© Photos by Sherri Tilley
Laura Bush, Former First Lady
Play by the Golden Rule.
Dallas, Texas | Big D
Truly one of the finest examples of what authentic Southern women continually strive to emulate, Former First Lady Laura Bush is not only soft-spoken, kindhearted, and surprisingly humorous, but also hardworking, clever, and fiercely loyal as well. This former teacher and librarian puts into fully-functioning practice the age-old adage of 'doing unto others as you'd have them do unto you' by supporting local civic causes and global humanitarian initiatives. A poised advocate of key cultural issues concerning human rights, women's health, and literacy programs, Mrs. Bush embodies all of the upstanding personal characteristics that one might expect from a highly-respected national role model.
Native residents of the Lone Star State will tell you that
everything's bigger in Texas, and the city of Dallas is certainly no exception. Affectionately known as
Big D, this chic metropolitan area boasts a thriving arts district, dozens of musical entertainment venues, and a colorfully-lit downtown skyline featuring the innovative highway-topping Klyde Warren Park. Local cultural institutions include the fascinating Sixth Floor Museum which presents the legacy of President John F. Kennedy, the no-cost Mary Kay Museum which recounts the history of one woman's dream to enrich lives, and the internationally-recognized Southfork Ranch from the popular television series Dallas.
At the George W. Bush Presidential Center, we sat behind the Resolute Desk in a full-scale replica of the Oval Office, touched an actual beam from the World Trade Center, and devised political strategies as part of the interactive Decision Points Theater. To venture further, we recommend taking a stroll through the two-story butterfly house at Texas Discovery Gardens in Fair Park, surveying downtown sights from hundreds of feet above the ground on the GeO-deck at Reunion Tower, or perhaps taking a VIP guided tour of the Dallas Cowboys’ playing field at the impressive AT&T Stadium because, after all, Southerners do love their football. You might also embark upon a leisurely drive north to the outer suburb of Denton to see an intimate chronology of evolving fashion through the Texas First Ladies Historic Costume Collection at Texas Woman's University which proudly displays seventeen of the forty-two heirloom gowns owned by the University.
DFW sprawls out over miles and miles of urban and rural terrain, so you might consider positioning yourself in Grapevine, Texas, which is centrally located between Dallas and Fort Worth. Its charming historic downtown area, which can be accessed via the convenient Grapevine Visitors Shuttle, features 80+ locally-owned boutiques, art galleries, restaurants, wineries, and shops as well as two 9-foot tall characters known as the would-be train robbers that emerge from the Glockenspiel Clock Tower. A few hours here would be well-spent during an instructional hands-on experience at Vetro Glassblowing Studio or the creatively stress-reducing Painting with a Twist where our whimsically-delightful instructor gave step-by-step directions to a studio full of non-artists and we all walked away with our own individually-completed works of art.
Alternatively, hop aboard a 1920's Victorian-style coach on the Grapevine Vintage Railroad which can be ridden seasonally along the Cotton Belt Route over to the historic Fort Worth Stockyards, a walkable entertainment district which features the world's largest honky-tonk Billy Bob's Texas, the Stockyards Championship Rodeo, a Cowtown Cattlepen Maze, and the Fort Worth Herd Longhorn Cattle Drive where genuine cowhands lead a herd of Texas longhorns down Exchange Avenue each day. While you're tooling around the area, the Sundance Square shopping development and beautiful Fort Worth Water Gardens in nearby downtown are also worth a visit.
With thousands of dining options in the DFW area, wide selections of suitable restaurant choices are available, many headed by well-known celebrity chefs. But for the best in authentic Tex-Mex cuisine, El Fenix is the place to go. This oldest Mexican restaurant chain in the United States is a personal favorite of ours not only for its perfectly-seasoned tortilla soup and well-known weekly enchilada specials, but also for its famous tostada chips, fire-roasted queso, salsa picante, and pecan pralines that are all available for packaged sale at the restaurant and online.
With its rustic elegance and down-home charm, the authentically southern Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center overlooking Lake Grapevine sits on 4.5 acres of lush botanical gardens and winding waterways underneath an elaborate climate-controlled glass atrium. Our well-appointed suite with inward-facing balcony at this oversized resort was paired with top-notch room service and an exquisite 50-minute full-body customized massage at the nationally-renowned award-winning Relache Spa. The hotel's exclusive western-themed Paradise Springs resort pool is open seasonally and features a lazy river and waterpark adventures along with lawn games, sunbathing decks, private cabanas, and full-service pool bar and grill.
With buses departing regularly from the Gaylord, the highly-recommended Grapevine Wine Tours are absolutely ideal for a girl's afternoon or evening excursion. Each trip incorporates several wine tastings along Grapevine's Urban Wine Trail as well as lunch or dinner at one of three upscale wine venues like Winewood Grill where the crusted ruby red trout we ordered along with the warm cookie-filled dessert brownie topped with creamy vanilla ice cream were both mouthwateringly delicious.
Although the Texas Rose Festival and springtime Mad Hatters Tea are fantastic annual events for stylish women to attend, the State Fair of Texas is the city's crowning glory when it comes to local events. Each fall, the Fair showcases a host of livestock competitions, automobile shows, musical performances, and award-winning recipes; but no two culinary titles are coveted as much as the Big Tex Choice Awards handed down to the onsite food concessionaires who concoct the Best-Tasting and Most-Creative dishes ... which, as any good fair-going Texan knows, are generally deep-fried.
From the teased up blonde hair of partying young socialites to the well-heeled shoes of elegantly refined women perusing designer fashions at NorthPark luxury shopping center, Dallas is well-versed in glitz and glamour. Lipstick-toting pageant-ready southern belles with gently-fading Texas twangs welcome strangers with a warm smile and a bit of sass, while stately mansions of landmark grandeur are sit alongside ultra-contemporary high-rise architecture for an overall ambience that is not likely to disappoint first-time guests visiting the area.
Our full review of the Toyota Avalon Hybrid Limited, which was driven on this 3,000-mile trip through six southern states, examines ten unique aspects of the practical yet elegant upscale sedan.
We chose the Toyota Avalon for this trip in large part due to its nimble drivability, exceptional fuel economy, and upscale luxury features. With suitcases neatly packed away in the hybrid's 14 cubic feet of cargo trunk space and sunglasses conveniently accessible via the easy-to-reach overhead console, we set out on the journey ahead with just one touch of the push-button start ignition. Tailored to the driver, the Avalon Limited's cockpit offers a premium leather-trimmed tilt/telescoping steering wheel and comfortably supportive seats which provide a near-custom fit. The 10-way power-adjustable driver's seat is outfitted with lumbar support and a power seat extension for added leg support in the thigh region. Temperatures in the south can fluctuate toward both extremes, and the perforated leather-trimmed heated and ventilated front seats of this well-appointed sedan make muggy days and chilly nights a little more bearable.