Here is my second installment, again in thanks to all the help I got from the folks on this board.
Friday Day three; - Wine Trail
We left our hotel at 8 am—a nice early start for the full day ahead of us. Unfortunately by getting such an early start –none of the wineries were open yet for business. We headed north on 281 and stopped in at the Blue Bonnet Cafe in Marble Falls for a cup of coffee and a slice of pie (hey, I know it was only 10 am—but we read that this café was noted for their pies—and it did not disappoint.) We headed west on route 71 into Llano then took Route 2241 into the town of Tow on Lake Buchanan. We stopped at the Fall Creek Vineyard, established in 1975 it is one of the oldest vineyards in the area, sampled their wines and chatted with the fellow there. He told us that the area is really struggling with the long drawn out drought. It has really hurt the tourism and fishing business there. We couldn’t help notice the dry creeks and rivers we encountered all day. It was odd to see the flood gauge markers in dips in the road knowing that it has been a long time since they measured any meaningful amount of water.
We then headed back to Llano with a stop at Cooper’s BBQ Pit. (604 West Young-Hwy 29). It was amazing to see the outside BBQ holders loaded down with delicious looking brisket, ribs, chicken and sausages. Everything looked so good; I pointed to several different cuts and asked for some of each, which they then pile onto a plastic tray. You then take the tray inside to the butchers where they weigh your meat and slice it up for you. Then on to the cashier—imagine our surprise when our lunch totaled over $54—oh my!! But man was it ever worth it. The beef ribs and the brisket were especially tender and flavorful! So I caution anyone going there, to pick judicially.
We then headed south on 16 to Fredericksburg to the Grape Creek Vineyards billed as the “Tuscany in Texas” It was a lovely large stone building that specializes in weddings and other functions held among the grapevines. We headed right next door to Torre di Pietra vineyards where we met Roxie the calico cat and Ben, the very friendly son of the owners. He gave us ‘googled’ directions to the Fredericksburg Herb Farm down the street—unfortunately, the directions left a little bit to be desired and what with the Public Works Department busy filling pot holes—we were unable to find the farm. Because we were on a time restraint to get the car back by 6:30 we reluctantly gave up and headed south on Route 87 past the gently rolling hills to Comfort, Texas. We stopped at the Comfort Cellars vineyard housed in the owner’s home. Of special note was their jalapeno wine—really designed for marinades rather than drinking straight--very interesting!! Singing Water Vineyards—4 miles down a small curvy road in the middle of nowhere in the hills was a lovely vineyard housed in an old renovated barn. The owner proudly showed us the recent article in the New York Post mentioning their semi sweet merlot named Sweet Lupe after their yellow lab, Lupe. Sadly Lupe was not hanging round the barn that day, so we didn’t get to meet him. But this vineyard was the perfect end to a lovely day in the country.
I’m very envious of you locals, as it is a great way to spend a day in the country—sipping some wine and talking to the lovely folks that own and work in the vineyards.
After dropping off the car, we decided to walk down to the Riverwalk. We were delighted to see there was an arts and crafts show with booths set up along the water. I purchased a cute ceramic bundle of chili peppers to hang in my kitchen as a nice reminder of some of the spicy food I had here in Texas.
We took the $7.75 boat tour and my husband took advantage of the senior citizen’s discount for the very first time- $5.00 as he turned 60 today—the guy behind the ticket booth took a double take. The Riverwalk is so colorful and lovely at night—I can see where they call the riverwalk, the “Venice of the West” as I had fond flashbacks of our time in Venice. After the boat ride, we stopped at Jim Cullums Landing for a drink to listen to the wonderful jazz riverside. On a trip to the ladies room inside, I discovered an even larger jazz group playing. Apparently it is broadcast live on the radio. Jim Cullums became a frequent place for us to stop in the coming day—loved the different types of jazz we heard over the week.
We then headed up to Alamo Plaza to find the Alamo. We were amazed to see it all lit up--very accessible-- and with very few people around. While standing on the grounds, I got the same feeling I had when I visited the Arizona Memorial in Hawaii, Ellis Island in NY and the Ann Frank House in Amsterdam—just this completely overwhelming feeling of history.
We then stopped at the Menger Hotel to admire the beautiful lobby…but a stop in the bar proved to be too smoky for us to stay. It certainly seems like the place to go if you want to smoke a cigar! We found a long line at Howl at the Moon, so we decided to call it a day as it was a very long day.
Saturday: Day Four:
We got up early and took a 10 minute walk to the Guenther House (We could walk the Riverwalk nearly all the way from our hotel—a very easy walk). I’ve heard so much about the pancakes, I decided to opt for their Almond pancake special and my husband ordered the breakfast tacos. The food was delicious and the service was friendly and efficient.
We walked back and then headed to Hemisphere Park – I loved the waterfalls and fountains—they are everywhere! I took lots of photos, but I’m not sure they’ll do it justice.
We walked to the Alamo Plaza and took the $5.00 audio tour—well worth it. I found the Alamo just as amazing in the daytime as in the evening—I just could not get over just how accessible it is.
A search for a public restroom, led us down the stairs to a beckoning invite for a beer, margarita or a Bloody Mary that we could take with us. Apparently Crazy Sams is one of the few places you can get a drink to go on the Riverwalk. I found that hard to believe as I saw lots of drinks cups being carried on the walkway.
We took the boat tour again (I highly recommend taking the ride both in the evening and the daytime—it has a totally different look and ‘feel’. The guide was just as entertaining and we learned a few new things – like where they filmed the proposal scene with Jennifer Lopez in the movie, “Selena”; and Arneson River Theater, the place where the swimsuit competition was filmed for “Miss Congeniality” with Sandra Bullock. (Being a movie buff, I love this stuff!).
We needed to head back to the hotel and found that the easiest and fastest way from the Riverwalk to the Hyatt Place is a cut through the LaVillita Village. It sure felt good to take off our shoes and sit awhile before getting dressed for my husband’s birthday dinner at the Chart House in the Tower of the Americas.
We arrived 20 minutes early for our 6 o’clock reservations, so we opted to relax in Club 601 bar with the amazing views. We then got seated at a window seat-which I had requested when I made the reservation. But rather than a regular table, it was a small ‘booth’ where one of the seats actually faced the glass rather than being next to it. My choice was the Shrimp Fresca (parmesan encrusted shrimp with angel hair pomodoro topped with lump crabmeat) and my husband chose the special: butterflied whole flounder with 7-spice cajun sauce, stuffed with truffle infused mushroom risotto, topped with crawfish etouffee and lump crab meat. The food was very good –not fantastic—but the view made up any shortcomings. At the end, we were presented with a chocolate volcano cake with a small white chocolate disc with the words “happy Birthday’ on it-compliments of the Chart House. Of special note is that we were precisely at the point directly in front when the sun when down.—Did the staff plan it that way? We liked to think, yes. It really was a beautiful scene.
We really felt we needed to walk off our dinner and enjoy the wonderful evening. We head back to Dolores de Rio where we found a band playing an Elton John song—it was very crowded (then again it is a very small place) so we hung out on the stairs for a while and then starting walking again. We finally ended up at Waxy O’Connor, a nice Irish bar with a duo that unfortunately did not play Irish music. In fact the lead wasn’t really a great singer, but he was very entertaining nonetheless. Once again as the clock passed ten o’clock, it was time for us to head to bed.