Tag Archives: Texas Hill Country

Fredericksburg, TX: Ever need a vacation from your vacation?

Kitchen in The Basse House - Hoffman Haus, Fredericksburg, TX

It’s January 12th, 2012, and my first thought when I woke up this morning… WOW! No more corporate holidays until the end of MAY! Room spinning. Me screaming. And that eerie background music and feeling I was in an Alfred Hitchcock movie. Reference too old? Oh well. This inevitably led me to my next question… Ever need a vacation from your vacation?

Hoffman Haus - Basse Room - Fredericksburg, TX

I was off work this Holiday Season from December 24th until January 3rd and I’m exhausted. That’s a long time away from work if you live in the USA. Of course, if you live in Europe… you’re probably laughing at the absurdity of our work/life balance ratio in America. Me? I work to live. Not live to work, so I’m always feverishly trying to figure out our next travel destination. I did about 2 hours of research on Geiranger & Norway in a Nutshell last night; but, any trip to Europe isn’t going to be until at least May for us this year. Nope. I need a quick getaway. 5 days. 3 days. Heck… ONE day would be fantastic!

Old Wagon Wheel - Fredericksburg, TX (2006)
The Lone Star Flag
The Lone Star Flag - Welcome to Texas!

I started thinking back to some of my best short getaways, and it always brings me back home. Or as I like to call it… “The Staycation”. Anything within a 2 hour radius of my hometown of Austin, Texas, I consider a Staycation. So what’s my favorite Staycation? If you live in Mozambique, Thailand, or Norway, you may not have heard of  a small town called Fredericksburg in the Texas Hill Country. One of the best Bed & Breakfast communities anywhere I’ve ever been in the world. Just a 2hr drive from Austin; yet, you feel… away.

The Old Ford Tractor - Fredericksburg, TX USA (2006)
Ford Tractor for Sale - Fredericksburg, TX (2006)

It’s difficult to fathom that I had NEVER been to Fredericksburg until I was 36 years old. That was about 6 years ago. Now… we try to go at least once per year. I can’t say exactly why we like this place so much; but, relaxation, warm hospitality, fantastic cuisine would be a good start. Did I mention relaxation? Sometimes the place you lay your head at night makes all the difference as part of your travel experience. At least it does for me.

Sunrise on Lake Beauvert - Jasper National Park - Alberta, Canada (May 2009)

When we went to Jasper in Alberta, Canada (2009), waking up at 6am to the silence and beauty of Lake Beauvert from the front porch of our cabin was priceless. The same can be said about walking down the steps of Villa Bled at 5:40am and feeling, smelling, hearing and seeing Sunrise on Lake Bled, Slovenia (2011). Moments you just don’t forget. At least I won’t. In fact, sometimes when I feel like taking a vacation from daily life… It takes me less than a minute to feel peace once again. I just watch this video:

Whenever we go to Fredericksburg, it’s hard to imagine staying anywhere in town besides Hoffman Haus. This elegant and sophisticated Bed & Breakfast screams comfort and “WELCOME” in so many ways. A B&B classically positioned with names like Texas Star, Calico Cottage, Bluebonnet Suite, Indian Paint Brush, and Alamo. From the unique character and decor of each room/cottage to the incredibly delicious breakfast they freshly serve in a picnic basket on your doorstep each morning, this place is a gem you will be thankful you discovered. The owner of Hoffman Haus (and now our friend) Leslie Washburn is the key ingredient for this amazing hospitality and essence of home in the Texas Hill Country.

The Basse House - Hoffman Haus - Fredericksburg, TX
Cousin Ella @Hoffman Haus - Fredericksburg, TX (Oct 2008)
Bonfire Night - Hoffman Haus - Fredericksburg, TX (Oct 2008)

We have stayed here for birthdays, anniversaries, with family members, and “just because” occasions. Such a fantastic place. I’m not alone either. Click here to see what others have to say on Trip Advisor – my travel bible for hotel / B&B stays:  Trip Advisor Reviews of Hoffman Haus. The crazy thing is that you are so secluded from noise and traffic, that you forget you’re just a short 2 block walk away from Main Street. And it doesn’t really matter what time of year you go to Fredericksburg. The quaint and charming store fronts invite you inside to browse (or buy) their crafts and goods that you just don’t get at “big box” stores in the large cities.

