Goodbye Texas

It’s time to say goodbye to Texas! And, yes, there will be (& has been) tears. 😥 sads

 

Almost 2 years ago now, my husband was made an offer to work in the USA for 12 months. What an opportunity – we could live in Texas, experience a new culture, do something different for a while and maybe have the odd adventure or two! We have now lived in Texas for 19 months and it has prematurely and abruptly come to an end.

Although this is a very sad turn of events – I think I recognised myself passing through most of the acknowledged stages of grief with anger and depression featuring strongly – I have now moved into acceptance and am trying to move past my sadness and bitterness and appreciate all the wonderful experiences I have had whilst here in the US; things I would not have done otherwise.

It wasn’t easy at the start, but I managed to make a life here and I have meet some amazing people; some will be friends for life!

Living in the North Texas town of Sherman, we have tried to experience as much of Texas (and Texoma) as we could, and also explore further afield when we could. There have been so many wonderful experiences. I was going to list our experiences here – but I now realise that we have done so much, it’s way too much to mention it all.

We have had opportunity to visit quite a few of the local sights and have enjoyed the uniquely Texan experiences of shooting rifles and pistols both at a gun range and on a ranch.

Cate_shooting

Other places we have visited in Texas are Fort Worth (where we saw the longhorn drive),

Cattle drive at Fort Worth Stock Yards

Cattle drive at Fort Worth Stock Yards

Texarkana, San Antonio – the Alamo and it’s wonderful riverwalk,

Riverwalk-view_from-bridgeWichita Falls, and the Texas hill country town of Fredericksburg. I also managed to get to visit Houston.

With Dallas being so close we managed to see most of the major touristy sites. We visited Dealey Plaza and the Book Repository, took a look at Old Red museum, checked out the DMA, enjoyed a visit to the Dallas Aquarium, took in the view from the top of Reunion Tower and enjoyed several visits to the Arboretum (one of my favourite places).

 

arboretum

There is so much to do in Dallas – make sure you visit some time!

We also enjoyed the very unique experience of visiting the Texas State Fair.

BigTex

In addition we also caught a couple of Baseball games at Arlington.

Cate_baseball

Besides Texas though, I have had the privilege of visiting another 13 states! Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana, Washington, California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Iowa and New York.

Some highlights:

View from the Space Needle, Seattle, Washington

View from the Space Needle, Seattle, Washington

The Grand Canyon, Arizona

The Grand Canyon, Arizona

Monument Valley, Utah

Monument Valley, Utah

Statue of Liberty, NY

Statue of Liberty, NY

Beale Street, Memphis, Tennesee

Beale Street, Memphis, Tennesee

Rio Grande Gorge Bridge

Rio Grande Gorge Bridge – New Mexico

I had no desire to visit the USA before coming here ,but I have a new appreciation of America and it’s people. Texas in particular will always have a place in my heart.  💕💕

I hope I can come back one day!

 

One last visit to the Arboretum 

With our time in Texas rapidly nearing an end, this little wombat took one last wander; I wanted to see the 12 days of Christmas display at the Dallas arboretum, so we took a break from our packing and went for a quick visit.

ArboretumGazebos

I love visiting the arboretum – it has been the one place in Texas that I have visited the most. From now until January 3rd, the Arboretum has a fabulous, exquisite display: the 12 days of Christmas. Each of the 12 days are displayed in a giant gazebo, beautifully displayed and with Christmas carols playing.

Here is the poem and some pictures:

On the first day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
A Partridge in a Pear Tree

ArboretumDay1Gazebo

On the second day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree

On the third day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Three French Hens
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree

Arboretum_Day4_CallingBird

One of the four calling birds

On the fourth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Four Calling Birds
Three French Hens
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree

On the fifth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Five Golden Rings
Four Calling Birds
Three French Hens
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree

On the sixth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Six Geese a Laying
Five Golden Rings
Four Calling Birds
Three French Hens
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree

On the seventh day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Seven Swans a Swimming
Six Geese a Laying
Five Golden Rings
Four Calling Birds
Three French Hens
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree

