Houston….We have a holiday!

Holiday Summaryusa

After my dad has spent the last three weeks in Houston we decided that it would be a good opportunity for myself, my mam and my brother to visit Texas, for a late holiday before going back to university. From 24th August till 5th September we explored three main areas of Texas being, Houston, San Antonio and Austin. Each of the twelve days in Texas provided an exciting amount different activities which are located in Texas and the three cities which were visited. I will discuss each of the activities which we visited in the three cities, and then evaluating these will identify the most enjoyable parts of the holiday. I will then finally suggest ways in which future holidays could be made better and other areas in the United States which I would like to visit next.

Travelling

After eight years the Lawson family returned to the United States, but this time in Texas. The large travelling day begun with setting of from home early in the morning to catch the first flight from Newcastle to Amsterdam. After a straight forward morning and arriving in Amsterdam on time me my brother and mam wondered around the duty free shops, waiting for our connecting flight to Houston which was only an hour. We bought chocolate for my dad when we meet in Houston for the first time in 3 weeks.  After boarding the 747 jet on time, unfortunately there was a problem with one of the engines which meant that all passengers had to leave the aircraft and check the engines which delayed us by more than two hours. Once set off the plane journey went quick and with some sleep on the plane meant that I was set up on the American time zone. The delay in the plane setting of meant that my dad finished work and was able to pick us up from the airport rather than getting a taxi. Our first hotel was the Marriot spring hill Suites which is located close to the museums and zoo in Houston. As it was evening by the time we arrived in Houston we did not do a lot but went to Osaka Japanese Restaurant. We met some of my dad’s work colleagues in the restaurant as well.

Day 1 – Houston Zoo

Our first official day in Houston started bright and early after my dad went to work with me, brother and mam going to the Zoo and then hopefully getting to the museums. Unsure originally which was the best way to get to the zoo, the hotel provided a free shuttle bus to the zoo, which made getting to the zoo very efficient. Before entering the zoo, we bought a city pass giving us discounts on loads of attractions in Houston. Houston Zoo had a large range of animals which were really exciting and provided loads of entertainment for the three of us. After having lunch in the zoo we decided to head for the museums to start exploring them, although large downpour of rain meant that it was not suitable for walking outside and got completely soaked. We rang the shuttle bus to then pick us up to take us back to the hotel. One the night we met up with my dad and went to a restaurant called Pappadeaux which was very nice and would visit later on again in the trip. Overall, the Zoo was exciting and enjoyed our meal on the night, however the rain did set back the plans later on in the day.

Day 2 – Museums

For our second day it was just the three of us still with my dad going off to work. We decided to take the shuttle bus to The Houston Museum of Natural Science. Once inside the museum there were 4 different floors with different themes on each level. From dinosaurs, to international gems to the climate of Texas the museum provided a very interesting morning. It took a while visiting all the exhibits and could spend ages going around the museum. We also went into the planetarium were we watched a documentary directed by Benedict Cumberbatch on solar storms. After lunch at McDonalds we headed to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston which had a collection of works across world, with some contemporary art as well. Finally, we met with my dad after work to initially go back to the hotel and then tried out a restaurant called Pappas Bar-B-Q. Out of the whole trip this was the worst place we went to eat but it was the cheapest restaurants we visited and seemed that it was mostly for locals and take outs. Even with the restaurant being the worst that we visited the day was interesting.

Day 3 – Space Centre and Kemah

Today was our last day in Houston apart from returning home and my dad had finished work, which was an ideal time to visit the Space Centre. Once at the Space Centre we firstly went to look around the original 747 (which was used to test carrying the space shuttle) and a mock space shuttle which was really impressive. Afterwards we looked around the Mythbusters exhibition before vising the original space control centre and then after lunch the NASA training centre. It was interesting to see in one view the history of the centre and then the current progress that NASA are working on. There was a conference with large space companies showing off their programs which was incredible and interesting to listen. We then walked around the rest of the centre and at closing time we travelled to a boardwalk called Kemah. Once there we went on a wooden rollercoaster called the “Boardwalk Bullet”. To all of our surprise Jon, my brother actually enjoyed it! We then went on this boardwalk tower which gave us a great view of the area. Finally, for dinner we went to this themed Aquarium restaurant, which had nice food while getting an aquarium experience. Today was hugely busy but had a great time.

