Toes in the Water: a beach bound weekend

This past weekend I took my daughter and a couple of her friends to Corpus Christi and Port Aransas. The girls wanted to have a “girls’ weekend” after graduation. So we loaded up the “Red Rocket” (my minivan that has now been traded for a SUV) and headed 2 hours or so south. We checked in to the Hilton Garden Inn in Corpus (http://www.hilton.com/Garden_Inn/Corpus_Christi ) and got ourselves settled and cleaned up. My expectations for the hotel were a little higher than what we actually got, but it was still a nice place to stay and I would stay there again. The room was a decent size and fit the 4 of us perfectly. The beds were comfortable but the pillows, oh man, they left a lot to be desired. I’ve never been so disappointed in a hotel pillow before. We stayed at the Hilton for 2 nights so we got to have breakfast two mornings. Full breakfast was available plus fruit, pastries, yogurt, etc.

Since we did not get to Corpus until after 5, we rested, cleaned up, then headed to Blackbeard’s on the Beach (https://www.facebook.com/Blackbeards-on-the-Beach-107772772633472/) . We had to wait for about an hour for a table, so we killed some time in the shops and taking pictures during what the girls called the “golden hour” (apparently the perfect time to take a picture since it makes you look like you have a golden tan or something like that, at least according to teenage girls). Not sure that the “golden hour” did anything to our super white legs, LOL.

After our long wait for the table (we did have a group of 7 since a couple of the moms and a sister joined us for one of the days) we finally got seated. I swear, we had at least 4 different servers introducing themselves as our server. I still don’t know who was ACTUALLY our server. We got our drinks and chips and queso fairly quick, but it took FOREVER to get our dinner. We were pretty disappointed with the service. I understand that restaurants get busy and it can take time, but this was ridiculous. There were several groups that were seated AFTER us that got their food before us. In fact, one table actually finished their food before we even got ours. It’s not like anyone ordered anything extravagant (a couple salads, some fried shrimp and chicken, and some burgers). Blackbeard’s is NOT a place I want to eat at again.

Sunday we loaded up waters, sunblock, swimsuits, and snacks and headed to the beach in Port Aransas (also known as Mustang Island). We stayed at the beach located off of Beach Access Road 1A. This was a great location for us. We had restrooms nearby (actually, port-a-potties, but at least there was something) and showers for after we finished at the beach. We arrived before the beach filled up. Got ourselves settled in and sunblocked up (though, come to find out, I didn’t apply it enough times throughout the day).

One of the things I like about the water in Port A is that it is warmer than the Pacific Ocean. You can actually get in the water and not freeze. We did have to pay attention and be a little careful since it was a red flag warning for the riptides. Besides swimming, I spent some time looking for shells and checking out the clouds while I laid in the sun.

We only spent a few hours on the beach due to the heat and us realizing that our sunblock wasn’t doing its job like it should. As I said earlier, we had showers right by us, so after we loaded up the van we got to get the sand and salt washed off of us. From there we spent some time exploring Port Aransas. We found a cool ice cream shop where we had some fruit smoothies. The shop had some interesting decorations. Each wall had a different theme: dogs, Oriental, puppets, and others. The girls played foosball while we cooled off.

We took the ferry to head back to Corpus where I was hoping to get pictures of the sunset, but it’s kinda hard to get shots when the sun sets in the west and the beach faces south/southeast. We did find a place to stop to get a few shots that had a little of the “golden hour” color that the girls were trying to get the night before. I also saw some bird that I enjoyed snapping a few pictures of.

From there we headed to see the Selena Memorial for a bit. I had always heard that the memorial was crowded, but we were fortunate and didn’t have to deal with the crowds.

Since we all were a little red (and by a little, I mean a lot and with some crazy patterns) we decided to spend the few hours on Monday that we had in Corpus at the mall. The girls found a couple of murals to pose in front of (nothing new there).

