Happy anniversary to us!
There are about a jillion ways to celebrate an anniversary in the Texas hill country, but before we moved to Austin, I didn’t really know what they were.
Now, after a whole bunch of anniversary celebrations in fascinating parts elsewhere around the country, we are finding that the only places we really want to go are the ones to which we haven’t been – right here in our own big ol’ Texas backyard.
So, this anniversary, we explored the tiny little hill country town of Johnson City, where we discovered there is a whole lot to see and do.
I thought you might like to to see our itinerary.
Itinerary #1 – Massages at Mint & Thyme
Blessed are you if you’re married to a planner, and blessed am I that my planner-man knows how to start an anniversary weekend – with a relaxing massage. He did his research, and while there are plenty of places to get a great massage in ATX, he chose a spa that received an Austin Monthly’s Reader’s Picks award.
Friends, I take pictures absolutely everywhere I go, it seems, but I was so giddy upon entering Mint and Thyme, that I flat forgot to do it! It must have been that whiff of eucalyptus oil that met me at the door.
I couldn’t wait to fling myself up onto the table and have all my cares rubbed right on out, I’m telling you. And that’s pretty much e-x-a-c-t-l-y what happened.
First, therapist Holly laid a fluffy white cloth over my eyes, tapped a drop of therapeutic oil into the center part that was draped delicately over my nose, and then? Well, let’s just say I was gone. Solid gone.
All my cares and worries were gone, anyway. I think I was still there.
Itinerary #2 – Pizza and Pastrami at Pieous
My first introduction to Pieous was with a really nice Austinite who treated a co-worker and me to lunch. It was outstanding, and I’ve been looking forward to taking Hubby there ever since. Pieous is on the road to Johnson City from here, so, we took the opportunity. Man, oh, man, was my man impressed.
The place was packed at lunch, but we settled into two stools at the bar, which turned out to be just the right spot for watching all the pizza action. The young guys manning the pizza oven are amazing, and they make it look easy as pie (!) to turn out amazing pizzas with a few strokes of a hot iron spatula. (Check out the video on my FB page if you’d like to see one of them in action.)
A couple of Topo Chicos kept us cool while we waited for our appetizer – Pieous’s famous pastrami on a platter.
Let’s just say if I really knew what pastrami is (which I don’t), then perhaps I could fully describe what the pastrami at Pieous tastes like (but I can’t). Therefore, it’s hard to even try. This I can do – I can tell you from the bottom of my heart that you must try it. One-fourth pound, half lean, half juicy – with the mustard, onions, pickles and bread. This was what I wanted my dear Hubby to have the opportunity to try, and his reaction was exactly what I hoped it would be!
And then, we shared a pizza which had been baked in 90-seconds at 900 degrees in Pieous’s fancy wood-fired oven.
Itinerary: #3 – On to Chantilly Lace Country Inn, a Johnson City B&B
The main house and the surrounding guest cottages are set on lovely grounds, where a few chickens and goats wander around freely, making your time at Chantilly Lace Country Inn feel like a completely Texas-style southern getaway.
And we slept like logs in the coldness of our well-air-conditioned cottage.
Or maybe we slept like hibernating bears.
Let’s just say we had a great night’s sleep.
That’s always a really good way to start a getaway, isn’t it?
Itinerary: #4 – Breakfast at Chantilly Lace Country Inn
Rise and shine, I said to my man. Our gourmet breakfast awaits!
That woke the old bear out of his slumber, and off we scurried over to the main house where juice and coffee were immediately poured at our own little table for two.
Every hill country anniversary getaway should include one of these – a Baked Praline Peach. Delish!
Wait – there’s more! Farm fresh Eggs Benedict and Rosemary Roasted Potatoes. Scrumptious!
After such a hearty breakfast, we were ready to throw on our sunglasses, take a quick selfie for the kids, and head down a few blocks for some small-town shopping on the Johnson City square.
See you later, Lavender Cottage.
Itinerary: #5- Texcetera Art Gallery
From jewelry to metal, from wood to clay, this quaint and cute country store is packed with creativity, showcasing all kinds of Texas hill country talent.
This chess table is all wood, designed so beautifully and sanded ever so smoothly.
Can you see all the fascinating ways this Terry Jones metal sculpture includes average, everyday metal pieces? The long “nose” piece in the front is actually the double barrel of a shotgun.
There’s more to see in the garden out back.
Loved this floral mural.
Even the drinks in Texcetera’s cooler are Texan!
Itinerary: #6 – LBJ Ranch
After a quick stop at the headquarters to find out what’s what and how to get around the ranch, we drove down Ranch Road One, and then crossed the Pedernales River onto LBJ ranch land. The beautiful crane in this photo was perched upon that big rock until we stopped to take his picture!
For $7, we bought the CD that narrates what you see as you drive around the ranch. I was really glad we did that. Many of the buildings were described in the voice of President Johnson himself, like this schoolhouse, which LBJ started attending at four years old, and where the teacher taught all the students in one room through the 8th grade.
“Education is the only valid passport from poverty.” – Lyndon Baines Johnson
After passing other buildings and structures, narrated so captivatingly on the CD, we stopped to buy our tickets ($3 each) for a tour of the Texas White House, where Lady Bird and Lyndon Baines Johnson spent every minute they could, entertaining dignitaries, and raising their daughters.