San Antonio

Day 4 – Galleries, Aquarium & Travelling

Before traveling straight away to San Antonio we wanted to make the most of our day and the city pass that we got in Houston. We firstly went to the Rothko Chapel which was very simple but bold and would be able to appreciate it a lot more if we meditated inside. Afterwards the Menil Collection was only a small walk away which we viewed the artworks. Included was one of Any Warhol’s famous works of the can of soup. The Cy Twombly Gallery, part of the Menil Collection was a disappointing museum as the artwork was not personally very good. Afterwards, we visited the downtown aquarium in Houston which was full of amazing sea life and some of sea life which we saw in the Aquarium restaurant. There was a white tiger and a manta ray area at the end of the Aquarium. When leaving the aquarium, it gave us a good opportunity to have a look at the skyline of Houston. We skipped lunch and travelled 2 hours to San Antonio where once there we went to our hotel (Best Western) and then straight for dinner at a near buffet called Teppanyaki Grill, which we enjoyed and would revisit. We got the most out of being at Houston and not travelling all day.

Day 5 – Alamo and Riverwalk

For our first day in San Antonio, we decided to go straight to the centre to visit the famous Alamo, where we were able to understand more about the history of the area. Presently there is not left original of the area which is a big disappointment but there is a lot of planning to preserve what is left and to add more to the area. When were about to leave the Alamo the rain came down heavy which meant we went back to the car to grab coats and have lunch.

After lunch, we decided to spend the rest of the afternoon walking and visiting the sites of interest around the Alamo and in the space of the Riverwalk. We visited the Buckhorn museum and San Fernando Cathedral. Later on, we visited the Hard Rock Café, Coyote Ugly Saloon, finally stopping off at Starbucks for a cup of tea. We decided to stay for dinner at the Riverwalk and went to an Italian called Zocca. By the time we came out of the restaurant the rain was really heavy and got soaked. Today was nice to explore the area and to have a leisure walk around central San Antonio, for then to go back with our American friends later on in the week.

Day 6 – Natural Caverns

Today we decided to visit the natural caverns which were located within 1 hour of our hotel. This especially is one of the highlights of Texas and are dotted around, especially in the San Antonio area. We got a guided tour of the caverns which we were able to discover the magnificent natural rock formations that have been formed (see appendix 2). There was some overlap with some of the geology that I was studying in my first year of geography. After discovering the Caverns, we decided to stay around the site to have some salads that we bought yesterday night at Walmart. We then returned back to the hotel to use the pool facilities. This was the first time in the holiday to go swimming. While swimming our American friends arrived, from Odessa, and were able to have a good chat by the pool with them. Later on the night we decided to revisit Pappadeux’s in San Antonio. It was really nice to visit the caverns, to see some of the natural beauties and then to meet our American friends after 8 years was incredible.

Day 7 – Alamo and Tower of Americas

For our only full day with our American friends Johnny and Sandra, we decided to have an easy morning by setting of late in the morning and catching up with them. We then set out to the canter of San Antonio to hopefully reach Tower of Americas. However, with the construction work blocking routes it was and then we revisited the Alamo on the morning to have another quick look around. Even though this was a repeat of Monday it was really nice and a total different atmosphere when going round with our American friends. Also we visited some areas of the Riverwalk which we never saw on Monday. Afterwards we went to the tower of Americas to have a drink and taking in the vast views of San Antonio, while talking to our American friends. We skipped lunch and decided to have an early dinner. Our American friends recommended to visit the Cheesecake factory so we decided to go. All four and our friends were really impressed and were really glad that they suggested the cheesecake factory as a place to eat. We returned to the cheesecake factory later on in the holiday. Today was really nice to have a nice day to meet our friends and to visit the Alamo.

Day 8 – Canyon Lakes and Austin

This morning our American friends were returning back home to Odessa but we stayed in the hotel for the majority of the morning before they left. We decided to visit the Canyon Lakes which is a manmade lake with a dam. After arriving and a leisurely walk around we kept getting in and out of the car to visit different stops on the lake. After a wonder at different points on the lake we decided to grab something for lunch from Brookshire Brothers which was really nice. After a decision in the car we travelled to Austin, as we were half way there. We quickly had a look at the Texas Capitol building and then went to see the famous bats. We saw these by going on a boat and having a tour guide explaining more information about the bats. The tour went on longer than expected as the bats did not start leaving the bridge until a bit later so we wanted to find a place to eat quick as we had to travel two-hour journey back to San Antonio. We went into a place called Zax which was able to do that and a delicious lasagne. Today ended up being really good fun but very crazy.

