Through the Viewfinder
And What Alice Found There
The next stage of our road trip took us through Mississippi and into Louisiana, to the gorgeous city of New Orleans. We had originally planned to drive over the 24-mile long bridge going over Lake Ponchartrain which is so long you can’t see the land when you’re in the middle! But the drive had already been nearly 6 hours and the bridge would add on another 40 minutes so by this point we just wanted to get there!
In New Orleans we stayed in probably the nicest B&B I’ve ever seen! We stopped at Fleur De Lis Mansion which is a boutique B&B with each room decorated in a different style. I knew it was going to be fun there when you had to climb through some window shutters to get to reception! A walkway down the side of the building led to the rooms, with a lovely outdoor area including a hammock, a hot tub, an outdoor oven, a gas BBQ and the cutest little outdoor seating area you ever did see. After checking into our amazing room (featuring a TV in the shower) we headed out to explore the town. The receptionist at the B&B told us about a free music festival in one of the parks, so we set off in that general direction stopping in the centre on the way.
New Orleans is fantastic. It’s got so much history behind it and it has a really cool gothic feel to it, with almost every street featuring a clairvoyant and a shop selling voodoo dolls. The buildings all had ornate balconies and the streets were filled with horse drawn carriages (we found out later on they were actually mules, not horses)! Jackson Square was one of my favourite stops while wandering through the French Quarter – a beautiful garden area set in the shadows of the gorgeous St Louis Cathedral which reminded me very much of the Disney castle!
We eventually ended up on the famous Bourbon street where all the bars are but decided to come back there after checking out this free music festival we’d heard about. The festival was held in Louis Armstrong Park and although it claimed to be free they actually expected a $5 donation (which we managed to avoid). There were loads of craft stalls lining the paths around the entrance with a few food and drink stalls further in, and a fun jazz band playing on a small stage. We didn’t stay too long as it was really busy but it was fun to experience it and hear some of the music that New Orleans is so famous for.
Afterwards we headed back to Bourbon Street, got a hotdog for tea, then went out to some of the bars. It was really fun and everywhere did drinks ‘to go’ which meant we didn’t have to sit in one bar for ages while we drank, we could wander around watching the street performers and seeing what else was going on. We had a really fun night and even went in the hot tub when we got back late at night which was bliss!
The next day we wandered around the French Quarter again, looking at all the artists work set up around Jackson Square and doing a bit of shopping. I can see why people call New Orleans ‘The Big Easy’ because it has such a chilled out atmosphere and everyone is so happy and friendly. It was such a fun place and somewhere I’d like to go back to some day. We spent our second evening back at the B&B making use of the gas BBQ, relaxing in the hammock and having another dip in the hot tub.
After a sad departure from New Orleans the next day, we made our way across into Texas. Houston was our next destination and our main reason for visiting there was to see the Space Center. I used to be obsessed with space when I was younger and at one point I actually wanted to be an astronaut, so visiting the Space Center was a really exciting experience for me! It didn’t cost as much as we thought to get in and by using the self service ticket machine we skipped the long queues which was great! Inside the space centre there was so much to do. We walked around some exhibits showing what it looks like inside a space shuttle, touched a piece of rock from the moon and Mars, went on a space flight simulator, and read loads of interesting articles about the first space flights. It was really cool to see up close the actual rockets that really went into space – it made me start to question the whole universe and how big it really is. I think this annoyed Greg a bit because for the rest of the holiday I kept asking questions about where humans came from and what existed before the Big Bang!
After a fun day exploring space, we had a meal in Hooters (the only restaurant for miles near our motel) and discovered the amazing supermarket that is Big Lots. I could talk forever about how great this shop is but I won’t. All I’ll say is we went in to buy some chocolate and came out with a cool bag, a folding toothbrush, 2 pairs of shoes, some make up remover, a chocolate Easter Bunny and loads of snacks – that’s how good it is.
Anyway, the next day it was time to head to Austin. We didn’t really have any plans of what to do there but we’d heard it was the music capital of Texas so thought it sounded fun. We spent the afternoon exploring the main part of the town and the park surrounding the State Capitol which was fun. We then headed out for tea but really struggled to find somewhere that wasn’t ridiculously expensive – I’m talking over $50 for a steak! We eventually found a place which was OK but still fairly expensive so afterwards we just went for a nice evening walk. We discovered a giant swing so had a go on that before looping round by the river and back up to our Motel. Austin seemed like a nice place but it was just too expensive for our liking, so we probably won’t go back there again.
Next up was Dallas, which welcomed us with a huge thunderstorm! The rain started just as we arrived in the city, and within minutes the rain was falling so hard we could barely see where we were driving! Eventually we made it to the hotel - we tried to check in but they said it would be another hour until the room was ready, so we decided to wait out the storm in the car, hoping it would pass in 10 minutes like the other storms we’d already encountered. 45 minutes later and the rain was still hammering down and the thunder and lightning was getting worse. By this point it was basically time for us to check in so we made a mad dash inside (getting soaked within seconds) and sheltered in the room for a while.
Finally the rain eased off a bit so we headed out in our coats and walking boots, which we discovered must be a novelty in Dallas as nobody else seemed to own a coat and everyone looked at us like weirdos! We had a wander around but the rain started to get worse again, so we bought some snacks from 7 Eleven and headed back towards the room to have tea there. On the way back we went past the Dallas Heritage Village – an outdoor museum showcasing the history of life in Dallas and apparently it’s also home to the most haunted building in the city! Sadly it was shut when we got there but it looked really interesting.
The next day the sun was shining and the blue skies were back, so we got up early and went out to explore. We visited a huge monument of a herd of cattle crossing the river (where we also spotted some really cute ducklings), saw JFK’s memorial, and also the spot where he was shot. It was very interesting to stand and see where the shots were fired from and stand in the spot where he was first hit. A must visit for anyone that likes history!
The final destination for our second week of adventures was Oklahoma City. Here we drove to Bricktown River Walk Park and found another huge monument, this time of cowboys and horses. The statues were massive with the horses the size of real life shire horses - it made us feel tiny! We then had a beautiful walk along the river and into the town, which seemed to be very quiet! It was nice to wander around but we didn’t seem to find the main area, unless Oklahoma is just a quiet place! On the way back to the car we briefly considered going to a baseball game (in true American style) but decided against it. We’d watched enough of it in various bars by then to realise that neither of us really enjoyed the sport – we much preferred ice hockey!
After Oklahoma we joined back up with Route 66 and were due to head back into Texas to Amarillo, where our first night of camping would finally take place! I’d had such a great time so far but the trip had been very city-based, whereas the next stage was very much about getting back to the wild and experiencing the true American West…
To be continued...