Today we put another few hundred miles on the clock and…we found ourselves still in Texas. Odessa may just be a pit stop on our way to Arizona and California but we wanted to check out the local points of interest. When we searched the hotel’s displays and researched online, we found just two. The first of these was the Odessa Meteor Crater, which is apparently an impact crater 170 m in diameter. We set our sat nav for the second largest meteor crater in the USA and were somewhat surprised to draw up at the local hospice! Not saying our Tom Tom is rubbish but….on deeper investigation than instructions and addresses on the leaflets from the hotel, it appears the real deal is 20 miles away! No problem because also listed as a major point of interest is a replica of Stonehenge here on the campus of the University of Texas. It seems it was completed in 2004 and the replica is said to be horizontally equal to Stonehenge, although only 70% of the vertical height of the original. We were keen to see how this had been constructed – had they learned the art of moving huge stones from nearby mountains using primitive methods? Well, what can I say? I took the photos of the concrete slabs to prove we came and tomorrow we have the promise of a scenic drive to El Paso! Lots of laughs today 😂😂. Small American towns are so proud to offer their wonders to visitors but somehow Stonehenge it definitely wasn’t. Perhaps we might go to the cinema… oh look, even that had closed down.
Carolyn’s Curios and Curiosities
Odessa was very quiet and we didn’t realise until much later that, on 31 August, just over a fortnight before our visit, a gunman killed seven people and injured more than 20 in Odessa and Midland in western Texas. He had called the police on an FBI tip line, making “rambling statements” about being fired by his employer before he went on his drive-by mass shooting rampage, police.
Not knowing the recent history, I did look for a queue of people to photograph where I could have posted … “Filming the ‘Odessa File’! ” Seems totally inappropriate now.
This morning Houston; this afternoon Dallas. We wasted no time and, after a quick check in, we were off walking to the JFK Museum. Those of us who are of a certain age will always remember what we were doing on 22 November, 1963, and with no morbid curiosity whatsoever, I simply wanted to see the place which housed the memories of this historic event.
The museum is situated on the 6th Floor, which was once the home of a book packing business, at Dealey Plaza. From there (a window on the right hand corner as you stand and look up at the building) it is alleged that Lee Harvey Oswald fired the fatal shot which killed the young President John Fitzgerald Kennedy. I say “alleged” as it is 55 years this year since the assassination and to this day conspiracy theories abound. Did walking through a minute by minute account of the shootings help, or standing in the room where it is said Lee Harvey Oswald stood and watched the motorcade approach before taking the shot once the car had turned and passed in front of his window? Not a bit! I don’t suppose seeing the grassy knoll where other shots were heard will help either. The investigation closed some years ago through lack of evidence to support other theories and I guess we will never know. It was a sad time for America and who would know that “curse of the Kennedy’s” would continue to visit this materially privileged family and affect so many more members in the following years.
Time for dinner and an exploration of Dallas tomorrow.
Stepping out from the hotel, the wall of heat just envelops you. We set out in a morning temperature of 37 degrees Celsius (Carolyn says don’t put Centigrade!). Whatever – it’s a rather warm 98.6 Fahrenheit!!!
We opt to explore this beautiful city via a hop on/hop off trolley bus, but recognise there will be walking involved. Our first stop involved an opportunity to get up close to the most amazing display of bronze statues called “Cattle Drive”. It looks as though the cattle are heading for the city in a large herd. Really clever.
From there we toured the city until we were decanted somewhere near Reunion Tower, which was definitely worth a visit. Each city in America appears to have such a tower overlooking its tall buildings and the Dallas structure did not disappoint. We were able to walk around the viewing platform and enjoy the sights we had seen from a different perspective. A really helpful lady steward heard our English accents and went out of her way to converse and entertain. She pointed out the markers on the road outside Dealey Plaza which showed exactly where the car was when JFK was hit. The grassy knoll next to the building is exactly as it was and she shared once again some of the conspiracy theories we had heard the previous day. To this day, Dallas feels the shame of being the city which failed to prevent the President of the United States being assassinated.
