One part travel blog. One part nerdy history lesson.

Spring Break 2024 – Houston, TX Days 3-5

Day 3 started off with the Three Uncles Toast from the night before because I had saved it from a TikTok video or Facebook reel months ago about how it was this amazing milk bread toast that I had to have. I grabbed the coconut raisin…Maybe amazing toasted or heated up… but to me it was just square bread…

Never fear, I had 2nd breakfast planned! ha We drove to the southeast side of Houston to some sites and near there is The Original Kolache Shoppe that has been open since 1956. Its a local Czech bakery that has been family-owned for 3 generations

My pastry was basically a pig in a blanket- a soft bread surrounding a sausage. They were a bit heavy if I am being a food critic. Definitely not something I’d be swinging by for on my way to work every day. ha But I respect the Czech heritage recipes and the tradition of the family bakery ๐Ÿ™‚

I had scheduled a visit to Smither Park next, a public art space full of mosaic glass sculptures. It was REALLY a cool public park… so many art exhibits including a giant fish amphitheater…

Norah big brain spotted tiny mosaic Spongebob characters out of nowhere in a random section of the sidewalk. Once she pointed them out, of course I could see them- but I never would have spotted them among everything else there. The way her brain works really is something else.

Kilroy was here.

The all white section was pretty cool too among all of the vibrant color.

Randomly, I saw online they were planning an Easter Egg hunt at the exact same time I planned to be here anyway…and Norah said she wanted to hunt some eggs, so I RSVPed for us to attend.

Before the hunt, they had the kids color their own egg ( as a way to drag out the event per one of the volunteers, “because last year they hid the eggs, hunted them and it was over in 10 minutes” ha)

Norah created a sunset on her egg

After she colored her egg she decided she didn’t really want to hang around and hunt them.. ha so we headed on out for the rest of our day.

Our next destination- the 1940 Air Terminal for Houston which has been preserved as a museum.

As you can tell, it was a hopping place at 11am on a Saturday ๐Ÿ™‚ That Model A is being auctioned off, selling 2500 tickets for $50 each if you want to throw your hat in the ring ๐Ÿ™‚ I also did… but what the heck do I do what a Model A?? I asked the guy- he told me that I could drive it in a parade… or some of the old guys drive them in their retirement communities like a golf cart. haha

This amazing art deco building was built in 1940 as the main airport terminal for the city of Houston.

The lobby may look a little small, but in 1940, there were only 2 airlines operating out of Houston… and the planes only held about 20 passengers… so if it looks like an old bus station, it basically was.

We got to take a chaperoned visit out into the locked Houston Hobby airport air field to see an old 1942 Lockheed Lodestar that would have flown passengers at the time of this terminal being operational.

They had a lot of flight memorabilia including this rare clear plastic bubble helmet rain dome that was part of the “Braniff Airlines Strip” campaign. It was meant to evoke a “blasting off to space” theme in 1965 and was iconic…but quickly was discontinued because they cracked easily and there was nowhere to store them once on board the aircraft.

Our lunch was just a snack- a strip mall spot called Seรฑora Churros.

Norah ordered this monstrosity haha Strawberry ice cream in a churro bowl. She didn’t even eat 1/3 of it. ha

Kegan and I were a little more realistic and just got a single churro with Cajeta (a caramel sauce)

After a sugar buzz, we headed back towards downtown to the Rothko Chapel.

I just dont “get” modern art. ha The Rothko Chapel was constructed by the De Menil family in Houston as a spiritual space for the public. The commissioned artist Mark Rothko to design 9 giant murals for the inside walls.

I wasn’t allowed any photos… but the inside was just white walls, some church pews in an octagon and a bunch of black/purple plain panels on the inside.

I’m sure someone more art-brained than me could explain it and make it make sense, but all 3 of us walked out like… what is the purpose of that?? ha

Next we toured the Menil Collection- a building full of over 19,000 pieces of art from prehistoric to modern. They also didn’t allow any photos because the lady told me “the Menil’s still hold the copyrights for these works of art, so no photos are allowed of their private collection”. oh. ok…. weirdos. ha

My big takeaway from the Menil collection was that Max Earnst was a German artist that I need to know more about his surrealist art. I was seeing Dali in all of his works… and the collection had 20 or more of his paintings.

After the museum we went back to the hotel to rest up for our evening out with friends.

We scheduled a meet up with my friend Tim and his wife Jennifer that live just outside of Houston. I met Tim in South Florida when I was in X-ray school. I legit cant remember exactly… but I believe we may have met on MySpace… and I ended up at his apartment for a hurricane lock in party in my Papa John’s work uniform… I will have to have him remind me if that is really how it went… I think I have a mental block for that period of my life. I barely remember any of that era of Erin. ha Except Tim. He has always been an awesome friend to have. So happy to see him married and happy and excelling in life. Good things to good folks.

