Adventures in H-Town
Take it from a newcomer: Houston never fails to be surprising
Editor's note: Cathy Parsons recently moved from Music City (Nashville) to the Bayou City (Houston). In a periodic column, she writes about her new life here.
Now that I have lived in Houston for a few months, I am starting to reflect on some of the questions I get asked. They are usually in regard to my perception of Houston before I arrived and now. I am pretty nosy and love to get asked this question since I am usually the one asking all the questions!
A couple weeks ago, I met Melodie Wade, who handles public relations for the Houston Museum of Natural Science, and our conversation really made me think about this to the point that I have put together a little list as a response.
Before I moved to Houston, I am ashamed to admit that I was sadly and inexplicably lacking in accurate knowledge about the Bayou City. Call me a victim of media bias, and one too many viewings of Urban Cowboy, I guess. For example, I must confess that in spite of my awesome boyfriend, RT, who emphasized Houston’s charms, I was not prepared to witness first-hand the following:
1. Good weather
First and foremost, I quickly learned that Houston is not as humid as virtually everyone insisted before I moved here. Newsflash: A Nashville summer feels like you are wearing a hot, wet wool sweater all the time. Night and day. Last summer, the temperature hit 100 degrees more times than anyone can remember. Hideous. Coming here was not such an adjustment weather-wise. And with the absolute perfect weather we have enjoyed lately, well, let’s just say that I continue to be pleasantly surprised.
2. So many cultures; so many restaurants
I have been amazed by the variety of international cultures here, from the wide range of languages spoken to the fact that there is virtually no type of ethnic cuisine that is not found somewhere around the city. Houston’s restaurant scene apparently gets very little press outside of the area.
As I mentioned in a previous column, I confess that I basically expected a bunch of barbecue and Mexican joints (not that there is anything wrong with that!), but I have been happily surprised by the dizzying array of dining establishments that specialize in authentic Thai, French, Chinese, Vietnamese, dynamite Italian, vegetarian, sushi (so far, Soma is my favorite), organic, farm to table movements — and on and on. I am also very gratified to find so many foodies around with palates far more advanced and adventurous than mine.
Please feel free to keep your restaurant ideas coming. My list is growing longer everyday.
3. Stellar social scene
Houston’s level of socializing is mind-blowing. Even though I have been reading about key international social figures like Lynn Wyatt in Town & County and Vogue for many years, I have been bowled over by the dazzling array of social events.
Just today, I was discussing the cosmopolitan aspects of Houston with friends back home. I illustrated my point with the examples of all of the chi-chi parties and A-list out-of-towners that flock to the city on a regular basis to illustrate this fact. Celebrity watch much?
People here are incredibly generous with their time and finances. It has truly warmed my heart to see organizations do so much for people who have fallen on hard times. One of my first major events to attend was the Star of Hope 20th anniversary banquet. Approximately 1,800 people enjoyed a seated dinner at the Hilton Americas and raised more then $700,000.
4. Tolerance of lifestyles
Residents of the Bayou City show a great deal of tolerance and acceptance for varying views and lifestyles — way more than I would have expected before I moved here. Very cool.
Most Houstonians do not speak with a drawl or twang? True! (see Urban Cowboy reference above.) It is my Nashville accent that stands out. Now I have learned that if someone does have a noticeable accent, they most likely aren’t a native Houstonian ... very interesting.
5. Great shopping
Shopping! I am constantly delighted with the fabulous options and I have only begun to scratch the surface. After all, I was not prepared for this cool amenity. Magazines like Allure and Marie Claire rarely include Houston in their shopping guides. Dallas, yes, but why not Houston? I get why Dallas is always included and it makes sense, but Houston seems to be ridiculously overlooked in that regard. Does anyone else think so? Cool girls in the know like Lauren Levicki have been very generous to share their faves. I am in boutique heaven. Thanks, Lauren!
You know shopping is taken seriously when an entire area is called The Galleria. The first time I visited Houston, RT drove me though the city and pointed out the three distinct skylines. Of course I had heard about The Galleria, but I had no idea of its enormity until seeing it in person.
The skyscraper (Williams Tower) that serves as my landmark for what has become one of my favorite parts of the city still looks sinister to me, but I am finally getting used to it. Probably everyone in the world associates Houston with its medical marvels, but seeing that part of the city close-up was incredible — huge and impressive in all regards. This is an amazing resource and I totally understand what a sense of pride this brings to everyone here.
6. A good economy
I am not sure if longtime residents realize this, but the economy here is doing well compared to other parts of the country. Our go-getter realtor has been super great to give us the dope on what is going on with developments, construction, etc. Love that there are terrific options to move inside the inner loop. We are in major house hunting mode now and are into the search.