SOUTHERN: Adj. A State of Mind. More than where you were born. See also, Fried chicken, Sweet Tea, Football, Moon Pies, Front Porches, Beer, Magnolias, Grits and Y’all.
I have spent the past 4 weeks in the southern States of the United States of America. Some cities I have visited before but other are a totally new experience for me. Although it sounds as though I am on a month long vacation I am sad to say that I only get a limited time to experience these charming cities. Not complaining, but a girl has to work y’all. It’s a life of get on a bus with the cast and crew of Michael Jackson the Immortal World Tour, arrive in a new city, hotel, find some food and then wake up the next day to work at the nearest sporting arena big enough to hold our show.
This was the final 4 weeks of the tour in the United Stars of America. We have traveled the world (USA, Canada, Mexico, Europe, Asia, Australia, NZ, United Emirates). And now I am about to embark on the last 2 weeks of this amazing journey in Mexico. I wish I had started this blog a little earlier so I could have shared so many amazing experiences but I will try and slowly add some flash back travel pieces as time goes by.
For now, pull up a cold beer, chew some straw and forget about your cholesterol as I take you on a quickie journey of my last few weeks.
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Straight off the plane from my time off in Australia, I was welcomed by the hot and humid stillness of this tornado prone city. Not a bustling downtown by any means. But something historic about it.
Skirvin Hilton Hotel: This was our home for 3 nights. Opened in 1911 this hotel is an institution in the city of Oklahoma. The oldest hotel in the city has gone through some recent (2007) renovations and shows historic features that make you feel like you have stepped back in time. And if you like a good story, this hotel is apparently haunted. Many noted NBA teams have stories of late night rumblings. I for one slept like a baby.
Kitchen no. 324: Honestly I was not overly impressed with the food pickin’s in this city. But I discovered this little downtown gem the morning I was leaving. Located in one of Oklahoma City’s most historic buildings, No. 324 offers local, organic and a warm and inviting menu that I had trouble choosing from.
Bricktown: Walking distance to our hotel, Bricktown is a place to have a few drinks and some easy meals. Definitely a relaxed place to spend your evening. I did not have food here that worthy of any raving recommendation but the area was quaint and felt safe.
We head deeper south now to Lafayette. Lafayette is considered the center of Acadiana, the area of Cajun culture in Louisiana and the United States. This European-American City was founded in 1821 by a french speaking man. After traveling through so many US cities over the years this is the first time I actually got to experience Cajun Cuisine. Not much was open on a Sunday night on our arrival but upon hotel recommendation we hit a home town favorite.
Randol’s: The “Joie de Vivre” can definitely be felt at Randol’s. The Cajun culture is deeply rooted in this local establishment. Homegrown crawfish and crabs set this menu apart from the rest. Be prepared to get down and dirty to enjoy your meal. I sure did. And did I mention the live band and dancing that occurs every night? There was so much fun on the dance floor for the whole family. I was beyond surprised at how much I enjoyed this place.
My 3rd time through this city and each time has been too short. I don’t just think of belt buckles and cowboy boots when I come to this city but more accurately sports. I have been fortunate enough to see both a Dallas Cowboys game and a Dallas Mavericks game. Both time front row seats to really smell the sweat (well not that close but nearly). Central Dallas is separated by a variety of trendy districts. West End Historic and Arts Districts are the ones that resonated with me the most. Yes there are a great deal of local law enforcement officials in this town and your all American cowboy, but this city has a fun modern edge.
ALOFT Dallas Downtown: This was the hotel that I rested my weary head on my most recent visit (Previous Magnolia Hotel). An affiliate of the W hotel chain, this Aloft hotel is industrial and modern in style. I had and amazing view of Pioneer Plaza. My only downside of this hotel – no room service.
Pioneer Plaza: A bronze cattle drive in downtown Dallas. Such a surprising art piece in an outdoor setting. A whole heard of cattle grazing down the stream. And each year a new steer is added. A great photo op.
Cedar Park/Austin, Texas
I have been to Austin and its probably my favorite of the Texas cities. The best place to find cowboy boots of every shape, style and colour and also home to an eclectic assortment of bars and restaurants. But this time through we stayed in the out parts of Cedar park. Not a place I would visit again and a city that doesn’t really understand the word Vegetarian….BBQ anyone?! I admittedly struggled to enjoy Cedar Park for the lack of local and accessible transport and lack of dining options for this Vegetarian. But never wanting to completely hide in my room, I jumped out of my comfort zone and got down with the locals.
Jack Allen’s Kitchen: This restaurant serves southern inspired flavors crossed with southwestern cuisine. I decided to get local and try the fried pickles. Giant Pickles are really only something I see when I’m in the states so I wanted to see what the fuss was about. This Aussie chick was not a fan but the restaurant more than made up for it with its tasty and generous Fish Taco dish. Yum.
Toobin at Don’s Fish Camp: Self proclaimed as “The Best Float in Texas”, Don’s Fish Camp takes you on a summer float down the San Marcos River. We started the journey on a bumpy ride on the big yellow school bus and arrived on this farm land to be loaded on yet another bus with a load full of tubes to start our 4 hour river float. They even supply tubes specifically for your drink filled cooler to float right along next to you so you never go thirsty. More of a party ride (think lots of alcohol and big groups), I found myself keeping my toobin group small and stuck with the water to avoid dehydration. An experience that I won’t forget.
I finally got a few extra days off in Houston. After playing our final 2 USA shows at the Toyota Arena, I snuck in some American sports, shopping and relaxation.
Hyatt Regency Downtown: Not a hotel to write home about but a great central location with a relaxing pool and appealing lobby bar that looks up to the open hallways of the rooms above.
NASA Space Center: “One small step….”. You can’t think of Houston without thinking of NASA. A place to see the amazing space history at its epicenter. Think 60′s and 70′s giant sized computers and vessels that shaped America’s Space history. An historic destination that should not be missed.
The Museum of Fine Arts Houston: When I think of Houston, I did not really imagine Fine arts. Located in the Museum district, 5 stops by light rail from downtown, this classic museum holds works by Matisse, Rembrandt and Picasso to name a few. A great way to avoid the summer humidity for a few hours. We followed this excursion up by a 3D movie on the Galapagos at the Museum of Natural Science. Very cultural indeed.
Discovery Green: This was a last minute and gorgeous find in downtown Houston. This vibrant 12-acre urban park was opened in 2008. It provides a running track, graphic scupltures and a place to unwind after a hectic day in the city. Stay tuned for a fun photo shoot for an upcoming outfit post
Minute Maid Park: I could not leave the USA without going to one last True American Sporting event. Minute Maid Park is home to the Houston Astros. This baseball park is different to any other I have seen. This fully grassed field is housed in a retractable stadium to battle Houston’s humid weather. And thank goodness….it was pouring the night of our game against the Minnesota Twins. Hopefully you get to see a home run so the train goes across the stadium!
Next stop….Mexico City and Guadalajara. I will try and get some downtime between work so I can share some local sights with you all.