Melbourne’s Street Art Scene

When I think of Melbourne, I think of street art and coffee. When we visited last summer, it did not disappoint! Today, I want to relive one of the best tours I have ever been on – the Melbourne Street Art Tour! This was a tour that I booked through AirBnB. If you haven’t explored AirBnB’s experiences section – check it out! There are always incredible adventures to be had that are led by locals.

This tour was led by a local artist who worked with Blender Studios in Melbourne. The tour was a few hours long and led us through alleys and streets I never would have known to go down. Not only was the art incredible, but so were the stories that accompanied the art!

The tour began in downtown Melbourne and ended at the Blender Studios, which was a treat in itself. We got a tour of the studio and got to speak to the artists and owners. Not only that but there was complimentary beer, kombucha, and snacks!

Now let’s get into the art!

Hosier Lane

Hosier Lane

We began in legendary Hosier Lane. Hosier Lane is a famous street in Melbourne, known for its ever changing street art. The energy of the area was high and the smell of fresh spray paint was plentiful. Not only was there spray painted art, but there was also object art (not really sure how else to describe it). The artist leading us pointed out the concrete art that lined the streets.

Hosier Lane
Hosier Lane

The creme de la creme of Hosier Street was a piece done by Adnate. This is a 23 meter tall mural of an aboriginal boy. The detail absolutely blew me away.

Hosier Lane

Flinder’s Lane

The tour continued down to Flinder’s Lane, where I got to meet my second Banksy piece. Excited was an understatement.

Banksy on Flinder's Lane
Banksy on Flinder's Lane

There were plenty of other spectacular pieces in the area as well! The first piece stood out because it extended to the floor as well! I loved how whimsical it was. The second one was just really cool looking, IMO. Perhaps it would make for a cool tattoo?

Flinder's Lane
Flinder's Lane

Pesgrave Place

The last stop on the tour before we went to Blender Studios was Pesgrave Place. The art we saw there was unlike any street art I had seen before. Lots of it was 3D and there was a fun section where the art was all under frames, as if it were a museum.

Pesgrave Place
Pesgrave Place

Blender Studios

Last, but not least, was our stop to Blender Studios. By the end of the tour, most of the other participants had left so it was just us and our tour guide. Honestly, this was my favorite part of the tour, and I feel like the others missed out! As I mentioned earlier, they had snacks and drinks. We got to see everyone’s studio and buy pieces from them directly!

Blender Studios
Blender Studios
Blender Studios
Blender Studios

If you couldn’t tell already, I loved this tour! If you have the chance, you should book it. It’s worth every penny and it goes back to local artists! If you’re interested in other posts about street art, check out this one from my trip to New Orleans!

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Travel

Discovering the Heart and S(e)oul of South Korea

After our brief visit to Singapore, we moseyed on over to Seoul, South Korea. Going into this trip, I had an idea of what most of the places would be like, but Korea was an unknown for me. If you asked me what I knew about Korea, the most I could give you would be a list of assorted food items that I’d seen at the Asian market growing up.

Our flight to Korea was about 6 hours long. We flew Singapore airlines, which I had heard rave reviews about. The airplane/airport geek in me was pumped! My short review? Good meals for economy. Decent leg room and seats that were as comfortable as an airplane can get. Great service. Insanely clean bathrooms.

Upon getting on the flight, we met our seat mate. His name is Jin, but he goes by Jimmy. Jimmy chatted with us throughout the flight, and essentially made us feel like unaccomplished humans. He had been in the Olympics as a judo fighter (I’m not 100% sure if it was judo or some other sport but I am 100% sure about the Olympic thing). He also had completed his mandatory 2-year service in the Korean army. What was Jimmy doing now? Training to be a commercial pilot. Jimmy gave us a little crash course into Korean life and described how insanely long days are for both children and adults. If anyone would like to follow our homie Jimmy on Instagram, click here. (You’re welcome Jimmy).

On to Korea.