This portrait hangs in the office where the tickets are purchased. We had some great historical discussions, my man and me, as we analyzed the happiness in this photo against the real backdrop of this president’s tumultuous days in office. Even the Ranger who gave us our tour was very honest about the country’s dissatisfaction with the decisions made by Mr. Johnson.
After touring the LBJ Library last year where I learned so much about the 36th First Lady, and after seeing Lady Bird Johnson’s smile in this portrait on the ranch, my thoughts expressed themselves in this way: Her obvious happiness must have been her daily choice.
My man was a little more into the historical facts of this experience than any analysis of Lady Bird’s smile. He just wanted to try on an LBJ style hat at the gift shop! That’s quite a hat, isn’t it?
Our park ranger / tour guide gave us the lowdown and made sure we knew – absolutely no photos inside the house. Too bad, because I really wanted to show you!
The tour takes about 30 minutes, and is worth way more than the price of admission. What Lady Bird had changed or updated has been restored to the original or period-proper decor, down to the minutest details.
What a step back in time!
Speaking of time – ours is up, just as we exit the white painted gate where we can glance back once more at the beautiful pool. Doctors had told the President to swim, that it would do him some good after his second heart attack, but the stories are mostly told of his splashing a little on the way across to the cabana.
That was the extent of his swimming – and today, only the park rangers are allowed in.
I couldn’t help but wonder if Lady Bird had enjoyed lots of summer days with her grandkids in this pool, though.
There’s so much more to see at the LBJ Ranch! The show barn, the airplane hangar, the family cemetery, etc, and I highly recommend seeing it for yourself.
Itinerary: #7 – William Chris Vineyards
Someone told me recently that more visitors are now coming to Texas vineyards than one very famous winery stretch of road in California. Could it be?? I think maybe so.
There are at least 40 wineries between Austin and Fredericksburg, and it seems like there’s a new one has popped up every time we go that direction.
And you know what? There’s a whole barrel full of good ones. (Pun intended).
You can see the grapes growing in the distance at William Chris, where 100% Texas-grown is the standard for every bottle.
Tastings are mostly inside, but wines by the glass (or bottles to be shared) are served outside in the pavilion area, where another plus is the live music.
Cheese boards and hummus trays are on the menu, but we opted to pair our glasses of William Chris Rosé with the chicken salad platter.
Itinerary: #8 – Grape Creek Vineyards
Texas wineries each have their own personality, and I was anxious to compare William Chris (where we were considering membership) to Grape Creek (where we already are members), so we headed down the road for the free tasting that comes with our membership.
If you ask me which of the two is better, I will tell you that we compared the tastes and the experiences we had at both wineries and were still partial to Grape Creek.
However, I know some fine wine connoisseurs who would totally disagree with me on that!
Hey, half the fun of Texas wineries is visiting them, tasting their finest and fragrant blends, and pretending like you truly understand what sits on the back of the tongue and whether you’re detecting hints of blackberry or cherry out of an oak barrel or a stainless steel tank.
But the ambiance is also important, and I’m learning that, from one amazing Texas winery to the next, the whole experience is in the heart of the have-r.
That was supposed to be a good play on words (like beauty is in the eye of the beholder, you know?) but I think it may have fallen flat.
Flat like wine when you leave the bottle uncovered. Or something like that.
Ok, I’ll stop now with the analogies and word play. You get my sniff – I mean drift.
Itinerary: #9 – Gold Orchards
Had to. Just one piece to share. (It’s peach, and they’re almost all gone, y’all.)
Itinerary: #10 – Hallmark Movie
Back to Chantilly Lace where we plopped down for a Hallmark movie (because it’s our anniversary weekend and all), nothing else to eat, and another great night’s rest.
Itinerary: #11 – Eating Again??
Yes, gourmet breakfast is served every day of your stay at Chantilly Lace. Gourmet, I said.
As in, crépes. Let me just say this about that.
I have never and I will never in my life turn down a crepé.
Followed by Banana French Toast, Omelets and Link Sausage.
Look how haphazard my photos are getting! Do you think it’s because I can barely pull myself out of the chair to take an aerial shot???!!!
Itinerary: #12 – Head Home
Whew! This weekend was so much fun, and I am thankful to be celebrating another anniversary with this man of mine. Our story was a little like a Disney love story. (Very little.)
Beauty met Beast (my mom’s version of the story) and after a short, short, short (6 weeks) dating period, decided to get married. No fairy godmother with a wand. No glass slipper. Just a prince charming in a 1976 Monte Carlo.
How did I know he was the one?
Beats me. But I knew. Now, after we’ve had time to think about it, I think I fell in love with this wonderful man because of the way I saw him treat his mother – and because he made me laugh hysterically. There was so much about this man that I could respect.
How did he know I was Mrs. Right?
Not at all sure. But he did. And mercy sakes, am I ever grateful for the many ways he loves me.
Happy anniversary, my sweet! I love you bunches.
Encouraging intentional adventure with your one who’s still the one, after one year, 36 or 63 years,