Sunday, July 17, 2011

Destination: Marfa-bulous

* * *
* * *

After two days, six tanks of gas and an indeterminate number Diet Red Bulls, we finally cross into Marfa city limits.
(Marfa, Texas. Population 2,000.)

Up in the sky, a huge gray blimp heralds our arrival.
Boys: It's a spy ship!
Me: What? No, no, no. I'm sure it's some kind of art installation.

(Oh, the naiveté of the Urban Mommy -- of course I am totally wrong. We find out later it was looking for drug smugglers.)

Driving through town, we are immediately aware that this is no ordinary place.
(Claes Oldenberg sculpture, Marfa, 2011)

(Knitted trailer, Marfa, 2011)

(Rush hour, Marfa, 2011)

(Yup. You read it right. Marfa, 2011)

Since there are going to be six of us in toto (the husbands are flying in the next day) we have rented a Victorian adobe house called "El Sueno" smack in the middle of town. It has a big walled garden, a separate guest house in back and is conveniently located next door to the historic Hotel Paisano, which is supposed to have the best margaritas in town.
(House info HERE.)

Sure enough, it isn't long after the menfolk land that they amble over for a pick-me-up.
(Leland and Piero at Jett's Grill, Hotel Paisano)

Their verdict?

"Another round, please."
(Jett's margarita)

* * *
* * *


Here's three ways. Take your pick.

1. Marfa is a bouillon cube of art and culture in the middle of the high Texas desert.

2. If Marfa was a person, it would be a cross between David Byrne and Carrie Bradshaw and be best friends with David Cross and Carrie Donovan.

If I had to come up with a slogan, it would be --

"Marfa. Where everything feels possible."

-- because
beneath that vast blue sky are
all these insanely creative people doing insanely creative things.


Cool people like her.
(Waitress/shopkeeper/stylesetter. I became obsessed with the way she
safety-pinned her vintage dresses into these amazing couture shapes.)

And him.
(100% unadulterated cowboy)

And him.
uthor/raconteur/unofficial mayor Ken Whitley
with yours truly.)

And them.
(Marfa artist Campbell Bosworth and his wife Buck in their church/art gallery)

And them.
(Siblings Wilbur and Joy at the Saturday farm stand



For a complete list of Marfa art galleries and foundations, click HERE and HERE.

One of our favorite destinations was the Marfa Ballroom, run by the fabulous J.D. DiFabbio, which showcases the work of emerging artists. We found ourselves stopping by every day -- to take another look at their current show ("The World According to New Orleans"), to ask J.D. what was going on that day, and to find out who was meeting where for drinks. They're tapped in.
(Outdoor installation, Marfa Ballroom, 2011)

The other was touring the Chinati Foundation, Donald Judd's testament to the power of art amid nature. It's a soul-renewing experience.


Pretty much everywhere. This town takes its food seriously. As my friend Jeanne said on our last day, "We're definitely Marfa-tter than we were when we got here."

There's Cochineal, a Marfa restaurant with an interesting Manhattan backstory (click HERE). It serves simple rustic food and is especially popular for weekend breakfasts. We ate here three times.

There's the Food Shark truck, serving up Mediterranean food by way of West Texas. Crazy good. Try the "Marfalafel."

There's the Miniature Rooster, a culinary fusion of North Carolina and India, the two owners' homelands (I had grits and chole puri.) The tagline on their website says it all: "Small in stature, fierce in flavor."

There's Maiya's Restaurant around the corner from the Hotel Paisano. Moody low-key vibe, fresh seasonal food -- we were trés content.

There's the Pizza Foundation which sells a homemade watermelon-mint slushie that will have you immediately standing in line for another one.

And for coffee that does a brain cell good, there's no better place than Frama (120 North Austin Street). FYI, Frama is an anagram for "Marfa", hence their Scrabble-themed menu board.


My nine-year-old son said it was one of his best vacations ever. Maybe it's because he got to lay pennies on the track on the way to breakfast every morning...

...and then go hunting for them afterwards.

Or maybe it was the free outdoor screening of "Giant" that we were lucky enough to be in town for.
(Marfa town square, 2011)

Or driving out to look for the famous Marfa Lights -- and SEEING them! (Bright flickering orbs whizzing around in the darkness. Honest to goodness.)
(Actual Marfa Lights, 2011.)

