24.05.2015 - 04.06.2015
Another week, another flight. This time just a short hop from Louisiana to the next-door state of Texas. As in New Orleans, our time in Texas was punctuated with extreme weather; we arrived in San Antonio to flash floods and tornado warnings. Luckily, we escaped the worst of the weather, as we followed it up to Austin, and finally, Dallas.
But never fear. His'n'hers cagoules at the ready, we headed to the main sights on our agenda, including the Alamo Mission, where Texas fought for independence in 1836, and the San Antonio Paseo del Rio (River Walk), which starts in midtown and ends as the river joins the larger Guadalupe River to the south before flowing into the Gulf of Mexico.
Texas is definitely made for cars, making my ideal of being a flâneur, wandering the streets and sitting in cafés more difficult. But in both San Antonio and Austin we had found neighbourhoods to stay in that we enjoyed exploring, even if they were spread out and on a Texas scale (cue the saying, 'Everything's bigger in Texas').
Southtown in San Antonio had a great selection of casual outdoor bars. Our favourites were the Friendly Spot and B&D Icehouse, the latter known for its excellent barbecue. We ate brisket with pickles, mac'n'cheese and Lone Star beer, whilst watching the sunset and playing with the local stray cat, aptly named Brisket.
Despite the meat feast I've just mentioned, by this point we had realised that eating all our meals out every day was not going to be sustainable, neither for our wallets nor our stomachs, unless we wanted to sell all our belongings to buy extra seats on the plane. So we found a supermarket and bought healthy breakfast and lunch supplies, vowing to continue this practice for the rest of our trip. Our hosts in San Antonio had also given us fresh eggs from the chickens in the garden, another incentive to eat in.
Our bungalow in San Antonio really felt like home, not least because of Zorro, a formerly-feral cat adopted by our hosts, who made himself at home with us on the front porch. When I said I wanted to skip dinner to hang out with Zorro Matt became especially concerned about my increasing crazy cat lady ways, and the prospect of Japan's cat cafés did nothing to alleviate his fears.
A few hours on the megabus and we were in Austin, in another AirBnB bungalow, this time just off South Congress Avenue, or SoCo (trying to be the cool kids again). SoCo is the home of the 'Keep Austin Weird!' movement, and the main strip houses an array of vintage clothes stores, trendy eateries and food trucks such as Ms P's Electric Cock.
In Austin, there was another huge storm, just as we were getting ourselves lost looking for the Bullock State History Museum. Our timing was impeccable, though we were not, as we dragged our soggy, cagouled selves into the museum. Fortunately they took pity on us and let us in, which was just as well, as the museum taught us a lot about the history of Texas (I didn't just enjoy it because it was interactive, despite what Matt will tell you). Once the rain had stopped, the sun was blazing, and we took a turn about the gardens of the Texas State Capitol.
From Austin we took the Amtrak to Dallas, a mere six hours (twice as long as it would have taken by car). On the journey I watched The Last Picture Show, having just finished the book by Larry McMurtry, a well-known Texan author (most famous for Lonesome Dove). The book, and the film, gave me a good view of small-town Texas in the 1950s, though I'm trying to forget some of the more disturbing scenes involving cows. Don't let that put you off.
With our arrival in Dallas, summer returned, and though you could see the damage left by the storms, the sun was out and the sweat was back on (not that we'd really stopped, as the storms just increased the humidity). Our hosts for the next few days were Stuart and Erica, a couple we had met just once before, on a drunken night in Marrakech last year. Our first night in Dallas went very much the same way, and we didn't envy Stuart and Erica having to get up for work the next morning.
Once our hangovers had subsided we decided, with two days in the area, to spend one day in Dallas and one in Fort Worth. In Fort Worth we spent some time in the Kimbell Art Museum, and then headed to the stockyards for a taste of cowboy culture. After the cattle drive, I managed to rustle up my own longhorn. Yee-ha!
In Dallas, we visited the Sixth Floor Museum, and before we knew it we had spent over four hours in there, absorbing every panel, photo and video. From the window next to Lee Harvey Oswald's (alleged) sniper's nest, we tried to get our heads around the view below, where a large 'X' marks the spot on the road where Kennedy was hit by the fatal bullet. The obsession now in full swing, we both started reading Crossfire, Jim Marrs' hefty tome, and are cultivating our own conspiracy theory. The film JFK, which I mentioned in my last post, is based partly on Crossfire.
On our last night in Dallas we attended our first ever baseball game: the Texas Rangers versus the Chicago White Sox, at the Rangers stadium in Arlington. Donned in the kit, I felt we might have become true Texans, but alas, it was time to move on. We're very grateful to Stuart and Erica (and Nora, the fluffiest, floppiest labradoodle) for welcoming us into their home, introducing us to their friends, showing us around their city, being our taxi service and providing us with some wonderful home-cooking, which was much needed. Our stay was the perfect end to the first half of our trip, and we left refreshed and invigorated, ready to face Japan. Just a short 24 hour stopover in LA and we were on our way across the Pacific.