Wednesday, July 11, 2007

A Taste of Texas

Last moment changes in my travel plans! I now have to be in Houston next Monday, before proceeding as planned to Orlando, San Francisco, Cupertino and Santa Monica.

Rodeo Houston TexasI first visited Houston in the early nineties. I lived in North Carolina those days, and my first impression of Houston wasn't a good one. Hoardings advertised strip clubs and ugly looking buildings passed by as I drove down the expressway from the airport. There were no green areas, monuments, or scenic views to admire here. However, having visited here multiple times since, I have now delved beyond the surface and discovered a city that can provide some rather unique forms of entertainment.

Awesome seafood at Houston, TexasHouston is most interesting during the rodeo season. The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is usually held during March every year. Since childhood I had been fascinated with the wild west, so I was particularly excited seeing real-life cowboys going through their moves (you have to see the bull-riding competition!). The Reliant Stadium (along with the neighbouring Astrodome) hosts events where top cowboys and cowgirls compete in riding and roping. The evenings end with a grand entertainment program. I watched Kenny Chesney play live here and that evening was awesome! Elvis Prestley, Sheryl Crow, Neil Diamond, Beyonce, Paul Anka are some of those who have staged shows here in the past. The area outside the stadium is very festive, a fairground with bright lights, games, food, and fun for adults and kids alike. (Rodeo photo source: Troy & Naomi)

The other fun times were at the Astrodome watching baseball and a Monster Truck Rally. Can't think of anything more American than that! Watching a game live in the US is (almost?) as much fun as watching cricket in India. The same charged-up and noisy excitement (especially if the local team is playing) but with an American twist: hot-dogs, cheer-leaders, mascots, and buttered pop-corn.

Houston is also a great place for steaks, seafood and Tex-Mex, which is probably another reason I like visiting here. A good place to understand what Americans mean when they say 'Texan sized'! Houston being home to a large community of South Asians also boasts of a number of great Indian restaurants (including completely vegetarian ones).

Another Texan city I have visited more than once is Dallas, which I find more aesthetically pleasing than Houston. I have earlier posted about my honky-honk experience at Billy Bob's in Dallas; I have also experienced rodeo here (which was smaller than the Houston one), strolled the beautiful botanical gardens, taken a tour where JFK was tragically shot, and spent the evenings with friends listening to live music downtown, where bands play outdoors into the night during weekends.

Baseball game in HoustonAnd finally Austin, which I have visited only once but liked very much. Because of the vibrant music scene (Austin claims to be the live music capital of the world), the scenic views, and of course, its bat-colony!

Texas has been a melting pot of cultures for a long time. The French and Spanish flags have flown over it in the past, and Texas even became a break-away republic for a while.

Much has been written about Texans, especially their love for everything big. Said writer Pete Hamill, “There is a growing feeling that perhaps Texas is really another country, a place where the skies, the disasters, the diamonds, the politicians, the women, the fortunes, the football players and the murders are all bigger than anywhere else.” (Skyline photo source: Luftman)

I think John Steinbeck sums up Texas (and Texans) the best, “I have said that Texas is a state of mind, but I think it is more than that. It is a mystique closely approximating a religion... For all its enormous range of space, climate, and physical appearance, and for all the internal squabbles, contentions, and strivings, Texas has a tight cohesiveness perhaps stronger than any other section of America. Rich, poor, Panhandle, Gulf, city, country, Texas is the obsession, the proper study and the passionate possession of all Texans.”

Other posts from Texas: Four Seasons at Austin, Sushi & Honky-tonk in Texas, Sullivan's Steakhouse, Seafood at the Oceanaire, New World Latin Cuisine, The Moonshine Grill


foodette said...

Very interesting post. I have yet to visit Texas, but now I am more intrigued than before. However, I wanted to also comment on the American-ness of Baseball. Yes, it's our past time and all, but I really think that you should see an NFL game if you ever get a chance. Or, a college football game. It may be the most American experience you can get. Similar to watching a soccer game in another country. I would imagine a Cowboys game would be fantastic.

indiwriter said...

enjoyed sampling the fare on your blog!


Shantanu said...

@foodette: Yes, that's one thing I haven't been able to do yet: watch football/NFL live.

@alakaline: Thanks for visiting!


yes. interesting post. my cousin sister stays in Houston

Anonymous said...

Great blog, Shantanu. Keep it up!

- Jitesh

Shantanu said...

@harekrishnaji: In that case, you should visit Houston during the Rodeo too.

@Jitesh: Welcome to my blog, and thanks!

Bee Lee said...

Hey Shantanu, great post :)

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