Heart of Texas

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Discover the wild west on a trip to classic cowboy country

My love of all things Texan began as a little girl when I watched the film Giant starring Elizabeth Taylor and James Dean. This land of oil, horses, and cowboys seemed like another world, so when the chance came to explore where this film was set, I was there quicker than you can shout “yee-haw.”

My Land in city of Lubbock

I landed in the city of Lubbock, the birthplace of Buddy Holly. The musician died 60 years ago but the town is a shrine to his memory, from his modest granite headstone to his bandmate Jerry Allison’s quaint house where Buddy and the Crickets would meet to write and practice. Next door is the Buddy Holly Center, a permanent exhibition to his life and music.

No visit to Lubbock would be complete without a trip to the National Ranching Heritage Center and museum – this is cowboy country after all – on its 27-acre site.

Lubbock is not short of restaurants and has something to suit all tastes. For authentic cuisine, try Picoso’s Mexican Kitchen, but beware if owner Conchita asks if you would like to supersize your cocktail. The glass is the size of your head and the cocktails are potent. For melt-in-the-mouth brisket head to Evie Mae’s, where you bunch up on picnic tables and get stuck into real Texan barbecue food.
Lubbock ticked off, it was time to explore the wild countryside of the Texas Panhandle and it doesn’t get more breathtaking than the Palo Duro Canyon, the second largest ravine in the country. The colors of the hillsides are enchanting and were given the name Spanish Skirts because of their vibrant shading, much like colorful calico skirts. On the side of the hills are one-room, earth-floor dugouts where cowboys would shelter.

The amazing town of Marfa

From there, head west to the beautiful towns of Marfa, Alpine and Marathon, just under five hours’ drive from Lubbock. Marfa is an enigmatic hub that draws creative spirits, such as the acclaimed American artist Donald Judd who created a permanent art installation here. There is something so evocative about this rural town, with its working railroad, historic courthouse and cattle ranches on all sides; it is little wonder Giant director George Stevens chose it as the location for his sweeping Oscar-winning movie.

Fans must stay in the Hotel Paisano, where the cast stayed during the making of the film. Rumour has it that Elizabeth Taylor, James Dean and Rock Hudson held wild parties in its outside courtyard.
Marfa is also famed for its “ghost lights”. At night, drive out into the desert on Highway 90 to a viewing platform where you might be able to spot mysterious orbs dancing across the night sky. Some say they are UFOs, others that they are the spirits of Apache ancestors, but they remain a mystery.

Avid stargazers will be in cosmic nirvana at Marathon. This quaint town attracts astronomers from around the world as it has the distinction of being a Class 1 dark sky, which is basically as dark as you can get.
Built in 1927, the Gage Hotel on the historic main street offers sumptuous accommodation with rustically decorated rooms. Enjoy exceptional dining outside while millions of stars light up the sky above you.
Further afield, in Alpine, not far from the Big Bend National Park, there’s plenty to do and see. The city is famed for its booming arts scene – there are more than 30 galleries – and its art walks with Instagram-worthy murals on every street corner.

For a hike to remember, take off up Hancock Hill to see “the desk”. Some wily students from Sul Ross State University dragged a desk up the hill as a place to sit and soak up the panoramic views. Here, walkers jot their thoughts down on the notepads left in its drawers. What did I write? Well, you’ll just have to visit to find out.

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