What if?

After seven intense weeks of work and school, including petite section for Littlest, J and I packed up and led Littlest and my in-laws on a trip to Texas.

I hadn’t been there since my trip with J in 2013. So much has happened since then—weddings, babies, trips, work.

We spent a few days in San Antonio at my parents’ doing the things we know and love—the Missions including the Alamo, eating Tex Mex and barbecue, walking around their historic neighborhood, playing with the dog and bird watching in the back yard. That stop, like all of them, ended a little too quickly, but the next parts were wonderful too: we spent three nights in Big Bend National Park, hiking in the desert and taking pictures and looking across the Rio Grande at Mexico. We ended the trip in El Paso where J and I and sometimes his dad went climbing at Hueco Tanks, that is, until I came down with some awful throat infection two days before going home.

The final afternoon, when I had just gotten back enough strength to do a boulder in the morning, J and I stopped at Whataburger. While we were sitting there looking around at the urban Texas landscape around us, I asked out loud, “Do I regret it?”

J was shocked as he thought I was talking about the trip and getting sick. But no, even with losing two days of climbing to being sick, I was really thrilled with our trip. It might well have been our last trip to Texas for a long, long time, if my parents move away in the coming years.

No, I was wondering if I wouldn’t deep down prefer a different life, in that environment of wide open spaces, of American friendliness, of excellent fast food (though we didn’t fit in a trip to Five Guys this time) and exceptional multi-cultural traditional cuisine.

I talked to a colleague about it when I got back, full well knowing that it was idle dreaming. She said we all wonder these kinds of things, when we move somewhere new, or other events happen in our lives. And of course, since nothing would have happened in the way it has (i.e. teaching, J, Littlest), it’s just daydreaming. But I took extra pleasure during this trip in imagining being in Texas all the time.

Here’s why for anyone who might not get it:

The Pearl Brewery and marketplace
Little boy at Mission San Jose
Dinner in San Antonio
Hitting the road
Sant Elena Canyon, Big Bend National Park
Where we stayed in Big Bend
The view from the casita
Lucky little boy shares a parking lot with a tractor
Hot sauce and jelly selection at the Terlingua store
On the store porch in Terlingua
Balanced Rock, Big Bend
Prada Marfa
At Food Shark in Marfa for lunch
Hueco Tanks
My last-day boulder
Downton El Paso
Theater in downtown El Paso

Goodbye Texas

Ju and I got back home at around 5 pm yesterday after around 24 hours of traveling. We said goodbye to my parents Friday morning and then spent the next day traveling and waiting for trains and planes.

Our last day in San Antonio, we just ate lunch at Green and went to Historic Market Square. I bought a little white nativity scene since we are short on Christmas decorations. Unfortunately there was no space in my suitcase left for it so my mom will have to mail it to us.

So after two weeks of eating things like this


At Urban Taco in San Antonio

we said goodbye to the United States.

Okay this is actually the El Paso airport from ten days ago.

Okay this is actually the El Paso airport from ten days ago.

At least today the sun is shining. I caught up on sleep and somehow have to get my head back to work tomorrow morning.

It was a really wonderful trip, and having J there made it really exciting. I loved being able to show him things for the first time, and having him see how we live our lives over there. And the plane trip back was so much more comfortable with him along. I was sad to come back to France but not in a homesick way, just in a sense that the fun was over.

There’s now a Flickr feed over on the sidebar with all (well, most) of the pictures from this trip.

More America

America Extravaganza 2013 continued with a trip to Austin on Tuesday. I had plenty of things to show Ju, and Austin can’t really be done in one day. But we made a good effort.

First, we walked through the UT campus so I could show Ju where I got my masters.

The UT Tower

The UT Tower

We took a little walk down the Drag where I noticed, for the first time, this mural in the little artists’ square, where you can recognize the major cities of Texas.

El Paso

El Paso


Austin (you can easily recognize the capitol and the UT tower)

San Antonio (with the Alamo and the Tower of the Americas)

San Antonio (with the Alamo and the Tower of the Americas)

This must be Houston.

This must be Houston.

The artists

The artists

Then we went to Torchy’s Tacos which was as usual amazing.


After buying a dress next door and taking another trip to Amy’s Ice Cream (for a real milkshake), I showed Ju where I used to live and we drove down to the Greenbelt.