Day One

We took a cab from the Incheon Airport into Seoul. Cabs are pretty affordable in South Korea and saved us the headache of trying to figure out the bus system. To be honest, we used cabs to get pretty much everywhere while we were in Seoul because #affordableluxury.

We stayed in an area called Myeong-dong, which is known for it’s shopping and K-beauty (neither of which interested me). For our first night, we wandered the streets near our AirBnB, and ate our little hearts out. The area was fun to wander through because of all the little side streets that kept leading you to more food! Scroll on for the grub from that night šŸ˜‰

Buchimgae – Korean pancake
Kimchi
Banchan 4 life
Cute rice balls for the banchan
Hot pot

Day Two

The next day, we had meandering on our schedule, as well as a kimchi making class. Whilst we meandered, I made a few observations…

  • Public bathrooms were a bit hard to come by – as were garbage cans
  • Americanos were not very good at all!
  • Air was dirty. Dirty enough that I longed for that presh Chicago air. Yes, it was really that bad!
  • Everyone is incredibly nice. Reflecting back on it now, I can’t determine if it was genuine niceness or just a politeness that we don’t have at home.
Google Translate: if I buy you a bouquet, will you be mine?
#kawaii

Meandering was fun, but the streets were incredibly crowded and the air was not the best, so we were ready to go indoors for our kimchi class. Kimchi is something that we eat frequently – we’re all about those probiotics! During the class we learned so much about the history of kimchi and what it means in Korea. Essentially, kimchi is a staple in Korean daily life. Families even get together annually for an event called Kimjang, in which they make kimchi all day long. People even get the day off of work for this! We also learned about the million and one types of kimchi, as well as how kimchi ages (similarly to wine I suppose).

If you’re curious about the process and history of kimchi, take this class! It was taught by a husband and wife team, and not only did we make kimchi, but we also had a homemade meal together! I would recommend it 100%!

All the spices!
Smug mug
Dinner! Bossam (boiled pork), buchimgae (pancakes) and rice cakes!

Day Three

The last thing that we did in Seoul proper was a city walk. We booked a tour off of AirBnB and our host was great! We met at the Seoul Cinema, where he began by talking about the history of the Korean language. Fun fact alert: did you know that up until the 1980s, Mandarin Chinese was a common language for Koreans? I didn’t!

We continued on our tour by visiting what was the first shopping mall in Seoul. It has since been converted into electronic shops, as well as studios for young artists, who can receive funding from the country for an apartment and studio space! In front of the building was a statue of a robot, which symbolized the creation of new technology that occurred there.

We had to
There were public rooms where you could listen to a collection of records!
They had rooms throughout where people could meet and work!

As we delved deeper into the buildings, we came across stores that sold all types of obscure electronic pieces. The tour guide told us that the government paid for training so that these store owners could keep up to date with current technological needs!

The interior of the buildings
The view from the top floor, which had been renovated as a meeting space for locals

After exploring the buildings, our tour guide brought us to a fun little coffee shop in the design market. In Seoul, businesses that do similar jobs are located near one another. This coffee shop was in an area that had many businesses that did graphic design and packaging for goods. Clearly, the coffee shop had a great design team behind it.

The coffee shop!

We continued on with a walk through the Gwangjang market, where we saw stands selling custom made hanbok – traditional Korean dresses.

We ended our tour in the street food section of the market. Our tour guide got us bean sprout pancakes, as well as gimbap – Korean sushi rolls, and we went on our merry way to explore the market on our own! The tour itself was great, and I would highly recommend it! If you’re interested, this is the one we took.

Now here’s the exciting part! Guess who we met? GUESS? No, it was not the dude who sang Gangnam Style. It was mother fracking Yoosun Cho from Netflix’s Street Foods! Of course we stopped for a bite to eat and a selfie with the noodle queen!

