By Anita FInley
Only 70 miles away from San Antonio, Fredericksburg is an historical gem. Settled by German immigrants around 1855, it has many of its current roots still flourishing from those early settlers’ traditions. Known as the Hill Country, this Texas area is loaded with arts and crafts, wineries, culinary experts, a world class museum President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Texas White House and lots more!.
Small towns have been popping up all across the country, to challenge social media and to bring back the personal touch of their historical values that are stored in and around those areas. That is why Fredericksburg, a town of about 10,000, is thriving. If you like wineries, this area has become known as a gem for vineyards promoting wines that make excellent sparking wine and all the other popular varieties. Who would have attributed the Texas climate and soil to be so perfect to grow grapes? What made it so inviting was many of the wineries had charming and lovely tasting locations, along with special cheeses and snacks to add to the festivity of the tasting. Two special locations I visited was the Becker Vineyards store (housed in down town in an old Buick showroom) (www.becker.com) and Heath Sparkling Wines, located in a new contemporary building, showing their video enlightened us about the entire process of growing to final packaging. (www. heathsparkling.com)
One of the two activities that I especially enjoyed and learned so much from was visiting the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park. President Johnson was a mixture of great strength as a politician and his strong family values from being reared in this area. His grandparents and other pioneers taught him the simple life that he never forgot. Today, one can see where he lived as a young boy and also see the Texan White House. So many remembrances of his life on the ranch: barns where his old cars are still stored, where the Secret Service and press stayed while he was there, the other plane he traveled in and the cemetery where he and his forefathers are buried. Impressive were First Lady “Lady” Bird’s influence in the miles of wildflowers here and across the state’s highways and as a hostess to so many important visitors. Most of this park land was donated by President Johnson, and is still a small working ranch. The Park Service tour was enlightening and fascinating with bits of information shared that is not commonly known. One item was that Vice President Johnson had arranged for President Kennedy and First Lady Jacqui to come over to his ranch for a celebratory dinner after the parade in Dallas. The Secret Service informed the Vice President of the tragedy and the Vice President was then strongly protected as he was flown to Dallas. When you travel to Fredericksburg, be sure to save a full day to see all the treasures preserved there. (www.nps.org)
The other fascinating visit was touring the National Museum of the Pacific War, especially since the movie, “Midway,” just came out. Named after Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Commander-in-chief of Allied Forces, Pacific Ocean Area, who lived in Fredericksburg was the “native son” and appropriate for the museum to be built there. The museum shows in great detail the triumphant and tragic story of the Asiatic Pacific campaign of WWII . Its dramatic architectural \design and space allocation allows for planes and military vehicles to be displayed in close view, making it all seem so real. “From the seeds of conflict to Pearl Harbor and the Japanese surrender,” it’s like walking through history. It’s, truly breathtaking! Every veteran especially will appreciate the tour of the National Museum of the Pacific War, a one-of-a-kind military museum in the United States. (www.pacificwarmuseum.com)
The true history of Fredericksburg is told in their Pioneer Museum. So much has been preserved, which enables the visitor to see how simple the life was for the German immigrants, yet how they survived on their ingenuity, hard labor and community. Starting as a tribute to the courage and vision of the Fredericksburg’s founders, Vereins Kinche was built soon after the first German settlers arrived. It was the first public building, serving as the town hall, school, fort and a church for all denominations. Their staff explains each detail of the displays and one can truly hear and see what the pioneers faced each day to stay alive and thrive. (www.pioneermuseum.net)
Small town and world class artists have found their home here in Fredericksburg. Every Monday night the galleries are open with the artists holding court and sharing their specialties. All of this takes place on Main Street with a few exceptions of some galleries off the main drag. One of the artists who impressed me was Catherine Massaro. As many of the galleries house an assortment of artists, Massaro displays all of her own art, from oil paintings, monoprints, assemblage, collage, photography and jewelry. She is quite diverse and enthusiastic. (www.Facebook.com/cmassarostudio). Artisans, another major gallery on Main Street, describes itself as a Texas Gallery of Fine Art and Fine Crafts by Texas artists. A variety of extremely talented artists are waiting for fine art patrons to purchase the art. (www.artisanstexas.com)
Appetites were totally satisfied with the extensive display of eateries. Some were down home plain and others were epicurean. But all the food was homemade and absolutely delicious. The best feature for me was dining and listening to the founder, Mark H. Wieser, talk about how their company. Fischer & Wieser, got started. Their motto,”Inspiring Your Culinary Adventure” is a perfect analysis of who they have become today. Their store/kitchen/grounds were extensive and I was so impressed with the Mark’s presentation explaining about how working on this piece of land, helping his father sell peaches on the roadside, they realized that they had more to offer. His mother made peach preserves and they began to put them in jars and ship them out. Sales were astonishing. Mark spoke with such enthusiasm about what they have now created with forming a partnership with Case D. Fisher, who runs and manages this growing company. They now produce and sell fruit preserves globally. The highlight of the evening was their epicurean meal prepared by their chefs and assisted with some of our journalists. Red cabbage and weinerschnitzel was devoured and enjoyed. A perfect affair was had by all. (www. jelly.com) Another restaurant, Otto’s German Bistro had gourmet food such as osso buco, served in an elegant way. The young, exciting entrepreneurs, owning a few other specialty restaurants there, like Tubby’s Icehouse, sees a big future in the tourist business. But it was Bejas, where country food, a live band and western music was the perfect way to end an evening. Couples dancing the two step, tables filled to capacity and lots of laughter and singing was enjoyed by all.. Go with your boots on and kick back.
Luckenbach, Texas…What a fun place! Eight miles outside of Fredericksburg, it was established in 1849 and had the smallest post office. This well renowned dance hall and general store is a must on your itinerary. Live music7 days a week is their signature card. Famous singers and strummers have found a place there such as in 1976 when Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings had their classic country hit made there. It’s open air, with tables and benches to just sit and listen to the country sound. The main store is a must. You can buy cowboy hats, shirts and all kinds of fun memorabilia. (www.luckenbachtexas.com)
I am saving the best part of my trip for last since I can still smell the breakfast being prepared by the owner/host of Magnolia House m the B&B I had the extreme pleasure of staying for the four days I was in Fredericksburg. I have stayed in B&B’s before, but this was the crème de la crème. Run by Phil and Tomora Wood, it was perfection. Some of the other guests there returned each year. They were from all over Texas but knew that the pleasure they would get at this most hospitable, attention to detail respite was not to be believed. Everything one could want while on a trip or vacation was found in my bedroom, bathroom, the formal living and dining room and sun porch. Breakfast was Phil’s specialty and what you see in this photo are as the first course: mixed berries with lavender and honey syrup with whipped cream and homemade lemon sugar sprinkled on top. It was followed by homemade banana bread with pecans grown from their farm. The main course was Magnolia Egg Supreme which was country baked ham with baked egg served in a souffle of cream cheese, chives and herbs de Provence, French toast with Grand Marnier, and roasted potatoes. With this kind of breakfast, as you can imagine, reservations are hard to come by. Boy was this worth the entire press trip! (www.magnolia-house.com)
There were eight journalists/photographers who spent early morning to late evening being wined and dined and toured with gracious hosts. We were transported back and forth to every winery, attraction and our luxurious hotels/residences/B&B. This press tour was especially fascinating and different because of the variety of its opportunities to learn and write about. Thanks to the Fredericksburg Convention and Visitor Bureau, and their main guide, Sean Doerre, it was an enjoyable adventure. This great trip was arranged by Geiger & Associates PR. Put Fredericksburg on your bucket list!. (www.visitfredericksburgtx.com)