Trip to America
I recently went to the USA to visit my family in Houston, Texas whom I had not seen for nine years. As with so many others I had planned a trip in 2020 which had to be postponed.
It was a fairly laid-back holiday as Dad is getting on in years, so nothing energetic was on the cards, which is just as well as the lead up to the trip was a whole other adventure. Aiming to go soon after the New Year is madness when you have Christmas to sort out as well as planning a trip. I won’t be doing that again!
Having decided to go, the next thing was obtaining the ticket. Having not done this trip for some time, I expected the prices to have changed a bit. I was in for a shock! After much hunting and adjusting of dates and times I managed to find the tickets that I wanted. My mother was coming with me, so I needed to find two tickets out together and two separate tickets back, again on appropriate dates and times as she was staying for longer. And I thought this was going to be the stressful bit – I was wrong!
Once I sorted the tickets out, I needed to sort out the visas, covid passports, travel insurance etc. All of these were frustrating or not as straightforward as I hoped. They couldn’t be done together because of the different trip durations, but I got them done, or so I thought.
Just doing a final check that I had everything arranged, I realized that the airlines had different passport duration requirements to the government. This was ten days before I was due to leave and there were all the New Year holidays in between! I had a bit of a meltdown at this point as it was not only my trip, but also my mother’s that was in jeopardy. I was convinced the whole trip might not go ahead. I was also annoyed with myself as it was the first question I asked when booking everything and had checked before going ahead.
My husband was my saviour. He managed to get an interview for me at the national passport office, only twenty minutes away, and paid for an express passport. I attended the interview but thought it was a forlorn hope. However, I explained the whole saga to the lady and told her that I had a flight booked with my mother in five days. She looked at all the documents and she said not to worry and offered me a passport that day for an extra fee. I could have cried with relief. All that I needed to do was get a visa for my new passport.
It was great to catch up with family after so long. Dad had his birthday while I was there, and I gave him the book that sparked the whole trip off, a book about Stirling Moss which he absolutely loved. He is a big fan of Stirling and went to watch him racing in the late ‘50s. I arrived in great weather and was able to chill and catch up after all the drama of getting there. A week or so later a small hurricane went through North Houston. The rain belted down where we were but thankfully there was no wind, just a lot of rain!
I met the neighbourhood cats that are fed every day. The family of Mom, Dad and very cute kitten have been provided with a kennel which kept them warm during the cold snap they had just before Christmas. One of the morning tasks was filling the bird feeders which are pretty much the same as in the UK, but the hummingbird feeders were new to me. They are fed with sugar syrup during their migration north between February and mid-May.
My brother and I picked the only warm day to go for a ride on his Honda 1100 motorcycle which I really enjoyed as have not been for a ride for a while. We went northwest of Houston for a couple of hours to the small city of Fayetteville which celebrates hospitality and history for all ages. The centre is full of historic buildings, giving it a quaint atmosphere.
We had lunch in Orsak’s Café, a lovely little café which is very popular. I had the special which was fried chicken, pasta and green beans while my brother had a burger - very tasty. Food is a major theme for this holiday! Fortunately, we took the shorter route back as the wind picked up in the afternoon and we were buffeted on the bike which was not particularly comfortable.
A few days later, we went from one extreme to the other, Scalextric. Most weekends my brother races with the Scale Auto Racing club in North Houston. He has a few cars in different categories that race in heats and then the final, Group C and Carrera being two of them. He enjoys tweaking the cars; they all have their own workstation or pit to fettle the cars before they start. It is all taken seriously but is also a lot of fun.
A visit to the Museum of Fine Art was a highlight. It is in the museum district of Houston where there are museums as varied as Art, Natural History and the children’s museum. The tree-lined avenues are lovely and must provide welcome shade in the summer. There is much to see at the museum with diverse histories of art spanning 5,000 years and six continents. The museum is spread over three separate buildings with art from all over the world by all the masters as well as modern day artists, here is a very small selection:
There are also artifacts such as a large collection of gold jewellery from Africa, Egyptian and Greek antiquities, Ancient Greek and Australian art. There is also some furniture and ceramics. I enjoyed these exhibits which conjure up the ancient civilizations of the Mediterranean region.
We spent a good couple of hours, got sore feet but did not get to see the whole museum.
A much-anticipated visit to Galveston to visit the sea was a bit of a damp squib as the wind was a bit nippy! The walk on the beach lasted about two minutes before retreating to Murdochs for a bit of souvenir shopping.
As mentioned, food was a big part of my holiday! There is just about every variety of food possible available in Houston and I think I tried most of it from Sushi to Barbecue. We went to Gauchos Do Sul which is a Brazilian steakhouse where they serve prime cuts of meat at the table. They use a red and green paddle system for table service. There was also an ‘all you can eat Indian and Chinese buffet with far too many dishes to try, along with Tex Mex and the London Café doing breakfasts and Benedicts the Houston way. I enjoyed them all, but my favourites were the Barbecued brisket and Gauchos steak. Apologies to all the vegetarians.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time catching up with family and relaxing for a while in the sunshine. Here’s to the next visit.
Contributed by Bernice
(Published 30th Aug 2023)