Day Four

We ended our visit to South Korea with a day trip to the DMZ (which I’ll obviously need to dedicate an entire post to), and a day in Incheon where we ventured to a Korean spa. In all honesty, I don’t get the hype about the Korean spa. It had a bunch of different saunas at different temperatures and purifying elements (like a sauna full of charcoal and one full of amethyst). It was cool, but one sauna room would have done the trick as well.

Reflection

Overall, South Korea gave us some great times, some good laughs and tasty food. Coming from the U.S., it was hard to ignore the level of conformity that existed (a lot of websites were blocked – like Reddit) and the insane hours of work that people put in. At the end of a visit to a new country, I like to reflect and think about if the place I visited was a place I could imagine myself living. While Seoul was fun, it’s a hard no for me. The air quality was terrible (which is huge for us) and the idea of being a “company man” would never be appealing to me. Korea was fun to visit, but I’ll keep it at that!

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Travel

Things We Did and Ate in Rome (in Pictures)

This post is delayed but this week has been busy, so it is what it is. Plus, I’m sure there is not a single soul on this earth who has been waiting at the edge of their seat, so it’s all good! We started our trip off with several days in Rome. It was nice, but that’s all. I will say – Rome has some delicious cheeseboards though. I think the more we travel, the more we’re learning that cities aren’t really our jam. We live in a city. A nice, big, crowded one. When we get away, we crave the outdoors. I digress. Keep scrolling for some photos (and words) about Rome, in no particular order!

Our First Roman Meal

When we first got to Rome, we headed straight for our AirBnB to drop our luggage off then headed out for our first *true* Italian dinner. We didn’t head far – the restaurant La Forchetta d’Oro was right across the street from us! The prices were reasonable and the food was pretty good!

Bruchetta
Seaweed salad
Beef carpacio
Cuttleink pasta
Tiramisu

That pretty much ended our first night. We wanted to take a walk to see the Colosseum at night, but the rain wasn’t cooperating!

The Macro Museum

While Rome is know for their classical art, we ventured out to the Macro Museum. I’m a huge fan of modern art. I think it’s just so much more fun than painting of sad old people and bowls of fruit. Call me uncultured, that’s fine. Unfortunately, this museum was a bit lackluster. There weren’t all that many exhibits. On the bright side, it was free.

Ten bonus points for having a super modern bathroom

The rest of that day was rained out. We had bought tickets for a hop on/hop off bus, but the rain stopped us from hopping off. Eventually, we got dinner, and called it a day.

Checking Out the Colosseum

It wouldn’t be a trip to Rome without a visit to the Colosseum. I strongly advise getting tickets in advance. We went pretty early in the morning (8:30) and there was already a line of probably a few hundred people trying to purchase tickets.

Is it terrible that I wasn’t super impressed? Okay, the fact that they built a thing like this back then is cool, but IDK. It was just a building.

Roaming Through Trastevere

We also explored this neighborhood called Trastevere. It was filled with boutique shops, coffee, and all the cheeseboards you could want. In our three hour visit, we consumed three cheeseboards.

They have a cool hill in this neighborhood you can walk to and get a view of Rome from above!
This place was excellent! Check out Donkey Punch if you’re looking for a delicious meal!
La Prosciutteria

A Roman Cooking Class

We also participated in our first ever Air BnB experience: PASTA MAKING! We took this class and learned how to make several types of pasta. Making pasta was much easier than I had assumed it would be!

The finished product!

Overall, Rome was nice, but that’s all I can say. It didn’t blow my mind or anything like that. We ate some good charcuterie and saw some old buildings. Perhaps if we were history buffs it would’ve been more of a dream come true, but in all honesty, it was just a tad bit overrated.

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Travel

48 Hours in New Orleans

I don’t drink. Parties give me mad anxiety. Bedtime for me is around 9:00pm. NOLA sounds like the perfect place for me to visit, right? Scrolling through Google flights one morning, I found flights for $100 roundtrip and I was sold. A few months later and we were off!

