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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.

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    Carrying my bags I left the hostel at around 9pm, and headed back towards Union Station to take The Canadian all the way to Vancouver. Originally, I had planned stops in Winnipeg, Saskatoon and Jasper, but really, I was out of time and decided that I would have to head all the way to Van in 3 days. I boarded the train and took the best window seat I could find, trying to consider what I would see out of the train. As we travelled through the night, I ventured around the train and hung out in the viewing room before eventually falling asleep in my chair. Awaking the next morning, I wandered around the train and eventually jumped out at Winnipeg for a quick wander. Originally I would have had the best part of a morning there, though, the train was delayed and I had an hour, even less, to take a quick look. Soon we were off again, stopping along the way over the next few days in Saskatoon, Edmonton and eventually Jasper. During this time, I thought about Christmas and decided to ask my family in Texas if I could visit. With a resounding yes, I soon booked a flight to Dallas-Fort Worth for two days after I reached Vancouver. For the rest of the trip, I interchanged my time in my seat listening to music and also in the viewing room chatting to a variety of travellers and people heading to see their families for Christmas, and spending late evenings in the quiet listening to the rattling train tracks writing some of his blog and contemplating my plans for Vancouver, and how far I had come since I left Brisbane months before.

    I bundled out of the train in Vancouver after 3 days of being on the road. I had travelled over 5000 Kilometers in 3 weeks and had made it to where I planned to settle. I walked out of Pacific Central Station and headed to the Skytrain, and wandered down for the first time, a street I would walk (and still do) many, many times - Granville Street. Overwhelmed by the neon signs and the homeless, and a longing for the fun times I had had in the east of Canada, I checked into the Hostelling International hostel on Granville Street. I checked out the Capilano Suspension Bridge to see the Christmas lights, which was a quite spectacular, and some of the bars along Granville Street. Soon it was time to head back across the continent, to Dallas-Fort Worth.

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    Arriving from Kingston, I hopped off at Union Station in downtown Toronto and crunched my way through the icy snow and headed towards the Hostelling International hostel. I dropped my bags and went for a wander around downtown, checking out the main square and a getting a general feel for the city. Taking it easy, I bought some new headphones and had fun kicking around in the freshly falling snow. Deciding I needed to buy a new camera to replace my existing Canon camera, a Canon G1x, I headed to a camera store and saw a bunch of guys promoting Fuji products. Curious, I looked at a few cameras and ended up buying a fixed lens Fuji x20. I ended up heading out later for own mini pub crawl around downtown.

    The next morning I woke early, and with my new Fuji x20, I headed down to Niagara Falls by train. What a great way to break in a new camera. The heavy snowfall from the previous day proved to decorate the falls and the area around Niagara. I walked down the main strip and headed to the falls, and then wandered back to the lookout over the falls. I couldn't resist walking through a haunted house, well, sprint through!

     

    I headed back to Toronto, and bumped into a friend I had made in Ottawa, Mitch, from Winnipeg. We decided to hang out the next day and wander around Toronto, including Chinatown, checked out some graffiti art and the CN Tower for a lookout over Toronto. A day or two later, I caught up with Andrew, whom I previously met in New York and Halifax, before another wander around Toronto before my 3 day, 10pm train out of Toronto to Vancouver.

     

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    I disembarked from the train in Ottawa after a short train ride from Montreal. I gathered my bags and began the wander downtown to the hostel I was to be staying at for the next night, the Hostelling International, which was formally a jail! Quite an interesting experience. After walking the wrong direction, I found the hostel on a very chilly night, probably a mild -10 or so, as i crunched through the now frozen snow. Dropping my bags for my (initial) two nights, I asked the hostel staff for food recommendations and a good walking track around town for the day tomorrow.

    On a recommendation of tacos that I absolutely had to try and a great bar, I headed out from the hostel and down Elgin Street towards El Camino. Busy and packed, I managed to find a seat on my own at the bar and tried a fish, chicken and beef taco. They were all amazing, with the beef taco being hands down my favourite beef taco I have ever had.

    Afterwards, I wandered down to Union, which used to be an old Speak-easy. I had a ridiculous desert and a good chat with someone at the bar about my travel experiences so far. Full and getting tired, I decided to take a look at Parliament at night time. A beautifully structured building lit up majestically in the night. Getting late, I decided it best to get back to the hostel and to crash out for the night, for an early start looking at museums across the river from downtown. One thing was for sure though, I had already started to like Ottawa a lot, and it definitely has some amazing food!

