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    March 2014After a long drive through the Icefields Parkway, we arrived safely into Banff, after a brief stop to see Lake Louise. I can only imagine what Lake Louise looks like in Summer [see blog post in 2018 - Matt].We headed to Samesun Banff and were able...

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    March 2014Leaving Tofino, I caught a ride back to Nanaimo to catch a ferry back to Vancouver for the night through a very snowy and treacherous Roger's Pass which actually involved the car slipping out into a barrier. We gained control though, before nearly...

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    VancouverJanuary 2014 - February 2014Upon returning to Vancouver, I decided that I should start getting organised and settled. I spent sometime running around getting organised and yet every day I decided to spent one more day putting off what I wanted to...

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    Late January 2014Upon returning to Canada from America, I headed to a different hostel, Samesun Backpackers (a place where I would much later on in August be offered a job opportunity). When I stayed across the street, I had visited the bar for dinner and...

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    Departing Orlando early, after a long drive to Miami Beach, I arrived at the South Beach Hostel and checked in. Hungry and keen to see the beautiful beaches of Miami, I headed down the esplanade and found a hotel that was a offering a cheap lunch meal. Stunned...

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    January 2014

    Upon departing New Orleans on an 11 hour journey across the states of Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi, I arrived into Orlando at around 10am. Based on Brendan's advice who came from Orlando to New Orleans, he recommended the Days Inn which was close to Universal Studios, walking distance in fact. Definitely a great idea, I had a hotel room to myself for two nights with at only about $60 a night! I grabbed a taxi from the Greyhound terminal and made it to the hotel. Resting, I decided I had better go for a wander to Universal as I had planned to do it all the following day. This was a wise a choice as a two day pass wasn't too much more expensive and there are two theme parks right next to each other! I got to work and spent the afternoon and evening doing all sorts of rides around the park. The Harry Potter section was ridiculously amazing, as were most of the rides and attractions. As it had been raining most of the morning, it was rather quiet so I was able to get a lot of the rides in. The Jurassic Park ride involved a lot of water and I am glad I bought a rather expensive poncho so I could stay dry for the rest of the day, other people were soaked!

    After a long day of hopping on and off rides, I grabbed some dinner and a movie around the Universal Studios are the parks closed, and trotted back to the hotel for a long rest. Planning on waking up early, I slept in a little and took off to the studios, and went straight too the other park I didn't visit the day before. 

    After a long day, another dinner and another movie - and thoroughly pleased with the amusement parks, I stopped by TGI Friday's for a late drink and snack, and returned back to the Days Inn for a few hours sleep before a shuttle onwards to Miami Beach.

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    USA - (Louisiana) New Orleans

    27/02/2015 10:38:47 am

    January 2014

    After an 8 hour bus ride across the Gulf of Mexico from Houston, the Greyhound rocketed along towards New Orleans. I jumped off at the terminal and proceeded to walk towards the hostel where I would be staying for the next few days. A little bit of culture shock kicked in and I felt a little comfortable for the first time in a US city. I walked on and found the hostel, an older style building with a 16-bed dorm in a building out the back. As I walked there from the main building, I noticed all of the classic coloured beads that New Orleans is known for. I dropped my bags and began thinking about my plans and things to see, and also felt quite overwhelmed with the city. After about 30 minutes, another Australian checked in from Brisbane, Brendan. We got chatting and turned out we had the same plans for things to see, and were staying around the same amount of time.

    We hopped on a trolley and headed down town to Bourbon Street. New Orleans is an amazing city, an incredible amount of culture including a strong French (Cajun) influence and an surreal old feeling to it. We jumped off at Bourbon St and decided to check out the old cemeteries near by. With Voodoo markings on many of the tombs, it was an eerie walk filled with rich history.

