Emily M. DeArdo

writer

postcards

Houston Postcard Part II

travel, familyEmily DeArdoComment

It's time for Part Two of my Houston postcards! This is rapidly becoming a series!

In October I went to visit my sister for her birthday, and we had so much fun. We also ate really well and had fun browsing in FOUR bookshops. That's right: FOUR, people. 

So I'm here to share more Houston goodness with you!

(Here's the first postcard)

Food: 

This is up first because we had a lot of foodie fun. :) 

The thing you need to know is that the portions will, most likely, be LARGE. Just plan on that. 

Torchy's Tacos: various locations. Ours was the Rice Village one, 2400 Times Blvd. Mel said to me that they had big portions, but I thought two tacos wouldn't be that big, right? WRONG. They were big. And delicious. I had to admit defeat. The fact that they also sell spicy, amazing queso makes it even harder to stop yourself. They have Mexican sodas, but do not fear! The diet tastes a lot like Diet Coke to me, so I was fine. There's also lemonade and water. Fantastic eats. Yes, the location is small and it's loud, but hey, it's great food. 

Goode Co. Barbecue5109 Kirby Drive (basically, Kirby has a LOT of good food on it. Drive down this street and find good eats.) Texas does barbecue so well, and Goode's does it especially well. We both ordered the two meat platter and got the Czech sausage and the brisket. I have no idea what is in Czech sausage, but whatever it is, it is DELICIOUSNESS. The jalapeño cornbread was a revelation. Excellent good eats. They have a small dining room and a much larger covered patio outside. 

Down House:  1801 Yale Street. This place is cool and serves excellent food. This is where Mel's friends met her for lunch to celebrate her birthday. Mimosas were had (not by me), and there was a cheeseboard. 

The shrimp and grits were exquisite. I could eat here every day. We had a great waiter, and we could eat leisurely and enjoy ourselves, which is always a plus. 

El Tiempo: multiple locations, and I'm honestly not sure which one was ours! We ate here for dinner with Mel and Diane, who were both celebrating birthdays. This is more Tex-Mex than actual authentic Mexican, but it's very good. I had a platter and Mel and her boyfriend shared a fajita plate. 

Grace's 3111 Kirby Drive Mel and I had the best dinner here. (I know I keep saying that, but it's true!) This is owned and run by the people who run Carrabas (there's actually one of them across the street), and it's dedicated to the owner's grandmother, Grace. The restaurant is decorated like someone's house. It's dark and elegant. Me and I shared the beet salad and we both had burgers, because they were Waygu beef burgers, people. Delicious. Very classy place, and it's where Mel takes our parents when they come to town. We saw couples, people on business dinners, families--diverse clientele. Also had a lovely patio! 

The Chocolate Bar2521 University Blvd. (Rice Village) (there's another location in River Oaks, at 1835 W. Alabama) I wanted dessert at Grace's, but Mel said, no. We have to go here. 

THAT is Aunt Etta's cake. That is pure deliciousness. That is something you stomach NEEDS. Mel got the European hot chocolate and a slice of truffle cake. 

I did not eat all of this. But man, it's delicious. You must go to the Chocolate Bar. 

Sweet Paris 2420 Rice Blvd. (three locations) We went here for lunch. They have sweet and savory crepes, as well as waffles, and (my dad says ) Amazing Coffee. It's very cute, very Parisian, and very yummy. 

 

Bookstores

Brazos2421 Bissonnett St. Of course I had to return and bring Mel! A good time was had by all. 

B&N (We don't need to review this, do we? Just know they have them. :-D)

Murder By the Book2342 Bissonnet St. (Yes, it's right down the street from Brazos. This is an excellent street.) I had some reservations about this one, because I'm not a big mystery reader. Man, I was wrong. This place is great! They have more than mysteries (fantasy, thrillers, etc. are included in their sphere), and I picked up books, a journal, and tea! Loved this bookstore. 

 

Galveston

The Spot3204 Seawall Blvd., Galveston. This place has a great view of the Gulf and includes indoor and outdoor seating. I had the Gulf shrimp, because seriously, how much more local can you get? They have a big menu and it's a very relaxed atmosphere--we came here straight from the beach! Parking can be a little tricky. 

Galveston Bookshop:  A used/new book store in the "historic district" of Galveston. The website gives you directions, since it's sort of hard to find. It has a great selection of books about Galveston and Texas in general. (There is also a bookstore cat.) We didn't buy anything, but it looked like a good place to browse for hard to find books. 

 

 

Postcard: Houston

travelEmily DeArdoComment

My sister lives in Houston, as does one of my cousins. So this is a city I'm going to get to know pretty well, probably. However, the only time I've been there was before my sister moved there, and I was visiting my cousin, who had one child at the time (now she has three), and the baby was 9 months old. So, these suggestions sort of reflect the period in which I was there, meaning, we had a baby in tow. :) And since I stayed at her house, I have no hotel suggestion. 

However, here's what we did, and what I can suggest: 

Museums and Shops 

  • Johnson Space Center:  1601 Nasa Parkway. I seriously had a blast here, and the baby didn't get bored! Besides visiting Historic Mission Control (where Apollo 13's MC was based--the actual event, I don't think the movie was filmed here), it's also a great museum with rotating exhibitions (when we were there it was Star Wars), a play place for kids, and fun science experiments (like figuring out how much you'd weigh on other planets, and what the soil makeup on the moon is). It is expensive. I think we had coupons or something. But kids under 3 are free, and kids from ages 4-11 have a reduced price. (There's also the CityPass, which I talk about below, and will save you a bundle.) 
     
  • Brazos Bookstore: 2421 Bissonnet Street OK, I had wayyy too much fun here. You know how much I like my independent book shops, and this is one of the best in the country! There's a great kids area and I even found a copy of The Stranger in French, which I didn't buy, and I kick myself for that a lot. If I'm ever back there, I will try to hunt it down again!
     