While the trip was a short getaway, we had fun having a girls’ time. I have spent the last four years with these girls during the millions of cheer events we attended. I am glad to see that they graduated and will be going off to college, but I am sad to have the time with them over. I’ve been “Mama Wimer” to them and have heard all sorts of interesting stories and have some great memories. I will forever be grateful to have this time with the girls.

Luckenbach, Texas: a small town with country charm

We woke up this Saturday thinking we were going to visit some local caverns, but all the rain we have had lately had us re-thinking that plan. So while we were brainstorming places to visit today that our crazy, bipolar weather we have had lately wouldn’t be an issue, Chuck threw out the idea of visiting Luckenbach, TX. At first I thought he was a little nuts. For some odd reason I thought Luckenbach was somewhere in North Texas. Google proved me wrong. So we headed out.

At the entrance to the tiny town of Luckenbach, TX

Luckenbach is just a little over an hour from San Antonio. After getting off of I10, the rest of the drive is great. Once again we were surrounded by flowers on the side of the road as we drove (if you have read my previous entries, you would know that I love taking pictures of flowers). The drive is along a two lane road through the Hill Country. As you get close to the “town”, be careful to pay attention to where to turn. Once you get to the Luckenbach Town Loop, you will drive along a dirt road for just a minute or two. Parts of the road are bumpy, so be careful with your car.

So as most of you know, there is a song called “Luckenbach, Texas” by Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson. The fact that this teeny, tiny town became the subject of a hit song amazes me. While I enjoyed visiting Luckenbach (and would go back), it is definitely NOT what I had imagined (I had something more like Bandera in my mind). If you are expecting to visit a town that has multiple shops and restaurants, you will be surprised to know that this tourist attraction has just a couple little buildings. There is a dancehall, post office/general store/saloon, Feed Lot, and outdoor stage.

There is also a cute little Kissing Booth right when you walk through the property. We took advantage of this booth to make Matthew take a picture of us (if anyone knows Matthew, you know just how DISGUSTED he gets when he sees anyone kissing; typical 9 year-old).

Kissing booth in Luckenbach, TX

The general store has all sorts of items to browse though and buy. You will find tee shirts, hats, candles, mugs, magnets, CD’s, wine, and much more. Definitely items for the “tourist” to purchase. We did wind up getting a couple of small things. I couldn’t pass up the magnet photo frame.

Just out the back of the store is the saloon. The walls of the saloon are covered in pictures of different people ranging from Waylon and Willie, to the previous owners of the town, and lots of other people I couldn’t even name.

Outside the store/saloon is the outdoor stage and seating area. Live music is scheduled for every day of the week (sometimes in the dancehall, sometimes at the outdoor stage). There is a charge for some of the shows (like when Aaron Watson plays on June 1), but most days the visit is free for the whole family. Be sure to check the website at http://www.luckenbachtexas.com to verify that there are no private parties booked or to check on shows that might require a paid ticket.

There are picnic tables to sit on and enjoy the music while grabbing a bite to eat. While we were there we had the opportunity to hear The Strayhearts (https://www.facebook.com/thestrayheartsband/). They were a great band to listen to while having our lunch. The Feed Lot has a selection of food that includes Frito pie, corn dogs, sausage wraps, hamburgers, fries, funnel cake, and more. Trees surround the area that provide shade on a hot day (though today was definitely not a hot day, crazy that our weather actually required us to have sweaters/long sleeves).

I would love to go back to Luckenbach in the evening/night to take in a show, sit around the fire pit, and do some dancing in the dancehall (which we didn’t check out while we were there).

So while Luckenbach, Texas is not quite what I had expected, and is MUCH smaller than one would think about a town that inspired a song, it is still a trip that is family friendly/budget friendly. Be sure to add Luckenbach to your list of places to visit in Texas, even if it’s just to say that you were there.

Beautiful flowers found at Wildseed Farms in Fredericksburg, TX

Last weekend we visited Wildseed Farms in Fredericksburg http://www.wildseedfarms.com and while it was not exactly what I had pictured in my mind when it came to fields of wildflowers, it was still worth the visit.

Fields of Red Corn Poppies can be seen from the road.

