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East Texas

The coastline of Texas curves southward more than 350 miles from Port Arthur, on the Louisiana border (a petrochemical town and the birthplace of Janis Joplin) to the delta of the Rio Grande, which snakes northwest to form a 900-mile natural border with Mexico. Encompassed in this eastern section of the state is an interesting mix of big-city life and rural, backwoods culture.

Houston, population 2.3 million, dominates the region. It is home to corporate headquarters, renowned medical centres and art museums flush with oil cash – NASA’s Space Center Houston is also 25 miles south of the city. Outside of Houston are tall pine forests that bear more relation to Louisiana than to the rest of the state. While undeniably Texan, locals here identify themselves culturally and geographically with the adjacent corners of Arkansas and Louisiana – the “Arklatex” – and you’ll find jambalaya and gumbo in restaurants along with standard Texas dishes. The smaller population centre of Galveston, on the coast outside Houston, offers easy beach access. Galveston was hit hard by Hurricane Ike in September 2008. The blow wasn’t fatal, though – the city has begun to rebuild its battered downtown and for the most part tourism has returned to pre-hurricane levels.

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