Monday, 1 December 2014

An Introduction to Dallas

Tuesday 25th November to Wednesday 26th November 2014

It would seem logical to most people that after such a long plane trip across so many time zones that a little bit of rest would be the order of the day - at least that was what I assumed was part of the plan for the day, but I hadn't included mother and daughter together and the lure of shopping in not only a different city but a different country.

The words seemed to come out like "we will go out for a bit of a drive and see a bit of Dallas  and then come back for a bit of a rest before we go out tonight".
We had already made plans to have dinner with Sara and her dad, Mike and then go to see the Dallas Stars v Edmonton Oilers hockey game. They were going to drop by at 5:15pm.

So after breakfast we headed off towards Dallas; the traffic was a bit heavy on the freeway into the city so we turned off and found our way around to the southern side and from there the navigators decided that we could park and have a stroll around.
The First Baptist Church of Texas - not even the purple shiny
stuff could convince Diane to attend

The beginning of Dallas - no mention of JR however

It may have been the birthplace, but today it has fame for other reasons

JFK was assassinated in Dealey Plaza and there are many many
tourists around - especially behind the grassy knoll

Directly behind these two beauties and across the road is the
grassy knoll
Parking spot located; enough change found to give us a couple of hours; off we walked with a rough idea of where we were heading.
Whilst it was sunny, the air was quite cold and when in the shade it was only the air temperature that we had.

There is a quite extensive light rail (tram) system here and we haven't, as yet, used it; along the way we found maps designed to help people unfamiliar with the city to find their way around and from one of these we headed south towards the tourist information office.
We found the office and in the process we realised that we were directly across from Dealey Plaza - the location of the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963. A memorial has been erected and information about that fateful day carefully laid out so that you can easily understand the basics of what happened and where.

Diane decided that she would tempt Dallas traffic and stand in the location of the impact of the fatal shot - which is clearly marked on the road.

Timing dictated that we needed to return to the car before we had it towed away.
X always marks the spot - in this case the location when the bullet
hit the President

It was sometime during this walk back to the car that I believe that the conspiracy was hatched between the two of them - Diane and Sam conniving to have me drive them somewhere other than back to the apartment - their plan to do some shopping.

Confronted with the fait accomplii I was left with no option but to drive.

Stopping and parking at Highland Park Mall we had the obligatory Starbucks coffee - a brief prelude to the main event.

Onward we went towards Galleria Mall and lunch was included somewhere in there.

"It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas..." -
especially the Visa card statement

The shopping bags laden with their goodies weighed heavily on the walk back to the car, so heavy in fact that additional transport was contemplated.

We headed back a bit after 4pm without thinking really that much about the time - at least  not until we hit the traffic - a bit of bumper to bumper stuff and it seemed to be on every road we took.
Somehow, and I am not sure how, we made it back at 5:13pm - about 3 minutes later Sara and Mike were knocking on the door. So much for a bit of a restful afternoon.

Sara had been waiting quite a while to have us meet her family and Mike (her dad) was first.
Just like his daughter, Mike is an outgoing kind of person and very personable - someone who you would find difficult not to like.
We headed into Dallas and found the restaurant El Fenix - a TexMex place and we have to say that the food was really good. Wouldn't mind going back there again sometime - Thanks Mike for a truly lovely meal.
Sara's dad - Mike and myself with Sara

Sam and Diane

Sam had already ordered and paid for the tickets for the game, so she and Mike headed off to get them whilst the Sara, Diane and I waited at the entrance.
A lot of fans for the Stars were there, as you would expect; not so many for the Oilers.

The only other US sporting event that I had seen live was a basketball game in Detroit, over 30 years ago, but I do enjoy hockey from the few games that Sam and I have seen in Melbourne.

It is a bit more high-energy charged than what I had seen before but it was a great spectacle and end-to-end action; interspersed with the cheerleaders doing their thing and the "ice-girls" clearing the loose ice away.

Hockey is one of those sports where not a lot of goals are scored and those that are usually come totally unexpectedly - thankfully there are the replay screens.

just a few of the regular fans
In the end Stars won the game 3-2 and the home crowd was happy - as were we with the experience.

