First Impressions

I arrived in Savannah late afternoon -  just in time to check into my hotel, drop off my (growing) luggage, draw myself a map to find my way back to said hotel, and wander around this little big town with absolutely no agenda for the evening.  It was nice knowing since I added an entire extra day to my stay here, I didn't have to run around trying to do/see everything the first night.

But let me tell you, right away, I think I could spend some considerable time here.  I picked a hotel kind of in between the North and South Historic areas - not right on the water, but not as far south as Forsyth Park, and I think it's going to be the perfect home base.  I wandered to the river first, and enjoyed sitting on a park bench listening to an old man playing Somewhere over the Rainbow on his saxophone - not a bad way to start off my visit.  

After relaxing by the water for a while, I decided to head in the opposite direction toward Forsyth Park.  On my way, I stumbled upon Paula Deen's restaurant and store, which I appreciated since I'm a total Food Network junkie.  The park was incredible - I love how all of the oak trees covered with Spanish moss canopy over the park (and also over all of the main streets).  And, since it's not a billion degrees here like it was in Texas, I think I'm going to get up early tomorrow and run in the park.

Walking home I wandered through several residential blocks.  I have to say, it kind of reminds me of Georgetown - the cobblestone streets, the architecture - I even climbed up some stairs by the water that were as steep as ThExorcist steps.

So, while today wasn't jamb-packed with an agenda, I really enjoyed my time - looking forward to really getting into this city over the next two days.


Thunder and Lightning and Rain - Oh My!

Today was a REALLY long day.  I had it in my head to get as far as possible, so I could have a short(er) drive tomorrow to Savannah.  Well, I left Houston before 9 am, and only arrived in Tallahassee a little before 9 pm, stopping only to refuel and get lunch.  I think I caught the same lightning/thunderstorm in each of the 5 states I drove through today while I headed East: Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida.  I had to drive like a little old lady because I have never seen such a bad downpour, let alone driven in one.  Lighting was literally hitting all around me as I drove on the 10 East - totally scary and intimidating for a So Cal native. 

I am going to go look up Savannah's weather now, but I sure hope the storm doesn't follow me there - it really doesn't make for good sight-seeing!

So long Houston

Just going to bed after finally deciding to stay an extra day in Savannah and booking a hotel - I am excited for my next stop, but I don't get there until Tuesday, because it's about a 15 hour drive from Houston, blech!

But, I had a great time here with Robin.  Today was the perfect way to end our time together - we had a total girly day consisting of major shopping (I helped her pick out almost an entirely new work wardrobe, and we're convinced I have a back-up career as a stylist if this architecture stuff doesn't work out), dinner in with a nice bottle of wine, and a chic flick.  So nice!

My plan for tomorrow is to drive as far as I can, so who knows where I'll end up...


Museum and a Movie

This morning Dave, Robin and I went to The Houston Museum of Natural Science to see the Terra Cotta Warriors exhibit. I didn't really know what we were going to see, but once there realizing the magnitude of the excavation, I was pretty amazed - and I normally hate "history." I don't think I could do the exhibit justice, so I'm going to pull a bit from the museum's website:

"They stood watch over China's first emperor for thousands of years - and astonished the world when they were uncovered in 1974. The Terra Cotta Warriors have been called the greatest archaeological discovery of the 20th century - and even, the Eighth Wonder of the World...

Terra Cotta Warriors: Guardians of China's First Emperor includes more than 100 artifacts from the tomb complex of Emperor Qin Shihuangdi - the man who first unified the warring states that are known today as China. Created to protect him on the journey to the afterlife, these dramatic soldiers embody both the death of an emperor - and the birth of a nation."

The Emperor ruled around 200 BC, and there is thought to be about 7,000 figures yet to be exhumed from the site. It was pretty incredible to see weapons, tools and figures from over 2,000 years ago so well preserved and intact.

Of course we had to get a little silly...

My afternoon consisted of wondering around The Houston Heights, a stretch around W. 19th Street that is full of antique stores - they were terrible. In fact, I would say to someone visiting Houston there is no need to even wander this part of the city...

But getting to the better part of the rest of the day, and having nothing to do with the city at all, we all went to see Away We G0 tonight. Hilarious at times, tear-jerking at others, the movie explored different romantic relationships in the context of the family dynamic. It was really good, and I'm going to use this post to advertise - SEE THIS MOVIE!


Habitat Houston

Wow it's been a long day.  I successfully got up with Robin at 5:30 to do her Crossfit workout.  It was tough but good, and I have to say, there's something to be said for being done exercising for the day at 7 am.  Reminded me of those good old Georgetown Volleyball days...