    Walking back towards the Louie Armstrong Park, we wandered around and took photos of the statue and headed onwards back to Bourbon Street for an early dinner. Recommended by my cousins in Texas, we headed to one of the many Oyster Bars. Brendan got talking to the oyster shucker who knew the city inside out, and being very good at his job, he regularly is sent to Washington to work in Whitehouse! It was clear, he was nearly twice as fast as the others, and very efficient.  We ordered a Poboy, some gumbo and some oysters. I wish I could remember the gentleman's name but he provided us some great advice to head on down to Frenchman Street to catch some live music which is at the other end of the Frenchman Quarter and away from the touristy area of Bourbon Street.

    Catching a cab, we jumped off and wandered from bar to bar, looking in and finally settling on a bar with chap and his band playing, Washboard Chad. Quite well known it turns out, his main instrument was a washboard and various rings on his hands. After some great music there, we wandered on down to The Spotted Cat and caught another Jazz band. On the way back we can across street performers playing with people dancing in the streets. In summer, I feel that New Orleans would be one crazy fun city. After a 2am finish, we decided best to head back to the hostel and turn in for the night, and wake up early to visit more of the city the following day.

    After a sleep-in, we hopped back on the trolley and wandered around the French Quarter and had some lunch, and visited one of the museums that had some superb exhibits on the yearly Mardi Gras and the devastation that was caused by Hurricane Katrina - very eye opening. With time slipping by, it was getting close to dinner and then of course another visit to Frenchman Street to see some more Jazz. Originally with two nights booked, I decided to book another and check out early and head off the following night (11pm) to Florida.

    With only a few things to do, we spent Monday at the National World War 2 museum. Very good. It was an insight into the American perspective of World War 2.

    Wanting to grab some more oysters and with Brendan wanting to catch up with some friends, I headed back to Bourbon Street and then back to the hostel. We said good bye and I headed off to the Greyhound for my next leg of journey, Orlando to see Universal Studios. 

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    January 2014

    Austin

    Leaving Houston, I headed west on MegaBus (quite a cheap method of travel in Texas, only $18) towards Austin. I arrived near the Capitol and walked down towards the Firehouse Hostel (highly recommended, great staff and location), weaving past the Capitol itself and it's gardens, stunned by such a beautiful building.

    Making it to the hostel around 12am, a longer walk than I suspected, they had space and soon I was checked in and had a drink in the bar downstairs (hidden by a sliding bookcase) before heading out for a quick stroll along Sixth Street, the famous street of Austin. After a relatively early night, I awoke the next morning and decided to walk a circuit of the city by foot including a stroll over Congress Avenue Bridge towards the South Congress District for pizza and then a loop over the Barton Springs and back along the west side of Sixth Street.

    Tired and burnt out after a long day walking, I crashed for a while before deciding to explore Sixth Street more and checking out a few famous bars, listening to music as I went from bar to bar. After quite a late night, I slept in a little before deciding to walk to the Capitol and onwards to the The Bullock Texas State History Museum.

    Over the next few days, I visited East Sixth Street and spent more time listening to music in South Congress and downtown, and really just enjoyed wandering around the city itself checking out the sights and enjoying the food.

    San Antonio

    Though soon it was time to move on and head south to San Antonio, my last Texan city before heading west. I boarded a bus from Austin (again MegaBus, only $6!). Jumping off downtown, I had a hostel in mind, though changed my mind last minute to a hotel close to The Alamo. Texting Tracey's friend Robin, I was soon picked up and showed around town for the night and enjoyed some more Tex Mex before heading back to the hostel. Restless, I went for a walk around The Alamo at night and down along the San Antonio Riverwalk taking in this really beautiful part of town. Getting late, I trotted back to the hotel and stretched out in a well earned queen size bed for the night. The next day I slept in a little, and headed to the visit The Alamo for the afternoon. Originally thinking I'd be spending an hour or two, I spent nearly 4 hours there taking it all in including a walking tour - what an incredible place.

    Again catching up with Robin late in the evening, we headed off to Midnight Rodeo to learn Texas Two Step! A very unique Texan dancing experience. Arriving late, I caught some sleep before a very early Greyhound towards New Orleans.

