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San Antonio’s Missions declared a World Heritage site July 6, 2015

Posted by Tracy in : San Antonio, Spain, Texas , add a comment

Alamo with Moon (Al Rendon photo, courtesy San Antonio Convention and Visitors Bureau)

Tracy L. Barnett, Special for USA TODAY

Five cherished portals to America’s Spanish colonial past have just been elevated to the stature of Machu Picchu, Stonehenge and the Taj Mahal with Sunday’s decision by the World Heritage Committee of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to grant World Heritage status to San Antonio Missions National Historical Park.

“We are thrilled,” said San Antonio Mayor Ivy Taylor, calling from Bonn, Germany, soon after the announcement was made. “The decision came right after Independence Day and we felt we were representing the United States on a world stage, so it was very exciting.”

True-Blue Texas Bluegrass: A slice of life January 11, 2010

Posted by Tracy in : Texas , add a comment

A couple of months back – it seems like an eternity now – I had the pleasure of enjoying one of the finer backwaters of Texas culture: the Salmon Lake Bluegrass Festival. It was truly a step back in time, and good company with some of the friendliest, down-to-earth folk I’ve run across – not to mention talented.

Just Fiddlin’ Around, an article I wrote on Texas Bluegrass, appeared recently in Texas Journey Magazine, and I promised videos and extra content – a promise I’ve been slow on delivering, due to my overcommitted work and travel schedule.

Here at long last is the first of the two videos I promised:

Keep an eye on this spot for a video demonstration of the amazing Doyle Campbell, a truly original bluegrasser who makes instruments out of everything from washtubs to bedpans to a dog dish. Also, an interview with the Pickin’ Professor Rod Moag, and a link to his article, A History of Texas Bluegrass, which contains everything you’ll every want to know on the subject.

Thank you for your patience, those of you who have been looking for the promised videos and extra content. I appreciate your readership and your support!

Party with a purpose at the Farm December 15, 2009

Posted by Tracy in : Houston, Sustainability, Texas , 1 comment so far

Saturday dawned misty and chilly, but it didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the crowds who flocked to the Last Organic Outpost Saturday to celebrate the two-year anniversary of the group’s Emile Street Farm, learn about food security, forage for wild edibles, eat organic tamales and meet interesting folks.
(photos by Mona Metzger of Houston Green Scene)


First-time climber conquers fears at Enchanted Rock December 6, 2009

Posted by Tracy in : Adventure, ecotourism, Texas , 1 comment so far

My first piece in the Dallas Morning News, and it’s a travel cover! Out today, my friend and climbing teacher Jamie McNally just wrote to let me know…

Here it is:

First-time climber conquers fears at Enchanted Rock


Merriment Galore on the Strand December 6, 2009

Posted by Tracy in : Galveston, Historical preservation, Texas , 2comments

Just a year ago the annual Dickens on the Strand was carried out amid a ruined and gutted downtown Galveston, a defiant statement of the city’s commitment to a comeback. Yesterday that comeback was clear, and with all the fine lords and ladies shoulder to shoulder with rakish pirates and coal dust-smeared ragamuffins, the floodwaters were but a poignant memory.

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

Top hats and bustles were de rigeur throughout the historic district. From a British jokester and juggler on Old Galveston Square to a costume contest judged by Galveston’s own “Queen Victoria,” bagpipes on the Tall Ship Elissa and camel and elephant and pony rides over on 21st Street, the festivities had a decidedly 18th century British feel.

Galveston calling December 4, 2009

Posted by Tracy in : Galveston, Texas , 2comments

Tomorrow’s the 36th annual Dickens on the Strand, and Galveston is going into its finest Victorian mode – with candy apples, bagpipes, games and crafts, and a whole cast of Dickens characters roaming the streets.

The festival began in the dark days of the Strand, when the Galveston Historical Foundation was casting about for ways to rebuild a decaying treasure. The first few years, lifelong Galvestonian Christine Hopkins told me, the festival was held only at night, when the festive lighting cast the shabby Victorian buildings at their romantic best.

Eventually, a multimillion-dollar restoration brought the charming historic downtown to life, but the city took another big hit last year when Ike deposited eight feet of floodwaters in the streets of downtown.

Nonetheless, Galvestonians being the hardy lot they are, the town has rallied impressively. A visit a few weeks ago with my daughter showed just how far the city’s come.

Here’s a little glimpse of a sunny day a couple of weeks ago.

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

Last Organic Outpost’s Greenfest on video November 11, 2009

Posted by Tracy in : Houston, Sustainability, Texas , add a comment

In case you missed it, the best of Houston turned out on the farm for the Community Greenfest at the Last Organic Outpost’s Emile Street Community Farm.

Channel 39’s Going Green With Yolanda Green caught a great slice of celebratory life in a two-part video tour, now available on their website – and here. Enjoy!



Going full boar at Catalan September 24, 2009

Posted by tracybarnett in : Food, Houston, Sustainability, Texas , add a comment

Every now and then, a meal becomes an event you’ll never forget. That’s what happened Sunday at Catalan, one of Houston’s top-rated restaurants.

Chef Chris

Catalan, an anchor of the newly thriving Washington corridor, has caught the eye of many a writer in the couple of years since it’s opened, right up to the New York Times, and master chef Chris Shepherd is a big reason why. His bold, no-holds-barred, what-the-hell style has earned him a following that’s as passionate as his own commitment to his art. But what really drew me was his staunch advocacy of the buy local movement.


