Thursday, November 29, 2012

There is a house in New Orleans

Actually, I think I'll leave the houses we visited in the Garden District for when I'm in town and move straight into the Oaks Alley plantation house that we visited today.

Oaks Alley is one of several restored plantation houses along the banks of the Mississippi north west of NOLA. Oaks Alley was, and still is, a sugar plantation. The ground here is too wet for cotton. In its prime the plantation had 93 slaves working the plantation and another 20 working in the house. This included a 60 yr old, one armed slave who was only worth $60. I'm guessing he may have been the man in charge of pulling the rope that kept the fan moving above the dinner table while the guests ate.

The house is absolutely magnificent and has been beautifully restored to reflect life in the late 1800s. It is very reminiscent of the regal homesteads in our own part of the world except ours don't have an avenue of 300 yr old oaks leading up to them. It was certainly worth the hour's drive out to see it. The opulence of the plantation house was in stark contrast to the town of Valcherie that we drove through on the way there, highlighting for us once again the divide between rich and poor in the US. We have a similar, growing divide in Australia but it is not so often seen side by side as it is here.

When we got back to town Taine and I went for a walk to the French Market while Geoff & Sophie had a run along the banks of the Mighty Miss. We ate beignets from the famous Cafe de Monde (3 for $2.56) and watched some of the street performers across from Jackson Square. The beignets were delicious although I'm not sure that much icing sugar is good  for anyone.

Too tired to venture out for dinner, we tried the hotel's own cocktail, 'Swamp Juice' along with some hot HOT HOT wings. Despite the blistered lips, they were delicious and the swamp juice certainly helped lessen the pain.

The Country Inn and Suites has been a great base for our stay in NOLA. It's only 5 minutes walk to Bourbon St and the River Walk and the service has been friendly and efficient. They have a guest laundry and a constant supply of free cookies at reception!

One of the nicest things about traveling is the people you meet along the way. We've had some great conversations with folk from all over the world while we've been in NOLA. Today we met a lovely couple, Joyce & Darrell from California, who told us about a website called global freeloaders, a way of finding new friends and free accommodation all over the world. I'm looking forward to checking out the redwoods near Joyce's house sometime in the near future but for now, we're off to Florida!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

I just want to live in THAT house!

Sunny, blue skies greeted our second day in NOLA. Jaime and the men folk took themselves off to the WW11 museum while Sophie and I took in a few historic Confederate statues and went in search of someone to fix my camera. We had no luck with the camera. I'm trying to find a happy side to lugging my expensive gear half way round the world only to have it fail on me in a city full of photo opps. I'll let you know if I find one!

The historians thoroughly enjoyed their museum visit and were intrigued by the difference in dates for WW11. For us the war started in 1939 but of course here the start date is late 1941 and from a US perspective there is little acknowledgement of ANZAC involvement. Even though we didn't go in the museum itself, Soph and I browsed the shop and I wished I'd been here last year before Holiday Actor's production of South Pacific to stock up on costumes and props!

We caught a bus to the Garden District to check out a few of the 'little' houses we might buy if we ever move to New Orleans. This area is home to some seriously wealthy people like Sandra Bullock and Nicholas Cage. The preservation of these old southern homes is magnificent. We also visited the Lafayette Cemetery where everyone is buried above the ground. I have seen this before in Maori cemeteries in NZ where geothermal activity makes underground burial unwise. Here it is because of the high water table, a bayou cemetery. We had coffee and browsed at a 'real' book store and Taine was excited to buy a copy of the latest Wimpy Kid book.

The sun sets early in the South at this time of year so we just managed to see some boats come down the river before we had an early dinner on the esplanade. It was the most disappointing of our meals so far. I had been eagerly anticipating a New Orleans Poboy but I think we chose the wrong restaurant. My shrimp were deep fried, not grilled as requested and the bread was stale and dry. I realised too late that my alligator sausage had garlic in it and they charged me a dollar for a glass of water that I hadn't requested. Never mind, two bad food experiences (the other was Taco Bell, blaaah) in 10 days is a pretty good strike rate.