From here, Carolyn had the great idea (as it was mid afternoon) that we might head for a bar she had researched which had great live music and food. It wasn’t too far, she thought. Hmmmm! The afternoon felt much hotter than when we left in the morning and we were constantly in need of liquid but a walk was not a bad idea….oh yes it was! I’m sure Carolyn will talk about the bar which was closed because of a private event, although she may not mention the hour it took to get there and the fact that we needed to stop at a very seedy McDonald’s for a much needed cold drink. Suffice to say, we ended up going to Hooters of all places with their under-clad and over-endowed serving staff. Interesting. I politely declined the idea of walking back to the hotel afterwards though… enough!
On the road again tomorrow and a pit stop in Odessa.
Carolyn’s Curios and Curiosities
‘#55years’ Great exhibition and experience. Reliving memories from my teenage years. Sad but uplifting as well. I don’t remember where I was when Kennedy died but I know I felt a loss. His hopes and dreams of a brighter future seemed dimmed if not extinguished. The song ‘Abraham, Martin and John’ (originally by Dion but a big hit in the UK by Marvin Gaye) has a particular poignancy – we’d visited the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. on our Music City Road Trip and went to the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, where Martin Luther King Jnr. was shot, later that trip. Now in Dallas, we see both the road where Kennedy was assassinated and the window of the Book Repository from where the shot is alleged to have been fired. We mustn’t let that dream die with the men who spoke so passionately about it. I, too, have a dream that one day…!
Dallas – memories of “Who shot JR?” from the eponymous TV series and, more significantly, “Who shot JFK?”
The trolley bus tour made Dallas more real and appealing. Miles of concrete greeted us as we drove in with a slightly aberrant Sat. Nav. but we triumphed. Very hot evening and equally hot day but now 500 feet up on Reunion Tower and there’s a breeze!
The local football team (NFL) is the Cowboys so what else could we do for a photo… “Yee-haw!” with Captain America thrown in!
Kath mentioned my suggestion about a visit to well-known music bar… Well, it seemed a good idea – music, food and, perhaps, a drink. And, apparently, our friend, Emily, had been there according to Facebook.
However, … wouldn’t you know… no music tonight, snacks only at the bar and… the requested cocktail (on their menu!) couldn’t be made as they didn’t have the ingredients. Maybe next time!
But, resisting the temptingly titled (chuckle) ‘Dick’s Last Resort’ as an alternative, we moved to the equally suggestively titled ‘Hooters’ and, despite the two giant carved owls outside, we knew the intended allusion.
Apologies immediately, Kathleen Rainbow!
I tried hard to resist but a ”twit with two whos?!” Really, really sorry – and it was outside Hooters!
Such a brilliant day at the Space Centre, home of Mission Control for the Apollo Missions, moon landings, etc. We had reserved tickets online and thought that on arrival we would simply present the confirmation on our phones and we would be in. In reality we arrived early and found long queues of families also waiting to either buy tickets or, like us, to receive tickets from confirmations. However, 10 am arrived, the ticket desks opened and we were swiftly through.
So, what to do first? My personal ambition was to see Mission Control and one of the parts of our tickets provided trolley rides out through the site and admission to Mission Control. So far, no problem, Houston. We took one of the early trolleys and we were off. The narration was provided by young stewards who read scripts as part of their training. Unfortunately, like many trainees, they wanted to get through the script as quickly as possible and it was difficult for us to follow. However, we were decanted at Mission Control and it was then easier to understand the narrative. After climbing 54 steps to the top of the building, we were seated in a viewing gallery overlooking the area where the experts read the information coming back from the Apollo space crafts on their large computers and responded to the voices of the Astronauts, especially those immortal words from Apollo 13, “Houston, we have a problem”. The desks are exactly as they were and the positions of the key people are clearly identified. Really fascinating.
Back on the trolley, our next stop was the opportunity to walk around the total length of a Saturn rocket. We were totally amazed to see the final (very) small capsule in the nose cone where the astronauts sit. The whole length of Saturn is overlooked by banners recalling the different missions which used the rocket. There are films to see along the way showing Mission Control at the time and the astronauts who took part in the quests to conquer space.
We then took the opportunity to return to the Centre and explore the rockets which piggy backed on the back of a jet [Shuttles). Amazingly, you can walk through the aircraft and view the inside of the rocket. Whichever method used, the huge Saturn rocket or the more compact rocket on top of the aircraft, the space for the astronauts is tiny and cramped. When you see it up close it is very, very real and you cannot help having renewed respect and admiration for those very brave souls who risked (and in some cases gave) their lives in pursuit of knowledge.
