Welcome to part 1 of my trip to the USA! I am so excited to be sharing my journey with you!After my trip to London and Paris last year I decided that, while I’d really like to see those places again, I’d prefer to see somewhere different this time. That lead me to looking into flights to America; I figured New York was too pricey to stay in for three weeks, but I figured if I went anywhere else then I wouldn’t want to stay in one place for that whole time. The new direct flights from Auckland to Houston gave me an idea for a road trip around the southern states, as once I started researching I knew there would be so much there that I wanted to see!
After some careful planning and lots of anticipation, our departure date of Saturday 20th of August finally arrived. Our flight was 14 hours which was tiring but so much easier than having two stops on the way. As soon as we stepped out of the airport we were hit with a wave of heat – something I definitely factored in but could never really prepare for! But we soon found our rental car, blasted the aircon, and we were away. Luckily Craig volunteered to drive as I don’t know if I would have coped – even as a passenger it took me a while to get used to being on the other side of the road!
For all our hotels I basically just used Expedia to filter for places that offered free carparking as we had the rental car for the whole time and didn’t want to have to pay a valet charge (often at least $30USD a night) which would have added a lot to our costs! I then looked at hotels which were roughly about $150NZD a night or less, close-ish to the city centre, and that still got Expedia user ratings of about 3.9 or more. That narrowed it down enough for me to choose the best from there. In Houston we stayed at the Courtyard Marriott Brookhollow hotel, which was very spacious and comfortable. We weren’t worried about being near to town but we ended up being really close to some really good restaurants, malls, and vintage stores – but more on that to come.
By the time we dropped our bags in the hotel it was close to 4pm. While we really felt like napping, we thought we should be sensible and stay up for the rest of the day to reset our body clocks. We needed a few things that we hadn’t bothered to pack (hairspray for me was a must) so of course we had to find a Walmart. I had to take a picture of the candy section as I couldn’t believe how big it was!Next we went to a mall as I couldn’t wait to pick up some things from Sephora, Craig wanted to get a US sim card and I really wanted to find some flats. I got some Kat Von D foundation and powder to try, and then had to go back the next day to get more! We couldn’t believe how huge the mall was – I certainly considered it exercise to walk round it!
We’d had a couple of restaurants recommended to us by the hotel staff so we tried to get to them for dinner – unfortunately some closed earlier than we realised and others we just couldn’t seem to get to as Houston closed a lot of their off- and on-ramps on the freeway at night – so eventually we ended up ordering an enormous Marco’s pizza delivered straight to our room, which was delicious!On Sunday we went to Sunny Flea Market which Google had recommended as one of the best flea markets to go to. There wasn’t much we wanted to buy but we did get some amazing food including sopas and gorditas de nata filled with Nutella – yum! After that we went to West 19th St to check out some vintage stores, including A Patch of Antiquity where I found a beautifully embroidered bag and a ruby slipper brooch. And then it was finally time for what Craig had been waiting for: the Space Center!From the Space Center we took the tram tour where we visited historic mission control where NASA monitored many missions including the Apollo 11 moon landing and saw the enormous Saturn V rocket, both of which are pictured below. We were also there at the same time as a large Mythbusters exhibition, and went through Independence Plaza to see inside the Boeing 747 which carried the Indepdence shuttle back from landing sites – you can see the shuttle being piggybacked in the picture above.On Monday we said goodbye to Houston and drove up to Dallas. There we stayed in the Best Western Market Center, which was about an 8 minute drive into town and they had waffles in the shape of Texas in the breakfast bar. We didn’t get up to much that day, just stopping at El Fenix for enchiladas, tres leches cake and huuuuuge magaritas!On Tuesday we had a full list of things to do. First we took some pictures for a blog post (you can see it here), and then visited the Sixth Floor museum at Dealey Plaza. Craig knew all about it and was super excited, but I knew just about nothing so felt thoroughly educated afterwards. We stopped at the Record Grill round the corner for lunch (meatloaf and chicken fried steak, so good) and tried wandering round town as it was so pretty, but it was about 100 degrees so just too hot!We stopped at a few vintage stores in the afternoon (including Dolly Python and Vintage Martini where I picked up a few things), and found dinner at Lockhart Smokehouse (which was famous for not having forks at all) and a key lime pie at Cretia’s. We then took a detour back to downtown on the way back to the hotel to check out a couple of original Robocop filming locations (pictured below) – Craig was fanboying hard about that!On Wednesday we headed east on the long drive to Memphis. We arrived at about 5pm so just went to Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken (where the chicken was amazing and their chocolate chess pie was divine) for dinner. We were staying at the Days Inn Memphis at Graceland because of course we HAD to stay at an Elvis-themed hotel while we were there! I loved all the Elvis memorabilia (three of his pictures watched over us as we slept), there was Elvis radio playing at least 10 hours a day, and there was even a guitar-shaped pool that lit up at night.We were up bright and early the next morning for our 9am tour of Graceland, which was a short walk from our hotel. We went for the platinum tour which included a tour of Graceland itself (narrated by John Stamos), as well as a look at some of the archives, Elvis’s cars, and some photo exhibitions. I was surprised that Graceland wasn’t as big as I thought it would be, though of course I was amazed at the lavishness inside. We also had to have lunch in one of the diners there, though we were too scared to try Elvis’s favourite peanut butter and banana sandwich and stuck with cheeseburgers instead!After refuelling, we drove into town and spent the afternoon doing a tour of Sun Studios and the Rock and Soul Museum, which were both really interesting (and accompanied by some great tunes!). It was then a short walk to Beale Street where we dined at the Blues City Cafe – if you’re there, the ribs are fantastic but the steak is out of this world! On our last day in Memphis we spent the morning at the National Civil Rights Museum, which was a sobering and very educational experience. It’s so sad and frustrating to see that after so much fighting civil rights are still something that have to be fought for today, and I hope it’s something that continues to remind people that all lives matter.After lunch we stopped in at Red Velvet Vintage where I found a gorgous floral Jonathan Logan frock, and then went on to the Stax Museum of American Soul Music. I didn’t realise how much of an impact Stax had had on the music scene but I was surprised at how many hits they’d recorded and produced in such a short time, and it was interesting to compare their large studio with the comparitively tiny Sun Studio from the previous day. We had some more pizza for dinner at Aldo’s Pizza Pies downtown and then went back to the hotel to repack for our drive the next day.Next stop: Nashville! Tune in in a couple of weeks for part 2 of my trip to the USA, featuring Nashville, Pigeon Forge & Gatlinburg, and Atlanta.
Photo credits: a mixture of myself and @cmjsnz
Miss Hero Holliday