marfa, tx

My husband and I took a much needed break over Memorial Day weekend and headed to Marfa, TX while my parents took the kids camping.

Marfa is about 8 hours away and about the size of a postage stamp.  Some NY minimalist artist (Donald Judd) fell in love with the place and moved there in the 1970s, bringing a whole art scene along with him.  It's a very very strange combination--West Texas vastness, art scene urbanism, foodie restaurants that are only open when the owners feel like showing up....  For most of the weekend it felt like we were the only ones there, and yet the locals were acting like it was a busy weekend. Marfa was charming and fun in a weird way.

I was dreading the trip there, but I think that's because for the past 5 years road trips have meant being stuck in a car with a screaming kid who waits until the middle of nowhere to explode poop all over the car seat. I've forgotten that adults, left alone, can actually have fun and listen to Chelsea Handler's latest audiobook LOUDLY. It was actually enjoyable!

On the drive out there we stopped in Marathon, TX (about an hour outside of Marfa) and stayed at the Gage Hotel, an old cattle baron's mansion that they've turned into a cute hotel.  They have a fabulous restaurant there and I had the most AMAZING smoked tomato hash there.  It's sparked a new obsession -- last weekend my dad and I tried to recreate the dish.

The next day we headed to Marfa and checked into the Hotel Paisano, a great old hotel where James Dean once stayed while filming Giant. We immediately headed back out of town to San Saloman Springs, a spring-fed pool in Balmorhea, TX. After that we came back into town for dinner and then headed back out to the McDonald Observatory for a "Star Party." Great for people who dork out over stars, like my husband.

The next day we went to the Chinati Foundation, an old military base that Donald Judd took over.  There's a couple permanent installations by him and some other minimalist dudes.  I have to say, the art didn't speak to me that loudly, but the landscape was gorgeous and overall we had a great time.

Then came my favorite part of the trip:  getting drunk and hanging out at a bar at 2pm until dinner.  We need to do more of that.  We'd pretty much felt like we had seen everything up to that point, and it was nice to just relax.  We made sure to sober up that night to go drive out and try to see the Marfa Lights.  They didn't appear, but it was still great to be out in the desert watching the sun go down.

All in all, it was a great trip.  I don't know if I'd go back, because we certainly ran out of things to do.  Nearby is Big Bend National Park, but after all that driving I'm not sure I'd want to continue driving around mountains while getting car sick.

Clockwise from the top: Mon amour, an agave flower, one of Donald Judd's permanent installations, me jumping next to another Donald Judd creation, San Salamon Springs, the Gage Hotel, a Dan Flavin installation, downtown Marfa.