Days 1 – 3 Austin, Texas
“Everything’s bigger in Texas………………… the music, the warmth, the action, the buildings, the steaks – just a fraction, the jazz, beats and good time blues, the drives, the dives, those off-beat views, the Galveston sand, that quirky Strand, historic Jefferson, – the odd bayou gator, gorgeous Georgetown, and its historic theatre, think big, think bigger, think Texas.” By Posh Mum 2019
Posh Mum is a poet and she doesn’t even know it!
Oh hard to believe only a year since we made this trip, currently we wouldn’t be able to use the visa waiver system ESTA due to the Covid pandemic, all need to take care and stay strong in these sad times. Stay safe ❤
Overview: This USA Fly drive delves into 4 States – about 1600 miles plus day trips. Please see one of my other USA road trips for useful stuff such as entry requirements. Do contact the State tourism departments before you travel, they will often send you maps, information and guides free of charge.
Get Here: Various UK airlines fly daily into Austin, or you could fly into Houston, about 3 hours drive away. We chose British Airways, with good connections from North-East England, reasonable layover in London, then direct to Austin takes about 10.5 hours. We snapped up our flight tickets in the BA sale for £584 each, leaving us with enough money for a posh glass of fizz during the layover! Flights were bang on time too, well done British Airways! Austin entry security was a little weird, firstly an automated system then the personal touch – we quickly grabbed a taxi afterwards, by trundling through the parking lots to the well-organised rank – we paid about $40 including tip so didn’t break the bank. Wow it ain’t half hot for Posh Mum, at about 85 degrees F, much warmer than we are used to!
Stay: Embassy Suites Austin – Central, Austin, 5901 North IH-35 for around £120 a night including breakfast, free Wi-Fi, free parking – a little tired perhaps in the public areas but clean and friendly & good value for Texas’s capital. We arrived just in time for a complimentary 2- hour early evening reception (always a nice touch – in fact Posh Mum can recommend it after a long day out – have a spot of late lunch or early dinner in town then chill out here with free cocktails and snacks – a great budget stretcher). The hotel states it operates a complimentary shuttle service within a 2 mile radius of the hotel but it’s hit and miss. Downtown is not walkable from here, and the best thing to do, as was suggested by the hotel, is to download a transportation app such as Lyft. The drivers were reliable and got us into town for around $10 a time.
Do: Austin downtown is rich with walking possibilities, or you could get yourself a set of wheels, and scoot around between the hire points – we saw heaps of people using these, although am not sure I would have woven amongst the traffic as some of these plucky youngsters were doing!
Back to the walking – see: printable map of
the 10 mile loop Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail at Lady Bird Lake. We took a long stroll here, taking in the bat information beneath the bridge at Congress Avenue – its a great crowd puller to watch the thousands of bats in action at dusk. Lots of lazy turtles sun themselves at the water’s edge, this is the life indeed! In fact talking of loveliness, we had a very quaffable glass of wine at Alta’s Cafe, watching the Lake world sail by.
Another day took us to Zilker Park trail along the Colorado river to the Science & Nature Centre, we didn’t notice this in the guidebooks but it’s a great spot for children – an educational centre as well as a play area, including a massive dino-sandpit – our darling granddaughter would love it! We saw a host of rescued birds and animals, living out their days in relative bliss.
Eat: After walking for several hours we thought a spot of late lunch/early dinner would be just the ticket, and headed into the Roaring Fork, and had what they inelegantly named a big ass burger, but hey it was good – and as they say, Texas means big!
See: The Texas State Capitol Building – look at the great dome alone, yes – everything really is bigger in Texas, the Capitol building is over 14 feet taller than Washington D.C’s! Open daily including a fascinating guided tour – free of charge too, Posh Mum was in her element!
Oh did I say big – look at these hinges – these are everywhere in the Texas Capitol building – just in case you might forget, is a reminder that Texas has its own firmly entrenched identity – big and bold!
Days 4 & 5 Galveston, Texas
Get Here: After collecting our car from Avis, very close to our Austin hotel above, we drove to Galvaston. The quickest route takes around 3.5 hours, (c 220 miles) travelling east on the 71 and I-10. Traffic can be pretty heavy so allow plenty of time.