On the eighth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Eight Maids a Milking
Seven Swans a Swimming
Six Geese a Laying
Five Golden Rings
Four Calling Birds
Three French Hens
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree

On the ninth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Nine Ladies Dancing
Eight Maids a Milking
Seven Swans a Swimming
Six Geese a Laying
Five Golden Rings
Four Calling Birds
Three French Hens
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree

On the tenth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Ten Lords a Leaping
Nine Ladies Dancing
Eight Maids a Milking
Seven Swans a Swimming
Six Geese a Laying
Five Golden Rings
Four Calling Birds
Three French Hens
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree

Arboretum_Day11_pipersOn the eleventh day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Eleven Pipers Piping
Ten Lords a Leaping
Nine Ladies Dancing
Eight Maids a Milking
Seven Swans a Swimming
Six Geese a Laying
Five Golden Rings
Four Calling Birds
Three French Hens
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree

On the twelfth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
12 Drummers Drumming
Eleven Pipers Piping
Ten Lords a Leaping
Nine Ladies Dancing
Eight Maids a Milking
Seven Swans a Swimming
Six Geese a Laying
Five Golden Rings
Four Calling Birds
Three French Hens
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree

Merry Christmas to everyone!

And if you get the opportunity – go visit the arboretum in Dallas.

At the moment – the remnants of the pumpkin patch display is still about:

Aboretum_Us_PumpkinPatch

 

Derry to Donegal Town

We have seen and done so much in our first week in Ireland.

Yesterday (was, it only yesterday) before we departed Derry we walked the city’s walls.

Ireland_Derry_wall

This was really worth the effort and I’m glad we did this even though it had not been on my ‘must do’ list. Derry was a very pretty town and I really enjoyed it. Of course, I could have done with an extra night there, but that is always the way!

From Derry we drove to Letterkenny where there is a most beautiful cathedral – St. Eunan’s. This Neo-Gothic building is absolutely gorgeous with some excellent celtic stone work, lovely vibrant stained glass windows and a vaulted ceiling that is very grand. The cathedral also boasts a 65m steeple. I am so glad we stopped here!

inside St. Eunan's Cathedral

inside St. Eunan’s Cathedral

After our quick stop at Letterkenny we took the coastal route along the part of the “Wild Atlantic Way” road. Yet more spectacular scenery – we called in at Horn Head (and the pretty little town of Dunfanaghy) and drove through The Rosses (an area with more than 100 lakes).

driving through The Rosses

driving through The Rosses

This was a lot of driving through narrow, winding, country roads. I didn’t see as much as I would have liked since we didn’t leave Derry until midday; we spent quite a few hours in the car, not arriving at Lough Eske (Donegal) until just after 6pm.

Lough Eske Castle is very nice! This place was a ruin until 2006 when it was rescued and given a new life as a hotel.

 

Ireland_LoughEskeCastle

Today, we took a look around Donegal town and took a tour through the castle, which is pretty much in the middle of town. Although, not particularly old as far as Irish castles go, it was still interesting.

Ireland_DonegalCastle

After the visit to the castle, we drove some more of the Wild Atlantic Way – to Killybegs (a little town, with a big fishing port), and then on to Glencolmcille – the Glen of St Colmcille (had to visit here just because of it’s association with said saint – AKA St Columba), but this is one of the prettiest valley’s I’ve seen.

On our way back to Lough Eske Castle, we called in to visit Slieve League (one of the highest cliff faces in Europe) – it is very spectacular! However, it was quite a walk out to the cliffs (about a 6km round trip) – we didn’t realise that it was possible to drive right to the top as there was a carpark at the bottom and it was gated, so we assumed you had to walk (until we saw cars coming back down). Oh well, we got our exercise in for today!

Ireland_SlieveLeague

Belfast to Derry/Londonderry

Well, we certainly didn’t have very long to enjoy Belfast; I find it’s always the way! There is never enough time to see all that I’d like to see.

As we arrived fairly late into Belfast we only had 1 day to see and experience this city. Our Sunday morning started with a visit to the St George’s market, followed by a sightseeing hop on- hop off bus tour of the city, which was excellent.