Day 9 – Chill Day

It was my mams birthday today and after 10 days of nonstop activities, we all decided that it would be the perfect relaxing day for all of us in the hotel grounds. It was a perfect opportunity, on the morning, to use the swimming pool facilities for the second time of the holiday. I felt that it kept my exercise regime from the rest of the days in America. By the afternoon the weather changed and torrential rain came which meant we spent most of the afternoon in the hotel room. We decided to have an early dinner at a place called La fonda on main, which was a tex-mex, which was really enjoyable. Afterwards we decided to firstly go for a walk round the North Star Mall for a pair of shoes for my mam and then went back to the cheesecake factory where we ordered a take out for some gorgeous cheesecake. Even though today was not filled with any exciting activities it was great to have a relaxing day preparing ourselves for the last two days of our time in Texas.

Day 10 – Sea World

Today was the exciting day we revisit Sea world after visiting the Sea World in San Diego eight years ago. Our hotel is located only 15 minutes away from Sea World which is really good and arrived in good time. We visited the Sea Lion training show first, then me, my brother and Dad went on the steel eel ride. We then went to see a Shamu show which brought back memories of seeing them eight years ago. Just before lunch we attended an alligator feeding show which was really impressive to see. On the afternoon we visited the penguin enclosure and then me and my brother went on another one of the rides called the great white shark. Afterwards, we saw the Beluga Whale show which was one of the best shows we saw on the day. We went outside the Sea World area and went to the new area called discovery cove where we saw dolphins, aquarium animals with sharks featured as well. Ever since I lost my Sea World hat on my last visit to America I really wanted to get a new one so once we got back into the Sea World area I bought one. We had dinner in Sea World and went to see the Shamu show for one last time, which was really impressive but this will be one of the last displaying Shamu shows in Sea World. Today was really good and brought back some great memories of San Diego.

Day 11 – Circuit of The Americas

It is our final day in Texas and we decided to head back to Austin to visit the circuit of the Americas (COTA). We did not know what to expect when we arrived at the circuit but we were pleased to know that there were tours that were taking people around the circuit, which we decided to do. The first part of the tour took us to the paddock where we got the chance to see inside the media rooms and then onto the podium. Before getting on the bus we were fortunate that there were cars going around the circuit and got to see some cars in the pit area. We were taken from the iconic first corner to a few corners of the track ending up at the tower and concert stage. All of these provided great sights of the circuit and the cars going round. After talking to one of the ticket admin workers we headed back to the hotel but stopped at a restaurant called the Outback for lunch and looked around two outlet centres which were massive and had plenty of shops. When arriving back we decided to do a bit of packing before heading for dinner back at the Teppenyaki restaurant. Attached to the restaurant was a games area where we played pool. Today was really nice end to the holiday and now have to face the reality of traveling back.

Travelling Home

Today we were up early to travel back to Houston Intercontinental Airport from San Antonio. From arriving at the airport to dropping the car back off at the car hire centre the first part of the journey went to plan which was really good and had time to spare. Once checked in me and Jon went to a restaurant for lunch while my mam and dad went into the business lounge. The time flew over and was soon time to board the plane. Unlike the 747 flying to Houston we were sat at a window seat which was had some great views of the Houston skyline. It seemed that the nine-hour flight went quick, however we did not get much sleep on-board. Some of our tiredness was seen to be apparent when arriving in Amsterdam, early that morning. The Amsterdam flight, which was only an hour long went over quick and before we knew it the holiday was over and was back to reality. The memories of our trip will live longer and my dad will be out in Houston again soon.

Conclusion

As a family we were really pleased to have had the opportunity to go on another holiday as well as our cruise earlier in the year. We were pleased with the great activities that Texas was able to accommodate us with as well as the restaurants we visited.

It can be argued that the best place on the trip caused a large debate in the family as most of the days had their own speciality on why they were good. For instance, seeing our American friends could be the highlight of the holiday but for the excitement of Sea World was a main highlight as well.

It is a hard decision between the cheesecake factory and Pappadeux for the best restaurant we visited. Definitely for the cheaper restaurant the Teppenyaki restaurant was our favourite. We all agreed the worst restaurant was Pappa’s Bar-B-Q but was the cheapest restaurant we visited on the holiday.

It will be nice to revisit the United States in the future, preferably another part which I haven’t visited yet like New York or even visiting Canada. I will also nice to catch up with our American friends more often.

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