Texas Gulf Coast, What A Great Time

Know where I was yesterday morning? Mission Control in Houston — during a Space Shuttle mission. It’s a really great story, but I’m saving it for last in my series on the Texas Gulf Coast.

I think it’s going to be three stories: The Gulf Coast, featuring Beaumont and Orange, and then Galveston and then Houston, but there are a lot of excellent opportunities for sidetracks into feature stories.

Here’s a travel writer’s dilemma in a nutshell: You go into the Stark Museum in Orange, Texas, and you can see immediately that this is a great place to spend the entire day, then you’re off to a tour of the Stark Mansion, where you get the exact same feeling, and then you’re off to a life-changing experience at a Buddhist temple in Port Arthur.

You have to grab a sample of these ‘whole-day’ experiences in 45 minutes or less. But that’s the business. And then you have their email so you can work out all the details later when you work up your story.

In four days on the Gulf Coast I found at least fifty great places to spend the whole day. And I experienced several historic firsts: first taste of alligator — really good, somewhere between a scallop and an octopus, with some very interesting flavors all its own — first pomegranate martini made with Tito’s Texas vodka, first taste of jickima, a cross between a potato and a radish, first mango marguerita.

I met the guy who saved the gators stranded by Hurricane Ike — there’s a whole story there — and took a tour up the river with a wildlife biologist, and then visited an environmental center and botanical garden called Shangri-La, where I would gladly spend three days.

Then I met a monk in Port Arthur who changed the way I think about absolutely everything. Then I helped eat a tray of crawfish at Larry’s Cajun Cafeteria. And then in the elegance and grandeur of the Hotel Galvez in Galveston, my heart found a home.

Saw the art car parade in Houston, saw some cool exhibits at the Contemporary Art Museum, dined with the conductor of the Houston Symphony Orchestra — there’s just too much to go into at this time.

Except to say I was with a wonderful group of writers and we had a gracious and indefatigable guide from the Texas Visitor’s bureau who took care of absolutely everything.

I’m so exhausted, I’m gong to sleep for week, and when I wake up I’ll tell you all about Texas hospitality.