Downtown Houston is unlike other cities I have lived in or visited. It doesn't have the fresh markets of Paris (although it does have a Farmer's Market downtown on Saturday mornings). You have trouble finding a place to have coffee and turn on your laptop on the weekend.
It doesn't have the Korean markets that are always open and where you can buy salads or prepared food (usually measured and charged by the pound), as does New York. And, unlike Manhattan, it isn't teeming with rushing pedestrians.
But, neither does Houston have the smell of diesel and less pleasant stenches that are ever-present in parts of Manhattan. In fact, it is a surprisingly clean city with relatively clean air.
Even more frustrating, the tunnels, which have many fast food or chain restaurants, salons, etc.--and which provide shelter from the raging heat--are only open weekdays from 9 or 10am to 3pm (with a few shops that remain open until 6pm). Even the downtown Macy's is closed on Sundays!
Houston does have the constant ring of the MetroRail, the sirens of ambulances and police, the incessant blare of alarms set off when someone brushes against then or teenagers intentionally bang their sides. You would think that would bother me, but I usually sleep well (well, for me, as I usually only sleep 4-6 hours).
But, I miss the luxury of a Cappuccino on Sunday mornings sipped as I leisurely peruse the New York Times. I miss hold the Times in my hands and flipping through the pages. I settle for my home-made brew, this morning it was Bustelo and the NY Times , which I read from my laptop. There is a nice cafe near the university, but none near the condo and nowhere to have breakfast on Sunday, unless I drive to Midtown or Montrose.
Later in the day, I did read the Houston Chronicle's Sunday paper as I sipped on a bottle of water, waiting for Julie and Julia at the Angelika Theater--which I loved. Yesterday, I watched the Tarantino flick, Inglorious Bastards, which would have been over the top for any other director, but for Tarantino it was restrained, with gore inflicted on Nazis. It included a reinterpretation of history, a separate reality, if you will, one that the audience could easily embrace.
I love the fact that I can walk to see a movie or ride the MetroRail to one of the museums, drop in at night to partake of jazz or blues, and walk back to the apartment from an Astros game--when the sky has been cleansed by a quick storm. I often watch the lightening from my condo or from a restaurant window.
Sunday, I walked around the city, enjoyed the film, and inhaled the city. This afternoon I plugged in my new GPS unit and headed off to explore the city, only to find that the GPS didn't work downtown because of the high-rise buildings. It did work once I left the region of skyscrapers.
I'm getting to know some of neighbors in the condo, although, like New York, it is still just to say "Hi." But, I know several of them by name. I even know the names of some of their dogs, as I run into them early morning or at night, as they walk their pets.
After seeing Julie and Julia, I wished I could take the time to prepare a wonderful meal. I miss my kitchen in Santa Fe, my stove, and all of the wonderful cookbooks. I miss sitting in the backyard with the BBQ, wine, and friends and, of course, I miss Celina and her daughters, Erin and Annie. My daughter, Diana, may come to visit in a few weeks. But, for now, I must be content with seeing the flick, calling Celina and talking about it, and toasting them all from Houston with a fine Bordeaux!
Today, I did view a few Open Houses in the Montrose and Upper Kirby areas. Ouch! Everything I saw was over $700,000. Even small town houses were over $500k. The condo is looking better and better.
Downtown Houston rightly boasts about its many wonderful restaurants. I have only sampled a few, but the list is growing. I might try a seafood pasta tonight or crab cakes with an Albarino or Pinot Noir. As Julia Child would say, "Bon Appetit!"