Happy Trails

We make an I-35 detour only to discover chic eats, cool shops, and red Corvettes as far as the eye can see.

A few miles off I-35, I found refuge.

A highway town between Waco and Austin, Georgetown has been a sanctuary for travelers since its founding by George Washington Glasscock in 1848. It attracted pioneers with its fertile soil, lofty trees and the clear waters of the North San Gabriel River. People still enjoy Georgetown for these natural luxuries – exploring trails along the river, boating on Lake Georgetown – but tucked between the beautiful city parks, the historical homes, and the branches that canopy University Drive, is a surprisingly sophisticated Central Texas village.

My friend and I happened to visit Georgetown during its spring Red Poppy Festival, one of the town’s many seasonal events. The crimson buds have washed Georgetown’s avenues in color for more than 70 years, warranting the Texas legislature to christen it the Red Poppy Capital of Texas. The quaint town square, surrounding the 1880 courthouse, was brimming with booths, musicians, and altars to everything fried. Traditional fair finds (kettle corn, sausage-on-a-stick, turkey legs) shared space with tents that evoked Georgetown’s out-of-the-way sex appeal. Local artists exhibited paintings, sculpture, and jewelry as locals rooted on the Red Poppy Cruise, the annual Corvette parade and show.

An ideal pit stop for eaters who refuse to settle for “road food,” Main Street’s Monica’s 701 lured us back into the A/C. Roosting on the balcony, we supped with a view of the festivities.

Monica’s midday cuisine blended Texas specialties with gourmet favorites. I feasted on a B.L.T., finished off with sweet, fried green tomatoes and a salty cilantro-pesto mayonnaise, then layered between two slabs of Texas toast. My travel mate enjoyed thickly battered coconut shrimp with a Creole orange-horseradish dipping sauce. White tablecloths and heavy silverware spelled fine dining, but single-serve ketchup packages spoke of the simple informalities of a neighborhood diner.

After lunch, we hit the shops, several, sleek home décor nooks and a smattering of traditional hardware, antique, and general stores. Diva, A Floral Expression, and Jan’s Luxuries, to name a few, offer wonderful home and gift collections, though my personal favorite, Annarella, is an art and abode gallery. The store carries upscale kitchen lines, furniture worth inheriting (or passing down), and pieces from local painters and photographers, all with reasonable prices and a personal flair.

There are things I take for granted in Texas towns: long main streets, lilliputian churches, the vanilla limestone of the jails and courthouses, and historical museums with serious exhibits on barbed wire. Yet each comfort I’ve come to expect is complemented by a hamlet’s own persona. Georgetown was impressive in both its small-town charms and its more urban elements. It has all of the Texas traditions, done up in their Sunday best.

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