Tonight we went to an NBA basketball game. We certainly understood this game better than the footy and our cheap seats at the very top of the stadium provided us with a great view. Unfortunately the home team went down to the Utah Jazz. It was easy to identify with the NOLA Hornets because they wear the same blue and yellow as the Deakin Sharks! The Hornet's centre, Lopez, was awesome but he didn't have enough back up. As with the Longhorns last week, some sloppy ball handling would have earned my wrath at netball. One guy called and caught the ball out of court and a lot of easy shots went begging. Nevertheless, another great American experience. Hopefully we'll catch a game of something else in a town where we're on the winning team! One of the highlights of the half time entertainment was a troupe of 'senior' dancers. They were heaps better than the hair swinging Honeybees. There's hope for me as a cheer leader yet!

Today my happy motherly hiatus of having all my kids under the one roof (or hotel or car as the case maybe) comes to an end. Jaime & Xavier are catching the overnight Amtrak to Washington DC to continue their honeymoon alone and on Friday Sophie flies back to Austin to finish uni.
What an absolute privilege and joy it has been to have them all with us on this part of our adventure. I'm planning a family European road trip already ;-)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Way down yonder in New Orleans

Today was the last stretch of our road trip from Dallas to NOLA via Austin & Memphis, around 2000 km in all. The Kia Sedona (I think it's a Carnival at home) has been magnificent. There is so much leg room for everyone and it fits all of our luggage and bits and pieces no worries. I'll be sorry to hand it over on Friday and we might seriously have to think about changing our vehicles to one of these for the rest of our trip.

Because it was still raining in Baton Rouge we decided to spend a couple of hours at the Mall of Louisiana before we traveled down to New Orleans. Besides, we hadn't really bought anything but food for at least 24 hours! The mall was BIG. Taine rode the full size carousel inside the shopping centre while his big sister shopped for warm clothes to take to Washington. I had no intention of buying anything today but somehow I wandered in to a tea shop and before I knew it the salesman had schmoozed me out of $52 - for tea! I think I must have 'gullible tourist' tattooed on my forehead. Most of the hotels we stay in don't even have a way to heat water to make tea!

The drive to NOLA was a short one compared to previous days. The swampland starts many miles before the city and we saw some amazing houses built on stumps fully submersed in water. What possessed anyone to build a huge city on below sea level ground is a mystery.

We're staying at the Country Inns & Suites for the next couple of days, a step up from the La Quinta but still within a budget that will allow us the splurge necessary for accommodation in NYC and Orlando. We were all excited to find a gym so we can work off some of the food we've been eating and Taine was eager to have a swim in the heated pool. While we were at the pool we got chatting to some folks from Wisconsin and another family who were there recognised our Aussie accents and it turned out they were from Stawell, just an hour or so up the road from us at home. Small world.

We only had enough daylight for a quick stroll around the city. NOLA (Bourbon St in particular) is an assault on all the senses. I just can't wait to explore it properly tomorrow.

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Mighty Mississippi

I had to think very hard to remember where we'd come from this morning. We've covered so much territory in the last few days that I can hardly remember my own name!

We left Jackson (home of Johnny Cash and Reese Witherspoon) in teeming rain but once we'd found our way onto the Natchez Trace Parkway the sun came out and allowed us a chance to enjoy the beautiful woods on either side of the road. It was awesome to get off the highway, especially after a near miss just out of the city when a car in front of us lost control and slammed into the barrier. The speed limit on the parkway is a sedate 50 miles an hour. It was like a glorious Sunday drive and I finally felt myself relaxing for the first time since we got in the car. We made a point of stopping at every historical marker and learnt a remarkable amount about the civil war as we went. It was along this track that Major General Ulysses S Grant marched his troops before winning the siege of Vicksburg, giving the Union control of the Mississippi.