The exhibitions in the Centre are amazing and, because so many are interactive, they provide something for everyone to enjoy from the space nerds to small children and everyone else in between. There is also a lovely part of the grounds planted with trees, each one commemorating an astronaut who will not be flying any more missions. It was a truly fascinating day and we involved ourselves in the interactive exhibits, got lost amongst the huge tableaux and had to send text messages to each other detailing where to meet, enjoyed some of the characters (both staff and fellow browsers) and generally walked our legs down.
Not wanting to miss a thing we drove into Houston but totally failed to find the “centre”. We eventually presumed we had seen uptown, downtown and several bits in between so went to dinner!
Off to Dallas in the morning from our hotel in Pasadena and not too long a drive.
Carolyn’s Curios and Curiosities
It may have been, “One small step for a man”, according to Neil Armstrong but, as Kath mentioned, it was 54 steps to get us to the Control Room! On the day of the Moon Landing in July, 1969, I was camping in a field near Barmouth, Wales and managed to watch the landing on a tiny portable television powered by a car battery. In the midst of our excitement and clamour, a crowd surrounding the minuscule screen was almost amusing but, of course, what we saw was still amazing! Later that evening, as we gazed up to a bright summer Moon, we talked realistically of the ‘Man’, not in, but, on ‘the Moon’. What we heard on the crackling sound, of course, was “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” which, thinking about it later, didn’t make sense as ‘man’ and ‘mankind’ in that context are synonyms. On analysis later, after reading Armstrong’s views on it, he claims – and who am I to doubt it – he actually said “One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind”. As Michael Caine might have said (but didn’t), “And, not a lot of people know that!”
Note: “Houston, we have a problem” is not the actual quote (I looked it up!). What was actually said by Jack Swigert was, “Okay, Houston, we’ve had problem here”. Needless to say, we didn’t have a problem – we had a great time!
As we say a ‘goodbye’ to New Orleans, we realise the sobriquet of ‘The Big Easy’ may be appropriate for some but we’ve walked 10k steps a day in roasting heat for three days! Phew!
However, what fun! Tonight’s music was the cacophony of all musical genres merging into one as we walked along Bourbon Street. However, the traditional jazz of ‘Steamboat Willie’, aka Larry Stoops, was pure Creole as we paused to sit and listen. Further jazz back at the hotel. Great evening.
A few final comments about this part of our Road Trip before we ‘hit the road’ tomorrow heading for Pasadena.
Superdome: largest unsupported dome in the world and the stadium proclaims, ‘Dome Field Advantage’.
Nicholas Cage has an empty pyramid tomb ready for his death.
Harrah Casino has seven flags outside including… our Union Flag and a Rainbow Flag – no explanation, it just is.
A balcony and gallery on a house differ…
A Balcony is a narrow platform coming out from a building. Balconies have no support to the ground. … A Gallery is generally wider than a balcony as it is supported to the ground by posts or columns often the width of a sidewalk.
The Streetcar Line is the oldest in the world, we were told.
Creole means born in New Orleans,
Benjamin Button’s house was filmed in the Garden District.
And, if you can – visit New Orleans. If you’ve visited, come back… like we did! It’s well worth it!
Coming back to New Orleans is such a treat. Even in our ‘ever so slightly done in’ state when we arrived last night, we still went out to dinner, still watched some American football (New Orleans won!) and much appreciated the hotel being just as good as last time. We were able to fully take in the scenery on our arrival into the city, as this time, our transport was via a taxi from the airport. You always wonder if a place will be as good as you remember it, but, catching sight of familiar buildings was reassuring and our short walk in search of dinner left us comfortable that little had changed. Creaky floors and a steep staircase in the restaurant, coupled with friendly service and good food, spoke of an easy homecoming, as did the fun and laughter on the street below. As for the music, it is still loud, still vibrant and still pouring out of every bar and restaurant.
