If you don’t want to get funny looks from people, you’ll say /buhk hăn uhn/ when in Texas.
Lake Buchanan is located in the Hill Country of Central Texas. Like most lakes in the state, it was artificially created as a water and hydroelectric power supply for the region. We visited Lake Buchanan during one of our road trips around Texas.
We stayed at the Canyon of the Eagles Resort, located on the mouth of Lake Buchanan and the Colorado River. It’s about a four-hour drive south of Dallas. The views of the lake down below were beautiful. Bald eagles nest in the area during the winter. Unfortunately, we did not see any but we enjoyed the magnificence of the flight of other big birds of prey.
We took a cruise around the lake. Our guide, a retired schoolteacher, told us the story of the lake and the dam, completed in 1939. She even taught us the correct pronunciation of Burnet, a nearby town, with a rhyme that went like this: “It’s Burnet, durnit, can’t you learnit?” Really easy to remember. She also pointed out the local birds like egrets and herons.
The cruise included a tour of the remains of the town of Bluffton. In 1931, when the authorities started to plan the construction of the dam, the town was moved a few miles away and the site flooded. A severe drought exposed the ruins in 2011, which have become a tourist attraction ever since.
You have already been to the 6th Floor Museum and stood on the Grassy Knoll looking towards the spot where JFK was shot. You have been to as many steakhouses and eaten as much BBQ as you possibly can. You have hit swanky bars on McKinney Avenue. You have shopped till you dropped.
Now it’s the time to ride the vintage M-Line trolley.
The Green Dragon lumbering down McKinney Avenue
Head to the Arts District, allegedly the biggest in the country, and wait at the St. Paul & Ross stop, near the Dallas Museum of Art, until you spot a trolley trundling down the street. It could be Rosie (1909) or the Green Dragon (1913), Matilda (1925), Petunia (1920) or Betty (1926.) Watch out for cars when you step off the curb-some drivers are either careless or naughty. An attendant will help you, anyway. The ride is free of charge but a donation is appreciated because the McKinney Avenue Transit Authority is a nonprofit organization.
The motorman will greet you warmly. If there are small children with you or if you are a child at heart, he will let you step on the horn pedal. What fun! You sit on a hard-backed wooden bench and away you go, clickety-clack, clickety-clack.
Motorman and attendant
You ride along McKinney Avenue, past bars and restaurants and chic boutiques, all the way to the M-line Uptown Station, where the trolley is turned around on the turntable. You have enough time to stretch your legs and snap photos of your trolley. Some passengers alight, some board and the trolley starts again. You might decide to get off at the West Village and take a stroll, do a little window-shopping, or actual shopping, soak up the ritzy atmosphere, and maybe have a cocktail. You hop onto the next trolley back to where you started.
Turning round at Uptown Station
You can hop on and off at any of the stops, should you decide to do a little exploring. Do you feel like an elegant French meal? Step off at stop 9 and walk a few yards to the Saint-Germain Hotel. Are you in the mood for art and culture? The St. Paul & Ross stop is right next to the Dallas Museum of Art and round the corner from the Nasher Sculpture Center. The gardens at the Nasher are, in my opinion, the most beautiful in Dallas. Would you like to enjoy some peace and quiet? Head to Klyde Warren Park, an oasis in the middle of a busy city. If you are into local history, go to Greenwood Cemetery, where prominent citizens and veterans are buried.
Helmet. Bottle of water. Padded shorts. Gloves. Brightly coloured clothes. We´re ready to hit the road and cycle around our Dallas suburb.
We have two options: to use dedicated trails or use the on-street bicycle routes designated by the City of Plano. If we decide to use the trails around, say, Whiterock Lake, we have to loadour bikes onto the truck and drive across the city. It is more practical for us to cycle along the street.
I prefer to go cycling early at the weekend because there are not as many cars on the road. Although the rules state that a bicycle is entitled to the whole lane on designated routes, I don’t really trust drivers. I see so many of them getting distracted while driving becausen they are talking on the phone or texting or even applying makeup. The fewer cars around me, the better.
The weather has a say in what we do, in a manner of speaking. During the summer it gets so hot that I prefer to hit the road at around 8 o’clock but my husband doesn’t always agree. He doesn’t like to have a strict timetable at weekends and I can understan that. But still, it gets hot!
It can get very cold in the winter and it’s no fun to cycle with almost freezing wind in your face. The wind blows all year round in Dallas and in all directions at the same time. If we c ycle in one direction against the wind, you’d think you’d have the wind in your back when you cycle in the opposite direction but no, never. The worst is when you’re going downhill and have to pedal hard anyway instead of coasting because the winds stops you. It is very tiring but I’m always glad I’ve done it. I feel great and full of energy.
