bigger in texas: houston

We descended on Houston for the annual Houston Marathon: in a whirlwind weekend I spectated the running of 26.2 miles and got a glimpse of all the city has to offer.

The beauty of travel & visiting friends is that it affords and opportunity to focus on people, moments & food, not things, while also contributing to a local economy. Not buying new things isn’t an attempt to completely remove myself from the exchange of goods and services, but to reevaluate what goods and services are truly necessary, build up communities, and acquire fewer material things.

what we saw
With effectively only one full day to see Houston, we did our best to make the most of it. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Houston Marathon: An annual event not for the faint of heart (literally), this race draws thousands of runners ranging in ability from novice to world-class elites.
  • Water Wall (Pictured): The Water Wall is an Uptown Houston landmark and public park near the Galleria shopping mall. This massive urban waterfall is dizzying to look at, but quite impressive.
  • San Jacinto Battle Monument: As someone who had never visited Texas before, I think this stop highlighted the fervor of Texas pride. The monument commemorates the Battle of San Jacinto – critical in winning Texas’ independence from Mexico – but, according to to monument, also altered the course of world history. In true “everything is bigger in Texas” spirit, this monument stands 12 feet taller than the Washington Monument.

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what we did
While there’s an endless supply of things to look & soak in here, it was also good to actively engage with what Houston has to offer during our visit.

  • Played Games at Agora (Pictured): If you need a dose of hipster coffee shop, drop in here to get your fix. We spent part of an evening playing board games we brought along amid an incredibly diverse (and caffeinated) crowd. Agora serves both coffee & alcoholic beverages, making it a worthy stop by day or by night.
  • Ran at Hermann Park: Hermann Park is home to nearly 450 acres of trails, green space and gardens, as well as a little train if you need to entertain a kid (your inner-child totally counts) or get off your feet for a bit. Outdoor concerts and performances are held at a covered amphitheater on the premises. Just across the street from the park is Rice University & its gorgeous tree-lined streets – also worth a visit.

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what we ate
The diversity of Houston inevitably means the presence of a multitude of delicious, authentic international cuisines. One could likely visit this city for the food alone, but in our short visit managed to hit up a few different eateries.

  • Guru Burgers & Crepes: An unlikely, but tasty combination. Admittedly, there were no burger-crepes or crepe-burgers, but the menu catered to vegetarians & omnivores alike. Guru places an emphasis on local ingredients where possible, which gets a thumbs up from me, as did my salad & house-made quinoa bean burger. The brussels sprouts were also tasty.
  • Amy’s Ice Creams: A stop for local ice cream is a necessity on any trip, in my opinion. Full disclosure: full from dinner, I only had a taste, but it was delicious. We watched one of the employees carefully craft a monster banana split, which was a tempting purchase, but we opted for one of their 350+ other flavors on rotation. Originally from Austin, there’s a San Antonio location in addition to Houston.
  • Kolache Factory: Picture, if you will, a bagel shop, but instead of bagels, the behind-the-counter shelves are stocked with filling-stuffed rolls. Kolache Factory is, admittedly, a chain in select markets, but a great (inexpensive) stop for a quick breakfast or lunch. I’d never actually had a kolache before, and boy was I missing out. They also can ship kolaches to you! Dangerous…
  • Addis Ababa (Pictured): The culinary highlight of the trip, by far. Thought it might fit the description of a “hole in the wall” establishment, this Ethiopian restaurant impressed. Food is served communally and eaten with the hands using injera (spongy bread) as the utensil. Not only does it taste great, but is conducive to conversation as we shared our opinions on our favorite dishes. We happened to be the only customers at the time we went, and spent some time speaking with the owner, a refugee from Ethiopia who is in year four of owning & operating the establishment.

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Are you from Houston, or have you visited before? What are some of your favorite sights & stops?

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