I was on my own this morning as Robin had to work, so I once again gathered up my list of places to check out and headed to the first one.  Kuhl-Linscomb has to be the most amazing home furnishing store I have ever seen, and that's probably an understatement.  The store actually is comprised of 5 buildings, ranging from note cards and shampoo, to Minotti and Zanotta furniture, to luxurious bed linens, kitchen ware, and even kitchen cabinetry.  I would definitely say anyone going to Houston who likes home design would appreciate this store.  

I have realized with this cross-country trip that I can be anyone I want - since no one knows me on my stops, I don't have to fall into my same habits from home - like being painfully shy with strangers.  Nope, the "Houston Lauren" was all talk today, as I struck up a conversation with Andre, who works at Kuhl-Linscomb (mom and dad, I was actually asking about an AMAZING outdoor dining table for you - I'll send pics).  We ended up talking for over an hour about design, traveling, and what I have to see in Houston - which was great getting tips from a local.  I think I like this new version of myself and may try it out for a bit - it seems like most people are very interested to learn all about you when you start off by telling them you're driving cross-country by yourself for three weeks...

Anyways, I literally spent all morning there, and just made two other quick stops before meeting Robin for a late lunch.  The next stop was The Guild Shop, which is a consignment store I had read about.  Mostly they had a lot of junk, but I fell in love with a painting that was about 5' square, and stood debating how I was going to get it shipped to D.C. until I looked at the price tag - $1200.  Is that crazy or what?!  At a consignment store?  I guess my photo of it will have to do until I can con my dad into painting it for me. (a few years ago I loved this painting in Carmel at a gallery that my dad said he'd consider getting for me for my birthday until he realized it cost $50,000, so he took a picture of it and about 6 months later gave me his version.  A great way to get affordable art if you have someone to make it for you!)

My next stop was seemingly unsuccessful, as the store I had hoped to visit had gone out of business since my list's creation.  However, the Archway Gallery next door had a great collection of art, that was pretty affordable (especially after seeing how ridiculous the consignment piece was).  I enjoyed browsing the gallery and really liked a diptych by Bede Van Dyke.  

After my morning stint, I met Robin for lunch at Ruggles, before heading over to Rice Village to peruse the shops (and get into some air conditioning).  We had a great time shopping and just hanging out - needed to make up for way too much lost time.  We also ate out tonight at The Raven Grill.  My dinner was delicious - Dave and I split an appetizer of brie baked in Filo (how could we go wrong there?), followed by an entree of dijon glazed trout served with wilted spinach and pecan salad and lentils.  I am sure I'm going to have gained 10 pounds by the time my trip is over, but I am greatly enjoying tasting all of the local fare.

Last night's dinner that Robin made - I did help chop a lot of those ingredients.

My favorite thing at Kuhl-Linscomb - pillows by Catstudio - appropriate for my new home town (and shout out to the Hoyas).

"My" painting on the right - love the bright green, love the girl, don't love the price. :-(

Also had to sneak in a photo of the paintings I liked from the Archway Gallery.


Slight Detour

This post is going to be short and sweet - I left my camera connector-thingy (the official term, I'm sure) in my car, and Robin has convinced me to get up at 5:30 to do her Crossfit workout with her and her boyfriend.  It's already past 11, and my eyes haven't seen a 5 am in the last several years - should be interesting...

But, my remaining time with Michelle was great.  We actually ended up spending half of yesterday in pj's getting all excited talking design-shop, then hit up a few of her go-to places before making our way to San Antonio.  On the way we stopped in Gruene, which is home to the oldest dance hall in Texas.  Tons of famous people have played there, and the walls were covered with framed autographs, as well as a band setting up to play later that night.  We arrived in San Antonio just in time to have dinner on the Riverfront and this morning we took a water taxi to see the Alamo before I headed off to Houston.  An unexpected but nice little detour on my trip east.  I really had a wonderful time with my cousin, whom I had not spent much time with as an "adult."  We realized we're basically the same person with such overlapping interests - maybe like the sister I never had?  I would love to go back and visit her again in Austin.

So, three quick hours later, I made it to Houston.  Robin left work a little early, and we enjoyed running a few errands and picking up groceries to make dinner - grilled chicken with avocado and corn salsa with a jicama and mango salad - yum!  I can't believe I haven't seen her since the year we graduated from Georgetown, and I'm really looking forward to spending the weekend with her and making up for much lost time.