Stay: Seawall Inn & Suites by the Beach, located at 102 Seawall Boulevard Galveston, Texas 77550 is ideally situated if you want to be close to the beach area. This 100% smoke free hotel has free WiFi, breakfast and car parking – at around £150 a night it is a bit of a snip in this very tourist trodden area.
Do: The Galveston Island State Park, with stunning beaches and nature walks provides a get away from it all experience, beware though that part of it is scheduled for a 3-year closure from July 2019 for renovation, so get here quick! For an amusement park hit consider Moody Gardens – complete with its own golf course and hotel. For a spot of history, visit the Bishop’s Palace, dating to 1892 and open daily despite renovation works. We rather liked the Strand area, see below, if you will excuse the road diggers of course. Lots of interesting and historic buildings to sate your appetite.
Weather was pretty windy down at the sea wall area – it didn’t stop the bathers though, right in the Gulf of Mexico. The beach could be cleaner for me, carelessly discarded cigarette ends are never an attractive feature – and to be honest although a quirky area you couldn’t really say you were blown away by its beauty. We dined in a Chillis restaurant close to the hotel, good job – because we walked we could enjoy a superb marguerita!
Around 50 miles away is the Battleship Texas, dating to 1912, this plucky lady (sorry about the correctness movement – but ships are she in my book!!) saw action in World War 2, notably at the D-Day Landings in 1944. Lunch at a nearby Wendys at Kemah was surprisingly nice, there being no room at the Inn we wanted to try.
Silly me forgot to tell my credit card company I was coming over here, hence it was declined at a local restaurant – quickly resolved though, and here’s me supposedly a seasoned traveller!
Day 6 Breaux Bridge, Louisiana
“Louisiana …………….. think southern grace and bayou craws, catfish po-boys, kicking slaws, swampish lands ………a bit of haze, sleepy hamlets, full of laze, quiet roads – finest abodes……….” by Posh Mum
Moving on: Depending on your route, expect to drive around 250 miles to Breaux Bridge. We took the Galvaston to Bolivar Ferry, free of charge – download the app to get the latest wait times. We were going over on a Monday morning, many weekenders having left the night before so we had no wait. Expect to see a wide range of wildlife including brown pelicans, and dolphins. The Ferry cuts a good bit off the journey, or you might be tempted to stop off at Lake Charles for a picnic en route. The Gulf was pretty high – ‘choppy’ as we North Easterners might say – water splashed onto the narrow Bolivar Peninsular – no wonder so many properties are constructed on stilts to protect them from nature’s worst! We stopped off at a town called Jennings for lunch, in Babineaux’s right off the main road – it still looked like its former life as a gas station, and could probably do well to improve its kerb appeal but the food & welcome was truly great – I had a lovely freshly made catfish sandwich – gave us a nice little break before continuing to Breaux Bridge.
Stay: The Holiday Inn, Breaux Bridge (Louisiana 2942 H. Grand Point Highway, Breaux Bridge LA 70517. Free WiFi, breakfast (yummy), and free parking. I didn’t spot anywhere to stay much closer to the historic downtown area. Our spacious and spotlessly clean suite had a great jacuzzi in it – super to chill out in after our quite long drive.
Do: Sadly we just missed the annual crawfish fest (this is the Crawfish capital of the world!) but plenty of these little blighters around! We did though see the iron bridge over the bayou, the current one is much more durable than the original wooden footbridge built way back in 1799.
Breaux Bridge has a number of quaint antique shops (check the opening times before you visit as they mainly open at weekends) and nice quiet streets to meander around.
Dine: We drove a very short distance to Crawfish Town USA restaurant, near Henderson – a crazily busy joint serving a plethora of fish – some of it in plastic crates alongside bibs! We washed down our crawfish (half and half – half grilled and half in a spicy red sauce) with a couple of great beers – Rajin Cajan in particular was easily sunk. No wonder Breaux Bridge was sleepy – everyone was here! Amazing for a monday night – often the restaurateur’s graveyard shift across the world! Kind of relieved we missed the Frog Festival in nearby Rayne. I know the area enjoys a French influence but a Frog Cook Off, Frog Eating Contest, Frog Racing and Jumping Contests – I mean please, is that tasteful (tasty?) or fun?
