Tag Archives: Dallas

Hot Stuff in The States – Part 3: Dallas

Confession Time. We didn’t really think much about Dallas before we headed over to the USA. Nigh on all of our thoughts were around Las Vegas and our five days on the road. By the time we checked into the Hyatt Regency we had already been in the States for 12 nights, got married, and travelled 1,200 miles along stretches of Route 66 i.e. a holiday in itself. Therefore it almost felt a little bit strange to still have another week to go in a location we’d barely scratched the surface of during our pre-holiday research. What I’m trying to say is that we really didn’t do that much beyond wandering around the downtown area, and seeing what it had to offer. So instead of a day by day diary I’ll just let you know the highlights of our week.

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The view from our window (that is downtown Dallas)

I had a feeling the hotel was near Dealey Plaza, where JFK was assassinated, but I didn’t realise it was as close as it actually was. In the picture above, Dealey Plaza is centre left – the area of greenery. This was our first tourist stop, which we made on our second day in town. Next to the Plaza is of course the Texas Book Depository, from where all (or some) of the fatal shots were fired. The Depository is now not a Depository and instead houses the JFK Sixth Floor Museum.

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Bet you could get a good shot from here. That’s our hotel in the background i.e. the glass thing.

The museum was fascinating. I expected it to back up the “Lone Gunman” theory i.e. it was all Lee Harvey Oswald’s doing, but it didn’t. In truth it left the mystery as wide open as ever. As an aside, this was the first time I’d ever had an audio tour (it was included in the entry fee) and it really enhanced the experience. The picture above shows where JFK’s car was when he was shot – the silver car in our picture is about 10 yards beyond where the fatal shot hit Kennedy.

On another day we took the JFK Trolley Tour which involved hopping aboard an old style trolley bus, and in essence following where Lee Harvey Oswald went after the shooting. As you may, or may not know, he simply wandered out of the depository and went home.

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A new photo of the mysterious man behind the picket fence

Enjoyed the tour on the trolley bus. For one thing it let us see parts of Dallas we wouldn’t have otherwise seen. You saw where Oswald boarded, where he shot police office JD Tippit and the cinema where he was arrested. Before I go any further the following picture needs to be shown, and admired! Deena sat clicking at the downtown skyline for an hour during a spectacular thunderstorm and this picture was her reward. She’d always wanted to capture a lightning bolt and now she has.

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A Deena Clements original…can you beat that Angela?

Downtown Dallas wasn’t really what I had imagined. If you think of downtown New York or London you have pictures of streets crammed with tourists and lots of places to see. This wasn’t what we got in Dallas. The downtown area was more of a business quarter with offices and places to eat & drink for the office workers. To see the best of Dallas and the surrounding area i.e. the likes of Southfork Ranch, you need to have a car. If we could do the holiday again we would have probably spent less time in Dallas and more time with the car, possibly including staying outside Dallas and nipping in and out when we wanted to visit downtown.

In the downtown area the main tourist destination, outwith the JFK bits and bobs, is the Dallas Aquarium. Got to admit my feelings on animals in captivity mean I’m not a huge fan of zoos and aquariums, especially if it feels like the environments are restrictive and unnatural. The surprise with the aquarium is that it’s not just an aquarium. In fact it’s more like an indoor jungle with birds, reptiles, monkeys, sloths etc as well as fish and mammals. The place was slightly oppressive. Didn’t smell very fresh and the penguin in his sun drenched pool didn’t look too happy. However, it is what it is. Wouldn’t recommend a tip if you’re remotely unsettled by animals behind bars.

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Pool or hot tub?

Our hotel was right next to the Reunion Tower. Think the tower was there first and the hotel quickly followed. On our second last day we took a trip up. One thing we got a great view of was the hotel pool. As the picture above shows, it was absolutely tiny. More than three people in it and it was full. Honestly, I’ve seen bigger hot tubs. For a hotel of the size of the Hyatt Regency it was utterly bizarre that they had such a small pool. Pity, because me and the Mrs both enjoyed our evening swim.

Above the main viewing area was a cafe with a neat trick – the outside section rotated i.e. not the tower, simply the floor between the cafe and the window ledge. Took about 40 minutes or so to slowly work its way round.

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Paul in orange.

