Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Back from the Holidays

(Crossposted from the Gypsy Librarian)

Well folks, this is the first day back at work for me. Students do not return to campus until the day after the Martin Luther King Holiday (January 16). This means I have about a week and a half to do some catching up before the academic semester goes into full swing.

I noted before I left that we had planned to go up to Fort Worth. Well, the flu bug had other plans as it struck both my parents right around Christmas, so we had to stay away. Not that it did any good in the sense that I myself caught a cold right on New Year's (in fact, I am still trying to shake off "la cariñosa" as my father calls it. The term means "the loving one" because it holds on to you and does not let go). However, we still had a nice time at home for Christmas and New Year's. Since my wife took some days off from work, and I had last week off due to library closure, we had some time to relax.

Day after Christmas, like many Americans, we decided to go around shopping. We were actually looking for some wrapping paper and a couple of nice serving plates, but otherwise, we mostly went to watch people, for the amusement value. The mall was not as crowded as it could have been in my estimation.

The following Tuesday, we got some day care for the little one (the local YMCA is great in that regard, providing camps and such for kids when school is off), and then the missus and I went in search of some wine. When our stock at home runs low, we know it's time to get some more. We both enjoy drinking local wine when possible, so I hit a couple of Websites to see if there was anything nearby. I used the Texas Wine Trails Website. The site has a good map of the trails where you can click and get a map with links. We had tried a nice winery up north, Messina Hof, but it was a bit too far for us. Also, when we went, the place struck us as a little on the snobbish side for jean and tees sort of folk. We had also gone to a couple of places not far from Fort Worth, but clearly, that was not within driving distance. We decided to go find a place called Wimberley Valley Wines, in Spring, Texas. Since there was another winery in the area, Red River Winery, we figured we would just kill two birds on one stone. It was an easy drive to Spring, Texas once we got on I-45. When we got there, it turns out that there is this area known as Old Town Spring, which is basically a historical district. The Website I link to hails it as "the Mall Without Walls." The place is a small, cozy area of shops featuring antiques, collectibles, cafes, the wineries we went looking for and a few other interesting things. So, we ended up spending the afternoon walking along the streets, browsing here and there. I had no idea this little place was so close, and it only took us about 40 minutes to get there. Houston being such a big city did not seem like the place to contain such a little place. My wife was reminded of some of the small towns back in Indiana. We did enjoy some wine tasting, and we brought some wine home, making a note to plan on attending the Art and Wine Festival on March 18 and 19, 2006. Hey, any place where you pay admission and get a wine glass to go around tasting local wines sounds good to us. Indianapolis has its VintageIndiana, and we went there a couple of years ago. It's a big event in Military Park. They close off the park, and they have music, an area for kids, various craftspeople and artisans, food, and of course, the wines. They give you a nice etched glass, and you go around like a "beggar" for the winemakers to pour you some wine to taste. It was great fun. One of the things we always worry about is that we often travel with a nine year old. Some wineries are ok with that fact, even offering the little one some grape juice; others are not, not in the sense that they bar you, but more in the subtle hints, usually in the form of some discomfort level on the host's part. Overall, we have found that the smaller the winery, the less pretentions of grandeur it has, and therefore, the more relaxed the ambiance. Indiana had a lot of those, usually in more out of the way places, but since I am a gypsy at heart, driving was not an issue. Also, one of the things I miss from Indiana is the fact that many of those out of the way places still have that rural charm. I am not sure you can call it charm, but it's the feeling of hospitality, the feeling that it's ok to leave the door wide open for people to come in. The two places in Spring seemed to fall under the small and friendly category, and the prices were good too. I think I was amazed about Old Town Spring because being within the scope of Houston, I did not expect such a place. I would have expected it after driving way out of the metropolitcan area. It was a pleasant discovery. One of these days I will have to write that essay I have been meaning write about our travels to various wineries and vineyards. We have a wineglass collection at home from the various places we have visited, mostly in the Midwest, and now Texas. I think that would make a nice piece of writing sometime.

In the meantime, I wish everyone out there a Happy New Year, and Feliz Año Nuevo for our Spanish speaking friends.

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