Weekend Getaway: Texas Hill Country

This past weekend we took our first real family vacation, an excursion to the gorgeous Texas Hill Country (iPhone photos just don’t do it justice, at least that’s my excuse for not having taken any of the landscape). It’s a three-hour drive from Houston, although on the way there we took a slightly longer, more scenic route. After much time in the concrete jungle of Houston proper, the roadside naturescape was worth climbing into the backseat of the truck to attempt to soothe a fussy baby itching to get out of his car seat.

It’s important we maintain a rhythm of work and rest, as God even rested on the seventh day. Who are we to think we can be more productive than Him?

Finding Rest

In addition to visiting friends, we thought we’d make this trip an extended weekend for a little rest and relaxation. It’s important we maintain a rhythm of work and rest, as God even rested on the seventh day. Who are we to think we can be more productive than Him?

Well, it appears I need to work on this. While we all had fun on our trip, I wouldn’t categorize it as rest—unless you define rest as a break from your everyday routine. So to be totally honest here, while enjoyable, the trip wasn’t restful for me. Perhaps it was just masked by the energy we put into the preparation, over-packing, rearranging gear for various activities, active recreation, logistics for an 11-month-old outside of our semblance of a routine, or looking after an aspiring toddler to make sure he didn’t endanger himself in several new environments.  While he had his moments (i.e. only napping in the car and not in his pack-and-play), Levi was really good on the trip. My husband was helpful, and I had fun. So why did my husband find the trip to be restful and refreshing, and I found it to be fun yet exhausting? For those more experienced in traveling with kids, any tips on how to make vacations restful for mom?

So here’s is us attempting rest as we explored and ate our way through Texas Hill Country:

Lodging in a Cozy Cabin in the Woods

We stayed at this cozy cabin in the woods, The Curly J, which we booked through airbnb.com. If you haven’t heard of airbnb yet, I encourage you to check it out before you book a traditional hotel room. For the price of a nice hotel room, we were able to rent a two-bedroom, one-bathroom guesthouse with a full kitchen and gorgeous views, including sightings of goat and deer. Plus, we received tips on activities in the area from the owners, who were fabulous hosts. Staying in a guesthouse allowed us to not disturb our son after he went to bed and gave us the freedom to easily access all our recreation equipment (biking, hiking, swimming, etc.) without filling up an entire hotel room or leaving everything in the car—a plus when you are toting around a baby, car seat and all the associated baby gear.

The BBQ Capital of Texas: Lockhart

Part of the reason for our scenic route was stopping in the BBQ Capital of Texas on Thursday evening, as some of the BBQ joints are closed on Sundays when we would be driving home. While there are several well-loved BBQ joints in town, we ate at Kreuz Market for its famed sans-sauce BBQ and variety of side selections. If you recognize the restaurant, it’s because Kreuz Market has appeared on Food Network’s America’s Best and Travel Channel’s Food Wars. As you can see in the photos, my son loved the sausage! The brisket was superb, and the causal dining atmosphere was fun although a bit messy, as no forks (like BBQ sauce) are allowed. Just a word of warning, customers order meat in the same area of the restaurant where the meat is smoked, so while you have an interesting behind-the-scenes look, you’ll want to dress accordingly so you don’t smell like a BBQ pit.

Fun Flavors at Amy’s Ice Creams
While we’ve been to Amy’s Ice Creams in Houston, we thought it only appropriate to indulge in these unique ice cream creations in its founding city, Austin. (Amy’s also has one location in San Antonio.) So on Thursday night, we drove 15-20 minutes from the cabin to the Hill Country Galleria location of Amy’s where I enjoyed Mexican Vanilla with an Oreo mix-in, while my husband enjoyed Shiner Bock ice cream with a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup mix-in. Levi enjoyed licks of both. Amy’s regularly rotates most of its flavors, and one that caught my eye was Cop Stopper, which has coffee and donut flavors.

Leisurely Bike Ride to Dripping Springs

My husband and I are getting back into bicycling post-baby (look for a post about bicycling with a baby soon), so on Friday morning after waiting out a little rainstorm, we ventured on a leisurely, yet hilly 15-mile bike ride. We drove a few miles from the cabin, found a safe parking spot and rode 7.5 miles to the delicious eatery Rolling in Thyme & Dough. When we saw the menu had gourmet sandwich selections and a gluten-free bread option (my husband doesn’t tolerate gluten well, although he does on occasion make an exception for beer), we knew we found our lunch spot. I had the tasty Texas Two-Step Chicken Sandwich on toasted sourdough (grilled chicken breast, spicy chipotle sauce, avocado, grilled onions, tomatoes and Havarti cheese), which the woman at the counter recommended. I liked it enough that I may just recreate it at home. As Rachel Ray recommends on $40 a Day, you can usually find the best entrees a restaurant serves if you just ask. My husband had the Rancher’s Roast Beef Sandwich. Per usual, our son ate off of our plates and supplemented his meal with an organic fruit-and-veggie squeeze food pouch. As you can see in the photos, I’ve mastered the art of eating while nursing; this trick only works when Levi is not squirming.

