I’ve spent much of my adult life in search of the best places in Texas to do little or nothing — getaways, hideaways, well-appointed holes in which to hide — weekend respites from city demands. I’ve found splendid, funky, ridiculous, and sublime reasons to go away, stay away, stretch a weekend beyond all reasonable bounds. Here are a few of my favorites.
Glen Rose is ideal for doing little more than sitting pretty. I do just that by checking into the Inn on the River, and immediately staking out an Adirondack on an oak-shaded lawn as regal as Gatsby’s. This Central Texas retreat is where I go when I need to settle back or roll up my pants’ legs and wade in the Paluxy. Nearby, just off the square, I found the Texas answer to Hollywood and Vine: Hereford and Vine. It’s a corner of no particular distinction, but it makes me smile. Sure, there’s shopping. And pie. But just ambling around, I find my city cares forgotten.
Late in the day, I may drive out to Fossil Rim, an exotic wildlife sanctuary, where ostriches gallop after my car. Then again, I may never leave my riverside perch.
Then there’s Galveston. Oh, Galveston. By the beginning of the 20th Century, the island was on a roll. Born a humble pirate’s lair, it had matured into the third-largest port in the nation. Strand Street, a five-block row of fine iron-fronted buildings just off the waterfront, was known as the Wall Street of the Southwest. Then the hurricane of l900 blew away bankers, brokers, and profits. The buildings that withstood the big blow grew old in disgrace.
In the mid-’70s, citizens renovation and restoration projects were launched to salvage the Strand, and the district was named a National Historic Landmark. Galleries, boutiques, shell shops, and artisans moved in to create a juxtaposition of seasoned and sophisticated emporiums.
Every visit begins at the Strand Visitor’s Center to chart local happenings. But when the sun dissolves into the ocean, I disappear into a weekend of self-indulgence at the splendidly restored Tremont House. Sweet dreams are easily accessed at the lavish European-style hotel. Beneath the mansard roof of the block-long neo-Renaissance building, the Tremont is Galveston before the storm, turn-of-the-century chic with a black and white twist to the decor. It’s a fantasy backdrop for a weekend of bargain shopping and oyster shucking.
New Braunfels is where I go to hide, write, recover, ignore my mail. The German Hill Country village manages to be quaint without being pretentious. No need to walk on eggshells, hobbled by the feeling that it’s all too precious; New Braunfels is a town to tromp around in, a picture-book village that bears up under close inspection. Here, familiarity breeds devotion.
Wherever I hunker down, I like to stock a picnic basket at Naegelin’s Bakery, raft the Guadalupe, or shuffle out to Gruene and the iconic dance hall. Always, I want to head over to the post office and pick up a change of address form.
The East Texas town of Jefferson is relentlessly charming. Streets waggle past gingerbread cottages to meet up in a downtown that’s dressed up in brick and lined with shops, restaurants, and inns. There’s history, ghosts, and legends enough to make for fascinating walking tours, and shops are crowded with country primitives, sparkling crystal, and even jukeboxes.
Shopping opps are so bountiful, I always make reservations for the fabled Plantation Breakfast at the Excelsior Hotel—I need the energy orange blossom muffins provide.
Sunbathing outside of San Antonio‘s shadow, the riverside hamlet of Castroville is an enclave of pitch-roofed cottages where the architecture, customs, and food of the original French, German, and Swiss settlers are remarkably well-preserved. On the eastern edge of the town is a plain-faced Landmark Inn that, when first built in l849 (as a general store), resembled nothing so much as a breadbox.
Spiffed up in the following decades, the four-square construction was eventually graced with a second floor, a courtyard, and upstairs and downstairs galleries. Now a state historic site, the building and grounds recently underwent a major restoration that leaves the simply-furnished inn its humble self, only better. Here, I revel in solitude. I fill my weekend nest with flowers, champagne, exotic chesses, and a crusty French loaf from the local bakery.
There are antiques shops and historic homes within walking distance of the inn, but often I am content to catch up on my reading. I root myself beneath an ancient pecan tree on the Medina River’s bank; listen to the water trickling by, and know the contentment of a villager when the crops are in and there’s time for the ultimate getaway indulgence: contemplation.