Mike kindly dropped us back at our apartment and we were asleep in double-quick time after a first up day in Dallas.

The following day Sara had made plans for us to meet her mother and step-dad who live in Fort Worth - about 30 miles away.
Before that however we wanted to find a optical prescription maker who might be able make new glasses for both Diane and I - we had had our eyes tested prior to leaving Australia in the anticipation that glasses would be cheaper in the US and that we could get them in time before we left.
After a couple of tries and a couple of malls we found VisionPlus who were able to make them and be ready the same day - we wouldn't be able to pick them up until Friday as we were out for the rest of the day and Thursday they were closed.
So we paid for them and would see them on Friday when they opened at 8am.

Mike dropped Sara off with us - there seemed to be a bit of a smile on his face - this time perhaps in anticipation of a peaceful day.

We headed off down Interstate 35 towards Dallas and just half way there we needed to turn off this road due to heavy traffic and managed to find our way around to the highway heading towards Fort Worth.

Along the way we came off for a close up view of the Dallas Cowboys stadium - which is huge structure with a retractable roof and capable of seating 80,000 spectators - we were mighty impressed with it and it was of a comparable size to our own MCG - albeit that the 'G doesn't have a roof, yet.

I am not sure what I expected on the drive between the two towns/cities - I guess that it might have been a bit more countryfied but there is a lot of development - both business-wise and also residential.

Downtown Fort Worth appears in the distance as we reach the city limits; the profusion of freeways remains for same for this town as they do elsewhere - the exits and signs still remain a bit confusing to someone not used to this level of signage. I would imagine that as time goes by it would be clearer and probably would help if I had a better idea of exactly where I needed to go.
The situation, I guess, is the same in all cities/towns across America for anyone travelling from out-of-town.

The amount of road works being undertaken in both Dallas and Fort Worth doesn't help either, but the positive side of this is the improvements being put into place.

We pulled up at the house of Sara's mum and went inside to meet Dede - she is a lovely woman and it is easy to see from where Sara has inherited her beauty.
The house is where Dede grew up as a young girl with her two sisters, Mimi and Judy and brother, Dean.

We popped out for some lunch and then drove into downtown Fort Worth to visit the Water Gardens - a haven within the centre of town on a 4 acre site where anyone can come and sit and escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life - a place to sit and relax.

Easy to see where the beauty comes from - Sara with her mum

We did feel the effect of the gardens but we needed to carry on down to the historic Stockyards.
Fort Worth grew up as a cattle town - the railhead was here and it was to Fort Worth that the great cattle drives of 19th century south-western USA headed for the cattle to be shipped north-east to the more lucrative markets.
FW grew much more quickly than the nearby rival of Dallas and it wasn't until Dallas became a banking/economic centre that it started to outgrow and later overtake FW and became the larger city that it is today.

Fort Worth has retained it's town charm and retained a fair degree of being much more relaxed.
The Stockyards enhance this and to take advantage of this area there are many tourist attractions that relate to that time, but also restaurants building upon the unique Texan cuisine; the style of Texan outfitting; and the Texan history.

not quite Texas longhorns yet - but don't give up girls - you can
still be cows

It was so obviously touristy, but also so obviously delightful that it is hard to resist.

Apparently a trip to this area is not complete without a visit to Billy Bob's Texas Bar B Que and have a drink here as well; a look at the indoor bull-riding ring; and take a few photos as well.

The indoor bull-riding ring

We were joined by Dede's husband Faarn, who is South African by birth but now almost an American citizen - he is just about to undertake the final process to finalise this.

We decided upon dinner at Riscky's BBQ - enjoying more of the cuisine from this area of the US - I am beginning to think that there is something obsessive about BBQ and beef for Texans.

As usual the meals were all delicious; well presented; and excellent service.

It was time for us to start heading back home and we are very grateful to Faarn for leading us back to the Interstate 30 - there is almost no way that we could have found our way there.

Diane did her thing on the trip back and found a shortcut which saved driving all of the way into Dallas and then come back out again.

I think the early starts and late nights is starting to have its toll on us - all three of just managed to fall into our beds and none could remember much after that.

We are extremely appreciative to all of Sara's family whom we have met so far for their friendliness and really making us feel very welcome - but there was more to come.

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