Catherine D. Anspon and Jenny Antill
- August 11, 2011
It might not have been Albert Finney and Audrey Hepburn in a Mercedes roadster in the South of France, but PaperCity’s visual arts editor Catherine D. Anspon and photographer Jenny Antill made for a fashionable pilgrimage to the Texas Hill Country. Four hundred miles and 54 hours later — after stops in Kyle, Driftwood and overnights in historic Wimberley — the duo returned with this charming guide to the heart of central Texas.
Elliot, Pete and Ashton Anton
Take the Plunge — Blue Hole: Among today’s top five sustainable projects under the guise of the National Park Service, the historic Blue Hole reopened this June, a shining example of public funding and private philanthropy coming together to raise more than $7.4 million to acquire, preserve, revitalize and tweak this beautiful spot fed by the natural springs of Cypress Creek. An enticing destination for generations since the Dobie family opened it to the public in the 1920s, this oasis of water and green a short stroll from Wimberley’s town square is considered the most beautiful swimming hole in Texas. Cypress trees strung with Spanish moss and rope swings for kids shade its banks. Jump-started by the initiative of Peter Way of Houston and the nonprofit Friends of Blue Hole led by executive director/former Wimberley mayor Steve Klepfer, the redux by national landscape architects Design Workshop features a master plan for Blue Holes’ 126 acres — picnic grounds, hiking trails, an amphitheater and on a nearby hillside, coming this fall, tennis courts and soccer fields. Blue Hole Lane, off Old Kyle Road near junction of FM 3237, 512.847.0025 (City Hall, for off-season group reservations); friendsofbluehole.org.
Avant-Garde Architecture — The Plant at Kyle: We motored over to Kyle, 15 minutes from Wimberley, then headed down a long and winding country road towards a monument to sustainability, recycled buildings and living on the land, as well as one of the signature projects that launched Lake/Flato Architects and ushered in a new era in Texas architecture. The Plant at Kyle (aka the Carraro Residence after its original owners, Francine and Henry Carraro) was erected in 1989 from 1920s-era sheds from the Alamo Cement plant in San Antonio. This hidden Hill Country landmark is now co-owned by museum director/curator Dana Friis-Hansen; his partner, IT guru Mark Holzbach; and Austin Realtor Carrie Bills. The trio rents out the AIA lauded and nationally published industrial structure-turned-dwelling — sited on 17 Hill Country acres — for weddings, parties and tribes who want to bunk in cutting-edge style while cozying up to Mother Nature. For inquiries, 512.689.6777; theplantatkyle.com.
Take Class — Heart of Texas Yoga: For extended stays in Wimberley, do your downward- facing dogs with Becky Jordan, a master with nearly 20 years’ expertise in Hatha yoga. Edging the main square, this upstairs neighbor of D Berman Gallery is a serene space with calming views of the treescape and Cypress Creek. 111 Old Kyle Road, Suite 200, Wimberley, 512.663.4278; heartoftexasyoga.com.
Studio Krause: We had to come to the Hill Country to meet the founder of the photography department at the University of Houston and one of the most acclaimed lensmen of our time, George Krause. This senior grand master, Prix de Rome winner and a Texas Artist of the Year — who has published major books and created some of the 20th century’s most memorable images — is in the collection of MoMA, MFAH, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris. In Wimberley, we perused his studio and home (stay tuned for our future Nest feature, chez Krause, in a fall issue) and admired two of his most inventive series: startling life-size sculptures of saints, alongside his “Sfumato” portraits, again life-size, this time of nudes haloed by orbs of light, all available through the artist’s web of galleries: Harris Gallery (Houston), Photographs Do Not Bend Gallery (Dallas) and in downtown Wimberley at D Berman Gallery (read on). For more, georgekrause.com.
John Lichtenberger, Damian Mandola
Trattoria Lisina: Damian Mandola’s retirement plans morphed into this astonishing new endeavor where the Texas Wine Country meets Tuscany. In this grand restaurant, vistas of rolling hills laced with vineyards offer an idyllic backdrop for Italian gastronomic marvels (osso buco, anyone?) by chef John Lichtenberger, a transplant from Manhattan whose previous stints include a toque turn at Le Bernardin. Culinary offerings include pasta hand-rolled by Lichtenberger’s wife, Carla; vintages imported from Italy; acres of prosciutto di Parma; classic pizze (which were packed up and sent with us for our tour at The Plant); and refreshing homemade gelati and sorbeti. Unwind the big unwind in this Driftwood epicurean experience on the way to Wimberley. 13308 FM 150 West, Driftwood, 512.894.3111; trattorialisina.com.
