The Colors of Downtown Houston

This past weekend, we went to the Via Colori festival in downtown Houston. Apparently this was the third year the festival had been held though it's the first that comes to mind. Held in other cities like Scottsdale, AZ and Columbus, OH...

The festival will showcase more than 175 artists who will create original masterpieces on the street in a pastel medium. From creation to completion, festival-goers will be able to watch as artists turn asphalt into art. Food, beverages, entertainment and children’s activities will round out this spectacular fall weekend in Sam Houston Park and the surrounding streets of Bagby and Allen Parkway.

It was a gorgeous sunny day with highs in the 60s so just walking around Houston while viewing some amazing work was truly enjoyable. The festival runs for one more day and is sure to return in 2009. Below are a handful of shots from the event...

Treasure Trove of Travel Photos

By now, you've probably heard the news that Google is hosting the Life Magazine photo archive online... over ten million images of every historic subject you can imagine. It's fascinating stuff and a terrible time waster if you want to really dig.

Give then purpose of this site, I thought it would be cool to post some tourist and travel related images.

TWA Stewardess in 1933
American tourist and his guide in Paris, 1957
Cafe patrons in Buenos Aires in 1961
Tourists visiting ancient ruins in Greece in 1959

Musicians entertain travelers in Mexico City Airport in 1958


Hello Kirchner

Seems to me like porteƱos have elevated the use of stencils for graffiti to a whole new level. From still-scarred areas of the microcentro to the buzzing streets of Palermo Viejo, you're likely to come across all kinds of random stencils. Many, if not most, are of a political nature, while others are just odd or amusing. This stencil plays Hello Kitty off nicely with (at the time) Nestor Kirchner. Turned out to be a relatively timeless design now that pension-hungry Kristina is in power. The other stencil was located on a bank building in the microcentro - site of some of the fiercest rioting during the Argentine crisis.


Exotic Food Options in Houston

How about some food updates for Houston?

Let's start with some bad news - one of my favorite Houston restaurants, Bice, is no more. According to My Table's web page, the upscale Italian restaurant restaurant recently closed. I saw this confirmed on the B4-U-EAT web page, as well. Not sure if the economy is to blame or a somewhat poor location. Either way, it's a loss for Houston's dining scene.

Now... let's talk about places that are definitely open. The first is Himalaya... a Pakistani restaurant located at 6652 Southwest Freeway, on the northwest corner of the intersection with Hillcroft. The food at Himalaya is wonderful - so flavorful, abundant and reasonably priced. The family-run restaurant offers a wide selection of dishes. Kaiser and his wife are always willing to provide insight on what to order. The last time I went, I ordered goat keema (he described it as being like goat chili) and daal fry. So many delicious complex flavors and quite a bit of fire, to boot. The special is usually a safe bet and offers a taste of different flavors. I've ordered mutton before, as well, and it was out of this world. Now, should you choose to eat there, the atmosphere can be a bit lacking but, let's face it, atmosphere is not why one goes there. It is all about the food. For more on Himalaya, a 2005 Robb Walsh review in the Houston Press provides more insight.

Since we're talking ethnic food, let's talk about Phoenicia Specialty Foods at 12141 Westheimer. What can I say about this place? If you like Mediterranean food, Phoenicia is heaven. I still can't believe I haven't mentioned this place before. I thought of it earlier today after nibbling on a date filled maamoul (a cookie filled with date paste).

So... how can I describe it? In many respects, Phoenicia is like a typical grocery store - produce, a butcher, bakery, deli, etc. The thing is, you'll find products you would never run across in your typical Kroger. How about a butcher that offers kakta kabobs or soujouk links? Or a bakery that offers delicacies you would typically find in a Lebanese pastry shop? And a deli that has 6 different types of fresh feta cheeses from Greece, Cyprus and Bulgaria as well as homemade marinated string cheese like you might find at a Bosnian restaurant. Of course, you'll have an endless selection of packaged goods, aisles of exotic sweets and even a counter where one can buy various tobacco products to be used in a hookah.

If you're a foodie or just curious about new cuisine, I would just suggest you go check it out and enjoy walking around and taking in the place. I guarantee you'll find something of interest. Check out some pictures of Phoenicia on the she eats blog.


Italy - Always a Cell Phone at Hand

This scene cracked me up when I fist saw it because it was so Italian. That is, in Italy, everyone has a fascination with cell phones... the country has one incidence of cell phone usage on the globe with articles even noting that adolescents often have multiple cell phones. As early as 1999, there were more cell phones in use in Italy than landlines... similar to cell-phone crazed Finland. It could be because landlines are ridiculously expensive in Italy. When I call my aunt in Rome, she's always in a rush to get off since calls are metered, like traditional cell phone plans. Anyway, watching this scene unfold in Villa Celimontana in April 2008 had us laughing. So normal to Italians but so typical, too. Certainly the children and the pony are unfazed.