  • Houston Museum of Natural Science: 5555 Herman Park Drive. We had a lot of fun visiting the butterflies at the Butterfly Center, but there are also other cool things to see here. Kids and adults will like it. 

  • Museum of Fine Arts, Houston: 1001 Bissonnet. I also love art museums, so this was a great place. Their collection of impressionists is.....impressive. (See what I did there?) I also really liked their selection of European art. You can buy tickets ahead of time on the website. 
     

TAKE NOTE! If you're planning on doing the Space Center, the Museum of Natural Sciences, and the Museum of Fine Arts, I highly suggest getting a City Pass.  Save yourself some money!

Food:

Freebirds: Like Chipotle, but better. Locations around the city.  

Galveston: 

We did take a trip to Galveston the same day we did NASA. In Galveston, we drove around and had dinner at Gaido's, which was enjoyable. There's a great view of the Gulf from inside, too! We took the baby to the beach and went wading for a bit. The water is like bath water. My parents have spent more time down there than I have, and they really like it. So it might be worth checking out, and of course spending a beach day, if that's your thing. You don't have to pay to use the beaches and there's street and lot parking. Fees for the parking vary. 

Postcard: Boston

travelEmily DeArdo2 Comments

Boston wasn't just my first trip to Massachusetts; it was my first trip to New England proper (New York City so does not count as New England). I've heard a lot of good things about it--history, great food, and fantastic fall colors--and I was excited to see if the stories were true. 

So, first up--where we stayed. We stayed at the Seaport Boston and had an amazing stay there.  The hotel is "service inclusive", meaning you don't leave tips. This took a while for us to get used to, but in the end, I think it was a really great system. The walls had great soundproofing (so says my dad--I can't really tell!), and each room had a doorbell. If you wanted privacy, you pushed the "privacy" button by the door, and the light around the doorbell turned red, so housekeeping knew not to knock. How ingenious is that? 

The hotel had a library, DVD and Xboxes you could borrow, a gym, three eating options, and a pillow library. 

nd there were five more options.....

We had a great view of Boston Harbor, too. The hotel has a concierge and a cab stand out front, so it was really easy for us to get into Boston proper, but there was also a T station nearby, if you wanted to try that option. It's really close to Logan airport--about a five minute ride. 

Our main reason for picking the Seaport was that it was close to the Westin, where the auditions were being held, but it turned out to be a great decision. I highly recommend it. 

 

Faneuil Hall

Faneuil Hall

Boston is an incredibly historic city, as everyone knows, and about 7 hours of daylight wasn't enough to see all of it, sadly. But we did enjoy visiting the Old North Church, the Revere Mall (where one can take the shot that opens this entry--that's the Old North Church behind a statue of Paul Revere), Faneuil Hall, and Quincy Marketplace The Old North Church is actually still a working church, and donations are required to tour it. 

Revere Mall was actually my favorite place in the city. It's really a beautiful place to stop and hear the city bustle around you, and the fountain near the Old North Church is beautiful. There's also a St. Francis Garden (at an Episcopal church? Whatever), a chocolate and tea shop (historic chocolate and regular chocolate. YUM), a printing shop (Colonial printing demonstrations are held there), and a regular gift shop. 

IMG_2128.JPG

The Freedom trail is sort of easy to follow. I say "sort of", because it's also kind of easy to lose in big places, and it's convoluted. Basically, following the red bricks and you'll be OK--or not. Like I said, it's confusing, especially if you're picking it up mid trail. But there are apps and maps for it, that I just didn't use. 

Faneuil Hall is also open for tours, and the marketplace is insanely popular for just about everyone. There are places to eat and places to shop. My favorite was the Make Way for Ducklings Storeprobably THE cutest kids/middle readers/ YA readers store I've ever seen. 

Food: Yes, we have to talk about food. Food in Boston is really good, folks. On Saturday, we ate at Legal Seafood Long Wharf, and it met our expectations, and then surpassed them. 

Can we talk about Boston Creme Pie for a second, guys? Whatever you've had before, trust me. It's not the real deal. The real deal is found only in Boston. And it is Magically Delicious. 

On Sunday, we had lunch at Cantina Italiana, on Hanover Street in the North End, where we were seduced by lamb shank, risotto, and gnocchi and seafood platters (and a waiter who looked like Stanley Tucci in Big Night.) 

We had a great, restorative cup of hot chocolate at the Ghirardelli's Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop.  The cafe style seating, with wrought-iron chairs and marble topped tables and counters on the second floor was a great place to take a break, sketch, and people watch via the windows that overlooked the marketplace. 

Cheers in Faneuil Hall was our stop for dinner. I know. You're probably thinking, TOURIST MUCH? But we really enjoyed it, and the food was good!

And no, no one knew our names....but that's OK! 

We had Breakfast on Monday (our last day) at the hotel, and it was enjoyable. I mean, it wasn't the BEST BREAKFAST EVER, but it was good and we liked it. Breakfast at hotels is basically....breakfast at hotels. For lunch, we ate at the Legal Test Kitchen location at Logan, where you could get lobsters packaged to go....which sort of unnerved me. Live lobsters in the cargo hold? That can't be fun for them. And how long are they good for, anyway? Is there a live lobster expiration date?

The city is walkable, but beware the uneven pavement and cobblestones--I tripped a few times. We never had a problem finding cabs, which was good. Neither Dad or I wanted to try the T, so I can't report back on that. 

It was a quick trip, but a good one--the food alone made it worth it! If I went back I'd probably want to explore Beacon Hill and the Back Bay, and visit the art museums, which we didn't get to do (I'm a museum nut). But this was a good introduction to the city.