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waggis Jun 24th, 2007 10:22 AM

Don't Mess With Texas - Trip Report
Part I - Hotels

A wedding in the Ft. Worth/Dallas area brought my husband and I to Texas in late May and June. When we travel by car, we like to stay at Hampton Inns for their comfortable beds and breakfast, easy access, price and quiet....unless it's a Saturday night. During the school year, athletic high-school groups in town for a meet can liven things up and crowd the breakfast areas. We live in Central Florida - it was a long drive of 3,112 miles. In light of the vacation season in full swing, I'll list nightly hotel rates incl. state & city taxes.

Hotels: Hampton Inns unless otherwise specified. All rooms were non-smoking with double beds - except one. We used AAA discounts. All were clean and quiet.

1. Mobile East Bay/Daphne AL $155.52 Room w/balcony overlooking the estuary, Bay & skyline of Mobile. Walkingpath. They offered wine & beer, nuts, chips and salsa instead of the ubiquitous cookies at 6 pm. This was a first for us. No children in sight, only adult leisure travelers and business people. Nice neighborhood and restaurants. Book early as we couldn't get in on our return.

2. Natchitoches, LA $89.31
(Microwave) Convenient off I49 but some distance from town.

3. Marble Falls, TX $140.12
(Microwave) Room with view of Lake LBJ.

4. Austin-South, 4141 Governors Row *)
Double beds/smoking $112.82
King bed/non-smoking $102.47 weekend rate
Very convenient to downtown. This was especially helpful when the freeways were congested. We were able to drive on surface streets and circumnavigate the problem area. Quiet location in commercial area.

5. Houston Near The Galleria $188.49
(Microwave & fridge) In upscale residential & business area. Required talk with manager to receive AAA discount, but very nice staff. This is strictly a property for business people. Large groups attending meetings during the day. We were the only leisure travelers it seemed. They not only offered beer & wines, nuts, trail mix, guacamole, salsa & chips, but also buffalo wings!

6. Slidell, LA $137.95 *)
(Microwave & fridge)

*) Both of these properties are undergoing renovations, which didn't interfere with our stay.

7. Fairfield Inn, 630 W. John Carpenter Freeway, Irving TX
We had a group rate for the wedding party. Paid $127.74 for an extra day.
Located in new neighborhood with lots of restaurants & stores.

8. Drury Plaza Hotel Riverwalk, 105 St. Mary's Street, San Antonio $168.11
Covered parking fee for 2 days $ 32.44
This is the only time we paid for parking but well worth for its convenience.

This hotel is brand-new and in a converted bank building downtown. We had a very spacious corner room with 6 windows overlooking the city & glimpses of the water through the dense foliage.

The room was equipped with microwave & fridge; marble & granite in bathroom. Nice southwestern color scheme with dark furniture à la Restauration Hardware. Hot breakfast was included as well as drinks & popcorn at "happy hour". Didn't try this feature as we were out and about. It was very quiet except when the "Spurs" won the series :-)

waggis Jun 24th, 2007 11:34 AM

Part II - Restaurants

My thanks to the posters who shared their favorite eateries. We had some memorable meals. This was our first trip to Texas. Of course, we had to try the Old Time Pit Bar-B-Q and ate at
City Market in Luling and Schoepf's in Belton.
Very interesting concepts. The one in Luling smokes up the whole neighborhood and in Belton one waits before entering the smoke house and orders by weight. Food gets wrapped up in brown paper which one takes to the table. The "NO forks - use fingers" sign took us by surprise and we cautiously avoided potato salad. It was tasty but one big "grease fest".

The Landing, 530 Front St., Natchitoches, Louisiana,
serves a delicious gumbo broth (w/rice separately) among other goodies in a romantic atmosphere facing the tree-shaded riverbank.

Uncle O's Café, 14546 S. Harrells Ferry, Baton Rouge,(off I 12): delicious grabmeat bisque and corn/potato/shrimp chowder. Simple, no frills with friendly staff. (Sandwiches were forgettable - I think the wait staff fixed them. It was apparent that they had a sudden crisis in the kitchen - shorthanded)

Cool River Café, 1045 Hidden Ridge Rd., Irving, TX - Nice place with huge billiard room; good food.

