A Travellerspoint blog

Texas Longhorns!

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For our last full day in Texas we decided to head in to the Fort Worth Stockyards, "the history book of the livestock industry in Texas. Each chapter is represented by the original bricks and mortar, the wood corrals, the men, and the music that are all still a part of the the Stockyards today." Fort Worth Stockyards

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The highlight of the day was the diurnal cattle drive featuring the Fort Worth herd of Longhorn Cattle. The Longhorns were wild cattle who roamed throughout Texas until one day someone worked out that if you herded the cattle to other states who wanted cattle for meat, you could make a lot of money. The history of Fort Worth is quite interesting and you can read more about it on the website mentioned above. The cattle drive through the Stockyards demonstrates how a herd was driven, the positions of the drovers and also gives the cattle something to do. The beasts that were driven down the streets on our visit day were all steers.

"C'mon Cattle" could be heard above the cracking of whips and the excited chatter of tourists as the herd started making their way down the street. The smallest of the herd, a calf, wore a bell around his neck so that he wouldn't become lost and it could be heard gently tolling down the street.

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Whilst watching the cattle drive, Carys spied something more exciting for her and we had to distract her for a little while with a petting zoo which randomly, had a camel among the llamas, sheep and goats. The camel decided it wasn't content with eating the feed provided and tried to eat Di's hair and scarf whilst following her around! We also conducted a guided walk through the Stockyards and to picture the yards at the time of their height would have been quite a sight. Most of the holding yards have now been dismantled and the meat packing factories have been closed but a few cattle related businesses remain. One of those remaining, and big thing number 4 on our travels, is the world's first indoor rodeo arena which was built in just 88 days. Even a young Elvis Presley played at the Cowtown Coliseum. Apparently, this place is packed every Friday and Saturday night! Just next to the Coliseum is the Live Stock Exchange which has now moved into the technology age by holding live and televised stock auctions daily, beamed across the States. We were lucky enough to be let in during a live call and the Auctioneer was calling so fast you could only catch a random word here and there but the overall call sounded like he was singing. It was jig-inducing! Our guide, Patty, was born in Fort Worth and has lived her whole life in the area. You can see her to the right in the red tartan shirt and black cowboy hat.

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By this stage, Carys was really itching to ride on the Stagecoach she saw earlier. She loved the ride and told us halfway through that she wanted to ride a horse by herself. On the walking tour, we had found some animal amusement rides and we made our way there after the stagecoach ride. We even tried saltwater taffy, the texture could best be described as chewy like a soft Mintie but you could get almost any flavour you could think of. We tried maple bacon flavour and toffee apple flavour which surprisingly, weren't bad!

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Time for lunch and we headed to a traditional styled saloon called Booger Red's with saddle barstools, animal heads mounted on the walls and a house brewed beer called Buffalo Butt beer. Like all things in Texas, even the beer glasses are huge (the glass below is a schooner equivalent)!

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We couldn't complete our 'cowboy' day without a visit to Fort Worth's only custom, handmade boot store, M.L Leddy's. Although we walked in after a long day not really intending to purchase anything, we both walked away with perfectly tailored, off the rack boots. To have a pair custom made involves plenty of decisions and measurements and a year long wait but at least you know that your boots are unique. Some of the designs were out there but there was no doubting the craftsmanship of the boots themselves. The picture below is just half of one wall, in one section of the shop!

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So, that was our trip to Texas and the next day we flew out to Jacksonville, Florida!! How are you enjoying the blog so far? Leave your comments below or subscribe if you want to be alerted as soon as we post an update. Now that we are settled in our new house, there should be more posts coming regularly :)

Posted by dinige 17:06 Archived in USA Comments (3)

More big things and 2 bullets

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Day 2 in America saw us taking an easy day in the lodge and waterpark and a venture into the Grapevine Mills shopping Mall. Big thing number 1. This place was huge and it had a large variety of stores, but surprisingly, a small food court. Unsurprisingly, the food in the food court all came in large sizes! We found a Disney store whilst Carys was asleep in Daddy's arms and we bought her large stuffed versions of Dory and Nemo which we surprised her with when she woke up. Both toys were only $20! We wandered around the Sea Life Aquarium http://www.visitsealife.com/Grapevine/ which was a small but very well presented aquarium. Carys got to touch starfish, hermit crabs and coral, we watched rays and small sharks feeding, walked through a 360 deg underwater ocean tunnel and of course, we saw (as Carys calls them) "little ona Nemo" and Dory!

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My favourite store of the day though was called Ross. (For those of you who may not know, my maiden name is Ross :) )

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We came back later that night for dinner at a place called the Rainforest Cafe, a rainforest themed eatery where kids ate free on certain nights. We were seated next to a fishtank with little ona Nemo and Dory fish swimming around the coral. Carys was fascinated with the tank being so close to our table. She also loved the animatronic animals around the cafe that came to life every few minutes. Apart from the room entertainment, there was also a balloon artist who created balloon art for the well behaved children (and for the tips!). Carys asked for a pink tiger and the photo below shows Carys with her tiger and her kids drink and toy. Cheese!

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The next day we travelled about 30 minutes away to the Texas Rangers Stadium for a ballpark tour http://texas.rangers.mlb.com/tex/ballpark/index.jsp. Big thing number 2. This was Nigel's first look at a Major League baseball ballpark and he loved it! As part of the tour, we had access to and visited behind-the-scenes areas of the ballpark including batting cages, press box, corporate suites, interview rooms, the gym, the dugouts and more. The stadium was nearing completion of off season renovations but it was still impressive. This ballpark wasn't even a big one compared to others like Yankee Stadium or Boston Red Sox ballpark but it was still pretty big to us. It seats just over 49 000 people which is a bt more than the Gabba (42 000) and the SCG (46 000).