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Pioneer Plaza

Other places we wandered too include Pioneer Plaza which featured a collection of large horse, cattle and cowboy statues. Nearby was a cemetery which was where most of the pioneers who founded Dallas were buried. Retail therapy was mainly limited to one trip up the Orange line on the DART (Dallas Area Rapid Transit – buses, trains, trams) to Northpark mall. Here we bought a carry-on suitcase as it appeared as if we were taking home twice as much as we’d brought. It wasn’t of course that much but we definitely needed some more space for the journey home. A few days we just went for a wander around downtown before relaxing at the hotel. As I said if we’d thought more about Dallas then I’m sure we would have seen more of it. As it was we were happy to chill after what had been a hot and tiring couple of weeks before even getting to our final hotel.

On our last morning we were up and out of the Hyatt Regency by 9:30. Handily the DART had a station at DFW (Dallas Forth Worth airport) and so it was a relatively easy journey from hotel to the departure lounge.

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At Dallas Fort Worth airport. The journey home begins.

Flight to London was around 9 hours, and a couple of hours after that we were in the air back up to Edinburgh.

Thanks for reading.

Hot Stuff in The States – Part 2: Road Trip

Friday 19th June (Part 2)

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Goodbye to LV

Having said goodbye to The Vdara, our taxi dropped us off at McCarron International Airport’s dedicated “Car Rental Plaza” i.e. a big building with every possible car-hire company you could think of inside. Our vehicle was being hired through National, so it was to their desk that we headed. After a few minutes signing paperwork and flashing credit cards we were pointed up the stairs to the attached multi-story car park. It seemed the car I’d selected was not available so we got a free upgrade to something bigger, which was nice. The attendant just pointed to a row of cars and said to take our pick. We briefly swithered between two before going for a Hyundai Sonata. I clearly have a soft spot for Hyundai having just bought one of my own in March. This one was a bit bigger than mine, and it was also an automatic!

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On the road

After working out how to take the handbrake off and then how to move the car from Park into Reverse, Drive etc (you put your foot on the brake) we were off. First lesson learned in the opening few yards was to give the left foot a holiday. In a manual the left foot does the clutch, the right, the brake and accelerator. In an automatic there is no clutch pedal so leave it all to the right. Have to admit there was slight trepidation about driving in the US (automatic and being on the other side of the road) but it wasn’t a big deal. You very quickly get used to both the car and the driving conditions. Having safely negotiated our way out of the car park, and then Las Vegas, we set the Sat Nav for Hoover Dam.

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What time is it?

On leaving Las Vegas, we soon also left Nevada. To me this meant a change of time from Pacific to Mountain time. However, it turned out that even within Mountain time zones there is an hour difference. Think it had something to do with Navajo Indian areas – they remained in line with Pacific while the rest were forward an hour. We didn’t know this so spent most of the rest of the day an hour ahead!

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Hoover Dam

Hoover Dam was only 30 miles or so from Vegas, and due to the distance we had to cover to our next hotel, this was just going to be a quick stop. However, it was enough to get some stunning views from the bridge overlooking the dam. Soon we were back on the road and heading for Tusayan, which is the nearest place you can get to the Grand Canyon (without being inside the grounds of the park).

The last 50 miles up to Tusayan was a long, straight road. We arrived at the Best Western at 7:30, or as it turned out 6:30! Temperature was cooler than Las Vegas, which was quite refreshing. Still 90+ but not 110+. Meal was had at the hotel’s restaurant. Also bought our pass for the Grand Canyon National Park at reception. After that it was time to chill out in our room. All in all a successful first day driving Stateside.

Saturday 20th June

Best way to get from Tusayan to the National Park is to get the “Purple Route” bus. This bus had a stop right outside the hotel, runs every 20 minutes and was free. It had the advantage of being able to take its own private road past cars queueing to get into the park. Highly recommended if visiting the Grand Canyon. Once in the Park we firstly got coffee and a bagel to quell our rumbling stomachs. It was then onto the Southern Rim. All you really do is walk along the rim and look out over the Canyon. Believe you me, that is more than enough to keep you occupied. Rather than me describing what we saw, here are some pictures instead.

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Yes, yes, we bought a selfie stick. Well, you have to for this sort of thing.

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Look, I don’t care what the signs say about feeding squirrels, just a few morsels, yes? And that’s a dollar for the photo mate.

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Mrs C and some big canyon thing

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We stayed in the Park from 9:30 until about 1:30, and could easily have stared at the view for another few hours. Perhaps, next time. Tonight’s stop was roughly 160 miles away so after catching the bus back to Tusayan it was into our hire car and off to Holbrook.

