The Complete Package and I spent a day in Galveston, although it was not entirely the day we’d planned. Our intent was to check out the second annual Brewmasters Craft Beer Festival, but we never got that far. Tragic, right? Well, no. Not really. We may have gotten sidetracked, but we still had a great time.It started with the one hour drive to Galveston. We timed it to arrive around noon. Why? Because we couldn’t miss the chance to visit our favorite seafood place – Shrimp ‘N Stuff. This place is billed as “where the locals eat” and while that may be true, a lot of informed tourists make it by, too. On a typical Saturday, you will have to search out an empty table and wait as long as half an hour for your food, but you won’t find anyone complaining. Everything at Shrimp ‘N Stuff is fresh. Fresh seafood. Fresh sides. Made fresh by a staff that is always kept hopping. While the rest of the tourists flood the seawall for the more expensive, more commercial seafood restaurants, the smart ones are hanging out at Shrimp ‘N Stuff eating great food at unbeatable prices. Why, I feel smarter and more stuffed already. Speaking of stuffed, I had the fried catfish plate – 2 large pieces of catfish, fries, hushpuppies and coleslaw – all for $7.39. I added a large iced tea and a piece of key lime pie, so my total was around $12.00. I couldn’t finish any of it (except for the pie), and it was still a bargain. TCP had the seafood combo po-boy sandwich (also $7.39) with fries, an iced tea, and a side order of hushpuppies. His total came out to around $12.00, as well. For the record, my fish plate was not twice the size of his sandwich. It’s just the angle of the photo. I swear. No, really! Shrimp ‘N Stuff is located at 39th and “O”, south of Broadway. www.shrimpnstuff.com
After lunch, we took a leisurely (okay, slow) drive down Broadway, Galveston’s main thoroughfare as you arrive on the island. While I miss the gorgeous 100 year-old live oaks along Broadway that were lost during Hurricane Ike, I still love the beautiful old homes and historic Victorian architecture.
Our first stop was Ashton Villa. It was among the first “palaces” built in Galveston and is thought to be the first brick home built in Texas (1858). Although the home is not open for tours, they do have a Galveston Visitor’s Center in the old garage where you can pick up maps and tourist information. But we dropped in for another reason.Our friend Kaki (Jonah Bear’s swim teacher, Ziggy’s babysitter, Bunco pal and all-around bestie) is getting married here next weekend. At 50+, our beloved Kaki has found her Prince Charming (Don) and will be tying the knot in this very mansion in 5 days. We couldn’t be more excited for them. It just confirms the belief that there is a perfect someone for everyone, and that someone may find you at any time and any age if you’re open to it. There’s a whole “small world” story behind how they got together. Some day, with their help, I’ll share it with you. For now, I’ll just say that it involved Nascar and a friend called “Boomer”. How’s that for a teaser? Next up, we visited The Bishop’s Palace. I’ve lived in the Houston area for 21 years, and I have no idea why it took me so long to tour this place. It’s an iconic landmark on Galveston Island. Built in 1892 for the Gresham family, this home was one of the few that survived the great hurricane of 1901. In fact, on the tour you will see a framed photo of the home surrounded in mounds of debris from where most of the island was destroyed. There’s a good reason for that – the home is made of solid stone walls 23″ thick. That always helps in high winds. And it’s all Texas stone, too. The home’s facade is made entirely from native red sandstone, white limestone and granite. While the home’s exterior is surrounded in lovely verandahs, ornate chimneys and gorgeous stained glass, the interior is dripping in Victorian elegance. Each room on the main floor features a different wood in the paneling and fireplace, and each room has some architectural gem that was a first of its kind. The main staircase is a marvel, with a center fireplace built in, stained glass windows as you ascend, and a 3-story octagon shaped rotunda above. It is glorious. Frankly, now that I’ve been inside I think I’m more in awe of the architect, Nicholas Clayton, than I am with the family who had it built. Gresham may have had the money, but Clayton was clearly the visionary. While the home was originally called Gresham Castle, it was sold to the Catholic Church in 1920, and became known as Bishop’s Palace when the bishop moved in from 1920-1950. The home is still owned by the church, but is supported and maintained solely through the revenue from public tours and donations. If you visit Galveston, this should definitely be on your “must see” list. For more information and a few interior photos, click here.
So back to the Brewmaster International Beer Festival. Because of Tropical Storm Lee, winds in Galveston were gusting at up to 40 miles per hour creating whitecaps across Galveston Bay and blowing debris around like tumbleweeds. Somehow, standing in that wind at an outdoor festival just to sample a few craft beers wasn’t so appealing. I apologize to the organizers for whimping out, but I promise to try again next year and I’m happy to include the link to their website for anyone who may be interested in attending in the future. If I see you there next year, I’ll buy you a beer.
For more information on visiting Galveston, try these links:
Shrimp ‘N Stuff Restaurant
The Galveston Historical Foundation
Tour brochure of Galveston’s Oak Tree Sculptures (carved from old oaks damaged by Hurricane Ike; brochure will appear upside-down; scroll down)
Moody Gardens – Entertainment, Educational & Convention Complex