Duchman Family Winery: Who knew that the biggest winery devoted to Texas vintages is in Driftwood. Stroll past a bocce ball court and down a flower-strewn pathway steps from Trattoria Lisina to reach the Italian villa-esque limestone building that’s HQ for this million-dollar family-owned operation. We peeked at the barrels, vats and bottling operation, and are yearning to return for a tasting tour where cheese boards and charcuterie are paired with the Duchmans’ acclaimed Sangiovese, Dolcetto, Aglianico and Vermentino. 13308 FM 150 West, Driftwood, 512.858.1470; duchmanfamilywinery.com.
Sip! on the Square/Wimberley Cafe: What’s a small town without a java joint. Enter 20-something Michele McCullough, who left a marketing career to take up shop and open Sip! Her charming down-home destination on the Wimberley Square buys its beans from Anderson’s Coffee in Austin and makes a mean cappuccino, augmented by tea and sweets. Head next door and get a burger or comfort food, seven days a week, from Michele’s folks, Robin and Mac McCullough, at the Wimberley Cafe. Sip!, 101-C Wimberley Square, Wimberley, 817.733.5771; siponthesquare.com. Wimberley Cafe, 101-A Wimberley
Square, Wimberley, 512-847.3333; wimberleycafe.com.
The Leaning Pear: We bid Wimberley goodbye with a lunch of BBLT (the extra B is for “brie”) and roasted poblano pimento cheese sandwiches and limeade under the leafy patio of this lovely gathering spot that was opened by Rachel and Matthew Buchanan. One of the town’s most frequented dining establishments, Leaning Pear has attracted a Hill Country following for serving locally inspired cuisine sourced from nearby farmers, ranchers and culinary artisans. 111 River Road, Wimberley, 512.847.7327; leaningpear.com.
The Inn Above Onion Creek: In terms of lodging, it’s hard to beat the vibe, beauty and sweeping views of this special 88-acre B&B that’s a blend of rustic authenticity with log furnishings made on premises, melded with luxurious accommodations, a reverence for wildlife, and an inspiring naturescape. Innkeepers Janie and John Orr have created an aerie where cottages and a wing of spacious suites encircle a main two-story lodge resembling a classic dog trot, with porches overlooking a stunning hillside. This inn’s perfect blend of camaraderie and privacy is highlighted by the charming dining room, where breakfast and dinner (included with your room) showcase local ingredients served at precise times; a stay here promises to reset anyone’s city clock (and even comes with a bouquet of flowers). The Inn Above Onion Creek Rates from $199. 4444 West FM 150, Kyle, 512.268.1617; innaboveonioncreek.com.
Lynn Gallimore, McKay Otto
Sinya: Now, this is special — Sinya, an eco-luxury tented, singular suite that embraces safari chic and nature consciousness. Located five miles from downtown Wimberley on the ridge above Lone Man Creek, this astounding canvas aerie provides a romantic setting or a recharge for a creative type. The vision of Lynn Gallimore, it’s environmentally focused with cotton-bamboo bedding, chemical-free bath products for a soak in a scented milk bath in a century-old, claw-footed tub, and art by McKay Otto. Hike a steep trail down to the creek below, plunge in then search for Indian artifacts on your way back up. Rates from $235. Deer Lake Estates, Wimberley, 713.502.3997; hillcountrysinya.com.
Broken Arrow Rock Shop: Located in downtown Wimberley for more than half a century, this endearing rock shop is now on its third set of owners, Tami Corbett and Terri Edwards. Most often Corbett holds court, telling us she never met a rock she didn’t love. Peruse beautiful specimens from all corners of the globe, from watermelon tourmaline to rare green-hued moldavite, the product of a meteor collision 15 million years ago, which is said to produce vibrational energy intense enough to open chakras. Our finds: A miniature amethyst pyramid, a luminous chunk of rose quartz and a tiny specimen of octahedral fluorite. Even a kid could be entertained at Broken Arrow, given $10 to spend, and come home with a treasure and a lesson on geology. 13904 Ranch Road 12 (just off the Square), Wimberley, 512.847.2282.
Climb On!: For lip balms, nothing beats Climb On!, developed by engaging siblings Amy and Polly Reynolds. Geared originally for mountain climbers (which is Amy’s passion) and formulated by Polly, a medical transcriptionist with talent for aromatherapy, the brand has boomed since it was launched in Boulder, Colorado, in 1997. Boasting a thriving online business and stocked by eco-retailers and grocers Whole Foods Market, Central Market, Whole Earth Provisions Co. and REI, the pair’s pure, chemical-free and biodegradable lotions, creams and potions are packed with nature-infused ingredients, from essential oil of peppermint to witch hazel, sweet orange, vetiver and mimosa wax. Drop by (footsteps from Sip!), and chances are you’ll find one of the sisters, who will offer samples and give tips for preserving hands, lips and skin, without forsaking sailing, fishing, rock climbing or getting down to business in your garden. 101-G Wimberley Square, Wimberley, 877.966.2600; climbonproducts.com.