Usually, I plan trips out. I have color coded Excel sheets, highlighted copies of Lonely Planet and dozens of websites bookmarked. This trip was an anomaly. The day before the trip, my friend and I still had no clue what we were going to see or do. All we knew was that we’d be eating copious amounts of beignets (which I finally figured out how to pronounce correctly: ben-yay).

We took a flight out late Friday night and arrived in NOLA around 1am. We promptly found our AirBnB and passed the feck out. The next morning, we put together a rough plan of what we were going to do and got to it. We did the same thing the next day. Instead of going through every last detail, I’ll give you the highlights of what we fit into 48 hours in NOLA (other than the 8 episodes of Yummie Mummies we binge watched at night). 48 hours was a perfect amount of time to spend in NOLA. The weather cooperated, we were not stuck in snow or cold and the food was on point. I would say it was a successful trip!

#1. New Orleans Holocaust Memorial

While browsing online, I found a beautiful Holocaust Memorial. It wasn’t out of the way of other sites we were visiting, so we set out to visit it first. After a half an hour of walking through the city, we came to the site, and this is what we found…

Me, with what should be the Holocaust Memorial

Unfortunately, the panels that were part of the memorial were down for renovation. So while this is listed as #1, it was kind of a fluke. If you are interested in seeing the memorial, it said it would be up in the next few months!

#2. St. Louis Cathedral/Jackson Square

After not seeing the Holocaust Memorial, we wandered towards the St. Louis Cathedral, which is in Jackson Square. The energy from Jackson Square could be felt a mile way (okay, more like a few blocks away but tomatoes tomatoes). You hear Jackson Square far before you see it and when you see it, you’re blown away by it. There are people everywhere – dancing, singing, playing music, and selling their art work.

St. Louis Cathedral is known for being the oldest cathedral in North America. It was founded in 1720 and still used today!

#3. BANKSY (cue fangirl)

The film Exit Through the Gift Shop was released while I was in high school, and we watched it during English class. The film put Banksy on my radar, and made me dream of the day I would see one in real life. When I found out that there was a Banksy piece in New Orleans, I fangirled -hard. Banksy came to NOLA in 2008, post-Katrina, and left about 14 pieces scattered around the city. The rain girl is the only piece left! Many had been sold, or unfortunately, destroyed. The piece that remains is covered in plexi-glass, but you could tell that people had attempted to spray over it. Seeing the piece was almost surreal, and absolutely a highlight of the trip for me!

#4. Studio Be

This spot surprised me. It wasn’t on my mind, I had no clue what it was. I was searching on Saturday morning for cool things to do (actual Google search), and stumbled along the website for Studio Be. Studio Be is the studio for the artist Brandan Odums, a popular street artist in NOLA. His gallery is open to the public from 2pm til 8pm, and it is SO worth checking out. It’s near the Banksy piece, and the walk between the two is filled with piece after piece of street art.

The actual studio is in a large warehouse, with four or five massive rooms. Each room is filled with paintings, street art and other pieces that centered around the artist’s learnings over the years.


If I could take my students to see this gallery, I absolutely would. This was a true highlight, and I was so lucky to have stumbled upon it! It was beautiful, but above that, it was powerful.

#5. Cafe du Monde (and an assortment of other beignets)

You can’t go to NOLA and not eat your weight in beignets. Cafe du Monde coffee is something that I had grown up on – a mix of coffee with chicory for flavor. However, Cafe du Monde beignets were not something I had had before.

So… how were they? They were everything good in the world, fried into a little ball then slathered in sugar. The first beignet we had was at the original Cafe du Monde location in Jackson Square. The line to be seated was long, but the walk through line was even longer. We got seated, ordered beignets and a coffee, and watched our life change before us. They were magical. After trying those, we tried several other spots around the city. None could compare to the ones we had at Jackson Square in Cafe du Monde.

Disappointing “biscuit” beignets

#6. Magazine Street

On our second day, we walked over to Magazine Street for brunch at the Broken Egg Cafe (note: not worth it). When we got their, it was a 45 minute wait, but thankfully Magazine Street was ahead. Magazine Street is a street full of cute stores that seemed to be popular for tourists and locals alike. As we waited for breakfast, we wandered through the stores. The area was lively, but not in a drunken Bourbon Street way. If you have some time, this was a cool area to explore! There seemed to be an enormous selection of food around as well!