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    December 2013/January 2014 (Yes, still one year behind on my blog)

    Departing Waxahachie shortly after Christmas, we headed south on the I-45 towards Conroe, just north of Houston for New Year's. Along the way, I noticed many fireworks stores. Something that is not available in Queensland for sale to consumers, I couldn't help but buy a bunch when stopping for New Year's supplies. Arriving at the Lakehouse, I met my cousins Tracey and Derek for the first time, and went for a stroll down to the pier that is a part of their property. Later that evening, my other cousin Ronnie arrived and soon we were out shopping for more fireworks at a fireworks warehouse closeby. I perhaps spent a bit.

    After an early night, we headed for a drive around Conroe on New Year's Eve, and the other towns near by, picking up supplies and having some lunch, we returned in preparation for New Year's. After an amazing sunset, we settled down by the fire and prepared to let off a few fireworks (safely!).

    After New Year's, I said good bye Ruth and Walt, and headed off with Tracey, Ronnie and Derek to Houston. Back onto the I-45, we headed south and arrived in Deer Park. The next bunch of days was spent visiting NASA, Galveston, Kemah, a firing range, and visiting my Great Aunt Betty whom I hadn't met since I was a little boy.

    With my flight out of Miami in about 3 weeks time, to allow myself plenty of time to explore the south, I decided I had to double back a little to Austin and San Antonio. Saying goodbye, Ronnie dropped me off to downtown Houston and I was off on my way to Austin with a hostel in mind, the Firehouse Hostel. Back on the road.

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    USA - Dallas and Fort Worth

    19/12/2014 5:14:46 am

    December 2013 (Yes, I am one year behind on this blog! I am actually writing this blog from Houston in Texas, almost one year later)

    I grabbed my bags early in the morning, two days before Christmas and strolled down Granville Street in the early morning rain to catch the Skytrain to the airport. After landing in Dallas-Fort Worth after a brief stopover in Portland, I was greeted by my cousin Ruth whom I hadn't met in many long years, and I was probably about 10 at the time, if not much younger. I soon met Walt, and my other cousin, Peyton, and we were off to Steven and Mindy's place just outside of Dallas for dinner. Plans for my stay were detailed out to me, which included seeing Robert Earl Keen and a Dallas Cowboys game (a game they needed to win to advance to the play-offs). Soon I crashed at Ruth and Walt's place as you do after a day of travelling, and woke up late morning to head to downtown Waxahachie, and soon headed over to meet Charles and Mendy, and Emma and Tucker which live very close to Ruth and Walt for Christmas Eve Dinner and to meet even more family. Christmas Eve dinner consisted of many Texan dishes and even Tamales, all different foods I hadn't tried before. The next day, Christmas Day, we went to Steven and Mindy's, and Peyton's, for Christmas lunch which was just amazing.

    The next day was spent exploring downtown Dallas, I really beautiful Texan city, with red brick stonework evident in many buildings. One of my favourite games is Red Dead Redemption, and I just could not stop seeing the resemblance when I was there (a quick look on and Wikipedia and I was right, the game was partly inspired by this city). We went to the Sixth Floor Museum and I didn't quite realise its importance until I was inside that it was the location of the Kennedy Assassination. I wandered around inside and then spent some time outside of the building too. After a quick wander to the stadium, Walt and I grabbed a burger, and headed on back home.

    The next day Ruth, Walt and I, went to downtown Fort Worth to check out the Stockyards, wander around the shops and get some (amazing) Texas BBQ. Fort Worth is another city like Dallas, a city that appears on the horizon like a monolith in the arid lands of the mid-west of America. A few days later I returned at night to see Robert Earl Keen.

    Later on in my stay I went to watch the Dallas Cowboys play the Philadelphia Eagles for a play-off spot, in which they unfortunately lost in the last minute or so of the game. Still, the atmosphere was amazing, and the screen was gigantic!

    Soon it was time to head towards Houston, with a few days in Conroe to meet my other cousins Tracey and Ronnie, and to spend New Year's on the lake in Conroe, just north of Houston.