Travelogue: Houston, Texas

November 6, 2011 Adventure

I just returned from a 48-hour trip to Houston. Although I had little time to explore the sprawling city, it was nice to see the sun, to feel its warmth, and to get a glimpse of this southern metropolis.

Trying to figure out public transportation was too confusing and time consuming, so I logged some serious mileage ambulating around town. I was a little startled by what I discovered. For being the largest city in Texas, and the fourth largest in the nation, the city lacks that vibrant feeling familiar in many other major urban areas. I’m sure there’s a lot happening, but I suspect it takes time to discover the city’s unique offerings.

So, let’s focus on the highlights of my trip.

The Original Ninfa’s on Navigation
My first stop after checking into my hotel room was Ninfa’s. Finding great TexMex was high on my list of things to do. Ninfa’s did not disappoint! I enjoyed an amazing meal that included delicious horchata, beef tacos al carbon, and the best tres leches I’ve ever had. I walked the two miles back to my hotel after the meal to burn of a small portion of what I ate!

A picture of the original Ninfa's on Navigation in Houston, Texas.

The original Ninfa's on Navigation in Houston, Texas.

On Saturday, I hiked over to midtown to eat brunch at The Breakfast Klub. This local institution is renowned for its southern breakfast. I waited an hour in line, which wrapped around the corner of the restaurant, to eat their signature wings and waffles. The meal was washed down with some delicious coffee and sweet tea. Heavenly.

A photo of wings & waffles at The Breakfast Klub.

Wings & waffles at The Breakfast Klub.

To burn off the heavy meal, I walked a mile to visit the Rothko Chapel. I have to admit, I’m not a huge fan of Mark Rothko’s artwork. However, this tranquil meditative environment is absolutely stunning. Rothko created the interfaith art space under the patronage of Dominique and John de Menil. Rothko worked closely with architects Philip Johnson, Howard Barnstone and Eugene Aubry to design the beautiful sunlit space that encompasses his fourteen paintings. The ambience of the space is moving, as is the Chapel’s commitment to being a place for dialogue on human rights. All in all, the Rothko Chapel lives up to its designation as “a modernist shrine for a timeless art.”

A photo of Rothko Chapel in Houston, TX.

Rothko Chapel

From the Chapel, I hiked across town to explore Buffalo Bayou park. My hope was to spend the afternoon kayaking along the waterway. However, I sadly learned that all of the kayaks were rented from the various outfitters providing service at the Bayou. So, I set out on foot. I was expecting a tranquil stroll along an urban parkway. Instead, I was shocked to discover the hiking trail essentially followed the noisy interstate highways. It was a total bummer. Nonetheless, it was nice to get some exercise and see more of the city.

A photo of the Buffalo Bayou hiking trail in Houston, TX.

The Buffalo Bayou hiking trail

Afterwards, I decided to quench my thirst at Cafe Luz before heading back to the hotel. This new coffeehouse in downtown Houston offers craft sodas and excellent coffee that is roasted at the cafe. I tried a made-to-order blood orange soda and an iced toddy coffee. Both drinks hit the spot. I had a great conversation about coffee with the owner while I enjoying my drinks. There was a chocolate making class taking place in the back kitchen, which reminded me of the one we enrolled in while visiting Peru. I highly recommend Cafe Luz to those visiting Houston.

A photo of Cafe Luz in Houston, TX

Cafe Luz (Photo: Houston Press)

Unfortunately, there were a few places I hoped to visit, but I was ultimately constrained by time (as well as crummy business hours). This included enjoying eastern Texas barbecue at Pizzitola’s, drinks at Anvil Bar & Refuge, and a trip to Saint Arnold’s Brewing Company. If I ever return to Houston, these destinations will be on my list of places to visit. Also, despite high prices, I’d like to check out the local specialty shops Maida’s Belts and Buckles and The Hat Store.

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