So go cycling if you can and remeber to wear a helmet, hydrate and stretch afterwards. Why not even make it a New Year’s resolution?
I’ve always wondered what a Presidential Library is and how it works. We have one here in Dallas, the George W Bush Presidential Library and Museum at the Southern Methodist University campus. The Library was officially opened in May, 2013. Why SMU? Because the university outbid other local universities, such as Baylor or Texas A&M, with its proposal.
I learned that a Presidential Library is an archive and museum at the same time, which preserves the written record and history of US presidents; that is, documents and artifacts written, received and owned by the presidents. They also organize special exhibits. Presidential Libraries are privately funded – and probably looking out for donations on a regular basis -, although they are managed by the National Archives and Records Administration.
SMU campus is very easy to get to, both by car and public transport. I drove and paid the 7 dollar parking fee. I had to go through security: a bag scanner and a metal detector. I was wearing a studded belt, which I was politely asked to remove, otherwise the metal detector would have gone bonkers. The entrance hall is light and airy, with lots of natural light. I paid my 17 dollar entrance fee and started my visit.
Along the walls of the circular hall are the gifts that President Bush, his wife or even Condoleezza Rice received during both his presidencies. Those presents belong to the American people and were divided geographically by continent. There were some amazing pieces of jewellery that I would have been loath to give up.
The collection is divided into themed exhibits that sum up the issues and events of his administration, such as the war against terror, 9/11, programs like No Child Left Behind or my absolutely favourite, a full-size reproduction of the Oval Office.
I must admit that the main draw for me was the special exhibition devoted to Oscar de la Renta, Five Decades of Style. Laura Bush wore his designs on many occasions, as well as other First Ladies like Nancy Reagan and Hillary Clinton, not to mention Hollywood stars. The gowns and suits were divided into themes: the gardens that influenced his style, Spanish art and culture (he lived in Madrid), red carpet, day wear, his first designs.
I was looking at what probably was my favourite dress when a security guard walked up to me. He greeted me and said “I just want you to enjoy yourself. Take your time, enjoy yourself.” I told him that I was. He then proceeded to give me fashion advice. A surreal but thoroughly enjoyable experience.
The other object that caught my attention was a length of twisted iron I beams from the Twin Towers. As I was inspecting them closely, a security guard told me I could touch them if I wanted to. I did. She then said that it is believed they came from a place close to the point of impact because of the way they’re twisted. Unless you’ve been there, nothing can bring home to you the real dimension of such awful tragedy. Touching the beams brought me fractionally closer to understanding it – but not quite.
After our little adventure on Caddo Lake, we drove a few miles to the town of Jefferson, where we were spending the night. Our B&B was a lovely historic Victorian home, with lots of frilly lampshades, cushions and sundry knick-knacks. The creaky wood floors and slightly off-kilter doors spoke of old age and different construction techniques.
For dinner, I had the perfect marriage of Texas and Louisiana culinary traditions: a chicken fried steak po’boy. Jefferson lies a few miles from the state line and 168 miles east of Dallas. It is essentially Texan with a Cajun twist.
The main reason for our trip was the Shakespeare under the Stars Festival. The company was made up of local amateur thespians and high school kids. Their enthusiasm shone through; it was lovely to watch them recite –or rattle off- their lines, sometimes with a funny pseudo British accent.
They performed famous scenes for the Bard’s plays in the square’s gazebo-cum-stage. During the balcony scene, Romeo’s soliloquy was interrupted by a series of booms but the 14-year-old didn’t bat an eyelid and carried on as if he were performing at the Royal Shakespeare Company. The freight trains became a constant feature throughout the night. We had hardly any sleep.
After he show, and feeling like a nightcap, Sean and I headed to the historic downtown in search for a watering hole. We chose a swanky wine bar. Although I‘ve lived in Texas long enough, I still find scenes like this fascinating: a tall man, whom I called Marlboro Man in my head, leaning against a wall, one booted foot resting on it, head bent with his Stetson obscuring half his face.
As is the way of small towns, the owner of the wine bar was the pilot of the boat we’d taken earlier. He stopped by our table for a chat.
Breakfast at the B&B was an awkward affair. We sat round a communal table with other guests. Some were silently stirring their coffee; some were whispering to their partners, some kept checking their phone. What little conversation there was, was stilted at the best of times. I couldn’t wait to get out of there, I’m not a morning person and therefore not very sociable at that time of day. A little antiquing before hitting the road changed my mood for the better.