Today, our first full day, in the heat – even for me, it is off the scale – and in the hot, bright sun, my sun glasses broke. Bother, or words to that effect, so a walk to buy more and an even longer walk to claim back some tax. There is no doubt that walking enables you to see more of the scenery and the river front which we followed was certainly worth looking at. How amazing to bump into Allan Oldfield, Chief Exec of Fylde. I am not sure who was the more surprised, Allan or Carolyn, but we enjoyed some lighthearted banter before continuing what we thought to be a short stroll. However, by the time we had taken a couple of wrong turns in search of the shopping centre which housed a small tax refund office, we were much in need of a cold drink. This was accomplished quickly, along with some beignets (a New Orleans speciality which are a bit like donuts). After the small tax refund and pondering whether it was worth the few thousand steps it took to find it, we went back into the sun and had lunch along the way with oysters and cold beer. Fabulous and we will definitely go back should we return to New Orleans in the future. But the afternoon had begun to really sizzle so we thought it prudent to step inside the air conditioned hotel for a while, plan tomorrow properly and prepare to visit a few bars this evening (it’s for the music, honestly!!)
For our last full day, we began with a walk down to the river to pick up the Hop-on Hop-off tour bus. We decided to do the walking tour at the Garden District… not exactly gardens, it turns out, but a visit to the outside of homes belonging to the rich and famous. Anyway, I now know where Sandra Bullock and John Goodman live, how much their homes are worth and how the previous owners had decorated. Actually, our guide was fun. Then it was more walking back to the bus (did I say it was hot, hot, hot with high humidity?!) before deciding we had earned lunch.
The guides here on the various tour buses all remind you to tip but I was hugely amused when one guy, possibly even older than me, asked for a contribution which would go towards his grandmother’s facelift!! Our New Orleans visit has been fabulous. In addition to the miles we have covered on foot, we have been shown the mighty Mississippi, the Casino, the Cathedral, the Superdome, the cemeteries, the World War 2 Museum, the Mardi Gras World, a variety of architecture and been told all sorts of fascinating claims and stories about the city and its occupants. The tour guides certainly inject a sense of fun with pointing out local ‘peculiarities’, including a car park mural of whales – known as the ‘whaling wall’ and a gold statue of Joan of Arc on a horse which is called ‘Joannie on her Pony’. Well, it appealed to my sense of humour.
Tomorrow the road trip begins as we pick up the car and drive to Houston.
Carolyn’s Curios and Curiosities
After 22 hours on the go, a Cajun Platter and this Half Ass Beer (a couple!) round the corner from our hotel seemed the least we could do! — at Bourbon Orleans Hotel.
Food later included Fried Alligator bites followed by ribs with Mac ‘n’ Cheese at Crescent City Brewhouse. Oh, and, yes, beer as it was a brewhouse! Highly recommended.
Kath mentioned the amazing coincidence of ‘bumping into’ Allan Oldfield and his partner as they walked along the Mississippi. As a man was walking towards me from a distance, I, as I often do, thought that “vaguely looks like… ” However, I paid no more attention until he came closer and, as he passed me, I turned to look at the what I thought was a mere similarity. Allan, too, had turned and, as we faced each other… “Carolyn?”, he exclaimed incredulously. “Allan?!”, I replied as I moved from questioning to certainty with amazement. Wow! It wasn’t a gin joint, nor Casablanca but… a fabulous moment reminding us how small our world is and where our individual paths in life frequently cross!
Our usual Big Red Bus Tour started with a loop around ‘The Big Easy’ taking in, amongst so much else, Cemeteries (Nicholas Cage has a pyramid ready for himself in one!); Mardi Gras Exhibition; Basin Street, Armstrong Park, Harrah’s Casino (with some outdoor gaming machines for smokers!), World War 2 Museum and… Beyoncé’s New Orleans house.
Unlike the torrential rain on our New York Bus Tour, New Orleans had 35 degree wall-to-wall sunshine as a Kath and I tried to top up our tans on the open upper deck.
After starting to plan our schedule of ’get off and ons’ for tomorrow, lunch called and a beef Po’boy arrived in front of Kath! I have to report that she didn’t eat all of the fries but absolutely loved the rest! (Po’boy, by the way, came from ‘Poor boys’ who, when there was a closedown of the Streetcar Line, were given French bread to help them eat.)
Another fun day with a Gumbo demonstration this evening!