Marble Falls:
Blue Bonnet Café. Tasty BLT with avocado. The much praised apple pie disappointed, ok but not "fabulous" as far as we were concerned.

On the other hand,
The Houston Depot across from Walmart at 607 Hwy 281 North in Marble Falls deserves a special mention. They serve a delicious baked potato soup, crisp salads and peach cobblers with cinnamon ice cream. Great food and value, a real find and keeper!

Fredericksburg: Friedhelm's Bavarian Inn, 905 W. Main Street at the "Y". Good cabbage soup, plain breaded pork Schnitzel and Spätzle.

The Oasis, 6550 Comanche Trail, Lake Travis:
Great lunch with beautiful view. Wished we could have stayed around for the sunset...what a location! Renovation work in progress after a devastating fire; didn't diminish our pleasure, we ate on the terrace.

Fino, Restaurant, Patio & Bar, 2905 San Gabriel St., Austin.
Great muscle appetizer and fish entrée in casual atmosphere with a young crowd. Outdoor dining on upstairs patio.

Whole Foods, 525 N. Lamar Blvd. Austin.
Covered free parking, downtown eating with a view, what a deal!! We lived there when we didn't eat with our friends at their home...Foods too numerous to mention. I just want to mention some ice cream flavors: pomegranate, orange & fig, peach melba, pistachio, various chocolates, you name it. Scrumptious.

Gristmill River Restaurant & Bar, 1287 Gruene Rd., New Braunfels.
Very nice lunch overlooking the Guadalupe River. Neat atmosphere in unique setting.

San Antonio: Mi Tierra Café at "El Mercado". At the bar while being serenaded by Mariachis: Margaritas and shrimp cocktail, ok, but skip the guacamole. Bakery looks interesting. Nice decor.

Dolores del Rio on Riverwalk:
Overpriced for the quality of food offered. Sounded great on the menu but didn't live up to "advertisement". (Cat fight in the kitchen...2 tables seated nearby fled the premises...oh well, it was a hot day) Enjoyed the piano entertainment.

BIGA On The Banks, 203 S. St. Mary's Street @ Market, International Center. Good food in a modern & quiet business atmosphere. We started out on the terrace overlooking the River Walk but had to relocate indoors. (mosquitoes)

Old Orange Café, 914 W. Division Ave., Orange, TX
Another find and keeper. Located in a former dairy. Had the day's quiche with mesclun salad and shared a wonderful bread pudding with coconut and delicious sauce. Great value.

Roussos Seafood Restaurant off I 10 at Spanish Fort, AL in the attractive Eastern Shore Centre:
Thick gumbo loaded with shrimp. Nice lunch.

The friendly lady at the Alabama Visitors Center (Mobile) sent us there and furnished us with a list of restaurants around the Bay, none of them chains, all locally owned. It pays to stop and talk to them.

AnnMarie_C Jun 24th, 2007 11:54 AM


I like the format of your trip report. It's obvious we don't get downtown (San Antonio) enough as I've never heard of Dolores del Rio--I am intrigued by the cat fight, lol! Must have been bad if two tables fled. My goodness, what the heck was that all about?!

Hope you enjoyed a nice journey.

TxTravelPro Jun 24th, 2007 12:04 PM

Thanks for a lot of info in a good format!
What a long drive!
Good to hear about Hampton again. I used to stay in Hampton properties when the kids were little and money was tight. Gosh, I don't think I ever paid more than 50.00 a night (Travel industry rate).
Now days I stay in 4/5 star places mostly... because I do not pay :)
I work in the travel industry and I am just shell shocked by the rates you paid at these locations!
I suppose I have not shopped Marble Falls in years.
We plan to head down there for a weekend and I can see that I am going to be forced to do my homework on lodging.
Thanks again for the info!

waggis Jun 24th, 2007 12:33 PM

We visited the usual tourist sites, a museum here and there, and explored the countryside.

