Observations from Fredericksburg, TX
Book research done, Miss D. and I will be moving on today, heading for San Angelo, where Fort Concho was one of a chain of military installations that protected the West from Indian predations. The fort is well preserved, with many exhibits from the frontier era that provide fruitful material for writers.
Here in Fredericksburg, I was very glad to see the National Museum of the Pacific War again. It was excellent when I first visited it about twenty years ago, and it's improved since then, with some new exhibits and changes to old ones that make it an even more immersive experience. I'd have to say it's one of the five best-focused museums I've ever visited. This was Miss D.'s first time there, and she was visibly moved by much of what she saw and heard. If you haven't seen it before, the Museum on its own is more than enough to justify a visit to Fredericksburg. If you want to go through all the exhibits and facilities with real attention to detail, plan on two days for that alone.
Fredericksburg itself has not changed physically too much (the central district, at least), but its atmosphere has, and not for the better. It seems to have become an ostentatiously tourist destination, primarily for people from the Austin and San Antonio areas. Large groups of noisy, sometimes inebriated visitors wandered the sidewalks and filled the many restaurants. When I was last here, the number of tourists was smaller and they were better behaved. This year . . . not so much.
The restaurants have certainly deteriorated. Fredericksburg's eateries used to be famous for authentic German cuisine, but catering to the high volume of tourists has changed that. The names of the dishes on the menus are the same, but the quality of the food has declined. It's produced assembly-line-style by cooks who are rushing to cater for the volume of customers, and it shows. A German restaurant I recall with fondness from a previous visit now offered only mediocre food quality, and another was too touristified to be enjoyable.
There was one very tasty exception to this rule, an Italian restaurant called Pasta Bella, recommended by reader MSG Grumpy in a comment to yesterday's blog post. Their staff were just as rushed as anybody else, but they had more of them, so they were able to keep up; and the quality of their food was notably better than anything we'd eaten elsewhere on this trip, fully up to our high expectations. Miss D. and I give Pasta Bella our unhesitating seal of approval.
I was struck by the number of vineyards and wine producers in and around Fredericksburg. There must be dozens of them, if not scores! Wine tastings (at stupid prices) were offered seemingly in every second or third building on the main drag, and any number of tours of wineries were on offer. I can't help but think that's a very, very oversaturated market, particularly in an economic downturn. I can't see many small wineries surviving in a high-inflation environment - they simply aren't big enough to have the economies of scale needed to keep heads above water. It's as if everybody and his cousin all decided to open their own winery, never mind the fact that the market's already vastly overcrowded. Oh, well . . . it's a free country, and if they want to spend their money on that, good luck to them.
(That said, we did find one place offering tastings of South African wines, which I remember with great pleasure. We gave them a try, and ended up buying a mixed case of several varietals and vintages. Expensive, but very tasty, so we indulged ourselves.)
So far, so good. Onward!