Street cleaning took on a whole new dimension for me this morning. Whilst walking down the pavement of Toulouse Street, I heard the deep, guttural sound of a large U.S. truck’s distinctive horn. Not once but several times it honked and I turned to face the monster and saw it coming towards me from the centre of the road spraying soapy water across the whole carriageway. As I stepped closer to the wall, it came past and the driver and I exchanged smiles and waves. “They don’t do things by halves”, I thought, as the suds shone and twinkled in the sunshine for several minutes after it passed by.
An extra thought, as I continued the long walk down Toulouse Street in the French Quarter, … could my efforts be titled… Toulouse – le trek?! Perhaps not!
An evening on Bourbon Street culminating with a Bourbon on Bourbon Street! What’s not to like?!
You don’t just walk down the Mississippi – you sail on it and the tram system is, we were told, the oldest!
Some extra fun – aka silliness – took place towards the end of a fun-filled day.
We like having ‘fun’! We take pleasure from the anticipation, the planning, the taking part and… the looking back: reminiscing, reliving and relishing – and planning the next journey.
September 2019 saw us revisit New Orleans as we began our Road Trip across the southern border of the United States on our way to Santa Monica. We’d been to New Orleans on our Music City Road Trip (2017) and had ended our Route 66 Road Trip at Santa Monica (2016). Both places deserved a more detailed and leisurely exploration and indulgence.
Previously, we have written our blog at the end of each day on the road. This time, we decided ‘merely’ to share our enjoyment and experiences via Facebook. However, our blogs are not primarily for others. They are for ourselves to review our travels and rekindle the events and experiences as we read again in the future of our ‘exploits’ in the past.
Facebook, we have decided, doesn’t allow us to do that as well as we would like. Hence this blog and book.
We are writing now, in April 2020, during the Coronovirus pandemic to raise our spirits and to inscribe and share another wonderful Road Trip together despite being physically distant. We can look back this day and during our tomorrows with pleasure and many new smiles.
You have awful feelings, when you have waxed lyrical about a place to friends, that the reality, through their eyes, may be disappointingly different. Phew, the very pretty Napier, Art Deco capital of the world (the town claims), was a success. It was a gloriously hot and sunny day and we arrived early enough to be ahead of the crowds. Therefore, we were able to stroll the streets and enjoy seeing locals dressed in costume for the Deco Festival currently taking place in the town. Not only were they beautifully and stylishly dressed but they brought their Classic Cars out to play as well.
The free Wi-fi was rather less prevalent than the previous day and I confess our recent days have been so packed-full there has been little time to do the blog full justice. So, we found ourselves marvelling at the Deco buildings, chuckling at the ancient bulbous horns on the very old motors, strolling the sea front, admiring the costumes being paraded in The Gatsby Bar in the Masonic Building (just look at that fox fur!) and generally being too involved to think about internet connections. We even found time for coffee, sticky lemon cake (yummy) and ice cold beer! Not too shabby then.
I loved this town the first time I visited and I was happy to find its charm undiminished. Ann commented that it was a shame the fabulous deco buildings had been invaded by modern shops, leaving only the original style at the top. Many shops had incorporated beautiful Art Deco patterned glass in their windows so, for me, the spirit lives on. Of course, it was an earthquake that destroyed the original town, which was then completely rebuilt in the modern style of that age, the 1930s.
The shuttle bus driver gave us a startling fact on our return to the ship….there are over 200 earth tremors in NZ every week and the last one was Wednesday!!! The population is always at a state of readiness with households expected to be prepared with 3 days’ worth of supplies. Strangely enough, the ship’s captain mentioned some damage at one of our ports of call due to a recent tremor. Goodness, the earth is definitely going to be moving tomorrow – we are visiting Rotorua, where the earth’s crust is thinner than at any point on the planet and boiling mud pools and geysers are likely to spring up anywhere.
Carolyn’s Curios & Curiosities
‘Classic Cars, Clint and Culture’
I have described Napier in the sunshine as probably having the ‘prettiest’ main street I’ve seen. We only saw a little part of the town but what we saw was special.
The last visit of a Noordam here was on a very wet day, we were told. It may have been less impressive then but class shows through.
Interestingly, Clint (Eastwood) appeared larger than life on the wall of the Lone Star bar which, incongruously, had Wild Western decor with Art Deco dressed staff. Further, the music playing was Country & Western with the television showing the Winter Olympics Men’s Downhill!
