We have spent the last week staying with the Bodden’s (Brice, Amy, Tom, Pippa, Alex and Jack the dog) in San Antonio, Texas.
It has been a wonderful week and a much needed break from life on the road. I’m being serious when I say that highlights included trawling round the supermarket, a trip to Home Depot, a visit to the local bowling alley, walking Jack through the nature trails, hanging out with the kids at the pool, eating home-cooked Texas BBQ, and quiet (or not so quiet) drinks on the porch in the evening. The Bodden bunch were amazing hosts. We had a lot of laughs and our time with them has definitely helped set us up for the next leg of the trip.
We did manage to squeeze in a few tourist highlights during the week as well. Amy and Brice took Tuesday off work to take us to downtown San Antonio where we visited the Alamo, the iconic Riverwalk and chowed down on some authentic Tex Mex (think cheesy, saucy, beany, meaty, heart-attacky goodness).
We also did an overnight trip to Fredericksburg in the Texas Hill Country, which is an hour from San Antonio. Fredericksburg is a beautiful little town known for its German heritage and local vineyards. It has a similar feel to Greytown with upmarket homeware stores and cafes and restaurants. There’s not necessarily a huge amount to do, but it’s a lovely place to wander about and enjoy the sunshine and the local hospitality. We had our first “screw the budget” meal at a local vineyard while we were there, which was a real highlight.
On the way home from Fredericksburg we visited Luckenbach – a town consisting of a pub, dancehall and post office. Luckenbach is a country music mecca and is known as the spot at which loads of country music stars started their careers. There is live music almost every day and it seemed like an awesome place for a hoedown (if you’re that way inclined). We also called into the Lyndon B Johnson National Park. This is the ranch owned by the former American President and includes his family’s private cemetery, the home where he was born and the home from which he conducted a lot of his Presidential business (the Texas White House).
Here’s a snapshot of what else we’ve been up to, and what we’ve learned from our time in Texas:
- Flying domestically in America is stressful. We flew to San Antonio with Delta, who turned out to be the Jetstar of America. Delta is notorious for over-subscribing flights (so that even if you’ve paid for a flight you may not get a seat on the day), cancelling flights, or running so late that you end up missing your connecting flight. It took us the grand total of 14 hours to get from San Francisco to San Antonio, meaning that we arrived at Brice and Amy’s pissed off and exhausted at 3 am in the morning. On the plus side, Delta does offer complimentary snacks when flights are delayed, and I must have eaten a lolly for every minute we were held back, so about 240 in total.
- There are snakes in Texas. I’m not sure how this had escaped me previously, but it
was an unpleasant surprise on arrival. We didn’t see any big ones, but we did come across one during our walk with Jack (about the size of a gummy snake) and it still scared the bejesus out of me. My friend the squirrel is also a Texas resident. Jack and I probably hate squirrels in equal measure. He also hates the postman and buses, which I’m not so fussed about.
- The bits of Texas we saw were just like Texas in the movies – pick-up truck and “ya’ll” and “ma’am” territory. Texas also openly embraces the American right to carry guns and there is a strong wild west feel in certain parts (probably due to cowboy hats and boots being everyday wear). Restaurants will often have signs specifying whether guns can be worn visibly or not on the premises. Our motel in Fredericksburg had a simply request of those carrying guns – “If you exercise your right to defend yourself, please shoot accurately”.
- Some of the food we’ve had in the States has been pretty hit and miss. In particular,
I had expected American hamburgers to be the things that greedy girls dreams are made of. However, I am yet to find one to rival the burgers from Beer Meets Grill (which prompted a very awkward “When Harry Met Sally” response when I first had one). In saying that, I would be the first to admit that America has absolutely nailed the humble sandwich. There’s no such thing as a limp ham and egg sammie over here – the sandwiches are absolutely stacked with meat, pickles, cheese and salad. You literally cannot fit them in your mouth sometimes. They are amazing and there are sandwich bars everywhere – general stores, supermarkets, liquor stores, pharmacies. Case in point – this wee sandwich had a whole ball of mozzarella just casually stuffed into it. It was glorious. Even Campbell thought it was photo-worthy.
- You need to tip hairdressers in America. If you happen to forget, Jerry from behind the counter will go from being your best buddy to giving you a death stare in about five seconds flat. If I was a San Antonio local, I’d be looking for a new hairdresser right about now.
I’m writing this blog as we wing our way to New Orleans. Delta has delivered today and aside from a delay on the runway while a “maintenance issue” was resolved, it’s been smooth sailing. We are due to arrive in the Big Easy just after 9 pm and will be bunking down in an airport motel before heading into the city proper tomorrow. The annual Jazzfest is on this weekend, so we’re expecting a fun and full-on couple of days.