I'm in Houston for a week of school visits in the Cypress Fairbanks Independent School District: ten schools in five days, focusing mainly on connecting with the second and third graders who are just right as readers for my Franklin School Friends series (Kelsey Green, Reading Queen; Annika Riz, Math Whiz; Izzy Barr, Running Star).
I was invited to come many months ago and told to make my own travel arrangements, to be reimbursed by the school district. When I searched for flights online, they were all sickeningly expensive, more than $500 round trip, with one exception: cut-rate Spirit Airlines, which charges passengers for EVERYTHING (carrying on a bag, getting a seat assignment, getting a cup of water on the plane) and whose Denver-Houston flight left at an ungodly early hour (6:15 a.m., which meant getting a 3:18 bus to the airport, which meant getting up at 2:45, which doesn't even count as early morning, but as middle-of-the-night).
I decided to buy the Spirit Airlines ticket. Even though I wasn't paying for it, somebody was, and even with all those extra fees, I still was able to fly round trip for $171.48. How could I in good conscience spend $350 more just to get a tray table on the plane, seat-back pouch to stow my reading material, and two or three extra hours of sleep?
So I did the frugal thing.
And here was my reward.
Because I arrived so very early, my host librarian, Debbie Hall, and her mega-knowledgeable first-grade-teacher colleague, Carmela, met me at the airport and whisked me off to the Montrose neighborhood to Katz's kosher deli for breakfast ("Katz's Never Kloses"), with its old-timey tiled floors and tin ceilings. I had blueberry blintzes.
Next stop: Houston's fountain-filled museum district, near Rice University. There we spent about two hours at the stunning Museum of Natural Science, dividing our time between a breathtaking exhibit of Faberge eggs and other exquisitely detailed jeweled items (I decided I wanted the ink well, to help me write my books) and the truly amazing Morian Hall of Paleontology, which offered its own exquisitely detailed gems such as meticulously excavated tiny fossils and jewel-like petrified wood, as well as the usual parade of looming dinosaurs here staged in dramatic predator-prey interactions.
We had meant to go next to Houston's Greek festival, but by that point we were tired and decided on a late lunch at a bustling Greek eatery instead, Niko Niko's, with groaning platters of Greek specialties finished off with honey-drenched baklava.
I checked in to my Hampton Inn by 3, promptly crawled into the world's most comfortable bed, and indulged in a four-hour nap. Why not? This early frugal bird had already caught hours of dazzling pleasures by the time the more expensive flights would have touched down. So I concluded my frugal day with the second most wonderful nap of my life (Cheryl: you know what the first-most wonderful one was). Yay for frugality!