The last nine days have been awesome. The girlfriend made her second documented visit, which went equally as pleasant as the first documented visit, if not better. We did a little bit of traveling, plenty of finer food sampling, and few couples events that have me feeling way old. This particular visit was particularly special, as it marked our one year point as a couple.
Early in the visit, we did plenty of traveling. Day one saw a return to Galveston and its West Beach; we had visited during the previous trip. This time the island appeared to had really cleaned up the place. In March, during her previous visit, there were still boats randomly placed along side streets in the center of the island. There were traffic lights that were still off with temporary construction stop signs placed between lanes. Even the beach showed signs of disrepair as the sand along the seawall was three feet thick and dropped in a steep step at the water’s edge.
This time the streets were clean and all of the signals we passed appeared to be going fine. The bars along the beach all appeared to be reopened. Even the sand had worked itself into a nice sandy slope. It was nice.
The weather also played in our favor. The temperatures outside were in the high 90s with heat indexes in Houston reaching about 103. The wind at the beach, however, was blowing hard and steady, probably in the 20 to 25 miles per hour range, offering a nice break from the heat.
West Bound I-10
The following day, we made the trek west to San Antonio and its Riverwalk. On the way, we made a stop in to the K. Spoetzl Brewery, home of Shiner beers. The beer “fresh brewed with an attitude in a little town called Shiner” has one hell of a brewery. The place looked like the cleanest chemical production plant I had ever seen. The best part of all of it, the tour is free and includes 4 free samples.
I heavily sampled the new Smokehaus variety, which is made by malt that was smoked bbq style behind the brewery. The smoke flavor was very light, and the girlfriend could hardly taste it. I thought it was a good summer beer, not too light. I just wonder if I wasn’t supposed to drink it at a slightly higher temperature for more flavor.
We both picked up a souvenirs. I got a pint glass, one of the last 5 available to the public to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the brewery. The girlfriend got a sweet fleece blanket that will show up later.
From the brewery, we headed back across US-90 and cut up TX-183 to Luling, home to the original Buc-ee’s. I grabbed a Dublin Dr. Pepper, a bbq sandwich, and some jerky. It was like heaven.
Night on the Riverwalk
I made the mistake of getting a hotel too close to the riverwalk. It was way too expensive. The hotel charged for everything they could get their hands on. I get there and immediately they tell me they’re charging $16 dollars to my room because the valet is mandatory. FTW!
Despite that, the rooms were damn nice and we were less than half a mile from everything. We took the quick walk upon our arrival and walked the stretch of the river with the restaurants. It helped clear up some space in my stomach.
After making the walk, we decided on a place for dinner. She chose a Mediterranean style place that had some interesting dessert choices that were quite enticing. Too bad we got the name mixed up. Instead, we ended up at a faux-Mexican style place where we were way overdressed.
The service was horrible. After being seated, it took 15 minutes for our waiter to even acknowledge us. After that, we ordered drinks that took 30 minutes to make it 5 feet as we were just next to their kitchen where the bar was located (not a walk up bar). Another 30 minutes later we had to demand our check so we could leave. I caught my waiter spitting ice out of his mouth and into his bare hands as he went to deliver drinks to a table.
The hour and fifteen minutes left us both so disgusted we decided to just head back to the hotel. So on the way home, we stopped in at a Texas Wine store and picked up a bottle. We got back to the hotel, had wine and turkey jerky, and honestly, it was probably the most awesome way to spend our one year recurrence (I won’t call it an anniversary).
Saturday in Gruene
The next morning we headed up I-35 to Gruene, Texas, home to legendary Gruene Hall, the Guadalupe River, and the Gristmill. We arrived a little early to be seated for lunch so we made the rounds of the town of Gruene, taste testing all sorts of jellys and spreads, looking at ridiculously overpriced antiques, and smelling delicious delicious candies.
After an hour of building up hunger, we headed back to the Gristmill for lunch. The place was still pretty empty being before noon, but we were able to grab some great seats inside where we could look out over the lower levels. The restaurant is in the ruins of an old cotton gin facility, built into a hill overlooking the Guadalupe River.