Alright, I need to get myself to sleep.  Apparently this class is a killer, so I'm hoping I'm functioning well enough to type tomorrow ;).


Keep Austin Weird

So, before I begin with yesterday's events, I have to note what I really like about Austin - it is so proud of its individuality.  Signs are posted everywhere to eat and shop local, and the residents are very proud to have so many unique things in Austin.  The title of my post is actually a t-shirt I saw yesterday, and it reflects the mindset of the people here - they definitely do not want to be taken over by large chains of any kind - which I think is just great (although, everyone does seem to love the enormous Whole Foods downtown - Michelle and I stopped by last night and it was pretty crowded, and apparently a great singles-scene after work).

Yesterday I had an amazing but exhausting day with my cousin.  We started with a nature walk down to see Lake Austin – which is just the Colorado River damned up to create a lake – they do this throughout Austin apparently.  It was nice, though, and there were already boats and water-skiers out cooling off.  Because, you know, it only hit a high of 108 degrees yesterday, ouch!

Michelle told me I needed to be rightfully introduced to Austin with lunch at Rudy’s – I was a bit skeptical, as it is basically inside a gas station on the side of the road (wow, thanks for the tour Michelle, taking me to a gas station…), but the BBQ was really good, and the guys working there were very hospitable to me as a first-timer.  Not only did I get the Rudy’s cheer for a welcome, they gave me sample pieces of everything on the menu.  Yum!

We spent much of the day driving around hitting all of Michelle’s to-do list which was great – we climbed Mt. Bonnell's 99 stairs to see a breathtaking panorama view of Austin, we went to Barton Springs and watched a zillion kids swimming/diving, we toured UT, stopped at Hula Hut and The Oasis which are popular restaurants/bars to take in the views and cool off.  It was funny because Michelle kept telling me how crowded all of these places usually are, and besides Barton Springs, no one was at any of them – the weather being such a deterrent.  It finally dropped below 100 around 10 or so…

That, sprinkled in with home tours of the local neighborhoods, with Michelle and I oohing and ahhing at the different houses we liked, was a blast.  Today’s my last day here, and I think we’re going to hit up an IMAX film on Texas (Michelle says she’s seen it at least a dozen times and that it’s a must-see), maybe go for a dip in the springs, and then we talked about moseying our way down to San Antonio to do The Riverwalk later tonight.  

By coincidence, we ran into Christie, Michelle's roommate, at Rudy's on her lunch break so she joined us - food was really good with a very low-key atmosphere.

Sweating in front of Barton Springs - we definitely should have brought our swimsuits!

Cooling off with some shaved ice from a street vendor.

View from atop Mt. Bonnell overlooking the Colorado River, or whatever Lake they call it there...

Michelle and I snacked on home-make pita chips and guacamole - her secret is to put some honey in the guac - it was yummy - and even made me think I really should start learning how to cook.


Deep in the Heart of Texas

Arrived in Austin last night to a gorgeous house where my second cousin Michelle lives – the house is staged to sell, and has to be ready to “show” at any time, so basically, there can be no personal trail.  This is a great lesson for me to put my mess away as soon as I make it!

My home base until Thursday:

Michelle was awesome to change her travel plans to be here most of my time in Austin (in addition to letting me stay with her), and she arrives back from Father’s Day travel tonight, so today I was on my own to check out the city.  Design*sponge guide in hand, I went downtown to check out the capitol, as well as walk the streets (some really cute stores are popping up on Colorado and W. 2nd St. that I perused in the morning, my favorites definitely being Mercury Design Studio (mix of vintage and modern home furniture/accessories) and Eliza Page (jewelry that was way beyond my budget, but fun to look at). 

Next I drove over to South Congress – a groovy stretch of several blocks that hosts tons of vintage furniture and clothing stores, and what I’ve realized is big here:  mobile restaurants. There were tons of trailers parked and cooking – from ice cream and cupcakes to BBQ and tacos – I guess you get to keep overhead costs down if you don’t have rent to pay?  Very cool vibe, and I would have probably eaten at one if it weren’t A MILLION DEGREES here.  So instead, I headed over to Guerro’s, which Michelle’s roommate Christie had recommended and had fish tacos – they had sweet corn in them and were super good.  My only “complaint” was that the wait-staff didn’t seem to know what to do with me – I guess a lone diner is unheard of there.  Nevertheless, it was the perfect resuscitation after being outside for so long walking up and down S. Congress.