While we were there, there was a parade being held, in honor of feeling sad about their team not going to the Super Bowl

#7. Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden

While I was in Texas last month, we visited a sculpture garden that ended up being a highlight of the trip for me. NOLA has a similar garden in City Park, an enormous park on the north side of the city. The park is also the home to the Museum of Art and the Botanical Gardens. The sculpture garden had some beautiful pieces, however it was not very spread out. You could see all the art in less than ten minutes. This spot is worth checking out, especially if you are a a fan of modern pieces!

Another reason to get your booty up here: they have a Cafe du Monde food truck! While the quality was not the same as the OG cafe in Jackson Square, it was a welcome sight to have more beignets! The coffee there wasn’t great or fresh, but the NOMA museum cafe made a great latte!

#8. ALL THE STREET ART!

If you can’t tell from this post, or from previous travel posts – I LOVE ART. Street art, in particular, strikes my fancy. New Orleans was a city filled with it. You’d see pieces on alleys, on store sides, heck, even on people’s homes. It made walking through the city fun – as if we were on a treasure hunt.

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#9. Mardi Gras World

Mardi Gras in New Orleans sounds terrible for me. I don’t like crowds or drinking. Parades aren’t fun when you’re 4’11”. However, Mardi Gras World was worth checking out. The tour is set in the factory that creates many of the floats for Mardi Gras parades throughout the city. It gave us a much better understanding of why Mardi Gras is so big in NOLA, and an insight into just how much planning, preparation and money goes into them! It was fascinating to see the various stages of float preparations and the array of floats they had. Tip: Groupon had tickets for about $10 less!

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We ended our trip yesterday, with a 6:00am flight home, which called for a 3:45am wake up call. Silly me talked myself into thinking our AirBnB was haunted and got approximately 2.5 minutes of sleep. Now I’m back in rainy, dreary Chicago, tired and reminiscing hard on those damn beignets. My advice: go to NOLA. You’ll leave feeling inspired, and well fed.

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Travel

36 Hours in Denver

I have a LDBF (long distance best friend, for those of you who aren’t aware) who lives in Denver, which happens to be one of my favorite cities. One of the reasons that this LDBF relationship works so well is that roundtrip tickets from Chicago to Denver (and vice versa) are often less than $100. Shout out to the real MVPs – Spirit and Frontier! If one of us lived in the middle of nowhere Kansas, where flights are exponentially pricier, this friendship likely wouldn’t be a thing. So anyways, I booked a flight out for this past MLK weekend.

A few days before my flight is due to leave, Chicago gets a winter warning for a storm that will drop oodles of snow on us. Airlines start canceling flights and allowing for passengers to make alternate plans. My flight wasn’t canceled, so I decided to wait until the day of. I wake up Saturday morning, and the flight is on time. Sweet!Ā As I’m packing, I get a notification. Flight is delayed three hours. Okay, that’s fine. Another hour passes, and it’s delayed five hours. Thankfully, that was the last delay. My 41 hour trip to Denver has been reduced to 36 but that’s fine! I got to O’Hare and was blown away by how empty the airport was. It looked like a ghost town. Despite the shut down, I get through security in less than 5 minutes. That is unheard of for Chicago! There wasn’t even a line at Starbucks. To make it even better, my flight was half empty.

So here’s what I got up to that weekend. Keep in mind that I’ve been to Denver 5 times over the last 3 years, so this was definitely not a tourist trip.

