getting things over with. Little did I know it would be so much fun. I think I want to do it again when I get back to NC (there is a wind tunnel in Fayetteville if you’re not trying to come all the way to Texas to get your skydive on). Our instructor, Mike, was on his last day at the job and we were his last class so he made sure to have a ton of fun with us. They suckered me and got me to pay for the high fly but it was worth it to get to go up higher than everyone else for only $10 more.

Desirée had heard about this place called Sprinkles that has a cupcake ATM and she was set on going (even though I told her I’d buy her as many cupcakes as she wanted at home). It was an experience she had to have. So, we caught an Uber to the side of town that the “ATM” was on and we began our search (why we got out of our Uber so early, I’ll never know but…). After a walk of considerable distance (she will say it was 1.4 miles but I am going to say it was 4.3 until the day the casket drops), we get to Sprinkles and we don’t see anything but a regular schmegular cupcake shop. When I tell you, I would’ve been livid if she didn’t look so disappointed, it’s the truth. There was no ATM in sight… because it was on the back side of the building. I’m so glad we found it because that was the longest 9 miles I’d ever walked for a cupcake. And, by the time we left, since it was Sunday, all the good restaurants around were 15 minutes from closing so we went back to Natalie’s and I was certain I was going to break my traveling rule: I was going to order pizza from a chain during my first time in a new region. But, just before I ordered, I looked at the welcome book for any lifesaving suggestion and there was a place with “live music and grub” half a mile away so, in my frustration, I tossed on some flops and we walked to Axelrad. It may be the coolest bar I’ve ever been to. They had a rooftop patio, hammocks on the ground, and a stage with live music. Additionally, their beer selection was awesome and the beer taps were shaped as a diverse array of human figurines. Whereas I came in little irritated, the live music, hammocks, and view of the Houston skyline made me grateful that all the other places closed early.

On Monday morning, first thing I did was get my run in because it would be my last time waking up in Houston (until the next time I visit). I only clocked one mile because I had to make some coffee (note to self and others: Doughnut Shop’s Keurig cup is AWESOME and I need it for the office), shower, repack, and figure out our agenda for the day. When we left Natalie’s place, we went to the University of Houston because Desirée wanted to eat at this food truck that was there called The Waffle Bus. When we got there, I saw another truck beside The Waffle Bus called The Burger Joint and my decision was made for me (at home, I adhere to a vegetarian diet 85% of the time but I still love good meat so when I travel, I indulge more than usual). Their Fire Burger was great. It reminded me of my Fire Burger (though mine makes me cry every time and has been known to cause hallucinations). After our late breakfast/early lunch, we caught the lite rail to Minute Maid Stadium, home of the Astros, and walked a few blocks to the EaDo district so that we could get some mural shots. Throughout the trip, murals were a constant theme in Houston but there is one district with an array of them and we knew we needed to see that before leaving. Sadly, we had to choose between seeing that and seeing NASA but we’ll do NASA whenever we come back with kids.

Now, it’s time to leave so we’re off to the airport, right? And we’re taking off, right? Wrong. Our next stop on the trip is New Orleans but our 6PM flight with Spirit Airlines got cancelled, two hours after it was scheduled to take off. I don’t know why but we can never just have a trip where no flight gets grossly delayed or cancelled. Thankfully, Spirit was able to get us into a hotel by about 9PM and they provided us with food vouchers for dinner. Not too shabby but I still wasn’t happy that we missed our first night in the Big Easy.

All in all, I loved Houston. I only wish we’d had a car so we could have 1) made the most of our time and 2) saved money.
Make seeing the world a priority.


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