Monday, March 30, 2015


And Dallas,Texas can back it up. That's right, the movers and the shakers in Dallas put their money where their mouth is. From the big city swank of the Omni to the low key elegant swagger of the Mansion At Turtle Creek, Big D gets an A+ in every category important to travelers, revelers, nomads and vagabonds, young and old. Sleeping? Take your pick from the big city hotels to the smaller places down the road a piece. Architecturally, its not Chicago or New York, but it's friendlier and you don't have a misguided politico/Bloomberg type trying to stop you from buying a big gulp. And, as you might expect, they love big gulps in Big D. From fifty dollar steaks to  killer bbq, Dallas has food for the hungry nomad, blessed or broke. And then their is shopping. I loathe shopping, but, if you are a shopaholic, then you will think you have died and and gone to heaven in Dallas. From the high end North Park to the very hip Bishop Arts District, shoppers of every ilk can feed their retail inner self in Dallas. No-siree! You don't have to be a millionaire to enjoy the delights of one of the biggest cities in the heartland, but don't show up without some cash or at least a fairly large credit limit on your American Express.


This trip began to germinate in my son's mind  when it was announced that the Defending National Football Champs, The Florida State Seminoles, would be playing a kickoff spectacular against The Oklahoma State Cowboys in The House That Jerry Built, The Dallas Cowboys' AT&T Stadium. Jerry Jones is a perfect troubadour for the Lone Star State and he DOES put his money where his mouth is. A cool billion for one of the sports world's most impressive venues. 

Timing is everything. As it turned out, the game was on August 30, and it was within driving distance of where the little lady and I were going to end up on our anniversary trip, from Bartlesville, Oklahoma and The Wright designed Price Tower and the most impressive 21C Art Hotel in the little village of Bentonville, Arkansas. If you want to read my takes on those Vagabond jewels, just click away. After some late night discussions by phone, one thing led to another and BAM!, a family outing was born. And to put the icing and the cherry on our little travel cake, we all agreed that we should head down to Austin after the big game. I won't go into the logistics involved in getting us all from three different cities in one place at one time. What ever did we do before the internet, email, texting etc. etc. etc.? Since I am the almost senior Nomad of the bunch, it fell to me to find some places to sleep that would meet a Vagabond's standards for design, comfort and cost control. 

As an architect and a Nomad, nothing warms the cockles of my heart more than when I stumble upon a re-purposed, recreated or restored once great place, particularly from the 40's and 50's. Well, I landed on just such a place on the west side of Dallas. The Belmont Hotel's web site said it was a completely renovated and updated 1946 Motor Hotel. Reviews were decent and the description gave one the impression of a very hip place with "the best views in Dallas". Now, I rarely put negative reviews on this blog. That's because I am very good at finding exceptional places, if I do say so myself. But, sometimes - this time, the real just didn't match the virtual.

Modernist master Mies van der Rohe said "God is in the details". Unfortunately, The Belmont didn't get the memo. Too many poor details. Too much broken asphalt paving. Too many fading and unpainted wall surfaces. And it took a little too much effort to see the killer views. Finally, the room, though very clean, just lacked the character that could have been brought out with a more creative approach to design and color. Off white yellow just doesn't do it for me - sorry. The bottom line, in my humble opinion, was the bottom line. They should have spent a little more money to bring back to life what was a very cool place sixty years ago. After a lengthy discussion with my favorite traveling companion and the mother of my thirty something children, who would be arriving the next morning,  I had to make a move.


And that's exactly what we did. I have made it abundantly clear in this blog that I generally eschew large hotels. However, just to prove I am open minded and always willing to rethink my position, I went on line and checked out the ever so plush and uppity - are you ready for this? OMNI FORT WORTH! Much to my surprise, hotel central for the big game had dropped the price of the rooms well below their normal usurious rate for the well healed. That's right folks, you can say I sold out, but, alas, the Omni Fort Worth was an anti-furshlugginer kind of place and it was worth every last minute, we lowered the rate because we can, penny!!  And to top it off, we got adjoining rooms for the crew in the hotel that was Seminole Central for the crazies that came all the way to big bad Texas to watch the Indians beat the Cowboys. Kemosabe!

Well, I take back almost everything I have ever said about big hotels. The service was amazing. The rooms were fabulous. And the food was to die for. This hotel, as big as it is, really does aim to please. Arriving back  after the game, along with throngs of happy Seminole fans, very late and very hungry, I could not get through on the room service phone, so I went down to the consierge desk to ask if there were any restaurants still open. After asking what I wanted, the consierge excused himself for about thirty seconds and reappeared with a small writing pad and proceeded to write down my order. Within fifteen minutes of returning to the room, a knock came and the food was delivered. Now that's service! And speaking of food, unless you are anti-carnivorous, you must have a steak at Bob's Steak & Chophouse. It's one of several signature restaurants in the hotel. No need to thank me, just enjoy.

Besides football, cowboys and great steaks, how does Dallas stack up?  Like any large city, you have to do some homework to get into the fabric of the place and move beyond the usual. Dallas is not as hip as Austin, as urbane as New York or as beautiful as Seattle, but it does things its own way, and, if you look, you can find enough good "stuff" to come away feeling good about the town where "big things happen".

