Twice as Nice – West Texas Edition

Photo via Mural from Alpine Art Walk

Photo via Mural from Alpine Art Walk

The past two weekends my family and I headed out West, some would say WAY out West. About 495 miles from Dallas lies the magical town of Alpine, Texas. Home to Sul Ross University, (which made a cameo in Richard Linklater’s amazing “Boyhood“), 30 miles from mountainous Fort Davis, 30 miles, in the other direction, is Marfa, my beloved Marfa, in another direction for less than 30 miles is Marathon, home of the Gage Hotel but more worth noting, 12 Gage Restaurant.  Want more?  Alpine is 70 miles from Big Bend National Park, 60 miles to Balmorhea, scuba diving in the desert anyone??  Basically it’s a hub bub of all kinds of goodness, here’s the 800 arrows take on it all.

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Soft Shell Turtle and fish at Balmorhea

 

Where we stayed:

Weekend 1:  Air BnB – Casita Velveeta (listing no longer available on Air BnB), in case this place does reappear for rent I wouldn’t recommend it, even at $85.00/night, it felt like we over paid.  Our friends stayed here using VRBO and it was lovely!  If you don’t want to rent, I would recommend the Guest Lofts from the Holland Hotel, these can get very pricey but start at $125, and for a very simple stay I’d check out Antelope Lodge (starting at $85/night, it’s where I’d like to stay next go around).

A glimpse of colorful Casita Velveeta and school on the road with the kids.

A glimpse of colorful Casita Velveeta and school on the road with the kids.

Weekend 2:  We stayed at the Alpine Rock House, which is a nice part of Alpine (a little farther from the train horns), you can easily walk to Plaine for your coffee or Blue Bell needs. it’s a beautiful house, great for a family but also wonderful if you were traveling with friends, lots of room to spread out.  Last word on renting versus a hotel, the kitchen is great to have because while the restaurants left a lot to be desired the natural grocery store is amazing!

Pointing the way to Holland Hotel Guest Lofts

Pointing the way to Holland Hotel Guest Lofts

Where we ate:

Alpine

Judy’s Bread and Breakfast is about the only breakfast game into unless you count McDonald’s, which I don’t.  It’s not good (yes I even tried the cinnamon roll, I still won’t call it good), but the place and people are great and it’s one of those things that makes Alpine a nice place to live.

Guzzi Up – If you must go here don’t have pizza, I repeat do not have pizza, salads are pretty good.  Also unless you love the latest tween rock videos (personally I’m a fan) you may wanted to be seated away from the TV’s, they are huge.

La Trattoria or La Trot (if you’re trying to be a local) – meh.

Reata – Really expensive meh.

Plaine – Sister to Frama in Marfa, this laundry mat, coffee, ice cream bar is awesome-ness.

Little Mexico Cafe – You are better off going hungry.  Couldn’t find an online presence for Little Mexico Cafe, but it’s on Murphy Street.  Do yourself a favor, keep on walking to Los Jalapenos which was closing as we pulled up but looks very promising!

Blue Water Natural Foods – Not a restaurant, but if you rent a house you can stock up here with most of what you could find at Whole Foods or other natural grocery.  Great quality  produce, impressive selection overall, it’ll be my FIRST stop to stock up next time we are in Alpine!

 Marathon –

12 Gage Restaurant and White Buffalo Bar – You can order from the bar menu while dining at the restaurant.  Venison sliders, butternut and apple bisque, the lovely puff pastry below.  Wash it all down with Ranch Water (tequila, Topo Chico, lime juice and ice) and enjoy the party!

Veggie Puff Pastry filled with quinoa, veggies and feta from 12 Gage

Veggie Puff Pastry filled with quinoa, veggies and feta from 12 Gage

Marfa – 

We didn’t try anything new this time, revisited old favorites, all were good!  Food Shark – fatuous salad with hummus and falafel,  Frama for chai latte, Maiya’s for a Paloma and ragu (yes it’s $22 for pasta, yes I still think it’s worth it).  Sad we couldn’t swing by Museum of Electronic Wonders and late Night Grilled Cheese Parlour but instead we were watching the cool kids at the Trans-Pecos music festival at El Cosmico.

 

What we did:

photo via my husband (really that goes for all photos unless otherwise noted)

photo via my husband (really that goes for all photos unless otherwise noted)

Day trips:  Lajitas – I’d skip this in the future and would not recommend, basically just a fancy resort in the middle of the desert, food was terrible.

Terlingua – Fun to see this little town, less than an hour outside of Alpine and the drive is spectacular especially if you get a cloudy day bringing a storm like we were lucky enough to witness!