Fredericksburg, Texas USA

If you can bear the Texas heat, or happen to arrive in the Texas Hill Country outside of Summer, it’s almost a MUST to visit Enchanted Rock State Park. I’ve hiked in Slovenia, Scotland, England, New Zealand, Canada and Austria; but, there’s something uniquely gratifying about visiting Enchanted Rock and taking a hike right here in Central Texas.

Enchanted Rock - State Natural Area - Texas Hill Country

By the time you’ve finished either shopping around town, or hiking in Enchanted Rock State Park, I’m not sure what could be better than WINE. No, we’re not in Tuscany or Bordeaux; but, let me tell you… a wine tour at Becker Vineyards is one of the most gratifying ways to fulfill your day. And I don’t usually even drink wine! Located between Fredericksburg and Stonewall, Becker Vineyards remains one of my favorite places to visit in the Texas Hill Country. There’s just something about the character of a vineyard. From the drive through the grapevines to the various shades of vino, cabinets filled with wine selections, and then I’m just absolutely fascinated by the strategically stacked big oak barrels. I just like the atmosphere. At some point, I’ll make my way to Sonoma and the California Wine Country; but, for now… I’m incredibly satisfied to have the Texas Wine Country right smack dab in my backyard. Just a hop, skip and a jump from Austin. Down the road over yonder. OK… I’ll ease up on the Texas talk.

Wine. Wine. Wine. Becker Vineyards - Texas HIll Country (2008)
Henri De Lobbe – The best Sommelier this side of France
...more wine.
Barrels of wine. Becker Vineyards. Texas (2008)

Another great reason for visiting Fredericksburg… food and live music entertainment at Hilltop Cafe on North US Hwy 87 (about 15mi outside of Fredericksburg in the Texas Hill Country). Or as they like to say – “Inconveniently located in the middle of nowhere…”. About 3 years ago, we took my cousins and family on their Texas Family Vacation from England to Hilltop Cafe. The eclectic Texas ambiance throughout this converted gas station made for a wonderful experience filled with great cuisine, laughs, smiles, and lasting memories. To steal (or quote) Johnny & Brenda’s words…  “Most of all it’s about LOVE: love of food, music, family and friends.”

Hilltop Cafe - N US Hwy 87 - Texas. Live music. Great food!
Me. Austin GlobeTrekker - Dining at Hilltop Cafe (Sept 2008)
Mi Familia. Hilltop Cafe - (l to r) Sister Portia. Cousins Polly & Ella. Cousin Roger (Oct 2008)
Mi Familia. Hilltop Cafe - (l to r) Anna (wife). Cousin Amanda. Mom. Texas (Oct 2008)

Don’t get me wrong… there are PLENTY of other things to do, people to see, places to eat/drink in Fredericksburg and the Texas Hill Country. I just prefer to blog about what I have experienced in hopes that others may explore the same path, or even better… discover new adventures and pass along these experiences and stories to others. Find your Staycation. Or tell me/us about your favorite vacation. Because if you read my mission statement…

Austin GlobeTrekker is about creating an active, open, non-judgmental and vibrant community where my friends, friends of friends, (and even cool strangers) can share TRAVEL stories, photos and experiences with one another. In the process… hopefully discover new places, cultures, talk about food and beverages (preferably beer!), and meet new friends from around the world.

Historic American Flag - Woodstock, Vermont USA


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AUSTIN: Hometown Cravings!

Texas State Capitol Building – Austin, Texas USA – “Don’t Mess With Texas!”

The name of my TRAVEL blog is Austin GlobeTrekker; yet, all I’ve blogged about so far in my one month of existence is the “GlobeTrekker” portion. Time to get LOCAL and talk about AUSTIN! This might very well be one of the most conceited and arrogant statements I’ve made in the past 24-36hrs; however, I must say… I live in a BAD ASS city! Austin, Texas might very well be one of the coolest places to call your home. And I rightfully call Austin my hometown, because even though I was born in Leicester, England, I’ve lived in Austin for over 30% of my life; Texas for over 70%. As much as I love to travel… Texas IS home. Don’t worry… I’m still going to ramble on about other countries too.

Texas State Capitol - Austin, Texas USA

I recently met some folks from Canada during a training session in Round Rock, Texas for my “real” job that I actually get paid to do. You’ll rarely hear me talk about “work” on this blog, because… we’re here to share stories and experiences about TRAVEL. Things I like to do when I’m NOT working. Sure, I’ve been to British Columbia (Vancouver, Whistler) and Alberta (Calgary, Banff, Lake Louise, Jasper) and met hundreds of Canadians (ok, like 10); But, it’s not so often that you meet them right here in your hometown and hear them say “I’ve ALWAYS wanted to visit Austin!”.  That TEXAS PRIDE kicks in, and an uncontrollable Southern grin crosses your face, and all you can think to say is “WELCOME TO TEXAS!”.