We also stopped at the Locust House, an original inn turned plantation house. How remarkable to imagine that in it's heyday this house was a thriving farm, complete with slaves, as witnessed by the slave cemetery down the path behind the house.

At the end of the Parkway we found ourselves in Natchez itself and got another view of the mighty Mississippi river. Natchez is an interesting town, full of magnificent antebellum homes. Seriously, these houses are jaw droopingly beautiful. I had to shake my head a couple of times because I was so sure I saw Scarlett O'Hara settling her crinoline under the shade of a magnolia tree outside one of them! When we stopped tonight I realised I had been in so much awe of them I hadn't even taken a photo.

We wandered down the main street, that like a lot of the towns we have visited in the South , was pretty much deserted. Taine thought all his Christmases had come at once when we visited a curio shop full of christmassy things and yummy fudge. I just enjoyed listening to the lilting accent of the girl behind the counter who referred to her boss as Miz Lisbeth.

After a lunch of ribs, pulled pork and sloppy joes, we decided to push on to Baton Rouge so we don't have as far to go tomorrow. We arrived just on peak hour so we had dinner at a Thai restaurant while we waited out the traffic. Again, the food was excellent and ridiculously cheap. Even with a 20% tip, the six of us ate for less than $100.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Heading South

After another helping of waffles at the Memphis La Quinta (I have a frequent stayers card now!) we headed further south today. I can't say I was sorry to leave Memphis but I'm glad we went out of our way to visit.

Jaime & Xavier had been watching a documentary about 'Ole Mis', the University of Mississippi and James Meredith, the first black man to attend the university and the riot that followed his admission in 1962 so we decided to take a visit to Oxford and check out his statue. The university is absolutely beautiful, like a picture postcard of southern architecture, its beauty emphasised today by the clear blue skies and magnificent autumn foliage. It took us some time to find the statue of Meredith but in the process we learnt a lot about the history of the buildings and the riot. As with so many sites of tragedy, it was hard to imagine such violence in this tranquil environment. Racial conflict and segregation is, of course, interesting to us, especially coming from a virtual mono culture in country Victoria. We don't understand it at all but can't help be intrigued and a little bewildered. This trip to the south has certainly piqued my interest in exploring more about the history of the area and the civil rights movement. Given that most of my prior learning has come from repeated readings of 'Gone With the Wind', I think I have plenty to learn!

From Oxford, we headed on down to Jackson. The drive was very reminiscent of the highway between Tauranga and Taupo in NZ, minus of course the flax and punga. I keep trying to connect the names of the counties to stories and songs and whilst driving over a bridge in Madison made that one easy, I was stuck for ages on Carroll County till I remembered the words to 'Harper Valley PTA'. No one else in the car is old enough to have heard it so I had to hum along quietly to myself!

Geoff came down with a nasty virus on Thanksgiving Day but has soldiered on to drive us over 1400 miles in the last few days. It's a lesson learnt that if you only sign up for one driver you may be in trouble if they become incapacitated. I'm sure he would be recovering faster if he was able to curl up in the back of the car and sleep.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Farewell Texas- Walking in Memphis

Our 5 days in Texas flew by and yesterday we packed up the car for a family road trip to Memphis.
It was with some sadness we left the Lone Star State. Texas is big and bold and brash but very likeable and I can see why Sophie has fallen in love with her temporary home. Our top 10 impressions of Texas, in no particular order.

