How the West Was Won-Derful! Travel Think of Texas and It Conjures Up Images of the Wild West and Cowboys in Stetsons. but America's Second Biggest State Is Changing Rapidly, as Reporter Wendy Horton Found out When She Visited Dallas, Austin and San Antonio

Article excerpt

Byline: Wendy Horton

BROUGHT up on old Western movies where John Wayne ruled the plains, and being quite a romantic, I could envisage myself riding off into the sunset with some Texan cowboy.

So when I got off the American Airlines plane at Dallas Fort Worth airport after a 10-hour flight, I was a little surprised at the absence of anything remotely ranch-like.

Yes, there were similarities with the Dallas skyline made famous by the 1970s hit soap opera which took the city's name but there was a clear lack of 'Ewing' familiarity.

In fact the famous Ewing family ranch is quite a few miles out of town and almost forgotten to those now flooding into the rapidly expanding city.

Dallas is the ninth largest city in the USA, with a population of 1.2 million. More than six million live in the wider Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area.

One thing that did take me back was the importance of art and culture in Dallas.

Even its airport, which has just recently seen flights arriving direct from Cardiff, is awash with art sculptures.

The Dallas Art Museum is just one of the many museums in the city dedicated to preserving some of the country's heritage.

Established in 1903, the museum has an collection of more than 23,000 works spanning 5,000 years of history.

Another museum which is definitely worth a visit is the Sixth Floor Museum which chronicles the life and legacy of assassinated President John F Kennedy.

The museum is actually housed in the old Texas School Book Depository where it is generally accepted the fatal shots were fired on the presidential motorcade on that fateful day on November 22, 1963.

The museum is a very popular attraction with some of Dallas' 22 million annual visitors.

There's plenty of food and drink on offer in the city too, such as the Sambuca restaurant, which is a mix of culinary delight and music.

There's also award-winning Stephan Pyles' restaurant, the chef credited with helping found Southwestern cuisine, and Swirll's Downtown Winery.

After a brief, two-night stay at the Magnolia Hotel in Dallas our party took a short 50-minute flight to Austin, which although smaller than Dallas, is the capital of Texas.

It is a much more relaxed city and has a really comfortable feel to it. It was a place where I felt I could really kick off my shoes and unwind - which I did at the city's coolest boot shop, Heritage Boots.

Owner Jerry Ryan, who started making boots in London in 1969 and knew all about Wales, described Austin as "having soul" and being relaxed.

Even a street busker I spoke to seemed to have such a laid-back attitude that if life went any slower in Austin it would actually come to a standstill.

I would have liked to have spent more time than just one night in Austin, especially staying at the Renaissance Hotel which has hosted stars like Jessica Simpson and Dolly Parton. The welcome at the hotel was as warm as it was from the rest of the city's inhabitants.

We moved on to the beautiful city of San Antonio next day and our group was put into the capable hands of our driver, Robert.

It was now that I started to get an insight into the old Texas way of life as we drove to the edge of San Antonio and into Becker's Vineyard.

Here, we were given a taste of the huge selection of wines grown and made from the acres of grapes on the family-run holding.

Then, after heading further into San Antonio, Robert made a detour and took us off the beaten track into a country hamlet called Luckenbach.

This tiny hill-stop was established as a trading post in 1849 making it one of the oldest settlements in Gillespie County, one 12 counties in the state of Texas.

The post office and general store, which also doubles as a beer joint, was first opened in 1886 catering for pioneer farmers and Comanche Indians alike. …