In Austin, our guide and driver, Maggie, of "Austin Overtures" was a joy. The 90-minute tours may be booked in advance on the Internet at ($45.47 for two) She was a lot of fun and very knowledgeable. Took us all over town and to the foothills - 30 miles - in a comfortable air-conditioned Mercedes van for 9 people. Tour leaves from the Visitors Bureau at 209 East 6th St. with parking nearby and easy to get to (have ticket validated). There's only very little short-term parking in front of Visitors Bureau.

Don't miss the historic Gruene Dance Hall, especially "Gospel Brunch" every 2nd Sunday of the month. The joint was jumping :-)
For schedule visit

Initially, I was sorry to miss the famous Texas Bluebonnets and wildflower season, but the rains prior to our arrival created a colorful tableau for us to enjoy. I cut some lavender at the picturesque Becker Vineyards near Stonewall in the Pedernales River Valley.

Peaches were in season and sold at roadside stands. The Hill Country was carpeted in yellow Coreopsis and red Gaillardia (Indian Blanket), interspersed with Black-eyed Susans, Winecups, Verbena, Flox, Thistles, Horsemint, Mexican Hats, Yuccas and Cacti, to name a few. It was a sight for sore eyes. Bless the Lady Bird! We took the LBJ ranch tour and saw the movie at the LBJ Visitor Center.

This, by the way, we did at other locations too, like the missions and "The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza." There, we bought the audio tour, which is really not necessary as there are numerous recordings and brief movies to hear and watch in the display.

For a change of pace during the ride home, we visited the "Stark Museum of Art" in Orange, Tx. at the border with Louisiana, a diversified collection of Southwestern paintings and sculptures, as well as some very handsome native American clothing pieces and fine baskets on display. It was a welcome break in the long ride, very manageable and free.

"DON'T MESS WITH TEXAS" - the anti littering slogan - seems to work. We loved it, had a safe trip, aided by our new GPS, - although they're not infallible as we found out - and met very friendly people everywhere. Thanks TEXAS for the memories and a wonderful time! :-)

waggis Jun 24th, 2007 01:24 PM

AnnMarie - We couldn't hear what was said because we were seated in a corner far removed from the opening to the kitchen, but it was clear the fur was flying. The people of those 2 tables literally ran out of the place. Then, I guess it was the owner who came out and apologized to the rest of us. The unflappable pianist did his best to keep us entertained. It was a hoot.

You haven't missed anything foodwise. It was expensive ($68.30) for 1 Bud, 2 house salads, 1 Lasagne, and 1 Veal entrée!

I read a trip report somewhere and that's why we went there. Have been trying my darndest to find this report again for no avail...Should have gone to "Pesca", which OO recommended, but didn't feel like fish...You live and learn ;-)

waggis Jun 24th, 2007 01:41 PM

Hi TxTravelPro - I agree with you wholeheartedly regarding the prices we paid on the trip. I'm sure we could have done better on expedia or travelocity but my husband doesn't bother....Especially the property in Slidell doesn't warrant the rate charged. At least the other hotels were either located in cities where you expect to pay more or like Marble Falls which was like a resort location. I used to pay little for air fare, too, when we worked for the airlines...LOL

While preparing for this trip, I read as many reports as possible. Didn't you give advice to a young man from London about the cons and pros of driving from Dallas to New Orleans? I must say that's one boooring route :-)
What can I say, my husband loves to drive after having spent so much time on airplanes in his career....

AnnMarie_C Jun 24th, 2007 04:08 PM

waggis (rhymes with haggis, yes? ;-) ), although you missed the bluebonnets etc., I feel you were fortunate to see south Texas during an exceptional time--unseasonably cool, wet weather which has left us with gorgeous fields of green and a yellow daisy-type of flower unlike anything seen in years. What a treat--we're usually looking at water restrictions and unsavory shades of brown this time of year.

Glad you enjoyed a great road trip!

rkkwan Jun 24th, 2007 10:15 PM

Thanks for the report, but I can't see myself paying close to $200 for a Hampton Inn in AL, LA or TX.

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