  • The Big Things. Everything really is bigger in Texas.... hats, cars, water towers, pizza slices! Even the birds are big . We loved watching eagles soaring above us on the highway.
  • Queso. The addictive yellow cheese mixture that covers everything. 
  • Spaghetti roads. Bizarre 'George Jetson' layers of highway , one above the other with very small barriers on the side.
  • Cheap stuff; food, clothes, fuel (We're driving a Kia 7 seater. It cost $45 to fill it.)
  • Friendly faces. I felt safe everywhere we went in Texas (except maybe the road).
  • Texas drawl. Actually, it's not a drawl because it's us who drawl (especially those of us who've spent time in Woorndoo!). The accent is amazing but honestly there were times I had no idea what people were saying to me. Geoff chose vinaigrette dressing for his salad one night because I'm pretty sure it was the only word he recognized.
  • Y'all. Great saying. I'm keeping it.
  • Poverty. Unfortunately this is one of the negative impressions. There are homeless people and beggars at lots of intersections.
  • Fast food billboards. The interstate is literally wall to wall billboards. I counted 19 golden arches alone from Dallas to Austin. There are so many fast food chains you could not visit them all in a year. So far we've tried Wendys, Taco Bell and Sonic. Sonic is the only one that might get a return visit!
  • Orange. There's no getting away from burnt orange in Austin.
With memories of all of the above indelibly etched in our hearts, we set off on the 1000 km journey to Memphis. The day after Thanksgiving turned out to be an inspired choice of day to travel because most people were at home today and the roads were much quieter.

We traveled north, back toward Dallas, stopping at a roadside diner for breakfast where we met our first Elvis impersonator. 

After Dallas, the ever present billboards on the roadside gave way for masses of trees adorned in autumn foliage and we started to see the gateways of some pretty impressive cattle ranches. The GPS said 'bear right in 482km'. There are still plenty of long, open spaces in Texas.

We were excited to cross the border into Arkansas (which we will always affectionately pronounce with an 's' at he end even though we know better ;-) We drove through Hope (home of President Clinton) and turned off to look for food in a little town called Emmet. Here was the country America I had been looking for. Only one way in and one way back out to the interstate. To cross from one side of town to the other you had to cross the railroad line. Unfortunately for the locals, a train had pulled up across the road and no one could get from one side to the other. The girl in the gas station told me the train had been there for 30 minutes and everyone just had to wait! This town looked just like something we would see on TV, possibly during an episode of 'Pickers' or 'Gator Boys'. I would have loved to look around further but Jaime was in the car with the doors locked!

By the time we got to Little Rock ( home of the Clintons as a couple and Lieutenant Nellie Forbush in South Pacific) it was time to get off the road. Taine had traveled well but 800km was enough for everyone. We found ourselves a la Quinta to stay at and stumbled upon an amazing tepenyaki restaurant for dinner. It was delicious and only cost 80$ for all 6 of us for dinner. Unbelievable. 

Walking in Memphis

La Quinta includes complimentary breakfast which is a great bonus. Taine got to make his first batch of breakfast waffles and Xavier volunteered for our first taste of grits. The look on his face decided the rest of us to stick to the bagels, which were delicious.

The drive out of Little Rock passed nearly as many churches as the drive in. Almost every block contains a church of a different religion, some that I have never heard of before! Oxymoronically, the other side of the road was littered with billboards for an Adult XXX Superstore. Go figure!

It only took us two hours to get to Memphis. When we stopped at the info centre I discovered my dslr camera had decided it's contact points were dirty and stopped working. This is a bummer because taking photos is one of my favourite holiday pursuits. We went downtown looking for somewhere to stay. The hotel we had chosen refused to let us book a room before 3pm which turned out to be a blessing because after an hour's walk downtown we realised we did not want to stay in the city. As safe as Texas had felt, Memphis felt the opposite. The streets were eerily deserted and apart from Beale St, the whole place felt like a ghost town. The Peabody Plaza was a huge mall of vacant shops and at one stage, a man actually stood in the middle of the road and we had to drive around him. It was bizarre.

                                           Main St Memphis, just us and NOBODY else.