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and lastly, the view from the press box
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After the ballpark tour, we headed off to Dallas to visit the Sixth Floor Museum (the former Texas School Book Depository) but not before passing the Dallas Cowboys NFL stadium. This stadium seats 80 000 and although we didn't take a tour, it certainly was impressive from the outside! Big thing number 3.

There were a lot of roadworks around the Grapevine area and driving on the opposite side of the car and road was at times challenging. The next two photos are examples of this and the third is our first full view of the city of Dallas.

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Our plan on reaching the Sixth Floor Museum http://www.jfk.org/ was to have lunch, after which Carys would hopefully fall asleep and let us tour the museum in peace. Nope, Carys was wide awake and full of beans which meant taking it in turns to tour the interactive museum and mostly skip the good bits :( It wasn't until we were both nearly finished skimming the photos and articles that Carys fell asleep so we quickly caught up on the bits we missed. The collection itself was very well collated and and objective. The actual shooters corner was sealed off by glass but the boxes were stacked the same as when LHO hid from view. From the next available window down from the shooters corner, two crosses on the road can be seen through the trees representing the exact spot of the fatal bullets.

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Cross number one looking back towards the museum. The shooters window is the open window on the right, second level from the top).

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Cross number two looking towards the grassy knoll

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This final photo is taken at the open air memorial to JFK. The bronze plaques are hard to read because of the time of day but on the left is a description of the day and dedication to JFK and the plaque on the right is the motorcade route through Dealey Plaza.

Up next, "Texas Longhorns!"

Posted by dinige 12:36 Archived in USA Comments (1)

The Great Big Plane and Wiley

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Departure day arrived and after some very sad farewells we were off! Carys was very excited that she had her own seat on the great big plane and initially, she was not keen at all about strapping in. Luckily, Jemima showed her how the seat belt worked and how she should sit and thankfully Carys was asleep just as we turned onto the runway!

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We woke Carys for a yummy dinner and we walked up and down the stairs, up and down the aisles, she played with the lights on the seat, had long conversations with Dorothy the Dinosaur, watched some cartoons and after a very, very, very long time, she eventually went to sleep. It took Di almost the whole flight to watch a 2 hr documentary (on Felix Baumgartner, the skydiver who jumped from the edge of space. The doco is called Space Dive and I highly recommend it!!) After nearly 15 hours on the great big plane we landed in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex (yes, that's what it's called) Texas, the home of everything big!

At this point I have to mention the airport staff. We had a total of 10 bags plus hand luggage and there are people everywhere willing to help. We had a bloke with a huge luggage trolley escort us and our luggage all the way from baggage collection through the airport to the car rental bus, then the car rental staff helped us move our luggage and helped pack our car. When we returned the car, the car receiver took one look at our luggage and asked us where we were flying to and told us not to catch the bus as he would personally drive us all the way to the check in counter (more on this later!). We can't thank all of our helpers enough!!

Anyway, back to the story. Di drove for our four days in Dallas and apart from turning once onto the wrong side of the road (don't stress, no cars were coming!), it didn't seem that hard. We stuck to the speed limits and cars were still zooming past us. About 10 minutes from the airport we arrived at our accommodation, Great Wolf Lodge. As I said earlier, everything is big in Texas!

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Great Wolf Lodge has an indoor and outdoor water park which was why we stayed there. Carys couldn't wait to get into the water!! The Lodge also has a nightly animatronic singalong and story time, which was where on our first night we met Wiley the Wolf. Wiley is the mascot of Great Wolf and wherever we walked throughout the lodge, Carys would excitedly point him out. She would also point out the big animated dragon, the squirrels on the rubbish bins and the great big bucket. You can see what I am talking about here: www.greatwolf.com

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At the end of a very big first day in the US, Carys just had to make a last (pretend) phone call before bed. When we asked her who she was ringing she matter of factly said "Nanny!"

Coming up next, "More big things and 2 bullets"

Posted by dinige 18:42 Archived in USA Comments (6)

Last stop before departure, Taronga!

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Well, after months of planning, frustation, re-planning and packing, the time had come for us to begin our adventure. For our last day in Australia, we chose to take Carys to Taronga Zoo and she loved it! She went on her first ferry ride and first gondola ride and saw some of her favourite animals up close!

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Carys' first sighting of real 'Ephelants'. There were two types of elephants at the zoo, the Asian elephant and the African elephant. These were the Asian elephants and when we arrived to see them, they were still on the far side of the enclosure so we didn't get as good a look as we'd hoped. Unfortunately, we didn't see any African elephants but we did see Lucy Melosi walking by (the keeper squished by Pathi Harn).

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Carys was very excited to see the giraffes.They were obviously very tall but she was fascinated by the baby giraffe. As she tells it "Baby giraffe in mummy giraffe's belly and very big with looooooong neck!" I'm not sure what Carys and the giraffe were looking at but it must have been more exciting than the camera :)

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My what big ears you have Carys! Two peas in an ear pod :)

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After watching the gorillas in their indoor enclosure, one of them came outside to wee, closely followed by the rest of them. Carys was very excited and made "ooh, ooh" noises whilst thumping her chest. I love the strut on ape number 4!

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Look at the face of the Zoo worker! I wonder what she was thinking as she banged on the glass and the Silverback and his friends raced to the noise? Not long after this, the gorillas all sat around the window waiting for dinner presumably.

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What a beautiful zoo view....see you in two years Sydney!

Posted by dinige 20:36 Archived in Australia Tagged sydney_farewell Comments (0)

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