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Pool at Holbrook, Travelodge

Holbrook was a small town in the middle of nowhere, but you really felt like you were in “off the beaten track” America. We were staying at a Travelodge which for £45 was just about the best value we had in the whole trip. Room was clean, reception staff very friendly and helpful, the pool open and empty and a complimentary hot breakfast awaited us in the morning.  For our evening meal we indulged in some Pizza Hut. Wasn’t great but it filled us up. It was then time for lights out.

Sunday 21st June

Hot breakfast at the Holbrook Travelodge gave us our first experience of a pancake maker. All you had to do was push a button and 30 seconds later a perfectly formed pancake flopped onto your plate, and very nice they were too. After breakfast we checked out and made for the Petrified Forest.

usa_15We had quite a long drive to Albuquerque so we didn’t plan on spending too long in the Forest, really just a couple of stops before hitting the interstate. A quick wander round a shop outside the park was followed by a longer interlude at the official tourist place inside the park. Here there was basically a loop around a relatively small area which gave you a good overview of what was meant by ‘Petrified’ – trees turned to stone. It was about a 20 mile drive through the park which, including stops, and took us just over an hour or so.

On reaching Albuquerque we headed straight for the Sandia Peak Tramway. The ride up was spectacular. The cabin seems tiny and you appear to be miles from the ground. If you’re scared of heights I wouldn’t recommend it. Once at the top there wasn’t much to do other than look at the views over all of Albuquerque. Again, we could have stayed longer, perhaps even eaten at the restaurant, but we wanted to get to our hotel so headed back down after 30 minutes or so.

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Sandia Peak Tramway (that is only the first short section, there is more over the hill)

Our hotel was in the old part of town. It had a really nice pool, the room was very impressive, but star of the show was a tremendous Mexican restaurant. Probably fair to say the meal and service we had in here was amongst the best of our trip.

Monday 22nd June

Having checked out we had a walk into the hotel shop. What we found was a cracking selection of “Breaking Bad” goodies. I bought myself a t-shirt and very smart it looks to. Soon we were back on the road once more, this time heading into Texas and the city of Amarillo.

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Texas, the last of four states we visited

It was about 3pm when we reached our next sleep over point. It was the first of two Holiday Inn Express & Suites in a row. It had the added bonus of being only a few hundred yards from the world famous Big Texan Steak Ranch (well famous if you’ve watched Man v Food).

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This wasn’t the 72oz edition!

In truth the Steak Ranch was a bit of a let down. Steak wasn’t brilliant and the decor and atmosphere was a bit naff, almost tacky. However, I’ve had worse meals and it certainly filled a hole. Back at the hotel we had a swim before Mrs C did a wash while I caught up on my blogging i.e. writing notes for this thing. Fairly uneventful day as we got one step closer to reaching Dallas.

Tuesday 23rd June

Another hot breakfast, but this time the pancake maker was broken! Not to worry, there was plenty of other bits and pieces to fill us up for the long drive ahead. Our last stop before Dallas was in a place called Denton, which was a suburb of the famous oil city. Our hotel was about 30 miles short of where we had to drop the hire car before noon the following day. Therefore it was close enough to allow us plenty of time if the local traffic was bad.

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Didn’t see any!

Drive to Denton was over 300 miles and for 100 of those Deena took over at he helm. She did a good job, but at the first sign of something complicated ahead on the Sat Nav it was back to me behind the wheel! Weather in Texas was milder than where we’d been previously (maybe 95/96f) but more humid. The drive from Amarillo to Denton was enjoyable and completed within four and a bit hours. The second Holiday Inn Express & Suites was a better experience than the first. Everything just felt a bit more professional and cared for. For tea we headed out to a local retail park and partook of some delicious, freshly cooked Panda Express Chinese buffet food.

Once back at the hotel it was soon time for lights out. The end of our road trip was in sight.

Wednesday 24th June (Part 1)

This morning’s hot breakfast featured a working pancake maker! After loading food on board we checked out and made the short, 30 mile trip to Love Field Airport. Felt sad saying goodbye to our car. Fair to say we both really enjoyed having the freedom the car gave us. Next time we return to the States a hire car will feature heavily. Having dropped the car off we searched out a taxi to get us to the Hyatt Regency in downtown Dallas. More of that in the third and final part of our holiday blog.

Thanks for reading.