Titanic Belfast buildingAlong the way we went to see the Titanic Belfast experience. This was really very good – and there is quite a bit of interaction you can engage in. The experience takes you through Belfast at the turn of the century and opens your eyes to the living conditions of the people at that time. The exhibit takes you on a tour from the designs and building of the Titanic (you can even take a cable car ride through a simulated building experience), through to its launch and fit out; then through actual displays of how rooms would have looked and descriptions of passengers and crew. Of course following on from its departure from each of the ports it visited you can experience then collision with the iceberg and all the events that followed. Afterwards you can see how the titanic was found and explore the relics on the sea floor via a virtual ROV. This was a really well done exhibit and I learnt a whole lot about the Titanic that I did not know previously.

Ireland_Titanic_Room_01

After Titanic we finished our bus tour and then had a late lunch at a most fabulous old pub – The Crown Bar – which is owned by the National Trust. This easily rates as one of the best pubs I’ve been to. This has beautiful tiles, woodwork and pressed metal ceilings (the food was pretty good too).

Ireland_CrownBar_inside

Today, Monday, we departed belfast without seeing a couple of noteworthy sights, including the castle. Time is our enemy! However, we had a lot of ground to cover today. Our first stop was the dark hedges,

Ireland_darkHedges

Then onto the lovely sea-side town of Ballycastle for breakfast. Ballycastle was the town where Marconi sent his first wireless message from. From Ballycastle we cruised along the picturesque Antrim coast.

Ireland_Ballycastle_01

The Giant’s Causeway was next on our hit list; I had been looking forward to seeing this legendary place. The weather was changeable, with alternating sunshine and misty showers. There are a couple of different walks you can do here and we walked back along one that involved a climb of 162 stairs (it was worth it though – the views were stunning)!Ireland_GiantsCauseway_01

Dunluce castle was our next stop. A ruined castle at the edge of the coastline. I imagine it would have been rather spectacular in its day.

Ireland_DunuceCastle_01

Finally we arrived at the only surviving fully intact walled city in Ireland – Derry (Londonderry). The walls date from the early 17th century.

Tonight we are staying in an 18th century country manor (BeechHill Country House), just outside of Derry, which is just delightful!

Dublin Town!

We arrived in Dublin via London’s Heathrow airport around midday Thursday. After picking up our car and checking into our hotel and having a late lunch we spent the rest of the afternoon exploring central Dublin on foot.

We looked around the Temple bar district:

Temple Bar

Temple Bar

And saw the ha’penny bridge (the one that had all the locks attached to it – they are already making a comeback).

Ha'Penny Bridge

Ha’Penny Bridge

Locks of the Ha'Penny bridge

Locks of the Ha’Penny bridge

Today (Friday) we got off to a late start unfortunately since we over slept (we had been awake more than 32hrs by the time we went to bed). However we got to Trinity College by 11am and I got to see the Book of Kells in its home and then took in the atmosphere and splendor of the long hall in the library when I got to see Brian Boru’s Harp (which, for me, was just as exciting as seeing the Book of Kells).

BrianBoru_Harp

From there we headed to the National Museum of Ireland. This was fabulous – got to see some of the best examples of ancient Irish treasures – another highlight for me was the Tara Brooch and the silver Ardagh Chalice.

Tara Brooch

Tara Brooch

After a quick afternoon tea we headed to Christ Church Cathedral to explore this lovely old (>1000 years) church.

inside Dublin's Christ Church Cathedral

inside Dublin’s Christ Church Cathedral

We then headed to Dublinia (an interactive museum tracing the history of Ireland from Viking times). Although interesting, I think this is probably a good one for the kids).

A walk back through Temple Bar and we found ourselves at The Oliver St. John Gogarty pub (where I am writing this post) – the first pub to play live Irish music – for some dinner, drinks and some great live Irish music! My day is complete! Fabulous.

GogartysPub

Live traditional Irish music at Gogarty's before the crowds!

Live traditional Irish music at Gogarty’s before the crowds!

I am sure a day and a half is not enough time in Dublin, but it’s been wonderful!