The food and service were awesome and it really made up for the night before. If you’re ever in central Texas… Gruene should be one stop you shouldn’t pass up.
Saturday Night Concert
After coming home for a few hours to recuperate, we headed back out again to the north side of Houston to the race track for a concert. We showed up just on time for the concert, grabbed some beer (they ran out of the only not-so-shitty-non-light-beer… RABBLE RABBLE), and headed to the infield to the concert site.
The headliner for the show was the Counting Crows. I like their old stuff, and their new stuff is okay. They opened up with a few songs and had their opening act (Augusta) play songs peppered throughout the show. Through the portion of the show we stayed for, I recognized two songs. One was by Augusta. The other was Long December being played after we were in the parking lot trying to avoid the many soon to be drunk-drivers on the road way. I was a bit disappointed so few songs were the ones I knew.
The atmosphere was actually pretty sweet. The infield was a huge improvement over how the race park used to have concerts. The infield is much bigger than their sidelines, and the beer booths were much more accessible.
As far as the people at the concert, it was way different than my usual crowd at the race park. Normally I go to Texas Country acts which draw the slight red-neck, beer drinking, cigarette smoking crowd. This was a lot of couples mixed from 20 to 45 years old. They were much more mellow. Oddly enough, there were a lot more cops at this show than any of the previous shows I’d seen either. Weird.
Sunday Night Couple’s Dinner
Here’s where I start to feel old. On Sunday, the girlfriend and I spent the evening having dinner with a high school friend of the girlfriend – and her husband – and her baby – at their house. It was weird.
While it was fun playing with their baby, it was so weird to know I’m old enough and involved enough with someone to be having the types of dinners where you go to another couple’s house. It’s not a bad thing, just weird to be actually having them.
We did get a bottle of wine out of the trip though. We brought the couple a housewarming gift (luckily not wine), and the couple decided to return the gesture by dumping a bottle of wine on us. The couple doesn’t drink alcohol and was given it as another housewarming gift. So bonus: give them some finer food, get some finer wine!
The Last Few Days
The weekdays brought less activity, mainly due to my class being right in the middle of the day. We did manage to get out of the house on Wednesday though, including a trip to the Houston Zoo.
It hadn’t been to the zoo since I was probably 12. It’s changed quite a bit. No longer do they have rhinos, pandas, hippos, penguins, or nearly as many animals in the still existing exhibits. I was really surprised at how little there actually was.
We spent most of our time in the reptile house and the “natural encounters” exhibit. Both of those were air conditioned; it was ridiculously hot out and the Yankee girlfriend just couldn’t hack it.
Check out some of the pictures at the Photo Album above.
After the Zoo, we headed out a seafood dinner. I guess it’s also worth noting that before dinner, we stopped at a Barnes & Noble across the street from our restaurant. We found out the store is closing and about 85% of the merchandise was 40% off. THIS WAS AWESOME. I picked up 4 classic literature books for $20. I could have bought the whole store if I had the money. So if you’re in the Houston area, head to the B&N on S. Sheppard before everything disappears.
As for dinner, we did Pappa’s Seafood, which is just the right balance of casual and classy. It’s a place you can go in casual clothes, but get the high class service and specialty seafood to make it feel well above a Chili’s or Olive Garden. The girlfriend chickened out on having the lobster that was on special for $9.95 a pound (less than half the normal cost). Apparently she felt the throwing of live lobsters in boiling water was just too weird.
As for me, I had the fried catfish and shrimp plate that was delicious. The seafood menu was too limited at that particular Pappa’s that night. Too many items were either blackened or nut crusted. I prefer my fish grilled or pan seared, not blackened or baked. It was delicious though.
Now the Wait
Now that she’s left, it’s going to be another 2-3 months before we get to see each other again… which sucks a lot. If anyone needs a part-time intern in the Houston area, I’m definitely for sale. I need money and work hard. Hire me! Please!
I’ve got a couple other articles to catch up on soon, including a mgoblog post or two. Those should be out this weekend.