Days 7 & 8 Vicksburg, Mississippi
“Mississippi……… maker of dreams, river rises, rainbow beams, the American Queen, glides and paddles, riverside teal, timelessly waddles, poignant reminders of those blues and greys, etched in memories beyond all days” by Posh Mum 2019
Get Here: Drive approx 156 miles via the LA-15 North and the US-61 North to Vicksburg (allow at least 3 hours). We stopped off at beautiful historic St Francisville, Louisiana. As it claims, the quiet streets, delightful and well-preserved buildings dating to 1800’s, e.g. the Mount Carmel Church dating to 1871, soothes the soul, this place just seemed to suspend time for us – hard to believe its so close to its larger neighbour Baton Rouge – visit the West Feliciana Historic Society Museum for more information: http://www.stfrancisville.us/ .
Not far away is the Myrtles Plantation, dating to 1796, reputedly one of the most haunted American homes. The recent Mississippi flooding was unfortunately affecting some of the lower homesteads in the area, as this grand lady was seeping water slowly but surely due to the severe storms. We also took a scenic drive along the Natchez Trace Historic Forest Parkway, via the iconic, Dylan lyric inspiring highway 61. Although bears are rare in this area these days there were nevertheless beware of them signage along the way – we were more concerned about alligators I guess, given the storms some of the roadsides were swampier than ever, and there were local reports of these guys being seen in unexpected areas including farmer’s fields.
Stay: The historic Duff Green Mansion, 1114 First East Street, Vicksburg, built in 1856, was danced in by Grant and Jefferson Davis and is steeped in American Civil War history – view the on-site cave, and maybe you might see the Confederate soldier ghost, or that of Annie Green, a darling who lost her life aged only 6. You will be treated to a plentiful breakfast in a sumptuous dining room. The property is recognised by the Smithsonian Institute given its historical importance to Vicksburg. Tours of the mansion are delivered usually by the extremely knowledgeable David after breakfast – free of charge to guests, nominal charge for day visitors. We stayed in the Pemberton Suite on the first floor, complete with (glazed over) hole in the ceiling – caused by cannon fire during the Civil War! Was ticked pink to see Royal Worcester Game Series porcelain in the hallway cabinets and dining room, we have it at home, I remember scraping together my money to buy it ahead of our wedding in 1981 and we still use it now.
Dine: We had a casual dinner at the Mississippi Barbecue Company, I opted for swamp chilli rather than barbecue – but great with a pint of patagonia ale. Our window seat table gave us a great view of the Yazoo and the distant setting sun. Coffee shops abound too – we went in one tiny outlet, enjoying great coffee and home made cake – and noticed it doubled as a community centre, with (all female) punters playing board games, whiling away a sunny afternoon. We also tried out the Biscuit Company for dinner on another evening, being lured by good reviews – but we weren’t exactly blown away by the hospitality.
Do: Stroll down to the Yazoo river (a tributary of the Mississippi) – you might see the American Queen docked in all her glory, and subtly illuminated by night. This huge paddle boat is the stuff dreams – and many movies, are made of.
See: Take a drive downtown to the Confederates Cemetery, where sadly so many fallen heroes lie. Visit the Vicksburg National Military Park, and discover just why this battle site was so significant in helping the Civil War to come to a close. See the Union fallen heroes here. The park is part drive, part stroll – and also see the on-site USS Cairo Gunboat (saw action in 1862 – sunk by a torpedo – but raised and reconstructed in the 1970s) and related museum. Monument after monument can be seen around the site, representing the home locations of the brave souls who endured this great military conflict.
Before you leave Vicksburg, make sure you check out the Old Warren County Court House Museum – great overview of Vicksburg’s origins – guarded by a series of cats that walk freely in the grounds (and by your feet inside the museum!) – perhaps they keep the little beasties away! Also quirky was the gents loo outside (not visited by Posh Mum of course!) – the hand basin was donated by soldiers – who had removed it from Saddam Hussein’s bathroom in 2003!