The countdown is on!

It’s time for me to get excited! The countdown has begun in earnest for our trip to Ireland.

I am just about sorted, packed and ready to go. Packing has been difficult – I am expecting quite a bit of rain and it’s going to be much cooler than it is here in north Texas at the moment. We will be going from high 90’sF to 60 or maybe 70F temperatures (mid 30’s to teen temps in Celsius). Anyway, what I don’t pack I can buy there – that will be my excuse for doing some shopping. 

  
 As I love everything Celtic, Ireland is a dream trip for me. I am looking forward to all the historical sites, the pubs, the live music, the art, the culture, the scenery, the castles, oh, the list goes on! 

We leave from DFW airport tomorrow evening and fly to Dublin via London. I plan to hit the ground running with a visit to Trinity college (the book of Kells) and Dublin castle high on my list of must dos. I pretty much have an idea of what I want to see and do and have planned our trip accordingly. After a couple of days in Dublin, we are driving ourselves anti clockwise around the island with our first stop being Belfast. We will explore as much as I can fit in in the 3 weeks we will be there. Happy times for me!

Stay tuned – I will be posting our adventures as we go!

Travel Newsletter Links

Under the heading of Travel Newsletters there are links to pages that contain  “newsletters” (in pdf format); these document some of our travels within the USA before I started this blog. It has come to my attention that since we swapped servers the links to the pdf travel newsletters were not working. I have now fixed these and all are working as they should – apologies if you tried to use them and they did not work!

The newsletters include Oklahoma City, Tulsa, San Antonio, Seattle, Las Vegas, Arizona, Arkansas , New York, Memphis , Fort Worth and Dallas if you are interested.

A lesson in Chickasaw

A trip to the Chickasaw Cultural Center: A lesson in Native American History

I have been wanting to take a trip to the Chickasaw Cultural Center for a long time now and this past weekend we finally made the trip.

Chickasaw Warrior statue

Chickasaw Warrior statue

The Chickasaws are one of the Five Civilised Tribes, (which refers to the five Native American nations – Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek (Muscogee), and Seminole), they have their own constitution and are federally recognised as a Native American Nation – the Chickasaw Nation. The Chickasaw’s traditional lands were originally in the south-eastern states of America – principally Alabama, Tennessee & Mississippi before they were forced to relocate in the 1830’s. The US government wanted to acquire all the lands east of the Mississippi and therefore forced the re-location of thousands of Native Americans to “Indian Territory” (Oklahoma).

The Chickasaw Cultural Center is located in Sulphur in Oklahoma, about an hour & 40-minute drive for us from home.

Cloak made from turkey feathers

Cloak made from turkey feathers

The Center is located within a 109-acre property. The Cultural Center is made up of a collection of buildings set in beautifully landscaped grounds and is dedicated to the history and culture of the Chickasaw people. There is an exhibit center/museum with plenty of information and some interactive displays, a research center & library where individuals may trace their genealogy and study the Chickasaw history, culture and traditions, a 350-seat theatre, a replica of a traditional Chickasaw village and even a café (we had lunch here and the food was great). There are several water features throughout the grounds, an outdoor amphitheatre and a sky terrace where you can observe the traditional village from above. I have to say that this is a world-class facility. The buildings and amenities are brilliant. My only complaint would be that there were a lot of exhibits that were obviously replicas; there didn’t appear to be very many genuine artefacts on display. However, what was there was good.

The Chickasaw Village

The Chickasaw Village – viewed from the Sky Terrace

It is free to look around the grounds, the village, the theatre and the library – the only thing that requires a fee is admission to the exhibit center which house a “museum” that offers a walk through Chickasaw history and culture with displays of and any special exhibits, but at $6 per adult, I think it is good value for money and worth the effort. All-in-all it was an interesting trip and I learnt something new – always good!

The Center is open Monday to Saturday 10am to 5pm and Sunday midday to 5pm all year round (except major holidays)

Road trip anyone?

