A West Texas Adventure From a Couple Who Love It So Much They’re Getting Married There
Designer Lincoln Mondy and artist-writer Amirio Freeman share their must-visit spots in and around Marfa, a place they just can’t quit.
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Washington, D.C.–based designer Lincoln Mondy and his now fiancé, writer and artist Amirio Freeman, first visited Marfa in March 2020, just as the nationwide pandemic shutdowns were starting to take hold. The two originally traveled to Austin for SXSW, but decided to reroute to the West Texas town when they learned the festival had been canceled upon landing. "We listened to increasingly alarming reports about Covid," Mondy says. "When we got to Marfa, most businesses had closed." Still, Mondy says the trip was "foundational" for the pair’s relationship: "Marfa holds a special place in our heart."
The town’s size provided a comforting familiarity for Mondy and Freeman. "We’re both from small towns intimately tied to the land: me from Farmersville, Texas; Amirio, from Hampton Roads, Virginia, by way of McCormick, South Carolina," Mondy says. "Marfa’s feeling of and connection to slowness is why we’re choosing to get married there."
Earlier this year, the couple returned to Marfa in search of a wedding venue for their upcoming nuptials, this time flying into the closest city with a commercial airport: El Paso. During their trip, the duo also carved out plenty of time for eating, hiking, and cultural visits in the area. Here, Mondy and Freeman share some highlights from their West Texas adventure, including stops at Donald Judd’s contemporary art museum and a desert ghost town.
Day 1: Touch down in El Paso and explore before driving to Marfa
We arrived in El Paso late at night and checked into The Plaza at Pioneer Park. We came across the hotel in a Texas Monthly piece celebrating El Paso’s downtown hotel renaissance and fell in love with its Art Deco style. The Plaza’s reopening honors the hotel’s early form with a unique blend of Western, Native, and Mexican design. The rooftop bar has views of the surrounding Franklin Mountains. To our surprise, during our welcome tour, we learned that Elizabeth Taylor and Conrad Hilton lived in the hotel’s penthouse in the 1950s when it was a Hilton property. Taylor was filming the 1956 blockbuster Giant alongside James Dean and Rock Hudson in Marfa. The history felt like a great omen to start our trip with.
After a Tex-Mex breakfast at the hotel restaurant Ámbar, we set out to the El Paso Museum of Art, which houses a permanent collection of American, European, and Mexican art, as well as special exhibitions. (It’s also within walking distance of the hotel, which was great, as we only had a half day in El Paso.) A major highlight was the There Is a Woman in Every Color: Black Women in Art exhibition, which examined the representation of Black women in art over the last two centuries.
After the museum, we checked out of the hotel and went to pick up our rental car before heading to Lucy’s, which was recommended to us by a woman we met at a bar in D.C. one night. (We were skeptical at first, but a quick Google search confirmed we couldn’t leave town without stopping by.) We sat at a booth where a picture of the original café, which opened in the 1970s, hung above us. We ordered the Tacos Antonia and were surprised by a complementary soup that was warm and delicious. The tortillas were crispy and salty, and the meat tasted like it had been marinating for days. We were silent for almost the entire meal.
Then, we began our three-hour drive to Marfa. It’s a straight road, save for a few turns and exits, through the expansive desert landscape that can sometimes feel like Mars. We knew we were near when we saw Prada Marfa, a permanent installation roughly 30 miles from Marfa that popped up on the roadside in 2005.
After a quick stop, we continued toward Marfa and checked in at Thunderbird Inn. We raced to dinner at The Water Stop down the street, which felt like a mix of a beachside shack and antique shop. We washed down the house cheeseburger with a prickly pear Ranch Water and called it a night.
Day 2: Grab a coffee and explore a nearby ghost town before hiking in Big Bend National Park
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