Day 9 Ruston, Louisiana
Get Here: Drive approx 110 miles via the I-20 West from Vicksburg to Ruston (allow 2 hours).
Stay: Best Western Plus Ruston, ideally situated, complementary breakfast, WiFi and parking in particular make this a good choice. It’s a little out of town but it looks like a restaurant is being built right next door, and I guess in the USA people are used to driving for dinner – we walk at home – so we can quaff a wine or two without worrying about driving. The hotel is pretty new too, it positively gleamed.
Do: Shopping is very pleasant here, individual shops with great staff. I ventured into the Children’s Shoppe, and was not disappointed when choosing a gift for our 2 year old granddaughter – the lovely lady assistant skilfully gift wrapped a special jigsaw puzzle for our young Miss, who needless to say was delighted, and not at all daunted that it was designed for an older child! We were tempted by some gorgeous dresses, but at those prices we would want to be certain it would fit, I pay less for outfits for myself – but well worth the money if you have your little one with you to make sure it is suitable – we could hardly take it back for exchange as it might be years before we are in this town again!
Dine: Very tasty dinner was to be had at Roma Italian Bistro on Monroe Street, a chain but truly great, and very individual team, delicious food and a great wheat beer – Posh Mum was most pleased.
Days 10 & 11 Hot Springs, Arkansas
“……. Arkansas, think soul, country, rhythm and blues, Johnny Cash, prison anthems, that boy called Sue, Hot Springs, those waters and baths, downtown shows, honky tonk and laughs, wide open spaces, happy faces, Frontier homesteads, the old Wild West, Lonely hiker, sweat drenched vest, All so Arkansas, hello your all!” By Posh Mum
Get Here: Drive approx 169 miles via the US-167 North and the AR-9 (allow about 3.5 hours). Crossing over the state line into Arkansas, the conveniently located Tourist Welcome centre loomed into view, Brenda could not have given us a warmer welcome, and gave us so much useful information, and maps of course. She recommended a great museum on the way to Hot Springs which we would have missed but for this great suggestion, the Arkansas museum of Natural Resources was right on the Smackover Highway (who calls a road that?) – it tells the tale of the Smackover area’s rise to prominence in 1920’s following the discovery of that oh so precious oil – great exhibits inside and out, including a 112 feet high replica derrick – do spare some time to drop in, free admission too.
Stay: The Spring Street Inn, located close to the bath house, dates to 1889. On site parking and great breakfast included. Refurbished to a very high standard by the current owners in 1999. Home from home! In fact this was much better than our humble home, the property is maintained to an exceptional standard, and every minute detail is taken care of, such as a candle lighter next to your thoughtfully placed candles, kind supply of lovely bubble bath, even the eye pads on the dressing table were laid out like one of the magnolias gracing the beautiful gardens – and clever folding of the toilet paper into a rose – that’s incredibly skilful! Some historic houses don’t age so gracefully but not here, no cobwebs or dust in sight! Expect to pay about $200 a night including taxes. The owners also give you incredible local insights – and much advance information before you even get here. We loved chilling out on the porch one hot sunny afternoon – sipping a rum and coke and just not rushing anywhere for once – bliss!
Do: Take a stroll along the promenade, running above but parallel to Bath Row, a very civilised way of taking in the views without some of the downtown crowds. There are lots of quirky shops downtown and many bars and restaurants. The Fordyce Bathhouse Museum is a must for gaining an overview of how the many bath houses and therapeutic treatments formed the basis of this town way back in 1915. If you have time, there are several working bath houses where you can go for soaks and therapies.
