Thursday, May 24, 2018

Texas | Marfa Guide (part I)

After Houston and Austin, it was time to head to the desert, get out of the city. We stopped in San Antonio to see the Missions, did some mandatory shopping at a massive outlet shopping center, and continued our trip towards the desert. This post is all about the third leg of our trip: Marfa, the crazy art town in the middle of the desert. A place I'd been looking forward to visiting the most! 

There are two roads that lead to Marfa from San Antonio, the I-10, and the US-90. The former is about 30 minutes shorter, but we took the latter since it's the "road less traveled", which means we were pretty much on our own, on the road, for several hours. Passing by small deserted ghost towns, with the Mexican border right beside us. The only sign of life we saw was the Amtrak train which came rushing past every hour or so. 

Marathon, Texas 

After hours of driving we finally passed through a town that felt a little more lively, so we stopped for a coffee (at a place called V6, which was excellent). Marathon only has about 400 inhabitants, and apart from the funny name and The Gage Hotel, there's not much to see or do here. The Gage Hotel is definitely worth a look, and I would even recommend staying here because it felt really authentic Texas, almost like in a movie. We had other plans and continued our trip to Marfa. 

Arriving in Marfa 

If you've never heard about Marfa before, here's a small summary. It's one of the most remote towns in the high desert of Texas, yet one of the most visited by the art-loving crowd. The town with a population of 2.000 has gained somewhat of a mythic status over the years, many due to it being a cultural hub for contemporary artists, which is largely thanks to Donald Judd (but I'll get back to that in the next post). Everything in Marfa is kind of catered towards its visitors, but all run by locals. I can't think of any place that compares to Marfa, it's quite unique. Upon our arrival in this little town, before we could check into our hotel, we walked and drove around, exploring every building and shop we stumbled upon. 

Hotel Saint George
After some snooping around town, we finally checked into our hotel, Hotel Saint George. This is by far the most modern hotel in Marfa, so it kind of stands out. It feels like you could be inside a boutique hotel in SoHo, easily making you forget that you're in a tiny desert town in Texas. The rooms were very comfortable, with super plush bedding and Aesop toiletries. But I must add that our booking didn't get through as it should have (they booked 1 room with a double bed for 5 people), and this was handled in a very bad way. We intended on staying two nights, but this wasn't possible. Because of several things that happened, I really think the hotel isn't being managed in the right way at the moment, which is a real shame because it's a lovely hotel. I'd still recommend it to you since we truly enjoyed our (short) stay here. 
> 105 S Highland Ave, Marfa, TX 79843

Bar Saint George
We had a quick lunch at the hotel bar, where they serve food and drinks pretty much all day. We had a couple of salads (my brother a burger), which were good but nothing special. The hotel also has a more upscale restaurant which we didn't end up trying due to our poor experience with the hotel staff/management. 

Bar Nadar Pool + Grill
Now, for the best part about Hotel Saint George: the pool. This pool is accessible exclusively from 10 AM till 4 PM, after which anyone from outside the hotel is also welcome to join. We enjoyed the pool two days in a row since it was the perfect refresher after visiting museums and art installations in the desert all day. Mind you, Tuesday is "family day" which means lots of local families come to visit the pool (which can get quite loud, speaking from experience). They serve food and drinks by the pool too, which is great since the hot sun and cool water paired perfectly with some frozen margaritas! 

Marfa Book Co. 
Another cool part about the Saint George is the independent bookshop, which is located next to the hotel lobby. It has a ton of books, mostly linked to Marfa's art scene. But you can also find cool posters, Aesop products, and other cool gifts/merchandise which you can take home. 
> 105 S Highland Ave, Marfa, TX 79843

Prada Marfa
Since we didn't do any major cultural visits on our first afternoon in Marfa, we decided to drive out to the Prada Marfa store, which is actually not located in Marfa but about 30 minutes (42 kilometers) outside next to a town called Valentine. Unlike what you might think, this isn't actually a functioning store, but merely a permanent art installation by Elmgreen and Dragset. There's a shop window in which you can see Prada handbags from 2005 when the installation was created. It's really surreal to find this tiny Prada shop in the middle of the desert. We heard the perfect time was to go around sunset, and it really was, since we were the only people there! We hung around and took pictures for 20 minutes, but there's not so much to see. This installation is pretty iconic for Marfa though, so it's worth the drive! 
> U.S. 90, Valentine, TX 79854

Jett's Grill at Hotel Paisano
After visiting Prada Marfa, we arrived quite famished to Marfa, realizing that most restaurants stop serving food around 8 or 9. If there's one thing we learned, is that Marfans eat early. Luckily, Jett's Grill at the iconic Hotel Paisano (just down the road from our hotel), was still serving food. I didn't expect it, but the food was great here, namely the steaks. I had a portobello burger which was delicious, but I think the meat really stands out here! The staff was also extremely friendly. Hotel Paisano is generally a nice place for a drink, meal or even a stay! 
> 207 Highland St, Marfa, TX 79843

I hope you enjoyed part one of my stay in Marfa. The next two days we did a TON, so I will follow up with two more blogs about Marfa, my favorite place in Texas.

© whiskers & lions

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