Abandoning our plans to stay one night downtown and one nearer to Graceland, we drove directly to the home of Elvis Presley. I'm so glad we did. Graceland is beautiful. It's not the palatial, over the top mansion I was expecting. It's just a lovely, wonderfully preserved home , straight from the 70s. despite the fact that thousands of people have walked through it since Elvis' death, it still feels very much like someone's home and it was quite surreal to think we were in the same rooms that the Presley family had lived their lives. Of course the gift shops and food outlets associated with the Graceland complex are over priced and touristy but I really didn't find anything tacky about the house itself. The memorial garden at the end of the self paced tour is just that, a grave site where people come to pay their respects to a talent that left us too soon.

Having been very satisfied with the service at la Quinta the night before, we sought out another one for tonight. We went for a drive to look for dinner and something to fill in the couple of hours before bed and found ourselves at the Southland Mall. Nothing like a bit more shopping to finish off the day. Pretty sure one of our next stops will have to be a Post Office to find out how to send some of this stuff home!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Lots to be thankful for

Yesterday we experienced our first ever American Thanksgiving. Given my belief in positive psychology and the power of gratitude, how wonderful it was to have a day specially set aside for being thankful! Sophie had arranged for some of her fellow international student friends to have lunch at her house so we packed up our car with lots of 'fixings' and headed off to create a Thanksgiving dinner for 14. Easier said than done in a student house with very few pots & pans and even less cutlery but with the addition of some awesome Italian and Dutch and Austrian dishes we ended up with a feast. Not only did we get to be grateful for the food but also for the opportunity to meet Sophie's friends and to experience something of the 'family' she has created here in Texas.

After dinner we donned our Longhorn's gear and headed off to the stadium to watch the Longhorns play the TCU Horned Frogs. It's hard to explain the atmosphere at a college football game. I've been to Geelong vs Collingwood games at the MCG, I've sat amongst the cowbells in the Waikato and I've watched Blackout rugby games at Eden Park on TV. I guess those experiences are the closest I can use as an analogy for folks at home. Except this isn't AFL or Tri Nations or Super Rugby. It's college football! The stadium hold 100,000 people. Yes, that many zeros! And apart from a handful of brave Horned Frogs dressed in purple, every last one of them were wearing orange!

Before the game the 420 members of the UT band play 'The Eyes of Texas Are Upon You' and everybody sings along. Then you curl your thumb, index finger and ring finger into your palm, extend the forefinger and pinky and chant 'Hook 'em Horns'. If a player goes down injured, everyone gives the hook 'em sign again until they recover. Every now and again, one side of the stadium yells 'Texas' and the other side responds 'Fight!'

At half time the band returns along with the cheerleaders. They create amazing formations of stars and cows and the map of Texas, all the while playing hits from 'Who'. The team even have their own live mascot, a fair dinkum longhorned cow called Devo (the 14th). There's even a fraternity of old boys who devote themselves for caring for Devo and raising money for charity. Amazing.

As for the football game itself, I think maybe you have to be raised in the US to appreciate it. I found it way too stop/start. I just wanted a Jonah Lomu type to pick up the ball and keep running to the touch line  but there was very little of that sort of excitement. There were a couple of intercepts that I would have chastised my netballers for because the wide receiver stepped backwards instead of forwards to take the pass and once I jumped up from my seat to celebrate a sure touch down only to discover he'd let the ball go straight through his hands. I imagine it's actually quite hard to judge the incoming behind that helmet.

Anyway, it was a great experience and the legion of burnt orange didn't seem too upset by the loss. As Taine said in his Thanksgiving prayer at lunchtime, we were grateful to be with family, to meet new friends and eat turkey!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Shop till you drop

I'm pretty sure we're going to 'shop' our way around the US. The exchange rate has made shopping an affordable pleasure for us and the novelty of different brands and drastically reduced prices on our 'own' brands is irresistible.