Saturday: My LDBF picked me up from the airport. The one thing that always amuses me about Denver is how nice the drivers are. There’s no honking. There aren’t cars weaving through traffic like the jerks in Chicago do. Everyone keeps their distance from the car behind them. They’reĀ justĀ soĀ dangĀ nice.Ā We stopped at a tea shop, then headed to her place. She and I are both trying to figure out our life’s purpose, so we made vision boards. Both of our vision boards ended up with a lot of yoga and travel inspiration, due to our limited magazine choices. A year of flexibility and airplane rides is a-okay with me! We rounded out the evening with some dank steaks (have you ever had a steak from a Traeger grills?) and a bad game of bowling.

Sunday: We woke up the next morning and wandered around Denver for a bit. We grabbed breakfast bowls at a spot called Illegal Petes and then continued on to drive up to Boulder, which is the cutest town ever. I picked up a few mugs, and some CBD oil from the most enthusiastic man I have ever met. I never mentioned dogs, but he ran through a 10-minute spiel about how good it is for them (for the record: I am not an animal person). We ended up at the casino because her dad is an MVP there and we could get free food. My friend and her boyfriend killed it at blackjack, while I lost $20 on dime slot machines. Gambling is a vice I will not be getting behind. That night was the blood moon lunar eclipse, and we ended the night with that!

Monday: My flight was due to leave at noon so we started our morning rather early with a hot yoga class. The class was very meh. The instructor didn’t cue well and the music didn’t fit at all. (Note to self: go to more yoga classes). She also mentioned Martin Luther King a ridiculous number of times. We went back, showered, had smoothies and coffees, and then she dropped me off at the airport with a bag of snacks, like a real best friend does. A quick two hour ride later, and I was back home with a full heart!

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Travel

Texas Highlights Pt. 3: Austin

YOU GUYS. Get on Google flights. Find yourself a flight to Austin. GO.

Austin was easily the highlight of our Texas trip for myself and my husband. Austin made us think. Austin showed us some pretty sites. Austin was legit.

After two days in San Antonio, we drove on to Austin, which was our final city to visit in Texas. Read on for what tickled our fancy there! (Hint: pretty much everything).

Austin Stop #1: Platinum Ink Tattoo

I’m a big souvenir person. I got back from a weekend trip and brought home 3 mugs. My husband promptly told me to stop doing this. We’ll see! My husband and I had been talking about getting tattoos as souvenirs (primarily because they don’t take up kitchen space), which is exactly what we did in Austin on our first night! We stopped into several tattoo shops before finding Platinum Ink. One dude said he didn’t like doing linework. Second dude, instead of telling us how much the tattoo would be, instead asked what our budget was (redflag alert guys), then proceeded to tell us that the images we liked would make terrible tattoos. We finally came across Platinum Ink Tattoo and they had two openings for that evening. The artist who did our tattoo, James, was great! He was able to take our ideas and make them something beautiful. The healing process was really simple as well.

Prototype of my tattoo (Is prototype correct terminology for tattoos?!) I studied exercise science in college and always thought that anatomically correct hearts were beautiful. SO NOW I HAVE ONE ON MY BACK.

Austin Stop #2: Hamilton Pool

On all of our past trips, we’ve always seemed to find that our most memorable moments weren’t in big cities, but rather when we were able to find a beautiful spot in nature. Hamilton Pool did not disappoint. It was a half hour drive out of Austin that made you think you were in the country side. The drive was stunning! In order to get in during the weekend, you need to make reservations online. I’d never made nature reservations before #exclusivenatureclub

While we were there, we learned that Hamilton Pool was formed when a grotto collapsed thousands of years ago. The pool was beautiful. The water was a green I had not seen before, and there were very few people around that day. Coming from Chicago and our concrete jungle, we basked in the leaves and trees and soil.

Austin Stop #3: Mount Bonnell

One thing Austin does not have is mountains. We thought we were going for a hike when we got to Mount Bonnell. However, all we did was climb a few flight of stairs. AND HERE FOLKS, is the highest point in all of Austin, at a whopping 775 feet. Make sure you bring your oxygen masks. Mount Bonnell was crowded with tourists, who also wanted to feel on top of the world. Stop by if you want the world’s easiest hike guys.