We were looking for rock-climbing, not so much to try since J didn’t have his equipment, but to get a look around. We found some of the walls but no bouldering. The creek-bed was totally dry. It was a bit eerie.

Me in the middle of the creek

Me in the middle of the creek

Ju on a waterfall.

Ju on a waterfall.

I’m not sure but I think this must be a result of the endless drought that’s happening in Texas.

Yesterday we were back in San Antonio, so we went to the Botanical Gardens since J seems to have endless questions about plant and animal life here and I have no answers. We saw some original Texas homes, native plants, cacti, turtles, and ducks, as well as the new super cool birdwatching spot.



Turtles sunning on a log

Turtles sunning on a log

An old East Texas log cabin

An old East Texas log cabin

Then last night we went to a Spurs game. It was my first professional basketball game. We got a free hot dog, drink, and chips with entry. Fortunately we went to Five Guys for lunch yesterday so Ju could taste a good American hot dog because the one at the game was pretty sad.

They lost, 101-104, in overtime.

They lost, 101-104, in overtime.

Today’s our last day so we’re taking it easy, doing laundry, eating lunch with my mom, being sad (me more than Ju who has by now spent almost three weeks in Texas).

USA Extravaganza 2013

I had several goals for J’s first visit to the United States, most of them food-related. Here’s a breakdown of how the USA Cultural Food Immersion Extravaganza 2013 is going so far.

1. Food. We’ve been in San Antonio for four days now, and here is what I have made Ju eat so far:

  • Modern Tex-mex at Urban Taco
  • Street Mexican food at La Gloria (I nearly burnt my tongue off on the spiciest shrimp I’ve ever eaten)
  • Good beer and burgers from the Blue Star Brewery
  • Excellent pork tenderloin from the Boardwalk Bistro
  • Cheesecake from the Boardwalk Bistro
  • Blue Moon, Shiner, Sam Adams, New Belgium beers
  • Texas barbecue at Augie’s
  • Amy’s ice cream (and Blue Bell from the grocery store)
  • Girl Scout cookies (samoas)
  • Bagels and cream cheese
  • A danish from the Pearl Brewery Farmers Market



At the Boardwalk Bistor. Happy Frenchman.

At the Boardwalk Bistro. Happy Frenchman.

So far the only thing he hasn’t liked is root beer. But the cheesecake was a big win, as well as the Texas barbecue. Phew.

2. Shopping. Besides gift shopping at the White Sands visitors center, which has a lovely gift shop, Ju also went crazy at the San Antonio REI, buying enough clothes for him for the next three years. We discovered he left his polar fleece at Hueco, so we went to a store called Good Sports today in San Antonio, which we liked a lot, and he got two new fleeces while I stocked up on Smartwool socks.

3. Culturally, we’ve been doing a lot of things as well.

At the Pearl Brewery Friday night, we walked down to the Museum Reach of the river.

The Museum Reach in the evening

The Museum Reach in the evening

We took a few pictures with the Day of the Dead-themed statues in front of the restaurant (La Gloria).


Saturday morning, we went back to the Pearl for the farmers’ market, where we got this serving of paella for free after a cooking demonstration.


This was Ju’s—I just got the mussles, not this scary-looking shrimp thing.

Saturday, we also went to the San Antonio Rodeo and Livestock Show, which was on its final weekend.


We got a look at some of the steers before they were auctioned off. They were huge.

We got a look at some of the steers before they were auctioned off. They were huge.

We also saw a steer-driving competition.


The cowboys/girls waiting to compete

As you can see in the video, a team of two had to drive the steers, one by one, in order, into the other pen. The judge announced over the loudspeaker which number they had to start with.

 We also went to the Alamo,

The Alamo was setting up for the reception of the Travis letter

The Alamo was setting up for the reception of the Travis letter.

Mission Concepcion,

P1010924and Mission San Jose.

P1010928Today we went to see the campus my mom works at, with their rattlesnake statue.

This poster was in my mom's office. The lose/loose business attracted our attention especially for all the French people out there...

This poster was in my mom’s office. The lose/loose business attracted our attention especially for all the French people out there…

The St Mary's University mascot is a rattlesnake.

The St Mary’s University mascot is a rattlesnake.

