Once again, Low Budget Review Guy is out and about in Texas

On a recent business trip my spouse and I headed to east Texas, the city of Nacogdoches.  Having never been there before I was looking forward to this visit.  A beautiful day greeted us as we headed out HWY 79 to Centerville where I-45 crosses it path.  We were not headed towards Dallasnor Galveston this trip but picked up Hwy 7 through the Davy Crocket Natl Forest.  As we headed continuously east, the changing soils became apparent with the appearance of towering pines trees mixed in with the stately Oaks, and Sycamores lining the road.  The National Forest’s myriadhiking trails and lakes beckoned but must wait for another time, perhaps on the way home.  Through the hilly town of Crocket, and finally, after just under 4 hours we arrived in Nacogdoches.   This city of 29,000+ is a hub for east Texas.  It bills itself as “the Oldest City in Texas”.    Archeological evidence seems to indicate human presence older than 9000 years.   The Spanish were in Nacogdoches before 1542 when DeSoto explored the area. However,  descriptions of the town date from Frenchman LaSalle  in 1685.  DeLeon, in 1690, made an effort to colonize.  When the French mapped out El Camino Real from the Rio Grande to Nacogdoches in 1713 and 1716, the Spanish decided to set up settlements in the area.   Don Antonio Gil Y’Barbo built the Old Stone House in 1779, and laid out what would become the city streets.  It became a center for timber, cotton, and later oil.  In 1861 the first oil well in Texas was here.

The city was a hotbed of Texas Independence and hosted such famous luminaries as Davy Crockett, Sam Houston, Thomas Rusk, William Travis.  The New Orleans Grays stopped on their way to the Alamo and legend.  The city actually had 9 different flags hoisted overhead at one time or another: France, Spain, Mexico, the Magee-Gutierrez Republic, The Long Republic, The FredoniaRepublic, The Lone Star, The Stars-and Bars of the Confederacy, and The US Flag.

Entering the city, we headed for our night’s lodging, to check in before exploring.  Our stay this visit was at the beautiful Fredonia Hotel, built in 1955.  The lobby was spacious and inviting, the light coming through the windows accented the grand piano in the corner.  Our corner room was very comfortable and relaxing.  The sports bar, at the opposite end of the lobby from the wine bar,  was a perfect place to either root on your favorite team, or enjoy a quiet glass of wine with friends.  The restaurant, J McKinneys, is well known as a delicious place for meals with an enticing menu for all tastes.  They advertize the best breakfast in town.  Just steps from the lobby, the pool area was surrounded by trees with a patio for outside relaxing.  A wide variety of live music is frequently heard on the patio, lit by Tiki torches and soft lighting.

But now it was time to explore lunch.  Always interested in BBQ, we got recommendations for several places, but settled on The Barbecue House.  (see my earlier posting for that separate review)  After lunch, we headed to the campus of Stephen F Austin University.  The beautiful campus of approx 12,000 students, was well-laid out, with lots of huge trees framing the buildings in green.  A visit to the recreated Old Stone Fort museum was worth the short time spent.  From there, it was out about 20+ miles on Hwy 21 to Caddo Mounds State Historical Site.  This site, while perhaps not appearing to be much more than some small distinct grassy hills, was fascinating once we learned the history behind the mounds from the visitors center.  The mounds all had different functions and were well over 1000 years old.  Some were burial mounds, others ceremonial mounds.  The area had been abandoned by the time “civilization” found them.  After a brisk walk around the area, we noticed the weather was turning colder, it was January after all.  Heading back the warmth of The Fredonia Hotel, we relaxed before our business meeting.

The next morning brought winter to Texas.  It was cold, raining, dark.  The forecast called for ice and snow later in the day.  Given the conditions, we packed the car and headed out.  Home-bound? Well, not yet. We still had things to see in town.  We drove around the historic city cemetery, whose oldest grave dates to 1837. We drove around the downtown square, with numerous historical markers.  We promised ourselves next visit we would take a walking tour of the area.  Many beautiful old homes lines the city streets, quiet for now, being early Sunday morning and the city hunkering down for the oncoming storm.  We drove to the Sterne-Hoya house, still closed, but felt history’s pull from the outside.  Also saw several ancient Caddo Mounds that were in the city proper, and drove past the Zion Hill Baptist Church, built approx 1879 and a state historic site.  Impressive.

However, time and Texas Winter storms wait for no one, so we headed west towards home.  The Davy Crocket Natl Forest would also have to wait for another day.  We stopped in Crockett for a break and some maintenance on our car tires, and stopped in Centerville, when I couldn’t resist “Country Cousins BBQ” (see earlier review).

Overall—a very nice first visit. Cool small town vibe, energetic but not hurried, with very friendly people.  The hotel was fabulous and we are looking forward to a schedule return trip in April.

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