We met up at Caracol- a new restaurant by Hugo Ortega – a well-decorated Houston landmark chef. When I say the food was outstanding, I don’t think that does it justice. I will be booking this again on this next trip.

Norah started with a blackberry mojito mocktail.

Norah had the Empanadas de Camaron to start. ( I forgot we’re in Texas- portions are HUGE)

Tim with the Ceviche de Chile Canario- a lime cured raw red snapper with chile’s cilantro, radish and more.

I got the Ceviche de Coco – lime cured red snapper is a roasted pineapple and coconut based sauce.

Kegan’s Ensalada de Pulpo- Spanish octopus salad with sausage, roasted potatoes, carrot, celery leaves and a pumpkin-seed dressing

Jennifer’s Callo de Hacha – pan-seared scallops with roasted cauliflower

My Pulpo Ahumado – smoked octopus with chorizo and potato hash

Tim’s Costillas de Res – Braised Short ribs -was spectacular…

Dessert, there were churros with chocolate, espresso and a tableside whipped traditional mexican hot chocolate service.

The after- dinner attraction planned was really the event of the trip. Also the reason there were no cocktails at dinner. We had reserved a spot at Strangebird- the #1 Escape Room experience in the USA.

This was a combination of live actors and an escape scenario… the setting- we were invited to a seance to try to summon the spirit of Harry Houdini. Our medium, Madame Daphne, invited us in and presented us with books all with our name on them, with personalized fortunes- performed some Tarot card readings… and then we proceeded into the seance room to attempt to summon the spirit.

But here is where it all went terribly wrong, Madam Daphne had purchased Houdini’s wife’s wedding ring to try to draw his spirit closer… and …the rest of the story you’ll have to find out for yourself.

That’s the best detail I can give without giving away anything about the actual event. It was sooooo well done. Good acting, fantastic flow of the game, great props and room objects. It definitely earned its ranking. I warned Tim and Jennifer it was all downhill from here for their escape rooms. ha

Day 4, Sunday, was a chill day. We started with getting Norah’s easter basket out and assembled in the hotel room while she was still asleep along with a Strawberry milk tea from a local Asian bakery.

Kegan also found her a cute little bunny cake for breakfast, too.

Kegan found us a couple pastries- one sweet and one savory- while I stayed back in the hotel and wrote a couple blogs posts to catch up ๐Ÿ™‚

Around 11am we headed out to Crosby, TX an hour or so away to see my extended family. My aunt Laura and uncle Billy live out there along with my cousins Michael and Travis and their families. Growing up, Michael and I were two weeks apart in age, and Bryan and Travis were less than 6 months apart… so even though we never lived close or spent much time together, still fun to have cousins your age ๐Ÿ™‚

Laura went into “grandma overdrive” for Easter. ha She had a basket for Norah and the other kids, organized a sack race and even painstakingly counted an entire jar of jellybeans for everyone to take guesses. (My guess was the closest at 1125 jellybeans… when there were 1178!) The prize was $20…and even though I did my best to forget the $20 on the counter, Laura caught me on my way out the door! lol

Billy and Laura (and Travis) had all kinds of goodies cooking- fajitas with steak and chicken, two types of sausages, hot dogs, burgers, smoked hot wings, potato salad, two types of beans, pico, guac, rice, fresh tortillas and I’m sure more that I don’t remember. It was a spread…and it was good eats.

They had a croquet course set up in the backyard and had some healthy family competition trying to dominate the game.

There were some drive-by eggings- mostly from Travis being mischievous- smashing confetti eggs in everyone’s hair. ha Everyone spared Norah until the end, afraid I would be mad about having to get that out of her hair. haha but then I gave permission and it was a free for all- all the girls running around smashing the remaining eggs on each other’s heads. ha

Billy hid easter eggs for hunting… but one special green egg had $20 inside. They all missed it multiple times hiding in a green magnolia tree until Mikey found it with some hints. That boy is so fast…and smart… he’s gonna do some things in life.

I think Norah had a blast with her cousins and actually spending the day outside. Granted, she had to take a phone break inside and recharge those social batteries for a bit… but I understand that. ha

Billy took us on a ride through the neighborhood to see the lake and pool and the peacocks!

Turns out, their neighborhood is overrun with hundred of peacocks.. and its that time of year… males are showing off for all the females everywhere you look. ha

We hung out for hours just chatting and hanging out… headed out around 6:30 or so to head back to Houston for our escape room. We arrived about 45 minutes ahead of our booking, so we hit the Super H Mart next to the place since it was on my list. H Mart is an Asian grocery store chain that I wasn’t aware had any locations outside of New York…until I started planning our Houston trip- I’ve always told Kegan when we move to NYC (when…not if haha) that it has to be near an HMart. Its my dream to have a ground floor apartment with a tiny back patio- walkable to HMart and the subway! (I think that will live in my dreams though…. likely not a reality ha)

H Mart has a food court inside with a few varieties of food. Norah got a Korean corn dog. I got a spicy Vietnamese seafood soup with veggies.