Dine: Not exactly local food but good quality and a fun setting is the germanic steinhauskeller – think frothy beers, hearty food, earthy music! Another option was the Brick House Grill and now here’s a quirky story. My home town’s Sunderland AFC were due to compete against Charlton the following day, at the play-off final for a place in the Championship League – I thought I recognised a London accent in our waiter, and discovered he was from the area and had been to many of the Charlton games before moving to Arkansas – of all the nights to meet a fan from what in effect is one of SAFC’s arch rivals – Charlton beat Sunderland in the play off finals 21 years ago – they couldn’t do it again could they? We got the bill, and I roared with laughter when I saw the words Lost 2 (the shortened name of a beer I had) and then 4-0 (probably the alcohol percentage) – so the receipt in effect read “C Lost 2, 4-0” and I thought surely that’s an omen – meaning we beat Charlton at the second attempt – by 4 goals to nil…….. sadly not to be, they beat SAFC for a second time in this iconic final, by scoring again in the 4th minute of extra time! I guess the omen was right about ‘lost 2’ and ‘4’ but not in SAFC’s favour! Incidentally we still tipped the waiter well!!
Day 12 Fort Smith, Arkansas
Get Here: Drive approx 130 miles via uS-270 West and US-71 North, passing right through the Ouachita Forest (allow about 3 hours). We were a little worried as the floods permeating the South had hit Fort Smith and when we arrived the river was cordoned off with police tape and its banks were protected with many sandbags, the bridge into Oklahoma was closed to traffic whilst we were there. Fortunately our hotel was on higher ground and we were unaffected.
Stay: The Hampton Inn Fort Smith, offering free parking, WiFi and breakfast is a good option at around $130 a night. We dined right next door at a surprisingly good TGI Fridays – great margueritas too.
Do: Visit the Trail of Tears Exhibit , telling the sad tale of the forced removal of indigenous American Indians from 5 tribes to distant and less fertile lands. The exhibit also relates the role of Fort Smith towards promoting law enforcement in what was becoming an increasingly lawless society.
Day 13 Jefferson, Texas
Get Here: Drive approx 241 miles via the US-259 South (allow about 5 hours)
Stay: The Delta Street Inn, with its individual rooms, on-site parking and breakfast is a great option. Spotlessly clean, and beautifully upkept gardens including a gorgeous little summerhouse. The owners were exceptionally helpful, gave us lots of useful information and breakfast was fabulous. In fact we think this whole trip has been fantastic in terms of Southern hospitality and delicious food.
Do: Drive round this gorgeous, historic and petite town and marvel at the beautiful properties. Close to Memorial Day, the cemetery was showing respectful displays of flags. We did encounter some cute little kittens right in the road – I thought I had better move them as we did not want to run them over – but hey – they virtually attacked poor Posh Mum! They were clearly feral, and hostile beyond hostile! There are also some great antique shops, with helpful (and very non-hostile) owners am pleased to say – why my husband had to buy a rusted oil can I will never know! Strolling down the bayou we stopped to try to photograph a gator we spotted – however the mosquitoes were indeed hostile – warlike in fact – and we could not stand still long enough to get a really good shot of this guy gliding along without a care in the world!
Dine: Bulldog Pizza is run by a delightful couple, clearly passionate about good food, and without any pretence – this did us very nicely thank you so much indeed!
Day 14 Georgetown, Texas
Get Here: Drive about 286 miles via TX-31 West and I-35 South (allow 5 hours)4 h 41 min (285.6 mi) via TX-31 W and I-35 S
Stay: The Best Western Plus Inn & Suites, with free breakfast, parking and Wi-Fi – rooms a bit musty and a bit basic to be honest – but functional and convenient.
Do: Stroll around the main square area – lots of historic buildings, neat shops, bars, cafes and restaurants. One of the most interesting buildings was the former Masonic Temple – now transformed into a very nice restaurant, we cheered our dampened almost holiday finished souls by eating there – Gumbos is a bit of a treat indeed, sauteed catfish with crab and dirty rice, followed by an incredibly rich whisky cheesecake – and washed down with some rather decent wine.
Day 15 – Georgetown to Austin – Drive about 30 miles back to the airport via the I-35 South (allowing about an hour). Remember to fill up your car before you take it back to the rental drop off – otherwise they charge you $10 a gallon – almost as dear as fuel in England – they only mention the price per litre in UK filling stations – lest customers pass out at the pump at the cost per gallon! Found Austin airport incredibly expensive for beer, around £10 for a plastic beaker full of mediocre offerings, might have to try this h20 sometime!!