The Lone Star Flag
The Lone Star Flag - Welcome to Texas!

Like most tourists (including myself), you do your research and have your rough itinerary of things you want to see in the city your visiting. About halfway through our conversation about the downtown Austin live music scene, the bats under the Congress Bridge, partying at the bars on 6th Street, eating real Texas BBQ (his words, not mine) and indulging in some authentic Mexican food (her words, not mine), I drifted off into a coma and started talking to myself about the things that I like to do in Austin. I started to tell them that if they REALLY want to see some live music… come back in September (16-18) for ACL – Austin City Limits Festival 2011 at Zilker Park. Back in 2009, I had the pleasure of watching one of my legendary favorites – Pearl Jam put on a spectacular show. This year promises to be incredible too. Stevie Wonder, Kanye West, Arcade Fire, Coldplay, and so on and so on. Skipped it last year… but, I digress.

Austin City Limits Festival 2009 - Pearl Jam on the Livestrong Stage

Unfortunately for them, they were staying at The Marriott – La Frontera, in Round Rock, Texas. I had to gingerly explain that this is NOT Austin. Saying you’re “staying in Austin” when you’re really in Round Rock, is kinda like the time one of my managers told us we were “staying in Manhattan, New York” when our hotel was really in Secaucus, New Jersey. True story. Similar… but different. It’s close enough that you can get there. But don’t fool yourself thinking it’s a 10min walk. More like an expensive cab ride. In honor of my new Canadian colleagues, I’ve added a photo of one of my favorite hotels in the world – The Fairmont Banff Springs HotelAlberta, Canada. Once again – Similar… but different to Round Rock, Texas. I’m just sayin’.

Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel - Alberta, Canada - Canadian Rockies

Naturally, it wasn’t long before I realized… our “Austin Agendas” are just a tad different. In a traveler’s defense… It’s hard to know a place in 2 days. God bless ’em for tryin’ though. For example… The best bars in Austin (in my opinion mind you) are DIVE BARS. I’m embarrassed on the borderline of sheer pride that MOST of the Dive Bars in (and around) Austin, Texas know me and my group of idiot friends we like to call “The Dive Bar Crew”. For the past 10-12yrs, we’ve frequented some spectacular joints like Ginny’s Little Longhorn, Lustre Pearl Bar, Poodle Dog Lounge, Buddy’s, La-La’s, C-Hunt’s, G&S Lounge, Dry Bean Saloon, Horseshoe Lounge, The Hideout, Deep Eddy Cabaret, Shoal Creek Saloon, The Water Tank, Dog & Duck, Posse East, Nasty’s, Crown & Anchor, Shannanigan’s, Draught House, Canary Hut, The PLT (Parmer Lane Tavern) Carousel Lounge, and my favorite dive bar in Austin, Texas… Donn’s Depot – just to name a few! Oh, and if you’ve got the time… and the courage… take a short trip just outside of Austin to an old biker bar in the Texas Hill Country called The Devil’s Backbone . CLASSIC!

"The Dive Bar Crew" at The Devil's Backbone - Texas USA

I then started to get thirsty. Then I just got flat out hungry after drinking all that cheap ice cold beer (in my mind), and could NOT get BOMB TACOS out of my mind! It was driving me crazy! So, I mentioned Lustre Pearl Bar. It’s a really cool laid back Texas style beer garden at 97 Rainey Street over by the Austin Convention Center. BOMB TACOS is a camper. No lying. It’s not a building establishment. It pulls up to the side of the beer garden in the back of Lustre Pearl Bar, and serves a Bad Ass Burrito. LITERALLY. It’s called the “Bad Ass Burrito”. Check the sign and menu. All Tacos – $3. All Burritos – $6. All Quesadillas – $6. And it’s fresh-cooked, TexMex heavenly cuisine when accompanied by an ice-cold cerveza! I recently got my Bomb Taco fix on my birthday party weekend (May 7th) before heading to Europe (May 9th) – Germany, Austria, Slovenia and Italy. Sometimes… you’ve just gotta have it!

BOMB TACOS - Lustre Pearl Bar - Austin, Texas - "Home of the Bad Ass Burrito!"