Or the daily trip to the Dairy Queen.

Or hitting up Padre's for some late-night pool sharking.


We didn't have near enough time to check everything out (for a complete list of stores, click HERE), but oh, we got some goodies. Favorite stops included JM Dry Goods for curated Tex-ican clothing and handmade Marfa soap...

...and The Wrong Art Store for sculptural wood pieces by artist Campbell Bosworth.

Check out this brilliant replica of the Marfa water tower he made. One smooth difference? His dispenses tequila.

A couple of years ago, Campbell "made" $2.5 million in drug money. This is all that's left.
Pick your stack up now.
(Available HERE)


Lots. We went to the swimming hole in Balmorhea State Park and stopped in Fort Davis for a bite, but next time we'll be sure to visit the McDonald Observatory (and check out their "star parties"), visit the Chinati Hot Springs and drive through Big Bend National Park.


According to everyone we spoke to, almost NEVER as hot as when we were there. (Did you know Marfa is almost a mile high? It's 4800 feet above sea level.) Summers are hot, dry and mostly dealable. But I'm thinking October through June might be the ticket.


Check the schedules of the big foundations like Ballroom Marfa and the Chinati before you go. They each have biannual galas and art openings with big-ticket performers (Sonic Youth played there recently), and apparently, those weekends are non-stop fun.


No trip to Marfa is complete without visiting the Prada installation.
(Prada Marfa, 2011)

* * *

These days, I'm happy to say there's a little bit of Marfa in Hollywood.
(Purchased at Ballroom Marfa)

(Purchased at Wrong Art Store)

(Purchased at JM Dry Goods)

But even better, I left a little bit of "A Bloomsbury Life" in Marfa.
(Prada Marfa, 2011)

Photo credits: Lisa Borgnes Giramonti, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Leland Orser.


Lily said...

Wow, fabulous post, so cinematic! I kept thinking of the landscapes in the movie Paris, Texas and the quirky characters of a Wes Anderson film... And as a long time groupie, I love how your vacation itineraries cross seamlessly from a damp Scottish castle to the dusty tumbleweeds of the Southwest. Thanks again for sharing your adventures!

Dianne said...

Wow! That was not your ordinary vacation. Loved reading about it from my very air conditioned home. :)

P.Gaye Tapp at Little Augury said...

It is a wonderful place-I knew you would purchase something practical and artistic the serving spoon is both, and who knew safety pins could show-my niece does the same thing with great aplomb-somehow the effect is lost on Me.

Vava (aka Virginia) said...

I AM a Texan and knew nada about Marfa. I may go...soon.

Michelle said...

First, it is nice having you back again. I missed "A Bloomsbury Life" while you were away. And now that I think about it, the title of your blog says it all: a group of writers, intellectuals and artists would never settle for an ordinary "Six Flags over Texas" destination vacation, and neither would you. This was much cooler, err, hotter. As a person living in this record breaking heat, I admire your intrepidness. And thanks for telling us about the great restaurants. I admit I am a bit of a food snob, and road trips in this region can be peckish.

Anonymous said...


we needed that visual vacation.

btw, in RL, (in our day job) we once had Carrie Donovan's former office (gasp!) and we still have a photograph of her in a tiny bejeweled frame on our desk.

a goddess. with the best. glasses. ever.

love your blog. have quite the crush on it.


Laura said...

My that is one very blue sky! What cool photos, as every else says, it is quite cinematic. I have to admit I was thinking of buying one of those Prada Marfa photos from One King's Lane a few weeks back, but yours is quite a bit better!

ASL said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ASL said...

your blog...
why am i thinking of minnie ripperton?
"loving you is easy cuz your beautiful"
my favorite? the knitted trailer,
and flat pennies!

Pamela Terry and Edward said...


Angie Muresan said...

Anything or anyplace you recommend Lisa, just has to be fabulous. xx

Bay Area Tendrils said...

Ab fab tour!
Thanks, I've yet to make it to MARFA.
Alice's Garden Travel Buzz

wild thyme flowers said...

Lisa, THIS was a fabulous post ! I so want to go to Marfa. Thank you for sharing your hols with us and I have to say, seeing it through your eyes makes it a "must go/see" destination.