Today it was back to Whole Foods to prepare for Thanksgiving tomorrow. Thanksgiving Eve is like the Thursday before Easter in Australia. Everyone thinks they need to shop for a possible holocaust. Whole Foods was packed but that didn't detract from the pleasure of the 1000 varieties of everything in every aisle. We bought a ready cooked smoked turkey ( I admired Sophie's optimism in thinking she could whip one up for 14 people but I'm old enough to know better), pumpkin pie (yes, it's a desert), asparagus, green beans, brussell sprouts (Geoff did remind me that we don't like them but they looked so festive), stuffing, a fruit platter and a couple of one litre bottles of wine (yes, even wine bottles are bigger in Texas!). We also bought some hamburgers & buffalo sausages for dinner tonight. Funnily enough, although eating out is ridiculously cheap here, the meat was very expensive.

                                                         Chocolates at Whole Foods.

Then we took a trip to Barton Springs Mall. It's just a wee shopping centre about the size of Chadstone. I spent a lot of money on clothes for Taine that probably won't fit him when we get to our Winter but at least he'll be warm when we hit colder weather further north.

Back in town we visited the Longhorn Co Op. The Longhorns are the University of Texas football team and their merchandise shop fills three floors! You can buy every conceivable thing in orange. I'll be set for the game tomorrow night and Harmony Day forever!

Our last stop for the day was to add a few more calories in the form of frozen yoghurt covered in an assortment of confectionary. We have something similar in Australia where you get to choose from a dozen or so toppings. This place had hundreds.

Including chocolate covered potato chips.........

Now, that's just ridiculous (but strangely delicious!)

Remember the Alamo

Today we took another trip into Texan history by visiting the Alamo in San Antonio. I've never really known much about the Alamo, except of course that Davy Crockett (King of the Wild Frontier) apparently fought and died there, (wearing his coon skin hat no doubt). Like most of my American history, I learnt that from a movie. Having been to the Alamo today, I still don't really understand the battle but I believe it has something to do with revolution and independence and so I liken it a bit to the battle of Eureka at Ballarat.

There were LOTS of people wandering the beautifully restored and manicured grounds of the Alamo and we saw a lot of squirrels. These are our new, favourite animal and squirrel spotting has become quite a holiday competition. The history itself didn't resonate very strongly, probably because we don't understand it and also because it's quite a manufactured history now, too polished and pretty to represent the events that took place there.

For lunch we strolled through the Riverwalk Market area. Actually we shopped our way through the market. Everything is so cheap here, we feel beholden to do our bit for the economy by buying things ;-). The Riverwalk is beautiful, a narrow, winding strip of water surrounded on both banks by high rise apartments and restaurants that go right down to the water's edge. A water taxi runs up and down with guided commentaries. We ate at the Hard Rock Cafe and I had a pulled pork sandwich . Sandwiches here bear no resemblance to the two bits of flat bread and filling that we have at home. This particular monster was a glazed bun filled with about half a pig. I managed about half of it washed down with a pitcher of iced tea.

I'm loving everything about Texas except for the traffic. It's ridiculous and I'm afeared for my life every time we get in the car. The speed limit on the freeway is 80 miles per hour. 80! And this appears to be the minimum speed because while we're doing that we've been passed by huge, fully laden trucks and helmet less motorbike riders. Most of them are talking on their phone or texting. At intersections there are stop signs. Sometimes just for the cars traveling in one direction but usually for everyone. So everyone stops and then the person who thinks they got there first (or the bravest/most reckless one) moves off. I've seen lots of Highway Patrol cars booking people but I think you have to be going +100mph to get a ticket!

Tonight we went to Sophie's favourite Tex Mex restaurant, Trudy's. We ate corn chips dipped in guacamole and melted yellow cheese. Then we ate a whole range of nacho/ taco/ enchilada things stuffed and covered in more melted,yellow cheese. It's delicious while you're eating it but then you can literally feel it curling around your arteries and squeezing them.
I believe it may have been this cheese that was ultimately the downfall of the Alamo.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


I was almost too scared to open my eyes this morning in case I was jet lagged but we all seem to have made the adjustment to -17 hours pretty smoothly.

