Week 39…Grand Canyon, Antelope canyon, Austin, Houston and New Orleans

There is a LOT for me to cover this week! We've driven nearly the full breadth of the States and have seen the insides of all sorts of redneck country restaurants, cafés and service stations along the way. Sometimes it has felt like we were in a stereotypical film…the accents were that strong and the mullets that ambitious! We even had waitresses in camouflage uniforms in one place!

When I last wrote, we were still in the Grand Canyon. We spent 3 days there and loved every minute but, I have to say, the highlight was the helicopter ride. It was incredible! It may sound pretty decadent to go for a helicopter ride but I would recommend it every single time (I'd also suggest that the cheapest option, which we went for, is the best option as you spent most time, proportionally, over the canyon rather than travelling to the further away spots)! I cried because it was so beautiful and I got overly emotional. Even for a scaredy cat like me, it was easy to forget that you're essentially hovering in mid air in a tin can with propellers, as the scenery is so beautiful. I can't really explain why flying over it was more beautiful than just viewing it from the ground…it's essentially the same view…but there's just something that sets it apart (the dramatic music being played through the headsets might also play a part in that!).

After leaving the Grand Canyon, we drove up to a town called Page which is about 3 hours away and a real eye opener! On one road in town, we counted 9 churches all next to each other. NINE! With only a couple of restaurants and no other form of entertainment, we could guess what most town members did during the evenings.

We were there to go see Antelope Canyon which sits just outside the town in Navajo owned land. Off we set from our motel, following our Google Maps to where we were lead to believe he canyon would be. I was dubious as the directions told us to drive into the desert, on sand “roads” out into the idle of nowhere….it was only when we rocked up at “our destination” to find it was the home of a Navajo gentleman and his many, very enthusiastic puppies that we realised we probably should have stopped at the canyon tours building we'd seen as we turned off the main road. Yep. Luckily, they had one more tour going out that evening and so we hopped into an ancient 4×4 and Stetson (his actual name!) drove us to the canyon. It is an interesting experience to be bouncing along in a rickety old car, across sand dunes, with a driver who was jacked up on not only a Dr Pepper but also a very large can of Monster. He also seemed pretty over enthusiastic about turning his steering wheel so we did drift a number of times when the wheels failed to get any traction on the sand! It was worth it, however. The canyon was absolutely beautiful…totally different from it's bigger, more famous cousin a few hours away, but was still a huge highlight. We walked through the canyon with Stetson, snapping photos every couple of seconds. It's impossible to get a bad photo of that place!

After our night in Page, we started to head towards Austin, Texas. It would have been an 18 hour journey so we split it over two days. One night we spent in Albuquerque and had steaks as big as our heads in a restaurant which, from the outside, wouldn't have looked out of place as the setting for a brutal murder! The inside, however, was better and the food was great!

The main event when we got to Austin was a night out at The Broken Spoke. Our waiter back at the Grand Canyon was originally from Austin so, when he heard we were heading there, gave us some great tips: the best of all being this place! Imagine an American country and western bar? Make it more country and more American….throw in cowboy boots as far as the eye can see, as many Stetson hats as you can imagine, accents so thick you can barely understand 3 words and rhinestones on the “fancy attire” and you'll have The Broken Spoke in your minds eye. It was incredible! We watched a band for a few songs while we ate dinner and then signed up for the “country swing dance class” which was an absolute blast! We are now proficient (maybe not!) Texan Two-steppers! Our glutes were certainly feeling it by the end of the evening as we'd danced to most of the numbers being played by the band! We also made friends with a group of people over from Oklahoma who subsequently invited us to the festival they hold on their land every July!

After Austin, we hotfooted our way to Houston to see my friend Tal who is a studio artist at the Houston Grand Opera! It was awesome to hang out and see where she's been living these past 2 years. She even managed to give us a backstage tour of the opera house which was exciting; Alex was full of questions like an excitable child! Sadly she was in rehearsals rather than performance while we were there so we didn't get to see her sing but we'll be buying tickets for her return performance at Glyndebourne back home!

Now we find ourselves back in one of our favourite cities: New Orleans. We came here for New Years Eve (12/13) and loved it so have booked three nights here again. Apart from accidentally indulging too heavily in the drinks last night, we are loving being back! The architecture is amazing, the atmosphere is wonderful, the music is fantastic….and ALL THE FOOD IS FRIED! Seriously, they fry everything. Today, we just wandered around the French quarter for hours, popping into shops and taking in everything that was going on around us. We also managed to get into Preservation Hall which, last time, we couldn't because the queue was too long. I had been here before, with my parents, and knew that Alex would love it and it would be worth the hour long wait outside. Not to blow my own trumpet (Ha!) but I was right and he loved the rundown look of the venue, the fantastic music and the whole experience.

We have one more night here, and I have booked us on a 5 course culinary crawl so we can sample some really good New Orleans cooking. After that, we'll be wending our way towards DISNEYWORLD via Alabama. I am ridiculously excited to get to Disney so I'm sure I'll have lots more to say in next weeks post!

Milly x



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