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Last weekend, I caught up with some friends from my graduate program that I haven’t seen in some months. For some, it was the first real opportunity to actually go out and mingle with others in a public setting. This following weekend, we kept the momentum of last week, and brought it here for a day trip out into the Texas hillcountry.

There was a holiday event at 290 Wine Castle, which was a Halloween haunted castle wine tasting. So, we booked an early afternoon tour which gave us time afterwards to explore other places if we wanted to. The drive over there was rather scenic and peaceful. Maybe it was the change of weather, or the gloomy skies, but some of us were still tired until after this event.

Upon arrival, the castle looked pretty decent considering there’s no real castles in Texas. The little moat under the walkway to the front door, however, left much to be desired. Inside, we found ourselves in a big room with adjacent rooms around for private parties. The bar in the middle of the room had people lined up for drinks, and upstairs were more private party rooms. After walking around the grand room, glancing over the gifts one could buy, we were called to get ready to enter the Dungeon.

After hearing the instructions, we proceeded downstairs in the basement of the castle. I underestimated how dark it would be for my camera, as I could not take any decent photo or video; unless I wanted the flash to bother other individuals there. If I had to summarize the experience: short. I knew there would be three tastings of wine throughout the journey, but I thought the walking path would be longer. Pretty much, we went through 3-4 different rooms and tried wine. It was complimented with some candy, which were good, as well as puzzles/riddles to solve to move on to the next area.

I even managed to solve the last puzzle, which was to find the key to escape the dungeon. We got to keep the complimentary glass, as part of our experience, but the $35 felt a bit much for what we got. It also didn’t help that one of the other guests in our experience group was just not into the “haunted” theme, and kept wanting to move forward so that may have impacted the overall enjoyment of it. Perhaps charging $25 would’ve been better for this establishment, but after that brief adventure we made our way to the balcony to enjoy the countryside views. Loads of other people were there, either on big wine tour buses or just regular visitors, as they took their selfies on the deck and chatted away. Still tired, the cheese and meat went well with the crackers and honey appetizer we ordered. Some of us began to slowly wake up finally, and we decided to move on to the next place to check out.

Leaving one car behind, so we can all ride together, we went to another winery place. There two of our group members took the “wine tour”, while encouraging a friend and I to take the “whiskey tour”. I honestly thought we’d be taking a tour of the distillery in the back, but all it turned out to be was just going to a back bar room to try a few small samples of whiskey and moonshine. It was not too bad, as I liked the interior design of the place with it’s musically-inspired motif. After the tasting, we went outside to relax in the cool weather. The sun finally poked out, as some friends started talking relationships. It started to get annoying, at which point, the singer from inside the bar came out to have a drink. Suddenly, we may have dragged her into the conversation or, perhaps, she barged in on it herself but it led to her talking about her past two weeks and how she was broken up with out of nowhere.

Has that ever happen to you where you run into a stranger and instantly just share stories, connect about it, and then just carry on your own way? It’s such a unique thing, because a part of you wants to continue talking while another part of you is ready to go resume life. A reminder of the people who are there briefly, mid-term and long-term in your life. Anyway, after talking with the singer, they moved their stuff outside to perform as a bus of wine enthusiasts turned up. That was our cue to leave, and we ventured onward to the lonely house up on a hill.

I remembered seeing it on the drive to the castle, and I thought it was such an odd place for someone to build their house. Little did I know that it was more of a winery place than it was a home, although I get the feeling the owners do live there. This winery on a hill is called Arc de Texas, and it was such a chill spot to be at during the later afternoon. The time that we went was relatively quiet, and as we walked in through the left door we met the people running the bar. After perusing around to see what they had, we got our drinks and crossed the breezeway to the right side of the building where the elevator was. From there we took the lift up to the fourth floor, and behind the door we came the views of the country at an even higher altitude.

This is one of those times I wish I was able to upload videos on to my blog posts, because I would share with you the panoramic views I saw from up high. At the same time, this was one of those times where you know the views are better seen in person. One guy even brought a flying drone to capture the views of the landscapes. I hope to someday have my own drone, or professional camera, as it would help with providing better travel imagery for you all. After talking some more up on the rooftop, it became more apparent that one of our members was getting a bit tipsy so we decided that it was time to get some actual food in our bellies. But first, we had to figure out just where exactly were we going to eat. A quick Google search on the maps, and one place stood out to me. I’m not sure why it stuck out to me, but I checked if they were open to the general public (which they were) and said let’s go here. And so off we went to the semi-final spot of our trip.

Camera doesn’t do justice for the amazing view this was.

Whenever you visit small towns, they each have their own charm about them. I didn’t get to see much of Johnson City’s charm, but once I stepped inside Pecan Street Brewing I could instantly feel that southern hospitality I love. The waitresses were kind and helpful, and everyone in the restaurant seemed to be enjoying themselves. As we found a table outside, we couldn’t help but enjoy the backyard garden decor with benches and pumpkins around. A little patio where the band was about to play was also there.

The first thing we ordered was appetizers of chips and salsa. We got two salsas – cheese and red salsa – and it was obvious the cheese was the favorite among us. It went down so fast, I wish I could say it was because of me but it wasn’t. I knew instantly what I was going to order. When it comes to me and trying out new restaurants, I like to see if they have my go-to meals. Not because I am afraid to try new things, but I like to compare what I consider to be great meals with this new one. If it’s great, or even better, well you have a loving and loyal customer. After which, I am open to trying all the new meals there. If they have no go-to’s, or I’m just feeling dangerous that day, then I will try new food. But if you’re in Texas, one dish you probably will hear often and must try is the chicken fried steak.

Paired with mashed potatoes and sizzled okra, it was simply amazing to eat especially since I was quite hungry from the day of tasting drinks. I will admit, I was hoping to get either mac & cheese, or baked beans as a side instead of the okra but it wasn’t that bad. Not as good as Smoke Shack’s okra, but I enjoyed it. We did some more talking and had a few laughs, and before we knew it our meals were basically finished. The band just started to play as we were paying our bills. A part of me wanted to stay and listen, but after a big meal like that some of them had to go for a walk. We didn’t get far, due to the time, but we crossed by some nifty little shops along the street. Again, each town has a charm and I could see the artistic vibe this town was throwing at me. From the statues, to the art, to the design of some buildings I knew I would have to explore more in-depth this hidden gem some other day.

As the sun was starting to set, we decided to make our way back to the castle to get into the rest of our cars. From there, we parted ways and drove back home an hour and a half away. What’s in store next? Well, there’s talks about maybe going camping out in West Texas in the coming weeks with Fall weather officially staying. One even suggested spending a weekend in Las Vegas. I can’t imagine how I’d be at the blackjack table if I get on a hot streak. With a Halloween party coming up at another friend’s place, it might provide a chance to further discuss what would be next. But I also haven’t forgotten my personal idea, which I will discuss in a future post about when I see myself flying abroad. Though, with recent news of countries shutting down again, it may alter some things but we will see. For now, Johnson City was an interesting town to visit. I only saw glimpses of it, but it’s charm was just enough to make me want to go back there again soon. . .

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