Another week’s passed and I still don’t have my iPad, but we do still have this glorious weather – although I have to admit to finding the storms a little disturbing! Thanks to all of you for your response to the blog, and for letting me know how things are going – Mary, no doubt you could have done without your nightime vigil, and Debz, nothing quite like cat vomit to sharpen the senses!!
That said, it’s lovely that we can all share our news – good and bad – on this site, and thank you, as always for keeping me in the loop. I do think of you often!
I realise, having read back over last week’s blog, that it was a tad lengthy, and for those of you not lucky enough to have had any form of a break, I felt somewhat churlish! So I thought, for the final part of our holiday, I’d try and let the photos do most of the talking…
The best thing about travelling across a country as big as America is seeing the vast difference in lifestyles, even within the same States! From the relatively quiet and rural landscape of Gary in Texas, we headed south in our Landcruiser towards La Porte, which is in Harris County, quite near the coast.
There we were to meet up with Greg, who is an avid Country music fan and follower of Colin’s music, and had arranged for Colin to play his songs at a local ’open mic night’. Our journey there took just over three hours and we watched the temperature gauge in the car rise to the high 90’s!
We were booked into a hotel that was just off the Interstate and very close to where Greg and his wife, Rhonda, lived. Although their home, and the surrounding area, was pretty, with wide roads and single storey buildings, what literally filled the skyline was the Bayport Terminal and Industrial District, which is basically an enormous complex of companies involved in petroleum and petrochemical processing.
It stretches from La Porte to Seabrook, through to Galveston Bay and into the Gulf of Mexico. It is an industry that never sleeps and at night, when illuminated, the mile upon mile of oil refineries give the appearance of a massive city.
Greg and Rhonda were delightful and, after meeting them at their home, they drove us to Momma’s Country Kitchen where the weekly open mic night was taking place. It was jammed with families and friends who filled every corner of the restaurant, and, in spite of the heat, there were just ceiling fans to cut through the 70% humidity.
I was happy to accept a cold bottle of Shiner (local beer) which proved to be very drinkable, and helped wash down the inordinate amount of food I ate! I know I’ve not really majored on the menus, but in Texas EVERYTHING is deep fried. You can even order fried pies!! For our supper we had fried cheese sticks, fried pickles, chicken fried chicken, nachos, dip, deep fried corn, oh and corn bread, which actually looks like a muffin! I don’t remember EVER feeling that full!
Luckily, thanks to the ballast, I was suitably steady on my feet when called upon to film Colin performing two of his songs in front of the somewhat lively crowd. He couldn’t have asked for a more receptive audience and the response he got at the end of his set was phenomenal. I’ll never forget the look or smile on his face.
The following day we visited Galveston Beach, which stretches for miles and is incredibly windy but hot. We ate grilled shrimp and garlic potatoes, and were served Margaritas so large I didn’t know whether to drink or swim in mine!
Close by was Tiki Island (above, right), a very salubrious and swish area where all the homeowners had boats and their own jetties. The houses were raised above the land to avoid flooding. Some beautiful properties and some huge price tags!
A few miles further along the coast was Khema – a place that Gae Lynne had recommended to us, which reminded me of the fairground in the Tom Hank’s film ‘Big‘ … I almost rode on this wooden roller coaster, until I saw they’d repaired a part of it with steel rivets, and then my nerve went!
We met up with Greg and Rhonda on our final night as they had very kindly bought tickets for us to attend the Crosby Annual Fair and Rodeo. It was a hot, sunny evening, and the arena was packed, so we munched on our corn dogs and burgers and enjoyed the show, which was quite simply incredible.
Live country music followed, accompanied by several cans of Shiner beer, and then, in the wee small hours, with the temperature still in the 80’s, Greg and Rhonda took us back to our hotel where we said our goodbyes. Yet again, we felt very lucky to have met such lovely people and to have been so spoiled by them.
With our bags packed and safely stowed in the car, we spent our final day on Galveston beach and then drove the nearly six-hour journey from Houston back to Dallas for our flight, which would take us to our final destination: San Diego and Suzi B (pictured with her husband, Adam, left)!
The flight there is just two and a half hours and as we flew in over San Diego harbour the sky was bright blue and the sun was shining This final part of our holiday was to be in California spending time with Suzi B whose jewellery range you may well remember from QVC.
We were booked in to a hotel for the first two nights and then with Suzi and her husband, Adam, for the rest of the trip. Adam had arranged for us to stay at The US Grant and it was absolutely gorgeous! Having explored our room, we didn't bother to unpack, just got changed and headed out into downtown San Diego.
It's a very cosmopolitan city, with plenty to see and some fabulous places to eat and drink as well. The sun beat down and the only place with a cool breeze was the harbour, surrounded by palm trees, so that's where we spent the rest of the day and had a fabulous Greek meal while looking out to sea
Balboa Park beckoned on the second day, with over 1,400 acres of canyons and hillsides north of downtown San Diego. In 1915 the park was chosen as the city's Panama-California Exposition in celebration of the Panama Canal. Today it is just the most fabulous place to spend a day. Here you can see the Sprekels Outdoor Organ Pavilion - they perform free afternoon concerts on a Sunday!
We almost stumbled upon a stunning rose garden and this incredible collection of cactuses, all part and parcel of what makes this park such a worthwhile visit. We decided to take a taxi to Hotel del Cornonado (known as Hotel Del, pictured below, left) with it's unmistakable round red roofs, turrets and domes. Not only was it where the iconic Marilyn Monroe film 'Some like it Hot' was filmed, but it's also where our heir to the throne, Prince Edward, reportedly first met Wallace Simpson! History aside, it's a wonderful place to spend an afternoon :)
Suzi B now works in in fashion, though she is still involved with jewellery and styling, and she works long and frequent hours. We took a cab to her home in Kensington (named by an American who LOVED this part of England) and, after a somewhat emotional reunion, spent the rest of the evening with her and Adam in a beautiful restaurant by the sea. The next day they were both working so we sunned ourselves by the pool and ate out that night too in the Blue Bayou Restaurant, which had THE most impressive menu!
Luckily, Suzi wasn't working the next day and so we slept in and were then treated to a visit from all five of her and Adam's children. Bearing in mind it had been six years since we'd last met, I was forgiven for barely recognising them! I still can't get used to how quickly children grow up, and from 10 years to 16 it can make the world of difference.
Suzi and Adam had managed to get tickets for the San Diego Padre's ball game that night at the Padres Stadium - a Press Box complete with food and drink! We must have been lucky for the Padres, as they won for the first time in 15 games
Breakfast the next morning was at The Cottage in La Jolla right on the coast. I had steamed eggs with basil – sounds weird but was delicious! From there to a bar for a celebratory Mimosa and then home to enjoy the warmth of the midday sun. As we packed our bags that night it was hard to believe we'd been away for three whole weeks, and had visited six American States; Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina, Texas, Louisiana, California and Pennsylvania.
The ONLY way to see America is to see it with those who live there, and we will be forever indebted to all our lovely friends, who took the time to show us the very best of good ol' American hospitality.
I do hope I've not bored you with what I thought would be a shorter blog, but it is probably just as long as the last two! Next week, it will be business as usual, and I have managed to secure a fabulous prize for a new competition I'm setting, so make sure you log on and get the details.
As always, I truly appreciate your taking the time out to comment, and very much hope that you too will be lucky like me, and have a chance to experience something truly memorable this summer.
I look forward to hearing from you,
With my love,