On the ride back to our truck, we saw a sign that said “Tasting Room Open,” so we stopped at Twisted X Brewing Company for Tex Mex Beer. Our sample included Fuego, a jalapeño pilsner, which I found to be too spicy of a beer for my liking.

Exploring New Braunfels
Late Friday afternoon we drove an hour from the cabin to visit friends who recently moved to New Braunfels from Houston. We toured their beautiful new home and were even greeted by a deer in their front lawn. 

On our way to dinner we got a mini tour of town, which appears to have a lot of fun activities for families including Wurstfest—a nod to the town’s German heritage—each November. While waiting for our table at McAdoo’s Seafood Company, we looked around Got Toys across the street. The toy store had a child-sized shopping cart that Levi immediately gravitated toward. It was adorable watching him push it around the store, place a toy in the cart and go right up to the register. A little snippet of the cuteness: http://youtu.be/Q5dbwYY25Sk. Just as we were walking across the street toward the restaurant, we were paged for our table. Perfect timing.

Located in downtown New Braunfels in a stunning, century-old former Post Office building, McAdoo’s is a white tablecloth, Cajun seafood restaurant. I highly recommend the dish my husband ordered, Cajun Enchiladas. The extra side of Flash-Fried Spinach we tried was pretty amazing too. My dish, Almond-Crusted Flounder, was good, although it would have been better if I could have eaten it warm (Levi needed to nurse right when dinner was served). Our friends, who frequent McAdoo’s, ordered the Cajun Pasta and the Crawfish and Shrimp Etouffee. While I didn’t try either of their dishes, it sounded like the etouffee wasn’t a new favorite.

The Main Event: Bee Cave and Austin
The reason for this trip was to visit a college friend who now lives in Shanghai, China, as a missionary, but who happened to be visiting his brother in Bee Cave, a suburb of Austin. Learn more about his missionary work at Josh in Asia. We had the opportunity to meet his lovely wife and spend some quality time with them and a couple, their friends from Shanghai, who now live in a suburb of Dallas.

On Saturday morning, we slept in until 9 a.m.! I’m pretty sure this is the latest I’ve slept since Levi was born. This probably has more to do with the late arrival back to the cabin the night before, but I was pleased to have a little extra shut eye. We ate brunch at our friend’s brother’s home and that afternoon we ventured out for a swim at Barton Springs Pool at Ziker Park. This is no ordinary pool. Barton Springs Pool is a dammed natural spring. While the photos don’t show it, I did take a dip in the spring, and it was quite cold! Refreshing on this 96-degree day. I highly recommend enjoying this neat nature experience and exploring Ziker Park if you’re in Austin.

That evening we ventured into downtown Austin for dinner at Koriente Restaurant and Tea House. I don’t remember the names of the dishes we ordered, but the food was tasty, healthy Asian cuisine. I’m told it’s not 100% authentic, but it made carrots appealing to my 11-month-old, pleased two pregnant Asian ladies and has free parking—a win in my book!

On Sunday morning, we packed up our truck and met our friends at Austin Stone West Campus for church. Austin Stone West Campus meets in a high school, and they sure know how to transform it into a welcoming atmosphere. Now for my new mom geek-out moment: There even was a Mother’s Room with the service live streamed! I’m all for nursing in public with a cover (evidenced by the photo taken during lunch at Rolling in Thyme and Dough), but sometimes your little one needs the quiet in order focus on the task at hand. At his current stage, Levi is easily distracted, so calm and quiet can be quite helpful. Attending this church was especially appealing to my husband and I because our congregation, Oikos Church, is a new church plant and also meets in a high school.

For lunch we headed to Hula Hut, a Mexican restaurant overlooking Lake Austin. After lunch all seven of us walked to a nearby trail to enjoy the gorgeous scenery. I would have loved to take a longer hike, but we were all still in our church clothes and sweating like crazy. On our next trip to Austin, I’d like to go back and explore this area more but while wearing tennis shoes and hiking pants rather than sandals and skinny jeans.

After we said our goodbyes, we jumped back into our truck—definitely the way to road trip, as we were comfortable and had plenty of room for gear and passengers.  And for those of you outside of the Lone Star State, no road trip through Texas is complete without a stop at Buc-ee’s, where you’ll find a plethora of clean restrooms and snacks a’plenty.

Until we meet again, happy trails y’all!

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