Austin Stop #4: The Contemporary – Austin

I have the attention span of a 2 year old bird when it comes to museums. Which is why I love modern art museums. We had heard that Austin had the reputation of being weird, and wherever there are weirdos, you know there will be dope art. The contemporary art museum in Austin has two campuses. They have an exhibit in downtown Austin, which had work from three artists up. They also have an outdoor sculpture park, which I highly recommend.

Admission was $5, which gets you into both campuses. The Contemporary was great. It got our creative juices flowing, and before we left, I proclaimed that I would be pursuing the arts when we got home. (Update on that: I went to Michaels after work last Friday and bought 6 canvases, paint, some oil pastels, and too many paintbrushes)

Apparently some people didn’t think it was as great as we did

Austin Stop #5: Hope Outdoor Gallery

This is the spot to go to if you want to gain a respiratory condition as well as inspiration. The Hope Outdoor Gallery was magical. There were people everywhere spray painting. There were artists selling their work. There was Jeanette, choking on the fumes.

Going to the Hope Outdoor Gallery made me think about the idea of permanence in art. There were artists out there, working hard on making a piece on the wall, knowing damn well that there was a good chance that piece would be painted over the next day. It made me think about their intention. They must know it’s not permanent right? Why do they do it? Probably because they love what they do. I have mad respect for that.

Me, posing in front of stuff I didn’t make.

So there we have it folks. This post concludes my review of the state of Texas. Conclusion? It’s cool. Austin is dope. San Antonio has some old historic stuff. Houston has Beyonce and a space ship. Go visit guys!

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Travel Uncategorized

Texas Highlights Pt. 2: San Antonio

After a few days in Houston, getting our Beyonce on (obviously), we drove on to San Antonio. San Antonio is best known for the Alamo, which we are all supposed to remember, apparently. Shortly after booking this trip, we realized that we could not remember the Alamo because we had no clue what it was. Was it a mystical shoe? A dinosaur skeleton? Maybe the spot for the best BBQ ever? WE HAD NO IDEA, but we were going to find out.

First things first: we stayed at the cutest AirBnB ever. A couple had purchased an old farm and renovated it into several apartments. It was the most detail oriented place we’ve stayed. Below are my grainy iPhone photos proof of adorable details.

OKAY NOW ON TO THE HIGHLIGHTS!

San Antonio Stop #1: The Alamo (duh)

First thing we did when we got to San Antonio was visit the Alamo. I was not very impressed. The history was cool and all, but it was crowded and just not that awe-inspiring. For some reason, I had thought that visiting the Alamo might be a pivotal part of our Texas trip. It wasn’t. It was interesting to hear about the history of Texas and how it came to be though, so I’m glad we went. (SIDE NOTE: Six Flags, the amusement park chain, was founded in Texas. One of the six flags that they are named after happens to be the confederate flag)

We came, we saw, we remembered the Alamo

San Antonio Stop #2: San Jose Missions

After we remembered the Alamo, we went on to the San Jose Missions. The missions were founded in 1720 and were refurbished in the 1930s as a Works Progress Administration project. It became a World Heritage Site with UNESCO in 2015. I have a thing for UNESCO sites, and try to visit one on each trip. Unfortunately, there are few sites in the United States so I was pumped that there was one in San Antonio.

When we got there, we tried to enter from one side and the woman working the gift shop said that it was closed due to the government shutdown. Bummer. We decided to walk the perimeter, and found an entrance that was being actively used. Maybe she was wrong? Who knows? Anyway, we made it inside and it immediately reminded me of walled off cities we had visited in Germany. We walked through and were impressed by the structures, only to realize that there was a good chance that very little of the original mission was remaining. We spent about an hour walking around the grounds. The church was beautiful, at least from the outside, and it was clear that that was the center of the community that had existed there.

