Texas Plains Trail
Laredo's bridges, and a bit of birthday bliss on the border
Ju_rez-Lincoln International Bridge_ Laredo
The Juárez-Lincoln International Bridge is one of four vehicle crossings spanning the Rio Grande between Mexico and Laredo, Texas.

The sun is peeking over the horizon
on a mild December morning, and outside my riverfront room at the historic La Posada Hotel in Laredo, I can see that the buses and cars are already backed up on the bridge. Mist rises off the Rio Grande, which snakes away in the distance. To the south the drone of an airboat engine reminds me of the vigilance with which this stretch of the border is patrolled.

Cornerstones_ La Posada Hotel_ Laredo
The preserved cornerstones of the elegantly restored buildings that make up La Posada, tucked away in a corner of a garden, honor the heritage of this place as a site of learning (Laredo High School, built in 1916), a site of spirituality (a 19th-century convent) and a site of sociability (the Bruni home, later the city's first telephone exchange building).
La Posada Hotel_ Laredo_ Texas
While La Posada's balconies overlook the historic San Augustin plaza and the Rio Grande, its lushly landscaped, marbled courtyards invite rest, reflection, and recreation.

But here all is light, and air, and peace. On my birthday morning I write from the hotel-room desk turned to face the open French doors, and reflect on the nature of this fascinating city of a quarter million -- and the equally fascinating, larger, sister city whose shops and steeples I can watch from this vantage point.

Laredo_ City of Saints and Generals
Laredo, Texas, City of Saints and Generals
Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, like its U.S. counterpart, is its nation's busiest inland port. Between these two cities more than $180.1 billion in imports and exports flowed last year, according to the Laredo Development Foundation. In contrast to the growing exchange in goods, people used to cross back and forth more fluidly than now, since increasing drug-related violence on the Mexican side over the last decade has kept many American travelers home.

Still, on a Saturday morning in February, children and dignitaries on foot from both countries will meet in the center of this bridge, in an annual ceremony more than a century old, to exchange abrazos -- hugs -- honoring George Washington's birthday and signifying the long-standing friendship between two countries and two cities. (More on Laredo's unique George Washington's Birthday Celebration later.)

More immediately, the coming days of December, when U.S. schools let out for Christmas break, will bring a stream of Mexican nationals home across Laredo's bridges, says Viola Vasquez, supervisor of the Texas Travel Information Center here. The crowds returning to their homeland for the holidays -- not only from Texas, but from every state in the U.S. -- will face long waits on I-35/US 83 whether they travel by car or by bus, and Blasita Lopez and the Laredo Convention and Visitors Bureau will be ready, with a 24/7 safety rest stop a few blocks from the entry point.

Room service_ La Posada
This week I'll be sojourning here on the border, exploring this vibrant City of Saints and Generals, looking to understand the roots of its distinctive history, its bi-national culture and commerce, its place in myth and art, and the issues with which it grapples today. Along with half a dozen other travel writers and artists, courtesy of the Artsmith organization and the Laredo CVB, I'll have the chance to peek behind the veil, to meet some of the city's leaders in art, industry, recreation, and hospitality.

I'll take you along with me. Follow along here in the coming days as we discover Laredo and seek to appreciate what makes this border city tick.

For today, December 3: after five days on the road, mostly in gray and gloom, it's time for me to recharge the Nikon's battery, polish my binoculars for tomorrow morning's bird-watching trek, get out a fresh notebook and pen, and hang up my clothes to air out.

And it's certainly a great day for room-service breakfast. On the menu from La Posada's top-notch Zaragosa Grill? A fresh fruit tray and the Gov. Ann Richards Omelet (bacon, mushrooms, cheese, breakfast potatoes, refried beans). Hey, whatever was good enough for the former governor of Texas is good enough for me. ¡Buenos días y buen provecho!
Barbara_s TrailBlazer Blog

Follow Barbara's TrailBlazer Blog throughout the next ten days of the Great US83 Whistle-Stop Tour. Looks like icy roads are expected to clear tomorrow, and I'll be heading out.

Barbara Brannon, PhD, Executive Director, Texas Plains Trail Region
Barbara@TexasPlainsTrail.com * Facebook * Twitter @TxPlainsTrail

Follow along on our Texas Fifty-Two-Step Tour
52 cards in a deck. The B-52 Bomber. The atomic number of tellurium. The number of white keys on a piano. The number of weeks in a year. The number of counties in the Texas Plains Trail Region. Travel our scenic highways and byways in 52 counties and 50,000 square miles of the Texas Plains and Panhandle in 2015 -- with our virtual tour guide. And see where it all happened.
Check out the counties we've visited so far in 2015
Traveling in the Lone Star State this winter? Be sure to check TxDOT's DriveTexas.org first!
Bird watching expedition along the Rio Grande
A visit with Viola in the Travel Info Center
Birding on the border
Chili and chorizo spice up a culinary outing
Art Walk, Laredo style
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