Scenes from Marfa -- Part Two

As promised, I’m going to share a little guide to visiting Marfa for those of you that might be considering a trek…

I’m a big believer that one of the things that makes a trip somewhere new most special is what you unearth and discover on your own… But it’s always helpful to go into the “unearthing” with a little head-start, yes? I also feel compelled to mention that Marfa isn’t obvious or slick in any way; rather it’s sleepy and subtle, and, if you're willing to sort of “go with it”, it will completely blow you away. Here goes…

  • El Cosmico – Liz Lambert’s latest genius project is (in the words of Austin architect and El Cosmico Project Manager, Jack Sanders) “part yurt and hammock hotel, part residential living, part art-house, greenhouse and amphitheater" … It was too hot to stay there in August (at least for us), but I think it would be total magic for a spring or fall visit.

  • The Thunderbird – Probably the most oft-recommended place to stay in Marfa, The Thunderbird is a revamped motor-court similar in aesthetic to one of my all-time favorite spots, Austin's Hotel San Jose.

  • El Sueno – We opted to rent a house on our visits to Marfa to allow more room for spreading out with the girlies, and El Sueno was our go-to for both trips. It consists of a large main house which we comfortably shared with another family on our first trip and a cozy casita where just the four of us stayed this time.

  • Hotel Paisano – Most well-known as the place that Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor called home during the filming of Giant, The Paisano is old-school in the best possible way. Even if you don’t stay here, you’ll want to hit up the bar at least once for the stellar margaritas and Shirley Temples (which, much to the girlies’ immense delight, were heavy on the cherries).

  • The Get Go – By far our most frequently visited spot in Marfa…It’s like a perfect über miniature gourmet store meets Whole Foods. It’s a bit pricey, but being able to get organic plums, good wine + cheese, homemade bread and (the almost impossible to find) Dr. Bronner’s Rose soap in the middle of the West Texas dessert makes it more than worth it.

  • Cochineal – Beautiful, simple, spare and really, really excellent food. (It’s sort of the culinary equivalent of Donald Judd’s art.) You have to make a reservation for dinner, but the equally excellent breakfast is a pretty low-key affair. We rode our bikes over there for big plates of French toast, breakfast tacos and eggs benedict both mornings of our stay.

  • The Pizza Foundation – Maybe the best pizza I’ve ever eaten…Truly.

  • Food Shark – A mobile operation that serves (a fantastic) lunch a few days a week in the pavilion in the center of town... Each day we were there, we witnessed a crowd form promptly at 11:30 when the truck opened and the pavilion stayed packed with locals until the truck pulled away a few hours later.

  • The Miniature Rooster – An artful "diner" that serves interesting, “elevated” Southern food infused with some Indian influences…(trust me it works). I had a crazy good trio of beet and arugula salad, roasted cauliflower with capers, and shrimp and grits topped with a poached egg. As a side-note, I caught a glimpse of the contents of their glass-front, walk-in refrigerator on the way to the restroom and it was as beautiful as a Flemish still-life.

  • Art -- Part of what makes Marfa so special is the ability to view high art in the middle of a such a vast and rural place (and decidedly outside of its typical urban environs). It’s startling to move between the stark desert landscape and the series of six army barracks that have been renovated to house Dan Flavin’s giant fluorescent light sculptures or the huge space filled with rows of Judd’s aluminum boxes all reflecting an ever-changing sky. Ultimately it’s this hugely beautiful mash-up that makes Chinati different from anywhere else I’ve ever been. The girls are completely mesmerized by this place.

    Unlike traditional “museums” you can’t just visit Chinati and walk around on your own, rather you’ll need to book a guided tour in advance. They have several options, from hour-long sessions focused on a single artist to a full-day tour that takes you through the entire property. You can also book tours of Judd’s personal studios, libraries and his former home through the Judd Foundation. We’ve yet to do this for fear that the girls are a bit young, but it’s at the top of our list for our next visit. In addition to the profusion of Judd’s work in town, there’s also Ballroom Marfa as well as a number of small galleries.

  • Nature – One of my most blissful moments of our trip was riding our bikes home in the dark after dinner and pausing to gaze up at the star-filled sky (there’s really nothing quite like the majesty of a star- filled west Texas sky). In my core I am drawn to loamy, misty environments rife with fog and towering trees, but somehow Marfa just rocks me in the best possible way. It is achingly beautiful. I would highly recommend carving out an afternoon to drive to Balmorhea State Park for the scenery alone, but, especially in the summer, swimming in the icy cold springs is a must.

  • Shops -- Similar to the restaurant situation, there are just a handful of shops in town, but each one is artful and special (there’s no schlocky pandering to tourists). Don’t miss Buck Johnson and Camp Bosworth’s brilliant art shop, Wrong, Marfa Book Co. (which is unsurprisingly heavy on gorgeous art and architecture tomes), Fancy Pony Land studio and store and Tienda M for beautiful Mexican pottery, textiles and ethereal Dosa dresses. In addition, JM Dry Goods and the tiny gift shops at El Cosmico and The Thunderbird all boast a nicely edited selection of treasures (Bolivian rugs, Turkish towels, candles, cowhides, peasant tops, straw bags, found items, etc…) that feel totally reflective of the region.


SuchSmallSteps said...

Sold! I'm taking the family to Marfa. Every single thing sounds dreamy (plus those photos- wow!)

Kelly Rae said...

Marfa part 1 and 2-so fabulous. Have you gone to Frama/Tumbleweed Laundry? I think their coffee is delicious.

My photos from my west texas trip-they aren't all from Marfa but I thought I would share anyway :-)

Rebecca said...

I'd also recommend the Alpine Lofts (in Alpine)—a little less pricey and quite nice. Jacuzzis in the rooms!

nicole said...

marfa is on the list.

Alexander said...

Oh Yeah beautiful all pics and cute baby. really good posting and nice location. superb
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mominaledo said...

I was looking forward to this post! I hope we make it out there someday soon! You've become such a great photographer! See you soon at Little Bean!

Canoe said...

This is a dream post! Thank you for all the recommendations and photos. I have been thinking about a trip to Marfa since we moved to Austin and first drove across west Texas. Have you ever been during the winter months? It's sad to say that December may be the earliest we could get away, and I have my heart set on a teepee stay. But, that might be freezing.

Jiyoonie said...

once again, awesome post. too bad i won't be going anywhere with my baby twins for what feels like 10 years, but this is definitely on my list :)

Cassie said...

We're going to Texas in October to visit my husband's family in Austin and Houston. This really makes me want to talk them into taking a little road trip once we hit ground, but it's a great distance from those two cities, right? I can only dream...

Ben Smithson said...

I tried to buy a (whole) chicken at the Get Go. They had a couple in the fridge, ready to go. However, the chicken was $20. We had to "punt" that day.

Elizabeth H. said...

We are thinking Marfa for Thanksgiving.

..: Curvy & Petite :.. said...

Nice pictures girl... I went to Balmorrea last year and it was excellent... Nice place to explore!

Great Blog.

Peace & Love.
JImely Rosas.

tracy said...

looks fantastic
thanks for the travel info too
love your blog

emily said...

marfa seems like a place i need to go to. NOW!

The Get Go said...

Glad you love the Get Go! We just celebrated our 4th anniversary in business... quite a feat for Marfa.

And believe me, we wish we could make the prices lower, too. But buying tiny quantities and having them shipped long, remote distances... ouch.

If you ever have any requests before a visit, please feel free to email me any time! I love suggestions, seriously! thegetgomarfa@gmail.com

Hope to see you again soon and often,

The Get Go