Which leads me to another quick story (not really). My friend Sal lives in Munich, Germany. LOVES it there, and I can clearly see why. FANTASTIC city, culture, people, food, beer and overall scene. BUT… Sal told me how he was craving Mexican food like a banshee! Not really sure how a banshee craves food; however, dude was clearly desperate enough to get into an altercation with a Bavarian over the definition of Mexican food. Sal ordered a quesadilla. Dude gave him a burrito. Similar… but different. Sal’s response – “Hey man! I’m FROM Texas… I know Mexican food!”. So I said, “Sorry you didn’t get your Mexican fix! I wish I could package some TexMex and send it over for you.” His response… “Oh, I ate the burrito! And it was damn good too!”. Hmmm… me thinks NOT! He’s been away from Texas too long. They don’t know TexMex food; But… The Bavarians KNOW beer! PROST!

Bavarian Beer Garden - Munich, Germany - May 2011 - PROST!

So, I’m still stuck in this freaky coma of complexity, dreaming about my local palette, and it leads me to ice cream. While we were recently in Venice, Italy, I think I may have had the BEST mint chocolate chip ice cream in the world! Seriously. No exaggeration! OK… maybe a 3.742% exaggeration. Sometimes, food is just about location. location. location. Ice cream in The Rialto Market on a warm sunny May day in Venice, Italy… that’s almost perfection for location. It was sooooo good, that after completing the generously portioned scoop… I wanted to go back and get another one. If you’ve been to Venice before – good luck getting back to where you were in The Rialto if you never knew where the hell you were in the first place.

"The Rialto" - Venezia, Italia! - BEST mint chocolate chip ice cream in the world!

But, back to local. As great as that ice cream was in Venice… there is almost nothing like a true frozen dessert experience at Amy’s Ice Cream here in Austin, Texas. These artisans are like Wizards of Dessert. I remember a few years back when my cousins Roger, Amanda, Polly and Ella came over from England. Music blaring, “Keep Austin Weird” signs around the place, college students on their laptops (pretending to study), and an ice cream server who looked like his beard should have had a hair net on it for health code reasons. BUT, that’s Austin my friends! After getting all kinds of candy bars and fruit crushed up in her ice cream, my cousin Polly was shocked, yet excited like a cast member of GLEE, when they threw her ice cream over the counter for her to catch in a bowl. Like I said… it’s a true frozen dessert experience.

Amy's Ice Cream - Austin, Texas - "A True Frozen Dessert Experience!"
Amy's Ice Cream - Austin, Texas - Cousin Polly catching ice cream from "The Wizards of Dessert"

By now, I’m starting to come out of the coma, and I realize that the Canadians are still talking. Probably something about hockey and asking “why is it so bloody hot down here in Texas!” 103F today. Well, I’ve been drinking beers at dive bars, eating bad ass burritos at Bomb Tacos, and eating Amy’s Ice Cream. It’s like I was in The Matrix. Plugged in… but, more like a robot of “yeah”, “sure!”, “oh definitely”, “you don’t say?”, “uh huh”, “you go girl!”. I’m just ready to go to bed by this point; but in “coma land”, it’s late night 2am in Austin, Texas, so I started thinking about blueberry pancakes at Magnolia Cafe on Lake Austin Blvd. This place is so good! And it’s a true local Austin diner. Like they say… Everybody Knows – Everybody Goes! I had a ridiculously fantastic strawberry syrup with ice cream pancake at The Pancake Bakery in Amsterdam, The Netherlands a few years ago; but, it still wasn’t the same nostalgic experience as a late night closer, or morning hangover remedy at Magnolia Cafe. Ironically, less than half a mile down the road from my favorite dive bar – Donn’s Depot, and across the street from yet another one of my favorites – Deep Eddy Cabaret.

Magnolia Cafe - Austin, TX - late night with my friends Robyn & Jaime

As I’m now fat, full and drunk… I join reality once again, only to hear the Canadians closing comments: “THANK YOU! So I guess we’ll see you tomorrow night!”. As of right now, I have absolutely no idea what I signed myself up for (or THEM for that matter). I guess we’ll find out tomorrow now, won’t we! If they truly want to hit 6th Street… I’ll take them to WEST 6th Street. Who knows… maybe we can grab a slice of good ol’ late night pizza from Roppolo’s Pizzeria!

Late Night Pizza from Roppolo's Pizzeria - W. 6th St - Austin, TX - my friends Cooksey and Maui Meg

OK… I’m done rambling. Stay Tuned for more adventures of Austin GlobeTrekker. Until then… Join the Conversation!