Lisa Borgnes Giramonti said...

I always love your evocative comments. xx

P.Gaye Tapp:
The safety pin thing was seriously off the hook!

Do...and tell me what you think! xx

Michelle: Thank you -- it was a fabulous trip, but it's always lovely to be home -- i missed being able to putter around! xx

teamgloria: you sound pretty fabulous yourself -- and I love that you once shared the same 4 walls as CD -- if those walls could talk, right?! xx

Laura (What I Like): You're welcome to the jpeg if you want. :)

Lisa: That knitted trailer kind of stole my heart, too. Thanks so much for your lovely words! xx

Pamela Terry and Edward: I think you would REALLY like it there. xx

Angie: You just made me blush.

Bay Area Tendrils: Thank you! xx

Lisa Borgnes Giramonti said...

wild thyme flowers:
So glad you liked it, really. I appreciate the feedback. It really is a surreal place! xx

Susan's Snippets said...


is that a real place??

If yes i am so moving leaving chi town without a trace!

ps - thanks for the fab story...

in original abl glory!

24 Corners said...

"A bullion cube of art and culture"...brilliant, as is the whole post! I never thought I'd want to experience 113* heat, but I must say, it would be worth it to experience such an unique and artfully inspired adventure. Luca and his friend will carry this one around with them forever, I wonder how it will manifest itself in their future lives. I absolutely loved the pennies on the track image, it's so frameworthy...I can see it hanging in Luca's room (how many boys get to do that anymore?? Not many!).
Thanks again Lisa for taking us along with you so graciously & realistically on another one of your fabulous trips...this one was totally 'out there' and so much fun! You are just the best!
Happy puttering!
xo J~

debbie bailey said...

I've never heard of Marfa, but I want to go there now thanks to your interesting post. I love artsy places!

Jane Kilpatrick Schott said...

What a fab adventure. It is a Looooong trip but everyday the town gets better.
So many new shops and I love the Fork/Spoon and the Prada shop out in the middle of nowhere.
Brilliant photos.

Julie Anne Rhodes said...

Pre blog post I seriously doubt you could have convinced this city girl that the Texan high dessert would be a desirable holiday destination - now I want to move there for six months to let my imagination run wild, be able to say I dated a real cowboy, and learn to make safety-pin couture!

Jamie Herzlinger said...

Hysterical! You need to publish this for their tourism guide!
Too funny, like a weird Twin Peaks!
Loved it, my favorite post of this week!
Jamie Herzlinger

*Chic Provence* said...

HI girlfriend used to be married to a original one... and she raved about the town too... I'd LOVE to visit but it is truly in the middle of nowhere!!

Thanks for a GREAT post!



Joslyn said...

Marfa is one of our all-time favorite places. we went a couple of years ago with our girlies (then 3 and 5) and they still talk about it. Magical. We're headed back in a couple of weeks to stay in the little casita behind the El excited.

so happy you guys got to meet Buck and Camp...they're awesome, some of our dearest friends.

Chris Columbus said...

We live in the Monkey Place At the end of the road We was doing ok Till one day someone ax You been to Monkey Place No You No How you get there I don't know It don't have no signs and it don't take reservations What road it at the end of I don't know It don't have no signs and it don't take reservations We got to find Monkey Place Must be the place Is How you know I keep hearing about it Seems you got to know somebody Got to have some pull Monkey Place be's full of swells Like me and you We got to find Monkey Place Tried Google Maps They don't even know. Ken

Chris Columbus said...

Living out here on the Marfa Plateau Three hours from Midland-Odesso Three to El Paso One hour from Presidio and Oj hinago We come and go from here to there And to and fro to Austin and Houston Dallas and San Antonio Fo Wo and Timbuk too Like we don't know its too far to go Its just where we live and where we go The price we pay for living in this little town on this beautiful desert plateau in far west Texas Come see us Chick Pro Long about Octo. Ken

Unknown said...

Brilliant! Alas, you put Marfa on the map for me!
Maybe next time we need an extra dose of culture I know where to go!

autoliterate said...

We live in Marfa part of the year; BB did a photo shoot there last year and I am trying to archive every old truck in far-west Texas


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