The Kimbell Art Museum is a must see for lovers of art and architecture. This small museum boasts world class art and one of the truly great designs by iconic architect Louis Kahn. The new Piano Pavillion by famed architect Renzo Piano adds to the high quality of one of the great museum experiences in America. The Cultural District of Fort Worth boasts a collection of museums, restaurants and entertainment venues second to none.

The Bishop Arts District is a more hip, lower brow collection of galleries, funky furniture stores, great restaurants and interesting people. You can pick up some very unusual finds to spice up your own place and  you won't have to empty your bank account doing it. Great food and great atmosphere make this a must do on your list.

If you want a unique shopping experience, then Highland Park Village is your place. According to The Urban Land Institute, it is America's first planned shopping center. With an eclectic blend of big names and locals, and great architecture, it provides a top tier shopping experience.

And finally, for some serious fun and food, a visit to The Fort Worth Stockyards is worth the side trip. After some great barbeque at Billy Bob's, stop by M.L. Leddy's Boots & Saddlery and pick up a nice pair of custom made $600 boots. Now that will add to your Vagabond Swagger when you get home.

So there you have it. Dallas is definitely worth the trip. Great sports, great art, ridiculous food and, best of all, at least one big hotel that delivers the goods for discriminating vacationistas.

Next up - Austin - Hipsterville, Texas.



Travel Quote of The Week - If you ain't Texan, I ain't got time for you - Kinky Friedman - writer, singer and Texas raconteur.

This Week's Video Artist - LYLE LOVETT. No artist says Texas quite like the ex-husband of Julia Roberts. What was he thinkin'? Check out this video on a great tune with a little common sense explanation by this great Texas Master of Irony - That's Right You're Not From Texas.

Sunday, March 22, 2015


Now I am no Hemingway, but, you have to admit, the title got your attention. No sireee, I would never, ever compare myself to the man who's writing caused my first major paradigm shift. Tenth grade - Leon High - Mrs. Mooney - English Lit -The Sun Also Rises. After that, I realized the world could be experienced on my own terms. And even though I was a slacker during most of my high school years and deep into my college academic journey as well, the writing by a man of such excess and brilliance changed everything. Not all good, some bad, but very much different. 

And Hemingway was no slouch when it came to travel either. If not for Hemingway, most of the world would not know about the famous running of the bulls in Pamplona. His graphic, eloquent descriptions of the running of the bulls and bullfighting in The Sun Also Rises literally put Pamplona's Festival of San Fermin on the world's cultural map. For better or worse, Pamplona has never been the same.

But what, you may ask, does any of this have to do with the urbane, witty writings of a wandering architect in search of heaven on earth? Good question.

The fact that Hemingway stood up while writing speaks to the need for some sort of  device or trick for writers to "keep at it". I mean, I have not written anything since December 25, 2014. Pathetic! Obviously, I need something - anything to motivate me to write. After all, I have a ton of things to write about. Trips to Big D and Hipster Heaven, Austin. An amazing Christmas Trip to The Big Apple and a very cool little hotel just off Times Square. And, I have spent the last three months planning yet another  trip of a life time for the Nomad and his brood. We are going to the land of Picasso, Gaudi, Dali and Tapas. That's right, fellow vagabonds, Espana beckons.I will not run with the bulls, but I will see the famed Guernica, the Sagrada Familia and the land of Don Quixote.

And we have put this trip together like any true Nomad should, with hours and hours of reading, googling and planning. Yes sir, this trip is custom designed by me and mine. No tours or crusies for my crew. No need to "Spend More Time Being There Than Getting There". Getting there is half the fun!

Just as a side note, I have been actually working, designing a uniquely original  and natural house for a trail blazing couple in the flat country of North Central Florida. It has brought back all those things about architecture that make it The Mother Art. I am truly at my best when I am sketching and doing something for open minded clients that will be a part of there lives for a very long time.

I apologize if all of this seemingly random rambling has no apparent point. Blame it on Papa. The point is, I am now back, sitting, standing, pacing, whatever at my laptop to render writings great and small about places in the world that can force your very own paradigm shift. As a matter of fact, I just downloaded The Sun Also Rises to my Iphone for reading before the big sojourn to the land of Hemingway and Cervantes. Chasing Windmills is a worthy pursuit, if you have a great place to stay when you're done.

Ole', Ole', Ole'

D.L. Stafford

P.S. I have redesigned and updated the blog/web site. In addition to a new header, the sidebar now includes updated Social Media Links for vagabonds who just can't get enough. I have also added Popular Nomad Posts for quick access to subjects that other readers have followed. And finally, I have updated the ABOUT, SLEEP, EAT and DESIGN pages. These pages and the other side bar links will help you design and plan your own travel to the best places you want to be.

This Week's Video Artist - KEB MO is a serious blues man that needs to be heard. His tune, I LIKED THE OLD ME BETTER, shown here, will give you some insight into his talents.