This week I headed south on my first trip to the Lone Star State. See, that’s me above horseback riding on a real Texas ranch. I was touring around Washington County, which is smack-dab between Austin and Houston. Just about everywhere I looked there were longhorn cattle chomping in grassy fields and signs proclaiming love for Blue Bell Ice Cream. In springtime I hear the wildflowers are bonkers. It was a whole ‘nother world, but I had fun glimpsing into it for a few days. Ready for the highlight reel? Here’s my Texas Top 10:
1. Cattle, Of course
I think cows are adorable. I love their big, round eyes and fuzzy ears that stick out at a “T.” Sure, we have plenty in the Midwest, but in Texas, longhorns graze anywhere you look. Because I was staying on a ranch, I got to see this herd rounded up one morning, mooing all the way.
2. Fresh steaks
Is this an insensitive follow-up to #1? Nah, just the circle of life. My first night at the ranch, our hosts cooked up some massive steaks, served with baked potatoes, black-eyed peas and broccoli salad on the side. And of course no southern supper is complete without pie—buttermilk pie, which this northerner had never heard of before.
3. Open-range horseback riding
I loved riding horses as a kid, but I haven’t been on one in forever. After a quick horse-wrangling tutorial, I followed our cowboy guru across the fields on a handsome chestnut horse named Tommy. He loved yanking mouthfuls of tall grass and hated being in the back of the pack. I had about as much authority over him as I do over my cat, which is to say, he was in total control.
4. The Antique Rose Emporium
Talk about gorgeous! This place is flower garden heaven. Though many modern roses can be finicky and difficult to grow, the owner says his antique varieties thrive without much attention. He discovers many of his resilient wild roses cropping up in graveyards and desolate areas.
5. The cat at the Antique Rose Emporium
After a few days away from my cat monster, I was already missing feline affection. When I found this tiny tuxedoed gentleman playing in the grass, I lavished him with lots of head scratches and attention, as I do.
6. Downtown Brenham
From bed & breakfast owners to candy makers, everyone I met here was working together to make Brenham a livelier little downtown. I toured the nonprofit Unity Theatre, marveled at the stained glass in the Ant Street Inn and tasted the best toffee ever (from Bliss Candy Company). But after two sad mornings of Folgers coffee, this farmers market provided my favorite thing of all: a cup of quality, French-press coffee.
7. Skull Decor
How hipster of me, I know. I was really into the cattle skulls strung on fences, propped near cacti and peppered around the ranch. Not to mention the giant longhorn head on the wall in my guest lodge. I wouldn’t want that in my home, but I appreciated the authentic Texas touch.
8. The Round Top Festival Institute
Thanks to a flat tire, I had very little time at this stunning theater and arts center, but even just popping in for photos was worth it. While taking this shot on stage, I could tell the acoustics were top-notch in there. And the picturesque chapel and grounds were equally impressive.
9. Country chapels
Everywhere I went—from garden to ranch to inn—there stood a chapel. If you’re getting married in Texas, I suspect there’s no shortage of charming venues for your ceremony. This one was at the Antique Rose Emporium, and I loved the way the setting sun bathed it in gold.
10. This pig
Face down in the mud, sleeping, living his life. I respect that. This is how tired I feel after traveling, so I could probably pass out right there with him. I’m waiting out a 6-hour layover at the airport now—oof. Maybe when I recover from this trip I’ll visit Austin to check out the killer music scene.
YOUR TURN: Ever been to Texas? From there? Tell me what’s in your Texas Top 10!