Wildseed Farms grows fields of wildflowers for the production of seed. They have over 200 acres in Fredericksburg. There is no charge for admission and they are open year round, 7 days a week, 9:30-6:00pm. The walking trails are open from 9:30-5:30

Walking trails at Wildseed Farms
Walking trails at Wildseed Farms

Getting up close to the flowers for pictures can only be done in limited areas. The fenced areas keep guests from walking through the flowers, but can still get great pictures with the fields in the background. We did find a couple of open fields that we could actually be in the flowers and get some great shots.

Wildseed Farms is a perfect place for photo shoots for all sorts of events. Depending on the time of year you visit the farm you could see poppies, sunflowers, bluebonnets, Rocket Larkspur, cosmos, and more. I am looking forward to going back at different seasons, especially when the sunflowers bloom!

Of course the name does indicate the sale of seeds. There is a section in the large gift shop that is full of packets of seeds to purchase. You will find everything from bluebonnets to sunflowers to Indian Paintbrush, poppies, daisies, primrose, and more. Packets of seeds start at $2.89. If I had a green thumb, I would have loved to plant these seeds so that I had lots of color in my yard. Unfortunately, I can’t even keep a bamboo plant alive.

Besides seeds, you can also purchase various types of plants that you can plant at home. There is an awesome selection of yard decorations as well. Prices were pretty reasonable.

What’s cool about this place is that you can make the trip to the farm an all day event. There are plenty of shaded areas to rest and enjoy the views and are also photo opportunities. They have a seasonal butterfly garden as well.

The Brewbonnet Biergarten offers a place to sit and relax in the cool a/c. They have cold beer, snacks, and ice cream. There are also samples of jams, jellies, and salsas. Plus lots of jams and such to purchase.

The outside patio of the Biergarten offers shaded seating and live music. Since there is a vineyard and tasting room on the grounds, you can relax with a glass of wine and listen to the band.

Wildseed Farms was an enjoyable place to visit and gave me the opportunity to find additional flowers to take pictures of. If you get the chance, take the drive out to Fredericksburg and visit the farm. You will enjoy this day trip.

What’s poppin’ in Castroville: the Poppy House

Poppies outside the last original free standing one room cabin in Castroville.

At the end of a dead end road in the small town of Castroville, TX is this historic home that has a yard full of poppies. If you want to see “fields” of poppies, the Castroville Poppy House is the place to go. It is located at 602 Florence in Castroville. When you pull up to the house, you see poppies all along the fence line and of course a yard covered in poppies. The owners, Sally Coyle and Lloyd Ross, began planting poppies several years back to help control the dust. The grass had died during a drought and they found that the poppies could still survive.

Poppies surround the cistern and windmill at the Castroville Poppy House.
Lloyd, Sally, and Jaimie

The land has several structures on it. The actual residence was built in the 1850’s and has been recorded by the Historic American Buildings Survey of the U.S. Department of the Interior and has also received the Pioneer Castroville Home marker. The land also has the last remaining original free standing one room log cabin in Castroville. Lloyd would like to restore the cabin to protect it from deteriorating more. Due to the extensive nature of the work, Lloyd has been trying, unsuccessfully, to find assistance from various government agencies to help with the expensive process.

In addition to the home and cabin, there is also a barn that was built several years ago that Lloyd gave a distressed look to take on the “historic” look in order to make it look more authentic on the land. Lloyd shares this information as he gives a little history lesson of the buildings as you prepare to walk through the property.

But of course, the main reason we were out there today was to see the poppies. One of the awesome things about living in San Antonio is the opportunities we have to see different wildflowers (you can read my blog entry on the wildflowers in Poteet). We had not yet ventured out to see the poppies before, but I am so glad we did, and that we made it in time to see them before the Texas heat arrives and kills them off.

I enjoyed strolling through the huge yard admiring the different poppies at their different stages of growth. The wind made it difficult at times to get some close up pictures of the poppies, but my patience paid off.

