Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Houston, Texas

Thursday, April 15 - Tuesday, April 27
Yeeeeeeeeee-Hawwwwwwwwwww!!! Welcome to Houston, TX, where we've come to visit friends and eat at some of our favorite restaurants. It's hard to believe that it's been 13 months since we left Texas, but it's true: we cut the lines and began our cruising lifestyle on March 6, 2009. Having lived in and around Houston for 15 years, we knew we'd have a whirlwind trip to see everyone when we finally went back...and a whirlwind it was! We had over 20 get-togethers in 12 days, all involving food and/or drink of some kind. (Note to self: must diet when we get back to the boat...)

It would take a novel to talk about each visit in detail; in the interest of everyone's patience levels, we'll try to keep things brief. (We've also included links to a few of our favorite foody spots in case you want to try them...press "CTRL" and click the link) Suffice it to say we had a fantastic time and refused to get on a scale!

Thursday, April 15:
#1. Dinner with Donna & Steve. First of all, we have to give a huge thank-you to our friends, Donna & Steve, who offered us a guest room for the entire 2 weeks that we were in town. They just bought a beautiful new home, and we really enjoyed our time at the "Retton Resort". Knowing we wouldn't get to see them much once we began running all over town, we grabbed some steaks and sides after landing at IAH to enjoy a quiet dinner and play catch-up.

Friday, April 16:
#2. Our first full day began with lunch at Phoenicia's with our good friend, Jennifer. We crammed as much as we could into an hour (one of us had to go back to WORK), and agreed to meet up again for dinner that night.

#3. That evening we met Jennifer again for dinner at one of our old local hang-outs, the Bull & Bear English Pub. Dave, Sheila, and the rest of the English crowd joined us later for drinks and merriment. Dave & Sheila have been two of our best friends for most of our Houston lives, and we wanted to spend some time with them before they left on a 2-week vacation on April 18. They were kind enough to open their home to us in the midst of their trip preparations, so we got to spend the night and enjoy breakfast and another visit with them on Saturday morning.

Saturday, April 17:
#4. There's always someone with a busier schedule than you. :-) During our trip planning we learned that one of our racing friends and one of our old neighbors couldn't join us for the respective Rowdy and Watergate reunion parties, so we managed a compromise. Geoie agreed to meet us at the Houston International Festival, which meant that we could see him as well as Kat (who was busy managing the sound systems for all of the venue's stages). It all works out somehow...

#5. As expected, we'd barely seen our hosts, Donna & Steve, since the night we arrived in Houston. (Those are the kind of house guests everyone wants, right?!) We were eventually able to reprise one of our old traditions, dinner & the pub. The real question? Bayou City Seafood & the Richmond Arms, or Mi Luna & the Gingerman? Pasta or tapas? Both restaurant/bar combos were on our favorites list, and we had good memories of each. Bayou City & the Arms were closer to home (not to mention us both having a personal history with the Arms), while Mi Luna and G-man offered a "funkier" option. Proximity and history eventually won out (Rene also hoped to see some familiar faces at the Richmond Arms), and we all enjoyed a great meal and a couple of beers. In the end, we didn't see anyone we knew at the Arms, but we were still happy for the short drive home!

Sunday, April 18:
#6. Let the eating continue... the morning started off with brunch at Goode Company Taqueria with Stacy's old cohorts from PROS. A Sunday get-together meant we could spend more time without anyone having to rush back to a meeting, and we could also hang out with spouses and kids. We got to see George and Sheeba's baby girl for the first time, and couldn't believe how much Lisa and Will's daughter had grown. Linda & George did a fantastic job of making arrangements and getting everyone together. Thanks, guys!

#7. No time for a power nap...we got back to the house, changed clothes, packed an overnight bag, and made a quick stop at the grocery store before heading north for happy hour/dinner with the "Ponderosa crowd". Gary & Deborah hosted the event and made yummy Shepherd's Pie, and we were grateful for their guest room after one heck of a party. As Rene said, "that's the only night we really went overboard." Thank goodness we didn't have an early appointment the next day!

Monday, April 19:
#8. After a much-needed power nap (finally!), we were in better spirits for our highly-anticipated dinner with Chris & Katya at our favorite French restaurant, Le Mistral. Both food and company were phenomenal as always (we really miss you two!), and we managed to close the restaurant down. You never get to spend enough time with friends on these trips, but at least we could look forward to seeing them again later in the week.

Tuesday, April 20:
#9. Our first of two impromptu lunches, we met Donna at Yia Yia Mary's Greek bistro near her office. After spending a few minutes catching up on Donna's job and family, our conversation came to a sudden halt thanks to a gyro that broke Rene's tooth. The manager came out and took our information, saying someone from the Pappas home office would contact us (more on that later). Fortunately Donna knew of a dentist who had his own lab and could get a crown done quickly.

#10. After two and a half hours at the dentist in Katy, we arrived fashionably late to dinner at Ron's to meet his new wife and baby. Min cooked a terrific Thai dinner, and we had a great time with the proud parents as well as Ron's mom, who was visiting from Holland.

Wednesday, April 21:
#11. Thanks to the gyro from hell, the day didn't go exactly as planned. Rene spent a couple of hours back at the dentist's office getting his crown put on, and Stacy went solo to lunch with some Continental friends. (Author's note: I had a great time visiting old friends and eating at the Pakistani/Indian buffet...poor Rene didn't have quite as much fun.)

