Hello Houston

035I love Houston – especially at 24 degrees centigrade!  031 029Maybe because I didn’t have any expectations I have been so pleasantly surprised. Mind you, as soon as I hit Texas I experienced the worst driving so far – and that on 7 lane motorways….. terrifying. I arrived at Michael’s on Saturday 13th February. Michael is Debbie’s friend and, like Debbie, is blind – well, he has about 2% sight in one eye and works for NASA.165 167 168 170

009064 022 004 172 169 162 Writing this blog has become more and more of a challenge, as I am not devoting a lot of time to my computer, so this one will let the pictures speak for themselves…

I was surprised how easily I managed to find his house (blessing the GPS on my iphone) in a city which is the 4th largest in the USA – roughly 60 miles wide and 40 miles deep! Bristol is a large UK city but is dwarfed by Houston!

Houses in Houston reflect the fact that there is so much space – Michael’s house is only 5 years old and is very light, very spacious and very big. Alfie and I immediately felt comfortable and my faithful Jeep Cherokee hire car sat happily in his garage, close to my bedroom with its small courtyard for Alfie to sunbathe in.

Luckily for Alfie and me, Michael lives in the Museum District which also comprises the enormous and beautiful Hermann Park – a short walk from Michael’s house – what a lovely place! It is huge – containing several gardens (including a vegetable garden and one in which you can marry), 014 013a welcoming cafe (with the happiest server I have ever met), a huge open air theatre, a large lake with many, many birds, a little train, a Japanese garden, golf course, large zoo and extensive grass areas. Needless to say, Alfie and I visited it at least once a day. At dusk one evening we witnessed the display of noisy cormorants in the trees.

025 023On another occasion, we came upon a tame beaver who seemed interested to meet Alfie.

The morning after we arrived, we took the little train to a Mexican Restaurant for delicious tacos and coffee. We walked Alfie, and then it was time to go to a memorial service157 158 for his friend Robert, who was blind, who was involved in Michael’s iBug charity and who had dropped dead in the company of his friends 10 days ago. The church was warm and welcoming and the vicar was a sweet girl the same age as daughter Ellie – 29, sporting 9 tattoos.

Michael spoke at the memorial and the lovely sparky Sondja both spoke and played the piano. Sondja suffers from brittle bone disease as well as being blind. Many of the people there were also blind. It is inspiring to be around these people who handle their challenges so well.

156 155Before I attended the memorial, Alfie and I went for a walk and stumbled upon a new development with a show home (there is a lot of building of new homes going on in Houston) so I took pictures of the kitchen and the bedroom…

After the memorial we had some delicious food – Alfie particularly liked the little carrots wrapped in beef that I surreptitiously provided to him.

163After that, we went to a Mexican restaurant and then the opening of a film festival addressing people with disabilities. There was a very moving film about an older mother caring for her troubled daughter.

A visit to downtown Houston and a walk along the Bayou revealed more pretty aspects of Houston – but we did the walk on such an unusually hot day. On the trail I saw the odd sunflower – in February! In fact, I saw so many flowers that seemed out of season:

033 065 066Another amazing flower discovery was gardenias, flowering now, as a hedge around a local house and an orange tree, full of oranges, nearby.

On one late afternoon, Alfie and I were walking through the park and I found 2 trees covered with noisy black cormorants. I have never experienced anything like it before!

On my last day in Houston, I left Alfie with Michael and trotted off to the zoo. I had heard there were 7 037 038 049 053elephants there and as my favourite childhood memory is about elephants, I couldn’t resist seeing them. At the enclosure, while they were being washed, I found another lady who was treating herself to a visit to the zoo just to see the elephants – so I am not that unusual!

 

Whilst in Houston, I finally managed to sort out my complaint about my journey over on the QM2. They have given me a free place for Alfie, £300 off my exorbitant return journey (80% extra for a single supplement!) and US$550 monopoly money to spend on board.

When I arrived, Michael asked me if he could travel with me for 3 or 4 weeks, sharing expenses and I was initially reluctant (it is my trip and I like to do things my way, meeting complete strangers because I am on my own) but Michael is a good man, there is no spark that way between us and it can be a challenge motoring on my own, and so I agreed.

070 071Leaving Houston on Friday at 2 p.m., we motored until we arrived at San Antonio – at dusk, just in time to catch the wonderful colours as day turned to night. We walked around the canal area, had a hamburger and watched the mariachi band making its way around the tables.090 089

086 080 082 081 078 076 072We then set off for Santa Fe, driving overnight. At dawn we witnessed the vast emptiness of New Mexico, and the oil workers buying coffee and snacks in the service station wearing huge overalls, hats and safety shoes – enormous young men!

We arrived in Roswell, New Mexico, for breakfast and then a visit to the UFO museum which is not the best laid out museum I have visited, but fascinating nonetheless. Coincidentally, the absolute expert on Roswell was visiting the museum that morning, so we discussed the theories on the Roswell UFO and aliens.

095 094 09750 miles before Santa Fe, we stopped for coffee at a diner on Route 66 and met a real live cowboy – a famous horse-trainer to be exact!

 

 

 

Santa Fe, here we come!