    The following morning I arose early and rugged up, and headed for a loop from the hostel, through Gatineau to the Canadian War Museum and the Canadian Museum of Nature. After a full day I wandered back over the bridge downtown to find somewhere for dinner. Later than night I partook in a ghost tour of the hostel and had a late night adventure downtown at the Elgin Street Diner. The following night I decided to move into an actual jail cell for then night, quite an experience - the bed took up the entire cell with just enough room for my bags, I was even able to lock myself up in the cell for the night! I caught up with Tim, my friend Chris' brother from Brisbane and talked Canada an Australia for a good few hours downtown.


    The next day I decided to head to Kingston on my way to Toronto to catch up with a friend.

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    December 2013

    I arrived on a chilly winters morning into Quebec City at 5am after a restless night on the train from Moncton. I grabbed a taxi and headed to the Hi Hostel in Quebec City hoping to crash on a couch there until a 3pm to check in. Testing out one of my French phrases I had learnt in Moncton, parlez-vous anglais ("Do you speak English?"). Receiving a "oui" back and a smile, I was able to crash in my bed for the morning, excellent. Sleeping until about 10 or 11, I decided to have a shower and take a look around the city. Upon looking under my bed, I noticed a friend I had made in Halifax, Jacob (previously he was above my bed in Halifax). Catching up, I headed out to wander the inner city of Quebec City. About -7 was the temperature, and with enough layers on, I found it surprisingly tolerable for a Queenslander, and dare I say, enjoyable. I trudged the snow and wandered aimlessly through streets and the old town. With Christmas so close, the lower Old Town was covered in Christmas decorations. A beautiful city, stunningly French and at times I had to tell myself I was in Canada and not in France!

    I returned back in the afternoon to be invited out for a few drinks before heading out on a pub crawl later in that evening. The next day I wandered Quebec City more and ended up getting an early night's sleep before a 2 hour train ride to Montreal.

    Bundling out into the train station, I caught up with another traveller who was living in Kingston who I'd met in Quebec City and then wandered down to the hostel to meet Jacob and settle in for the night. Wandering around Rue St Catherine we ended up at a hostel bar not to far away, and decided to stay there the following night. I even extended my stay for a another night to catch MGMT for only $40.

    The next few days I visited Parc du Mont-Royal, found some great coffee in a coffee shop called Melbourne, went to the Olympic Park Tower and the Old Port.

    With Jacob heading north to learn to snowboard, I left the hostel and after another wander through Montreal, I boarded another 2 hour train to Ontario with my first stop the nations capital, Ottawa.

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    December 2013

    Flying back into Halifax early on the 1st December I sat at the airport in St John's planning my train adventure across from Halifax to Vancouver. Circling trains and routes and timeframes, I soon realised I really needed a good plan to link across trains to Vancouver.

    Landing in Halifax, I caught the local bus into town and immediately went directly to the train station. Canadians being friendly as always, helped me decide on the first half of the journey to Toronto. With the train leaving at 12, I bundled on and headed to my first stop that evening, Moncton in New Brunswick. Rolling into town, I wandered around to find a hostel and was able to check in for the night, and then catch an early bus to Prince Edward Island for the evening. Arriving in Charlottetown, I grabbed a taxi and asked for the cheapest place in town, the taxi driver called another and asked around (the hostel was closed for the winter) and I soon had a hotel for the night. Hitting the footpath and walking the town, I soon found a really great bar, The Gahan and then wandered around the town itself. There is a distinctly English feel to Charlottetown, and it is the place where the idea of a nation was formed, and an agreement signed, quite historical.

    The next morning I caught the bus back to Moncton for a connecting overnight train to Quebec City.

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    November 2013

    Returning to Halifax, I was asked a number of questions by the border patrol asking why I went to New York so suddenly. My simple reply was that, I just decided to go on the day. Still, my bags were searched and my phone swabbed and I passed through border security.

    I was again greeted with fantastic Nova Scotian hospitality - a local from Dartmouth offered to split a cab with me to downtown Halifax and even paid for most of the entire trip, a $60 cab fare was suddenly only $20. With a note and a key, I was checked into the hostel for the 2nd time. I promptly fell asleep to awake the next day (a Thursday morning) to work out when the train leaves west and to meet a friend I made in New York. Thinking I might catch the Friday 12.15 train west, I decided to wait till the Sunday. Recovering Friday I wandered across the road to a pub called Henry House where I would inevitably visit numerous times over the next few weeks. Here I met another local who kindly showed me several pubs and bars in the city. Soon another late night was over.