And now we are bizarrely in the middle of a windstorm the likes of which I have never seen. So we saved the outdoor things for later and finished the day at the Institute of Texas Cultures, near downtown San Antonio. Tomorrow we’ll go to Austin, and later this week we hope to go to the San Antonio botanical gardens.

Buying American Groceries

On Sunday morning, we needed to fill up on groceries and headed to the store a ten-minute drive from Hueco.

It was AMAZING. I think Julien understood a little what I’ve been missing in France.

Take for example this end of the tortilla stand (there were three other sides):

There was also the modest beer fridge, with Leinenkugel’s, Blue Moon, and Shiner, and the ice cream aisle where we ended up getting a half gallon of Blue Bell cookies and cream.

J, of course, finds the 3-liter soda bottles hilarious, and it’s true I have gotten really used to the 1.5 liter bottles in France.


The Frenchman is amused.

Overall, though, he’s finding things pretty interesting here—things that I didn’t even think about, like fire engines and 18-wheelers (that ARE fancier-looking than French semis). We went into Academy Sports because it was on our way to the missions, and for fun we walked through the hunting area and the baseball area (they didn’t have any rock-climbing stuff). he finds the benches on the side of the road with ads on them to be pretty funny too.

Tomorrow we go to San Antonio!


Since my little post in airplane zombie mode at DFW, I’ve spent almost two full days with Ju in Texas.

Yesterday we spent the day driving around El Paso. We went to see the three missions on the El Paso mission trail, and they were surprisingly different from the missions in San Antonio.

Ysleta Mission

Ysleta Mission


What this little plaque doesn’t say is that this mission was destroyed at least once (my memory is fuzzy) so this building doesn’t actually date from the 1680s.

The Ysleta Mission was right on the edge of Native American territory, in the middle of El Paso. There were signs saying that we were entering trust territory of the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo.

Socorro Mission

Socorro Mission. Original built in 1691. This one built in 1843.

San Elizario Presidio Chapel

San Elizario Presidio Chapel

The last one there is part of a little historic village. It’s not actually in El Paso but about ten miles out of town, and we were about to give up on finding it when we finally saw the signs for it.


This last photo is from the exhibit at the Tigua Indian Cultural Center in El Paso.

Everything was closed though because it was a Sunday, so I can’t tell you much more than that.

Driving in the States has been interesting for Ju, and for me as his passenger. (Since the rental car is under his name, I let him drive.) Four way stops were a problem, since they don’t exist in France. And he finds it annoying that the major landmarks aren’t indicated by big signs all over like they are in France—so if you don’t know where you’re going, you can’t just follow the signs.

Today we went into Hueco State Park. Ju has hurt his wrist so he’s resting until a final effort on Wednesday (though we decided it wasn’t bad enough to go to an urgent care clinic). But he made me try a few different boulders, and I actually finished one, though not entirely without help.

Despite growing up in Texas, I’d never been west of the Hill Country. The landscape out here is totally different and fairly stunning, and very dry.


The view from the ranch


Dunes from the side of the road

From inside Hueco Tanks State Park:

Where some of the ancient native paintings are

Where some of the ancient native paintings are


Lots of little huecos (actually I'm not sure these qualify)

Lots of little huecos (actually I’m not sure these qualify as huecos)


Otherwise, all we’ve done is go grocery shopping, which was wonderful. Photos to come. So I’ll just leave you with this tiny bit of conversation from earlier today:

Looking at the different license plates in the park, Ju and I had already noticed a van from Vermont.

Ju (looking at a car): Et Ontario, c’est loin? (Is Ontario far away?)
Me: C’est au Canada. (It’s in Canada.)


Off to Texas!

In about four hours I’ll head to the train station to catch my train to Paris, sleep at the Formule 1 Hotel, and catch my plane tomorrow morning to El Paso (first Dallas, then El Paso).

I’m so excited! Ju has been there for a week, posting daily on his blog, and doing things like this:

No blue skies like that in Poitiers…

We’ll be driving around in this little car and staying at the Hueco Rock Ranch, pictured here:

It should be pretty chilly in the morning since it is winter in the desert. Ju said it was around 29/30 degrees (F). But we shouldn’t have too wait too long out in the cold because, in spite of all the reservations having been booked for about a month ahead of time, apparently it’s no problem getting into the park. We don’t understand the system at all.

See you on the other side!