Thursday, August 13, 2015

Astronaut Crazy

You may be aware that my sister lives in Houston. Specifically, the Clear Lake area of Houston.  Know what's in Clear Lake?  NASA.  The Johnson Space Center. I mean, it's like 10 minutes from her house.  I think that's really cool. Every time I'm there, I find myself picturing the astronauts of "the day" (Armstrong, Lovell, Aldrin) cruising the palm lined NASA Road 1 in their spiffy little 'vettes and Spitfires. Livin' the celebrity life in a big huge way.

The first week of August, the little one and I flew to Houston for her to attend engineering camp at NASA. She and my niece had the ultimate summer day camp experience and I got a week of quiet reading time, days at the pool, lunch breaks with my sister.  It was really awesome. I asked Katherine one day, "surely there is a neighborhood around here that was built for the astronauts back in the 50's or so, right?"  Yes. Yes, there is.  It's called El Lago and I had to see it.

We rode over one day to "stalk" the old astro's houses.  I'm sure the people who currently live in El Lago are totally used to it.  Here are some photos:

Neil Armstrong lived here

Jim Lovell & Buzz Aldrin lived here; not at the same time however!
Ed White (1st American to walk in space) lived here; right next to Armstrong's old house
Fred Haise (Apollo 13) lived in this little cutie
This one is pretty special. Ron McNair, Lake City, SC native who perished in the Challenger explosion in 1986. I was home sick from school that day & saw the whole thing on TV.

So, after my extraterrestrial real estate tour, it was only fitting for us to have lunch at a little joint known as "Frenchie's."  

Not much to look at, but don't let that fool you!
This is one of those old school Italian restaurants whose decor is original, I'd say circa 1950. You walk in and there are dudes sitting at small tables by the door just chatting in Italian. You order from a man at the counter who then calls out the order to the kitchen via microphone, and then you select a table in the dining room. And, here's the thing. This was/is the astronaut hang-out.  There are autographed photos, posters, memorabilia EVERYWHERE. The place is only about 2 minutes from the space center (the JSC, the locals call it) and it's the bom-diggity of old, not-changin'-our-ways restaurant. 

Katherine thinks to herself "oh, I'm not really that hungry. I'll just order something light, like a sandwich."  She opts for the muffaletta. Sandwich, yes.  Light, just what the not-so-hungry lady wants, not so much!  Check out this bad boy...

As my husband would say, if I threw this at you, I'd knock you off your bicycle!
 It was huge but delicious!  The bread was homemade and fresh. The meats were yummy and the olive salad was better than any other muffaletta I've ever had.

But what about me?  I was feeling pressured from the specials menu, to the regular menu, not knowing the procedures (it's like your first experience at the Beacon) so I just blurted out "I'll have the spaghetti marinara!"  Now, folks, I think the last time I ordered spaghetti in a restaurant I was probably 5 years old.  But what caught my eye was "capers and olives." I'd sell my soul to the devil for capers and olives.  Holy Moly, people!  This was by far, the best spaghetti I've ever eaten. The sauce was fresh, bright red with fresh tomatoes, loaded with capers and Italian olives.  But the real surprise that hit it all home was that the sauce had this spicy undertone that caught up on you.  It was magnificent.
I can hardly look at this. My mouth is watering.
 So, lesson here?   If you go to Houston, downtown is cool and all, but you must go to Clear Lake to see all the coolness surrounding the Space Center.  Plus, it's on the water; you can get great, fresh seafood anytime. Stalk the old astronaut's neighborhood and get some damn good grub too. And don't forget, Galveston is only about a half hour away, so you can get some beach time too!  No shark attacks there this summer. :-)


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