I was feeling so good, in fact, that I headed over to Uncommon Objects, which is known as an Austin Institution (i.e. Must go!).  I wandered through row after row of vintage furniture, clothing and accessories before falling in love with a vintage pair of rattan pendants.  The owner saw me looking at them and we ended talking about design and he mentioned he had decorated a restaurant in Orange County – turns out it was down the street from my parents’ house (has since gone out of business, but I had eaten there before) – small world.  And… I bought the pendants.  I have no idea what I’m going to do with them (Eddie, I might convince you we should hang them on your back porch), but they were so rad and super cheap I couldn’t pass them up (and are now occupying the remaining space in my Jetta’s trunk). 

That about summed up my day – the heat started getting to me, so I drove back to Michelle’s a bit ago to hibernate in her air-conditioned house.  And, I know I probably sound a little whiney, but seriously, I went to one store today that had a sign out front that said “Closed due to AC being broken” – so you know if the locals think it’s hot, it can’t just be me! 

Michelle lands in a few hours, and I’m really looking forward to seeing her – I can’t remember the last time I did.  And, I’m excited to start her list of “must-see” things in Austin – so more to come over the next few days.

Capitol Building

View from the park

South Congress Shops

One of the many air-stream trailers set up for food service


Lubbock, Tx (aka middle of nowhere)

I met a couple from Austin the other night in Santa Fe, and they told me the perfect half-way point between the two cities was Lubbock, Tx.  Since I had originally planned to stop in Las Cruces which meant a grueling second-day drive to Austin, I decided to follow their suggestion.  Little did I know...first of all, the drive is pretty desolate scenery-wise.  There was a stretch of about 50 miles today in which I did not see a single other car headed in my direction - I should have realized this is because no one goes to Lubbock.  When I arrived, I drove around the "city" for over 30 minutes, trying to figure out exactly where the city was.  I think the biggest landmark here is Walmart, although, supposedly Buddy Holly is from here?  Anyways, it was a long boring drive but I made it.  I am sure I'll be on the road bright and early tomorrow morning heading for Austin.  Now my only other question is - when does it get dark in Texas?  It's after 9 right now, and the sun's still setting...

The lone drive through New Mexico

Another from the car - this is how I kept myself entertained...

This is awaiting a very long train to pass on the state line.  Couldn't help but snap a picture of this sticker, "There are two types of people: those who are Texan, and those who wish they were..."  

Santa Fe, cont.

Yesterday was my second (and last) full day in Santa Fe, and before I forget all the little details, I wanted to get something up here.

Conquering Canyon Road was my goal for the day – it’s sort of a hike from the main Plaza, but about a mile in length, it hosts about 120 galleries/stores.  Santa Fe is the third largest city in the country for art (Los Angeles, and recently San Francisco top it), so I definitely wanted to check it out.  What I learned:  just because there is a lot of art, does not mean that it is good art.  Maybe it is just because I have such sophisticated taste (haha), but I found a lot of it really ugly.  Highlights of the ugly, include stuff like these two trapeze guys:

After walking up and down Canyon Road for about four hours, I decided my favorite art was actually from a group of older women who were out water coloring a cute Adobe house. If they were willing to sell their paintings, I probably would have walked away with a few.  

But instead, I found a ring by a local artist:

AND… my very own pair of cowboy boots!  Who knows when I’m going to wear these things (I take that back, I am in Texas now…), but I picked up a pair of used ones at Cowboyz for less than a tenth of the price of new ones I had seen the day before, and they sure are cute!  Now I just need a cowboy to go with them. ;)

Lastly, I have to mention dinner last night.  AMAZING!  Definitely one of the best meals I’ve had in as long as I can remember.  The concierge at The Inn at Anasazi (where I stayed) recommended heading over to the O’Keefe Café (next to the Georgia O’Keefe museum, which I actually went to on my first day and greatly enjoyed).  Dinner started with a complimentary glass of champagne and plate of brie, pancetta, and cornichon with pesto (sweet!).  I ordered the crispy shrimp and jicama salad to start, which came with mandarin oranges and a citrus vinaigrette that was delicious.  For my entrée, I had diver scallops over wild mushroom and truffle risotto – BEST THING EVER.  The waiter actually told me I ordered the best thing on the menu, and it definitely did not disappoint.  Neither did the chef coming out at the end of the meal to check in and see how it was – such a nice gesture.  I would be a regular for sure if I lived in Santa Fe (well, and if I were rich, let’s be honest…).  It was the perfect ending to a great stay in Santa Fe.  