There is nothing like a road trip to revive the soul! ❤

Welcome to New Mexico

Welcome to New Mexico

After returning from my 6 weeks in Australia, I had been feeling a bit down in the dumps, a bit flat, that sort-of, I-can’t-be-bothered feeling. So I needed something interesting to do to get me going again. A road trip to New Mexico was just the tonic!

A road trip is defined (by MacMillan dictionary) as a “long trip in a car”! And according to Wikipedia, “in the United States, a road trip typically implies leaving the state… However, in larger states (e.g. Texas), travel within the state may also be considered a road trip”. So, we have done quite a few now (Memphis, San Antonio, Arkansas, to name a few). Did you know that the first road trip by car occurred in 1888 in Germany when the wife of Karl Benz (inventor of the first patented motor car) took her 2 teenage sons for a drive (top speed of 10mph), without the knowledge of her husband, from Mannheim to Pforheim in Germany – a total distance of 66mi (106km) on the pretence of visiting her mother, but generating publicity for her husbands car which previously only been used for short test drives?

I was keen to visit the city of Santa Fe (capital of the state of New Mexico) as I had seen a feature on TV about it and I thought it looked good; it also has some interesting history (founded in 1610, Santa Fe is the oldest capital city in the US).

3 of the 10 buried Cadillacs at Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, Tx

3 of the 10 buried Cadillacs at Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, Tx

It’s a long way to Santa Fe, NM from Sherman, TX so we decided to break up our 9 hours of travel time by leaving Thursday night, driving the first 5 hours to Amarillo (made famous, I believe, by Neil Sedaka and his song about “sweet Marie” waiting there for him (I couldn’t get the song out of my head)! I can’t really say too much about Amarillo as we didn’t spend too much time there, but it does have an interesting display of 10 Cadillacs buried in the ground at Cadillac Ranch.

On then to Santa Fe via Albuquerque (another 5 hours of driving – 4 to Albuquerque and then another hour to Santa Fe). We stopped in Albuquerque at a little, local (very popular) restaurant La Salita that offered traditional New Mexican fare. We can attest, the meal was great (no photos, it was too good and we busily ate it all up ☺) and the complimentary dessert, Sopaipilla – a type of fried pastry/bread that looks like a puffed pillow and is hollow inside, was delicious served with honey and cinnamon!

In Santa Fe we stayed 3 nights (in 2 different hotels – I couldn’t decide, so I split the stay between the Hilton Historic Plaza (2) and the Hotel St Francis (1), both historical hotels – I was a bit disappointed, but that’s another story). We spent a day and a half in Santa Fe and we took a day trip up to Taos, taking in the historic chapel El Santuario de Chimayo on the way and also took a drive out to the Rio Grande Canyon bridge.

El Santurio de Chimayo

El Santurio de Chimayo

Rio Grande Gorge Bridge

Rio Grande Gorge Bridge

Horse head sculpture on Canyon Rd

Horse head sculpture on Canyon Rd

In Santa Fe, the main area of downtown surrounds the historic Plaza and is very pretty. The city radiates from the central plaza and is very much a center for art – if you like art galleries, there are dozens to choose from – you could spend days just looking at the various types of galleries (particularly along Canyon Road).

A typical Adobe Santa Fe style building

A typical Santa Fe adobe style building

Santa Fe has a very distinctive look (Santa Fe Style) – all the buildings exhibit the old adobe style on the exterior and all in earth tones. For those who don’t know (I didn’t), adobe is a clay building material, typically sun-dried mud bricks.

There is plenty of history to see – the oldest church in the US, the oldest house in the US and lots of other interesting buildings. There is plenty of shopping (for all those New Mexican souvenirs – blankets, jewellery, pottery, etc.), the farmers markets on a Saturday and there are plenty of dining options available also. We chose to sit outside on a 2nd floor balcony at Thunderbird Bar & Grill and enjoy the view and atmosphere of Santa Fe, watching life go by.

I will do a newsletter with more details about our trip into New Mexico soon, but I just wanted to share a few details of our road trip for now.

Any one want to offer a comment on a road trip they have done, or has anyone else been to Santa Fe? I would love to hear about your experiences; share your thoughts below in the comment section.