Posted by Porcshe N. Moran
I was in a Lone Star state of mind last Thursday when I boarded a plane bound for Houston, TX. The reason for my trip was a reunion for my paternal grandmother's side of the family. I have always loved Texas (particularly Austin), so I was looking forward to spending five days there. It had been more than 10 years since I last traveled to Houston, and in many ways it felt like my first time there. I arrived at William P. Hobby airport at about 3 p.m., and my cousin picked me up. We had dinner at Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen with another cousin, his wife and their adorable 20-month-old daughter. I'd been to Pappadeaux before in Chicago and Austin, but I think the Houston location might have them both beat. My meal of blackened Mississippi catfish topped with lumped crab meat and lemon garlic butter, and served with creamy cheesy grits, andouille sausage and green beans was outstanding! We also shared the Appetizer Trio that came with mini shrimp and crawfish fondeaux, fried alligator and hot smoked salmon. For dessert, I had the key lime pie.
The next day, I attended a welcome party for the family reunion with my grandmother, aunt and cousins. After the get-together, we decided to go out to dinner at Lafayette Cajun Seafood Restaurant. My family is from Louisiana, and we are used to home cooked Creole/Cajun meals. All of our expectations were met at this restaurant. I ordered the fried seafood platter which consisted of catfish, stuffed shrimp, oysters, shrimp and French fries. Our dinner was so good that we went back to the restaurant for dinner on Sunday night. This time, we shared the fried seafood appetizer platter of crab fingers, oysters, calamari and alligator. I ordered the Snapper Pontchartrain topped with shrimp and crab meat in a brown butter sauce and served with corn. I would highly recommend this restaurant to anyone in the Pearland area of Houston.
My third day in Houston started with breakfast at Best Donuts. It's a small, family-run operation located in a strip mall. I had glazed donuts, which are my favorite, and a ham and cheese croissant. Both were quite good. After breakfast, we did a bit of sightseeing around downtown Houston. I was able to get some photos of the skyline and other landmarks as we made our way down the city's futuristic- looking expressways. In the afternoon, we went to our family barbecue at a park. Pappas BBQ catered lunch for the 300-person affair. There was beef brisket, link sausage, chicken, barbecue beans and potato salad.
On Sunday, we had brunch at Mimi's Cafe in Pearland. I couldn't decide between the eggs Florentine Benedict and the cinnamon brioche French toast, so I got both! It was a lot of food, but well worth the time it took to clean my plate. Later in the day, we took the hour drive to Galveston Island. I found a boat tour that takes you out into the Gulf of Mexico to see dolphins in their natural habitat. None of my cousins who live in Houston had ever heard of it. They had no idea that there were dolphins in Texas! We got to Galveston just in time to get tickets for the last tour of the day. The boat ride was nice, and we were able to spot several dolphins and other attractions on the water such as the Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig & Museum, the Texas Seaport Museum and Seawolf Park. As we were leaving the island to head back to Houston, we drove along Seawall Blvd and saw Stewart Beach.
My vacation in Houston was filled with hot weather, family, food and fun. The largest city in Texas has a lot to offer, and I look forward to going back again someday to explore it all!
Nearly a year ago, I was working on a story about unique bachelorette party ideas for a local women's magazine. One of the out-of-the-box celebration suggestions that I ended up writing about was glamorous camping. I had heard of glamorous camping, a.k.a. glamping, only once before when it was featured on an episode of the "Real Housewives of Orange County". The concept of a luxurious wilderness sleepover was intriguing, but I figured it wasn't something that would be accessible to regular people in the middle of Missouri. Nevertheless, I did a bit more digging and found out that glamping opportunities, while limited, are available in the Show-Me-State. Last weekend, I finally had the chance to try this vacation trend for myself at Redbeard's Ranch in Lebanon, Mo.