    Waking up Saturday afternoon sometime and deciding that another night was a good decision, I decided to delay my train trip to the Tuesday, nearly a week after arriving in Halifax. Wandering, I met another local in bar and was asked to join her friend for more drinks elsewhere. Leaving that bar, I walked past a group of people and was soon spending time with some Newfoundlanders (Newfies). Again, another great night with local hospitality.

    Waking up late on the Sunday morning, most likely the afternoon and missing the train, I couldn't help but feel excited about heading out again. Sitting in a coffee shop, I met some more Halidonians who invited me out to the Lower Deck. Soon, I was meeting more people and providing advice on my hometown of Brisbane. Later that night, well, morning, I was offered a couch and I then walked home to the hostel in the morning.

    Feeling at home and comfortable in Halifax, I started to think that this is place to spend my Birthday on Friday. Booking more nights, I had a stroke of luck and was able to find a ticket to see the Doctor Who 50th special in Halifax, the day after my birthday. Perfect. The next few days, I caught up on films and even looked at work and living opportunities in Halifax. I also visited Point Pleasant Park. On Friday, I headed out of Halifax to Peggy's Cove via a quick tour of Halifax. We went to the historic Titanic site and bumped into an English actor who has extensively studied the Titantic disaster. He was able to even tell us information on the unknown graves just by the grave stone numbers, and even who he thought they might be. Incredible.

    Later that night, I went to Henry House for my birthday dinner with Chris who I previously met in Iceland, and some of his other friends.

    Being whimsical and listening to fellow travellers, I hatched the idea to head to the Rock, Newfoundland as I didn't expect to return to the east coast anytime soon. Delaying my train trip for the second or third time, I booked a flight to St John's departing Halifax on the Tuesday morning and departing St John's the following Sunday morning, where I would finally catch a train or trains west to Vancouver.

    Arriving in St John's, I knew I had made a great decision to visit this part of Canada. Covered in snow and all sorts of wild colours, I descended into the capital and was amazed by the snowy covered cliffs of 'The Rock'. I landed and caught a taxi to the hostel. I immediately went out to walk the streets of St John's and to find the famous George Street. Meeting some fellow hostel staff, I was soon invited to a birthday party for the Thursday night for another traveller, Mark.

    I walked the Cabot Head trail to Signal Hill which was open for a more days, I was able to hike to Signal Hill and down to Qidi Vidi. 

    Tumbling out of the trail, and slightly lost, and looking for the brewery to try the famous Iceberg beer, a local by the name of John, asked if I needed lift. I said sure, hearing previously of the good nature of Newfies, I was soon offered a drive out to Cape Spear, the most easterly point of Canada. Soon we were walking along the point and chatting like we had known each other for years.

     

    After a few more days of wandering St John's, and seeing a fantastic exhibition on the Titanic, it was soon time to catch that flight back to Halifax.

    Waiting at the airport in St John's, I decided to plan my adventures across the continent. I arrived from the airport in Halifax for the 3rd time, and took a bus downtown to pay for my ticket and catch the train, with my first stop Moncton in New Brunswick.

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    USA - New York (Part 2)

    11/08/2014 3:37:00 pm

    November 2013

    Deciding to stay on longer in New York was a pretty easy decision, I had plenty of things left to see like the Museum of Natural History, Metropolitan Museum of Art and Museum of Modern Art, and Liberty Island, The highline and the Chelsea Market and an NFL game.

    The following week I spent my time visiting the MNH, MET and MoMA.

    The MNH has a stunning collection of dioramas:

    The MET is a lot more contemporary which didn't appeal to me a great deal, I spent a few hours there and then headed off to MoMA. MoMa has stunning collection of art, particularly that of Vincent Van Gough's Starry Night, Andy Warhol art and several Monet's.

    Later on in the week, I visited Liberty Island and Ellis Island. It was stunning being able to visit this incredible statue.

    On the way back from Liberty and Ellis Island, I stopped by Wall Street.

    In the next few days, I wandered New York catching a few things I hadn't seen yet, two Broadway shows, Newsies and Big Fish, and of course, an NFL game in New Jersey - the New York Giants vs Oakland Raiders.

    Grand Central Railway Station:

    As my adventures in New York came to a close, I boarded my flight back to Nova Scotia to commence my Canadian adventures.