There are a lot of wonderful things about travel. Coming from Maine, one of the best parts of travel is that almost anywhere you go, the sunrise is a bit later than at home. Being back on the civilized side of 7am is quite nice.
City sunrise is always difficult to capture on film from ground level. After four days of storms and clouds, in the midst of city buildings, I wondered if I would ever get a decent sunrise shot before leaving Texas. After a move from the high rises of downtown to the sprawl of "mid-town" (an area that feels more like suburbs to me), I found my sunrise sky.
Here is our pre-dawn, mid-town view of downtown:
While I'm at it, I will share a bit of my daytime explorations of this fourth largest city in the United States. I have had 5 days here to wander about while J attends a conference.
Houston is a pretty major sports hub, and two big arenas caught my eye as a walking tourist. The Toyota Center, home of the Houston Rockets, has a lovely circular tribute garden dedicated to Hakeem Olajuwon. Nearby is a basketball park that offered a nice view of downtown, shrouded in clouds.
Minute Maid Park, the baseball hub, is built on to the old Union Station, a train station designed by the same guy that designed Grand Central Station in New York. Now those grand days of train travel are gone and the pillared foyer only serves as an entryway to the ball park.
Outside, a statue of Craig Biggio hurls a ball to the first baseman across the way. Biggio played his entire 19 year career with the Houston Astros.
The historic district was somewhat disappointing. Some people complain that Houston has wreaked havoc with its historical architecture. Very few early buildings still stand. This humble brick townhouse is one of the oldest (the oldest?) building in the city that still sits in its original site.
One of the most unusual things to me about Houston was its multi-level world. There are skyways and tunnels like lacework all over the city, above and below. The tunnels reminded me of airport terminals, endless rows of shops and restaurants, except there are no windows in sight. A bit claustrophobic for me, and it seemed weird that so many people were spending time underground when there is perfectly nice fresh air outdoors.
So I headed outside the city and visited Hermann Park. I skirted the edges of Rice University and got a little "choo-choo train" tour of Hermann Park, where there are monuments, lakes, an outdoor theater, and museums. And of course, there are very cute squirrels.
There are also lots of live oaks. Live oak trees are one of my favorite things about the south. That exquisite, tortuously twisted and gnarled branchwork evokes an intensely expressive character in these trees. They all seem to have a story to tell, and create haunting silhouettes at any time of year.
And speaking of trees - this is a famous, or perhaps infamous one in Houston. Though there are conflicting versions of the tales, some call this "the Hanging Tree" of Houston. Ostensibly, many men were hanged from its branches in the early days of the Republic of Texas. But even in the 1800's, this 400 year old tree was already a venerable old creature.