This 25-30 minute drive west of San Antonio was well worth the trip. I was able to take all the time I wanted to photograph these beautiful flowers. Even though there were several other families present, the area is plenty large enough to feel like you are alone. Lloyd and Sally charge $5 a person (using just a phone or small camera to take pictures) to spend time on the land. The money they raise this year will go towards purchasing a new cistern with a spigot to make well water available to anyone who wants it while visiting. There are additional charges for professional photography or videography to be done. Be sure to contact them at 210-627-1298 about those fees. Check out their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/CastrovillePoppyHouse/ for updates. The end of March and beginning of April is the best time to see them in full bloom.

Boerne, TX: less than we expected

This past weekend, Chuck and I visited Boerne, TX. We had heard about what a great, small town Boerne is and how we would find some cool shops and such. We thought we could kill two birds with one stone: spend time together moseying through the town and get some pictures of Chuck for his music page (www.chuckwimermusic.com). So we ventured out. Of course the trip out we had traffic, lots of traffic, due to the never-ending construction on I-10. However, we were not in any hurry so we just jumped on the frontage road and enjoyed the ride (btw: MUCH faster than actually staying on the interstate).

Anyways, back to Boerne. We arrive in Boerne and find this cute Episcopalian church, St. Helena’s Episcopal Church. Chuck’s attention was caught by the part that looked like a tower of a castle. It was a cool little area to take some pictures. Definitely recommend the little courtyard across the street from the church office to take pictures. Great setting and neat little fountain.

From there we parked on Main Street and began our walk. One thing we noticed right away was that there are LOTS (and I mean LOTS) of antique stores. If you love to hunt down antiques then this is the place for you. Us, not so much. We enjoyed the shops that were not quite to so cluttered or had a more specific motif. The Christmas Shoppe ( https://thechristmasshoppetx.com) was one of my favorites. No matter what time of year it is, Christmas stores are always fun to look through. Flashback Funtiques (https://www.facebook.com/flashbackfuntiquesboerne/) is a cool antique shop with jukeboxes, gas pumps, pinball machines, and more. Definitely out of our price range, but there were some neat old time things in that store. For the music lovers (which of course Chuck is) we found the Hillje Music Center (https://hilljemusic.com/). A small selection of acoustic guitars, stringed instruments, and amplifiers can be found at a reasonable price. My favorite store that we found (and actually spent money at) was Casa Décor (https://www.facebook.com/casadecortx). This was a huge store of handmade furniture that comes from Mexico. Great selections and awesome quality. We purchased a new wooden entertainment cabinet. They had a sale of 50% off furniture (hence the purchase). The customer service was amazing. We had to drive home to get the van since the piece didn’t fit in the car. When we got back to the store, they had the piece shrink wrapped and loaded it into the van. I will definitely go back to purchase additional items later.

We found what we thought was a park, but was actually this cool little “Veterans Plaza”. We spent some time reading the names on the bricks and reading the pillars.

Now the not so good. Like I said earlier, there were LOTS of antique stores. Too much in one shop at most of the stores. I wasn’t even sure where to look. I was expecting the same small town feel we had when we went to Bandera the week before (that entry will come later, when we revisit the town). That was not the case with Boerne. Don’t get me wrong, the Main St. shopping is definitely small town, just not the same.

We stopped at Bear Moon Bakery and Café for lunch and coffee. This was at the suggestion of some random guy on the street. We were disappointed with the bakery selection. The word “bakery” was misleading. There were some cookies, croissants, and donuts. A few cakes to choose from. But overall, not the selection of bakery items one would expect from a place that has the word “bakery” in it. So we decided to order lunch instead. Ummmm, their menu selection was about as limited as their bakery selection. Prices were decent, and portion sizes were pretty good based on what we saw going out to other customers. But the lunch choices were not our cup of tea. I enjoyed a cup of coffee while Chuck had a coke and then we went on our way.

I am glad we ventured to Boerne because I got my new furniture piece, but it is definitely not a place we would visit again, unless Chuck has a show at one of the places. Again, I am not saying it’s not a place to check out. You will probably find something you enjoy. You will check out something new. Take the adventure and enjoy the ride!