#12. Rene was back in top form with a new tooth in time for happy hour with Stacy's old Book Club and their families at Kris's townhouse. It was great to see the girls and their families, and to hear about the new jobs, new babies, new homes, promotions, vacations, and the like. Continental and United Airlines have since announced a merger that will move headquarters to Chicago, so we're really keeping our fingers crossed that our friends there will come through with flying colors. Whether that means a move to the windy city or something more local remains to be seen. Considering that half of our "Continental book club" is now ex-Continental, we all agreed that a job which allowed you to afford a real ticket and be happy was a lot better than a lower-paying airline job with flight benefits!

Thursday, April 22:
#13. As most of you know, we both finished with work ("retired" still feels wrong) by the end of October, 2008. Hurricane Ike messed up our December departure, and we ended up playing hooky for 4 months before finally shoving off. Somehow, in all that time, we never managed to have a movie and pizza day with our other retired friends, John & Bonnie. (And they have a home theatre, no less!) Well, we finally made it happen today. We drank good wine, watched Guy Ritchie movies, and ate pizza as other friends dropped by later in the evening. After spending the night there, having breakfast, and watching a movie the next morning, this turned into a 20-hour visit. Do we get to count this one as a double?!

Friday, April 23:
#14. We met up with Stacy's old friends and colleagues from Continental's Revenue Management team at Mo Mong. We were thrilled that Eric's wife, Dhenu, could join us and bring their 4-month-old baby girl. She was adorable, and her mom and dad looked like naturals. It was great to see everyone, and again hope that the people who do such a fantastic job at Continental make it through the CO-UA merger in good shape.

#15. Time for the Watergate marina reunion party! This was a chance for us to get together with our old neighbors at WYC in Kemah. While most of the trip up to now had felt like "nothing's changed", this was the one place where we felt a real twinge of melancholy. Hardly anyone is in the same slip that they were 13 months ago. Dream Away is gone, as Jim & Kitty are on a glorious cruising adventure of their own in the Caribbean. Troy and Deana have taken Storyville to another marina with floating docks, as have many others in the wake of Hurricane Ike. It took us awhile to find Frank & Julie, Kat & Trey, Rick, and Steve, all of whom have moved to other docks while Watergate dredges pier 18 and adds new docks. Jim & Nancy's boat, Topaz, may be the only holdover on our section of pier 4 (now called pier 23??) who hasn't moved.

Fortunately, our sentimental journey didn't last long, and we spotted Chuck & Connie on the far end of our old dock. We got to catch up on the latest WYC goings-on, and were soon joined by some of our old neighbors. In the end, most of the boats we were looking for had only moved to the opposite side of the pool. How good to see the familiar boats...and faces! As we began heading for the BBQ area, we spotted three dinghies heading our way. Troy & Deana, Steve, and Raymond were all over in a marina near the boardwalk, and dinghied their way to WYC. Now the party could really begin!

Saturday, April 24:
#16. What a gorgeous day for a fun sail with our old Rowdy crew! The sun was out, and winds were blowing around 15kts. We had a great time cruising around the bay with old friends Bill & April, Christie & Scott, Tim, Rob, and new crew member Sheila. We also spotted a gorgeous red-sailed boat that one of Christie's friends built.

#17. What's a sail without dinner at Noah's Ark afterward? Christina, Scott, & Tim joined us at our favorite Kemah hang-out spot for some great seafood and water views. Noah's is a little off the beaten path, but it's well worth a visit!

Sunday, April 25:
#18. Yep...still eating! Back in the days when we were homeowners in West Houston, we used to have a monthly reservation for the wine dinner at America's. The food, company, and service was incredible, as were the accompanying wines (more often than not). We really debated attending another wine dinner while we were in town (April's wine dinner was on the 26th), but John & Bonnie told us that they'd begun attending America's new brunch. Scheduling and curiosity won out, so Sunday brunch it was. We met John, Bonnie, and a few other friends, and enjoyed the 60+ item spread. If you've never been to America's (and if you're ever in Houston), you really need to go! We've been there for business lunches, wine dinners, regular dinners, and now brunch. It's always worth the trip, even if you only go for their legendary tres leches dessert!

#19. We'd love to say we took a 2-hour power walk after brunch to get ready for our next meal, but it just didn't happen. :-) Sunday-night dinner was held at Chris & Katya's home, and as our old traditions dictated, everyone brought a course while leaving the main dish to our hosts. Jennifer brought her prosciutto & dried cherry salad, we brought a garlic & olive baked brie, and Donna & Steve brought a yummy rum cake. Kudos really went to Chris and Katya, who made fantastic stuffed smoked pork chops and mushroom risotto. The meal was awesome as always, and the best part was getting to spend more time with so many of our great friends. We also loved getting to see Chris & Katya's little girls, and couldn't believe how much they'd grown in a year. They're adorable and incredibly sweet-tempered. Their parents should be proud!

Monday, April 26:
#20. A last minute addition: lunch with Jennifer at the Yard House. A few people recommended that we try this spot, which was nestled in the heart of the new "Citycentre" complex at Town & Country. The food was good, and they had a huge selection of beers (if you like that kind of thing).

#21. Our last dinner date was at Frank & Nina's home in Missouri City. Frank is an old college friend of Rene's who moved to Houston about six months ago. Nina cooked us a fabulous Malaysian meal, and we enjoyed spending the evening with them and their little boy. What a great way to end the trip!

Well, that's it. We loved every minute we spent in Houston, and our only regret was that we forgot to take pictures more often than not! We had an uneventful trip back to the boat, which was in perfect shape (albeit some serious waterline growth thanks to the lovely water in the ICW). Hopefully we'll get back to Houston in a year or two for another visit. In the meantime, there's always e-mail, Skype, and Facebook. We miss you all!

Some of our (too) few pictures:

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