The sun blazed down from a Texas sky the colour of faded Levis as we strolled through the streets of the quaint little town of Gruene, Texas. We sought temporary refuge from the sweltering heat in air-conditioned shops selling tee-shirts, antiques, fishing tackle, candy and ice-cream, olive derivatives (really) and souvenirs. There were several inviting bars and restaurants – we had fish tacos and a couple of ice cold beers in a Mexican tavern nestled in a grove of oak trees where a red squirrel sat nearby and scoffed a few nachos. A couple of local wineries are crying out to be tried before we leave town.
The Gruene River Hotel and Retreat is a splendid establishment in the style of a southern mansion sitting in mature grounds on the banks of the Guadalupe River. From the balcony of the Hemingway Room, our home for three nights, we watched a wild red deer munching industriously on the succulent vegetation aware of but unconcerned by our presence. The Hemingway Room was what it says on the tin – large, airy, high-ceilinged and fitted out with manly furniture and paraphernalia reminiscent of the great writer and hell-raiser. A log fire occupied one corner and animal hide rugs were scattered here and there. It was the best of rooms, it was the worst of rooms; sadly it didn’t provide me with any great measure of literary inspiration. One obvious omission was a table or desk on which to work. I’m sure Ernest didn’t sit on the leather sofa with his Smith-Corona plonked on his lap bashing out The Old Man and the Sea.
Gruene Hall is the oldest dancehall in Texas, built about 1878. It’s a barn-like building with a pitched tin roof and open sides and long benches and tables and a stage where most nights a band plays. They get some big names from time to time and you have to buy tickets but this week was all free. Up front is a scruffy bar with a few battered tables and chairs and a plank floor where we had a few beers and listened to a local trio belting it out whilst couples twirled around the dance floor doing the Texas two-step and variations of it.
More on Gruene and the area in my next post. Take care, y’all.