He plans his entire menu around what he finds at the local farmers’ markets and what local growers can provide him.

“It’s not just the right thing to do; it means better quality,” he explained when I met him on Friday. He was already cooking up plans for Sunday’s feast, and when he invited me, of course I couldn’t resist.

It all started when Farmer John Laughlin showed up on his doorstep with a wild boar. Laughlin’s farm kept getting raided by these wild hogs, and nothing he did could drive them away.


The New Houston: It's not what you think September 22, 2009

Posted by tracybarnett in : Houston, Texas , add a comment

Houston is a double-hitter in my book this week. I just finished a piece for Continental Magazine about my new hometown, and Spirit, generic cialis 5mg the inflight magazine of Southwest Airlines, just featured my story “Meet Houston,” the intro to an excellent package of stories about the city by a fine lineup of Houston journalists (including, incidentally, a couple of my former colleagues at the Chronicle”.

Downtown_Skyline_and_Buffalo_Bayou_-_1AThe New Houston: Its not what you think

It was the perfect New Houston moment: A Pavarotti-like voice pulsed over the green lawns and the sparkling lake of Discovery Green. A sumptuously dressed cast beamed Macbeth from an inflatable screen, towering over a thousand people of all ages, colors and sizes. Some lounged in lawn chairs or on blankets spread on the green grass; some watched from the patios of nearby restaurants. Some munched hamburgers; others drank beer.

This was the Grand Opera’s first Citycast, performed at Wortham Center and broadcast live on public radio and at public places including Discovery Green, the new showpiece of art, culture and green technology that Houston wrested from a jumble of parking lots in 2008.

This was not the Houston of the cattle drives or the oil tycoons or the petrochemical industry, which is what most people think about when they think of this city, if they think of it at all. Which is a shame, because they are missing out on one of the country’s truly great international metropolises.

To read the rest of the story, click Meet Houston.

To read the rest of the package – “Live” and “Play” by Natalie Bogan; “Work and “Learn,” by Bill Hensel Jr.; and “Eat” by Dai Huynh, click Southwest_Spirit_September_2009. Warning: it’s a large file and will take some time to download.

Beyond the Alamo in San Antonio August 26, 2009

Posted by tracybarnett in : San Antonio, Texas , 4comments
San Antonio's West Side is alive with color, culminating in a collection of murals that tell its stories.

San Antonio's West Side is alive with color, and scattered with murals that tell its stories.

There’s a touch of irony in the Alamo’s stature as the No. 1 stop on the San Antonio tourist trail. The Alamo was all about the battle to wrest Texas from Mexico. Though Santa Anna lost the war, he won the battle in San Antonio, and the Mexican spirit has prevailed – which is the other part of what people come to see. Hispanic influence touches everything: the art, the literature, the music, the cuisine, the activism. And that’s a huge part of what makes San Antonio so special.

Tracy and Peter on the River Walk

Tracy and Peter on the River Walk

In honor of Travel Detective Peter Greenberg, who has invited me to appear on his excellent travel show, Peter Greenberg Worldwide, I’ve put together a list of my favorite off-the-tour-bus San Anto sights and experiences. Listen to the podcast here, and browse Peter’s site for a wealth of travel news. Peter’s logged more miles than anyone I know, and amazingly, he finds time to serve as a volunteer firefighter in Long Island on the weekends. And please add your favorite San Antonio haunts in the comment section below.

To begin, you need to find out what’s going on in town when you arrive and drop in on an art opening, a poetry reading or a concert before diving into the sumptuous restaurant scene. Check the Downtown Blog and the Events Calendar by downtown denizen Ben Olivo of the SA Express-News and the events calendar of the San Antonio Current to be in the know.


* Main Plaza, scene of many free concerts, San Fernando Cathedral and the historic town square

* La Villita, another concert, festival and gallery venue amid San Antonio’s oldest neighborhood.

* Hemisfair Park, a lushly fountained and landscaped park created for the 1968 World’s Fair, is a quiet getaway where you can explore spectacular public art, drop by the Institute of Mexican Culture and take a ride up in the Tower of the Americas to have a drink and watch the sunset at The Chart House restaurant.

* Museo Alameda, the Hispanic Smithsonian, right on the corner of Market Square – don’t miss the gift shop, the quirky, kitschy creation of San Antonio artist Franco Mondini-Ruiz.

King William District – The city’s German heritage and history is concentrated here, with mansions, galleries, and eateries (Azuca, La Foccacia, Cascabel, Gunther House, Mad Hatter Tea Room).

West Side:

The West Side has a reputation that comes from its long history as a low-income area. But it’s also the birthplace of a vibrant arts scene, and the casual visitor will find a colorful, welcoming community full of Mexican and Chicano culture, authentic pride and some of the world’s best tacos. For me, the West Side is the true heart of San Antonio.

Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center, a beautiful arts venue and culture center. Everything from the Tejano and conjunto music of San Antonio native Flaco Jimenez to the Latin American film festival to live teatro campesino can be seen here, and the gift shop is full of great finds. Here is where you’ll find the supersized Virgin of Guadalupe candle, a spectacular mosaic created by San Antonio artist Jesse Trevino. The artist, a veteran, lost his painting hand in the Vietnam War, and his struggle to express his vision has made him the beloved artist laureate of San Antonio.