D Berman Gallery: Austin’s original and most respected gallery, owner/director David Berman relocated in March 2011 after growing tired of the commute (he and his wife, painter Ellen Berman, have called Wimberley home for more than a decade.) Now tourists and town types can wander in and encounter important Texas contemporary art, including stars of his stable collagist Lance Letscher, whom Berman discovered; the aforementioned photo master George Krause; lenslady Laura Pickett Calfee of the compelling still lifes; and (shown with Berman in his portrait) strange amalgamations that resonate with history by Uncommon Objects’ owner Steve Wiman of Austin. 111 Old Kyle Road, Suite 100, Wimberley, 512.847.3200; dbermangallery.com.
The Old Mill Store: Animals of metal and whimsy by Hill Country talents Benge Elliott and folk meister Lloyd Burns share space with robust, ranch-worthy recycled railwood furniture (custom orders available), lamps and mirrors at this ample shop that’s one of the anchors of the town square. Co-owners Randa Ryan and former mayor/civic leader Steve Klepfer preside. This retailers’ name is a reference to the village of Wimberley’s early days as a 19th-century nexus for saw and gristmill operations — originally called Wimberley’s Mill, it was named in the 1870s after leading citizen Pleasant Wimberley. On the Square, Wimberley, 512.847.3068; oldmillstore.com.
River House: Dallas doyenne Temple Wynne relocated to Wimberley in 2004 and created River House as a home-furnishings mecca for the Hill Country. With its prime site on the Square, River House is a best bet for hostess gifts, from soaps to stationery. We loved the woven glass earrings by Houston artist Susan Plum, who’s inspired by the Mayan cosmology; vibrant majolica Gorky Pottery, a revival of the traditional artform imported from the father-son workshop in Guanajuato, Mexico; and Dallas photographer David H. Gibson’s contemplative black-and-white prints of nature, including those snapped along Cypress Creek. 104 Wimberley Square, Wimberley, 512.847.7009; riverhousewimberley.com.
Star Antique: Horror vacui and antiquing collide at Lisa Kiefer’s amazing amalgamation of the curious and collectible. Chandeliers, stacks and stacks of porcelain plates, all manner of bric-a-brac, tiny tin birds, hobnail milk glass and whatnots galore are poised to lend the patina of the past. 301 River Road, Wimberley, 512.847.9970; starantique.com.
The Wild West Store: Our downtown Wimberley jaunt began with the celebrated Ulli Johnston, a German lass with an uncanny ability to glance at your feet, then within two tries match you with your dream boot — one that will be unrivaled for comfort, attitude and style. Since 1993, Ulli and husband Bill have curated The Wild West to be more than a vintage boot shop, but an homage to the beautiful, handmade and classic Western bootwear of the 1930s on, from Lucchese and Lama to the now-shuttered Texas Imperial Boot Company of the 1950s/1960s. While they stock exotics from anteater and bullfrog that soar to four figures, many of their 500-plus inventory are in the $200 to $300 range. Ulla waxes, “For hats, you’re on your own, but I’m the boot whisperer,” and reveals she’s even coaxed Jimmy Buffett to shed his flip-flops for a pair. Old Towne Plaza, 13709 Ranch Road 12 (just off the Square), Wimberley, 512.847.1219; koolboots.com.
Adieu, Wimberley. We’ll be back — soon.
Loading Up on Sides and Sights Along the Way: Take the Luling exit on I-10 West, and you'll see the city's watermelon-shaped water tower (which is only appropriate, as the Luling Watermelon Thump festival comes around every June). We stopped for lunch at City Market (633 E. Davis St., Luling, 830.875.3848) along Luling’s main drag, where we entered as novices and left feeling ready to blog for roadfood.com. (We got the tip for this establishment, which is along the Texas BBQ Trail, by dialing art scribe and pal Kelly Klaasmeyer, who asked her husband, noted foodie/writer Robb Walsh.) Best bets are the sausage, efficiently served up on butcher paper, accompanied by potato salad and sweet tea — a bargain for less than $10, including tip. (Be sure to ask for white bread to mop up the sauce.) Also, check out the farmers’ market across the square and the now-shuttered Rock-A-Bye Motel — an ode to lost Americana, crumbling yet emitting a faded glory. The next stop? A monument to baked goods and Pop Art, The Texas Pie Company in Kyle (202 W. Center, 512.268.5885; texaspiecompany.com), whose mammoth signage of an oozing slice of cherry pie lives up to its larger-than-life billing. Inside, a panoply of pies, augmented by sandwiches, are served to go or to be consumed in the quaint cafe. (Since they were out of peach, we picked up toothsome dense fudge pecan as a gift instead.)