My glamping adventure began on Friday afternoon. My fiance and I met up with our friends, another couple, that joined us on the trip. It was about a two hour drive from our home to the campground. We had to take two vehicles because we were loaded up with supplies for the weekend. Once we got to Lebanon, it took an additional half hour to actually get to Redbeard's Ranch as it is located at the end of an extremely long, winding gravel road. It was a relief when we finally got to the office/general store to check-in. Our glamping tents were conveniently situated less than a minute walk from the office and the shower house. The 14X17 wall tents have wood plank floors, queen size beds, air conditioning, heating, lamps, tables and chairs. All of the decor follows a rustic, cowboy theme, and the pleasant aroma of cedar and pine permeates the structure. There was also a small front porch on our tent. The day was dreary and rainy, so after we got settled into our tents, we decided to stay inside and play some board games. A couple of hours passed and the rain let up enough to have dinner. Our friend had prepared some chili at home and all we had to do was heat it up outside on her portable camp stove. For those who don't want to worry about preparing meals during their glamping excursion, Redbeard's Ranch can arrange catering service.
After dinner, the weather was still clear. We decided to venture out and explore. It was just a short walk from our tents to the banks of the Niangua River. The beautiful stream is clear enough that you can see straight to the bottom at the shallow parts. It is surrounded by lush vegetation and rock formations. Unfortunately, it was still too wet for a campfire that evening. We stayed up late playing more board games inside our tent before heading to bed.
I was up before sunrise on Saturday for our first full day of glamping. I sat outside and took in the foggy peacefulness that engulfed the ranch. When my fiance woke up, we walked around the ranch and saw the horses relaxing in their paddock. The owners recently shut down their horseback riding operation, but there are still many activities to do at Redbeard's Ranch such as fishing, swimming, hiking and bow hunting. Redbeard's Ranch also rents canoes, tubes, kayaks and rafts for float trips.
Our original plan was to canoe down the Niangua from Redbeard's Ranch. But, we found a Groupon for tube rentals just a few miles away at Riverfront Campground & Canoe Rental. By noon, we were ready to enter the water. Our transportation for the day were inflatable tubes with bottoms, cup holders, headrests and kayak paddles. The tubes were long enough to stretch out in for a comfortable and leisurely ride. This was my first float trip, and I had no idea what to expect. The Niangua is a class I river which means the current moves slowly. The were a few spots along the way that picked up in speed and added a fun contrast to the otherwise quiet ride. During our 3.5 mile journey from Fort Niangua to Sand Spring, we were passed repeatedly by people in canoes that were moving along at a much faster pace. I would love to try canoeing someday, but it was nice to just dwadle this time. Along the way, we saw a variety of wildlife such as frogs, turtles, fish, dragonflies, damselflies and birds. We also had views of a steep, limestone bluff that was hidden among the trees. It took us about four hours to complete the float. I would highly recommend this stretch of the Niangua River to anyone who is looking to avoid the partying crowds that can be found on other parts of the waterway.
That evening we were able to get a campfire going for dinner. We roasted hot dogs and S'mores while enjoying the warmth and the beauty of the flames. The night sky was pitch black, and we could see what seemed like a million stars in the sky. At bedtime, we were treated to a natural soundtrack of tree frogs, crickets, cicadas and toads croaking and chirping.
We departed from Redbeard's Ranch on Sunday morning after breakfast. It was a great weekend, and I was happy that we had the chance to get away and try something new. Redbeard's Ranch is a safe, clean and well-maintained campground with a friendly staff that provides excellent customer service. Glamorous camping is a great way to experience nature without having to rough it too much. I like being outdoors, but I also like my creature comforts. Glamping is the ideal compromise.
Posted by Porcshe N. Moran
Earlier this month, my mom and I met up for a girls weekend in Ste. Genevieve, a small town in northeast Missouri that is known for its French colonial history and numerous wineries. We spent our two day trip at the beautiful Chaumette Vineyards & Winery resort which has luxury villas and suites, dining, a full-service spa, hiking trails, stocked lakes for fishing and an outdoor swimming pool with private cabanas. All of this is surrounded by rolling hills and lush valleys. We had breakfast and lunch delivered to our villa, got massages at the spa and had amazing dinners at The Grapevine Grill. I usually like to explore the cities that I visit, but Chaumette is so beautiful and serene, that we didn't leave the property until it was time to head home. Here's a photo essay of our weekend:
Posted by Porcshe N. Moran
Hello! I am Porcshe N. Moran. I have over 10 years of combined experience in journalism, communications and strategic marketing. My specialty is producing travel/lifestyle, business and healthcare content.