On a rainy, cold Saturday a few weeks ago, my wife and I found ourselves childless and, as a result, with nothing to do. The holidays were behind us, the post-New Year’s lethargy was setting in, and we needed somewhere new and exciting to go – and we had all of about eight hours to get there and back.

So we ventured north, eventually cruising along smooth, white cement roads barely marred by oil slicks and burnt rubber. And we wound up in a spot we often hear about but rarely visit: Far, Far North Dallas and Frisco, and a place called The Shops at Willow Bend.

Perhaps you’ve read about this center, whose name evokes images of bejeweled celebrities sauntering the streets of Beverly Hills – yet in a cloistered, Texas-style way. It’s the kind of mall that offers ample covered parking to its well-buffed patrons. Its food court had nicer chairs than most home dining rooms, and sushi and lobster spilled from over-sized tables even at lunch.

As for the shops themselves, everything was bright and shiny and new; sunlight streamed from the ceilings, and the entire place seemed to exude a glow seen most often in Hallmark television specials and jewelry commercials.

Later, we visited a neighboring movie theater that showcases a digital technology promising to make film itself obsolete. And in the high-back, spacious rocking chairs of that theater, we watched in awe as George Clooney’s stubble glinted in the Vegas sunlight.

Finally, we stopped for dinner at one of those theme-chain restaurants ubiquitous up north but never seen south of LBJ Freeway. It was a fitting end to a quiet day filled with people who looked and sounded like us every step of the way. The people didn’t seem richer or anything like that; the whole area and its population just sort of oozed newness, if you know what I mean.

On the way home, of course, the sights and sounds of our neighborhood began re-emerging. The guy who begs for money at our Central Expressway exit was out, even after dark, working hard for a handout. The look and feel of the streets spoke volumes, with rumpled asphalt torn and stripped in some areas, and potholes beckoning in others. The grocery store crowd was different, too: In as much as diversity seems mostly an expression up north, it was deeper and wider here, with disparities of color and cash wound together quietly in each checkout line. No one seemed to mind, or even notice, that everyone didn’t look and talk the same.

We were home again, and somewhat introspective. There’s something to be said for what’s new, to be sure, but there’s also something appealing about the ability to live and work in a place where milk is about the only thing homogenized.