This May, Cathers took her Dad (Rob) on his first trip to Texas – here’s what he got up to. As the saying goes “everything’s bigger in Texas”, the same goes for blog posts, so it will be published in 2 parts…
This is dedicated to my wife Angela who sadly passed away last year without fulfilling her dream of visiting the USA. This journey was for us both.
Last year Shannon said, “Why don’t you come and see us all in Texas?” I didn’t think it would be possible. Catherine (aka Cathers) said of course it was possible! I thought if anyone could arrange things it would be my daughter. However, the months went by without word, eventually in March she said, “Book two weeks off work in May and we’ll go to Texas.” Me, I like everything nailed down and all my ducks in a row long before I travel but Cathers is a bit more last minute. We only just booked our flights a week before departure!
The night before our flight, Catherine announces that she has to work the next day but confident we’d make our 1500hrs flight. “OK” I said but the plane goes at 1300hrs. “S**t” came the reply “No problem we can still make it, just”, and fair play we did.
American immigration welcomed me with open arms but interrogated poor old Catherine for what seemed like forever at the end of which I was wondering if I was travelling with an illegal immigrant/terrorist!
Eventually, we arrived safely in Houston and were met by Robin and Richard (the Paoli’s) who gave me a very interesting history of Houston, how it was built on a swamp, the rise and fall of the Astrodome, the impressive medical facilities and other things, which were important, but I promptly forgot due to tiredness and old age. My first impression of Houston? It’s big with a lot of fast and wide freeways.
Our accommodation for the next few days was Hotel Roger. I was given the spare en suite bedroom which had just been very tastefully decorated but he really didn’t have to do that just for me.
My first impressions of Americans? They are very hospitable and made me, a stranger, feel very much at home. A theme that continued for my entire stay.
The first day I had a good coffee at Boomtown in the Heights and a mooch around the trendy antique stores followed by lunch at Torchy’s Tacos. This was my first taste of Texan food and to be fair it was pretty good, tasty tacos and loads of chips (tortilla crisps) with salsa and bean dip. Next stop was the museum district which is an art lovers dream. We examined the Cy Twombly collection, but, I have to say, “sorry I don’t get it Cy,” (not that he will be bothered). The main Menil Collection however was another matter. Very interesting particularly the Rene Magritte exhibits.
A big thank you to Ken and Becky for taking us to the ball game. Having the rules and nuances of the game explained made it a lot more interesting. It was a local rivalry (what we Brits would call a Derby) game between Houston Astros and the Texas Rangers (Dallas). After a good few hours the game looked all over at 4 – 0 to the Rangers but the Astros rallied and with virtually the last pitch of the 9th innings a home run was struck to give victory, a very exciting finish. Would I go again? Definitely, but not very often. I now have my Astros beer mug and a baseball cap kindly donated to me by Richard to remember the evening.
On Thursday, Karen was our wonderful tour guide. Our first stop was the San Jacinto monument where Sam Houston and his Texicans defeated Santa Annas Mexican army, after the defeat at the Alamo, to proclaim the Republic of Texas. The monument is a replica of the one in Washington and apparently Texas was told their monument could not be higher than the Washington one. The tower itself is not higher, but Texans being Texans stuck their star on top and the rest is history.
The view gives you a real feeling of the incredible job done of reclaiming the land from the swamp. However, the trip to the top is negotiated by one very small elevator (lift), occupied by one very large operator sat on a chair taking up half the space. Add to that a party of seniors in wheelchairs and walkers and busloads of excited school children and we had the basis of a comedy sketch, Karen being particularly humorous of the situation (outrageous actually but very funny).
Off to the Gulf of Mexico and Galveston (Glen Campbell nowhere to be seen). We stopped at Bennos for lunch and tucked into 3lbs of Cajun spiced crawfish, which were absolutely fabulous especially for a fish lover like me. To sum up Galveston – it’s got a good sea front and beach, some very interesting architecture and a very scrumptious cake shop. [Cathers here – Dad forgot to mention a free ferry ride and dolphin sighting! – Karen would never forgive me!]
The restaurant, Ibiza, is not to be missed! Reasonably priced and excellent service. Myself, Cathers, Roger, Karen and Shannon decided on sharing small plates. We tucked into, ceviche, fried oysters, green goddess lettuce, grilled prawns, and red snapper on a bed of cauliflower puree all washed down with very good white wine and to finish the evening I had my favourite Glenmorangie malt whisky.
Friday we lunched at Local Foods, with a mouth-watering selection of salads. I spent the afternoon with Richard at Wholefoods to pick a local brew for dinner and a trip to Specs the biggest liquor store (off-licence) I have ever seen! I then drank the Wholefoods beer and watched Richard expertly prepare food whilst discussing the world’s problems and probably thinking we solved most of them.
Dinner was a great success with beautiful Mexican cuisine, mango and pineapple salsa, chargrilled beef, and vegetables. The evening was completed by meeting even more interesting, engaging and welcoming Americans. A big thank you to Robin and Richard as perfect hosts and Karen, Leah, Brittany and Ashley for being the perfect guests.
Saturday was pool day, with a delicious Paoli picnic. In the evening, Shannon took us to the Downtown bars and a tapas bar. We shared, belly pork, patatas bravas, dates wrapped in pancetta, prawns and a green salad accompanied by some splendid sangria.
We left Houston for Austin the next day, but my biggest regret was not saying a proper goodbye to Roger who had been the perfect host.
Stay tuned for part 2 tomorrow…