Terlingua's La Kiva

Terlingua’s La Kiva

Balmorhea – A Texas State Park with a spring all decked out for swimming, snorkeling and even scuba diving.  Depth goes down to about 25 ft, 3 ft being the most shallow.  Water was a comfy temp once in but cold enough to put your game face on before jumping. High dive provided fun and loads of entertainment for all the viewers.  We headed out before eating but I hear there’s fantastic Mexican food right outside the park (also allows for camping and cabin stay).  Insider tip:  To get the fish stirred up arm yourself with some cheese crackers and spray cheese – gross yes, but the fish went nuts!  To tempt the soft shell turtle “weenies” or hot dogs (are these the same?)  work best but watch your fingers while swimming, your little piggies look a lot like weenies too!

Balmorhea was by far our kids' favorite part of the trip.

Balmorhea was by far our kids’ favorite part of the trip.

Marfa – While Marfa is known for art, food, cool kids, our cool kids love it for the train tracks.  While it might not be the kid friendliest place, my kids think Marfa is a treasure trove of “stuff by the train tracks”.  We flatten coins, they rock hound, get dusty and dirty, really what’s not to love.

Those boots look familiar?  The Blundstones just keep going!

Those boots look familiar? The Blundstones just keep going!

we stopped in at the Trans-Pecos Music Festival happening at El Cosmico and couldn’t take our eyes off of the side show game involving hammers flying into the air, banging an opponents nail into the stump (in the middle of the circle) and lots of hipster watching.  Ah, Marfa!

If you are curious about the  all male players rest assured the ladies were next up and ready to fling some hammers!

If you are curious about the all male players rest assured the ladies were next up and ready to fling some hammers!

Alpine – We attended an outdoor dinner presented by Times Ten Cellars at their vineyard  overlooking Cathedral Mountain.  This isn’t a regular happening but we’ll certainly try to make it to these randomly schedules dinners as often as we can.

Our greeting as we arrived on the gorgeous scene at Times Ten Vineyard.

Our greeting as we arrived on the gorgeous scene at Times Ten Vineyard.

The west Texas skies were kind enough to provide us with a side show throughout the evening, the sunset, that gave way to the breathtaking scene below all while 5 courses came and went,  wine glasses were filled and drained, and prices of Alpine real estate were discussed at every table.

Cathedral Mountain

Cathedral Mountain

Really you can’t go wrong with a visit to this part of the world.  So many things to see and do even if you just sit and watch the sky.  Grab your crew, pack up the car and have a nice journey, stretching and napping are encouraged.

They grow up sooooo fast.

They grow up sooooo fast.

One last mention of thanks to my handsome husband, for two amazing weekends and always going above and beyond (including looking after my sun hat long after the sun disappeared).  Love rocks.

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Journal entry of a Marfa-phile

What’s so great about Marfa?  For me?  Everything.

When was the last time you gleaned inspiration from a mini-bar?  And yet here at the Thunderbird you have a thoughtful assortment that is not only an aesthetic delight but a testament to what makes a guest comfortable.  What you want vs. what you need…or both as exemplified by their basket of offerings.

Thunderbird Hotel mini-bar

As we were headed to Cloudcroft, NM after 9 days in Southern Arizona enjoying the “nature show”, live, in 4-D and surround sound we decided to change our course.  Although Cloudcrot with it’s 9,000 ft elevation would provide a welcome change in temperature, I realized I wasn’t ready to give up the feeling of wide open spaces.  Enter M-A-R-F-A on the navigation, add 2 hours of driving time and suddenly we had a car full of smiles and anticipation.  My kids love Marfa, my husband loves Marfa, it seems even the dog is a fan.

So what is it about this place?  Truth be told, I don’t love Marfa for it’s art.  When we visit we almost never check-out the amazing galleries or must see installations.  However I love looking at all of the people who ARE drawn to Marfa because of the art.  These folks have style, they’ve created looks for themselves….so I guess in a way it the art draws me as well.

I love Marfa for the Food Shark and The Get Go.  I love the cowboys eating alongside the hipsters.  I love that a town with the population 2121 has a restaurant with a $33 pasta.  The real thing I love is how I feel in Marfa, my thoughts don’t feel like ideals, they feel like attainable, tangible, do-able things!  I think it’s the balance of things, there is more land visible than the evidence of man.  It’s easy to remember the thing I call my life, with my iPhone reminders, meal plans and scheduled activities are mainly distractions from the actual LIVING part of life.

How can a place feel like home when I’ve never lived there?  There was a moment when I thought I would, live in Marfa, that is.  But I’m scared I’ll ruin it.

P.S.  Thanks to the Thunderbird’s mini-bar I’m kinda in love with this product.