Wildflowers of Texas Tour, Spring 2012
Another commissioned trip for the Louisiana Garden Club Federation, lasting Monday to Saturday. We drove to Austin, Texas to begin our trip. After a sumptuous evening meal and a good night's rest, we headed over to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center to begin our activities.
This special place exists to introduce people to the beauty and diversity of wildflowers and other native plants. Every day, the Wildflower Center brings life to Mrs. Johnson's vision in its public gardens, its woodlands and sweeping meadows as well as in internationally influential research.
This was truly a peaceful, beautiful preserve.
We always strive to offer an experience that is decidedly "local." Back in Austin, we ventured out to some of Austin's best-loved areas. South Congress is home to food trailers, funky shops, and the legendary Continental Club. It's a great reminder of the diversity of this great state, often overlooked by too many outsiders.
As food remains a vital component to travel and culture, Austin provides that in spades. We went to another Austin area original, Threadgill's, for some old school country eats.
The next day, we enjoyed a morning of sight-seeing before heading over to the Swoop House. Run by chef/entrepreneur Steven Shallcross, this is a supper club which every city only wishes it could have.
Austin is home to Whole Foods Market and a broad array of organic food and natural cuisine. With a giant catering kitchen built next door, Steven restored a beautiful home and turned it into a supper club, with natural gardens in the surrounding yard. His chefs were first rate and explained much to my ladies about gardening, planting, and cooking.
We tasted course after course of authentic Tex-Mex cuisine, brought over from the main kitchen, steps out of the back door, and explained by each chef who created the dish.
Steven even lined up a visit for my ladies to see a nearby local farm, which uses the natural processes of plant/animal interaction to great, healthy effect. Austin is home to a large segment of German-Americans, and the similarities in beer, love of music, cleanliness, gardening, and healthy eating is completely connected back to the home country.
Another home for German immigrants, this town is home to great cooking, charming shops, and some beautiful vistas of hill country geography.
It was great fun to be kids again, strolling down aisles in stores that are full of toys, gadgets, and knick-knacks from decades past.
Keeping with the GBC theme, we ate at this charming German styled restaurant. The owner/chef is from the Alsace-Lorraine area!
To make the experience complete, we did not stay in town at one of the corporate hotels but instead experience real hill country living. I chose a secluded ranch house complex for our stay, and the ladies all had the giant main house.
Aside from the fun activities and great food, a vital component of travel is reserved for the individual experience. We're strong believers in giving people free time to relax and have their space as well. Texas offers plenty of that.
The two nights we spent here were truly enjoyable. It was a great break from the lengthy time on the road and the busy schedule.
One can never overlook that critical component of travel known as timing. Whether it's to see flowers in bloom or making sure not to arrive during a major local festival with major crowds and bothersome traffic, pre-trip research is vital in determining the best time and locations to travel.
Another stop in Fredericksburg is one of the great contributors to the natural beauty of the state of Texas. In addition to huge planted sections of flowers, they sell tools, seeds, and food all tied to the flora, geography, and culture of this wonderful area.
This place was a horticulturalist's dream!
After a day at Wildseed Farms, we headed over to this charming winery for a tasting course and some shopping.
As one with years of experience in fine dining, I never thought wine from this rolling terrain would add up to a "hill" of beans. It was far more than a fun stop. These wines were spectacular. The experience was even more complete with a French-speaking Belgian behind the counter, pouring wine and charming the ladies!
There's no surprise why this is a favorite destination for Texans and others who know better. This area is full of incredible specialty stores. This one is known for one unbelievable peach cobbler...
With wines from Becker, meats from Opa's, as well as authentic sauerkraut and potato salad, and some raspberry-chipotle dipping sauce to boot, we had one delicious last supper before beginning our journey back to Louisiana.
As we headed back towards Louisiana, we took a drive on a road that is known and loved for its views. We agreed.
Hailed as one of the most diverse and important gardens of the South, we enjoyed one last horticultural/botanical stop on this wonderful one-week trip. Located west of Houston, this center protects and nourishes species from this region and further into Central America. It's a true oasis for plant and person alike...
The guides here are first rate. They are all very committed to the mission and the place, and we had a private tour with no interruption or crowds.
And who is out walking this giant garden estate and taking care of his plants? The founder/designer, John Fairey!
Our final stop was at the Woodlands Resort, a huge complex of bungalows, hiking trails, golf links, and swimming pools. It was a perfect break in the drive back from Fredericksburg.
We chose the Woodlands for its huge variety of activities. Nearby is one of the South's largest shopping malls. Some of the ladies took the shuttle to shop, while others took advantage of the natural setting and rode bikes amidst the trees and birds. We're equal as people, but we're not equal in abilities, interests, and intellect. All group travel must always allow for individuality to be exercised. We're not sheep herders, after all!
A fun pose with two from the group before we loaded up our clothes and numerous purchases for the trip home. Another great success!