San Antonio Stop #3: In n Out

If the third most notable stop was In n Out, clearly, we were running out of things to do in San Antonio. When we started looking into San Antonio, this was high on my priority list. As a kid, we went to California often and In n Out was always a highlight. I don’t think it’s really that marvelous, but you always want what you can’t have, and Chicagoans don’t have In n Out. My husband was not impressed but I was nostalgic A.F.

I call this piece Portrait of Protein Style Double Doubles

Overall, we weren’t very impressed with San Antonio. It was cool to see historical sites, but that seemed to be most of what the city had to offer. They also appeared to have an immense amount of Ripley museums, if that’s what you’re into. However, we don’t regret visiting. Every experience is an experience that adds to our understanding of the world, and that is how we view our travels. We learned about the Alamo, we ate some lettuce and beef and saw another UNESCO site. No ragrets.

Texas Highlights Pt 1: Houston

This winter break, my husband and I did a road trip though Texas. We hit up Houston, San Antonio and Austin. Austin, was hands down my favorite, and while I really want to write up a recap of Houston, my desire to be chronologically correct has won and I will be reviewing first.

The actual travel from Chicago to Houston were uneventful, which is all you can hope for. Sometimes no news is good news. The first thing we did was go get our rental car. Which ended up being this bad boy….

The RAM 1500 – which stands for 15 MPG according to the husband

This thing terrified me. It was large and in charge and I did not drive it once throughout the trip. The husband however, got a matching cowboy hat and a camo sunglass strap to match this beauty of a vehicle.

We were in Houston for a few days at the beginning and a day at the end of our trip. I’m not going to run ya’ll through every detail because who the hell cares?! I’ll just run you through the things we saw and give my opinion of it. OKIE DOKIE?!

Houston Stop #1: Smither Park.

You. Guys. YOU GUYS. Go to Smither Park. I think that overall, my take away from our trip to Texas was the value of creativity. Smither Park was established in 2016 with work done by over 300 artists from around the country. When you drive up to the park, you’re a little underwhelmed. The park is the size of an oversized city lot, and is in the middle of a neighborhood, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Do not let this sway you to not go in though. You walk in and you’re overwhelmed by stimuli.

I don’t even have the words to describe what Smither Park was other than inspiring. It made me want to create something – anything. Everything was so well thought out, and the attention to detail was out of this world.

Houston Stop #2: Beer Can House

So I can’t say we went in the Beer Can House, but we did see the perimeter, and it was pretty dang cool. The Beer Can House is a man’s pet project, which apparently took quite a few years to complete. He somehow found a way to completely cover his home in an assortment of beer cans and it was pretty cool. They have tours available, but because we went to see it on Christmas, we obviously weren’t able to get on one. It’s definitely a unique place that’s worth a visit if you find yourself with some free time.

 

Houston Stop #3: Space Center Houston

The Space Center Houston was something that we obviously HAD to see. We saw it on our last day of the trip, and arrived with about 2 hours to walk through it. It was cool, but appeared a bit outdated. The place smelled of the 90s, if we’re being honest. It was awesome to see an actual shuttle though! An interesting thing I learned was that the Apollo program was not the first space program. There was the Gemini, which ran from 1961 to 1966, which carried fleets of 2 astronauts into space.

Houston Stop #4: Battleship Texas

I grew up on the island of Oahu so I had been to Pearl Harbor numerous times, and have toured the battleship there. My husband, however has not been on one, so I thought this would be a fun way to learn some history. The battleship site is about a half hour drive from Houston proper, but totally worth it. Admission is $12, which goes to restoring the ship. The ship was a ship that served in both WWI and WWII. It was so fun to wander through the ship and see how they lived. The ship, interestingly enough suffered no wartime casualty, despite how active it had been. The ship had volunteers scattered around the ship who were more than willing to answer any questions one may have had. I would absolutely recommend a stop at the Battleship Texas!

And that’s a wrap on the highlight of Houston. While Houston was not our favorite city, it was definitely informative and interesting. I think that highlight for me was Smither Park, as it really made me think about how things can be used, and then reused. I’ll BRB with an update about San Antonio and Austin.