Ann’s fundraising walk in the afternoon – nine times round Deck 3 to cover 5 km – went well and matched her performance the last trip. Kath and I supported (from a distance!) but succumbed to a delicious Strawberry Sorbet in the sun feeling only slightly guilty.
The evening meal tonight was, possibly, the best of what, overall, has been excellent fare, cooked and served close to perfection. I’ve been impressed that crockery has usually been shaped as equilateral curved triangles (one of my favourite shapes) and our ‘main’ course tonight was lobster and filet mignon – what’s not to like?!
The evening ended in the ‘Crows Nest’ bar doing crosswords.
Wellington was a very happy return for me. Warm sunshine and low humidity greeted our day and, because I had done a tour of the city last time, I felt comfortable suggesting the shuttle bus into the city and ‘doing our own thing’. One thing I hadn’t done previously was a walk along the waterfront, so this became our first activity. One of the friendly city guides greeted us off the bus with a map and some advice for our day. We subsequently found guides at all the key places and more friendly and helpful folk you would be hard pushed to find anywhere.
Along the sea front we immediately came across a huge bunch of learners on roller blades and, as with all learners, they were progressing at very different rates. It looked like a girls’ school outing (such fun) and they were certainly enjoying even the falling down as they were kitted out with knee and elbow pads. Also setting off were a group of learner kayakers. The seafront is full of the usual eateries as well as some of the more unusual. Our choice for coffee was a Maori-run cafe within a much larger function venue offering sea views at the front and lake views at the back. The whole walk along to the harbour offered lovely city views, spectacular sea views, with yachts flying their spinnakers, and a variety of boardwalks and bridges.
We then made our way inland in search of the cable car which takes you up the mountain to view the city and on into the Botanical Gardens. We managed to walk past loads of lovely shops, and apart from a quick ‘recce’ into a shoe shop, we escaped with our purses intact. From the cable car, the views across the city and the bay are well worth the few dollars for the ride and Ann and I chose to stand right at the front of the tram to take photos en route. (No competition for the professionals but great photo fun).
We elected to go back to the harbour for lunch and found a bar with more varieties of beer than we had seen before. However, only one of us chose to partake….now, who might that have been, Ann?! More walking after lunch before heading back to the ship. As we walked, the wind picked up and we watched a ferry listing heavily to starboard as it left the port. Oh dear, could it be rough seas for our journey to Napier?
Carolyn’s Curios & Curiosities
The Wellington Ambassador Guides were exemplary. Dressed in a noticeable yellow and black polo shirt, they were clearly visible and both welcoming and well-informed. Added to their number, we found a senior police officer who saw us and asked if we needed help. Great welcome; lovely people. For me, an extra bonus was the logo on their shirts which said, simply, “Absolutely positively”. Clever.
The lunchtime restaurant was marked for me by the hipster beards in abundance on the male staff and their frequent use of “Awesome” in reply to most questions. However, the food was… yes, awesome.
An advert on the side of a bus for a theatre production proclaimed ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream opens 7 December’. This, initially, seemed so incongruous until I reminded my self that December here was mid-summer. Hmm!
When we visit our preferred restaurant on board in the evening, we are greeted and asked for our room numbers. Needless to say, we don’t need to repeat it. This evening, in attempting to exchange pleasantries, our host asked if we were from Sydney. “No”, we replied almost in unison, “We’re from the UK – near Manchester and Liverpool”. “Which football team do you support?”, asked Kath. Immediately, I could see trouble brewing as Kath supports United and Ann, Liverpool. The poor guy realised he was on a loser whichever way he replied. He, diplomatically, tried for both but I noticed Kath high-fiving him as she left. A convert? Albeit a little cupboard love, perhaps.
Frequently, we are reminded that it is a small world. On board are Ann Jones, former Wimbledon Champion, and, lesser known nationally, of course, but I spotted the former Chief Adviser for Lancashire at dinner. Small world.
Ann Jones took part in the ‘On deck for a cause’ which is a 5km fundraising walk nine times round the deck. (Our Ann did it, too, more tomorrow.) She didn’t wear the event T-shirt but one which proclaimed, “”Well-behaved wenches rarely change history”. Yes!