Jefferson TX: Shakespeare, train horns, and Victorian architecture

JeffersonTX9
It seemed like a thousand freight trains went past Jefferson.

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.

One of the many Victorian homes in town.
One of the many Victorian B&B in town.

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.

The gazebo turned stage for the night
The gazebo turned stage for the night

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.

Downtown Jefferson
Downtown Jefferson. The entrance to the wine bar is between those two buildings

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.

One of my favourite historic homes
One of my favourite historic homes
Another view of downtown Jefferson
Another view of downtown Jefferson
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Caddo Lake in East Texas

“Where are you from?”

“Argentina.”

“They just had the Carnival, right?”

“No,” scowl. “That’s Brazil, our next door neighbor.”

“Oh.”

The atmosphere on board of the wood paddle steamer cooled down a bit. I do not appreciate it when people mix up Argentina and Brazil, it’s a pet peeve of mine. I turned round and saw Sean smiling. He knows how much this small thing bothers me.

The Graceful Ghost paddle steamer.
The Graceful Ghost paddle steamer.

The captain and the pilot did not stop talking for a second. They talked about the local fauna and flora and history and tried to engage the passengers. They also had a well-studied banter going on between them. I’m sorry to say that I would have liked to be able to enjoy the serenity of the waters and the sounds of Mother Nature.

We were on a tour of Caddo Lake, about two and a half hours east of Dallas. The lake straddles the Texas-Louisiana border and is the biggest natural fresh water lake in the South. Its name comes from the Caddo Indians, a peaceful group who inhabited the area. The US government bought their land in 1835 for $80,000 and the Caddo had to relocate.

Hello, friends!
Hello, friends!

One middle-aged lady kept saying “Where are the gators? ” I want to see the gators” over and over again. I casually said that the alligators were probably hanging out in a quiet spot far away from humans. She didn’t appreciate my comment. I felt like the Grinch Who Stole the Gators.

I actually liked the lake. It was overcast, so the combination of dark waters and Spanish moss hanging from cypresses was the ideal setting for a B horror movie. I half expected the see the Mommy thrashing about among the trees.

Watch put for monsters
Watch out for monsters

The lake is part of the Caddo Lake State Park and many people come here to camp, spend the day, kayak, fish or hike. A lucky few own a house on the shore with their own mooring.

Lake house living
Lake living

After this little excursion, we headed to the town of Jefferson to check in at our B&B and get ready for the evening’s activities.

It's a lot prettier on a sunny day!
It’s a lot prettier on a sunny day!

One Trip EVERY Month Challenge: Reunion Tower, Dallas

Marianne, over at East of Malaga, came up with a new challenge. It’s called “One trip EVERY month” and it’s about sharing a trip. It can be an international trip or a local one, that place in your hometown you’ve been meaning to visit but never got round to going.

For the February challenge, I chose the Reunion Tower in Dallas, the city where I live. The Reunion Tower was built in 1978 and is part of the Hyatt Regency Hotel. There is a fine-dining restaurant at the top but, although we said we should go sometime, we never did, as well as an observation deck.

Follow the arrows to the tower
Follow the arrows to the tower

Now my sister and my nieces are in town for a visit. The other day we were driving around downtown Dallas. Actually, we were planning to go to a park and I missed my exit on the highway. I took one exit at random and made a big loop back to where we were supposed to go. We happened to drive past the Hyatt and I said “Forget the park and let’s go up the tower!”

It was an exciting experience for all of us. For them, because they’ve never been to Dallas before and for me, because it was my first visit to the Reunion Tower.

Hyatt Regency @ Reunion Tower
Hyatt Regency @ Reunion Tower

We bought our tickets ($16 for adults and $8 for 4-12 year olds) and had our handbags inspected by a security guard. Then the photographer took a group photo and gave us an Access ID. With the ID we were able to see our photo on a computer upstairs, play with the background and email it and share it on social media for free.

Downtown Dallas
Downtown Dallas

The 360 degree of downtown Dallas is spectacular. There are interactive touch screens all around it with information about landmarks, the city and so on. The girls had a great time playing with the real time cameras and my sister and I enjoyed seeing them have fun.