We checked out the aisles… an entire aisle just dedicated to ramen.

We made our way to Escape IT Houston… don’t recommend. Half the room was broken, the puzzles were silly, and you could tell they just wanted us to hurry up and be done so they could close up and go home. Luckily, we exited the first 60 minute room based on The Alamo in like 30 minutes… and then we did a 30 minute Apollo 13 escape room that took us about 5 ha, so they got their wish.

As I was looking over the Day 5 itinerary I realized I didn’t book another escape room I thought I booked… which is fine because …bro… its a lot 4 days in a row. haha but Norah was disappointed of course ha So we discussed and said, really after we go to NASA tomorrow, we can just head home and only miss 1 Indian/Pakistani restaurant I wanted to try… and we all agreed to just do that and get a “staycation” day back home. So, we packed up the hotel room when we got back, went to sleep, and headed out Monday morning

Our first stop Monday (Day 5) was at Paris Baguette- a South Korean chain that is just expanding worldwide. The family that owns this was worth 3.6 billion dollars and they invested over 2 billion in expanding it worldwide… for their sake, I hope its a success! But, I think it will be if they choose their locations wisely.

This was my first mochi doughnut. I can see why people like these- chewy…not overly sweet…. It wasn’t swoon worthy to me… but it was good.

Next was the hour drive to NASA with high hopes for seeing the historic mission control room that they have restored to its look from the Apollo 11 mission that put a man on the moon.

I was starting to get concerned when we had to line up down the entire sidewalk to even get in the building…

Once we got inside, there was a sign to download their app to register for tram tours. (The Historic Mission control tour was a tram tour) – so I get the app and try to reserve a spot only to find out that THAT specific tram tour is the only one you can book in advance… and has to be booked over 3 weeks ahead of time or it sells out.

Epic fail since that’s literally the only thing Kegan wanted to see. I felt terrible for not knowing this… (especially when my tickets said it included the tram tour …I just didn’t know there were 3 different tram tours) so I even went to guest services and asked if there were still tickets available for the VIP tour of Mission Control (even though they were $200 a piece ha ) but (luckily) that tour left at 9am for the day… so literally, no way to see what we came for.

We walked around the rest of the exhibits… but really… there just isn’t much there… to give perspective, the “food lab” which is a big cafeteria food court like in a mall was bigger than the whole floor of space exhibits. and all of the exhibits were mostly just printed text on boards on the wall. Most of the interactive exhibits were all broken, out of service. The VR experience ride was shut down. It was easily the jankiest and worst science museum or even NASA experience we’ve ever done.

They do have the Boeing 747 that was converted to shuttle the space shuttle between missions and you can walk through it.

They did have 2 or 3 spacesuits on display…but not nearly the memorabilia or actual space gear or history you would expect.

We watched the videos in the theater, walked all of the exhibits and in under 2 hours we had toured everything even with long lines, so all that was left was the Rocket park tram tour… and when we walked over to that, there was a line that was easily going to make it an hour wait to get on the tram…. and we said we have seen these rockets up close at other parks and it is NOT worth it to hang out that long for a tram ride… so we called it early and left pretty disappointed at what a tourist trap it seemed. So, my takeaway is that even the little NASA science museum outside of New Orleans is way better than the Houston Space Center… and if you are going, make sure you reserve your mission control tour a month in advance or you won’t actually see anything historic and will end up drinking a Starbucks in the “food lab” ๐Ÿ™‚

So, disappointingly, we kind of ended the trip on a downer! I saved NASA for last thinking it would be such a cool experience….but I really should have known better with how terrible Space Camp was when I chaperoned Norah’s school a couple years ago. I think that NASA used to be great and we really still want it to be… and the respect and reverence we have for the historic space program is really blinding us (or at least me) to how terribly executed all of the public outreach and experiences are… I hope their real missions coming up are executed well and can show we can still accomplish great space exploration but my interaction with anything NASA in the last few years wouldn’t have me trusting my life to their spacecraft.

We headed back over the Louisiana line and made one last fun stop at the Atchafalaya Welcome Center which is just a rest stop.. but with a fun little animatronic swamp animal display and video about the Atchafalaya River Basin area.

We watched the animals and laughed at the raccoon looking like it was having a stroke when the bit ended and he retreated stiff back into his tree stump. ha We watched the video and then headed back to the car for another 2.5 hours home… which ended up being over 3 with a couple wrecks and traffic backup around Baton Rouge.

Overall, a successful short Spring Break trip. Next trip will likely be Boston, Massachusetts in June since I have a big client goLive there and Kegan and Norah are going to join me in the hotel for some tourist shenanigans as we can fit them in ๐Ÿ™‚

1 Comment

  1. Patricia L Woodward

    Now, I’m afraid I couldn’t have done the octopus and that meal, that is a little more adventurous than my heart allows. LOL But this looks like it was a really fun trip. Thanks for sharing your exploits with all of us.

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