Friday, August 24, 2012

Things I Miss About London

Two Random things while thinking about it...

1.  Not that this one should be a surprise, but I miss not having to worry about drinking and driving. I miss having public transport as an easy option to get me home after being out in the evening and having more than a couple of drinks.
As a result, I'm keeping myself fairly sober.  Or sadly, am just drinking in the hotels... ;)

2.  I miss English public loos-and the privacy they afforded.  Proper walls that went to the ceiling and to the floor.  Proper doors that didn't have 2 inches of space in-between the door and the wall.
American public toilets...#fail.  I'd never realized how massive the lack of privacy was when you went to use one (even on trips back here..), but the past few weeks, it's all I can notice when I'm in the bathroom.


Movin' On

I suck as a blogger.  It's been at least a month since I last blogged-though I've had a post written for over 2 weeks!  I've been desperately trying to upload photos from my phone to accompany said post, and it's such a struggle to get WiFi, that I'm going to forego photos for now, and simply add the blog post-with pictures to come later.
So, odd thought it may read, imagine I had my act together & actually posted this update ~2 weeks ago...

Hard to believe it’s been a little over 2 weeks since I last updated.  We’ve travelled a fair bit since then-and have hit a fair number of places along the way that we’ve absolutely fallen in love with (more on that later..). 

Stats since the last update:
18 days.  2600 miles.  6 States.  Cities visited: Memphis, TN; Clarksdale, MS; New Orleans, LA; Houston, Austin, and San Antonio, TX; Roswell, Santa Fe, and Albequerque, NM; Flagstaff, AZ (en route to Sedona).

Highlights…there’s almost too many to mention.  I’ll skim here, and detail more below..
Between Nashville, and Memphis, we both really liked Tennessee.  Clarksdale, MS was outstanding-not because of Clarksdale per se, but rather the place we stayed, and the visit we made while there.  NOLA was…NOLA.  It was a first visit for both of us, and it oddly felt like being in Europe, and not- all at the same time.  Great everything.
Austin was good fun-and has made me understand a bit more why Texans are so..’Texan.’
Santa Fe and Flagstaff.  Oh, if only we could retire to either tomorrow.  Much love for both of these places-both Simon & I even went so far as to start looking at real estate websites/booklets!  Oh, and did I mention the Grand Canyon?..

Lowlights…er..does weight gain count? J  We’ve each put on about 10 pounds on the trip thusfar (effectively erasing my weight loss from last year.  Bugger).  But, with eating and driving, driving and eating…I’m somewhat relieved it isn’t more than 10 pounds!  But, it’s something we’re both trying to be better about now..

It’s all in the Details
Memphis was cool.  Though we were barely there for 18 hours, we managed to cram in a lot:  We were able to catch a minor league baseball game, hit Beale Street (pre-game) for some drinks, BBQ and a wander, and had a walk from our hotel over to Graceland (we were staying in the Heartbreak Hotel, which was across the street from Graceland..hee).  At $30-something per ticket, we opted not to do the tour, and instead stood at the wall on the property and took a few photos. J

Clarksdale, MS
A random spot I know, but the place we stayed-The Shack Up Inn-was recommended by my old High School English teacher as a must-stay, so we did.  And it was one of my favorite places we’ve stayed the entire trip.  From Clarksdale, we also popped over to Oxford, MS and visited with my old teacher-who did an outstanding job of showing us around.  He’s been a Faulkner buff for as long as I know, and as Faulkner is from Oxford, there were some fabulous things to see.  Between getting to catch up with Mr. Crawford, and the putter around Oxford, that day was a total highlight for me on the trip. 

New Orleans
There isn’t anything I can say about NOLA that hasn’t already been said before.  Our trip centered around two things:  Cocktails and Cemeteries.  NOLA is known for having many bars/hotels that excel in cocktails-and I can personally verify this.  In addition to the bars/hotels, during our time there, the “Tales of the Cocktail” convention was also going on.  Though it’s primarily an industry event, anyone can buy admission and attend.  So, we did.  And for $45 each, we got to wander around various convention sites for 2 days (coulda done 5 if we would have been there for the duration…) and drink for free-and also attended an interesting presentation on ‘Russian Cocktail History.’  Note to self:  forget Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest.  Perhaps next year we re-visit for the full duration of this event!
The other major activity for us in NOLA was cemetery visits.  I love cemeteries.  Always have (I get it from my mother), and NOLA is certainly known for its cemeteries.  I can’t really describe how much I enjoyed our wanderings-we managed to dig into two really well, and drove by a fair few more.  Similar to the cocktails, cemeteries alone could be a reason to go back to NOLA.  Wow. 

Austin, TX
What a neat little city.  We spent almost as much time at the State Capitol and vicinity as we did anything.  Now I get Texas-er, a bit more...  They had to fight so hard, so long, and so frequently for independence from multiple parties, that it’s no wonder the state has always seemed a bit different from the rest.  Well, that and the sheer size of the state.  But, now I get it.
Oh, and the steaks and BBQ?  Wow.  Just wow.  At the insistence of several friends, we popped out to a place called Salt Lick, where they have an ‘all you can eat’ meat platter, and it was simply divine.  And the BBQ Pit?  Should be considered an 8th wonder of the world.

Santa Fe, NM
Though we’d already hit a few places along the way we both really liked (both as tourists and as possible living cities), Santa Fe really called our name from a ‘this could be a place we retire to’ perspective.  From the walk-able downtown, to the amazing scenery, friendly people, *relatively* inexpensive housing, and perfect weather, we’re both having serious thoughts about this being one of our retirement locations.  Event to the point of doing a bit of flipping thru the real estate magazines.  From the population we encountered, we’re clearly not the first ones to think of Santa Fe as a retirement location, but I guess the good news is we’d be in good company! J

En route to Albuquerque, we took the Turquoise Trail from Santa Fe, and that was simply stunning.  The highlight of the drive was a stopover to a place called Tinkertown.  My pictures don’t even do the place justice, but if I were a parent, this would be place number one I’d take my child on a trip in the area-the inspiration and creativity were just unbelievable!

Flagstaff, AZ
Similar to Santa Fe in ‘ambiance’, but from a visual perspective, it looks like I’m in Alaska.  Really struggling to wrap my brain around it.  But am in love with the little city nonetheless!  Oh, and it’s only 90 minutes to the Grand Canyon. 
There haven’t been many times I’ve been with Simon that he’s been stunned into silence, but there were definitely a few times on our visit yesterday that words failed him.  It really is an amazing place-and though it wasn’t ‘built’ by the US/Americans, there was an immense sense of pride I felt at being there yesterday, and hearing so many foreign languages, and knowing that these people sought out this place; they gave up visiting other incredible places in the world to come *here.*  Go figure.

All in all, the past week of the trip has felt immensely different from the first part of the trip. I think it’s because the first ~4 weeks were about getting *to* a destination and settling in-and though we are still destination-focused, much of what is calling our attention now are on the drives themselves-the in-between things.  It’s partially due to where we are in the country, but I’d also like to think we’re now finally able to really appreciate the journeys and not just the destinations (thanks, Confucius).