Paying attention, Mount Sterling? (+ a new Rule)

Trip Start Mar 30, 2009
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of United States  , Texas
Saturday, May 16, 2009

I've found yet another downtown refusing to die, regardless of Wal-Mart, Lowe's or any other large retailer. Let me introduce you to Brenham, Texas: as you'll see by the photos, it was absolutely bustling on a Saturday at noon, even though all the service businesses were closed (attorneys, accountants, banks, etc.). Full of cute clothing and home decor boutiques, antique stores, a bed & breakfast, a gallery, and multiple restaurants, Brenham has plenty of parking and a central public restroom, and only a handful of storefronts were empty.  It's also full of beautiful trees that have somehow escaped being butchered (topped) by the local highway department. And their farmer's market is held just a block from the courthouse, adding to the downtown draw. It's classy, friendly and charming. Oh, and they have a friendly, concise site to market it all: So, Mount Sterling, Kentucky: are you paying attention?

I had a terrific lunch at the Must Be Heaven Sandwich Shoppe, including delicious coconut meringue pie (although House of Pies is still first in the pie contest). I'm now the proud owner of a snazzy "Got Pie?" t-shirt.  I then burned off approximately three bites of that pie by walking several blocks and doing a little browsing.

I hopped in the car and headed to Round Top, an itty bitty town with a lot going for it, too. There's one square block of galleries, boutiques, antique stores, two restaurants, lots of parking and, again, a central public restroom. Lots of grass and trees, as well as picnic tables, and I counted only one empty storefront. Close by are many bed & breakfasts and an international music institute. The town draws visitors from near (Austin, San Antonio, Dallas and Houston) and far (international). Wal-Mart is nowhere to be found, but the town is so far off the beaten path that the battle to survive was probably harder. They also have a good site: Anyone at home inspired yet? I may have to run for office when I get home. :-) 

One of my favorite stops of the day was a visit to Beth Anderson's gallery. Her work is too skilled to be folk art, but it has that kind of warmth and charm. The work on display featured local churches and buildings, as well as landscapes, and she'd painted some funky women in the back room that I loved! She's a lovely, talented woman, and I feel lucky to have met her. And lucky to now own one of her small paintings!

Another wonderful stop was The Gallery at Round Top. I really enjoyed chatting with owner Linda Tibolla, who had some impressively detailed water colors in the shop. Not being much of a painter, it always amazes me when an artist is able to get such saturated colors and hard edges with water color! There were many beautiful paintings, bronzes, and textiles, but I was excited to leave with a silver ring made by Jim Foley. Just a simple band with rough notches in the edge, it looks very handmade.

I finished my visit at the renowned Royer's Round Top Cafe. They're famous for their BLT, but I had the salad version: grilled shrimp, broiled bacon, sour dough croutons, tomatoes, mescaline greens, and their special Smokey Mesquite Mustard Vinaigrette. Wow!  I'm definitely going to try to recreate this at home. Since I'd already had a piece of pie today, I got goodies to go: a piece of pecan, a piece of cherry and, forced (ha) by my server, a cinnamon bun.* She came out with the pie in normal to-go boxes, but they were sitting on top of a larger cardboard box. What's in the box, I asked? Oh, she smiled, that's your cinnamon bun. Good grief, I had to open it up right then -- the cinnamon bun was at least 8" across!! Well, good thing hotels have fridges these days, that's all I'm sayin'.  I've got enough sweets for the next three days. And I'm the proud owner of a "Sit Down, Shut Up & Eat Mo' Pie" t-shirt.

Off to Austin!


* Marijka's Rules of Travel #6:  Eat homemade pie whenever the opportunity presents itself. If you're just too full, get it to go! Other desserts are dime-a-dozen, but pie is special. Eat mo' pie.
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