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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.

A Trip To The Sun – Part 2

IMG_0250Day 5

On our fifth day it was finally time to see where all the beautiful people lived, and no I don’t mean we were heading home to Larbert! The destination was none other than the Dubai Marina. Another name you might recognise is Jumeriah Lake, which is basically the same thing. This area of town is crammed full of gleaming glass towers with little white boats chugging up and down the marina between the high risers. It simply smells of money and if you have £200,000+ to spare you just might be able to purchase a shoebox sized apartment in it.

Taking a step back. This trip required another saunter down the red line. As we do we like to see everywhere, so instead of getting off at either Dubai Marina or Jumeriah Lake Towers we kept going till the end of the line. Always like to see the end of lines, usually they aren’t that interesting and today was no exception. The terminus at Jebel Ali was in a developing industrial area which is actually not in the city of Dubai, but a few miles out on the border with Abu Dhabi. We liked this station so much we went back for a second trip 20 minutes later when we arrived at Jumeriah Lake Towers without Deena’s hat. Cue much laughter, or maybe I was crying. Either way, back we went…and yes, we found her hat!

Dubai-70D- 25-03-2014 13-24-37Eventually we got off (with hats) at Jumeriah Lake Towers and wandered through the tower blocks to the beach. Weather wise it was very warm, probably the hottest day we had and lazing on the beach wasn’t an option unless we wished to be roasted alive. Therefore we headed for some lunch in a shady cafe before a stroll along the retail section of the Marina. Some ice-cream accompanied us on our walk which ended up with as rejoining the red line at Dubai Marina station.

Dubai-70D- 25-03-2014 16-50-36Much to our surprise, on the way back to the hotel it began to rain – not much, just a few drops. Little did we know! Our enjoyable nightly swim/spa session was followed by our first trip to IZ. All I will say is if you ever go the Dubai Grand Hyatt, which we would both thoroughly recommend, then you must have at least one meal in IZ. The food was delicious, and the complimentary pickle tray & poppadoms were a filling starter in themselves. As was common in Dubai the meal was also very reasonably priced at around £15 each.

Day 6

Dubai-70D- 26-03-2014 08-58-23The rain which had started the previous night as we walked from the metro station kept on coming, and by morning there was a relative torrent flowing through the streets. Something like 1100 traffic incidents were reported due to conditions alien to most of the city’s boy racers. Wondering what to do we decided as we’d been to the end of the red line we might as well go to the end of the green one, and so we did. Like the red’s terminus, the end of the green line at Etisalat was equally uninteresting. Had the feel of a commuter station which was probably busy morning and night but quiet in between. We did see some more typical Dubai housing in a pleasant change from the towers. However, there wasn’t really much to walk to so we simply hopped back on the next train back towards town.

With postcards to post we needed stamps and so stopped at ‘Stadium’ which was as the name suggests next to a, you guessed it, stadium. The venue in question was the Rashid Stadium, home of Arabian League champions Al Ahli. Across the road from the ground was a supermarket called Lulu’s. In here we bought some stamps before having a bite to eat at the adjoining food court.

Back at the hotel our nightly swim/spa session was followed by our second tasty trip to IZ.

Day 7

This was our last full day in Dubai. As the rain had moved away it was another warm and sunny morning so we decided to begin by having a couple of hours by the pool. Has to be said the grounds of the hotel were fantastic. Because the hotel was in a developing part of town it clearly had its choice of land and chose a huge plot with great views of the creek. This meant large, landscaped grounds with a pool snaking between lounging areas. There was also the expected tennis courts, kids areas etc. In short a better hotel set-up you’d be struggling to find anywhere in Dubai.

Dubai-SX50- 27-03-2014 15-32-32After a cuppa, some packing and a breather in our room we got smartened up and ventured out on our last trip. The destination was once again the Dubai Mall. Not only did we want to get some presents for those at home, but we also wanted to witness the ‘Festival of Lights’ which was happening in and around Dubai Fountain each night that week. Dubai Mall meant one last return trip down the red line. Please note if you ever get the metro to Dubai Mall the walkway between the station and the mall is huge i.e. at least half a mile long. Thankfully a succession of moving escalators makes the journey less tiring but it’s yet another example of the cities attempt to keep you inside if at all possible. To make people walk in the sun for this distance in the height of summer would be crazy. Therefore if they want shoppers they need to make themselves accessible – hence covered walkways where possible. After a brief wander we headed for some tea at TGI Friday’s. Luckily for us they had a balcony which overlooked the Dubai Fountain so it was a perfect place for our last meal out. As ever the food was well priced at the almost daft price of about £16 for our two meals with drinks.

Dubai-SX50- 27-03-2014 15-00-56Just as we were finishing our food the clock struck six and this cued an explosion of music, water and light from the fountain below. Was almost like a Dubai version of the one o’clock gun from the ramparts of Edinburgh castle. We soon realised it was only the start. All around the Fountain at the base of the Burj Khalifa were installations and statues decked in lights of all shades and colour. The Khalifa itself sparkled like a 900m Christmas tree with spotlights searching into the darkening night skies. At seven and again 30 minutes later the fountain once more exploded to life. Really was a spectacular sight.

It was soon time to head back to our hotel. There was still time for one last bit of fun as the trains rolling into the metro station were packed like sardines. We let one go before deciding to ‘go native’ and just squash our way in!

Day 8

Dubai-70D- 24-03-2014 12-23-28Unfortunately we had to be up and out of the hotel by 3:30am to meet our arranged pick-up back to the airport. This meant getting up at 2:45 – Deena didn’t even go to sleep! Our lift finally arrived and raced through the still busy streets to the airport. After checking in we had some food and waited for the plane to take us home. As with the flight out it was an enjoyable, if tiring, seven hours. Between eating I filled in time by watching seven episodes of ‘Broadchurch’ on the in-flight TV service. There are actually eight episodes to watch but I only had 20 minutes left after watching the seventh so I’m still none the wiser to what happens at the end – I will need to find and watch the last episode somewhere soon!

Back home it was of course grey and freezing. However, it was home and for all that a small part of you is always glad to return to it.