The Margaret Hunt Bridge over the Trinity River is behind the jail.
The Margaret Hunt Bridge over the Trinity River is behind the jail.

We went outside but the wind was bitterly cold, especially at that height (158 metres-over 500 feet.) we lasted long enough to take a couple of photos and then rushed back inside.

Way too windy and cold outside!
Way too windy and cold outside! I should have wrapped my pashmina round my neck and put gloves on.

There’s a café called Cloud Nine one level above the GeoDeck (the observation platform) and the restaurant is one more level up. It rotates every evening so all diners can enjoy the great views of the Big D.

Having visitors to entertain and show around makes me think like a tourist in my own home. I enjoy exploring where I live and finding new places to see and activities to do. The excitement of exploration also helps stave off homesickness for a while.

Looking out the window at the Cloud Nine cafe
Looking out the window at the Cloud Nine cafe
300 Reunion Boulevard East- Dallas TX 75207
Hours:
Sundays to Thursdays 10 AM-10 PM
Fridays-Saturdays 10 AM-11.30 PM

Icemaggedon cometh to Dallas

This week was interesting for me weather wise here in Dallas.

We returned from Buenos Aires on Tuesday, where it was warm and sunny (it’s the beginning of summer.) It took us a day to acclimate to a Dallas, although it was mild. Wednesday was warm (27 C – 80 F) and sunny, a gorgeous day. However, the weathermen warned us about ice storms and freezing temps for the following days. Thursday was bleak: overcast, windy and cold, about 4 C (39 F). I had a tennis match which, to my chagrin, was not cancelled. To add insult to injury, I discovered I had a flat tire as I was backing out of the garage (Hubby came to the rescue.) And I lost (but it was good match, at least I enjoyed playing very much.)

This is what I woke up to on Friday
This is what I woke up to on Friday

On Thursday afternoon, we had sleet showers. Never a good sign. It rained the rest of the day and overnight. On Friday, I woke up to a white winterscape. What I thought was rain was in fact ice. We had an ice storm, the much anticipated “Icemaggedon.”

Stalactites hung from our front porch awning, street lamps, cars, tree branches. Plants, trees, and flowers were covered in a layer of ice. I felt sorry for the roses on my front patch of garden. Some neighbourhood kids went out on an adventure around the block and one of them started to trample on frozen plants for fun. My plants. I saw her, knocked on the window and shook my finger at her. She promptly left.

Frozen stiff Pampas grass
Frozen stiff Pampas grass

Today is the second day of Icemaggedon and temps are way below freezing. Most people I know are staying inside -and getting bored to tears. Unlike them, we went out to the mall. Driving on icy streets can be tricky but, luckily, my British husband has experience and drove us to the mall and back in one piece.

My street
My street

This is different from what I’m used to. Winters in Buenos Aires don’t get this cold. It snowed twice, as far as I know, in 1918 and 2007 (incidentally, my maternal grandfather witnessed both occasions) and we get “olas polares,” cold snaps from the South Pole but it hardly ever gets below zero. Weather in Texas is so unpredictable and so variable that I’m sure we’ll be wearing sunglasses and T-shirts in a few days.

I made this snowlady in my parents' backyard in July 2007. I named her Amalia.
I made this snowlady in my parents’ backyard in July 2007. I named her Amalia.

Actually, this is the second ice storm I’ve seen in Dallas. the first one was in February 2010, just in time for the XLV  Superbowl in the new Cowboys stadium in Arlington. Perfect timing, eh.

A neighbour's gas meter
A neighbour’s gas meter

You ain’t from around here

The only steakhouse of Sulphur Springs, Texas, does steak night on Saturdays. We get there at about 7.

The door opens with a loud creak. Diners look up from their rib-eyes and dinner rolls. They gaze at us from under the brims of their hats. Even the deer mounted on the wall fix their dead stare on us.

We sit down at the nearest available table. Everybody gets stuck in again. It feels like we are in an old Western film.

The door opens again with a loud creak. Patrons look up. Some smile and greet the newcomers.

Then it hits me. These people weren’t hostile, they were just curious.

mural cowboy