This morning was devoted to a pilgrimage to the corner of Elm and Main St to visit the site where President John F Kennedy was assassinated almost 50 years ago. Even though I was only very young at the time of the shooting, I remember it well. Maybe it struck a chord because the Kennedys were the same age as my parents or perhaps it was because it was one of the first 'world' events relayed around the world on TV, but the images from that day are well known to me. More recently, Geoff and I have both read Stephen King's 11/63, a great story about the Kennedy assassination & Lee Harvey Oswald.

The School Book Depository building was just a short walk from the Crowne Plaza and we were greeted on the corner by a man who introduced himself as Ron Washington. Our friend Alison had told us about this guy who says he was a witness to the shooting as a child and lo and behold there he was, selling copies of the headlines from 1963 and offering guided tours of the site. It was a coincidence too good to pass up and besides, anyone who can continue to make a living out of a single event for 30 years deserves to be rewarded ! We weren't disappointed with Ron's tour even though it came with an elaborate dose of his own conspiracy theory. He even made a point of using our cameras to make sure we were all in the photos. On reflection, I reckon Ron may well have been the stimulus for King's 'yellow card man' in the book.

Being at the site where someone has been killed is always an eerie feeling. We all experienced the same sense of curiosity mixed with reverence and respect for those who were affected that day.

We were on the road to Austin by lunch time, keen to catch up with Sophie. We took the interstate, a giant mass of tangled ribbons of concrete where, unbelievably , the speed limit is 80 miles per hour (128km). I was white knuckled by the time we pulled over at the Hillsboro outlet mall for our first taste of US retail therapy. The Nike store was amazing. Free runs for $40 and clothing at 1/4 the price you would pay in Aus. Needless to say a couple of big bags were added to our luggage.

We reached Austin just on dark and after a near miss when we turned right into the oncoming traffic on the wrong side of the road !!, we found Sophie and Ben sitting on the porch of her house in Salado St. Starving, we took a trip to the Wholefoods Market, a wonderland of raw and pre cooked delights. It was like a supermarket/ restaurant and I could have stayed there for hours.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Groundhog Day

Time zones confuse the hell out of me. We left Sydney at 4.30 pm on Sunday, November 18th, traveled for 15 hours and landed in Dallas at 4.15 Sunday, November 18th!

I'm not sure where we were for those 15 hours but it sure felt like the Twilight zone and the missing time stamps would certainly support that. To be honest, the flight wasn't as bad as I expected. The food was edible, we had plenty of leg room behind the galley and the baby travelling across the aisle only cried a couple of times through the endless night.

When we arrived in Dallas the biggest difference we noticed was the lengthy queues at immigration where everyone  has their fingerprints scanned and photos taken. The upside was that by the time we got through the lines our bags were ready so we grabbed them and jumped on a shuttle to take us to the rental car site about 10 minutes away. Ambitiously , we anticipated getting to our hotel in time for a leisurely stroll around the city.

Unfortunately, the rental we'd arranged for Dallas Fort Worth airport was actually waiting at Dallas Love Field airport. By law apparently you cannot hire a taxi at the rental car compound so it was back in the shuttle to the first airport so we could get a taxi ($53 & 45 mins away) to the second. The driver was very helpful, although having grown up in pre metric times, I'm pretty sure 80 mph is more than a bit over anyone's speed limit.

Eventually the Dollar rental office was found and Geoff bravely took the driver's seat to negotiate our way into the city on the 'other' side of the road. It's pretty scary having the cars coming the opposite way to your automatic reaction but the combination of light Sunday night traffic and our sat nav bought from home got us to he Crowne Plaza in time for a wander downtown. It was eerily quiet for a big city , very reminiscent of Canberra after dark. We ate at a burger joint, absolutely delicious chicken fried chicken burgers with chilli cheese fries and a green bean salad on the side. Yummo!

Now we're holed up in our hotel room drinking Budweiser and watching a replay of the Cowboys game on TV.

Day 1 survived!