Cheapskate's Guide to the Finer Things in Life

Why leave town? Views of faraway places abound on Houston's Gallery Row

Why leave town? Views of faraway places abound on Houston's Gallery Row

Are you dying to travel this summer, but reluctant to risk the expenditure in these increasingly unpredictable economic times?

Are you turning unattractively Shrek-green with envy as you listen to friends raving about how the plummeting euro is translating into far more fun for their dollars on their European trips?

Yes, friends, that would be me with the lime-tinted face, salivating like Pavlov’s dog at the thought of my favorite treat: Sliding into a seat on a plane whose engine and I are humming with gleeful anticipation, ready for takeoff en route to a major city in Europe. In contrast to past years, however, I’m not booking that seat any time in the near future. I come from a long line of fiscally conservative Germans who, faced with grave global uncertainties, choose to forego nonessential adventures while waiting for better times to shake out of the current kaleidoscopic turmoil.

The good news, my fellow travel-deprived sufferers, is that this frugal Fraulein has found a way to get that fundamental travel fix right here in Houston, for free. I figured it out on a singularly beautiful Saturday evening recently, when I found myself exchanging travel stories with other art lovers attending a festive reception at the Laura Rathe Fine Art gallery on Colquitt, in the Upper Kirby District.

At the time, I was laughing over a story a man was telling me about a hotelier’s comical miscommunication of a message, resulting in a series of missed connections with a friend at the foot of the Eiffel Tower. He related this story as we were discussing our mutual appreciation of the film, Before Sunset, which focuses on a romantic rendezvous that takes place in Paris years after a missed connection in Vienna. I don’t know how we arrived at that topic – possibly because the sun was setting, softly backlighting the architecturally elegant neighborhood.

Soon, a man with a charming Jamaican accent who was standing nearby, and his wife, who turned out to be a native of Vienna, joined our conversation, and new travel stories were shared and appreciated. Suddenly, it occurred to me that the monthly Gallery Row opening receptions, held in conjunction with new exhibitions at the galleries lining Colquitt and Lake, take Houston-anchored travelers and art lovers alike on a walking tour through beautiful new vistas.

People who are fond of art love to stroll through galleries and museum exhibitions, to look at the latest creative depictions of interesting vistas. People who love to travel feel compelled to see those vistas for themselves, and will blissfully walk for hours in search of them through the streets of cities in faraway places. Scratch an art lover and you’ll probably find a travel addict, and vice versa.

Art and travel addicts have the same basic nature. We’re compulsively curious, and we share the same constant yearning for a fresh perspective. What we love most is the journey — the search for information about how we can keep accessing new views and gain new understanding of this ever-more-intriguing world in all its beauty.

Happily out of context, travelers tend to exchange funny and informative stories with fellow travelers. We’re eager to tell one another about the wonderful things we’ve seen in a particular place, and help others get there to have the same joyous experience. We’re all enjoying a great big global conversation and adventure, filled with lovely scenarios, joie de vivre, and good will. What better way to feel so convivial, when you can’t leave home, than by taking the monthly Gallery Row walking tour?

Gallery Row opening receptions are held from 6 to 8 p.m. on the first Saturday of each new exhibition, with the next festive round slated for July 10.  But you don’t have to wait until then to see the art at such fine galleries as Laura Rathe, Moody, John Cleary and Thornwood; You can set up your own “tour” in conjunction with each gallery’s regularly scheduled business day.

If you like fresh perspectives, I promise you’ll love this trip, regardless of whether you buy a souvenir, like a friend who views his recent art acquisition as not only pleasing to the eye, but a well-timed investment. Frugal as I am, I must say, I like his perspective!

News_Beyond Sunset_July 2010
A recent Saturday night along Gallery Row evoked memories of the movie, "Before Sunset."
Places-A&E-Moody Gallery-exterior-1
Moody Gallery is one of the art galleries along the Colquitt corridor. Chris Conyers
News_Pauline Ziegen_July 2010
Works by artist Pauline Ziegen will be shown at Laura Rathe Fine Art gallery along Gallery Row on July 10. Courtesy of Laura Rathe Fine Art