I heart Santa Fe

I've been dreaming of going to Santa Fe for a while now, and I can honestly say it is living up to my expectations.  This town is so cute!  I arrived last night, and early on stumbled upon a town festival that included live music, local food, jewelry vendors and tarot readings.  After that, margaritas at La Fonda, which is the oldest hotel in the United States.  The margarita legacy draws a crowd, and last night was no exception as a band trio played music for a local group of dancers (okay, it was country music which I hate, and I was by far the youngest person there by about 3 decades, but it was nice to see the old folk having such a good time...).

Speaking of old, I did feel like I got a (probably much-needed) history lesson today.  Who knew Santa Fe was the second oldest city in the U.S?  They not only have the oldest hotel in the country, but also the oldest church (San Miguel), the oldest public building (Palace of the Governors) and the oldest house.  Spain conquered New Mexico and set Santa Fe as the capital in 1609, and a lot of the buildings date back to that time.  

In addition to the buildings/art I have enjoyed some delicious food.  This morning I had breakfast at Tia Sophia's, which is a local hangout (and of course I felt so cool having read about it beforehand).  My breakfast burrito was about the size of my head (and Santa Fe claims to have invented this amazing concoction as well).  And tonight, I ate at The Shed, having really great, although excruciatingly spicy, fish tacos and tasted their local brew - Santa Fe Pale Ale (Karen, aren't you proud!?).  

Tomorrow's plan is to head to Canyon Road, which boasts 120 galleries - should be fun.  And, I was thinking about buying a pair of cowboy boots, you know, to wear ironically, but when I went to Back at the Ranch this afternoon (which advertises as having the largest selection of custom boots), I discovered the pair I liked cost $1600 - what?!  So yeah, maybe I'll be buying a cowboy boot keychain instead.

Statue of St. Francis with the Institute of American Indian Arts Museum in the background (which is unfortunately closed until the end of the month).

San Miguel Chapel - oldest church in the country.

La Fonda

A glimpse of the local art - more to come tomorrow.


Sedona Day 2

Today was a beautiful day in Sedona.  I had wanted to stop here on my trip as I remembered liking it when I came here with my family when I was younger, but really seeing it today felt like the first time - which I'm sure my mom will kill me for, as she says I have the worst memory of my childhood...  Got up early to do a hike before the heat set in, and  ended up getting a little bit lost - wandering about 8 miles - but it was well worth it.  I kept closing my eyes, taking in the smell - it definitely brought back memories of Camp Bluff (the YMCA camp I went to in Big Bear between the ages of  12  and 19).  

Now, as much as the rocks are amazing, the town of Sedona could use a little help...  Hot pink Jeep tours are "the thing" - I have no idea why.  And the stores - well, I take that back, Chico's-wearing women would probably be in heaven, just not my thing.  I did see some cool art here and there, but I think one full day "in town" is plenty.  Tomorrow's drive is about 6 hours to Santa Fe, which I am really excited about - I have been interested in going the last year, so I'm sure I'll be posting lots of stuff.  

Had to include the volleyball court...

Slide Rock National Park

I loved this house up on the hill - built right into the side of the rocks - Howard Roark would definitely approve.


Sedona, Az.

Long day of driving, but I finally crossed the state line  and am in Arizona! 
Nothing too exciting to report today, but the Red Rocks sure look beautiful - a hike is definitely on the agenda for tomorrow morning :).

Last Night in Cali

After spending the last 8 months of my life obsessively following way more design blogs than I'd like to admit, I am using my cross-country trip as the jump-start (and testing grounds?) for one of my own.  

I still can't believe I threw a graduate school application together in so short a time (I probably shouldn't acknowledge that, should I?), and then, against all odds, got in to CUA in DC.  I can honestly say I am so excited to return to this city - after spending over a week there for the inauguration, I felt like I barely glimpsed the city's reach in my four years at Georgetown.  And, the icing on the cake is that I'm moving in with one of my life-long friends whom I have missed since my return to California.  Eddie and I have already discussed our plans to have Sunday family dinners in effect upon my arrival.   

But as much as I am filled with excitement about school and DC, I can't help but think of everything I'm leaving here in Southern California.  I know I will greatly miss my family (although, I am sure they will find some excuse to visit me back East), and also some truly amazing friends that I have made while in LA.  Most I hope will visit, but I know I will take a part of each of them with me - for they have definitely made an impact on the person I am today (man, is this cheesy or what?  I definitely do not claim to be a good writer).  

So, with that, I end my run in California.  Tomorrow starts my big drive - first stop Sedona, Az.  I just have to throw everything in my car in the morning, and I'll be taking the Santa Monica Beach with me, thanks to Jodi.